Published on June 19th, 2010 | by Lisa McInerney1
Review: The Teenage Storm – Roy Shiels
Y’know, I understand what it takes out of you, trying to make it as a musician. I’m of the artistic persuasion myself – I try to string art from stringing words together. It’s exhausting. It’s like living in an oven, baking endless cakes out of caviar and porcini that no one wants to eat because cakes should have sugar and fat in them instead (stupid chick-lit authors). Most of the time, it’s like bellowing into dead air, so I can empathise with the unsigned artists and the new musicians clawing their way into the public eye ear. After all, songwriters string words together too, just … not as many. And at least they get pints while they’re hawking their craft. No one brings you pints when you’re burning your kneecaps off the underside of a laptop. Oh no.
My point (after you muscle past its weak laughter track) is that there’s real slog backing up every live appearance and every self-release and every new EP of every indie* artist. It’s easy think of yourself as musically gifted, but very, very difficult to be an actual musician. And the more of ’em you come across, these jobbing gods-in-waiting, the more you realise how bloody talented a lot of them are – how great they sound, how catchy their songs, how much fun they are live. So what marks the ultimately successful ones apart from those bands and artists that blossom, wither and die in the same short season? We’d like to think it’s The Slog. It would be so tidy to call Hard Work, and leave it at that.
When Dublin rocker Roy Shiels sent us on his debut EP The Teenage Storm, the first, and most obvious conclusion was that there was a hell of a lot gone into this collection, not just in the scope of work, but in getting it out there. Just a quick search spits up YouTube videos, a healthy gig schedule … there’s a proper sweat n’ blood campaign, very evident, behind this release. And that’s a hefty advantage for Roy, because it makes him instantly likeable. There’s something about the boy, and that’s an advantage he’d be wise to milk dry. You want to love his work. You want Roy Shiels to succeed.
He doesn’t make it too difficult for us. The Teenage Storm is a collection that’s sometimes mournful, sometimes defiant, but always easy-on-the-ear. Singalong melody, bolstered by a clever grasp of effective build-up – songs swelling where they should, just enough to tickle the pulse or get the head nodding. More U2 than Two Door Cinema Club or Bitches With Wolves … ah. See, it’s the ease of such comparison and contrast I have a problem with.
The Teenage Storm is the kind of EP you could play to a crowded room and everyone would tap along, but perhaps it’s that bit too even-handed an offering. That there’s no real low point to the collection is a good thing, of course, but that there’s a plateau of strong melody means … well, that there aren’t any real peaks. Only on State Of Mind do you feel that Shiels is really pushing himself; his soft singing voice becomes deliciously sneering, evidence that there’s more to him than maybe even he knows. State Of Mind wouldn’t be out of place on any Irish rock collection, and I don’t say that lightly. The other songs are good – don’t get me wrong – but as contemporary Irish music bounds in new directions and throws up one exciting surprise after another, I’m not sure whether an EP that’s simply solid will be good enough to get Shiels the attention he deserves. Roy Shiels is no stranger to The Slog – that much is clear – but has all that hard work made him afraid to take risks? Still, there’s no doubt that Sheils has more fire in his belly than your typical Irish-boy-with-guitar, and if you’re hankering for some proper alt-rock in amongst the electronic pop and heavy-fringed doleful folk, you won’t go far wrong.
You can download The Teenage Storm now from iTunes – and, as always, you’ll get a taste on Roy’s Myspace.
*I’m not talking about 90s Blur here. I mean indie indie.