Wednesday, 24 September 2014

New Album - Kevin Nolan, 'Fredrick & The Golden Dawn'

Kevin Nolan, 'Drowning'

Info: Dubliner Kevin Nolan's background in the disciplines of art, philosophy and poetry all influence his debut album, Fredrick & The Golden Dawn, a composition 8 years in the making, with an intriguing end product. Before I start reviewing the album I must point out that my two favourite decades for music are the 1960's and the 1970's, and my two favourite genres are soul and blues (particularly the guitar based type), that's not to say that those decades match up with those types of music neatly, the latter pre-dates the former considerably. I mention this for two reasons, firstly, the influence of decades and genres I've mentioned are present throughout the album, secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is that there are some widely acclaimed artists that fall under both categories, that I could just never get into. Respect? Yes. Enjoy their music? No. One such musician, who is undoubtedly talented and has had a massive impact on musicians for decades, is Tom Waits. On the opening track of Nolan's album, indeed, the first 5 seconds, the hand in your head shoots up and exclaims 'Tom Waits!', I should be put off by this, however, by the end of the album, instead of thinking Nolan sounds like Tom Waits, I'm thinking, 'If Tom Waits sounded a bit more like Kevin Nolan I might just be able to finally get into him'.

Nolan's vocals and ukulele on opener 'Blood Wedding' are more suited to a setting of an early blues performance in a decrepit watering-hole in the Deep South at the turn of the 19th century, than the growl of a young man from Dublin wailing through a pained ballad. The brief but interesting second track, 'ctrl', sounds like a Disney version of the Twin Peaks soundtrack, in a good way. The single 'Splinter' is a nice mix between a contemporary sound, musically, and 1960's psychedelia vocally, making it quite distinct from the rest of the album, without feeling out of place. 'The Last Days of Harry Carry' have a spaghetti Western intro, rolling thunderous drums and touch on Zappa, Waits and Nick Cave in particular, with the wind instrumental at the end reminding me a little bit of King Crimson's 'In The Court of the Crimson King'.

On the second half of the album Nolan rides a shooting star into the night sky with full orchestral grandeur. On 'The Guess' you feel as if you are listening to two completely different vocalists, if you were unaware that he was a solo artist you would struggle with the knowledge that the vocal range belonged to one person. The song's personality bring to mind Neil Hannon's extravagance on Promenade and Casanova in the mid-90's and it's an enchanting track. 'Drowning' comes next and is undoubtedly my favourite, foreboding, disturbing and beautiful, both bass and piano are extremely complimentary as a background to the lines;

 'Like a switch-blade to my heart, there she was, she was every song I heard, she held a match to every word, I was a saint among the herds...but now I'm drowning'

Nolan concludes with the inevitably blunt line, 'drowning men are never found.' To add to the atmosphere and in case you had forgotten, the piano toward the end is like a march of death reiterating the protagonist's final words.

Kevin Nolan feat. Julie Feeney, 'Aubade'

Before 'Aubade', above, featuring Julie Feeney, is 'Oil On Canvas', here pomp is turned to 11, suddenly I'm at a Victorian country house at a party with Elton John playing piano in the corner (in that wig), with the desire for excess checked by social mores. It's almost as if Nolan has, momentarily, thrown all of his creative energy into this song, run into the middle of it, fleeing the outside, and completely let go of all doubts, and just lets fly. I like many tracks on this album musically, but moreso for where they take me, Fredrick & The Golden Dawn is more than just a music album, it's a story and it's an uncomfortable adventure, and I'm hoping that Nolan will take us on many more in the future.

Additional Info: 

Fredrick & The Golden Dawn has received plaudits and high praise from high places, including Tony Clayton-Lea in The Irish Times, Hot Press, John Kelly from RTÉ's Lyric FM, as well as BBC Radio 6. 

Kevin Nolan is currently planning a small tour of Dublin city with writer / musician Peter Murphy, dates and venues to be confirmed.

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