Review: Imelda May – Mayhem
Imelda May has one of those voices. Rich, full, powerful and positively vintage in every way. As my sister said, her voice ‘just oozes sex like!’. Upon hearing her for the first time with ‘Johnny Got A Boom Boom’, I was instantly struck with curiosity. I had heard rockabilly music before, but never straight from Ireland. And never quite as spellbinding as Ms. May’s intense, 50′s-esque blast from the speakers. Aside from the fact that the lady has buckets of talent, and that the band compliment her beautifully, the music is a breath of fresh air when it pops up on the radio. There are few bands and artists in the charts lately that can claim to stand out and catch one’s ear quite like Imelda May, but thankfully she’s here, and she’s packing a new album to shake things up. Warning: Take care when listening to her new album as you may want to get up and do the twist while swinging your hair around maniacally. Not that I did.
It opens with ‘Pulling the Rug’ (try not to giggle ladies), a catchy rhythm and soft, velvety-vocal bursting into the usual slap-the-thigh, swing-your-girl song-and-dance with May’s vocals taking the focus instantly with her sexy, powerful blast of the chorus, changing the song from a mere introduction to the album to a stuck-in-your-head-for-days tune. ‘Psycho’ really caught my attention with its distorted guitars and May’s vocals rough yet silky at the same time, creating a siren’s song of rockabilly standards; her voice on this track will enchant you, turning this into a must-have for the ipod when on the go.
I swear I’ve never heard another woman say ‘Hey!’, ‘Woah-oh-oh’ or ‘Ow!’ quite like her. The band create a great 50′s feeling throughout, bringing the listener into a day-dream of a stunning lady singing on stage to a crowd of swell kids, guys and girls with their sweethearts and swing-dancing aplenty to the faster tempos.
‘Kentish Town Waltz’ sets an entirely different feeling from the first three bouncy songs, bringing us into the slightly more soft-jazz side of the band, with May’s vocals lulling us completely into puddle form, undulating with softness and love and lolling on a sea of soft guitar. It creates a beautiful, almost Chet Baker feel with a feminine tweak and a country twinge to it. Stunning song, truly.
‘Eternity’ is strongly reminiscent of ‘Wake Up Little Susie’ by the Everly Brothers, while ‘Bury My Troubles’ strikes me as the ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ of ‘Mayhem’. ‘All For You’ positively oozes bedroom eyes over the airwaves, and ‘Sneak Freak’, while being a tad odd, provides much leg-bouncing, foot-tapping, bum-wiggling rhythm. Get your swing-dancing outfits out for this one, it’s positively infectious.
What enchants me most about this album is the vocals. The band are fantastic, much credit due to the instrumental lads by all means, but May’s voice is positively spellbinding throughout. How quickly she can change the style and attitude of her vocals is just amazing, and a credit to her talent. From her kick-ass old-time rock ‘n’ roll howls and squeaks (Pulling the Rug, Psycho, Sneak Freak) to her soft, smooth lulls (Kentish Town Waltz, I’m Alive, Bury My troubles), the woman can make a song simply by purring softly or growling sexily into the mic. I’ve been trying to pin down her voice but I’ve realized why she pulls me in: to me, she sounds like a female Elvis, and her ability to change from rugged and rough to kittensoft is strongly reminiscent of Presley also. If you’re reading this Imelda, that’s a massive compliment from me.
The album, a whirlwind of ups and downs (downs being simply a softer take, not anything depressing), Mayhem ends on a fantastic cover of ‘Tainted Love’, possibly the best cover of the Soft Cell synth hit I’ve ever heard. If you’re going to buy an album at all over the course of the next week, month, year, I strongly suggest you get your hands on this explosive record from Imelda May. Because, in the wise words of my sister: ‘He voice just oozes sex like!’.
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