Talking Heads once told us that singing is a way to trick people into listening to music longer than they normally would. If so, Peter Tierney needs to recognise that he can skip this step altogether and just play the music. Throughout his debut EP ’21st Century Man’ it is readily obvious that, both on piano and guitar, Tierney’s got some serious chops, but too often throughout this release the vocals and lyrics let down the music.
The opener/title track is a strange one. The rhythm is great; smooth, muted guitar and bass, with strings signalling the bridge. It’s a toe tapper, not great but good, though the vocals are quite poor for the melody being attempted, and the lyrics are rather confusing. Tierney repeats throughout that he is not a twenty-first-century man, despite titling the EP, right below his name, “21st Century Man”. Anyways.
The Randy Newman-esque In Your Life features plodding piano, punctuated by hair-metal-y guitar fills but is ultimately let down by stale lyrics about feeling alone as one looks out the window. The song seems to be about loneliness but the lyrics leave both subject and song vague and ill-defined.
The vocals are serviceable throughout without ever being fantastic, which is entirely forgivable, but not if what’s being sung is schmaltzy beyond all measure of reason and taste. It doesn’t help that each song on here has a melody that is just this side of infringing on The Beatles’ infamously humourless copyright. Some of this is blithely Beatles-y. Liam Gallagher himself would deem this to be cutting it a bit close.
Love Again, which thankfully does not seem to owe anything to the Philip Larkin poem of the same title, is very simple and sparse; Tierney’s vocal over electric piano. Though it is the slightest composition here, it is probably the strongest, and this only because it is short.
Lucy’s Dreams features shimmering arpeggios that come across like the aural equivalent of stock footage. The short guitar lead on here is decent, but it’s the only real highlight in a song that could almost wholly be defined as inoffensive lounge music.
The sense is that Tierney is trying to evoke a mood or style from yesteryear, but can oftentimes sound like a parody of what Tierney is going for. ’21st Century Man’ is the sound of genuine talent trapped in a patchwork of influence, half-baked lyricism and – at worst – music as fashion.