Louis Brennan – Dead Capital
Self Released 23 February 2018
Okay, let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Dublin-born Louis Brennan sounds like Leonard Cohen, or maybe Mark Eitzel or Stuart Staples. That is to say, he has a dark, deep baritone, tends to semi-talk rather than sing as such and his songs are drenched in doomed romanticism. Right, so now let’s talk about the music.
Dead Capital was recorded in Berlin and working with, among others, co-producer AA Fanning on bass, opens with Airport Hotel. The track builds from sparse acoustic guitar and early Cohenesque lyrics and melody; then piano appears along with the “I could be better than this” refrain, then come the strings and drums. Suddenly it’s swelling majestically to the dramatic heavens before it returns to the opening lines in a dying note of resignation. It’s stunning.
Quitting his job with the intention of making a record and heading out to the tropics to become “an off-brand Hemingway”, he slunk back to London, depressed, directionless, unemployed and unqualified. The upside is that all this served as an inspiration to write the ever so slightly more uptempo Bit Part Actor and the realisation that you’re always “waiting for a cue but no one ever comes. In the end, it’s down to you.”
Backdropped by a simple circling acoustic guitar pattern, The Culture of Resistance does little to lighten the gloom with its Corbyn reference and political veined lyrics, opening with the lines:
There will be no reward for your persistence
For the cancer it has riddled me
The tumour is malignant
And I’ve lost all of the faculties
I need to judge the distance
Between the nature of the beast
And the culture of resistance
As he continues to paint a picture of British society where “Mendacity’s the perfume of your peers”, “Ideology is bankrupt” and “there is no manifesto…just the catalyst of fears .” And even if he wants “to be swept along when the feeling’s strong” and “be there too when the orchestra plays The Internationale”, the truth is “I’m just to cool to care”, apathy leaving him to await “the long, slow process of decay.” All that with a catchy hook and a Biblical reference to masturbation too.
Things get positively musically agitated with London, a Bossa Nova shuffle carrying along a song about the titular dead capital where “everyone’s a stranger”, fuelled by the personal experience and observations of commuting to and from a job you hate , toiling in indifference “like spokes on the wheel of an exercise bike”, stewing in self-loathing and how stuck in a meaningless existence where “we build ourselves out of the products we buy” and are left “wondering why I get up in the morning go to bed at night when nothing ever happens in between .”
It’s back to the spare accompaniment for the sexual imagery of Get On Top, another album highlight that captures the desperate need to hang on to a relationship even if it’s falling apart as, to mournful strings and a chilly keyboard wind he tells his emotionally absent partner “you can close your eyes, and think about any other lover you like.”
Another bleak vision of society comes with Silence, a fingerpicked number that adds Johnny Cash to the comparisons as he addresses the choices made under the weight of compromise, about how we all become commodities in the market, working a dead-end job, living in a sub-let home but never raising our voice in protest, bottling up resentments and climaxing in the powerful , bitter line about the prospects for and apathy of the next generation, that “Now you’re hooked on cheap pornography, desensitised to sex. You’ve got a useless liberal arts degree and twenty grand of debt. But your open letter is going viral; you got 30,000 likes. You say you’re a fucking environmentalist, just because you ride a bike.”
It’s back to bleak introspection for the self-loathing slow waltz Selfish Lover as, with perhaps a lyrical hints of Brel and Bukowski, he sings how “too drunk to come my ego deflates as my dick grows numb” after “drunkenly entering you on the hotel floor”, though the line about how a “terrible nothing is born” is steeped in the work of those Irish greats, Yeats and Joyce.
There’s more self-laceration, and self-pitying talk of crushed dreams as The Narrative Of Self Defeat introduces slow waltzing accordion colours around the fingerpicking before rippling acoustic guitar and pizzicato strings underpin the Cohenesque I Walked Away From A Glittering Career, a Casablanca-referencing tale of proposed materialistic downsizing, romantically slumming it as a suburban Victor Laszlo among the great white proletariat, seeking to be free of the modern existential malady, but rejoicing in the irony of lines about arriving in a 4×4 Toyota to preach the truth that “even white men get the blues.”
It waltzes to a close on another self-loathing note (“If I wanted to feel any worse about myself, then I’d have to try pretty damn hard”) with the barroom piano, guitar strum and military drum beat of the accusatory Home Sweet Home, the line about Ireland’s “culture of blame, the patriot game and old men in cassocks to keep down the masses with guilt and shame” reprised by a drunken pub choir sway-along playout chorus.
Probably not something you’d fish out to put you in the party mood, but as a soundtrack to a good wallow in self-hatred, post-millennial despair and emotional squalor, this is down in the gutter with the best.
For more information and live dates visit: http://www.louisbrennanmusic.com/