Cards on the table, since being first introduced to the music of CMAT, I have had an on-again, off-again relationship with the songwriter’s idiosyncratic style. On the one hand, I adored the heart wrenching honesty of ‘Another Day’ and, on the other, was left cold by the comedic edge of ‘Rodney’. Perhaps it was a deep-seated sense of “indie cool” or curmudgeonly music critic syndrome, whatever the reason I was misguided. CMAT’s If My Wife New I’d Be Dead is a compelling album tempered by sharp, unflinching songwriting by an artist with a defined sense of self.
Set to a big, bold indie-country production, If My Wife New I’d Be Dead opens the curtains its winding journey of anxiety, doubt and escapism with ‘Nashville’. From the get-go, it’s apparent that between the ambitious sound and sing-a-long choruses is CMAT herself. Defining a songwriter who owns self-honesty makes the album as striking as it is, a line like “I love little lies as much as you but here’s the big one. I’m gonna tell everyone that I know I’m moving to Nashville”, undercutting the escapist triumph of the music. This contrast plays throughout.
This melding of sound and CMAT’s ability to turn a phrase with heartbreaking results is key to If My Wife New I’d Be Dead. Whether it’s small twists in the tail-like “I hate that your friends hate me now. I hate me on my own.” wrapped in big harmony soaked pre-choruses found in ‘I Don’t Really Care For You’, or the introspective “I’m so lonely, other people are just a means to an end” in the call-response ‘Lonely’, CMAT bares all within the pop sheen of her music. It’s often jarring, but that’s the point. The album sounds like lush country-pop candy floss, while the lyrics are devastatingly raw. Indeed, the escapism of ‘I Wanna Be A Cowboy, Baby!’ (a theme that runs throughout) encapsulates this with “Talk about adventuring. I hope to God that this ain’t it. I just can’t feel it ’cause I’ve got nothing left”.
‘2 Wrecked 2 Care’ captures the singularity of If My Wife New I’d Be Dead. Blending CMAT’s powerful vocal gymnastics, a key characteristic, with layers of harmony and pin-point production, the track moves to a slow-burn sway while lines like “Four hours sleep. I’m grateful Three hours sleep. I’m skipping things Two hours sleep. I’m a hateful bitch” cut through the treacle.
And so it goes, If My Wife New I’d Be Dead won me over. Not with charm but with honesty. The contrast of boldness and fragility is disarming. CMAT’s ability to twist and turn the narrative lyrically and sonically is singular. I was late to the party on this one, but I’m glad I made it in the end.