REVIEW: Roísín Murphy – Roísín Machine

It’s finally here. All the big tunes Roísín has been putting out regularly for the last 18 months or so have been leading to this point. We waited and wished for the new album to be announced, to be released. At times it seemed like it would never happen. But it has. Our patience has been rewarded. From the steam-powered French house of ‘Simulation’ to the Balearic banshee cry of ‘Jealousy’, oh boy has it been rewarded.

Much of the album will be familiar to fans with four of its ten tracks from that recent run of hits, and two others from a few years back. Like other fans, I imagined, Roísín couldn’t possibly keep up this consistent level of bangers one after the next – and then again through a full album – as much as I wanted that album to happen. How wrong I was.

The album is an almost continuous mix rather than distinct tracks, and the tunes we know are scheduled every other one with the new songs woven between. The approach of thinking more like a DJ is a very clever move and takes you on a different journey. I introduced the concept of nose scrunching in another review a few weeks back. From the end of ‘Incapable’ into the intro of ‘We Got Together’ you’ll find few nose scrunching moments better than this. And in a year without much dancing there are few other mainstream albums in 2020 that have embraced the much missed spirit of the dancefloor like Roísín Machine. Not since Georgia’s Seeking Thrills back in the ‘normal’ world of January anyway. 

I love all her albums for different reasons, but this is easily the most consistent and straightforwardly dancefloor oriented yet. Roísín has been working on this project with DJ Parrot for around a decade – ‘Simulation’ was originally released back in 2012. This is the album that Roísín has always had in her, but one that her natural eccentricity and curiosity may have led her away from. Now that Roísín Machine has been realised, she no longer continues to confound. It’s not a sudden change of heart, more perhaps a labour of love.

In between now and then we’ve had the understated Hairless Toys and the underrated Take Her Up To Monto. But do not for a moment think that the evolution in her sound is a bad thing. Neither should you be fooled into thinking that dancefloor oriented means throwaway. There is plenty of substance to this album. Who else but Roísín would throw Kantian philosophy (‘Kingdom of Ends’) and an idiosyncratic take on Greek mythology (‘Narcissus’) into the mix with synth strings and square bass? She throws everything of herself outwardly on to the dancefloor – the look, the costumes, the make up, the moves – so why not confront your inner self there too? On ‘Incapable’ and ‘Something More’ she does just this: “Never had a broken heart”, am I incapable of love?”, “I put it all at stake, and if it all goes up in flames, I will only ever have myself to blame”.

This review is pointless. Roísín’s biggest fans, like me, will already have fawned over this long before I put finger to keyboard. Others I know will dismiss it as vapid the moment they hear the disco strings. They’re missing out.

So my best hope, yet one I don’t wish to rely on? I’ll leave you with this. Remember Moloko? The woman holding two pints of beer stood in the sea on the cover? She’s still making bangers so give Roísín Machine a listen. If I can convert one person on that basis it will have been worth it.

Words by James Spearing

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