With an imagination as big as Mr Benn’s, the musical world of Paddy Hanna has always been ostentatious. His work throughout his early Popical Island years and more recently with Autre Monde has proven that there is almost no genre he can’t apply himself to without pleasing results.
Throughout his solo career, Paddy Hanna has always played the role of curious outlier in the Irish music scene; a marvellous oddity that makes other musicians feel inadequate, whilst simultaneously leaving radio and festivals perplexed.
‘Imagine I’m Hoping’, like ‘The Hill’ before it, will do little to shift the needle in this regard, but it finds Paddy Hanna exactly where he needs to be; up to his neck in a glorious buffalo yellow fever dream, deep-fried in the influence of Harry Nilsson and Serge Gainsbourg.
Despite its falsetto backing vocals, New York Sidewalk feels like it a bespoke creation for Jimmy Durante; tailor-made for the eureka moment in a New York Hollywood extravaganza love affair. Indeed, much of ‘Imagine I’m Hoping’ has a cinematic feel. Symphony Bacalao feels as though you’ve been dropped into a Bugsy Malone musical, while Yellow Buffalo delivers western bar-room brawl piano fills.
Perhaps the most surprising moment in ‘Imagine I’m Hoping’ is its simplest. Say Goodbye feels like a long-lost prototype for a Michael McDonald ballad with an impressive Harry Nilsson-esque harmonica part.
Underneath its considerable plumage, the core of the album is built around the effective use of the piano, whether it be the vamping Nightmares or the simple stabs of Yoko Ono. It’s easy to visualise Paddy Hanna banging out these songs at home with his eyes closed, his imagination playing orchestra, transporting him from New York to Paris and the Wild West. He must be utterly bereft when he opens his eyes only to discover he’s back in Dublin.
What a thing it must be though to possess such a Narnian musical mind.