Cranky George – ‘Nightmare’

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It’s easy to forget how good this sort of music can be. We’ve lost the spirit in the marketplace that bands like Cranky George conjure – now it’s just pretty faces with a diminished appreciation for melodic variety and substantive statement. The teaming of former Pogues accordionist James Fearnley with the Mulroney Brothers, Kieran and Dermot, reached its full flourish as Cranky George with the enlisting of respected producer Brad Wood on bass and Sebastian Sheehan Visconti on drums. They turned people on as a three piece initially, but the impending release of their first full length, Fat Lot of Good, heralds their national arrival as a five piece band with songwriting and musical talent to burn. “Nighttime” is the first single from the release and the choice is spectacularly successful. It’s hard to conceive that there are other treasures awaiting us from this album as well assembled, in tune with the spirit of its tradition, and delivered with such steady passion and commitment.

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It has great vocal strengths. The primary vocal has a deep, resonant quality and the able harmony support from the other members, sans Visconti, gives that aspect of the track quite a satisfying feel. The guitar cuts lyrical, circular figures into the song that the phrasing patiently follows without sacrificing any of the song’s even-handed urgency. The vocal, likewise, strikes the right emotional tone. The lyrical content is unambiguously mired in despair, but it is far from celebratory and the singing shows great wisdom in soft-peddling those qualities enough that listeners enjoy a more well-rounded entertainment experience. Throughout the song, in various ways, Cranky George exerts just enough pressure to keep things moving, to hold the listener’s ear close, but they are skillful enough to never lose their way.

The song works itself into quite a lather, but never rushes it. The steadily mounting exuberance gradually gives the song a quasi-determined air, like the sound of someone surmounting a struggle, but the band delivers everything with an effortless panache throughout. The guitars and other surprising instrumentation introduced later in the song are recorded with vivid clarity, but the mix equally stresses each musical element. It is enormously impressive to how air-tight the band is, yet note their graceful ability to swing at a practically waltz tempo and leave everything sounding so coolly confident, yet assertive.

The lyrical ability the band demonstrates is quite refreshing. With the band’s pedigree connecting them with some of the seminal lyricists in modern popular music, Cranky George can’t content themselves with turning out placeholder lyrics or formulaic tripe and they don’t disappoint. “Nighttime” has a distinctly literary flair, a strong mix of the specific and general in its imagery, and serves the music well. The single is really quite a complete package from its first note to last and lingers in the listener’s conscience long after its last notes have faded away. Cranky George’s debut album is sure to turn even more heads as James Fearnley and his collaborators add another sterling entry to some of the most impressive discographies in modern music.

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Lydia Hillenburg