After years of hard graft on the Cork music scene, and the coming off of the buzz generated by his much heralded debut EP ‘The Other Side Of Now’ comes ‘Dreamcatcher’, Jack O’Rourke’s debut full-length album.
Classically trained, O’Rourke writes and arranges his songs around piano and his rough baritone voice, fleshing them out with layers of strings, harmonising vocals and a full backing band, with assistance from producer Christian Best (O Emperor, Mick Flannery).
Stylistically, O’Rourke incorporates elements of folk, sunshine pop and cabaret noir with clear homages paid to Tom Waits, David Byrne, Rufus Wainwright and the dearly departed Bowie.
Early on, the Bowie comparison comes to the fore. Naivety and Iggy are both packed full of the Thin White Duke’s flamboyant pomp and glam stomp, while Dreamcatcher calls to mind his more outer-space, ethereal moments. This should not be mistaken for a mere imitation, however; but rather a point of reference – O’Rourke’s own melodic flair shines through.
An eclectic collection of songs, Dreamcatcher’ sees Iggy give way to Shining for You; an irresistibly brassy, jazzy number with near-choral harmonies over the top of a hook that simply oozes bravado, which segues into the yearning, galloping, almost straight-ahead alt-rocker On The Downlow.
O’Rourke is arguably at his most effective when he’s at his most minimal; lamenting love lost and times past on Nostalgia, practically eulogising same on I’ll Forget You In The Morning. Even at his most sparse, O’Rourke uses his sense of melody and dynamic to inject a sense of urgency into his songs. See the gorgeous break at the end of each chorus in Corner Boy with escalating, twinkling, spine-tingling piano couplets. Small Stuff sees O’Rourke yearning for companionship backed by woodwinds and strings.
One may argue that O’Rourke is never more powerful than on the genuinely heartfelt and touching album centrepiece Silence. Opening with the lines ‘the boy asked for kitchen toys from Santa Claus/No need for John Deeres’, the song tells the tale of a young man who struggles with his own identity, not accepting himself for who he is for fear of rejection by others and their expectations. Though there is much to support O’Rourke’s lyrical depth and deft on ‘Dreamcatcher’; it doesn’t get much more heartbreakingly serene than this.
Jack O’Rourke’s songs lament, yearn and beg for love both lost and yet to come; shrouding them in shimmering, yet rustic production and nuanced melodies. Emotionally, the songs, coast between the highs and lows and float along everything in between. And isn’t that what life is all about.