Oh, Cool by Handsome Eric – Review
After releasing the lo-fi EP, nah i’m good, in late 2014, Stephen O’Dowd, aka handsome eric, has just released the follow up, oh, cool. With effectively no information about the act other than the fact that the recordings were done in a bedroom, we’re going into this EP pretty blind.
Opening track, ‘danger time on the quay’, is a very strong opener and immediately throws us into a sea of melancholy, with dirty guitars lazily swinging over a melodic buzz saw synth line. The vocals are low in the mix and are mostly talked, much like Boyd Rice or Brian McMahon of Slint. The tune opens up in a crash of harsh drums and building synthesisers. There is a lot of ways this has been influenced, but it is refreshingly new all the same. Second track, ‘coast to coast willl never be a hype track, kevin’ only drives the lo-fi dreaminess further, and a reverb drenched vocal goes with the beautiful repeating synth motif excellently.
Most of the tracks on the EP are quite short, normally hovering around two and a half minutes, so it’s rather hard to digest the tunes properly before they’re over. This actually works to the music’s favour, as proven by ‘mopiest boy in leopardstown’. Some brightly picked guitar chords intertwine with the alluring backwards melodic lines in the background, as well as the trademark bouncy synth line. The lyrics are dark and can be easily overlooked due to the pleasant and melancholic feel. The line, “I have slowly lost my mind, I don’t care if I don’t shine”, is sung passively through the final coda and is made all the more effective by its understated tone.
The shortest track, ‘shredder beach’, is simply beautiful. It’s without a doubt the most noise pop and shoegaze influenced track on the EP. The opening chords are jangly and delightfully haunting and sound like something from an early Slowdive demo. Even the sound of the vocals are reminiscent of those early 90s noise records, bearing the same kind of reverb-laden production and sleepy delivery. Unfortunately, the track ends just before we fall into a trance and is the tune’s only downfall. The following number, ‘jason takes manhattan’, is perhaps a bit more clean and well produced than the others, with crisp guitar riffs shining throughout. The dreamy atmosphere is still strong however and walls of reverb and guitar noise succeed in drawing us in yet again. It’s a catchy ditty and maybe more happy than the previous tracks.
The EP draws to a close with the six minute, ‘great, ego-death.’ The quality of music most certainly doesn’t falter here, with an emotional guitar and vocal intro exploding into a fast, indie sounding guitar song. The guitar work is perhaps most impressive here, with actual solos and riffs everywhere as opposed to washes of ambient chords. The drums are powerful and veer away from the typical drum machine sound a bit. Dynamic shifts are everywhere on this one and it works well. The tune slows down to a hazy folk sound, not unlike some of Beck’s more gentle sounding work, before being brought back up for an intense finish, with all instruments and vocals really going nuts.
It’s rare you find an unsigned Irish act that has seemingly come out of nowhere with such a remarkable collection of songs. With handsome eric, we have found just that. There is no fancy production. There is no gorgeous band. There is no filler. We have a one of a kind artist that is making some of the most innovative garage pop around in his own bedroom. If this is only the start for handsome eric (and we hope it is), then any future releases will be awaited with baited breath.
Check out the EP, along with his first one, here.
Review by Finn O’Reilly