Dublin-based Kaplin have played together, albeit not always frequently, for the best part of a decade. It was only October this year, however, when they got around to releasing their début album ‘Devastating Ways’. It’s a strange beast.
You would get the impression from looking at the album cover that it’s some form of disco/dance-rock album. The start of opener Falling Down Your Stairs would lead you to believe that it’s some form of ominous, sleazy rock they are trying for; an Irish Grinderman, perhaps. It ends up being neither and soon veers off into a country-rock sound. The frequent horns and violins bring a lonesome west vibe to the fore.
For the most part it works rather well. Stolen Angels, with its strange, yet interesting chorus flow,and Graveyard Lounge, probably the highlight of the album as the horns and guitars are given their chance to shine,are fine songs. The problem is that Frozen Sand (just before Stolen Angels) and Midnight in Brazil (just after Graveyard Lounge) sound like blander versions of the aforementioned songs, though Midnight in Brazil is saved by an interesting cacophonous ending similar to that used on Falling Down Your Stairs.
The track ordering seems to be a little off too. Just when you think the album is starting to gather a bit of pace, there is a slow, downbeat ballad to kill it. It’s not that these songs are particularly bad – The Road Rarely Runs Out of Signs is a fine song for example – but do stop the album from having a cohesive flow.
The vocals or Warren Ahern are occasionally found out too. They particularly sound strained during the otherwise radio-friendly title track Devastating Ways. It’s not that they sound bad, but a little bit more power wouldn’t go amiss. On Easy Lover for example, the tone of voice never portrays the sense of heartbreak the lyrics try to show. Closing line “I’ll be better soon, then I won’t need you” sounds like a bit of lyrical cop-out too.
The lyrics in general don’t stand up to much scrutiny – “So many beautiful women in this town ‘til I come around” for example from Pylons, Purples and Pinks, doesn’t seem to make much sense – but are never bad enough to offend or annoy. Overall, it’s an album that’s worth a listen. It’s enjoyable and creative, and that lonesome western path it takes is an interesting one. It just never does enough to warrant your undivided attention or command repeated listens.