CD Reviews

Album of the FortnightArtist: Fionn ReganAlbum: The Shadow of an EmpireGrade: AIt’s hard to believe this is only Fionn Regan’s second album; it feels like he’s been around forever – and an artist displaying so much musical maturity and polish early in their career is rare.OK, so Regan blatantly rips off everything about Bob Dylan, from his vocal style and accent to mouth-organ solos and jangly guitar – but is that a bad thing? Rollicking country, blues and folk meld perfectly in the opening track ‘Protection Racket’, while ‘Violent Demeanour’ is a dark, brooding acoustic ballad with a heartbreakingly bittersweet chorus.Regan also shines lyrically – unlike most singer-songwriters, he’s not just a guy with a guitar and love-life issues. He sings about everything from childhood nostalgia to the plight of the homeless. Is this the Irish answer to Sufjan Stevens? Maybe, or maybe not, but it’s not often we denizens of the Noughties are treated to such a homegrown modern classic.In A Nutshell: Highway 61 revisited for the M50 generationAlison Lee~Artist: HumanziTitle: Kingdom of GhostsRating: D“Turn that off. It sounds awful” chimed my roommate. Wise words: none of Humanzi appear to be able to sing. Neither, supposedly, could Bob Dylan, but this isn’t Dylan (note absolutely ridiculous lyrics, such as “I still feel your can [ass]) - the words can’t save the sound. Weak by rock standards to the point of embarrassment, you have to wonder who gave the go ahead for all of this metal melodrama in the first place.Highlights include interesting artwork; seven seconds of drums introducing the album on opener ‘Hammer’; and the cleverly named track ‘Amsterdamaged’. A far cry from their Meteor award winning days. In A Nutshell: Bad. Just bad.Michael Phoenix~Artist: SugababesTitle: Sweet 7Rating: C-Prostituting dance anthem after anthem, this gross display of autotune and distorted synths is so consistent it’s boring.The lyrics are deviously constructed to exploit teenage girls gearing up for a night of waving their hands on the dance floor and falling home with their seven inch heels in their hands (Sample lyric: “Her make-up’s running/Her heels are broke/But that won’t stop her/Watch her get messed up some m-m-more”). By the time you make it to heartfelt club ballad ‘Crash and Burn’, it’s hard to take this genuine attempt serious.The album holds a consistent club beat throughout – almost a sell-out to ensure it gets exposure.  It’s not a great or fantastic album, but at least it’s consistently ‘okay’.  That is, if you’re 17. In a nutshell: For the binge drinkers getting ready in Belgrove Rita Jacob~Artist: Vyvienne LongTitle: Caterpillar SarabandeRating: C+From the eye of Damien Rice springs the debut album from cellist Vyvienne Long. Caterpillar Sarabande sounds like Bjork in a good mood: all delicate stories over pace and strings, no more so than in the memorable ‘They’re Not Waving’. You think three cellos should be too much, but it works. The tracks seem to weave together and speed round you; it’s hard to stop your leg from moving along with ‘Bad Move’ and ‘Treacherous’.Slowing down near the album’s close, particularly on ‘To The End’, you’re not sure if the pace is for the best: it’s like recovering your breath, your head’s not exactly clear. Caterpillar Sarabande delights, disappoints, and confuses – as epitomised in the closing ‘Happy Thoughts’. Don’t listen to it for a sample of Vivienne’s music, but rather for the feeling it will leave behind. In a Nutshell: OddMichael Phoenix~Title: The Dirty 9sTitle: Stop Screaming Start DreamingRating: CThe Dirty 9s, of TG4’s Deis Rock, offer short snappy pop with this album. At first, Stop Screaming Start Dreaming blurs together in one bland unattractive mix. Nothing stands out except the familiar combo of guitar, drums, vox and a touch of synth.On further listens, however, songs such as ‘Corridors’ and ‘Echoes’ begin to emerge. This album is a grower; eventually the chorus of songs like ‘Trouble’ become so hooky that one needs to get another rush of this poppy treat. Without ‘Lucy Opus’ however, the beauty of the above songs would be diminished to a decent effort by any pub band. The strength of ‘Lucy Opus’ overcomes this though, rendering the album a great pop hit.In a nutshell: Thirty minutes of pop with ten minutes of relevance.Sean FinnanWord Count: 132