Róisín Murphy - Overpowered
(Thursday October 18, 2007 2:24 PM
Released on 15/10/07
Don't bother getting all worked up about this winter's event albums. Don't worry whether Kylie's still got it, Britney's found some talent or whether Radiohead are a quarter as good as everyone thinks. Instead, escape to an alternate dimension we like to call Just World, where Róisín Murphy's second album is about to begin a two-month reign at Number One. It's a shame that her former band, Moloko, became associated primarily with their disco-sublime Ibiza crossover hits "The Time Is Now" and "Sing It Back"; for years, they'd been so much more, psychedelic party weirdos who appropriated dance culture for their own cracked ends.
Over a decade, Murphy developed into one of the most underrated voices in pop, rivalling Beth Gibbons for styling and versatility if not for indie cred points. After their painful split (documented on the magnificent "Statues" album) her luscious 2005 debut solo effort "Ruby Blue" inexplicably sank without trace. Perhaps it was too dark, jazzy and weird or perhaps she wasn't young, nubile and shiny enough. Whatever, Róisín didn't seem destined for pop megastardom.
Truth be told, outside of Just World, she probably still isn't, although on her second effort, she's melded the two sides of her history much more seamlessly; four-to-the-floor pop belters mix with touches of electronic and lyrical darkness to make one of the pop albums of the year. Lyrically, she's in arch scene-queen mode, kissing off admirers with a disco handclap as she swings back to the dancefloor on "You Know Me Better", with its panting-as-percussion, and second single "Let Me Know", which begins bleak and spacey before getting stuck in with a '90s handbag house piano riff and squelchy bass synth.
"Primitive" reveals the dark, sweaty underbelly of this shiny surface. "From the primordial soup, out of a prehistoric sea we came…" purrs Murphy, encouraging hedonist escapism through de-evolution, "…we are animal, one and all". The only false steps come when she tries to apply herself to more focused lyrical topics. There's only one person who has ever carried off a song about the enrvironment, and "Miami", despite some cool robotic vocals, demonstrates why, if you're not Marvin Gaye, it's best not to bother. "Scarlet Ribbons", meanwhile, is musically less interesting, and proves that songs written by female performers about their fathers are also best avoided.
No such messy emotions on the merciless "Cry Baby", a storming techno-pop remake of Björk with a grinding riff liable to cause spontaneous gurning, disco 'pows' and a cowbell breakdown. In Just World, tracks like this would propel "Overpowered" high into the albums of the year lists and Murphy will be filling Wembley with Gwen Stefani as support. Back in the absurdity of the real world, we can take comfort in a niche delight dressed up as world-conquering pop.
by Emily Mackay
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