Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Midnight Union Band, New Album, 'Of Life & Lesser Evils'

The Midnight Union Band, 'I'm Your Leader'

Info: Kilkenny band, The Midnight Union Band have recently released the first single from their upcoming album, Of Life and Lesser Evils (out on the 27th of September), the above track, 'I'm Your Leader'. 

If there was some way in the future that albums could be designed for individuals according to their personal tastes and artists they like, I'd be handing over Of Life and Lesser Evils and telling them they'll be doing very well if they can get closer than this for me. Normally when I review an album I'll listen to see if there are any other bands or artists that the music reminds me of to give an idea of what the listener can expect and just keep them in my head, but there are so many here I had to write them all down. It's not that the songs here remind me of the entire works of particular bands, but more a pinpoint in their discographies, or a specific phase. Vocally I'm reminded a lot of Mike Scott from The Waterboys, and at times even Leonard Cohen (in tone only!), on the track 'The People', which I will come back to later. Musically I was dizzyingly drawn across the decades from the early 60's to the 90's and back again, in a very, very good way. From Creedence Clearwater Revival, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The James Gang and Van Morrison, to later Bob Dylan around the time of Time Out of Mind (1997), and even Primal Scream's 'Movin' On Up' on Screamadelica, Of Life and Lesser Evils pings around so many different styles with ease.

The array of instruments on display, and all of the band members evident playing ability, along with intelligent lyrics only add further to what a complete album this is. The mandolin intro on second track 'Just A Scar' (and throughout the album) wouldn't be amiss on Rumours, and the accompanying electric guitar solos are a fine example of the blues style we hear repeatedly on different tracks. On tracks such as 'Note to Self' and 'Behind the Truth' the harmonica adds significantly to the country-folk feel of the tracks and now that I think of it also recalls early Dylan and that well-known group that The Midnight Union Band have been compared to previously, The Band. At the mid point of the album, on track, 'Gospel According To.....' we are treated to barnstorming, Jerry Lee Lewis-esque, rockabilly piano playing and manic drumming.

The Midnight Union Band, 'Behind The Truth'

Two tracks that resonated with me in particular were 'The People' and the album's finale, 'But I Am The Night'. Lead singer Shane Joyce's vocals are painfully heartfelt, and the track is the best example of a theme that is central to the album, social consciousness, or a lack thereof. The song tells of a downtrodden but seemingly apathetic people who are so worn down by their masters that they cannot summon the strength to fight back, a succinct summary of Ireland since 2008 perhaps. The following two tracks 'Behind The Truth' and 'Law Ain't Justice', as the titles suggest, ably continue with this theme, giving a modern take on 60's protest songs from the US or the UK punk-era's anti-Thatcher sentiments. Finally, to 'But I Am The Night', a fine example of a 7 minute track that is too short, a dirge very reminiscent of contemporary New York band, The Walkmen, seeing us out with an uplifting mix of brass instruments and shuffling percussion that you don't want to end. 

From my own perspective, it will require something exceptional between now and the end of the year to surpass Of Life and Lesser Evils as the best Irish album I've reviewed in 2014. I am certain the band will receive very positive reviews from other music sites and print publications, which they will have fully earned. 

The Midnight Union Band are:

Shane Joyce   - Vocals, Harmonica, Acoustic Guitar 
Peter Flynn     - Piano, Mandolin, Electric Guitar, Lap Steel, Hammond 
Cian Doolan    - Mandolin, Electric Guitar 
Brian McGrath - Bass Guitar 
John Wallace   - Vocals, Drums

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