Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Martha Wainwright: "Come Home To Mama" (album review)

I'll freely admit that I don't have a lot of time for two-thirds of the Wainwright family.  Loudon and Rufus (although his 2012 album Out Of The Game was surprisingly enjoyable) are far too earnest and self-important for my tastes.  The member who has stood out (for positive reasons) has been Martha. She's proven to capable of penning interesting yet catchy songs with only a fraction of the melodrama of her brother.

Martha returns on October 16th with Come Home To Mama, her first studio album of new material in four years.

On Come Home To Mama it seems as though Martha is taking a few too many cues from her family.  Her quirky warble isn't enough to rescue uninspired numbers like "Can You Believe It" and "All Your Clothes".  The closer "Everything Wrong" is elegant, but lacks a spark.

Some of the influences on the album are questionable.  There's an '80s Kate Bush-esque overproduction on "I Am Sorry" that contains a song that begs to roam free.  The tinkling on "Leave Behind" makes it sound like Tori Amos singing the Mary Tyler Moore theme.

The elements Wainwright chooses to combine are often confusing.  The spooky lurch and swirling keyboard of "Some People" is compelling, but the song is rendered almost unlistenable by Wainwright's pained wailing.  The lead single "Proserpina" features piano, strings, and choral backing vocals, all underneath her sometimes guttural bleatings.

There are gems are to be found among the rocks.  New Wave and folk clash on the catchy "Radio Star".  The "Eleanor Rigby" flow of the verses in "Four Black Sheep" create a sensational juxtaposition with the ambient electronics.  Precise mechanical beats power "I Wanna Make An Arrest" to its place as the record's most lively cut.

Accessible has never really been a term that would accurately describe Martha Wainwright's music.  However, until now it has at least been engaging.  I had been hoping for so much more after such a long break.

Best tracks: "Radio Star", "Four Black Sheep"

Track listing for Come Home To Mama:
  • I Am Sorry
  • Can You Believe It
  • Radio Star
  • Proserpina
  • Leave Behind
  • Four Black Sheep
  • Some People
  • I Wanna Make An Arrest
  • All Your Clothes
  • Everything Wrong

1 comment:

Raphael said...

When talking about the Wainwright family, you forgot to mention Lucy Wainwright Roche.