End of History
Release Date: July 10, 2007
"Have you heard of Joe McStrumsalot? He's so good...seriously. Get his CD, he's, like, the real deal. He's gonna be the next big thing, there's no doubt!"
Singer-songwriters. A dime-a-dozen, am I right? Hell, I'm a singer-songwriter. You probably are too. And we've all been to a coffee shop when there's some toolbag playing "Fire and Rain", and you can't have a conversation because his vocals are way the fuck too loud and you just wish you could go all John Belushi on his $600 Ibanez. (See, I play a Taylor so I'm exempt from this scenario...)
It's these guys that make it so hard for me to glom onto singer-songwriters. Obviously you have exceptions, guys that set themselves apart via indisputable talent such as legends like Bob Dylan, Nick Drake, and Tom Waits, or more contemporary acts like Elliott Smith, Ryan Adams, Sam Beam, etc. But for the most part, I'd rather teabag a jet engine than spend 15 bucks on the next Dylan.
No word on whether Fionn Regan will be the next Dylan. But based on his excellent debut album End of History (available in the UK, out July 10 in the US) he may catch the ear of many, even those such as myself whose thirst for singer-songwriters has been long-slaked.
I must first establish that Fionn Regan is not Damien Rice, despite his equally marketable name and similarly smooth and timid Irish delivery. In Fionn Regan's songs lie something deeper than the swoon-inducing lyrical swells that have come to define Damien Rice; i.e. the "I can't take my eyes of you" repetition that landed "Blower's Daughter" on "Why I Hate/Love My (Ex-)BF(F)" mixes of nineteen-year-olds throughout upper-middle class America. Fionn doesn't rely on that sort of thing. His songs are meek and barebones, not dripping with syrupy strings; they stand on their own with an understated power that would be lessened by excessive texturing. Take "Underwood Typerwriter," a rag-time, Elliott Smith-esque fingerpicking progression that carries the vocal melody along. It's scarcely more than Fionn's voice and guitar, but the pensive, nervous feel of the song resounds.
What a strong start the album boasts, with the first seven tracks bounding around the snowy Irish countryside, all simple tunes that don't try to become anything more from quiet songs from a young man to a young girl. Not over-serious, but still relevant. "Hey Rabbit" and "Black Water Child" are sister songs, so-to-speak, the former being a 3/4 lope that ends abruptly with the faintly spiteful line "I made you rich/and you made me poor." "Black Water Child" snatches the baton and sprints along, a fulfilling catharsis that delivers the message its ambivalent predecessor was insinuating.
Unfortunately, the album droops a bit towards the end, featuring a trio of ghostly crowd-killers, drenched with the kind of melodramatic reverb that was absent in the first half-dozen (or so) tracks, which made them so charming. However, with the album closer "Bunker or Basement", Fionn returns to form. It's a fluttery tune seemingly about a familial black sheep, featuring a plinky piano that tip-toes over a rapidly half-strummed acoustic.
And then there're, like, two hidden tracks. But you gotta believe me, he's not Damien Rice.
Synopsis: A pretty album that has renewed my faith in singer-songwriters. The bias I've developed over the past few years puts the burden on the songwriter, but Fionn overcame. If you're a fan of Dylan, Nick Drake, early Ryan Adams, or Damien Rice's O, you'll appreciate what Mr. Regan has going on.
Standout Tracks: Underwood Typewriter; Hey Rabbit; Black Water Child
Good For: Provoking introspection; background music for a makeout sesh with an English major
Buy It: If not upon release, would be a great late fall/winter album.
Packaging: Don't really know to be honest. Got a promo copy from Lost Highway. But the UK cover is what you see above. I'm guessing it will be different when it comes out.
OVERALL GRADE: *
*(On a scale of 5)