- 03 May 19
Powerful fourth album from Dublin outfit.
Brian Brannigan seems plugged into the disenfranchised of Irish society: his is the voice of the addicts; the homeless; the refugees fleeing civil war and poverty for a shot at the western dream; the kids cowering at home as their father drinks that week’s grocery money.
It’s also the voice of a generation of Dubliners whose communities were torn down in the name of 1960s progress, as they were uprooted from the city centre and re-housed in the newly created suburbs like Finglas and Ballymun. On tracks like ‘Metal Railings’, he gives voice to his parents’ generation, “forever looking back” at the communities they left, while ‘Long Balconies’ includes their children, whose “accent was flat and of that we were proud/ But only as much as our poverty allowed.”
For this fourth A Lazarus Soul album, Brannigan is joined by longtime cohorts Anton Hegarty (Future Kings Of Spain) on bass, as well as Julie Bienvenu (Lines Drawing Circles) on drums, and multi-instrumentalist and producer, Joe Chester. Together they have wrought a rich tapestry that resonates with sadness and anger: this is not an easy record to listen to without some of that rage or grief spilling over from artist to audience.
For the most part, the music eschews the dark rock that characterised much of A Lazarus Soul’s earlier work, sticking to the folk tradition reminiscent of Luke Kelly or Planxty, which characterised some of the most powerful tracks on 2014’s Last Of The Analogue Age. It’s not until the closing ‘Settled Kids’ that he finally lets the band off the leash, the distorted guitar coming as a blissful release.
The sprightly melody of ‘Black & Amber’ is at odds with the seriousness of the lyrics, the title being the name of the pub where the father figure spends his day, “sinking pints of plain and smoking 20 Major with the change.” Rarely has an acoustic guitar been played with such rage as on ‘Cruelty Man’, as Brannigan rails against the decades of crimes committed by the Church against ordinary people (“If there’s a heaven, father, then you’re going to fucking hell”).
Brannigan’s voice is surprisingly sweet on ‘Lemon 7s’, as he narrates a heartbreaking tale of addiction, abuse and homelessness: “Pills ground down like powder till your problems are no louder than a little infant whimpering for ma to come and help.” The singer seems to understand Ireland’s lost and lonely souls far better than many of the politicians charged with helping them. Together with Damien Dempsey and Barry McCormack, Brannigan continues to kick against the pricks, ensuring the more vulnerable voices in Irish society are heard.