Hit Parade, Róisín Murphy’s sixth solo album, was almost derailed even before its official release. Comments made by the former Moloko frontwoman about puberty blockers saw her cancelled by many of her LGBT+ fanbase and allies.
In the fallout, she had gigs pulled and there are unconfirmed reports that Ninja Tune, her record label, will donate profits to trans charities.
It’s against this backdrop that she plays two intimate, acoustic sets at the Brudenell Social Club. The ecstatic audience reaction could be a show of solidarity or it could simply be that, current situation aside, she’s carved out a consistently idiosyncratic career over the last three decades that’s ping-ponged from 70s disco to funk to jazz.
Stripped of the outlandish visuals for which she’s known and the safety net of a backing band, the focus of the 11-track set is on the actual songwriting. The quality of this, or her lithe delivery, is beyond dispute.
Promoted as ‘a little celebration’ of her latest release, re-arranging its tracks for just acoustic guitar and occasional kick drum must have posed unique challenges. The studio versions – created with maverick producer DJ Koze – are intricately constructed out of layered samples, voicemail recordings, and electronics.
Presented in this format, the songs convey a strikingly different mood. The deep house of ‘Can’t Replicate’ is re-imagined as yearning jazz. ‘Fader’ emerges from under its heavy sample of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings’ ‘Window Shopping’ to become exquisite soul. And the lyrical absurdity of the psychedelic ‘The Universe’ is delivered as straight-up comedy, with Murphy breaking into a relieved smile when it’s received with laughter.
The lyrics of these new tracks, which focus on self-acceptance and existentialism, are lent particular poignancy under the circumstances. They’re warmly received but the biggest applause is saved for material from her back catalogue.