Given that there was a seven year wait between Róisín Murphy’s second solo album Overpowered and the follow-up Hairless Toys, fans had been left hungry for new material, with only a few remixes, collaborations and EPs to satisfy during the wait. The fact that Murphy has released Take Her Up To Monto a mere year after Hairless Toys comes as somewhat of a blessing, almost as if making up for lost time. She’s still very much on the same path as Hairless Toys, exploring pop music with a surprise twist to it, though this time around the results are a little less consistent.
Even when it reaches the pinnacle of its pop leanings, there’s something gloriously strange about Take Her Up To Monto. Ten Miles High, originally a promotional track for the album, is built around a prominent synth hook, screaming to be used in a major pop song, but instead features alongside a minimal beeping beat and downtempo chorus break, only ramping into a full song almost two minutes in, and beautifully tying it all together as it enters a dance break for its bridge. Romantic Comedy is more straightforward, with a heavy, abrasive synth beat and piano melodies creating a much bouncier setting, being decidedly more accessible while still fitting itself with some demented, twisting sections as she repeats the same line continuously—I want you to laugh out loud.
The rest of the album is somewhat less consistent, though, starting off strong as it experiments but ending on a less satisfying note. Pretty Gardens starts simply enough with a sparse beat and glockenspiel alongside it, but quickly turns into a wall of chants and string-like synths, with a sound that’s a little off but still effective. Mastermind features a static beat for most of its introduction, though quickly breaks into an 80s-style chorus that gives the song much more definition. Lip Service, probably the most ordinary song on the album, is also one of the most enjoyable; its simple jazzy beat is very much at odds with the electronica that covers most of the album, but it suits Murphy’s continued whispering style of singing very well.
It’s after Ten Miles High that the album starts to decline, loading its final four tracks with ballads that drag the album to a major halt. The foreboding air of Nervous Sleep is the exception of the three, being the most engaging of the bunch, though it’s not quite enough to save the second half; the best thing to happen in this section is Romantic Comedy, which finds itself placed somewhat unfortunately between these less enjoyable songs.
With Murphy’s legacy being weird pop music, from the avant-garde jazz pop of her debut solo album Ruby Blue and her time as half of Moloko to the minimal electro of Hairless Toys, it’s no surprise that the first half of Take Her Up To Monto is the strongest. It collects the styles she does best in one place, almost feeling like a retrospective of everything she’s done, and feels energetic yet thoughtful at the same time. Its second half means it’s a lot less consistent in quality and mood than Hairless Toys, which works against the album’s favour, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad listen. Take Her Up To Monto may not be Róisín Murphy’s strongest work, but it does prove that she still knows what she can do best.