Where has Andrew Hozier-Byrne been after all this time? Following the release of his self-titled debut album in 2014, Hozier’s music was thin on the ground, resulting in a long-running joke from fans that he had gone back into the woods to hibernate.
For those wondering what Hozier has genuinely been up to, he’s kept himself busy with his other passion, activism, including his involvement in the Repeal The Eighth campaign.
The rhythm & blues twist that was part of the Hozier signature sound on his debut still takes centre stage here on ‘Wasteland, Baby!’ – but where the introspective debut was all about bluesy reflection, here Hozier has found a seductive rhythm. There is no question as to what the subject matter of ‘Wasteland, Baby!’ is – to the extent that a more suitable title would have been an eggplant emoji. Wordy euphemisms and double entendres are wrapped up in gospel harmonies and bluesy guitar riffs, all the while without compromising his songwriting and composing abilities.
‘Wasteland, Baby!’ opens on a high note with much lauded protest anthem Nina Cried Power. This is followed immediately by Almost (Sweet Music), a paean to the great jazz musicians including Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Chet Baker. Just when the shameless name dropping may start to grate, the tone of the album shifts.
In Movement, the listener is met with pulsating sensuality and a booming clap that brings awareness to the very blood pumping through their body.
On Valentine’s Day Hozier announced on Twitter that Dinner & Diatribes was “about the crushing tedium of social obligations”. Upon listening, it becomes apparent that statement was a bit tongue in cheek as he sings “I’d suffer hell if you’d tell me what you’d do to me tonight.” Some may wonder how Hozier has become so sexual, but is it really surprising coming from the mouth that sang the words “she tells me worship in the bedroom” in Take Me To Church?
The singles are the standouts in the album, but the other songs here shouldn’t be considered filler. On As It Was, Hozier’s voice is barely a whisper, reminiscent of In The Woods Somewhere; while, in Nobody, Hozier cleverly croons to his lover that “it’s 12 o’clock in Soho/Baby it’s gin o’clock where I wake up.”
‘Wasteland Baby!’ ends on a delicate note with its title track filled with a distorted lullaby-like folk refrain. Overall, there is much to feast upon in the delightful collection of 14 tracks, especially now that “it’s not the waking” of Andrew Hozier-Byrne, “it’s the rising”.