One of the more interesting aspects of the recession and the hardship endured by this country in recent years is how little influence it seems to have had on the output of the local arts community. By and large, with a few honourable exceptions, this turbulent period of our history has not informed or been reflected in the work of those who create art here to any great degree. Rock music has a long and proud history as a conduit for protest and change, for reflecting what is going on in society at any given period of time. You think of the music of Bob Dylan, the Sex Pistols, the Clash and Billy Bragg and you can see instantly how they were all a product of the environment from which they emerged.
Yet here in Ireland, our thriving and vibrantly diverse music scene has largely chosen not to stray beyond the cosy confines of standard rock and pop themes, perhaps reflecting the national mood of compliance and apathy through a period of unprecedented hardship and austerity.
Last of the Analogue Age by Dublin-based A Lazarus Soul may be the first record by an Irish band to reflect the Ireland we live in today – if it's not the first, it is certainly one of the most eloquent expressions of the anger and despair felt by those crushed by the soul destroying effects of the recession.
It is at times an incredibly poignant album as it looks back at a lost Ireland and what we traded it in for; Brian Brannigan is an extraordinarily talented lyricist – his observations and reflections on his own life are cleverly woven into the wider narrative. On the wonderful 'The Future's Not Ours' he sings 'Haunted by lost opportunities, all their hopes that I have killed, Ah the pain, the realisation, I'm almost forty & unskilled' and it instantly touches on that common fear that we all have of reaching a point in your life and realising you are lost, going nowhere.
The ghost of Luke Kelly looms large over the 'The Midday Class', a stunning seven minute plus opener built on a series of single note drones and Brannigan's passionate, heartfelt delivery. Elsewhere, 'We Know Where You Live' jangles beautifully, a hazily nostalgic snapshot of Brannigan's youth while closing track 'Last of the Analogue Age' documents the lives of those who live on the margins of Dublin society: 'You see us hanging on the boardwalk against the cold light of day, Consumer eyes that look right through us when we ask them for spare change, They despise our twisted faces when we've got gold dust in our veins..'
Last of the Analogue Age won't suddenly appear uninvited in your iTunes library. There will be no cosy tie-ins with a major conglomerate, no big money marketing campaigns attempting to force feed this wonderful music to the masses. This is the sound of four people making music about where they are from, because they care about their art, because it still matters. It is everything that most contemporary rock music is not. It might also be the best Irish album of 2014.
FOUR OUT OF FIVE
Words by: Paul Page