Three albums in a decade isn’t everyone’s idea of a high workrate, but when the songs in question have the intensity of a long dark night of the soul in conversation with Samuel Beckett, Cathal Coughlan and Eamonn Dunphy, it’s easier to imagine that creating these dark arts must be an emotionally draining experience.
Through A Window In The Sunshine Room is A Lazarus Soul mainman Brian Brannigan’s state of the nation address, and it doesn’t make for pretty listening, as he lambasts post-Tiger Ireland, peopled by characters “in your SUV and your three hundred euro shoes” (‘We Start Fires’), opining how, “We had more class when we had not two pennies” (‘A Penthouse View’).
The portrait of a society in turmoil is laid on thick and fast, with recurring images of burning and flames throughout. It’s hard to listen to the opening lines of ‘On The Late Shift With The Skeleton Crew’ (“I was baptised in a river of fire/ They held my reluctant head down as the flames were getting higher”) without feeling a sense of dread, while even our town planners come in for a lambasting on the wonderful ‘Save Our Greenbelt’, with its gorgeous “Strawberry Beds forever” coda.
Ironically, despite its subject matter, this is the most accessible musically of ALS’ three albums to date, as Brannigan’s dark tirades are couched in gentle swathes of electronica, chiming guitars and esoteric keyboard musings. This is possibly down to the fact that knob-twiddling duties were handled by the mighty Joe Chester, who also contributed guitar and programming throughout, while former Future King of Spain, Anton Hegarty’s assured bass forms a meaty canvas for Brannigan to paint his sombre vignettes. He also ropes in a stellar cast of indie guests, including Rollerskate Skinny’s Ger Griffin, Sunbear’s Martin Kelly and Ten Speed Racer’s Pat Barrett.
Through A Window… is an important record, as Brannigan distils the anger of Whipping Boy, The The and Fatima Mansions with the musical sensibility of Aphex Twin or UNKLE. One criticism: it’s almost impossible to get through it in a single sitting without feeling a little overcome. File under uneasy but essential listening.