Kodaline – In A Perfect World | Review

Kodaline – In A Perfect World | Review KODALINE In A Perfect World Packshot 1000 200x200It’s astonishing to think Kodaline only released début single All I Want on the world eight months ago. The Swords natives are now such a pervasive force on our shores that any pop-radio listener could hardly have missed them, with follow up singles High Hopes and Love Like This taking off in a similar way. Kodaline have found themselves propelled to the nub of Ireland’s musical zeitgeist through a combination of emotive, earwormy tracks and tearjerking videos, delivered with the kind of polished professionalism that belies their newcomer status. The release of two EPs and the formation of a notable blog-backlash in the same time period simply serves to prove a point: like them or not, Kodaline are very difficult to ignore.

The release of ‘In A Perfect World’, then, is time to pull things together and in throwing in those three singles in the opening four tracks, takes the obvious route to doing so. The singles as you’ll no doubt have heard, are odes to romanticism; self-confessed post-break-up anthems that succeed in being general enough to apply to almost any listener, but also tell stories through their poetic verses.

Take Love Like This which pulls the Coldplay trick. Anyone can relate to “I never meant to cause you trouble, I never meant to do you wrong“, or “the tears come streaming down your face, when you lost something you can’t replace”. “High hopes, take me back to when we started” and “All I want and nothing more is to hear you knocking at my door” work in much the same way. The criticism they evoke is obvious: at times it’s incredibly middle of the road. The thing is, done well enough, middle of the road can be exceptional too. While Kodaline rarely push the boundaries of musical originality, they pull off something that can be equally difficult: being truly top class at a more long-standing and familiar genre.

Take the Dylan-esque mouth-organ backing on Love Like This, or the extended bridge in High Hopes (possibly the most Coldplay moment in Kodaline’s entire repertoire): it’s smart, sweet and straight out of the playbook; the sure signs of a stadium rock band. Inevitably, there’s a little of the music critic in us that wants to dislike it, that screams for an adventurous key change or nine-minute beat track. Overall though, the song writing’s just so smooth, so infectious and so – dare we say it – touching those less obvious elements aren’t needed.

Inevitably, the quality does drop a little after the singles. The confidence to omit popular EP track The Answer is a brave one, especially as After The Fall and Way Back When – the latter an acoustic number that opens with a coffee-cup slurp – are a marked step down in quality. It’s a slight shame as Way Back When is probably the biggest change in direction on the entire album. Elsewhere, though, Pray tries moody blues in its dramatic piano chords and All Comes Down To – perhaps the nearest approximation of those radio-smash singles – takes off with soaring vocals against a choral-esque minimalist backdrop, not unlike a mellow Embrace track.

The stand out asset was never in doubt, of course. Steve Garrigan’s voice is a weapon. With the utmost respect to the rest of the band – they’re a talented bunch – it’s Garrigan’s powerful, pitch-perfect vocal angst that’s by a distance their stand out asset, especially layered as it is onto songs that find their soul in the half-key changes and heady choruses. Talk shows Garrigan can do subtle wonderfully, but it’s when he lets loose that we’re left with the anthemic sound that looks likely to define the band. Best of all, Goldenplec’s already seen that delivery live, and it’s every bit as spine-tinglingly sensational.

We suspect the album can count on a comfortable Irish number one, and perhaps a solid UK chart position, too. If there’s an Irish band on their way up and heading for stadiums, this is where you’d lay your money, and you probably wouldn’t get very long odds. With another album like this and the confidence to deliver this brand of heart-on-sleeve emotion consistently, those Olympia Theatre dates later this year will quickly start to look like small shows.  If being a slight throwback to the dying days of stadium rock is a criticism, Kodaline are guilty as charged: they have more in common with the likes of Coldplay, The Verve and even Manic Street Preachers than most current guitar acts. More importantly though, they’re genuinely world-class at what they do already, and it’s one seriously emotive experience. For that, we can only stand back and applaud.

Kodaline – In A Perfect World Stream

  • Gary

    I fully agree with most of this, and I’d also question the decision to leave The Answer off the album, as for me it’s one of their best moments. However, I think After The Fall is one of their stronger songs. I believe it’s been chosen as the next single?

  • James Hendicott

    ‘After The Fall’ wasn’t for me, Gary, but each to their own, that’s the beauty of opinion! I’d normally be averse to anything with an obvious stadium rock leaning, so that I like it as much as I do is a sure sign of this album’s quality. I still think ‘The Answer’ is their best track, though, to be blunt. Thanks for the kind words!

  • George Clinton

    While it is an honest effort from the group, I and many don’t believe the sensation. The music as most music reviews in the UK state is average based on the fact that its coldplayeske as opposed to Dylan-esque. just because a person plays 3 notes on a mouth organ doesnt mean they can be compared to Dylan. I worry about reviewers in Ireland loving the hype but not having the ballz to say anythibng bad! not one negative in your review suggests its bias as this album is not full of original ideas.

    I must say its an honest effort and a good album and fair play to the band and they deserve success based on that but surely a top reviewer should try give a balanced review!

  • http://www.goldenplec.com James Hendicott

    George. I quote from my review:

    “The quality does drop a little after the singles…. (songs) are a marked step down in quality”

    “Inevitably, there’s a little of the music critic in us that wants to dislike it, that screams for an adventurous key change or nine-minute beat track.”

    “If being a slight throwback to the dying days of stadium rock is a criticism, Kodaline are guilty as charged: they have more in common with the likes of Coldplay, The Verve and even Manic Street Preachers than most current guitar acts.”

    ” While Kodaline rarely push the boundaries of musical originality….”

    There is PLENTY of criticism in here. I think you read what you wanted to read. Especially with the Dylan comment – I noted one piece of mouth organ in one song was ‘Dylan esque’, your reply is ‘having three notes on a mouth organ doesn’t make a band Dylan-esque’. No, tou’re right, it doesn’t. Nor did I say at any stage that the band themselves are Dylan-esuqe, just a part of one song.

    I’m all for criticism of critics, but don’t twist my words in doing so, what you’ve written above simply doesn’t match what I said in the review. At all. As for being a ‘top reviewer’, this isn’t the Irish Times, I’m an unpaid volunteer at this site and I don’t claim to be a ‘top reviewer’. As for the negative reviews, take a look around the net if you’re bothered enough. I’m not exactly immune to them.

  • George Clinton

    Hi James,
    Having read your responce I do feel I read what I wanted to read. Fair play to you for highlighting that. I guess as a reader we often skim through things and don’t always give reviews the time they deserve.

    I will put my hands in the air and apolagise! Your review is very good second read. Apolagies again. :-(

    ‘Kodaline rarely push the boundaries’ as you said so I feel for the history of bands in Dublin that have but get little Irish air time.

    Again apolagies, I will give more time to read things properly next time.