CMAT is swiftly expanding her commune to global domination. I’ve seen her win over The Royal Albert Hall. I’ve seen her pack out a tent at Glastonbury. I’ve even seen her take her deeply Irish show on the road and find just as equally a dedicated a base in a crowd in Lisbon. It seems no matter where she is, CMAT steals hearts.
The result of a star power combo of unrivalled charisma, putting on one of the funniest and sweetest shows on the live circuit right now, and musical prowess that steals your respect even while you’re singing and dancing and having a laugh. The CMAT effect is one of humour, obsession and awe, and on her second album, Crazymad, For Me, all three are there in abundance.
On her debut album, If My Wife Knew I’d Be Dead, CMAT leaned heavily into humour, making a cowboy hat-clad country album that you could drunkenly sing along to. The CMAT we met felt like Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson herself, but bigger, capitalised if you will. That CMAT was a pop star on the pub circuit, mixing day-to-day observations about hangovers and heartbreaks with a musicality that begged for the Grand Ole Oprey.
But on the first single alone of her sophomore release, the scale has been upped. ‘Whatever’s Inconvenient’ came along with a far more theatrical look, sound and feel. The choruses burst into CMAT’s operatic range, belting at dizzying heights that she hits perfectly in every live performance. It seemed immediately clear that if the CMAT of her debut was a drama queen, this second coming is all about melodrama with a bigger story, richer sounds and all the more confidence to pull it off.
Single by single, Crazymad, For Me has levelled up. ‘Have Fun!’ deserves song of the summer status; it’s endlessly fun and feelgood but not at all cliché. It sees CMAT weaving together deeply specific images of birds and Clapham Tescos with universal messages like thanking god you’re not with your ex anymore.
On ‘Stay For Something’ or her incredible duet with John Grant, ‘Where Are Your Kids Tonight?’, meanwhile, this specificity is mixed with big feelings to create nothing short of poetry. Singing “now I find I’ve picked up problems from loves of mine who swear they ain’t got them” as if it’s nothing. Likewise, she perfectly articulates the messy feelings of reflecting on why you stayed with someone bad; amongst all CMAT’s costumes and silliness is a rich and abundantly talented writer who more than gets her dues on this second.
Surviving the curse of stunning singles leading up to a let-down of an album, Crazymad, For Me is full of new gems being added to an already stellar discography. All tied into a loose concept album, looking back at heartbreak from a future vantage point, CMAT traverses all corners of her influences in search for the perfect view. ‘Phone Me’ delivers an ‘80s pop take on desperation; ‘Can’t Make Up My Mind’ slides into the ‘90s, with grungier guitars meeting hymn-like choral choruses, resulting in a track that would sit pretty on the Baz Luhrmann Romeo + Juliet soundtrack; ‘Torn Apart’ sounds like the emotional climax of the best musical you’ve ever seen.
But amidst the fun and feelings, Crazymad, For Me holds CMAT’s soft side like a secret weapon. The first jaw-dropping blow comes with ‘Such A Miranda’, her most stripped back sound to date that allows her vocals to truly shine on this emotional masterpiece. Joining Taylor Swift’s ‘All Too Well’ in the lineage of painfully visceral storytelling songs about the messy pain of age-gap relationships, CMAT sings “she was a good girl / So I pay the price / I have to stay broken / To be worth your nights” to heart-breaking effect.
And when you think it can’t get anymore gut-wrenching, ‘Rent’ starts up. Recently given as the answer when a fan asked CMAT if there were any songs she finds “difficult to play live, be it emotionally or physically”, you can really see why. Continuing the story of ‘Such A Miranda’, we meet CMAT again in the dark depths of knowing she’s being cheated on and knowing she doesn’t have the strength to put a stop to it.
She doesn’t need any grand metaphors or character moments here. It’s stripped down to the devastating truth; “if you didn’t want me / You could have said”. Put the fun to one side for a moment, it’s clear CMAT won’t rest on her laurels when it comes to art and Crazymad, For Me is all the better for these moments of brave softness.
From start to finish, CMAT’s second album is a feat. It feels impossible to even attempt to liken it to any peers, and refuses to be tied-down to any old icons or decades. Maybe you could if Dolly Parton met Dolores O’Riordan and they wrote a ‘Bat Out Of Hell’-style high-camp musical. Or if The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds took all that experimentation and adventure into the studio with Taylor Swift. But this is an album that revolves uniquely around CMAT’s storytelling, merging her deep love of 2010s indie, country classics, multi-decade detailing and rich lyricism to create something indescribably hers. Singular in vision but so vast in feeling and flavour, Crazymad, For Me is nothing less than a victory.