Irish music is having another moment and this time it’s totes emosh. We are conquering the world with pop-driven, hook-laden, emotionally burdensome “guitar” music. The Script started the ball rolling all those years ago. Kodaline happily picked up the baton more recently, with Gavin James doing his best to keep the good ship Anguish sailing on. The “guitar” is parenthesised here because in reality it is parenthesised too – nice to look at, but by the time those canny producers have done their thing, barely there at all.
Which brings us to the latest purveyors of purpose-built pop: it’s almost four years since Walking On Cars drifted onto the national musical radar as an outlying blip of no particular threat. Now, with their debut album ‘Everything This Way’ under their arm, they will stride to the top of the charts, and defy anyone who tries to move them.
If you knew nothing about this band before listening to the album you would have no idea how many members are in the band, if any. Other than occasional flourishes of piano or guitar, this is all about The Voice (of singer Patrick Sheehy – not the TV show). You’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s an affectation until you see him sing live and produce it so effortlessly and so obviously without pretension. It truly is a fine voice for a skinny lad from Dingle. But much like Gavin James’ recent debut effort, it’s everywhere. Every nook and cranny has been filled with the voice, and it’s too much.
Walking On Cars are like the love-child of The Coronas and Bastille – Danny O’Reilly’s singing style over bombastic, synthetic-sounding backdrops. Coldplay have also gone down that route with their most recent album – it’s very much du jour at the moment. It would not be surprising if in a few years, like Coldplay and, indeed, The Script, A-list superstars are guest-featuring on their singles.
The album opens with one of their oldest songs, Catch Me If You Can. Its simple piano-led opening leads to a double-pace, punchy chorus. It’s a hugely appealing start to the record. The single Two Stones is next, its video of the build-up to a car crash recalling that of Coldplay’s The Scientist, building on a refrain of “Can we sing Hallelujah one more time?”, an ear-worm that stays with you long after a listen.
Speeding Cars builds on a similar theme: opening piano refrain, plaintive vocals and a repeating refrain – in this case “heya heya heya”. At this point in the album a song pattern is starting to emerge which makes anything other than the stand-out tracks blend together. Something else that becomes apparent on repeated listens is that Sheehy’s voice is entirely one-dimensional: a sad/angry lament. There isn’t a single happy song on the album. Not that this is a requirement of course, but it feels like a lot of the songs were written with happy intentions until Sheehy’s vocals came along. Big choruses, no joy.
As We Fly South, the last song on the album, could have been written by Biffy Clyro and is one of the few songs that bucks the trend and shows that Walking On Cars are capable of mixing it up, with aggressive crunching power chords that catch the listener by surprise. It’s one of the album’s best songs and ends things on a high.
All in all, this is a good album. It’s far from the definition of a grower but repeated listens are rewarding and elicit the recasting of judgement in a surprising way.
‘Everything This Way’ is released on Friday 29 January on Virgin EMI.