posted on April 15, 2009 19:00
A review of the album Monsters by Herm
Review Snapshot: Monsters is an excellent album whose only fault is that it contains so many disparate song styles that it sometimes sounds more like a 'best of' than you would expect debut record.
The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10
Herm (known to the passport office as Kevin Connolly) is, as he likes to say, the result of a short-lived relationship in the late 70's between Her and Him; writing his first song at the age of 8, about alcohol addiction. More than that, Herm and his Hermanos are a blend of like-minded afficionados of folk, pop, rock and everything else they can get their hands on. They follow up their well received Rosemary EP with Monsters a fine, if slightly disjointed, debut album.
Opening with The Way, a song Johnny Cash could have sold 10 million copies of had he written it, Herm diplays his one man orchestral skills (guitar, keys, percussion and vox) to great effect, without ever sounding like he's showing off. The album then takes a different turn, with Connolly showing his flair from melodic indie-pop with Heads, the lead single from the album and perhaps the most catchy song every written about cannibalism (Step 1: Rub me down with grease/Step 2: Cook me in the fire/Step 3: Cut me into pieces/Eat me when I'm done). I'm sure (okay I hope) it's actually a song about the unforgiving nature of the music industry, but it's unnerving mix of macabre lyrics and pop sensibilities is, in equal measure, eerie and unforgettable.
Then, just when you think you know Herm, and what he's about, the opening chords of the most beautiful song you'll hear this year begin. Year of the Horse is one of those delicate bedroom dramas (think Stars - Midnight Coward) that is all the better for convincing you that the conversation between Connolly and Nina Hynes is one that you shouldn't be listening to but, like that couple fighting on the bus, you just can't help it. Hynes vocals are gorgeous and contrast perfectly with Connolly's on this track. If this song doesn't end up soundtracking some indie kids first wedding dance this year, I'll eat a copy of Monsters (assuming, of course, it's vegetarian friendly!).
If this album has any faults it's that Herm has, if this is possible, too many good ideas. Monsters disparate mix of song styles actually make it feel more like a 'best of' album than a debut album should. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for showcasing different musical styles, but when an artist is so good at almost all of them, it makes for a slightly disjointed listening experience. It's a minor quibble, of course, and when you have as many stand out tracks as Monsters has (Rosemary, Year of the Horse, Cellar Door, Heads) it probably doesn't matter to the iPod generation. There is some filler here also, and is approximately a song and a half too long, but nothing that will put off too many listeners.
What's really exciting for me, as someone with a vested interest in Irish music, is that this is yet another in the long line of promising debuts from Irish musicians not afraid to stand out from their peers and, if Monsters is anything to judge by, Herm can expect to be , indeed, deserves to be, at the forefront of Irish indie music's new golden age.