It would be absurd of me to try and describe Song of Co-Aklan, the just-released album by Cathal Coughlan. But I will let a bit of my sanity slip further away from me and put some words together that will hopefully elucidate the hoi-polloi and entertain those who read it through.
Falling Out North Street, the second from the last song on the album, is an excellent place to start. This standout song comes with the bonus of a short film directed by acclaimed Yorkshire-based musician and artist Marry Waterson. In the absence of live events due to the pandemic, short films and music videos have taken on a new life of their own. They don’t stream on MTV like the music videos of 1981. In 2021 we have fantastic short films such as Falling Out North Street and slick music videos, many of them streaming on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLeGoL-w7F8
Falling Out North Street in the words of Cathal Coughlan. “The song tries to describe the absurdity of trying to keep hold of sanity, dignity or confidence in the face of the remorseless advance of time. From the start of the song, a circular pattern from the bass guitar and a plucked cello advances implacably, as the vocal and some transient instrumental elements try to pick a way through the debris of lives and communities. A broad chorus breaks the deadlock every so often, where exhortations are attempted by a wall of voices. Eventually, the singer has to suggest that he and the person he’s addressing might have been better off and happier all along had they been pavement purveyors of shouted gibberish and box-room detritus. And so the song ends,” says Cathal Coughlan.
Listening to this album, Song of Co-Aklan, was a challenge for me. On the first go-round, the music struck me first. Cathal Coughlan has surrounded himself with talent, and they are a cracker band. On the second spin around the album, I listened to the vocals. I have no idea what Cathal Coughlan is trying to say through many of the songs, but he is a fine storyteller in the tradition of Leonard Cohen or towards the lyrics of Frank Zappa.
For example, in the opening track, Song of Co-Aklan, we have this bit, ‘Raise your hands if you don’t know what this means.’ I have my hands up. I don’t know what this means. Several names dropped, such as Bob Nairac, but I have my hands up. I do not know what his character brings to the song as a whole.
My Child Is Alive is a good bit of writing. Here is a sample;
‘He never knew the mother, they just fell together once
Did what he could to dodge her until after nine full months
The baby didn’t make it, quite a scandal in the town
Daddy joined the civil clergy, gained salvation profound
Now the police for the cover they need
make his lovers believe my child’s alive!’
I will continue listening and unravelling this album bit by bit. I am sure it will grow into something even more beautiful with time and effort. In the meantime, I would encourage you, the reader, to check out the links below. This album can be listened to in many ways and means. Happy listening and play safe.
Falling Out North Street’ https://youtu.be/JLeGoL-w7F8
‘The Knockout Artist’ https://youtu.be/lPr9f0l96pA
‘Song Of Co-Aklan’ https://youtu.be/e6YL06Za4rc
‘Owl In The Parlour’ https://youtu.be/7KKri0pTmkI
Cathal introduces his album https://youtu.be/f3MsD3NR-6M Bandcamp https://cathalc.bandcamp.com
Digital Order https://orcd.co/songofcoaklan
CD / Vinyl order (USA/Canada) https://ffm.to/soca_us
CD / Vinyl order (UK/Ireland) https://ffm.to/songofcoaklanalbum
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