Way Down Under
Here's a picture of Roisin in the Australian sun light doing what she does best. She's performing several more shows over the coming week. - Picture courtesy of I am Cassius.
In the meantime, Roisin's tour is getting quite some press in the country. From The Age newspaper:
Her individual style has put her at odds with a wider audience. But is now, asks Guy Blackman, finally the time for Roisin Murphy?
Roisin (pronounced "Rosheen") Murphy, an artist at odds with herself, heads to Australia this week for the V Festival. As the kooky Irish half of English duo Moloko, she dominated charts and dance floors around the turn of the century with singles such as Sing It Back and Time Is Now, a pleasingly odd, idiosyncratic presence in the generally conservative world of commercial dance music.
Then, after the end of her eight-year relationship with Moloko partner Mark Brydon, Murphy went solo in 2005 and made perhaps the best dance-pop record released this decade. Overseen by British auteur producer Matthew Herbert, Ruby Blue balances luminous jazz-tinged melodies with Herbert's subtly experimental approach, fashioning percussion tracks from rustled chip packets, riffled notebooks and whisked eggwhisks.
The thing is that despite its brilliance, Ruby Blue was a sales disaster, altogether failing to make the British or US charts. Even her then label Echo refused to get behind it. "They were like, 'This is the wrong record'," Murphy said recently. "I was like, 'Oh, I left the right one outside. Jesus, I must have left it in the car'."
So for second album Overpowered, released in October on EMI, Murphy toed a more conservative line, working with seasoned hit producers such as Groove Armada's Andy Cato and Bugz In The Attic's Paul Dolby. This approach got Murphy back into the British top 20 (barely - the album debuted at 20, then dropped quickly away), but came at the expense of much of her natural personality.
EMI had snapped Murphy up because of her charisma live, saying they thought of her as a potential female Robbie Williams. But really, Murphy is an altogether different creature - capricious, vulnerable and flamboyant, given to wearing outlandish costumes on stage and injuring herself in the line of duty (like in Moscow late last year, where she fell and hit her head while singing, gouging a large hole above her eyebrow that needed plastic surgery to prevent scarring).
So Overpowered's mostly straightforward four-on-the-floor club style sits uneasily with Murphy's acknowledged weirdness.
Perhaps she truly wants to straighten herself out. "It's not nice to be called a nutter," she told the The Guardian in 2005, "because it dismisses the input I've had into my own destiny over the years. I'm up for experimentation and a laugh, but 'nutter' is shorthand for . . . Shaun Ryder is a nutter."
It's worth pointing out, though, that Sing It Back, one of Moloko's biggest hits, was only a hit in drastically pumped-up form, remixed by German DJ Boris Dlugosch in 1999 and hastily tacked on to the end of Moloko's third album, Things To Make and Do, after the non-hit version had already appeared on previous effort I Am Not a Doctor. It seems, then, that Murphy only strikes commercial gold when she allows her kinks to be ironed out by producers and remixers.
So what does this all mean for Murphy's musical future? Overpowered was hardly the smash hit her compromises aimed for, although with third single You Know Me Better released this week in Britain, there may still be some life left in it.
Perhaps she'll next head somewhere totally unexpected - which, judging by her career so far, isn't really unexpected at all. Recently, Murphy has joked about making an album of raw Irish folk tunes: "Not folky-wolky-doo, but really rough-sounding," she suggested to The Times.
Here's hoping, then, that whatever steps Murphy takes next, she finds a way to reach a wider audience while remaining true to her odd and engaging self.