How is it that Róisín Murphy has only made four solo albums before now? The Wicklow native has been an enduring fixture in dance, house and pop music for over two decades, both as one half of Moloko and as a solo artist to be reckoned with, yet remains the perennial outsider when it comes to chart successes or million-selling albums.
In the past, that label may have irked her, but the devil-may-care attitude on her fifth record suggests she’s shrugging off past transgressions and embracing her role as pop queen most likely to be underestimated at every turn.
Róisín Machine pays homage to her pop and house roots, but this is primarily a disco album – in spirit, if not consistently in style. Several songs on the tracklist have been floating around for some time; Simulation, for example, was first released in 2012, with Incapable and Jealousy following.
Simulation was also the unofficial starting point of her collaboration with longtime friend Rob Barratt aka DJ Parrot aka Crooked Man, a veteran of Sheffield's house and dance scene. His influence can be heard on the hazy, slowly eked-out clubby throb of that song, on the shoulder-shaking New York house vibe of We Got Together, and even on the snappy twitch of Shellfish Mademoiselle.
Elsewhere, however – in particular on the five brand new songs on this album – the funk and groove is as undeniable as it is irresistible. Something More’s disco breakdown sounds like a spiritual sister of CeCe Peniston’s Finally; you can imagine hearing the insouciant shimmy of Murphy’s Law in a nightclub at any point from the 1970s until the present day; and the thumping, unbridled hands-in-the-air joy of Narcissus will rouse even the most fervent nonbeliever.
Despite the overlapping of older songs with new tracks, this is a collection mixed in an old-school, listen-start-to-finish manner. While some songs, such as Kingdom of Ends, ably set the scene with atmospheric synths and snappy handclaps, others burst through speakers or headphones, peel you away from your seat, drag you on to the dancefloor and simply insist that you get down.
By the time the jittery, elated funk of closing track Jealousy rolls around, you’ll already be halfway out the door, dancing shoes in hand.
In many ways, that quality makes Róisín Machine an especially relevant album for these times: it’s a record that sounds great at home, but also begs to be heard loud, live and in a large room with other people. We all need something to look forward to, after all.