CMAT – ‘If My Wife New I’d Be Dead’ Album Review

Photo Credit: Sarah Doyle

Badged “Irish alt-country,” this might turn you off. That would be a mistake. CMAT’s hilarious debut is one of 2022’s most remarkable achievements. 26-year-old Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson describes herself as a mix between Dolly Parton, Katy Perry, and Weird “Al” Yankovic. If that sounds like an unbelievable fusion, nothing could be more spot-on. The album is certainly rooted in country, with superb ballads like opener “Nashville,” weeping honky-tonk’s like “Lonely,” and the sparse showstopper “I’d Want U” explaining its genre-badge. With memorable melodies and hooky choruses (“I Don’t Really Care for You,” “Every Bottle (Is My Boyfriend)”), the album apparently has enough popcraft to make it top the Irish album charts, even though you – thankfully – shouldn’t expect to find any “I Kissed a Girl” or “Firework” songs here. And what about the Weird “Al”-part, then? The lyrics.

It all opens with one hell of a statement: “I look and feel like Anna Nicole, and that’s all I ever wanted,” she sings while daydreaming about an imaginary move to a perceived Nashville filled with Lucky Luke’s and Spaghetti Western glamour that probably only exists inside of her own head, where she can wear boots, take tequila shots, and watch the rodeo. “But I’m not going // there’s nowhere I can stay,” she concludes, as the grim reality reminds her just how unrealistic this dream is.

Every single song on If My Wife New I’d Be Dead tells stories like these. With her distinctive Irish accent, she’s constantly pending between dream and reality, as the music seamlessly flows between country stoicism, indie rock, synth-pop, and singer-songwriter. Secret, illegal love affairs with ‘60s filmmaker icon Peter Bogdanovic, an unhealthy amount of chicken rolls, idolizing Robbie Williams – the album overflows with charismatic vignettes and awkward confrontations, and though the songs are nice to just casually enjoy, the lyrics should always be paid attention to.

Even the album title is hilarious. At 18 years old, she was sitting on the bus on her way to an intervention when a book about interpreting dreams slipped out from the emergency exit shaft and hit her on the head. On the first page, it was written: “Mary. Hope this book finds you some peace of mind. Love always, your under-cover lover,” and on the second page a PS: “If my wife new, I’d be dead.” Adorable, right?

Towards the end, the anthemic “I Wanna Be a Cowboy, Baby!” is one of the greatest country singalongs ever written. Dealing – again – with the longing for a more meaningful existence, it’s a wonderful call for self-realization and carpe diem. The message comes through in a wonderful chorus where CMAT’s high-pitched vocals could easily direct any drunken pub crowd to go home and compel themselves to get up early the next day and start life all over again the way it was meant to be the next day. Only, the hangover has to vanish first…

If My Wife New I’d Be Dead may idolize celebrities and fantasize about fame, but it ultimately comes off as a lovely tribute to the ordinary, everyday person and all of her silly little dreams and pathetic commitments. It’s a romanization of everything you wouldn’t normally be proud of – hooking up with all the wrong boys, fantasizing about betrayals, drinking too much Red Bull, and getting thrown out of the club. Life can be wonderful – but often it’s better when we’re daydreaming. CMAT at least provides it with hilarious humor and twelve stunningly gorgeous tunes.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Written by: Douglas Dahlström

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