Overpowered is a silvery mirrorball of a record that perfectly illuminates the neon heart of Saturday night.
Context is all. Consider the reviewer’s predicament, sequestered in a dim room on a dull Wednesday morning with the headphones on, when the album under scrutiny demands a humungous sound system, Friday night duds, flashing lights and general Studio 54 ambience. It’s to Roisin Murphy’s credit that the electro-driven biorhythms of Overpowered easily facilitate such a leap of imagination.
Interested parties will already be intimate with the opening track and summer single; a hymn to the endorphin rush of modern romance, it could be a beat-savvy Bryan Ferry lurking in the shadows of some futurist club night circa 1980. Strange. As in Steve Strange strange. And quite wonderful too.
One thing is clear: Roisin Murphy is no dance dilettante. You don’t have to have read the bio to understand her love affair with the form dates back to ‘70s Philadelphia disco and Northern soul (most apparent on ‘Checkin’ On Me’). And the listener is repeatedly reminded just how much Kylie’s ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ – the siren’s melody, the retro space-age video, that dress – owed to Moloko.
‘You Know Me Better’, with its Adamski 808-bass, and the Laura Branigan-Portishead-Charles Darwin collision of ‘Primitive’ should come off as pastiche-y, but never do, not least because Murphy’s warm and seductive vocals are expertly pitched (see also the plaintive ‘Movie Star’, the tender daddy’s girl dub of ‘Scarlet Ribbon’ and the mouth-watering Edwards/Rodgers/Thompson homage and Groove Armada collaboration ‘Let Me Know’). Like the best discotheque divas, she’s a blues singer in six-inch stilettoes.
More to the point, the level of sonic detail ensures that this record isn’t necessarily incongruous bedsit listening. Her 2005 solo debut Ruby Blue was the ultimate headphones experience, a record that wed pre-Fairlight rhythm methods to almost Bjorkian adventures in hi fi. Overpowered is far more overt; a silvery mirrorball of a record that perfectly illuminates the neon heart of Saturday night.
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