- 21 Sep 21
To mark what would've been his 52nd birthday, we're revisiting our original 2002 review of his album Skylarkin' – released posthumously, following his death in November 2001, aged 32. Photo: Patrick Glennon.
This album operates under its own internal logic, happens in its own dreamtime, the basic tracks being augmented with all the care and lightness of touch one would expect from musicians preparing their friend’s last will and testament.
Mic Christopher’s time was now. The Mary Janes, The Frames, Mark Dignam and the Kíla clan broke the hard ground currently being harvested by Gemma Hayes, Damien Rice, David Kitt, Josh Ritter and kin. This much we know.
What I didn’t know was how low he’d been after the demise of the Mary Janes, and just how much of a wake-up call the motorbike accident of May 2000 was. The Heyday EP put Mic back on track, doing what God put him on this earth to do. And then God took him off the pitch, just as he was playing a blinder, on tour with the Waterboys.
It makes no sense. It never does.
But this album operates under its own internal logic, happens in its own dreamtime, the basic tracks being augmented with all the care and lightness of touch one would expect from musicians preparing their friend’s last will and testament. Talk about a labour of love. The Odlum brothers, Glen Hansard and sundry other contributors and comrades are to be commended for their prudence and understanding of what Nick Cave once dubbed “the melancholy potential of absence”.
The music on Skylarkin' is spare enough, because what matters most here is a voice somewhere between whinny and bellow… if horses could sing, that was Mic Christopher. In Mary Janes’ songs, that voice seemed to tremor with a pressure bearing down on it like labour pains, trying to express something beyond sound, never mind words. You always got the feeling those were Shakespearian sagas of brotherhood and betrayal, love and blood, and yet Mic’s lyrics didn’t deal in narratives or confessionals; he wrote lines that were equally daft and profound, like a joke that becomes less funny the more you think on it.
But this is different. This is not a boy’s record. Rather, it’s a letter of relief and reprieve, sent by a man delivered from his sick bed. Songs From A Room indeed. But like El Cohen also wrote, there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in, and that light cascades through the gorgeous title tune and also ‘Kids’ Song’, which plays around Joycean flashbacks to Madame George and the astral weeks of childhood: “How come your sister’s in drag…?”
Elsewhere, on ‘What A Curious Notion’ the players have constructed a sort of chamber music somewhere between Forever Changes and Pink Moon. And most remarkably, there are two killer pop songs. ‘Heyday’ you’ve probably heard, a solemn anthem with a killer chorus for the commoners, while ‘I Got Your Back’ is light as a breeze, a song of friendship and faith, from Mic to you, with love.
Here it is, his unfinished symphony.
To coincide with what would've been Mic Christopher's 52nd birthday, a new live album, recorded at Mic's final birthday gig at The Lobby Bar in Cork, has been released. Live At The Lobby was recorded twenty years ago in the now closed legendary Cork venue. The clock ticked midnight during the gig, marking Mic’s 32nd birthday. He died two months later.
Tonight, September 21, a special gig is set to take place in Whelan's, Dublin, – featuring Ailbhe Reddy, Cry Monster Cry, Mundy, Niamh Regan, Paddy Casey and Steve Wickham. Presented by Ireland In Music, Whelan's, Loza, Born Optimistic and Aidlink, the gig takes place on the 20th anniversary of the Irish singer-songwriter's last birthday.