Dermot Barrett seems to be making a statement on the opening track of ‘Dawn Eras Tides’. “Does it matter where we’re going?/ Does it matter where we’ve been?” Formerly of Ten Speed Racer, and with Maskedman and Red Eye Pilot forming his other musical concerns, Barrett seems to be casting off his past endeavours to focus on the here and now, wherever it may lead.
Cool Water begins in folky style, piano-led and pastoral until the drums kick in and the horns rise, free-ranging over the chant-like repetition of the line – “I’ve been down with the dead/Millions of bones/ Millions of souls singing ‘live your life’” The forthright stance the song takes on continues into Decisions Decisions, with a jangle in the guitars and a touch of Dexys in the brass. Stealing Stars calls to mind Whipping Boy, another robust indie pop tune, and an undeniably catchy Poor Boy conjures up the sparkling guitars of The Las, but unfortunately things don’t always quite come off with the success of Barrett’s more collar-grabbing tunes.
The mid-tempo A Seam of Gold is largely forgettable despite the choir-like backing vocals, while the banjo of Joe Chester buoys Good Red Road along. The country rock of Muddy Water seems by-numbers then alongside a brighter, poppier Save Me with Love, a song more in line with Tom Petty, boasting a breezy guitar riff tying the wryly self-deprecating verses together (“Low in stature and of no physique/ I’d never courage but I had some cheek”).
Barrett’s not short of things to say through ‘Dawn Eras Tides’, and Spinning Wheels’ state of the nation diatribe is a caustic dig at the politicians that shuffles along with a darker hue than the rest (“You’re racing rats/ And they’re winning”). The Wood Beyond the River finally returns thematically to the album’s opening salvo – folky piano and a shuffling drum syncopation bringing things full circle, even as far the deathly evocations (“You’ll be standing at the gates with the devil”).
There are hooks aplenty in here, and a wealth of instruments that add much to the flavour when things get a bit staid – there’s just a certain disparity between the more upbeat tunes and the more maudlin, folkier numbers. The former do outweigh the latter, though, and ultimately prove to be the album’s saving grace.