The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011


Conor O'Brien popped over to Paris last week, playing a solo set as support to Wild Beasts at the Maroquinerie.

Conor O'Brien/Villagers live at the Maroquinerie in Paris, April 2010

(As it happens, it was three years ago this week that his former band, The Immediate, played one of their last concerts at the same Paris venue.)

A packed house saw and heard the Villagers man (right) run through tracks from his forthcoming album, 'Becoming A Jackal'. O'Brien was armed with a three-quarter sized acoustic guitar that had the soundhole taped over, giving a dull yet warm effect.

However, the stripped-down show shone an unflattering light on O'Brien's material. With no backing or arrangements, his songs sound like typical Irish male singer-songer fare - hook-free tunes and laboured lyrics. In particular, O'Brien's words stood out for unforgiving attention. He seems too fond of the rhyming dictionary - for example, there's a "shackles/jackals" groaner and one of his female characters is called Laurie only because the next line's rhyme is "life story".

Elsewhere it's all tired emotional shorthand like 'truth' and 'love' and 'light', delivered by O'Brien with grimaces, closed eyes and a Hansard-esque quiet-to-loud delivery. There's no room for an emotional response from the listener - O'Brien's facial contortions and facile lyrics tell us what we should be feeling.

Villagers are being hailed by some as the next big Irish thing. However, on the evidence of this acoustic set and the full-band recordings O'Brien is more like Whelan's lock-in version 2.0.

Earlier in the week, O'Brien was in London to appear on 'Later...' with Jools Holland. From that show, here's Villagers with 'Becoming A Jackal':

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Nuggets from our archive

2000 - 'Rock Criticism: Getting it Right', written by Mark Godfrey. A thought provoking reflection on the art of rock criticism.