DiS heard a lot of music created by singer-songwriter types, guys and gals with guitars, troubadours, whatever you wanna call 'em in 2008, and while there were, of course, several records deserving of gushing plaudits (People's Voice Prize winner Bon Iver is one obvious example), we felt there was one young British artist in particular whose debut LP didn't quite get the accolades it deserved. Shot through with a songwriting maturity that belies his tender years, Ireland-descended, London-based Domino-signed tunesmith Eugene McGuinness turned in a fantastic self-titled debut that successfully blurred the boundaries between anti-folk, old fashioned pop and noughties social commentary in a way few of his contemporaries even came close to this year. That's why we've made him DiS' Troubadour Of '08, and asked him to take us through the tracks that comprise Eugene McGuinness.
'Rings Around Rosa'
Right, well I knew this would be the opener as soon as I knocked it out. I don't know why, it's a story of two friends on their way to school and one of them turning out to be a bit of a bastard. The strange fellow feels it fit to blackmail his best friend so that he can have relations with his mate's sister.Or something. A bit grange hill. I love john's drumming on it. I wanted it to be like black rebel motorcycle club, but my voice can be too girly.
I don't know what to say about this track other than it was written very quickly and I've no idea what it's about. It's just me and my brother messing about with guitars. The lyrics are pretty throw away, except for "The funeral of my youth", that line was nicked. Before I recorded this album I listened to [debut EP] The Early Learnings Of... and decided a boy my age shouldn't be singing so many slow songs. Although I still croon out the odd ballad, I wanted a few more teeth kickers.
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The first romantic song on the record. Think I was listening to Roy Orbison at the time. La la la talking about songs is difficult if you don't know why you like them or why they exist! In terms of songwriting, it's the best one on the record. I want someone to cover it, somebody old.
'Moscow State Circus'
With the band, we recorded live. This one was funny because the song was a couple of hours old when we went for it. None of us had a clue what we were doing and you can pretty much hear that in the recording. For me, I love listening to music which sounds like it's on the verge of falling apart and then comes out all guns blazing, there's no thrill in anything with an agenda. Because the song was so new I wasn't even sure I liked it but as soon as everybody threw their arms around it I couldn't wait to go up to the microphone and give it some beans.
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'Those Old Black And White Movies Were True'
This song is very songy. Mike Siddell did an incredible job with the strings. I swore to myself that I wouldn't go near violins for this record, I think they're for folk types or seasoned mavericks (of which I'm neither). I'm chuffed with what Mike did though, thanks Mike.
This song is short even by my standards. I didn't know where else to go with it though. Another verse? Come on, you're busy, I'm busy. We're all awfully busy busy busy... Second best song on the record.
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The Pogues are my universe. I identify with that Ireland/London yo-yo they had. These songs were written in lots of different places, and it always seems to come back to London Town on this record. Other places definitely exist though.
'Knock Down Ginger'
This one is pretty grand. All cathedral bells and burning suburbs and some mention of posh girls. If I ever get to fill a suit convincingly, I'll mince this one up with the London Symphony Orchestra or something. 'Knock Down Ginger' was a game me and my friends used to play in the badlands of Barkingside. I don't know why it was called that, I later found out it's more commonly known as 'knock and run'. Oops.
'Crown The Clown'
If you leave it late, the last train to Liverpool from Manchester Oxford Road takes an eternity or two. It goes everywhere you can think of before landing in Lime Street. Anyway this song, it goes from sitting in a biscuit tin with friends drinking pink Portuguese wine to talking about the golden arches and war and salmon.
'Not So Academic'
That simple sound of a bunch of friends playing music together in a room is pretty crucial to me, nothing contrived or considered. No stroking of chins over snare sounds or microphone politics. This song was very fun, spirits were high.
'God In Space'
I sign out with a lullaby. Night night.