Looking to be next off the never ending conveyor belt of Irish singer songwriters is Ciaran Lenehan. His debut album, ‘These Stories’, released last Friday, is a mix of boisterous folk punk numbers and introspective ballads with the odd quirky pop track thrown in for good effect.
Proceedings open with the excellent Just A Day; an upbeat blast of folk that crackles with punk rock energy and has shades of fellow Tallaght natives Chewing On Tinfoil to it. Despite for the most part consisting of just Lenehan and his acoustic guitar, the song sounds rich and full of texture, benefiting from the excellent production. Lyrically, Lenehan sticks to the traditional folk shtick of writing about everyday matters. It works to his favour, he’s a good storyteller and a likable narrator.
Maybe This One and Apple Song follow next and show two more sides to Lenehan’s repertoire. The former is the first of several soulful ballads. Though not as impressive as the opener, it still has its charms. The combination of solemn organ and subtle stripped back acoustic guitar give the song an ethereal feel. Apple Song is a complete change of direction, a track on which Lenhan shows his more playful side. Though jaunty and infectious, this one still sounds far too tame.
The tempo picks up again on Control, the lead single off the album. Lenehan has the backing of a full band which bulks up the sound somewhat. One of the stronger songs, its adds further proof to the theory that Lenehan is more at home when he cuts loose a little. When We Kiss marks the mid-way point of the album. A slightly bland ballad, it encapsulates a lot of whats bad about this record in that its middling but lacks any twists or turns.
The second half of the album plays out in the same manner as the first. These Stories is similar to the album opener; another rabble rousing folk punk number. Too Late is the wildcard of the pack; it’s off kilter rhythm reminiscent to that of Lemon Tree, the ‘90s mega hit by long since forgotten one hit wonders Fools Gardens. It makes for a nice and more than welcome change of pace.
Unfortunately things get repetitive on the back end of the album. The final three songs are all ballads. On One Journey Left, Lenehan gives his best vocal performance but the song feels one paced and overcooked. Childhood Friends is a tender tribute to a childhood friend that sounds like a more mellowed out Frank Turner. No is the strongest of the final three songs but after an onslaught of softer moments its effect is nullified with the album crying out for something more visceral at this point.
While this album is an enjoyable listen, there’s an over eating sense of familiarity to it all. It’s all been done before and done better at that. Frank Turner, Jake Bugg, Fionn Regan; all of the aforementioned singer songwriters are making similar but superior music. If that feels like a tough comparison to measure a new artist by, this is the competition he faces in the over-saturated market of singer songwriters. Nevertheless, there’s enough here to illustrate that Lenehan could yet move into the big leagues. The energetic tracks, in particular the opener, are full of heart and bluster. For now though, he’s produced a patchy effort in which moments of quality are all too fleeting.