As soon as I heard and reviewed Guggenheim Grotto’s EP, Tigers, late last year, I simply couldn’t wait for their second full length album to arrive. It teased and tempted me with an eager anticipation that is all too rarely experienced these days.
Now that it's here, Happy The Man (United For Opportunity, January 2009) has certainly made a happy man of me. These lads from Dublin have delivered an album that sets in stone all the promise shown with their debut, Waltzing Alone, and, of course, their EPs.
Containing twelve tracks, Happy The Man showcases the group's extraordinary collective skill on a huge array of instruments.
We are drawn in by the voice of Marian Hussey on the brief “Intro” that leads seamlessly into the richly smooth “Fee Da Da Dee,” which is one of only two tracks that previously appeared on Tigers. The minimalist opening of “Her Beautiful Ideas” gradually builds into an addictive, attractive song that is enriched by the additional vocals of Jenny Lindfors.
In my previous review, I commented that The Guggenheim Grotto "had a gift of writing heartrending, soaring melodies." For me, this album sets that in stone; and their ability to put some magic, musical dust into every song is the most striking feature of the album.
The Guggenheim Grotto consist of Kevin May, Mick Lynch, and Shane Power. The majority of material is jointly written by Kevin and Mick with three of the tracks being written by Kevin alone. Their lyrics are always rich with genuine observations and the experiences of life.
The gentle acoustic of “Everyman” has a tangible intimacy within its warm glow. The uplifting “Sunshine Makes Me High,” the other cut from the EP, is layer upon layer of slow-building melody.
The delicate “The Girl With The Cards” creates a vivid image of a girl that just can’t be resisted. "In truth I know why I am drawn to you, you are fire in my arms," he sings, as well as, "You are the girl with the cards who could deal me a heart, or blow me away." It is another nicely crafted Guggenheim Grotto song.
“Just Not Just” paints another vivid visual image set smoothly within a finely balanced track. “Oh Nikita,” slowly draws you in as he pleads for her to "come and get me" as time drifts by. This is a track that will stay in your mind long after it fades from the speakers.
“From The Attic,” briefly sets the scene for “Lost Forever And,” a heartrending song of regret for love lost complete with a gorgeously set cello. “The Dragon” proves again that quality songs just flow from these guys. It has another set of lyrics that hook you in, opening doors on the private lives of people that come alive within a line or two.
Happy The Man ends with the moving, “Heaven Has A Heart,” closing an album that is somehow timeless, intelligent, and awash with emotion, all set within rich, atmospheric songs.
It all sounds easy, smooth, and perfectly natural. As a result, you just know that there is plenty more to come from this band.