A musical project started by brothers Declan and Rory McCrory from Carryduff, County Down, Alice Signal Fires is a music collective comprising of various line-ups and members on any given day or performance. The pair’s debut album “Ghost” was recorded with assistance from Lee McMahon at Start Together Studios and some friends of theirs. Its eight tracks offer varied sounds, styles and influences while also reflecting the youth of its core members – lead singer/principal songwriter Declan is just 17 years old, while Rory is 21.
The album opens with its titular track, effectively setting the tone for the remainder of this heart-on-sleeve affair. Declan sings over a simplistic acoustic guitar melody, before the song builds into a crescendo of strings and pounding drums, a mantra “it fades away eventually” repeated passionately until the song builds to its close.
While this is followed by an almost folk-punk affair in Raise The Dead, key tracks Consolation Prize and Pacing wouldn’t sound out of place on a Kodaline album, with their anthemic, heartfelt delivery and reverberated lead guitars. Fully capturing the clarity of the production overseen by McMahon – whose drumming packs some much needed power for this melodramatic if not well-meaning would-be pseudo-indie, radio rock hit – every instrument is heard to the full extent of its timbre, including some appropriately placed synth and strings, while the lesser McCrory belts away in earnest.
Other tracks see the project’s fluctuating line-up demonstrated. Raise the Dead features only acoustic guitar, while Phantoms adds minimal piano and on the overtly cutesy A Clean Escape, an Ed Sheeran-esque guitar pickings are supplemented by a few bright, twinkly notes hammered out on a xylophone.
The album reaches its emotional peak on penultimate track March 18th, wherein McCrory laments how his beloved “needed space to grow / but you’ve grown away from me”, while his backing band peels away from him to leave him to deliver this last line alone.
Despite pandering to contemporary radio friendly rock music tropes and stereotypes at times, Alice Signal Fires do show here some signs of early promise in lieu of record label backing and at such a young age. With such a good ear for a catchy tune and pop-arrangements the brothers McCrory can only improve over time as songwriters and musicians.