Review of The Irrepressibles album Mirror Mirror released through Rough Trade.
By listening to The Irrepressibles' 'Mirror Mirror' you are only getting half the story. Jamie McDermott's pop dectet are so rooted in theatrics and operatics, so obsessed with pushing the boundaries of popular music performance, that their music lacks a certain element on record.
Not that their debút album doesn't hold plenty of spectacle on its own. The mood switches between triumphant and withdrawn, almost as scenes in a play, as Jamie guides the band through infinite complexities of emotion and instrumentation. 'My Friend Jo' draws the curtains with pomp and splendour; Jamie's full-bodied falsetto bends from lulls to shrieks between staccato strings and expansive percussion, painting a ghost image of Jeff Buckley's billowing sermons on top of the grandeur of a Shakespearean play.
Its aggression and vigour caste a shadow on the next couplet, the meandering balladry 'I'll Maybe Let You' and 'In Your Eyes', slightly masking their naked beauty with an expectancy of more immediate delights. After several listens however they begin to blossom out and unravel their charm, before 'Anvil' picks up the pace with its Final Fantasy (Owen Pallett)-meets-amateur choir histrionics.
The structure of the album is perhaps it's biggest negative, albeit not a great one in this age of Ipod shuffles and short attention spans. Particularly as it pushes its masterpiece to the encore. 'In This Shirt' is a truly haunting work, a breathless soliloquy that carries the same stark intimacy as Antony & The Johnsons' 'Hope There's Someone' but calls out to the furthest heavens. It is utterly spellbinding, and as perfect a finale as has ever been written, but it would be much more appropriate as an introduction, a siren song to lure into The Irrepressibles vivid demi-world.
'Mirror Mirror' may only be half the story, but it offers enough wonder and genius to entice and entrance, and throughout carries a weight that allows for interpretations and allusions, and of course for reading between the lines.