What else is there left to say about Wicklow’s finest export, Róisín Murphy? The archangel of dance has long offered us a glimpse behind the curtain into a Gatsby-esque world where possibility is endless and the party never ends.
‘Róisín Machine’, her fifth solo effort, is no different in that regard but it feels like all her previous experiments in sound have been building towards this moment of clarity. This is Murphy at her most illusive and enticing, her most spectacular and vulnerable. This is Murphy dancing like nobody is watching and the results are spectacular.
Simultaneously exploring her disco roots in Sheffield, paying homage to the likes of Cabaret Voltaire, and celebrating the hedonistic, carefree zeal of American disco music such as Sylvester and Kurtis Blow, ‘Róisín Machine’ never feels anything less than fresh and timely. Murphy captures the tedium of 2020 perfectly on tracks such as Kingdom of Ends and Simulation while offering an escape from it on Narcissus.
The dank lyrical motifs are delivered with a shot of never-say-die defiance and frank realism. “Life just keeps me wanting,” she states on Something More, pondering the gap between material success and fulfilment before noting “and if it all goes up in flames I will only have myself to blame.” On Incapable, she ponders why she’s never had a broken heart. Is she incapable of love? It’s a question surely many people have asked themselves quietly in the middle of the night.
These simple vignettes of love and loneliness are like rayguns of truth in Murphy’s hands as she skilfully weaves mundane caveats into cinematic moments. The album concludes with the stellar one-two of Narcissus and Jealousy, the latter of which is a blast of Chic-style disco pushed to its very limits.
What else would you expect from Róisín Murphy? Over the years, Ireland has produced many fine musicians but few true artists. Murphy sits in that rarefied air because of records like ‘Róisín Machine’.