Rob Corcoran’s mouthful of a debut EP, ‘The Heart, the Head And The Long Since Dead’, opens with a sweet harmonica melody. The chorus of this intro track goes “It might sound strange to you, but it hurts me too” – far from Nabakov, but Corcoran sings those words with an undeniable sincerity that overcomes their tweeness. That uncompromised earnestness glows throughout ThtHatLSD’s brief 15 minutes, making you wish that you could overlook its flaws.
Corcoran sites Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen as two of his major influences, which isn’t hard to pick up on. He’s particularly reminiscent of their early stuff, and the ‘60s New York Folk scene they emerged from. Instrumentally, his songs are soft and minimalist, built around the lead singer and guitar with additional strings, vocals, percussion, and harmonicas either hanging around the back or only popping in at intervals. Black Hearted Man, the strongest track on the EP, consists of nothing but singing and slow guitar-picking for its first minute, patiently adding soothing violin melodies and tender string-plucking as the song goes on.
Dylan and Cohen have also clearly left their mark on the lyrical content of this debut, but only in terms of theme and subject matter rather than quality. Corcoran sings the tales of heartbroken lovers, melancholy travellers, and remorseful drinkers with none of the verbal ingenuity, humour, or poetic brilliance that defined his cited inspirations. The storytelling style of theirs that Corcoran utilises only highlights this discrepancy. Weak and clichéd lines populate the EP, further strained by rigid adherence to simplistic rhyming patterns (you can almost hear Corcoran mulling over what word rhymes with “derived”). The warmth and heart in Corcoran’s delivery prevents lines like the opening of Boozer’s Lament – “I was a boozer, you were a barmaid, it was love at first pint” – from being totally cringe-worthy, but only just.
And sadly, in the currently beyond-saturated indie-folk market in Ireland, that’s not going to cut it. As was the case in the New York folk scene of the ‘60s, today in Ireland there are literally hundreds of new acts producing music just like Corcoran’s, and it takes distinctly high quality or a novel twist to get noticed, neither of which Corcoran displays on these five songs. While perfectly successful as a selection of easy listening tunes, unfortunately for Corcoran there is nothing on ‘The Heart, the Head and the Long Since Dead’ to distinguish him from the herd. Hopefully, in later releases, he can come up with something more exceptional.