Imelda MAY – Mayhem 2010

Imelda MAY – Mayhem 2010

Blues

Takes someone special to cover the genius of ‘Tainted Love’ and bring something new to it but Imelda May does that job no bother, and the rest of ‘Mayhem’ is just as catchy and classy.
An even stronger album than her 2008 breakthrough ‘Love Tattoo’, May shows more muscles as a singer and songwriter, while her band have become tighter or looser, depending on what each track needs – like the best gangs, they all add a certain something to their leader’s power.
In the beautiful hard times ballad ‘Kentish Town Waltz’ she has arguably her best song to date, its country groove showing, like ‘Tainted Love’, a refusal to be pigeonholed and guts galore in tackling different styles.
After this, there’ll be an explosion in the numbers of the faithful and the queue of people wanting to work with May will be longer than the one outside her favourite chipper Fusco’s on Meath Street on a Saturday night.
By Harry Guerin.
**
If there’s an overlap between burlesque and rockabilly, Dubliner Imelda May Clabby embodies it. Visually, she’s all skintight leopard-print and red lips; musically, she throws her considerable energies into a sharp mix of rockabilly, jazz and surf guitars. And, in her hands, rockabilly is a living, vital genre with nothing retro about it. She wrote virtually every song here (apart from a cover of Tainted Love, which has been rejigged as a feverish waltz for guitar, drums and voice), and sings them with heart and minxy humour. Whether the lurid cast of characters in the lyrics is real or imaginary – one is a “psycho” on medication, another lands “in a cell with grey pants and bruises” and then there’s the “sneaky freak” who spies on her husband – doesn’t matter. What does is that she brings them to passionate, reverb-drenched life on an album that positions her as one of 2010’s more interesting finds.
By Caroline Sullivan.
**
Although rock’n’roll is readily associated with hotly wired vocalists, it is also a genre in which musicians can take pride of place, primarily because the genre grew from rhythm & blues, which itself was partially shaped by the input of great players who’d been blooded in big bands. Imelda May’s engaging third album makes this point in no uncertain terms.

As much as she is the star of the show, the group that supports her is well on the money, with the drums-double bass axis of Steve Rushton and Al Gare locking down the walking blues lines impressively while trumpeter Dave Priseman provides concise, wistful interjections that occasionally have a mariachi grace to them. But the key member of the band is arguably guitarist Darrel Higham, whose wiry rhythmic lines and growling, tremolo-wobble chords are a potent foil to May’s gutsy contralto.

The London-based Dubliner is an imperious, take-no-prisoners personality who can certainly electrify a tune with the tigerish yelps and whoops that run deep into the marrow of the blues. In fact, on the moodier pieces, May has a tone that slightly recalls Carmel, the singer whose raw, somber songs have aged well in the past two decades. Like Carmel, May writes the bulk of the material and impresses with both melody and lyric, none more so than the hard times chronicle of Kentish Town Blues, which smartly distills the realities of life at the low end of the social scale, right down to “those stews that lasted three days into four”.

Mayhem effectively proves that Imelda May is an artist of real substance and it will be interesting to see how she develops in due course, for as much as she has the rock‘n’roll template down pat it would be a shame if it became a sine qua non. There are times when the band slides into Cochraneisms that border on pastiche, but several others when the arrangements tilt into a pleasingly undefined stylistic space and suggest that May could be more than a retro queen who can sport a quiff with style.
By Kevin Le Gendre.
**
Imelda May has one of those voices. Rich, full, powerful and positively vintage in every way. As my sister said, her voice ‘just oozes sex like!’. Upon hearing her for the first time with ‘Johnny Got A Boom Boom’, I was instantly struck with curiosity. I had heard rockabilly music before, but never straight from Ireland. And never quite as spellbinding as Ms. May’s intense, 50’s-esque blast from the speakers. Aside from the fact that the lady has buckets of talent, and that the band compliment her beautifully, the music is a breath of fresh air when it pops up on the radio. There are few bands and artists in the charts lately that can claim to stand out and catch one’s ear quite like Imelda May, but thankfully she’s here, and she’s packing a new album to shake things up. Warning: Take care when listening to her new album as you may want to get up and do the twist while swinging your hair around maniacally. Not that I did.

It opens with ‘Pulling the Rug’ (try not to giggle ladies), a catchy rhythm and soft, velvety-vocal bursting into the usual slap-the-thigh, swing-your-girl song-and-dance with May’s vocals taking the focus instantly with her sexy, powerful blast of the chorus, changing the song from a mere introduction to the album to a stuck-in-your-head-for-days tune. ‘Psycho’ really caught my attention with its distorted guitars and May’s vocals rough yet silky at the same time, creating a siren’s song of rockabilly standards; her voice on this track will enchant you, turning this into a must-have for the ipod when on the go.

I swear I’ve never heard another woman say ‘Hey!’, ‘Woah-oh-oh’ or ‘Ow!’ quite like her. The band create a great 50’s feeling throughout, bringing the listener into a day-dream of a stunning lady singing on stage to a crowd of swell kids, guys and girls with their sweethearts and swing-dancing aplenty to the faster tempos.

‘Kentish Town Waltz’ sets an entirely different feeling from the first three bouncy songs, bringing us into the slightly more soft-jazz side of the band, with May’s vocals lulling us completely into puddle form, undulating with softness and love and lolling on a sea of soft guitar. It creates a beautiful, almost Chet Baker feel with a feminine tweak and a country twinge to it. Stunning song, truly.

‘Eternity’ is strongly reminiscent of ‘Wake Up Little Susie’ by the Everly Brothers, while ‘Bury My Troubles’ strikes me as the ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ of ‘Mayhem’. ‘All For You’ positively oozes bedroom eyes over the airwaves, and ‘Sneak Freak’, while being a tad odd, provides much leg-bouncing, foot-tapping, bum-wiggling rhythm. Get your swing-dancing outfits out for this one, it’s positively infectious.

What enchants me most about this album is the vocals. The band are fantastic, much credit due to the instrumental lads by all means, but May’s voice is positively spellbinding throughout. How quickly she can change the style and attitude of her vocals is just amazing, and a credit to her talent. From her kick-ass old-time rock ‘n’ roll howls and squeaks (Pulling the Rug, Psycho, Sneak Freak) to her soft, smooth lulls (Kentish Town Waltz, I’m Alive, Bury My troubles), the woman can make a song simply by purring softly or growling sexily into the mic. I’ve been trying to pin down her voice but I’ve realized why she pulls me in: to me, she sounds like a female Elvis, and her ability to change from rugged and rough to kittensoft is strongly reminiscent of Presley also. If you’re reading this Imelda, that’s a massive compliment from me.

The album, a whirlwind of ups and downs (downs being simply a softer take, not anything depressing), Mayhem ends on a fantastic cover of ‘Tainted Love’, possibly the best cover of the Soft Cell synth hit I’ve ever heard. If you’re going to buy an album at all over the course of the next week, month, year, I strongly suggest you get your hands on this explosive record from Imelda May. Because, in the wise words of my sister: ‘He voice just oozes sex like!’.
By CherryBomb.
**
Dave Priseman – Trumpet / Flugle Horn / Percussion
Darrel Higham – Guitar
Al Gare – Double Bass / Bass Guitar
Steve Rushton – Drums
**
01. Pulling The Rug 3:53
02. Psycho 2:52
03. Mayhem 2:47
04. Kentish Town Waltz 4:50
05. All For You 2:50
06. Eternity 3:16
07. Inside Out 3:28
08. Proud And Humble 4:00
09. Sneaky Freak 3:04
10. Bury My Troubles 3:06
11. Too Sad To Cry 4:29
12. I’m Alive 3:52
13. Let Me Out 3:22
14. Tainted Love 2:47
**


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