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Temper-mental MissElayneous

Fly Girl in the Ointment: Irish Hip-Hop 2014

Everything about Temper-Mental MissElayneous is out of step with the world of modern pop. And that is a criticism of the state of pop rather than the artist I shall refer to as Miss Elayneous. If pop was once the battleground of maverick innovators it is now the playground of rich calculators. Every publicity photo is airbrushed to perfection. Vocals are the product of auto-tuning. Any traces of humanity are corrected in the mix. The image is as meticulously tailored as the marketing strategy.

Over the long run, that fulcrum of popular culture, the soap opera has found a new companion. It has been joined by the perfumed monologue of the narcissist. Appropriately enough, this manufactured fragrance is located in aisle number nine of your local supermarket. These icons of individuality, (their individuality – not yours and certainly not ours) can be found in any area of life where the currency is celebrity. And in a realm where these people celebrate nothing but themselves, they hardly merit the title. The non-noun, celeb, as empty and shallow as it is, fits them like their red-carpet designer outfits.

The celebs sashay from many directions. They seep from the world of acting; from where cooking is done by spotlight rather than candlelight; even from sport, where many appear far more comfortable in the front row of the fashion show than, well, the front row. Yet perhaps they flood most quickly, fastest and most visibly from the world of pop music. The pop terrain now possesses the reflective sheen of that millennial artefact, the CD.

Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus are the two latest pop music celebs completely deserving of being ignored and simultaneously studied seriously. Their contribution to the mainstream pornification of culture is akin to Ronald McDonald seizing the keys to the Playboy Mansion. Thicke’s most noteworthy accolade was winning the Campaign to End Violence Against Women’s ‘Sexist of the Year Award’ for 2013. Cyrus is just beneath him, and contempt. It was encouraging to see how Sinéad O’Connor called her out on her market-driven, publicity-generating Look-at-Me shenanigans recently.

And that brings us to another outspoken, individualistic, distinctive Irish female artist. Most of the last two decades of hip-hop have left me shivering. I m almost exclusively old school, even though I find it funny when Macklemore uses rude words in Thrift Shop.

In terms of Irish hip-hop, Marxman, in particular with their early tracks like ‘Ship Ahoy’ and ‘All About Eve’ represented a high point for me. They proved that the terms Irish and hip-hop could work together at the highest level. Not coincidently Sinead O’ Connor was a guiding collaborator with the band.

Like Sinead, Miss Elayneous finds wonderful and original people to yoke her talents to. Anyone who witnessed her set opening for The Clash’s Mick Jones and his merry crew in Dublin knows that she is a fearless performer. She’s not afraid to tackle the ageing punks on their home ground. Similarly her work with Paranoid Visions, most notably on the song ‘False Prophet’, added a new dimension to their apparent quest for the impossible sound. That band seem hellbent on destroying the rules of rock and roll by mashing music together in ways that on paper shouldn’t work. Recently they sound like Skinny Puppy brawling with Crass and Brendan Behan. With Miss Elayneous in the mix they approach the post-punk cacophony of bands like the Pop Group and Rip, Rig and Panic.

Miss Elayneous has recently begun working with one of the heroes of the Irish music scene. Stano occupies a singular place in the Irish music landscape. His meticulous, painstaking collages of sound and rhythm narrowly escape falling into chaos. In fact, their proximity to chaos makes them exciting and compelling. Having collaborated with members of My Bloody Valentine, Thin Lizzy and Trouble Pilgrims/The Radiators it makes perfect sense for Stano and Miss Elayneous to craft new sounds together.

Do I like everything Miss Elayneous does? No. Then again, what artist satisfies on every track? But in a world of fickle fads masquerading as pop I trust in Miss Elayneous. She has something to say. In fact, she has lots to say. And unlike most pop people it isn’t all about herself. He words bespeak immersion in society and community. She raps about back-handers and dirty deeds. I may not buy everything she releases. But I would vote for her. How many other rappers could you say that about?

Michael Mary Murphy