- 15 Apr 19
Fourth solo album from Frames frontman re-embraces experimentation.
For his fourth solo album, Glen Hansard has largely left behind the soulful troubadour who inhabited his last couple of records and re-embraced the noise. Much of This Wild Willing has more in common with the sonic storms he helped conjure up as The Frames’ frontman, as Hansard re-engages with his darker side.
Album opener and lead single, ‘I’ll Be You, Be Me’ is a superb introduction: it’s an exercise in restraint, Hansard’s vocal a controlled whisper while the music builds from slow throb to a swirling maelstrom of distorted noise. ‘Don’t Settle’ begins with tinkering piano, but it’s far from the gentle melody of ‘Falling Slowly’: these staccato scatterings of notes have far more dramatic intensity, as Hansard delivers a plea not to compromise your ideals, “When they turn your words against you, try to grind you to the ground.” Once again it builds in ferocity until the singer’s bellowing his words out over a beautiful menagerie of brass-led noise. Even the delicate, piano-driven ‘Fools Game’ bursts into glorious waves of My Bloody Valentine-esque distortion. As opening salvos go, it’s quite a statement.
Born in Paris and recorded in Black Box studios, with former Frames guitarist David Odlum at the control desk, this album features long-time cohorts Joe Doyle and Romy, as well as Dublin electronic musicians Deasy and Dunk Murphy, and classically trained Iranian musicians the Khoshravesh brothers, who add layers of eastern swirl to tracks like ‘The Closing Door’.
Elsewhere, ‘Race To The Bottom’ sounds like Calexico holed up in a Parisian drinking den; the southern twang of ‘Mary’ could be a Will Oldham out-take (“Love is a language you can speak so eloquently”); the jazz-inflected ‘Who’s Gonna Be Your Baby Now’ is a whispered confessional from the Leonoard Cohen songbook; and the folky ‘Brother’s Keeper’ has a beguiling lightness of touch.
This Wild Willing’s experimental edge has more in common with For The Birds than any of his previous solo outings – most of these 12 songs were born from improvisation. It’s a long album, weighing in at a concentration-sapping 64 minutes, but there’s so much here to love, from the distorted assault of the opening trio to the epic ‘Good Life Of Song’, a beautiful paean to the love of music and the musician’s life, or the closing ‘Leave A Light’, which sounds not unlike Luke Kelly covering Willie Nelson. A wonderful record.