Lucky Bones – Matchstick Men
Self Released – 18 May 2018
Lucky Bones is essentially a vehicle for Dublin singer-songwriter Eamon O’Connor. Here, he is backed by lead guitarist Peter O’Grady, rhythm section Leon Kennedy and Binzer Brennan with Conor Miley on keys to give a fuller band sound. Matchstick Men, their third album opens with the title track, a slightly Knoplersque number born from the loss of his father and extending to a more universal observation about fathers and sons, the latter feeling themselves paling in comparison to what the former braved to create the world in which they live.
That mingling of Celtic rock and quiet introspection shades much of the album, the songs steeped in reflection and a sense of unease with the present and who or what we are, a sentiment that informs The Things (That We Take In) with further fine guitar work from O’Grady and O’Connor’s vocal taking on a tremulous quiver as he sings of “the things that we take in that don’t make us feel.”
As the title suggests, Gone is another song about loss and time passing, of a life too short, the wah-wah guitar giving a 70s soul rock sheen before the pace picks up on the rockier drive of the more defiant Breathe (“the fire is your friend”) with its punchy chorus and influences that range from Paul Brady to The Undertones, The Frames and, perhaps, some early U2. I Can Feel It Coming keeps it rockier, but with more of swagger and riff sensibility as he sings about change and the need to recognise the moment and take it before the chance passes.
It switches musical direction somewhat dramatically with the urban alienation themed Neon Morgue, a number that, with its opening echoes of Like A Prayer and a chorus that pitches camp on La Isla Bonita suggests O’Connor’s record collection has a Madonna section amid the Ryan Adams and assorted Irish guitar bands. To be honest, it rather puts the brakes on things and, forcing metaphors and images, is a rare example of his lyrical skills not quite coming up to scratch.
Fortunately, that’s instantly remedied with Home To You, a thoughts-of-coming-home-to-you road number that opens in intimately sung, restrained style before a burst of drums and ringing guitar drive into swelling Snow Patrol anthemic balladry that seems designed to have the crowds waving their arms along.
It ends all too soon with the Verve-inspired six-minute plus The Walls, a yearningly sung majestic marriage of shimmeringly atmospheric keyboards, steady drum beat and slowly swelling guitar in service of a lyric about doubt born from troubled nights of insomnia and loneliness, but with its final hopeful line of how “There is a light somewhere”, the shift in mental state reflected in the way the song seems to be ebbing away around the four minute mark only to regain its energy with the breaking dawn, the swirl of ethereal keyboards erupting into heady tumbling drums, guitars and a background chant of “I’m gonna take us there.” Despite the self-doubts implicit in the title and many of the lyrics, there’s nothing rudimentary about this.