Words: Paul Page
It's been four years since the wonderfully named The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock unleashed their debut album on an unsuspecting world. A clutch of rave reviews accompanied its release, critics drawn to the bands fusion of the best elements of Trad, Rock and Folk. A flurry of activity followed before they disappeared into the ether, only to emerge now with this their sophomore effort The Brutal Here and Now. It is clear from the outset that this is a band with a singular vision, a group of musicians intent on following their own star. The Brutal Here and Now is an uncompromising statement of intent, exploring lyrical themes of memory and history in the context of where we are now as a nation. This in itself would mark them out as unique on the Irish music scene, but it is their distinctive sound that really sets them apart, a collision of styles and genres, with influences ranging from Planxty right through to Sonic Youth.
Album opener 'The Tarantella' sets the tone for what is to follow - an Italian folk song that builds to a tumultuous climax while 'Heave the Bellows' and 'Black Diaries' draw heavily on the band's experimental rock influences. 'The Brutal Here and Now (Part 1)' is undoubtedly the standout track; perhaps the one song where all the divergent elements fuse together in a way that sounds unique to this band and this band only. 'The Rattling Hell' closes the album on a suitably rousing note - the ghost of Luke Kelly can be heard in the most stirring and passionate vocal performance on the album.
You have got to admire a band that makes such a bold, uncompromising statement with barely a passing nod to current trends and fashions. It is both their strength and their weakness as at times this uncompromising approach can make for a slightly uneven and disjointed listening experience. The clash of styles can sound a little awkward and incongruous, but when they get it right, they create something powerful and defiantly unique that demands and warrants our attention.