Seán McGowan, Son Of The Smith - album review
This is the debut record from wordsmith Seán McGowan, the latest singer/songwriter with a punk twinge to his strumming.
Rising out of Southampton – paying homage to legendary city venue The Joiners – Seán is a throwback to a not-too-brilliant fad of accented guitarists with tales of worldly struggles. Think Jamie T, think Jack Penate. Artists who came, made a splash and then left again pretty quickly.
Working hard alongside Sam Duckworth – AKA Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly – Seán has a live feeling album full of much blustering and blowing but not a great deal of substance.
Porky Pies is his attack on the modern culture of commercialism and fakery, but apart from the frenetic chorus powered by the thunderous drumming of Michael Breach it lacks sincerity and, dare we say it, balls.
Then there is the streetwise approach to Cuppa Tea. With lines that try to be clever and cheeky like “I just Artful Dodged ya” you would expect some kind of aggressive underbelly, but this is lacking here also.
It’s hard, really hard, to quite put a finger on why this record is unlikeable. Perhaps it is Seán’s ‘jack-the-lad’ approach to vocals. This sound wasn’t particularly engrossing the first time around apart from with teenagers in hazy festival fields. It’s not quite working now either.
Musically there is some good work behind Seán. Springhill carries a lot of feeling in its rising wall of sound behind the chorus. It shows creativity from the band to try and lift the tracks past the one-man-and-his-guitar approach.
And there is the brief dalliance with all-out punk in Off The Rails. Here the vocal approach feels most at home. The attitude comes together to create a menacing partnership with the high-strung guitars and panicked heartbeat percussion.
But for the most part this record drifts largely by. And with a frustratingly, in our opinion anyway, unlikeable vocal presence over the top it is hard to ever really feel much of a connection with what is coming through the speakers.
One for angsty teenagers maybe. Not in a condescending way. That may be his target audience. It just feels old hat, and like a link back to a brief era that didn’t speak to us the first time.
Seán McGowan plays at Birmingham’s Sunflower Lounge on May 28