Song of Co-Aklan – Cathal Coughlan (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

If certain wines seem to get better with age, the same is certainly true of the best musical artists too. Sure, if you just want some cheap sonic plonk to hit the spot, there is plenty of that available but sometimes you want something to savour, relish, slowly enjoy and really appreciate. Cathal Coughlan is just such a bottle…I mean artist. Age certainly seems to have been kind to him and this, his sixth album and first in a decade certainly hits to spot and leaves you feeling warm, fuzzy and slightly light headed.

The opening, titular track, which we already know to be a great song from the waves it and its fellow singles have been making, sets the tone perfectly and from here you find yourself ushered into a musical world built on acute observations, rhetorical lyricism, social discussion and rich, fully-formed narratives. It is also a world where the music takes on baroque forms, where modern indie sounds are subsumed under a wave of darker intrigue, of cinematic chamber pop, of odd angles and unexpected sonic waves.

Crow Mother is a strange tale from the pet cemetery built from musical theatre grooves and Doorsian darkness, Let’s Flood The Fairground is offbeat and intriguing, full of edge and anticipation and songs such as Falling Out North St. and Unrealtime remind us of the fact that in an earlier age he could have had a very successful career as a classic crooner, albeit one with the reputation for not playing by the rules.

And if you can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep, then the fact that this album features the great and the good of the alternative music world…The Auteur’s Luke Haines, Microdisney’s Sean O’Hagan, Rhodri Marsden from Scritti Politti and Fatima Mansion colleagues Eileen Gogan and Aindrais O’Gruama…tells you everything that you need to know.

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