Have you ever knocked at a friend/family/ex-partner’s house at 3am after a night out, convinced they’re at home… but receive no answer at the door? The lights are on, the noise from the surround-sound speakers siren through the windows but still nobody answers your incessant knocking? That’s what it feels like listening to ‘The Ground Will Shake’, the eponymous roots inspired debut album from Dublin four-piece The Ground Will Shake – an album that showcases decent song writing ability, but is left wanting in it’s performance and delivery. There is life behind those closed curtains, it just never fully reveals itself.
For a band to describe their brand of rootsy rock and roll as “rowdy”, it’s a disappointment to discover that the album’s best moments occur during it’s quieter ones. The acoustically driven Devil’s Tower allows the listener to truly appreciate the band’s songwriting abilities with Paul O’ Connor’s mournful voice soaring above lush instrumentation as he laments “I know what it’s like, waiting for a man of wood to come alive, I’m losing you”. It’s a moment of sweet melancholy in a storm of restrained commotion; it’s just a shame these moments are too fleeting.
That’s not to say the more up-tempo numbers are terrible, they’re not, Engine Heart kick-starts the album with a powerful rev that proves The Ground Will Shake have the ability to create boisterous, frantic and enjoyable music when they click into gear; it’s just unfortunate that the rest of the album struggles to sustain this horsepower and acceleration. If you’re aim is to be rowdy, go all out. Don’t be wild in a: ‘Oooohhh my parents are away so I’m going to invite everybody over for a big secret scrabble tournament’ kind of way.
Rolling Sixteen, a rockabilly track that aims to cut an air of defiance and insolence, falls victim to this reined in rowdiness. A track that is performed so unenthusiastically that it could never live up to its rebellious potential – more Dennis the Menace, less William Wallace.
This is a constant problem throughout the whole album. It just lacks a certain… oomph. Where this shortage of punch comes from, the finger can be pointed firmly at the underwhelming production. The album sounds like a rough demo at times, and the perfunctory guitar work (especially on Rolling Sixteen) strikes like a band that have been playing the same songs on world tours for the last forty years, as opposed to the eagerness of a debut album. If these issues are ironed out in the future then The Ground Will Shake have the potential to make some promising music, but with this output, it seems like you’re going to be stuck outside that well lit-up house, knocking on the door for a little while yet.