Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Random Review: No Mermaid- Sinead Lohan

It's been a while since I just done a single album write up. As a matter of fact, I've only done one, total, since starting the blog, so here' #2...

No Mermaid
Sinéad Lohan
Interscope Records

From the titular opening track Sinead Lohan commands your attention, using her voice not only to convey the idiosyncratic self-worth manta 'I am no Mermaid, I am no fisherman's slave', but also through her lilting Irish drawl which is a seperate instrument in and of itself. Holding together the poinient lyrics and softened vocal harmony is a strong backbeat retiscent of softer trip op tunes like Massive Attack's Teardrop or Portishead's Sour Times.

Where Sinead seperates herself from these art-dance artists is that this is as hard as it gets. From the deep base and synth breakbeats she moves into an even more etherial place on the album's second track Don't I Know, and then changes gears to a 80's meets 90's euro-production tune Whatever it Takes with a sweeping acoustic-guitar-meets-fuzz-bass more reminiscent of Big Country than 90's Bristol's trip-hoppers, busting out high-school-notebook-scrawl lyric beats like 'You will find me, down by the river, getting high on my mortality.'

But just as soon as she's opened up the 80's pop whoop ass, it's back to a track that could have come straight off a Beta Band 7", Loose Ends. Had Sinead come from the bigger British Isle, she likely would have been tapped into the Bristol sound dominating the mid to late 90's British dance clubs, but as an Eire, she never really left the outskirts of the music scene. This could have had more to do with her folk-rock lyrical style than with her ethnicity, putting her somewhere closer to Bjork and Sarah McLachlan than her musical accompaniment would suggest.

Another factor that kept Lohan's No Mermaid, and her first album Who Do You Think I Am from achieving the level of American chart success of contemporaries McLachlan and Bjork is the frenetic style ofthe recordings. From the ambient 4th track to a dirtied down synth-pop empoyerment tune Whether Or Not that plays like a sequel to the album's opener, into the slowed down What Can NeverBe, channelling fellow countrywoman Enya in it's dream-pop styling.

Lohan does earn some of the McLachlan/everywoman Lilyth Fair connections with Believe It If You Like, a song that could have come from Ms. McLachlan, Alanis Morissette, or Tori Amos if you add a phrenetic piano solo. Resonating with the 90's 'we can work it out' movement with lyrics like 'Believe it if you like, you might as well be trying as doing nothing here at all.'

But just as you think you've got her pegged, she drops a tune that would be as at home on the B side of Joshua Tree as on a late 90's girl-power singer/songwriter album. Out of the Woods could blend seemlessly into Mothers of the Disappeared. It comes complete with an Edge-esque guitar riff that must be genetically linked to Irish guitarists.

Just as it seems that these yo-yo stylings would come to rest on one of the few dozen artists she's already channelled, our miss Sinead does it again, this time with a track that would fit along side the Peter Gabriel era Genesis classic I Know What I Like. People & Tables invokes images of ladies in waiting, fancy dress balls and jewel encrusted caskets. Much like Gabriel and Banks' iconic lawn mower, Lohan's credits include dropping her listeners in an alternate British society play, and you can tell her by the way she walks...

As the album starts winding down, Sinead treats us to a pretty standard love song with the way of the world songsmithing that comforts me like a warm fuzzy blanket of nineties. This was a say what you mean decade where honesty trumped prose and the most poetic things you could say were also the simpliest. Take a queue from Disillusioned 'I don't only love you when you're standing by my side, I don't only love you when you see things my way.'

Before calling it an album, Sinead returns to her Bristol-cum-Eire styling with another Portishead homage Hot on Your Trail. This one is brethier than No Mermaid or Loose Ends, lending a relatively unexplored air of sexuality to the recording. Don't let the sultry sound mask the harshety of the lyric however. 'Hot on your trail blood is red. Get on your high horse out of here. If they catch me I am dead. Get on your high horse out of here.'

At last though, our dear Sinead can't leave us soured and scorned. She delivers one final about face, the albums poppiest of tunes, Diving To Be Deeper. Lohan doesn't do pop the way Abba or New Kids on the Block do pop. She heads back to the Genesis story arc well, creating a leaping, diving queen who unfortunately cannot swim, and the wide eyed gentlemen who follows her on her watery path hoping to save the damsel from her self-imposed distress. Methaphor much? Taken with the album's opener we're left learning that Sinead Lohan IS No Mermaid, and as such she is her own person, a solid individual who still needs a rescue, even if the brave rescuer 'only took her money cause he thought that he could never really keep her.'

There's honestly nothing i dislike about this album. Some of the tunes are dated in such a pleasingly comfortable way that they bring be back to college, and late night rental movies, and a few fleeting months of disposable income spent on a majority of my 90's music catalog at Second Spin in Costa Mesa. Others are formulaic in sing-a-long-from-the-first-note way that makes you feel guilt for falling into the trap but damn it all, you have no choice, and still others are familiar in such an unexpected way because you'd never imagine being transported to the golden birth of prog-rock on a 1998 indie-folk-alt-dream-synth-pop record, but there it is, plain as day and ever so enjoyable. Long and short of it, there's very few people who are likely to really connect with this album cover to cover, but there are fewer still who won't find something to like in it's dozen tracks.

Unfortunately, this album has been discontinued by Interscope but it is still available used, and in our modern world, nothing is hidden from YouTube...

No comments: