Few bands dispel the myth that 'you get out what you put in' more than The Irrepressibles. Two years ago, Jamie McDermott's collective released one of the most ambitious débuts of recent years in Mirror Mirror; an emphatic collection of masterfully orchestrated art-pop full of pomp and yearning; and then took it to the stage with performances more closely resembling high theatre than a typical gig and yet, bar a brief dalliance with recognition through the use of Mirror Mirror's highlight 'In This Shirt' in a major ad campaign, they remain criminally underrated.
The follow-up full length Nude may put this right. Whilst still flaunting Jamie's peacock falsetto and full of pizzicato-driven panache that may put off the casual listener, Nude is much more immediately accessible and enjoyable, particularly on 'Tears', where synths and a programmed kickdrum give way to violin plucks and military percussion that masks the retreating fragility at the song's heart. A half nod to Smoky Robinson & The Miracles' 'Tears Of A Clown', it has the self-doubt and slow morph between verse and chorus of first-wave C86 bands such as The Field Mice and the glacial fragility of Talk Talk at their midpoint. It isn't the most obvious hit, but its translation to both dancefloors and discos is perhaps one that was lacking on Mirror Mirror.
However, its precedent, 'Tears Prelude', shows that an obscuration of their opulent serenity has been spared. It is a stunning work of introspective ambience as touching as any conjured by Stars Of The Lid, Eluvium and the like, with Jamie's vocals slowed almost to a stop, married to crystallised strings cradled deep in reverb, offering the cinematic epicness that M83 might have done on Before The Dawn Heals Us if they possessed the confidence and vision of their current incarnation.
Around this, Nude offers a closer sound to Mirror Mirror on 'Arrow' and the sublime 'Two Men In Love', calling to mind the unavoidable comparison to Antony & The Johnsons on their first release, yet even on here, like Antony Hegarty himself between his landmark I'm A Bird Now and most recent full length Swanlights, there is a definite sign of progress in the depth and width of the band's sound.
The problem, along with the awkward structuring of the album ('Arrow' is a perfect opener, 'Two Men In Love' a perfect closer but both find themselves in the middle third of the album) is that there is too little quantity to match the quality of Nude's highlights; with ten tracks of which two are interludes and one by name a prelude. Outside of these, 'To Be' floats by unnoticed, leaving around half an hour of music that truly captures the interest, something which could be forgiven on a début but leaves you feeling a little short changed on a sophomore effort. A shame, as at its peak, Nude is one of the year's strongest offerings but, particularly for an act with such obvious ambition, it is hindered by its brevity.
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