Róisín Murphy first burst into the collective consciousness as part of Moloko with the unforgettable ‘Sing it Back’. In the 18 years since, Murphy has created one of the most unique and diverse back catalogues in pop music. New album Take Her Up To Monto broadens the spectrum even further.
Murphy is perhaps best known for her funky, groove based material with songs like ‘Let Me Know’ and ‘Dear Miami’ so infectious on the leg dancing along becomes contagious. On T.H.U.T.M she’s taken a different approach – many of the tracks are deconstructed into a jumble of jarring elements that are crafted together so well they propel the songs like musically mechanical pistons.
‘Lip Service’ has a futuristic 60’s girl band feel, like Doc Brown’s managed to coax The Crystals into the DeLorean. Insanely catchy, punctuated with lounge lizard jazz guitar, an ode to the joy of infatuation. There’s a change too in Murphy’s singing style. Gone is the repetition of catchy cyclical hooks, and in its place a free form feel to the vocals. She can shift from arousing warmth to assertive clarity in a single couplet. Less conventional phrasing and snappy melodic shifts during the course of a song creates a sense of rebirth on some tracks.
‘Whatever’ is reminiscent of Bowie’s Heathen. A cautionary tale of overly ambitious chemical consumption, it floats along unsteadily, teetering on the edge of collapse much like its lyrical target. ‘Romantic Comedy’ has a meandering retro bassline straight out of a classic Atari video game.
I’m writing this the day after images of army tanks invading public streets and jet fighters firing at defenceless civilians flashed across our screens during Turkey’s attempted coup d’etat, thinking what is happening to the world? On ‘Thoughts Wasted’ Murphy is in a similarly reflective state, “like mould resentment grows…he had to find religion to measure his evil against…Too much history, humans are fucked”. An abrasively accurate call in the current circumstances. The song finishes with the line “In the wake of resentment, broken hearts, shattered souls”. Prophetic poignancy set to an insane backing track that makes you feel like you’re trapped inside a cavernous malfunctioning grandfather clock.
There’s genuine depth to this album both lyrically and sonically. Full of diversions but never to the extent that it’s hard to follow, it tempts the listener along constantly intrigued at what might be waiting just around the corner. Repeated listens reveal fresh perspectives on many of the tracks giving the listener a real sense of reward. T.H.U.T.M is confirmation that Murphy is an outlier in the field of pop music always willing to challenge herself and her audience, always brave enough to enjoy the journey.
Róisín Murphy photographed for State by Leah Carroll.