The press release suggests a shift in the Earth: Fionn Regan’splugged in his guitar and notched up the attitude. But hold on to yourshaking heads and save the Bob Dylan comparisons, for The Shadow Of AnEmpire keeps the Irish singer-songwriter closer to his folk beginningsthan the pre-boom buzz might have you believe.
Lead single Protection Racket was an eye-opener, pledgingallegiance to a barn-storming, punch-up and get-dancing spirit. Toannounce it a good four months before Regan’s second album came by inits full form seemed – at the time – to be a means of warning the fanswhose hearts were stolen by Regan’s Mercury nominated debut, The End OfHistory, that this was going to be a completelydifferent ride.
And to some extent, those warded away by October’s giveawaydownload will be left equally dumbfounded by the likes of GenocideMatinee (musically citing Johnny Cash‘s early days) and CoatHook (a perfectly structured two-and-a-half-minutes of modern day rock’n’ roll).
But somehow Regan maintains the charm that seeped intohis more delicate debut, a debut which is as equally honoured as thisnew direction is; Catacombs doesn’t completely replace a strum with apluck, but vocals are uniquely untamed and loose, just as they were in2006’s Put A Penny In The Slot and Hey Rabbit.
But Lines Written In Writer and Lord Help My Poor Soul see thesongwriter at an emotional low; the former admitting “I want to tellyou that I’d make your bed, break it up and I’d do it again, so itfeels like you’ve been here, but I know that you’re not, coming home”.It almost seems as if this crusade of hard-knuckle rock music of whichRegan’s become swept away in is a gimmick to help him keep adistance from real emotions.
Lines Written In Winter arrives at acrucial time as a perfect example of acoustic songwriting, squeezedbetween the muscular House Detective and Violent Demeanour, andit’s pretty much the only occasion where the lyricist exposes himselfthrough first person.
Reciting music milestones that few records dare to, Regan somehowmanages to keep his head, continuing to write well developed melodiesand striking lyrics. He remains a formidable wordsmith, and a fastmover by the looks of things. However his career develops, it will becrucial for him to keep a tight hold of the bewitching elements thathelp make not just his debut, but also his latest, a refreshinglisten.