Raglans – Debut Album – Review
Fresh from supporting The Strypes on their recent UK tour, Raglans have just released their eagerly awaited self-titled debut album. Produced by Jay Reynolds, whose previous credits include Pulp, Paloma Faith and The Verve amongst others, it’s a slick, exuberant and polished affair, packed full of catchy hooks, clever lyrics and anthemic choruses.
Kicking off with the knockout one-two of recent singles ‘Digging Holes’ and ‘(Lady) Roll Back The Years’, Raglans establish their intentions from the off. Both songs are up-tempo, rollicking numbers that burrow their way into your ears and stay there whether you want them to or not. ‘Digging Holes’ immediately grabs the listener’s attention as its intro roars from the speakers and the song, with its Foals-style guitar work, sets the party template that the rest of the album follows up on.
‘(Lady) Roll Back The Years’ is an acoustic driven tale of singer Stephen Kelly’s close encounter with an older lady with amorous intentions that he managed to narrowly avoid (although the line ‘maybe some day you’ll come calling’ suggests that he might regret rebuffing those advances!). It features the first of several impressive flourishes from lead guitarist Sean O’Brien. In fact, it’s O’Brien’s guitar work that make this album stand out from similar releases.
His solos, combined with some terrific rumbling drumming from Conn O’Ruanaidh, make ‘White Lightening’ one of the stand-out moments of the album while the spacey riffs on ‘Not Now’ add subtlety to Kelly’s wistful lyrics.
Elsewhere, ‘The Man From Glasgow’ is a post-punk tinged rocker complete with spikey guitars, funky bass grooves and good old fashioned rock n roll drumming that mark it out as a potential single for the future; while ‘Fake Blood’ with its ‘whoa, whoa’ refrains and call and answer choruses make it rife for audience participation and is sure to be a live favourite.
There are nods to their folk roots too, with mandolin featuring heavily on ‘Before Tonight’ and ‘Down’. ‘Down’, a reworking of an early demo, is a song about yearning to break free because there’s ‘no life in this shotgun town’ and you can be sure that Raglans will be able to satisfy those yearnings if they continue to release the type of high quality radio-friendly music that’s on offer here.
As ‘Born In Storms’ wraps up the 11 songs in under 40 minutes, you can’t help but be swept along with the enthusiasm and good vibes that the record generates although it could be argued that the record’s big strength is also its biggest flaw. Any one of the songs on offer could be imagined as a single, and that’s an impressive feat for any band. But while they are all great stand alone songs, when collected together they begin to feel a little samey. Perhaps one or two quieter, slower songs would have helped to pace the album a little bit better but if the only gripe about an album is that there’s too many catchy songs on it then the band aren’t doing a whole lot wrong.
There’s plenty of time for Raglans to explore those avenues if they so desire, but for now they’ve released an exceptionally fine album that’s sure to establish them as one of Ireland’s hottest new acts. With endorsements ringing in their ears from the likes of Ricky Gervais and Dermot O’Leary they look set to make a big splash on the other side of the Irish Sea as well so now be the time to catch them in some of the more intimate venues that they’ll be playing around Ireland over the next couple of weeks. By the looks of things those venues will be too small to hold their audience in the very near future.
See Raglans live:
- March 29th – Dublin, The Academy
- April 2nd – Cork, Cyprus Avenue
- April 3rd – Limerick, Dolan’s
- April 4th – Portlaoise, Kavanagh’s
- April 5th – Galway, Roisin Dubh
Review by Mark O’Brien