When someone with the reputation of Simon Heyworth expresses an opinion it is well worth it to listen. After all this is the guy who co-produced Tubular Bells, and has mastered albums by George Harrison, Scott Walker, Nick Drake, Simple Minds, Brian Eno, Human League, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, and Depeche Mode, among others.
So when he says, “this is a really original and brilliant album,” it’s a good idea to have a listen to what he is enthusing about. The album in question is The Minnows’ latest offering, the superbly entitled Leonard Cohen’s Happy Compared To Me. As you would anticipate he is, of course, very much right.
As a result I have just spent a great afternoon listening to an album crammed full of memorable, and expertly written songs delivered with enough craft and charisma to hang around long afterward.
The Minnows, formerly Tiberius’ Minnows, are out of Northern Ireland. Lead singer Michael Rafferty and drummer Stephen O’Sullivan are from Tyrone, guitarist Paul Maynes from Wicklow, and bass player Kevin Carson, comes from Derry. Their debut album Holyland, one I will be buying as soon as I stop typing, arrived in 2007.
It featured many songs familiar to their ever growing fan-base, including “Time Flies”, which was perfected during numerous live gigs. Leonard Cohen’s Happy Compared To Me was originally released in the autumn of 2008 but was only available in Northern Ireland. The good news is that it is now available all over. It’s enough to bring a smile to Mr. Cohen’s face.
“The album is the culmination of a lot of hard work but it’s well worth it”, says Michael Rafferty before adding, “we became obsessed with getting it right, down to the tiniest detail.”
By the time they had finished and Simon Heyworth added his masterful touch they had come up with something special indeed. Simon picks up the story, by adding, “I know the band initially had some misgivings due to the fact that a lot of the recording and mixing was carried out in their own home studio but they have managed to produce one of the most interesting albums I’ve heard in years.”
The album contains ten new tracks, nine written by Michael Rafferty, and one, “Jackanory”, by Stephen O’Sullivan. They are a collection of songs guaranteed to crawl under your skin and take root. With hooks and melody aplenty they top it off with some excellent lyrics. It’s heady stuff. It left me hitting replay again and again.
With an apparent disregard for what is fashionable, or, as Michael Rafferty says, “pleases the masses”, they have delivered an album that shines with quality and individuality with the ability to hook you in like a minnow on a line.
“Dreams”, the opening track, fades out with a Beatle-esque backwards loop, and is the first to slowly build, morphing into something quite memorable. It is a skill they employ time and again throughout the album.
“Wedding” has a vague touch of the Beach Boys, and shade of the Everly’s in it’s harmonizing. “Roonkin” uplifts in a way that totally defies the album’s name. Having said that the darkness lurks ever present when Michael sings, “there’s only one thing in this life I fear and that’s myself.”
The gentle, haunting “Something New” opens with a touch of Ireland creating a gorgeous celtic atmosphere. “Why Don’t You Call Me Anymore?” cleverly chucks in a line from "My Way" and delivers another hook of a chorus. Once again the track builds as the band take an idea, and irrespective of time, run with it.
I found myself singing “Father Can You Help Me” whilst idly driving around. It’s infectious chorus, and lyrics that justify the albums name, is guaranteed to pop out of your head at inopportune moments. “Baby Blue” builds towards an almost choral ending, before they trim it all away to reveal a simple banjo that wraps it up. Very cleverly done.
Stephen’s “Jackanory” confirms that he too has quality songs to offer. A deceptively melancholy “Familiarity Breeds Contempt” suddenly bursts out like the sun on a dodgy day. The violin flavoured “Free Man Freeman” brings it all to and end with a clever track clocking in at over eight minutes.
This is a band with melodies flowing through their blood. They deliver more hooks than a minnow catching contest and do it over and over again. No wonder Simon Heyworth said what he did.
One last thing to mention is that the album is available on Belfast’s legendary Good Vibrations label, run, of course by Mr. Terri Hooley. It is he who helped bring us the likes of The Undertones. It is good to have you back.
Catch The Minnows at their official website.Powered by Sidelines