When Elliott Smith's posthumous album From A Basement On The Hill first graced my stereo, 'King's Crossing' froze me to the spot. Not since then had I encountered a song during which I dared not move for fear of making a sound and missing something crucial, until at 3am on either a recent Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, when Xfm gifted me with my first taster of a stunning talent. Come the end of Fionn Regan’s ‘Put A Penny In The Slot’, I staggered out of bed in the dark, scribbled his name on my calendar in what I found the next morning to be luminous marker, and dreamt that I had found the songwriter who could return Sandi Thom to the Tooting basement from whence she came, should his debut be good enough. Please, let his debut be good enough.
Initially, at least, my prayers aren’t wholly answered: Regan's guitar work may be an impressive blur of frantic finger plucking one minute and quiet chords the next, much like Elliott Smith or Nick Drake, but whilst the single is instantly accessible, the rest is more understated, quietly confident in its execution but not immediately conquering. Stick with it, though, and you’ll reap the rewards. The End Of History is a slow-burner, needing time to grow to reach its full potential, and from the initial impressions will soon rise approval at even the slightest of falsetto changes.
Packed tightly into each song, alongside the hints of Drake and Smith, come the occasional melodic flashes of Ed Harcourt and Sufjan Stevens, alongside the vocal delivery of Damien Rice. Should you judge this album on that latter comparison, though, you'd be making a crucial error. On occasions Regan's vocal delivery matches Rice's open-throated cry, but whether you believe Rice to be a daytime radio antichrist or true talent, Regan's songwriting ability clearly runs a lot deeper. You'll find on this album no weak similes of cannonballs, and while the lovelorn lyrics may seem familiar sat next to O, Regan’s work is littered with sentiments darker, more intelligent and passionate. Just listen to the "Step out of your dress, and I'll wear you like a hood" line of 'The Underwood Typewriter', or "If you pull a hatchet, I'll pull something to match it. How about your wife?" from 'Snowy Atlas Mountains'.
These traits all meet at the point where it all began, the majestic 'Put A Penny In The Slot', where the songwriting of Conor Oberst meets Ben Kweller's vocals; where heartfelt longing (“I can't help from crying, I wish you were mine”) and strange twists (“I apologise, I seem to have arrived home with items in my bag from your house”) combine with intelligent literary references to both Paul Auster's Timbuktu and Saul Bellow's The Adventures of Augie March during four minutes of touching, flawless indie-folk.
That the rest of The End Of History can't immediately offer a match for it is no real surprise, but with each listen it gets a little closer, new favourites emerge and ensnare you in the Fionn Regan web of love, lust and memories. A joy to behold if perhaps never to be regarded a 'classic', to say this is a promising debut almost doesn't do it justice.
8ben marwood's Score