There’s the promise of a new Abbey May album in the next year, or so. There’s a new single, her now almost legendary cover of Pony (which gave fans of Peter Garrett a bold new experience a few years ago when she supported him, and played in his band). There’s always reason to hear or read about her.
(And if you haven’t heard it, the live Pony, recorded for triple j, is in this week’s playlist which you can hear here . No, it’s no trouble at all. It’s my pleasure.)
So in that spirit, Wind Back Wednesday rides its own pony into town, hitching up almost a decade ago as her career-reshaping album, Kiss My Apocalypse, landed in 2013.
Kiss My Apocalypse (Independent/MGM)
IT BEGINS WITH A HEARTBEAT, so quietly at first you think it’s just space, and then it speeds up to a fevered fluttering like the blood bubbling up in your ears that accompanies the physical smack of desire. This heartbeat falls immediately into the first proper song, Tantric Romantic.
No, that’s not meant to be a sweet title. Oh no, not with that inwardly facing, murmured vocal offering self-punishing lines like “I open my mouth and the suburbs come out”. Not with that rigid, gloom rock beat and a dominating electronic sound which is halfway between a guitar treated to extremes and a synthesiser inverted.
Know it now that Kiss My Apocalypse, not just a personal exploration but a compelling, maybe even great album, is a trip into obsession and lust so powerful it dissolves sense until it inevitably devolves into debasement and disgust.
For Abbe May it went like this: you want her, she lets you; you want more, she slips by; you trade in, she accepts; you reach out, she slaps down. “I must tell you I want you ... I walked around and around in little circles for you, almost mammalian, or reptilian if I’m honest with you”.
It's perplexing for you have always been in control before, thought yourself strong and confident, but here you are waiting for her to jet back into town and give you some time, any crumbs. It’s humiliating. And yet you come back. T.R.O.U.B.L.E, Karmageddon and Want Want Want spell it out in desiccated, slowed down R&B, like Destiny’s Child on downers but still dancing, almost compulsively. You can't remember when you entered this nightclub, you’re not even sure you know where the exit is. And at the moment you don’t care.
Kiss My Apocalypse is also a trip where anger is the first sign of recovery: those first steps tentative, the flesh still tender from the wounds, but there’s a growl instead of a whimper. Fuck-Love is death metal without the metal (guitars and the blues rock of earlier albums don’t live here anymore), a voice buried in the sludge. Sex Tourettes is robotic and choral, arousing and painful in its penetration (and slyly, subtly funny too), preparing the way for the dark groove of Napalm, Baby!, which comes complete with spiralling electronics as a kind of scourer rubbing away that hold, loosening that obsessive grip.
The slowly winding title track, sinuous but not yet free of the sadness and weariness, begins to climb on a vocal which has echoes of Claire Torry’s climactic moment in Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb and finds its full release in the rhythmically ambiguous and lyrically reaching Found Somebody Else.
So you finish the story upright, though hardly unscarred. But hey, you’re intact and know you won’t be going down there again. Probably. No, definitely, never again.
But wait, what’s that heartbeat that’s started ......