7 November 2015

Róisín Murphy - Hairless Toys

This is the first of two reviews I’ll be doing for our round up of this year’s Mercury Music Awards, It’s first time since we started this that it’s by an artist I’m previously familiar with. I imagine most of you are aware that Róisín Murphy was formerly the singer in Avant-Garde electronic duo Moloko. I was actually a big fan of Moloko at the time; I loved their sense of fun and individuality not present in a lot of other bands of their Electropop/Trip Hop ilk. I much preferred their weirder, more experimental songs like Killa Bunnies, Pure Pleasure Seeker and Indigo to their bigger but more straight-forward singles like The Time is Now and Sing It Back that people will be more familiar with.

Moloko split when Róisín and Mark Brydon (the other half of Moloko) ended their (romantic) relationship. I was aware that Róisín had ventured into a solo career but Hairless Toys is the first thing I’ve heard since Statues (Moloko’s last album) and I’m looking forward to it.

 On first listen it doesn’t sound a whole lot different to Moloko, the beats are more minimal and restrained and the wild variety of genres has gone, all songs are quite similar which adds a sense of cohesiveness that was lacking from Moloko’s releases but inevitably creates some sameyness. There's a definite sense of class and elegance that was perhaps not present in a lot of Moloko's stuff too. At first glance Hairless Toys appears quite short as there’s only 8 songs on it. However 6 of the 8 songs are between 5 and 7 minutes long, the other two being 4 minutes and 9 ½minutes long so it’s not that short at all.

The opening track is Gone Fishing, a gentle atmospheric track with an almost Acid jazz feel. Róisín’s trademark understated vocals waft pleasantly across it whilst the music gradually builds up then calms down for the end of the song. It’s nice enough but a little forgettable. Next is the single Evil Eyes. It feels more like one of the old, weird, Moloko songs though a lot more restrained and demure. It’s initially forgettable but needs a few listens to appreciate. At over 6 ½ minutes long it outstays its welcome unfortunately. I’d expect a lot more development with a song that length but nothing new turns up, just lots of the same. This is even more frustratingly evident In the next song Exploitation. It says all it needs to by about 4 ½ minutes. Sadly there’s over another 5 minutes of it after that! It’s a good song apart from that; Disturbing, discordant warbling and electronic cowbell give it a strange creepiness. Tellingly there’s a single edit that about 4 minutes long.

Uninvited Guest has a nice bit of whistling on it. It’s no Winds Of Change but it’s alright. Again, other than the whistling, it’s fairly forgettable. Exile is next and is the shortest song on Hairless Toys, it’s got a bit of a 50’s feel to it, It’s a slow, gentle ballad, not quite throwaway but serves as somewhat of an interlude.
House Of Glass continues the pace and feel presented in the previous songs. It’s nice but, again, not particularly memorable. Listening to this album I often find myself drifting off and then snapping back thinking I’ve missed a track but it’s still on the same one due to the length of them. House Of Glass is just shy of 7 minutes and could be half that and be none the worse for it.

Hairless Toys (Gotta Hurt) features some discordant and sorrowful piano and Róisín whispering sadly along with it. Some gentle wafting drones turn up after a while and wash their sorrow upon you. The song is a lot more relaxing than it sounds. Like, Gone Fishing, it takes a few listens to appreciate. Again, it really doesn’t need to be the 6 minutes long that it is

The final song is Unputdownable which, I believe, is not an Oxford English approved real word. the song has an otherworldly dreaminess to it. It’s either ethereal and fairylike or just off its face on quaaludes. One or the other. There’s seems to be parts of several songs stitched together amongst it and some of them are quite good.

 Overall Hairless Toys is not a bad album at all, just a frustrating one. it’s a pleasant background listen but it’s not very memorable, the songs are mostly too long and quite similar which means they all kind of drift into each other, which might well be the point I dunno!.

6 out of 10 - Now I see where you were going but not quite there
Best Track: Unputdownable

Listen to Hairless Toys on Spotify HERE
Buy it on Amazon HERE

Here’s the edit of Exploitation I was saying about.

And just for old times sake, here’s Moloko’s great video for Pure Pleasure Seeker

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