CMAT – ‘If My Wife New I’d Be Dead’ review: Irish newcomer looks on the bright side of life

The Dublin artist's witty and conversational debut album sees her match the scope and ambition of her pop heroes

In the finite space between frothy pop melodies and slicing self-deprecation sits CMAT. The emerging Irish country-pop icon – real name Ciara Mary Alice Thompson – and her confident debut, ‘If My Wife New I’d Be Dead’, encourages you to have a little dance in celebration of all your sins; she strums away all the bad things she’s done without ever giving up faith that the best thing to do is to just laugh about it, and strive to be better.

It’s an assured collection of songs, showcasing Thompson’s joyously silly sense of humour and the ease with which she writes witty earworms about how plainly pathetic she feels in every waking moment. She says she wants her music to sound like “The Nolans making that record with Glen Campbell, which would go on to be covered by Paris Hilton”, but her voice has the spectral power of Kate Bush above all else, with twinkling banjo melodies à la Dolly Parton and plenty of radio-ready choruses nodding to all our best contemporary popstars.


Soaring opener ‘Nashville’ shows that not only does CMAT means business, but that she has a singular voice and vision, as she sings of the distant place she dreams of dying in with all the wisdom of somebody who’s spent their entire life thinking about it. Her old soul shines through on the seductive ‘Peter Bogdanovich’ where she flirts with the late inimitable filmmaker, whispering about how Peter should be a “wife leaver”.

A lot of CMAT’s lyrics are less evocative but they remain equally compelling regardless, like on the relaxed yet desperate complaint of ‘Lonely’ where she accepts how few friends she actually has; or on the breathtaking melancholy and regret of ‘I’d Want U’, a spellbinding track written when Thompson was just 17. Still, CMAT’s strength comes from just how curious and conscious of today’s world she is, beyond her nostalgic affection for country icons and New Hollywood cinema. The propulsive ‘No More Virgos’ winks at the blame we place on astrology instead of admitting our own vices, while ‘Every Bottle (Is My Boyfriend)’ hides great poignancy and sharp self-critique beneath one of the most galvanising songs CMAT has ever written.

The goal for CMAT is to – finally – be taken seriously. Yes, she’s one of the funniest people you’ll likely ever meet, but also an unquestionably talented songwriter with a sincere heart. This record offers a maelstrom of mistakes and confusion and glee and love and loneliness and hope – and the mess of it all makes for the biggest gift.


CMAT - If My Wife New I'd Be Dead

  • Release date: March 5
  • Record label: AWAL

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