Graham Reid | | 1 min read
The group Gramsci was a vehicle for Auckland singer-songwriter Paul McLaney. But it had been parked up for more than a decade while he explored other musical outlets, notably his Impending Adorations electronica series, his album of musical settings for some of Shakespeare's soliloquies, the recent Old Traditions album with pianist Raachi Malik, numerous collaborations . . .
And do we mention this album?
But here again comes the heavier, dreamy retro-psychedelic sound of Gramsci: singer McLaney on guitars and synths with guitarist Joel Mulholland and drummer Greg Haver.
His literate lyrics refer to emotional dislocation and need, commitment and failure . . . And regularly – because he has entered a period of sobriety – about dependency: On Tantalus; “you kid yourself it's a reward, it takes the edge off being bored” and Like a Scar; “just one drink 'cos I deserve it to take the fucking edge off”.
But far from being morose or self-lacerating and grim, these self-reflective lyrics are wrapped in musical reference points reaching from the sound of classic David Gilmour/Pink Floyd (the title track, Tantalus, Icarus) to elements of progressive rock (the gripping, cinematic ballad Ancient History), the intellectual end of gloomy post-punk/Joy Division (the brooding Like a Scar), late period Bowie-meets-Sisters of Mercy (Pride and Joy) and more.
And damned if the eight minute-plus, gorgeously melodic Atlas (“a change has come upon me”) right at the end – with a searing guitar solo burning across the centre and ending with what we might call a synth-created “pillow of winds” -- veers dangerously close to having real radio potential in an edit.
In many ways, McLaney hasn't belonged to any school or genre but has walked freely between them as the inspiration took him and he found the musical vehicle to best convey his ideas.
Here he has rediscovered the poetic power of a rock trio, the possibilities of widescreen sonic landscapes and guitar solos, and has pulled in elements of electronica (Hitting My Stride).
It's another impressive and different album from McLaney, brought into real presence by Mulholland and Haver.
Inheritance – the title suggesting the baggage and history we all carry, and our capacity to reinvent ourselves – is an album which sounds like it should probably come with a light show.
And that's another good thing about it.
Paul McLaney speaks about his journey to making this album at Elsewhere here.