Tuesday, 23 October 2007

ROISIN MURPHY: Overpowered

Overpowered, the album, looks to its cutlery bones like a ZTT record; royal blue borderlines, a vicious pink centre (phenomenal!) and at the front, Roisin beaming knowingly at the camera, seated in a working man’s cafĂ© with appreciably greasy full English on her table; the other visible customers do their best to ignore the fact that she is dressed in the bright red costume of a medieval court jester. Judging by its decidedly undersold profile in the capital’s record shops this weekend, it may well follow antecedents like Anne Pigalle and ACT into the rapid bargain bins; a gesture of primary colour wasted on a world happy with, and in, grey – most of the major record shop front spaces were occupied by the new record from exciting, forward-looking Welsh Conservative pub rockers the Stereophonics.

I am not entirely sure whether Overpowered, the album, is a classic or a dud, but since I’ve played it half a dozen times in full, and the title track approximately two dozen times, thus far I think I may veer towards the former. As with Moloko, the overwhelming impression is one of punctum Eurythmics – where Dave and Annie could have gone after Into The Garden if they’d kept a little more Holger Czukay and a lot more Grace Jones instead of trading them in for a lot more Elkie Brooks and a little more Ronnie Wood – or a properly golden Goldfrapp; the CD design is beautifully pretentious, encompassing highly relevant texts from Beckett (“For Murphy had such an irrational heart that no physician could get to the root of it”), Douglas Adams (“He hoped and prayed that there wasn’t an afterlife”) and Laurie Anderson, who gets the credit for dancing about architecture, as well as parallel views of Sheffield and Lady’s Bridge – the missing link between Richard Hawley and Relaxed Muscle – fish, One From The Heart, sausages and CORRECTED*.

Other than that, “Scarlet Ribbons” is wonderfully vermillion skank-folk for those nights now fairly drawing in, “Tell Everybody” is so perfectly weighted as a pop song that one almost regrets its premature retreat, and there is more to be discovered…but the title track currently owns everything. “When I think that I’m over you,” she coos, “I’m overpowered” as the rhythm line comes in, drawing the expected line from Kraftwerk through to Bangalter, with Air poignant sparks of melody and trying to avoid ecstasy by detailing chemical reactions and biological quarks as the stuff of life (“Your data, my data,” pronounced in the manner of “tomatoes” and “tomatoes” of old); there are “amarant feelings” and “a cognitive state,” but it’s no use; those lustrous Chic synth bells chime their way in as Murphy surrenders to her better instincts (“It’s long overdue,” she shivers). “As science struggles on to try to explain,” she perorates like a Lennox reborn in Billy MacKenzie’s trunk, “Oxytocins flowing ever into my brain” (“Kissing the love object”, she notes on the sleeve, “causes the hormone oxytocin to explode like a firework display in the brain”) and she ends up gladly unwilling to explain anything: “Alien feelings – me have to accept.” Grandiose yet tactile, quivering but vulnerable, “Overpowered” ends in a ghostly resolution of divergent harmonies like the sun daring to shine through the half-submerged porthole (why do I think of the end of American Music Club’s “Last Harbour”? Why not?). Beautiful, sublime and bifurcating endlessly onto the scrolls of new, Roisin again proves that there’s no limit to where the bop will stop – and “who would’ve expected this?” Book your pool of light while the offer stands.