Michael J Sheehy is hardly the most well known musician around.Low profile is probably the best way of describing his public image. And the release of his third album, No Longer My Concern, is hardly likely to change things in this respect. But that’s not say that his latest release isa poor effort. On the contrary, it is the work of a skilled operator, but one who works on the margins of conventional popular music. So whilst No Longer My Concern is unlikely to shift thousands of units, it is likely to be admired and loved by a significant minority.
Let’s be clear on one thing first though. Sheehy does not write uplifting pop nuggets a la S Club 7 or any of the millions of identikit boy bands. He mines an altogether deeper, darker seam. Recurring themes of “drinking, fucking and tragedy” mean that this is no walk in the Top 40 park. Indeed it feels slightly odd that Sheehy wrote this collection in the summer of 2001, given its melancholy character. You would imagine that the depths of winter would provide his muse rather than the sunny delights of summer. He even had reservations about actually recording and releasing the material, due to its unsettling nature: “Some of it is very personal and I was worried about hurting people and laying myself bare. I’ve thought many times since laying it down about scrapping it all… but here it is and I can’t apologise for that.” Indeed not, and there would be no need anyway.
Despite its downbeat persuasion, No Longer My Concern still manages to come across as darkly humorous. Sheehy is an erudite storyteller, and through his complex but wry lyrics is able to inject a welcome lightness of touch. In any case, track titles like Donkey Ride Straight To Hell and Ballad Of The Pissed Apostle are weird enough to raise a few chuckles.
The first song on No Longer My Concern is only likely to raise a grimace however. Distracting Yourself From The Doom is as pompous as the title suggests, with its melodramatic pianos and vocals strangely reminiscent of the The Beautiful South‘s Paul Heaton (or is that just me?). Things pick up soon enough though with the single Donkey Ride Straight To Hell. Despite its grainy texture, Donkey… boasts a hypnotically uptempo beat and a workaholic bassline. It stands out by way of its originality. From here on in only a few numbers disappoint. Ballad Of The Pissed Apostle plods along painfully, whilst Dark Country Moment is tainted somewhat by the helium enhanced backing vocals. Happily though, the good far outweighs the bad.
Modest Beauty is beautifully atmospheric, and Pretty Little Bouquets is a hushed, understated little gem. Sheehy also shows flashes of sonic invention too. Mary, Bloody Mary II swaggers by on a crunchy percussive beat that is anything but routine in style. The stand out though is actually the hidden track, a worthwhile discovery. Slamming, loose limbed beats are ably assisted by a menacing, roving bass, with Sheehy topping it all with a vocal delivery of Liam Gallagher-esque nonchalance. It feels out of place in regard to the other songs but is all the better for it, and clearly demonstrates the talents Sheehy has at his disposal.
Lacking in killer tunes as it is, this is a good rather than great album, despite the aforementioned track. Still, if introspective but wry tales of life and love floats your boat you could do a lot worse. And let’s be honest, it would be rude not to sample an album with a track title Donkey Ride Straight To Hell, right?