At the end of the 1980s Dublin found itself at the centre of a miniature musical revolution. Well, perhaps that’s stretching it a bit but there certainly were some excellent bands knocking around at the time. Bands like A House, The Pale, Something Happens, Fatima Mansions, An Emotional Fish and Whipping Boy. Power of Dreams were there too – three schoolboys creating jaw-droppingly good rock songs and, in Craig Walker, possessing a gifted lyricist. With U2 approaching their creative zenith, it was also a time when A&R men skulked around in the shadows of city centre venues, searching for the next ‘big thing’; sweet-talking starry-eyed bands into record deals, only to cut them loose when their LPs failed to compete with The Joshua Tree or Rattle and Hum in the sales rankings.
Power of Dreams’ career trajectory followed the same path as many of their contemporaries. After first releasing an EP on London-based indie label Setanta, the band inked a lucrative deal with Polydor and went on to release four albums before being dumped unceremoniously in 1995. The group parted ways and the record company deleted their material from its catalogue, making it almost impossible to obtain a copy of anything the band produced ever since then. That is, until a couple of fans recently made an approach to re-release their first major label effort, Immigrants, Emigrants and Me.
Listening to the album now, its vintage is immediately obvious but it sure hasn’t aged badly. On the contrary, it shines a light on just how frivolous indie rock has become during the past two decades. Power of Dreams didn’t need poncey haircuts and a Topman wardrobe, nor did they rely on having their music tarted-up with 8-bit blips and beeps. They wrote songs that burned with angst and frustration, requiring nothing more than guitar, bass and drums to beef them up. Tracks like ‘Joke’s on Me’ and ‘Where Is the Love?’ sparkle with gorgeous jangly guitar riffs and steady basslines, but what really brings them to life is their lyrical content. Craig Walker’s heartfelt narratives allow the listener to make a deep connection with the songs, to make them more than just something to jump around to on a Saturday night. They’re the type of tunes that stay with you, soundtracking vital moments of your life.
Despite all the forecasts, Immigrants, Emigrants and Me didn’t set the world alight, although just why it didn’t happen is still something of a mystery. It’s a collection full of emotionally-charged, should-have-been-classic songs that’s more than thoroughly deserving of it’s place in Irish music’s hall of fame. The re-released edition comes packaged with a 20-track bonus CD containing the debut EP, demo tracks and live recordings – including a brilliantly filthy, punked-up cover of ‘Break on Through’. It’s the perfect accompaniment, especially for those who missed out on the Power of Dreams experience first time around. And with the band having now reformed for a series of gigs, its good to know this reissue is the work of genuine fans, ensuring it’s a labour of love rather than a cynical record company cash-in exercise.