- 10 Nov 23
JFF bestows superb sophomore. 9/10
Sweet Baba Jay! Comrades, we are witnessing a golden year in Irish music, it is well into winter and blessed records continue to rain down on us. And the sophomore album from the critically acclaimed John Francis Flynn mightily swells the deluge. Look Over The Wall, See The Sky monumentally reflects the oscillating Janusian puss of Dublin, melding disparate sounds to weave a unique musical form that masterfully triggers inspired understandings in the listener of town and country.
Sagely selecting from the Irish folk canon and beyond, Flynn forges a socio-realist record that resurrects and rouses traditional tracks into fierce relevance. ‘Willy Crotty’ bleeds harmonica, clarinet, a handheld radio, a Casio SK1 and effects pedal into a Kraftwerkian mesh of industrial power lines, broadcast static and crackling media. It is a whispering, clunking, pealing, thunking beast of a thing, dragging the eponymous 18th century Waterford outlaw by his buckle shoes into postmodern Grand Canal Dock.
Contrasting Flynn’s ‘Kitty’ against Shane MacGowan’s ‘Kitty’ from The Pogues' debut Red Roses for Me, conjures a spectral signpost towards the essence of LOTWSTS. Where the latter possesses a yearning nostalgia, the former’s martial beat and jaded vocal fades into a digital blackhole that channels Flynn’s disparate influence of Pogues, Gilla Band, ---__--___, Dubliners and Dylan Henner. It is simultaneously traumatic and exhilarating.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Lead single ‘Mole In The Ground’ transforms the American anti-establishment song recorded by the minstrel of the Appalachians, Bascom Lamar Lunsford in 1928, into a 2023 mammoth Frankenstein - a rushing demented War on Drugs of a yolk. While whistle, fiddle, tribal drums and a motherload of other sensory stuff race one another across the wild headrush of ‘Within A Mile of Dublin’. This is a profound album that demands repeated exploration.