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Genevieve Murphy
I Don’t Want To Be An Individual All On My Own Vanessa Ague , September 15th, 2021 08:37

Composer and sometime collaborator with Martin Creed and The Ex, Genevieve Murphy delivers a one-woman show with haunting depth, finds Vanessa Ague

On I Don’t Want To Be An Individual All On My Own, composer and performance artist Genevieve Murphy travels inward to tell the story of a drama-filled birthday party. The album is a one-woman show: Murphy plays every character in the story, switching from a stressed-out mother to a timid daughter to a tired grandfather to a dazed grandmother, and sprinkling pop tunes in-between theatrical spoken word tracks. In each of her monologues, she gives a glimpse into every character’s psyche. And rather than tell the story through the words each character says directly, she writes the words that run through each character’s mind, ultimately showcasing how memory is defined by how events are interpreted in the mind.

Murphy embodies each of her characters so fully that the music quickly begins to feel eerily close for comfort. Listening to words speed up as the mother frantically runs through her birthday to-do list and chaotic squeals randomly hop in beneath her voice creates secondhand anxiety, as does listening to the timid voice of the child as she recedes into her dark inner world. There aren’t many pauses for reflection – instead, Murphy stays trapped in a spiraling tornado, illustrating the swarm of thoughts spinning through every person’s head at any moment. This constant whirlwind is enhanced by the fitting musical accompaniments lurking beneath each spoken word-oriented track – noodling saxophones, simmering electronics, comedic squawks. The few songs that explode in a wash of synth pop, like ‘Before A Decade’, offer much-needed musical relief from all the intensity.

It’s difficult to like Murphy’s mother character while listening to I Don’t Want To Be An Individual All On My Own. She’s a shrill lady who ushers her daughter outside to a sunny garden party, openly competing with other mothers to throw the best party. The tracks that centre her voice are frantic and her narrative quickly becomes insufferable. There’s a charming goofiness that comes across in all the songs that feature adult characters, though. Tracks like ‘Roll The Drunk’, during which the child rolls her drunk grandmother into the bush, provide a much-needed silliness that makes the album’s moments of despair all the more devastating. 

The album’s haunting deeper meaning finally comes to light when Murphy sheds that glossy, goofy sheen for shrouded instrumentals. The tracks ‘Bushes Of The Unknown’ and ‘Sitting in the Shadow of the Bushes’ both feel chilly and barren, like what it might be like to visit the most hidden parts of the human brain. Listening to them feels like revisiting memories thought to be long gone, shining a light on the glimmering cobwebs lurking amongst those faint recollections. Somehow, though, they’re ever-present, continuing to colour life as we walk through it.