Irish singer-songwriter Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson goes by the stage name CMAT. Ciara identifies as just a typical 27-year-old musician with a conventional life. CMAT, though, is a hyperconfident ego-inflated bully. She dresses loudly, drinks too much, and offers a brash soundtrack to the world. CMAT is the protagonist of Thompson’s newest release, Crazymad, for Me, a metaphoric concept album about a 47-year-old woman who builds a time machine to get revenge on her former boyfriend from 20 years ago, whom she blames for ruining her life. She may be smarter now, but not necessarily any wiser.
Crazymad, for Me is full of wackiness, as one might expect from an unreliable narrator or narrators, as the character appears as both a young and an older woman and in different eras as the time machine is unreliable. The central theme concerns the extreme emotional state of its narrator. She has been hurt. She knew love. She’s been wicked and is far from blameless. The title explains it all. She is “Crazymad”, and the fact that she knows this proves she’s not crazy or mad at all.
Thompson says the record is divided into three sections. The first segment features the angry CMAT, who hates her former boyfriend. The second part concerns self-reckoning as she wonders if she could be at fault for the failed relationship. The last bit has CMAT accepting the good and bad and moving on. The plot and character development are more abstract than literal as one hops from song to song, but it is clear that changes are taking place.
The songs share a theatricality. CMAT performs with exuberance, even when expressing self-doubt because she is self-obsessed. The musical arrangements are massive, with many instruments and layers of electronic noise over steady drumbeats. Crazymad, for Me was produced, engineered, and mixed by Matias Téllez and recorded mainly in Norway. The vocals are put front and center.
There are lots of hooks, catchy lines, and humor. Ciara gives CMAT gossipy lines such as “You’ll never be Mark E. Smith / ‘Cause your weakness is a bit”, which cleverly evokes the person and the period in which the affair took place. The satire may be broad, but it hits the mark for anyone romantically recalling the era. A love song is a love song, n’est-ce pas? Being funny is just the icing on the cake.
There’s a simultaneous sadness to the record as well. After all, this is the story of a failed relationship. Ciara has spoken about the influence older American country women singers have had on her music. CMAT’s outright declarations about herself and others recall those of Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn. She can joke that she ain’t perfect without giving up an inch of power.
“I hate who I am when I’m horny,” CMAT sings in a voice that recalls Loretta touting “The Pill”. She even employs a slight twang to deepen the aural scenario. It’s not a matter of right and wrong as it is being honest with oneself about one’s needs and pleasures. What may be normal for the protagonist may be seen as crazy or mad by others, and even herself sometimes. But she’s enjoying herself, or at least she says that on the final cut. “Have Fun!” It’s a disturbing song where she sings about being called a “silly bitch” and engaging in unhealthy sexual practices and no longer caring. Crazymad, for Me is a portrait of how we rationalize our behavior as a way of coping rather than a therapeutic dream. It’s a good thing the real Thompson presumably is not the actual CMAT. It’s an engaging fantasy.