The difficult second album: It’s been the challenging hurdle that has plagued musicians of all genres for decades. For many a band and performer it’s helped to prove their worth and the longevity of their creative ability. For others, it’s the bump in the road that sent them into a tailspin of obscurity. What’s more, the height of the stakes is directly related to the success of the debut. Those already atop pedestals have a greater distance to fall.
These were the risks that faced Darragh Cullen with his new album ‘Whispers & Silent Screams’. After releasing his 2010 debut, ‘The Finish Line’, Cullen received some much deserved acclaim and praise. He was voted ‘Male Solo Artist of the Year’ by Jackie Hayden of Hot Press, while The Sunday Tribune named him number five on their ‘Hot 100 List for 2011’. Fortunately for him, this new offering does justice to his legacy… just about.
‘Whispers and Silent Screams’ is a fourteen-track compilation that shows a varying array of influences and styles. While this proves Cullen’s diversity as a musician, it doesn’t aid the album as a whole. It comes across as disjointed, making it hard for the listener to connect with the music.
On a song-to-song basis, there are some stellar moments. Cullen has a great knack for writing melodies, while his arrangements, for the most part, are simple but apt.
The rockier tracks have a Queens Of The Stone Age feel. Cullen shows his dark side in For You, with its ominous intro that builds into a huge, chaotic climax. The album’s first single Over, is probably the best example for showcasing his ability to write a good rock song. The lively, distorted tune just beckons for a good head-bang.
On the other side of the spectrum, a large portion of the album consists of softer, more relaxed tracks. It’s in these quieter moments that Cullen’s musical prowess really shines through.
While he is well able to belt them out, by restraining his vocals he creates a dreamy tenderness. This is shown best on Plastic Cup, a three-minute, lethargic tune with the best lyric about plastic drinks holders that this reviewer has ever heard: ‘Listen up, Plastic Cup. Don’t you see that/you and I are defined by our weakness’.
The short and sweet In The End is an aural treat. This is the kind of song that people pick for the first dance at their wedding. The same can be said for Don’t Stop, a piano based ditty that the Ben Folds Five would be envious of.
Darragh Cullen is obviously a talented songwriter. He proves this with an offering of various musical styles. However, this tactic of using everything but the kitchen sink has left him with a compilation of contradictions. The songs seem to cancel each other out. It makes it hard to listen to as the album struggles to work as a unit. The lack of flow and familiarity doesn’t do justice to the actual talent that is on show.