Ireland. It’s barely any bloody distance away, and bits of it actually belong to the same country as my hometown. And yet Nick Kelly, who it would appear is pretty well known in Ireland (as are his ex-band, Fat Lady Sings), has as far as I know remained utterly off the radar on this side of the Irish sea. It doesn’t take much geography to make for a disproportionately large pop-culture divide, does it? I can’t help but wonder what else I’m missing out on. And does the same apply to bands from Scotland and Wales? So much for the power of music to bring countries together, hey?
No, I jest. I’m not really that cynical. Well, not most of the time.
Well. Nick Kelly works to the template of singer/songwriter and his band, the Kelly-penned music played by said band falling loosely into the template of indie-rock. The songs are mainly about love and the lack/pain/beauty (delete any, all or none as applicable) thereof, or about being a man looking for meaning and a sense of place in an alien and unwelcoming world. Some songs encompass both themes – the pain of lacking the beauty of love being as it is a major barrier to feeling at home in an alien world. This isn’t, as you can probably tell from the readiness with which mockery edges into my prose, the kind of thing I’d usually have much time for. And yet Kelly pulls it off.
These are, simply and undeniably, good songs. Kelly can write good songs. The tunes are an end in themselves, rather than being a sketchy vehicle for cringeworthy love-sick lyrics – and the lyrics which go with that music are never more than slightly dubious, and are often actually pretty good. Kelly’s voice isn’t one of those magic ones which sears the brain; it’s just a voice, gruffly tuneful and with a straightforward manner of singing. But… put it together with the aforementioned qualities and you have something which appeals to me more than most other albums of its ilk. It’s possibly the lack of pretension and melodrama. Or maybe it’s the fact that the music doesn’t do what you expect, that the songs hold the attention and keep reeling it back in by means of unexpected tricks and sudden changes of gear. But whatever it is, this is a genuinely affecting and (in a not at all plodding manner) worthy album, and worth a hundred bloodless, acoustic guitar-wielding crooners of the kind usually associated with the phrase “singer/songwriter and band”. So there.