Róisín Murphy burst onto the scene as one side of pop duo Moloko with Mark Brydon. But since their disbandment in 2003 she has pursued a critically acclaimed solo career with no fewer than six studio albums in her repertoire. On her latest offering Hit Parade however, the seams appear to be coming loose in parts and whilst having some bright spots, it also groans under it’s “experimental” label and has little to offer besides what’s already on show from the beginning.
The album opens with What Not To Do which contains a style and theme which is heavily (if not slightly overly) used throughout the entire disc, with dark and moody synths providing a backdrop to eclectic and highly experimental vocal effects. It’s a tone that’s well utilised by Roisin in many parts, but also has little respite or spark to make the songs stand out from amongst their peers. The electronic motifs are at their most creative in CooCool, where they pop up multiple times in different ways to keep you guessing. The lyrical style and content becomes quite playful here with lines such as “IF you show a playful willingness, I would yeah, be more amenable”.
The softly strummed guitars are positively swimming in effects on the trippy The Universe, with it’s techno-esque vocals mixing up the flow and keeping the song fresh, despite it’s over-use of repetition in the lyrics. In Hurts So Bad, you feel as though it’s settling in to yet another moody piece, but it’s sharp percussive electronics shake it up and add a sense of unease behind the inquisitional lyrical narrative “did I get it wrong all along, you were sending signals/post a bomb, and if I open it, I’m gone”. At this point, the album is in dire need of a lift, and the song The House duly delivers with indie-inspired guitars and the vocals lilting over the top.
Arguably where the album starts to lose the thread is with the double hit Spacetime/Fader. The former is just bizarre, which fits the theme very well but does nothing to set up the next song and feels like an unnecessary speedbump in the flow of the record. The latter is a perfectly fine song but doesn’t showcase anything that we haven’t already heard so far. This is followed by Free Will, which has playful and groovy percussion that builds up with reflective and poignant lyrics “I cant conceive of free will when you hold all the cards/I used to think I have my own life, I would delude myself that I was going my own sweet way”. This song is one of the more meaningful parts of the album, even if it does overstay it’s welcome at over 6 minutes in length.
You Knew is a club-orientated synth track that has higher energy than it’s predecessors, adding altitude to the tracklist but again extends itself a bit too far at 7 minutes without switching up the instrumentals much at all. The strongest moment of the album is surely Two Ways, which goes for a different instrumental feel and excellently mixed vocals to switch up the flow.
Overrall, Hit Parade can be a bit of a mixed bag at times, but is still a strong entry into Róisín Murphy’s hugely successful career. Her legions of passionate fans are sure to find much to love about this record, and we can expect her to carry on pushing musical boundaries and songwriting norms for years to come.