This is an album that’s going to be a classic; the only question is whether cult or mainstream.
Keenan sings with an intensity and directness it’s impossible not to like, with lyrics that make sense, and often a full band; this isn’t just some earnest folk singer strumming a guitar.
The intensity is perhaps explained by his biography: born in a small town in Northern Ireland, aged 17 and a fan of Jack Kerouac, he jacked (ho ho) in a college course and travelled to Liverpool, where he knew no-one, to meet Lee Mavers from the La’s. As you do.
He found a room at £21 a day and had to busk to eat/pay for a roof. That’s going to add an urgency to your performance. When he returned to Ireland he adopted the philosophy of “singing every song like as it’s the last song (you’re) going to sing”.
The album is the work of some years. Single Tin Pan Alley was inspired when walking the streets of London in the rain: “The atmosphere thickened at night and from the cigarette smoke and fog came wordsmiths and melody men whose names had long since been lost, save for a yellowed newspaper article I’d found in a drawer of my digs, interminably waiting for a God or a Godot or a lost lover to dance that last slow dance before the sun woke up.”
The quote both explains the song and gives you an example of his writing: he’s probably poetic asking for a tin of peas at his local shop.
Opener James Dean is typical in intensity though perhaps not in sound, just voice and a guitar made to work hard. Origin of the World on the other hand turns into a full-band wig-out. It’s all good; standout is perhaps Good Old Days.
The two reservations would be over his voice — if you don’t like his intense delivery, the album is probably not going to appeal — and how he will follow this up. Hopefully, he won’t repeat the single album glory of his heroes the La’s.
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