It’s not often you find you have a strong opinion about every last song on an album, but that’s the case here and there’s a real risk of running out of writing space by the end of track four. Come Home to Mama isn’t even a long record (the whole thing plays out in under forty five minutes) but nothing here is filler, and it’s a struggle to pick between each song, largely because of the infinite variety of their subject matter and mood.
This is an album concerned with the full spectrum of life. You can call it maturity if you like, but it’s much more than that. Wainwright showcases her broad, painful, beautiful reading of life in tightly constructed, perilously near-perfect songs. Her uncertainty in the face of the relentlessness of life remains, but it’s tempered by a demonstrable steadiness, a strength of core that gives the wit of the lighter tracks zing, and the grief of the heavier ones resonance.
‘Radio Star’ is on the side of the light: a relentlessly upbeat, tongue-tripping picture of intrusive, endless modern surveillance. She’s kind enough to warn us though: “Everything that is in your head / Can be heard night and day / So watch what you think and say.” Perhaps ‘light’ doesn’t quite cover it. Seguing into a slow-paced, echoing threat of eternal loneliness before thrillingly regaining momentum and rocketing into the closing chorus, it’s an emotionally gripping, smart and compelling song.
From sizzling highs to delicately durgeful lows, ‘Prosperpina’ is a lovesong from mythical mother to daughter. This is the last song Kate McGarrigle wrote before illness overtook her (so get ready for tears). Rooted in the story of the creation of the seasons by Proserpina’s bereft mother Ceres, this inherently earthy story shows us the blood and sinew connections between mother and daughter beautifully, searingly retied across a gulf of separation. The video’s a chillingly beautiful thing, as you can see for yourself:
Prior to the release of ‘Proserpina’ as a single in September 2012, Martha noted “It’s the last song my mother wrote, and of course I also think that she wrote it for me, and for Rufus … We wrote songs together, ever since we were children. As we sing her songs, I think her voice can be heard in ours, literally through our pipes.” (It’s okay to have a little cry now if you need to).
Closing track ‘All Your Clothes’ floors the listener with delicate, horribly heavy despair: it’s a desperately sad song for (and addressed directly to) McGarrigle: “I hope your body doesn’t mind the cold / It always preferred the sunshine. / Can we pretend we’re talking? / I’ll answer for you if you don’t mind.”
Singing to a silent grave, considering the best recipient for her mother’s freshly redundant wardrobe, Wainwright ends this album with more tears.
If you’d like to help Martha Wainwright to tour (and you want to buy a copy of Come Home to Mama direct from her) head to her Pledge Music page and hand over as little or as much cash as you’d like to induce her to visit the UK.