Album review: Live For The Dream by Penrose
Dublin’s Penrose have been on the go since 2013, originally as an acoustic duo but now fleshed out as a quartet. Often found at the Retro Revival shows in Sweeney’s Bar, alongside garage rockers The Urges, and fellow mods Gangs, they’ve a penchant for smart threads and smarter tunes. Live For The Dream is their debut release consisting of four tracks that follow a classic English pop path once faithfully walked by The Kinks, The La’s and Oasis.
‘See You Again’, the opening track on the EP, is an acoustic-led melancholic number which shimmers along, Darragh McGrane’s warm vocals complimented by rich harmonies. As it builds, it adds strings and some cool “wo-ahs” which thankfully stay the right side of stadium rock. It would make a perfect radio tune if it were about a minute shorter. Still, it’s a confident opening number.
‘Melody’ opens with a strange sample (that reminds me worryingly of the child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) before jumping into a glam rock stomp. The staccato down-strummed guitar and tempo has echoes of ‘Digsy’s Dinner’ and it’s a smart upbeat song which has memorable hooks all the way through. Single written all over it.
Third track ‘Harmony’ is a mid-pacer, with clever use of piano and strings, which again brings to mind Oasis as it climaxes with a guitar solo Noel would be chuffed with. “We will be in harmony” sings McGrane, and he’s not wrong as once more it’s those gorgeous harmonies and vocals which come to the fore, alongside a memorable bridge which is almost as catchy as the chorus – not an easy trick to pull off.
‘Where You Go Now’ is for me, the weakest track on the EP, starting slowly but unfortunately failing to build from there. The tempo is downbeat and the key changes fairly uninspiring. You don’t hear the same hooks you hear in the previous three songs. It tries to redeem itself with a gushing sea of effects as it ends but in truth, this seems contrived and out of kilter with the rest of the EP. Penrose don’t need to resort to such tactics – phrasing, musicianship and all round tunesmithery are this band’s strengths.
Overall, a strong debut release from a band who’ve honed their songwriting on the live circuit, resulting in four songs here that sound polished but not over-produced. It could probably have benefitted from one more faster paced number if only to add variety and balance. More importantly, it’s a timely release with a hazy, summery feel, and Penrose will undoubtedly please many gig-goers on this season’s festival circuit. You can catch them at Dublin’s Grand Social on 25 July.
Review by Keith McGouran