I’m always harking on about how important the opening track to an album is, I like the song to not only act as an introduction to the songs to follow but to also grab the listener and make them want to carry on listening. Track one on Dubliner Steo Wall’s debut album is a ruse, it’s a trap that makes you think you’re in for an album that follows suit, pitching tales of inner city life down in the grime and underbelly and then? Well, then it goes a complete 180-degree spin and lands in a familiar, warm and cosy folk territory with a gentle ballad.
What the hell just happened?!
Now, I’ll be the first to put my hand up and say I don’t follow the music scene of the Irish capital, for all I know this might be the way things are done in Dublin, perhaps every music artist is mixing rap with more typical sounding songs, I know Dublin trio The Script mix rap with pop (when they dip into the pop it’s all a bit too sugary and aimed at teenage girls for my taste) but I’ve never heard it done so directly before.
Is this a good thing I hear you cry? Yes, yes, it is.
Twists and turns in music is what makes music exciting and if someone wants to write about the changing face of their home town, well maybe rapping is a better platform than singing, but the contrast from ‘Where I’m From’ to ‘These Words’ is night and day but both styles are handled well.
The rapping crops up again on ‘What’s Wrong with The World Ma?’ (which has the lyrics of a punk song), ‘Original Bad Boy Material’ and the bluntly titled ‘Pikey Rap’ but, again these songs sit well and don’t feel out of place, this isn’t a case of two worlds colliding and none sitting well in each other’s company, the rap and folk sit well and this is due to the clever production and continuation of the theme that these songs are connected by one thing; the same writer.
There are moments of heartfelt emotion, but it’s delivered with such truth that you find yourself rooting for the artist rather than hitting the skip button, it’s well pitched and there is an honest quality to Wall’s voice. It’s not going to win any awards, thankfully not everyone can sing a dozen octaves, but it does it’s job in delivering a story and gives a certain gravity to it all, it’s as if you’ve walked into a bar and he’s sitting in the corner singing these songs while the old men at the bar nod and the women cast their minds back to a loved one or long-buried memory.
The album plays out like a postcard home, a fond look back at the place and people that brought you up and shaped you. It’s a strong debut and is a wake-up call to people that think Irish music has to be about geography or lost loves.