A haunting contemplation of the ageing process
Death is not the great unmentionable in pop. From car crash sobaroonies like ‘Tell Laura I Love Her’ or ‘Dead Man’s Curve’ to nu-folk murder ballads, from rock star self-implosions at 27 to Ballardian mash-ups, gangsta shootouts and drug ODs, death has had more than its fair shake. Even Gavin Friday’s best known song ‘Angel’ could be interpreted equally as Romeo & Juliet madrigal or the Genet-meets-Brel fantasia of a man having congress with a winged wraith.
No, in pop the great taboo is age. The culture venerates the young and the susceptible and makes fun of artists in their autumn years. It’s a dystopian vision of TOTP-as-Logan’s Run, and the in-built obsolescence clock gets turned back further every year. Leonard Cohen quoting Tennessee Williams, “Life is a faily well written play... apart from the third act. The third act doesn’t turn out too well for anyone.”
Gavin Friday is in his early 50s, which is the prime of life for a painter, writer or filmmaker. But catholic, his first set of original songs since 1995’s Shag Tobacco, is bathed in twilight shades. A lot happens a man between 36 and 52. Death, divorce, moving house... It’s all here. catholic’s blue velvet curtains open on Friday as Baritone Man intoning, “Don’t tell me you love me/ I can feel your rage” over a stark electro throb and trick backdrop courtesy of musical collaborator Herbie Macken and producer Ken Thomas (Cocteaus, Sigur Ros). Echoes of Yeats writing about the violent heart tethered to a dying animal, while the musical policy is sui generis nocturnal-futurist, with Friday’s yearning half-falsetto melodies drifting past moonscapes lit by neo-ambient and late night club pulses.
It’s a serious record. The cover shot depicts the singer corpsed and draped in a tricolour, halfway between an SS general and a fallen cardinal. Mr. Friday, it should be noted, sports Bishop John Charles McQuaid’s episcopal ring for bling. If he once tartly likened the Catholic Mass to glam rock, with its purple robes, smoke bombs, dry ice and death cult trappings, catholic evokes the solemn grandeur of the high Latin Mass.
There’s a lot of wisdom here, but the kind that comes at a price. ‘It’s All Ahead Of You’ is the album’s best shot at a modern standard, with Beatles strings and a chorus that sounds like it was found in the stalls at Carnegie Hall, misplaced by some postwar ghost. These are the songs of a man who’s lost a few things. From ‘Land On The Moon’ to ‘A Song That Hurts’ to ‘The Only One’, catholic sounds mostly fragile, vulnerable, uncertain – although never exactly frail. Only one tune, ‘Perfume’, echoes the strut of old. The rest – the slow country sway of ‘Blame’, the minimalist mantra of ‘Epilogue’ (“The best is yet to come”) and the Cocteaus-y ‘The Sun & The Moon And The Stars’ – are preoccupied with endings.
Most notable case in point: the closing ‘Lord I’m Coming’, a majestic coda with naked vocal backlit by a modern classical arrangement, not so much gospel/spiritual as foxhole prayer. Strings ebb, an idoru’s aria drifts into the ether, fade to black. You’re on your own. Time to get right with God.
Gavin Friday in The Hot Press Chatroom at Electic Picnic 2012Read More
Gavin Friday, Wallis Bird, Karl Spain and Delorentos are just some of the names stopping by for a Stradbally chinwag.Read More
The new compilation delves into the fertile Irish music scene of the early '80s.Read More
You can watch the trailer below...Read More
A stellar showing from Mr. Friday...Read More
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Hot on the heels of his appearance at Electric Picnic, Friday has announced a special gig at the Olympia Theatre on November 29.Read More
Gavin Friday is among the most artistically ambitious Irish musicians of the past thirty years. With a superb new album, entitled catholic, under his belt, he talks about the death of his father, the breakup of his marriage, the end of the Prunes, working with Naomi Campbell, Courtney Love and Cillian Murphy – and the making of his finest album yet…Read More
Catholic hits the racks in AprilRead More
The singer and composer has signed to the Rubyworks label, and will release new material soonRead More
RTÉ will air the first-ever documentary based on the life of the musician and close friend of U2Read More
Gavin Friday is to perform as a guest vocalist at the world premiere of Drifting And Tilting – The Songs Of Scott Walker.Read More
Gavin Friday and his Virgin Prunes bandmates Guggi and Dave-id Busarus have been added to the bill for this month's Rogue's Gallery gig in Dublin.Read More
Gavin Friday talks about Disney songs, Shakespeare sonnets, Ferrara films, liking art and reading books.Read More
Gavin Friday will join a celebrity cast in a tribute to Disney in New York.Read More
Due to Philip Chevron’s recent illness, Gavin Friday will be taking over vocal duties at The Radiators’ Dublin gig in July.Read More
Gavin Friday’s been a Virgin Prune and a glam cabaret torch singer, he’s done Brecht and Weill, and most recently stole the show at Hal Willner’s Leonard Cohen tribute concert Came So Far For Beauty.Read More
Audience-involved spin-the-bottle, colourful strobe lights and a man wearing a feather boa while crooning Marlene Dietrich’s ‘Lili Marlene’ and ‘Falling In Love Again’? A remarkable ‘Ave Maria’ coming from an opera singer who could be the lovechild of Gene Simmons and the bride of Frankenstein? The combination may seem a bit puzzling – but when it’s coming from the bold and brilliant mind of Gavin Friday, it all makes perfect sense.Read More
Gavin Friday tells us about his new project, his love of all things German, and how Fritz Lang gets him hot under the collar.Read More
Gavin Friday has announced more details of his Tomorrow Belongs To Me shows, which take place in Dublin’s Liberty Hall on July 27 and 28.Read More
Gavin Friday has been talking about his involvement in a Johnny Depp-inspired project that also involves Bono, Andrea Corr, Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Bryan Ferry, Antony & The Johnsons, Richard & Linda Thompson, Loudon Wainwright and some of his former Virgin Prunes bandmates.Read More
Gavin Friday comes over all extracurricular again when he joins Ireland’s foremost avant-garde music troupe, Crash Ensemble.Read More