Imelda May - Mayhem
2011, Decca Records
2011, Decca Records
Dublin native Imelda may is just too good to not be noticed. Her self-released debut album, Love Tattoo, went triple platinum in Ireland, and she has already shared the stage with the likes of Eric Clapton, Chuck Berry, Meatloaf, Van Morrison and David Gilmour. Imelda May’s blend of surf, indie, rockabilly and pop is distinctive, and dare it be said, original. Imelda May’s voice makes you want to drop all that you’re doing and simply listen. Perhaps most important in a performer, however, is personality. Imelda May is a whirlwind, sweeping listeners along on her journeys with a blend of intrigue, sex appeal and pure, unadulterated chutzpah. May’s U.S. debut album, Mayhem, is the sort of album you simply cannot put down.
Mayhem opens with the infectiously danceable rock n roll of "Pulling The Plug". The simple arrangement offered here works perfectly, allowing Imelda May's gritty/sultry voice a proper introduction that will captivate listeners. May sounds like a zesty blend of Chrissie Hynde, Tina Turner and Nellie McKay. "Psycho" is driven by biting surf guitar, exploring a relationship with one scary dude. May's enigmatic vocal lights up the irrepressible quirk pop number that builds into its own sort of madness in the end. "Mayhem" is the sort of song that simply won't leave you alone. Don't expect to sit still, and you'll be drawn to hit replay over and over again. There's some excellent guitar work here, and an urgent energy that's impossible to ignore.
Imelda May changes pace with "Kentish Town Waltz", a song of true love and perseverance. If you haven't realized it before now, the song drives home the fact that Imelda May is not just another pop wannabe. Her take on the perfect state of imperfection that is love is insightful and authentic. It's an amazing piece of songwriting and performed with a touch of class. May revs things up again with the sexy come-on of "All For You". Steeped in a blend of jazz and 1950's rock sounds, the song is a star vehicle that allows Imelda May's personality and charisma to blow up bigger than life.
Mayhem takes a breather with the light rockabilly of "Eternity", a quiet celebration of love that follows the long wait for the right one to come along. It's a nice, upbeat love song that avoids schmaltz while digging into a quietly effervescent joy. "Inside Out" is a catchy, nightclub style love song. Full of gentle humor and a positive vibe, this is an intimate musical moment that shows depth as a performer and interpreter of songs. "Proud And Humble" is an urgent bit of urban folk and blues with a memorable chorus; one side of a conversation with God trying to reconcile pride in making good choices with the humility required to make them. The theme here is a classic contradiction of the human condition; one that has been pulled apart and reconstructed by philosophers, poets and songwriters since humans first put paint to rock. Imelda May comes along and imparts a brief musical soliloquy in everyday terms that makes it all seem like child's play.
Things get wild and crazy on "Sneaky Freak", the ultimate stalker anthem for the digital age. With the tongue-in-cheek humor of a Nellie McKay, May lampoons both the obsessives in the crowd, and those who make themselves so available to be stalked. "Bury My Troubles" is a pleasant little surprise hidden in the back half of the album, an intriguing blend of jazz, pop and swing that's quirky, sexy and fun without being over-the-top. "Too Sad To Cry" is a blue dirge in a stylistic arrangement that includes the martial rhythms of a funeral march. Imelda May tops it all off with a great, pure vocal effort that will raise your respect for her and cement your intent to run right out and buy anything she releases.
May turns for home with the country-tinged pop of "I'm Alive", even enticing a vague Caribbean flavor out of the mix. "Let Me Out" is a catchy, urgent and upbeat bit of fluff that's worth the aural effort, and leads into a brilliant cover of Soft Cell's "Tainted Love". May's version is a bit grittier than the original, but work so well you'd swear she wrote it herself. Mayhem closes with "Johnny Got A Boom Boom", an incredibly catchy bit of rockabilly that you won't be able to get out of your head. Lyrically the song is pure fluff, but it's the sort of fluff that gets trapped in your head and rattles around for weeks. May wrote this number early in her career, and first released it in Ireland and the UK back in 2009. It's become a fan favorite, but never managed to make much of a stir on the charts. The song is included here as an introduction to US audiences.
Imelda May has got it all. Tremendous pop hooks, a stunning voice, a quirky, bigger-than-life persona and the ability to write songs that stick with you. Mayhem is aptly named, running the gamut from sweet and sentimental ballads to pop insanity, all steeped in rockabilly, surf and classic singer/songwriter motifs. Along the way, Imelda May shows the poise and humor of Nellie McKay, the ability to surprise you musically of Kate Miller-Heidke, and the pure star power of Madonna. Get used to hearing the name Imelda May.
Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about Imelda May at www.imeldamay.co.uk or www.myspace.com/imeldamay1. Mayhem is available from Amazon.com as a CD or Download. The album is also available via iTunes.