Saturday, 21 April 2018

Album: Paddy Hanna - Frankly, I Mutate

Paddy Hanna - Frankly, I Mutate

Info: Normally when a mór le rá Irish album is released I'm in a hurry to get a review up and share my initial thoughts as best I can, but last February and March two albums came out in close proximity that dug a little deeper into me than normal. I knew that, as a result, in order to properly review both I really needed to live with them for a while. Paddy Hanna's Frankly, I Mutate is one of those albums, I had reviewed the colourful 'Mario Lanza' and the wonderful 'Toulouse the Kisser' over the past few months, and for me they set the scene in different ways.

In a recent interview with NME Dubliner Hanna spoke freely about personal battles and how they interact with his craft; "I allude to mental illness in my work. It’s considered by many to be a neurosis that spurs on creative work, however it is nothing but a crutch on my own creativity. My time in a depressive haze is spent in complete emptiness, weeks will go by, my beard will have grown out, my pen dried up. So when indeed I allude to mental illness it would usually be during a happy period where I can function. One of the most important days in my life came when I finally opened up about depression and was not met with jeers but rather acceptance and understanding". 

Listening to his sophomore album you would outwardly get the impression of a highly creative musical maverick who injects humour and comedic brevity into his song-writing (which he does). When you listen to the lyrics on tracks such as the brimming orchestral piece that is 'All I Can Say Is I Love You', you start to ponder a bit more and take stock beyond the music itself.

The scene is set with 'I Saw The Man, Pt. 2', this reminds me of an interlude on a Waterboys album, it's a little morose, but it's very calming, and the piano is a little magical. Mood is flipped on its head with one of my favourite tracks on the album 'Bad Boys', musically it's just wonderful, in an almost nailed on Leonard Cohen impersonation, Hanna tells a story that can be interpreted in many ways, a distant summer memory of mischief, a sinister plot by suits, who knows, and my god that brass and percussion are immense. 

'Ida' is an early signal (on top of 'Bad Boys') of an artist whose mind is knee-deep in the best of the best of so-called baroque pop, I hear all sorts of wisps from Roy Orbison to Scott Walker's 'Copenhagen' or 'It's Raining Today' from Scott 3, but with more joy. Another boon of Frankly, I Mutate is that it never sits on its laurels, take 'Mario Lanza' for example, this is a bone fide modern pop song, the type of song your conservative parents in 1965 would just about allow a teenage you listen to, it has just about enough big-band sound to distract from authoritarian analysis!

'Reverends Grave' is a significant pause, as if our protagonist has decided to take a break from the stage and make a rare and brief outreach to a spiritual dimension, additional vocals by Saint Sister are most welcome too. We then arrive at the barn-storming locomotive of 'Toulouse the Kisser', it's brash, a dash of 50's rock rhythm pumps along like day-glo pistons on over-drive, can we love Hanna's defiant vocal any more than at this point on the album?

Paddy Hanna
Photo: Stephen White (The Last Mixed Tape)

'Spanish Smoke' is a lovely surprise on the album, a rare blues-rock and soul moment, I'm a bit at a loss to draw comparisons here, from two genres that I'd like to think I know a thing or two about a thing or two on, and this is a welcome state. There's at least one more kicker to the heart left in the shape of 'Low Voices', after all of the boisterous and uplifting moments, there's an inescapably honest introspective, painfully so, Hanna passes you his diary to read for yourself. In a way the undercurrent of the whole album and its messenger lead directly to this point, outward / inward, joy / turmoil, together / alone. 

I often project myself into the future, with one of my nieces or nephews starting to express an interest in music, and in this scenario they ask me what albums they should listen to in order to develop their song-writing or expand their palate. Frankly, I Mutate is one that would slip off the shelf, and I'd tell them to work their way backwards from there.

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