If My Wife Knew I'd Be Dead
CMAT is frustrating. I can hear something classic in her melodies and hooks and voice. I wish she’d take herself seriously. I wish her management and label would do the same. But the album title is a worrying indication that this won’t change any time soon, with it’s hint of country cliche, sitcom punchline. Alright, there’s a millennial twist in that, CMAT is a young woman. And there’s nothing wrong with humour but proximity to Weird Al Yankovich needs to be carefully managed.
The album kicks off with yearning single, Nashville that deserves a real orchestra. The whole album deserves a real orchestra and not the synthesised, one man version. The steel pedal (as on the brilliant named Peter Bogdanovich - an indication of cultural smarts) is part of the melange instead of a definite feature. Honky vocal processing on some tracks emphasises that an original voice and vocal style such as hers needs careful production consideration. The pedestrian drums… oh, it’s just annoying because a track like Lonely could travel if it wasn’t swimming in preset five, small cathedral, digital reverb.
On paper, an intelligent young woman who knows her place in the pop universe, who effortlessly combines country with Kate Bush’s hooky elements and Chrissie Hynde’s heart wrenching yodel and who can pull choruses that infect your day our of her vintage hand-crochet’d purse like so many Lovehearts should be a no-brainer for America’s increasingly country-dominated music machine. But even country music producers understand that it’s 2022 not 1992.
Right, I feel mean for the criticism but, being cruel to be kind, maybe it needs saying. Our pop pearls need looking after, there aren’t many on any given Sunday, or any other day of the week and that nasty, octave’d guitar solo on Every Bottle (Is My BoyFriend) needs taking out to the corral and put out of its misery. Along with the session drummer.
Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson (can’t help but think the full name knocks the acronym out the ring, all three christian names, a character from a Laura Ingalls Wilder novel) can write. 2 Wrecked 2 Care, Geography Teacher (‘my life is a Mona Lisa tied to a paper game of hangman, I hate how nothing ever goes to plan’) both blighted by that self-confidence thing of making a joke from the sublime. Ronnie Lane, in his Slim Chance days, could dip into country with his tongue firmly in his Cockney cheek. But he knew when it was time to put the humour away and I wonder if the need to go back in time to look for styling took her/them to The Poacher that perhaps this album would find its place. Or maybe that’s for ten years time, when our Ciara Mary-Alice has got a hold on what she’s doing. Meanwhile, she’s at the mercy of a schizo push and pull between 21st century success and music biz marketing. The songs will out. Despite everything and I suspect that after a few plays even my jaded old ears will be listening to the words, tunes, melodies, rather than the packaging.
CMAT image by Sarah Doyle