In the fuzzy hinterland between pop and rock, Dublin-based quartet Kodaline occupy a particularly blurry middle ground. Their formula is a simple one: combining the Irish charm and school-of-life lyricisms of The Script with the soaring choruses of Coldplay, via a dash of Mumford And Sons-esque boyishness thrown in for good measure. Pretty much tailor made for an audience of adoring young women, right? And they are.
But in amidst the popularisms and inherent Fearne Cotton-baiting prettiness of their songs, there also exists something more. It’s there in the band’s live performances, and it’s here too on their debut – albeit in glimpses. Taken at face value, opening numbers like One Day and the emotionally-charged All I Want might be by-the-book love songs, but in the haunting plaintiffs of the band’s distinctly The Edge-like guitar parts, there exists a deeper resonance that helps lift Kodaline above a good many of their peers.
As neither solitary man-and-guitar troubadour or swaggering indie troupe, Kodaline give themselves the room to affect their debut with all the polish you’d expect from a major label effort. There’s real heft to the choruses, and a poignancy to lead singer Stephen Garrigan’s vocals that feels rich with the experience of a group that’s slogged their way up through dingy pubs to their current status as Radio 1 favourites.
That polish comes as a double edged sword though. While it leaves the band’s album as a lean, well-paced collection of tracks, a certain uniformity begins to seep in at the heart – a certain beige ubiquity that hints of moneyed students swaying gently to those very same choruses in some overpriced London festival, a lukewarm pint gripped in each hand. If Kodaline are the sound of chart-worthy guitar music in 2013, then it’s a recipe where real, bonafide success comes at the cost of grab-you-by-the-guts flair.
With that said, Kodaline’s real merit comes not in their proficiency as readily-mainstream songwriters – that’s a given – but in the tight intricacies of musicianship that garnish the edges of each track. Whether it be a neatly meandering guitar solo or the playful boisterousness of the harmonica on current single Love Like This, those remnants of Kodaline as a proper spit-and-sawdust band remain; gilded over now perhaps, but still there, still beating away with the vigour of youth.
Brand New Day is sweetly reminiscent of Chocolate-era Snow Patrol whilst After The Fall ups the Chris Martin factor to 11 – a kind of sub-prime take on Mylo Xyloto. Big Bad World adopts a mellower tone – the kind of tranquil, ambient beauty that’d probably sound amazing on a battered old car stereo as two young lovers drive off to share their first holiday together. If you hadn’t gathered already, Kodaline do love very well. Suffice to say, the more bitter-minded might want to steer clear.
Hearing big, weighty anthems like All Comes Down, it’s clear Kodaline already have arenas in their sights. And without a doubt, in a year’s time they’ll offer up another album of In A Perfect World’s ilk – bigger, better, even more polished. Great choruses are in the lifeblood of a group like Kodaline – and even if the rest of their formula feels a touch watered down, there’s the sense they have room to manoeuvre, room to grow. Unlike the Ed Sheerans and Jake Buggs of this world, there’s a quaint, charming freedom in Kodaline, breathing through this album with an optimism only true romantics would understand. As real big-bucks contenders, Kodaline aren’t quite there yet. But as a debut, In A Perfect World manages to find its feet with ease.