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Imelda May - 11 Past The Hour (Album Review)

Wednesday, 21 April 2021 Written by Simon Ramsay

On a mission to preach the gospel of love in all its complex iterations, Imelda May’s latest effort is a sultry, romantic, mature album that ranks as the former rockabilly star’s most accessible to date. But although very potent on a song-by-song basis, these eclectic compositions don’t blend together with any kind of overarching cohesiveness, with their impact undercut as a consequence of stylistic whiplash.

It was certainly time for May to break free from the shackles of all things retro by the time she released her last album. Keen to push boundaries, 2017’s caricature-busting ‘Life Love Flesh Blood’ did exactly that while showcasing an autobiographical honesty that the Irish songwriter had consciously disguised in her previous work.

‘11 Past The Hour’ continues that appealing confessional approach, only this time May isn’t processing the aftermath of divorce, but exploring what love means to her in a way that’s refreshingly schmaltz-free and loaded with hard-earned truths.  

Diamonds tenderly epitomises why special connections are worth fighting for, while Irish folk number Don’t Let Me Stand On My Own, a duet with her partner Niall McNamee, recalls those wonderful musical conversations between Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová as faults and flaws are laid bare.   

This is a gorgeous sounding record. Regardless of the styles employed, each song is so  atmospheric that, whether dramatic and cinematic or swooning and delicate, they are a sonic treat. The title track imagines late-90s Nick Cave and John Barry collaborating on a simmering Bond theme. Never Look Back’s dark stomp, propelled by scything regal strings, could be an early Björk and David Arnold collaboration and What We Did in the Dark, featuring Miles Kane, is a dangerously thrilling electro-indie romp that splits the difference between Garbage and Arctic Monkeys.

Elsewhere, Just One Kiss will appeal to the rock ‘n’ roll crowd, with Noel Gallagher and Ronnie Wood contributing to its dirty, hip-grinding groove. The deliriously upbeat Made To Love, meanwhile, uses love as its narrator to deliver an anti-Sympathy For The Devil, pop-rock sugar rush that unleashes a gloriously enlivening chorus.

With so much to appreciate, it’s strange that these songs don’t gel. Typically, when records possess a strong thematic bent, and are delivered by a powerful personality and storytelling voice that binds everything together, jumping between genres isn’t a problem.  But when May incorporated rock, blues, soul and jazz into her past work, for example, there was a level of compatibility between those styles that meant fans of each could enjoy such a mix.

Her wanderings are just too disparate here. One minute you feel like you’re pissed on a dimly-lit indie dancefloor, or respectfully sitting in the swanky Royal Albert Hall, the next you’re wading in mud at Reading festival or mellowing out to an easy listening radio station. It makes sense to paint such different aspects of love’s bittersweet dance with a palette of wide-ranging colours. Unfortunately, the incompatible choices employed have created a distracting imbalance that detracts from the songs’ emotional resonance.

Imelda May Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Mon April 04 2022 - BIRMINGHAM Symphony Hall
Tue April 05 2022 - NOTTINGHAM Royal Concert Hall
Wed April 06 2022 - YORK York Barbican
Fri April 08 2022 - CAMBRIDGE Corn Exchange
Sat April 09 2022 - SOUTHAMPTON O2 Guildhall Southampton
Sun April 10 2022 - BRIGHTON Brighton Dome
Tue April 12 2022 - BATH Bath Forum
Wed April 13 2022 - SOUTHEND Cliffs Pavilion
Thu April 14 2022 - LONDON London Palladium
Sat April 16 2022 - EDINBURGH Assembly Rooms - George St
Sun April 17 2022 - GLASGOW Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Mon April 18 2022 - MANCHESTER Bridgewater Hall
Sun May 01 2022 - BELFAST Waterfront Hall Auditorium
Mon May 02 2022 - DERRY Millenium Forum
Tue May 03 2022 - CO LOUTH TLT Theatre
Fri May 06 2022 - LIMERICK CITY University Concert Hall
Sat May 07 2022 - KILLARNEY Gleneagle INEC Arena
Mon May 09 2022 - CORK Cork Opera House
Tue May 10 2022 - CORK Cork Opera House
Wed May 11 2022 - WEXFORD National Opera House
Fri May 13 2022 - DUBLIN Vicar Street
Sat May 14 2022 - DUBLIN Vicar Street
Sun May 15 2022 - DUBLIN Vicar Street

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