This deeply emotive and cathartic rock and soul-searching fifth album from Imelda May is regretful and rueful, a ‘chin up, love’ letter to herself.
In 1962 Neil Sedaka wrote ‘Breaking up is hard to do’ an ode to the parting of the hearting, the (dis)union and separating of the ways, an artistic avenue that numbers albums from Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye and ABBA. Heartache for art’s sake. L.L.F.B. is an aural autobiographical skin-shedding and a musique metamorphosis so bare, raw and visceral that outlines the re-emergence of a ‘self’ through the power of (re)creation.
The titles personify a tense past in the past tense (‘The girl I used to be’, ‘Should’ve been you’) with themes of solitude and vulnerability prevalent (‘Human’, ‘Leave me lonely’). However, a morose misery memoir it isn’t as redemption and salvation dominate as initial glum self-introspection becomes May’s trademark glam outré-flection. Better out than in: demons banished as her man’s vanished.
Produced by T Bone Burnett Life. Love. Flesh. Blood. features Jeff Beck, Jools Holland and Tom Waits’s go-to-guitarist Marc Ribot as erstwhile foot soldier-shoulders to cry on. Opening with the plaintive ‘Call me’, a cry for a simple message (or sign) that can signify the world as May pleads ‘if our love means anything call me’ encapsulating the waiting, berating and hating that concludes in the restless woes and deathless throes of ‘can’t sleep, too scared to dream’.
Jeff Beck-ole! brings his own fretting and sliding on the ‘Santo & Johnnyesque’ ‘Black tears’ the mascara running freely the giveaway of distress as a gut-searing eye-tearing ‘inside I’m dying, outside I’m crying’ is salvaged by a superior show of strength from May’s buono vox.
The reaching and bescreeching ‘Should’ve been you’ is a masterly barbed assault on ‘he’ whose absence is felt yet the last laugh will be dealt (only not by him).
The extra-sensory emotion comes to the fore on ‘Sixth Sense’ a premonitory warning sign detecting foreseen feelings of soon-to-be-revealed dealings. This woman’s intuition (She S. P.?) coming to fruition.
Musically ‘Bad Habit’ evokes ‘Sixteen Tons’ itself a song about being enslaved to the MAN, as penury is the price for not submitting to servitude. Make of that what you will.
On this showing Imelda’s not a ‘rockabilly no mates’ anymore. Her loss is also her gain.