Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

Róisín Murphy – Incapable

It’s Former Sidebar Stars Wednesday! Although we may not need that “former”…


Will Adams: Over eight minutes of burbling bass and snippy percussion, Róisín Murphy does her usual trick of repeating a phrase until it’s twisted into complex shapes, so lines like “never had a broken heart” and “am I incapable of love?” bridge the gap between themselves to deliver the maximum gut-punch.

Alfred Soto: She’s excellent when reciting a libretto over a locked deep house groove, even better when inhabiting her impermeability. Still, “Never had a broken heart/Am I incapable of love?” doesn’t exactly sound like a boast, not when her vocal softens against that electro bass. 

Katherine St Asaph: I massively prefer the Róisín Murphy songs about annihilating, overpowering feelings to this Róisín Murphy song about the anhedonic shrug where those should be, even though I implied the opposite… (checks) two weeks ago? Interesting. At any rate, “Incapable” is like Mitski’s “Nobody” turned inward, its immaculate dance climax hit immediately then left to plateau for eight minutes, and its lament flung not into the world but into one’s own cauterized-dry heart. If that doesn’t sound compelling, you probably get the better inner life and maybe even the better songs. Ours, though, are still pretty great.

David Moore: When I put “Overpowered” on a mix for my wife many years ago, she guessed that the song was by an artist named Robota Bot and was called “You’re Dating My Daughter.” I’ve been following Robota Bot pretty diligently since then and this is the first one that’s piqued my interest that I can remember even without a satisfying mondegreen.

Katie Gill: Usually people wait until the song’s gotten popular before releasing the overly long, slightly repetitive dance remix, but nope, Murphy’s releasing that remix right out of the gate–and releasing it as the original song to boot!

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: I only realized that “Incapable” was 8 minutes long when I was 6 minutes into it. It’s very much that kind of track, the sort of endless, self-similar groove that is less a song with a distinct arc than an installation that you are free to move around as you please. The stylistic move fits oddly well with Murphy’s lyric– regardless of how much she believes that she is truly “Incapable” of love, she doesn’t quite seem bothered with it. Her performance, moving from sing-talking to belting and back again, doesn’t have a solution, but over a canvas like this, witnessing Murphy work through it is answer enough.

Ian Mathers: Both production and lyrics are meaty, lots to work with, and Murphy’s just the right type of singer (one with power and experience, as well as subtlety, to work with) to get in there and do some damage. You really do want the full 8+ minutes of this.

Leah Isobel: “Incapable” could exist within a vacuum. It’s frictionless. It’s perfect. If NASA sent this track on a probe into the universe, alien societies in future millennia could and would dance to it. Like anything seamless, it’s hard to articulate what makes it so compelling: the subtly shifting bassline, the way it slowly builds and releases tension across its eight minutes. Most likely, it’s Róisín’s vocal, the way she composes herself only to break spectacularly on a high note — “and I’ve never had” — three minutes in. She shatters her illusion of herself as invulnerable, comes bursting into the present with her whole body and mind. The rest of the song is dedicated to cooling off from that emotional climax, and not a second of that is wasted. I could talk about the emotional resonance of learning that the way others experience emotion, thought, and life doesn’t have to be your own; I could talk about the gorgeous open space around the handclaps; or I could make like a Martian discovering emotion and just fucking dance.

Reader average: [8] (18 votes)

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10 Responses to “Róisín Murphy – Incapable”

  1. i can’t believe this missed out on being an 8 because someone thinks a dance track is too long and repetitive lol

    either way i’m glad roisin is getting her due!!

  2. Lmao I could have been waaaaay worse in my comment. I stand by my opinion that this song is tedious af, but there’s so much lovely writing from everybody who liked it!

  3. “Overpowered” is indeed a big ol jam and this song is indeed long and tedious. I agree with Katie.

  4. katie’s blurb is accurate, i just consider all of those things good

  5. I keep going back to “Overpowered” thinking I’ll like it more… nope!

  6. “overpowered” is also not only a [10] but the standard by which [10]s are judged

  7. wait… the line in overpowered ISN’T “you’re dating my daughter”???

  8. Day-ta, dah-ta, to-may-to, to-mah-to, let’s call the whole thing bosh.

  9. Leah, this blows my mind as well.

    Let’s call the whole thing Josh.

  10. It’s the closest she has come to a proper pop song in over a decade, and Leah is spot on, it is it’s own entity. She entertains me endlessly every time she’s up to bat, and that she still has great cred with this set means a lot to older fans who always thought she was gloriously unique, all the way back to Fun For Me. Love this or hate this, it exemplifies who she is and what she does expertly.