Róisín Murphy Take Her up To Monto (4 stars)

Róisín Murphy Take Her up To Monto

Follow-up to Mercury-nominated Hairless Toys combines playfully atmospheric electronic composition with frank and often dazzling lyricism

Flinging the word ‘genius’ at any old artist whose work you’ve found yourself enjoying for more than five minutes is a glib cliché, but it’s going to take a visit to the thesaurus to find another way of describing the wondrous Róisín Murphy. Okay, here’s one: ‘prodigy’. Although that doesn’t quite nail it, hinting more at potential yet to be fulfilled, rather than an experienced artist who’s as close to the height of her powers as musician, singer, lyricist, aestheticist, costume designer, film director and walking art project Murphy is.

From pop success in the 1990s with Moloko to the experimentation of her unheralded first two solo albums from the 2000s, 2015’s comeback third record Hairless Toys combined the two styles to striking, Mercury-nominated effect. Take Her Up to Monto is every bit the worthy follow-up and more, combining playfully atmospheric electronic composition with frank and often dazzling lyricism.

Those who have been listening out for this record will have already heard the album opener ‘Mastermind’, a lush, sultry wash of oscillating synthesisers and stabbing drum machine whose lyrics reveal chasms of dramatic meaning; when the protagonist sings ‘it’s just like taking candy from a baby / I’m easy, go on, say it’, is she cursing her own perceived foolishness or the wrongness of the man she chose to go home with? It’s an epic of a song with a sweet hook and a sinister undertow, much like the other preview track ‘Ten Miles High’, which conflates a squelching, primitive synth groove with a blissed-out summertime dream of flying and the greatest Grace Jones impersonation you’re likely to hear.

Murphy spins oddness and beauty around one another in the same lyric, from ‘Pretty Gardens’ invitation to a lover to consider her naked to ‘Thoughts Wasted’s firm address to a stoned partner on how she expects to be addressed and the cool bossa nova of ‘Lip Service’. The album’s latter stages, particularly ‘Nervous Sleep’ and ‘Sitting and Counting’ further indulge a fascination with weird, dreamlike playfulness to an almost Lynchian degree.

Take Her Up to Monto is released on Play It Again Sam on Fri 8 Jul.

Róisín Murphy

Happily bonkers ex-frontwoman of Moloko runs free in her own club-friendly world.

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