This debut album from Kildare’s Band On An Island has been many years in the making. Championed by our own Niall Byrne as far back as 2006, the Newbridge-based six-piece have been ploughing what must have seemed a lonely furrow for so long. The fact remains that their kind of poetic rock was probably more at home in the 1980s and early ’90s than now, calling to mind, as it does, The Waterboys, Echo And The Bunnymen and even early Frames.
Before those of you of a similar vintage to State get all dewy-eyed and nostalgic, it must be said that Band On An Island have a way to go before they will hit the heights of any of the aforementioned acts, but with a little more objective quality control (it’s waaaay too long), and a smidgeon more maturity in the lyrics, they could aim for the stars. That said, they write about what they know, from fist-fights and piss-ups to loves and lusts lost, although their railing at music industry parasites on album opener -The Last (Free) Man Standing’ and the punk dirge of -Break Our Backs’ hints at moody, nobody-understands-me adolescence that would be better off left in the rehearsal studio.
Musically, this mob are seriously accomplished, as evidenced by the stirring -After The Storm’, the soaring -Jealous’ or the heady rush of -The Burning Shoulder’, where the guitars propel the song forward in a giddy gallop, while never losing sight of the melody. The Mighty Stef guests on the country-tinged, mid-paced -Radio’, while Dundalk’s answer to Billy Bragg, Jinx Lennon adds his own unique voice to the closing -Down To The Riverside’.
Less successful is the plodding, cringe-inducing -Big Picture’, which shows them at their most lyrically awful. It’s a shame, because when they put their mind to it, like the rose-tinted -Athgarvan’ or the swelling -Calm’, Band On An Island can create memorable songs. Tracks like the gorgeously melancholic -Back Disco’ show their skill at chronicling the soul-destroying minutiae of the average Irish twenty-something existence: a world where romance generally begins in the back room of a grimy, sweat-soaked -nite club’.
When they concentrate on the stories where the personal becomes the universal and leave their angst behind (as they do on just over half this album), Band On An Island are a voice worth listening to.