'THE WATCHER AND THE COMET'
Rippling melodies, moody lyrics and fluent instrumentals go into the making of this c.d which is a heady experience. New instruments are introduced as you go along, most played by Shane O'Fearghail with stories, anecdotes and the occasional abstract message or cynicism thrown into the cauldron, so that this band just won't let you become complacent about their music!
All of the tracks on 'The watcher and the Comet' have pretty laid back tempos and are just so sweet and easy on the ear. They command your attention always, locking you into the mood that they wish to create and before you know it, you feel as if you are in the scene painted by the dramatic lyrics.
My first experience of 'Caruso' was at the launch of this album back in November '07.Since then their star has risen and it looks set to soar. This is so encouraging, them being such a musical act with purity in their expression of lovingly written material.
On the first track 'Round the hard way' a staccato beat, a winning melody and the crisp but intimate sound of Shane O'Fearghail's acoustic guitar, bring you into this gorgeous ballad. The lovely light and airy chorus is sung with a delicate harmony in the background, lacing the intoxicating nectar of sweetness. A little keyboard riff finishes off this pretty song.
My favourite song on this album is track number six, 'All the things that she made me'. The chorus is everything!
This number is exciting with a choppy build up and has a really effective echo, to give off a catchy vibe. All the time amazing chords, rhythms and riffs are constantly colouring every phrase. I also sense that singer Shane has a vibrato style in his own vocal projection, a little on the style of R.E.M's lead singer Michael Stipe. It's difficult to define a genre suitable to describe the style of Caruso since they fall between categories. They could be considered Alternative folk/ Indie and have been likened to many bands such as early U2, Aslan and Damien Rice. James Blunt, Paul Simon and David Gray are what come to mind for me when I hear them.
However, one thing is certain and that is they do NOT write material aimed at the typical alternative music lover. It seems to me that a marriage of pure love of creating new blends of melody and harmony, alongside rolling percussion and a rambling procession of sharp-edged wit all provide a constant backdrop for your delight. The maestro himself informs me that he actually played almost all of the instruments on this c.d. including a 'Cornflake box'? It goes to show you that you could pay thousands for new fangled percussion instruments and get a much more superior beat when you just use your imagination!
'All your features pass' is an up-beat number with a plucky guitar intro, where lots of minor chords lend drama. You are taken into the verse which is haunting with sweet notation, lovely bass and a choppy drumbeat. The harmony is really something and fills up the sound as the song develops. As it moves along it becomes more urgent and explosive and by the time the last chorus is here you are filled with expectation, wanting to sing along with the memorable catchy chorus. Then as this number comes to its conclusion, stop-start style chords are used for a sharp shock finish!
'Satellite' – Somnolent in tempo, with a gradual building up of a picture being painted in the verse. Some riveting descriptions capture your imagination such as 'plastic coloured chocolate tongues'. Although there is a tic-tock mood reminding me of a metronome clicking back and forth, there is something quite astonishing in the way the sound grows and pulls you into its magnet. The bass is just so essential in this number. Like all astounding songwriters such as Lennon and McCartney, David Bowie and U2, O'Fearghail keeps adding a touch of this, a tincture of that and this song with such a simple beginning, becomes powerful and groundbreaking with outer-limits type blips and beeps and the chant of 'Fly high Space Monkey' sung in falsetto giving this heavenly air to the final phase.
'Monster' – This involves some gorgeous mandolin. As in all numbers harmony is delectable and sweet. The mood in the lyrics makes me think of a sea voyage, with talk of fish and a return home. It's quite possible that this song is about something entirely different however, since with 'Caruso' each song seems to contain cryptic, disjointed lyrics almost intended to throw the listener off like this. It's almost like the way every individual sees something different in one of the great Impressionist paintings. Art and music especially when created by a genius tends to do this. However this beautiful song is definitely something of a work of art!
'Grace' is done in three four time with a softly sung verse. Shane sings this love song with a magical display of breath control and intense emotion. The chorus is done with close harmony and has a crisp innocence about it. He has a slightly huskiness in his voice at times and uses his vocals like an instrument, exploiting the tones as he bends and lilts notes, adding twists and turns in each song.
'Majorette' has a sarcastic mood in it, yet is gorgeously melodic. It's cheerful and a little bit faster than most songs on this album. This is refreshing since there is an element of sameness at times in the speed of Caruso's material. 'Jesus I can try' is a strummed number, with a smooth and hymnal essence about it. That vibrato comes through again in Shane's voice in this uplifting and inspiring number. Ahhs are sung behind the lead vocals, to give a dreamy backdrop in the chorus and Shane plays mandolin with a rippling effect towards the finish.
If there's a song I'm not crazy about on this album it would be track nine, 'It's for the birds'. It has a sweet melody but is a bit too subdued and sleepy. Having said that, it is like all of this amazing man's creations – well written, with very emotionally charged lyrics.
'Mermaid – the atlantean lullaby' is interesting, but once again just a tad predictable. The style of this number is very like a Peter Gabriel song. A very effective echo of voices lends a sense of mystery to it and is probably what would draw me to listen to it again.
Last but certainly not least is the lovely ballad 'The Hero of Waterloo'.
With a three four tempo and a soft violin intro played by Triona Marrinan this number has a 'Paul Simon' style to it.
The chorus is captivating and I imagine 'The hero of Waterloo' is a pub in Sydney. The lyrics describe sunny days and are romantic, yet funny.
'The Watcher and the Comet' is quite removed from present day smart –ass albums that are so popular and sell like hotcakes. However if it is something more sincere and meaningful you prefer, with an abundance of musicianship and true craftsmanship, this is the place to look!
This fabulous album stars Herbie Macken (strings), Timmy O'Connell (drums), Rachel Clyne (backing vocals), Triona Marrinan (violin) and the fella who masterminded the album and is a walking one man band he plays so many instruments, Shane O'Fearghail.
|Review written by: Angela Macari-O’Looney --|