Release Date: Jun 23, 2009
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Precocious Brit Eugene McGuinness built on the frantic pop promise of his 2007 debut with his eponymous sophomore effort by upping the infectious melodies, expanding his breathtaking Ray Davies/Morrissey vocabulary, and pushing the second-wave Brit-pop sensibilities of bands like the Libertines and the Arctic Monkeys into a whole new realm of sonic possibility. Possessed of a voice that can seemingly cradle every note like a newborn, McGuinness peppers each of the 12 songs that make up his second effort with enough ideas to spark a string of albums. Like his closest contemporaries Johnny Flynn, Patrick Wolf, Beirut, and White Rabbits, his efforts are both exceedingly clever and distinctly genre-bending, whether he's playing the snarky straight-ahead power pop provocateur ("Fonz," "Rings Around Rosa," and "Nightshift") or the wistful orchestral balladeer ("Those Old Black and White Movies Were True" and "Knock Down Ginger").
Liverpool is a city you cannot talk, or even think, about without a group of shaggy haired, Chelsea booted 60’s scallywags springing to mind. The shadow of The Beatles hangs heavy in the Mersey, with every street corner revealing another themed bar or plaque to commemorate a member’s birth place. Around the corner from one of John Lennon’s many supposed dwellings is an educational set-up funded by another Beatle called LIPA.
It's busily eclectic but the first proper album by the Liverpool-based singer-songwriter – whose mini-album last year excited rave reviews – can make no great claims to originality. But what the 22-year-old does with his whimsical art rock influences is less predictable; the arrangements take the songs in odd directions, piquing interest even when the genre experiments drag. .
Amid the overtures of 2008, as part of PopMatters’ retrospective mop-up of the previous twelve months’ music, I confidently predicted that it was to be Eugene McGuinness’s year. Here was a young man, I felt, that would go big-with-a-capital-B; bubbly, infectious, and direct enough for the mainstream, yet with a waggishly perceptive lyrical bent to bewitch imaginations, and the disregard for lyrical fashion to make him conspicuous. I even ventured a comparison to Patrick Wolf, perhaps kindled by the cartwheeling keyboards on McGuinness’s irresistible early single “Monsters Under the Bed”.
On his 2007 mini-album The Early Learnings of Eugene McGuinness, the London musician sang catchy-as-hell songs about videogames, crushes, imaginary monsters, and the concomitant glee and panic of being a little kid lost in the supermarket. Full of crackling pop-rocks and snapping bottle caps, McGuinness' debut was an irresistible, effervescent piece of juvenilia. A couple of critical years later and he's graduated to more mature themes: sex, love, work, God, old movies, outer space, circuses...
Eugene McGuiness covers a lot of ground on his first full-length, even if his 12 tracks of tightly arranged indie rock isn’t exactly diverse. He puts together a good melody for each of these songs, as effortlessly as Ray Davies and in as nasally a voice. The songs don’t just find their roots in peak-era Kinks, they look back to the dreamy music hall that Davies himself looked back upon.