Album Review : Nick Murphy - Missing Link (2017)
Australian electronica/soul singer Chet Faker announced he would pursue his career under his real name Nick Murphy in September of last year. That might have seemed strange to long-time fans, but the story behind it is deceptively simple. Murphy first took a stage name because there was an already established musician with the same name and people showed up to his shows expecting the other one. But still, why now? Legions of music lovers around the world (self included) enjoy Chet Faker's music, so is there any substance to this rebranding?
Nick Murphy's first EP Missing Link provides some answers to that question, but leaves a lot up in the air, too.
The first song Your Time, featuring Montreal-based producer Kaytranada doesn't provide any answers at all, because it's indistinguishable from what Chet Faker was doing. It's luscious and sexy, and it's got that rich, pulsing synth line that makes you want to drop your pants to. The lyrics tell a story of dance floor seduction with a twist: it's unclear whether the protagonists know each other or not. Nick Murphy claims in the pre-chorus.: "You're the only reason why I made it here tonight." That's a classic Chet Faker smart, sexy song for lovers to dance to, if I ever heard one.
Bye isn't all that informative either as it's an 90 seconds instrumental, but it's a good one. Murphy walked on stage to it when I saw him live in September. It's upbeat and mysterious. The paradigm shift Nick Murphy hinted at really begins with I'm Ready, a low-key, drifting complaint of a man ready to fall in love and change his life. It's slightly darker than what Chet Faker got us used to and reminiscent of Leonard Cohen's songs of loneliness and regrets a little bit. Of course, it's not as lyrically evocative as Cohen's material, but it clearly is more personal and introspective than Murphy's previous material.
Speaking of different and introspective, Forget About Me really is the showstopper on Missing Link. It's a whopping 7 minutes-long track on feelings of depression and alienation with a sexy edge and a danceability Nick Murphy seems condemned to. It's been poorly received by critics in general. Pitchfork called it "pedestrian histrionics," but fuck 'em. Forget About Me is awesome. It reminded me of the upbeat, melodramatic electronic extravaganzas of Murphy's fellow countryman Rob Dougan, who I also love. It's a great song to be fed up to, play loud and let loose. Sure, it's lurid and bombastic, but it's meant for moments where you're allowed to wallow in your past failures.
Weak Education, the closer on Missing Link, is more in the vein of I'm Ready. It was an almost lounge quality to it, with a subtle brass section in the background. So, who's this Nick Murphy guy, really? Because Missing Link is as eclectic as it gets and it's tough to pinpoint where's he's taking his sound. He's definitely going into a darker and more introspective direction with his lyrics, but Murphy is an electro-soul crooner at heart and his charismatic presence, the heart he puts into his individual performance, is what makes or breaks songs in the long run. Missing Link is really a case of same, but different. Murphy/Faker is only maturing and more willing to offer a more complete portrait of who he is to his audience, and it's only natural for a performer to do this.