If the title of Natalie Imbruglia’s first album in six years doesn’t ring alarm bells then the contents certainly leave one with a sense of unease. Male stems from the former Neighbours starlet and Torn singer choosing to raid the songbook of her favourite bloke songwriters, from Damien Rice to Daft Punk and from Josh Pyke to Neil Young, giving each track an MOR pop sheen, thanks to the studio smarts of American go-to producer Billy Mann. One can’t help but wonder how much he had to do with the arrangements for the 12 songs here, since at least a few of them cannot be taken seriously. The first is Pete Townshend’s hit Let My Love Open the Door, which in Imbruglia’s hands becomes an awkward, breezy mess of flutes and military drumming. Her voice is better suited to Neil Young’s Only Love Can Break Your Heart, which she delivers delicately and in harmony over only bass guitar accompaniment. So too Pyke’s wordy The Summer allows the sweetness of Imbruglia’s voice to cut through in a 1960s pop style a la Sandie Shaw. Less successful is her reading of Daft Punk’s Instant Crush, which starts off well as an acoustic ballad before exploding into an excruciating jazz-funk chorus. Worst of all, though, is the Cure’s Friday I’m in Love; a brave choice, perhaps, proved folly by its detour into a breakneck bluegrass romp. Here is a hideous love child of Alison Krauss and Benny Hill that would surely turn Robert Smith’s mascara into a river of tears.
Male Natalie Imbruglia Sony