Slip Of The Tongue
This is a spoken-word/poetry album (EP). I feel it’s worth putting that right there as a warning, since May made her name pumping out rockabilly and subtly reminding people of some of its Irish roots. Her music is a throwback to another era and it performs its dance because of her spectacular presence and voice, a vital energy driving the songs. She’s good. Very good. And she has a fantastic band pushing her and the songs along.
Here she is in contemplative, poetic mode. It’s every bit as good in fact, relative to the fact that this is spoken word. Spoken word needs a warning. Some people will run for the hills.
So. Warning out the way, Slip Of The Tongue is rather wonderful really – May’s spoken voice every bit as enchanting as when she sings. Opening poem, Home, the longest piece here (just three minutes) is set to the sort of strings Rhian Sheehan and Theodore Shapiro drench over post-industrial musical landscapes. It’s sumptuous, almost close to emotionally overwhelming.
This is a journey. And there’s humour and heart at every turn. In equal measures. There’s pathos and darkness too.
GBH is devastating and delicious, “Grievous battery harm replaces previous flattery and charm” is how this gangsta-rap folk-ditty begins. It’s an ode to self love, but at the expense of a tech-saturated world where U-porn replaces real love. There are funny, uplifting, empowering moments but there’s a sadness clinging to the sides of this poem. So much to unpack in less than two minutes. And the almost whimsical musical backing is deliciously devious.
Elephant is set to a march of drums – reminiscent of the tribal rhythms and the Bodhran that May uses to wonderful effect in her rockabilly sets.
The recurring theme here – outside of sex and pleasure – is womanhood as a concept: Mothering and making your way in the world as something beyond that definition. But knowing also that the gift of being a mother has been something that is so defining, and occasionally in the very best way.
Roses is musically the most beautiful piece here, Clint Mansell’s string-laden scores come to mind. And there’s something so soothing about the voice. May uses the symbol of the roses thrown by adoring fans – she appreciates them but she’s not wanting to be liked by man, just loved by one. “Who will throw me roses?” she repeats as a spoken refrain. We can feel the pain. The celebration of receiving them under lights is appreciated but somehow it is not real. It’s a moment that never lingers.
The Word Is Out has full musical backing – a rhythm section driving it to its short, punchy conclusion.
This 16-minute EP closes with a line we can feel the whole way through these thoughtful, intense poems. The closing poem, Stargazer, is a celebration of motherhood, acknowledging the pain of when the baby almost didn’t arrive, celebrating the harmony of “the chord that connected you and I” and finishing with “the greatest reveal of all: I gave you life/But because of you/I live it”.
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