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Love Fame Tragedy

Love Fame Tragedy “This is so raw it’s not safe to consume”

Culture

Love Fame Tragedy is the solo project of Murph from The Wombats, and his second album is an electrifying delve into personal hell.

You will not hear a more honest record this year than Love Fame Tragedy. Forget your Taylor Swifts of this world with their carefully sanitised ‘authenticity’, what Matthew ‘Murph’ Murphy has recently unleashed onto the world is the realest of real deals. It just so happens to come in sparkling packaging.

Of course, The Wombats frontman has made a career from dark confessionals set to sunny indie-pop, but his solo project Love Fame Tragedy – named after a Picasso exhibition – is even more of a dark night of the soul, and second album, Life Is A Killer, manages to work it into some of the best songs he’s ever recorded.

Life had taken a downward turn post-Covid for Murph. After moving to LA and starting a new family, his demons still remained, and after years of struggling with drink problems, he finally hit rock bottom.

Many of the songs on Life Is A Killer tell the story of that, and also touch upon the effects on his family. Indeed, in typically darkly humorous style, Murph uses voicemail messages from his wife, Akemi, to punctuate the album, including one in which she question whether her husband will “turn me into the villain of this album again.”

In fact the bad guy spurring on the album was not her but Love Fame Tragedy’s previous album, or rather, its fate in the apocalyptic swirl of COVID-19.

“The driving force for writing this album after the last one was resentment, because the first album came out, I had a couple of tours planned and then the pandemic struck,” he tells us. ‘And then my thirties have been something of a turbulent, fun, disastrous time, so it wasn’t too difficult to find the inspiration to draw from. The album is extremely raw and honest about a pretty crazy time in my life.”

Raw is certainly the word. From self-excoriating opener ‘Don’t You Want To Sleep With Someone Normal’ (complete with the voicemail message “Matthew, the request still stands: Pick. Up. Dog. Food.”) to ‘My Head’s In A Hurricane’ (in which he cynically laments to the most gorgeous synth-pop, “I can fuel my ego, spark some rage, because honey happy doesn’t make much money these days.”) and ‘Eat, Fuck, Sleep. Forever’, these songs offer a nailing down and a blowing up of the monstrous side of himself.

“This messy period wasn’t a surprise, it had happened before. I was trying to juggle work and family, whilst also having a deep desire to remove myself from any difficult situation. It was always going to lead to this.”

Stand-out track ‘Tangerine Milkshake’ is central to this approach. “Yeah that one’s about the most turbulent time back then, when I was on tour and drinking a lot, and my wife was stuck at home with the kids. I had the guilt of being out of town, living this completely different life to the one she was. That guilt only made it worse, it was the snake eating its own tail. I didn’t know how either of us were going to get out of that one. Certainly if you like the raw elements of this album, that is really the epitome of it. It’s so raw it’s probably not safe to consume.”

But while these songs often feel like open wounds covered in neon bandages, Murph says he no longer looks to songs as cathartic entities. They don’t solve problems.

“When I started songwriting, it was helpful, it was cathartic, but that’s now dialled down. I know what is actually better for my mental health which is doing work on myself, rather than painting a picture and looking at it. What helps me best is the outside world. Songs have made difficult situations a little easier but they have never cleared the difficulties.”

He’s now been sober for 20 months and is on the 12 step programme, which has had more of an effect than the music. “I’ve learned that I’m not going to fix myself, that my endless, spiralling thoughts only really lead to one end. And it’s been helpful to learn that these automatic negative thoughts are just dog shit. Like, I don’t have control over my first thought but I do have control over my second thought and my first action.”

But while Murph may not be looking to the album to solve anything, it is certainly one which will connect with people as they discover it. Of course people share a lot of themselves these days, but rarely do they combine it with genuine artistic accomplishment in the manner on display here. It may not solve but it is a solution for all of those who look to music to cling to.

As for Murph, well, it’s simply the latest in his ongoing commitment to reach for the truth with his music. “I think I’ve always has the inkling that being almost uncomfortably honest in songs is the way to go. Considering I have a finite time on this spinning rock, am I going to waste time sugarcoating what I actually think? Obviously I sugar coat it with the music that surrounds the words, but committing to one’s own truth when it comes to art is definitely the way to proceed.”

‘Life Is A Killer’ by Love Fame Tragedy is out now.

Scott Lavene

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