mon 26/08/2019

CD: Róisín Murphy - Hairless Toys | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Róisín Murphy - Hairless Toys

CD: Róisín Murphy - Hairless Toys

Eagerly anticipated latest from a singer who abhors the obvious

The lady in red of avant-pop

The pendulum of Róisín Murphy’s creativity has long swung wildly between massively pop and trickily artsy, right back to her hit-making millennial days in Moloko. She followed these with a wilful dive into the abstract, working with found sound techno maverick Matthew Herbert on her debut solo album. It was an intriguing proposition but one that never proved contagious. She followed it, however, with Overpowered, whose eponymous lead single should have been a massive hit but wasn’t. On that album, she allowed her inner Lady Gaga out for a frolic. The results were contagious, colourful fun.

Album number three places itself exactly between the poles set out by its predecessors. Created with Murphy’s old friend Eddie Stevens, a collaborator with Sia and Zero 7, and once part of Moloko’s creative unit, the agenda appears to be to combine the disco-funk of 1980s Grace Jones (especially on the Trevor Horn-ish “Evil Eyes”) with the European cabaret tradition, all couched in unpredictable and very 21st century electronic production. Its construction is often imaginative but doesn’t always have an immediate human warmth. Take the closing “Unputdownable”, for example, smothered in twinkling glimmers of keyboard and parping electronic effects, stopping and starting, a whispered love ballad (perhaps), that explodes into something bigger. It’s impressive but not necessarily loveable.

The album is a lyrically opaque affair. “Gone Fishing” was apparently inspired by Jennie Livingstone’s 1991 film Paris Is Burning, about 1980s drag and transgender balls in New York, but it could equally well not have been. However, the best of it – the squelchy funk of “Uninvited Guest” and the country’n’western lost-love-at-sunset ballad “Exile” – muster a mood, the latter particularly. I wish the whole was less cerebral and more instinctive but maybe that’s not the point. There’s something abject about that title, Hairless Toys, but the contents prove to be more approachable, if never really attacking the pop jugular in the way Murphy is capable of.

Overleaf: Watch the video for "Exploitation"

Its construction is often imaginative but doesn’t always have an immediate human warmth

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Average: 3 (1 vote)

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