Published on August 5th, 2009 | by Darren Byrne8
I receive a number of new albums in the post each week – many from unsigned artists looking to be heard. Many of them are awful, most of them are unpolished and red raw and occasionally there’s a glint of potential greatness shining through.
In the last couple of days I’ve been listening to two albums, two very different albums with opposing sensibilities and both have surprised me.
Iama’s self titled debut is an album of some instrumental and some vocal tracks by Cavan men Ciaran O’Neill and Jamie Byrne. This raw acoustic collection is at times too basic (tracks like Shepherd don’t go anywhere and feel vacant compared with the rest of the album), but at times inspired. The instrumental tracks such as the opening Touch Wood, Odie and Happy People Happy Animals are beautiful. It’s easy to drift away into your daydreams with these tunes acting as the soundtrack to your thoughts.
By contrast, the vocal tracks of Freefall, Seamus Deluxe and You Smile I Smile drag you back to reality. Ciaran and Jamie’s weather worn voices don’t always serve the music well, but when it works, it works wonderfully. Before Colour is channelling Nick Cave via baroque instrumental music with a bit of Led Zeppelin thrown in for variation. You Smile I Smile continues and expands on this sound to create the best track on the album. This album won’t blow your mind, but it’s beauty and simplicity very swiftly grow on you – I would hope to hear more from the duo in future.
Simple, acoustic, baroque, tender – all words that in no way describe the raucous sound of Blank’s debut album Good Touch, Bad Touch. Blank are a group from Kerry consiting of Chris Finucane and Niall O’Sullivan with Alan Foran and Will Prendergast. Pardon my stereotyping, but Kerry is not where I would expect to find a punk rock group. Yet, their album is raw to the point of drawing blood.
The short sharp Dead End begins the album and leads on to an excellent and catchy No Rest. When I first listened to it, I loved these opening tracks, but was hugely disappointed by the proceeding two. Drink Up and Move On is lost – the vocals fall away, the drumming is poor and the guitar is lost somewhere in the ether. Blunt followed it and it is an unfortunate paint-by-numbers Green Day copy. I was ready to give up and move on to another CD on the pile, but I persevered into Cobwebs. And I was glad I did. Niall O’Sullivan provided the vocals – awkward, disturbing but gripping. Cobwebs is controlled and haunting.
Mistake and Lay it On the Line ramp up the volume and the energy, while Hug the Government shows a maturity and fearlessness in the band’s music. It’s a slight and quirky instrumental piece, showing a fun side to Blank. Finishing on No. 1, the strongest track on the whole album, Blank have a lot of potential.
Don’t mistake me, Good Touch, Bad Touch does sound like it was recorded in someone’s living room. There’s a reason for that – it was. Some of the vocals were recorded in a shed. Regardless, there’s some strong tracks here and I’d love to hear what the group could do with a decent budget……or maybe just a better shed. Perhaps the best thing I can say about them is they’ve inspired me to spend the remainder of my evening listening to The Clash.
Thanks to both Iama and Blank for getting in touch and if any other bands want us Culch.ie’s to appraise their work, drop me an email. We cannot and will not promise to review every album, but we’ll give it a go. Be warned: we will be honest.