Is it really possible to be nostalgic about fin de siècle indie pop of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s? Cormac O’ Caoimh certainly thinks so. He’s just produced a delightful album of original songs that fondly embrace the dressed down chic of the period. On Shiny Silvery Things he also makes a case for its potential to endure with polished songs, absorbing arrangements, married-life lyricism, and conversational delivery.
He has every right to bring out the finer points of unabashed collegiate pop for he’s been there himself as a lead songwriter and singer/guitarist with The Citadels. They were part of in Irish cohort that totally nailed authentic, number-one-in-your heart pop melody that is still king on the Celtic airwaves. He’s since made a string of solo albums that have made him an artist of note in Ireland, although Scotland has seemed slow to grasp his significance as an eminently relateable voice from across the Irish Sea.
Shiny Silvery Things positively rings with brightness and charm in a jewel encrusted trinket box full of delightful vignettes and new-found-sounds. There are so many standout tracks that it seems pointless to try to separate them in a spurious order of merit, so I won’t try.
The album’s opener, Second-hand Clothes sets the tone for a string of pop pearls that are perfectly rounded and flawlessly shaped. It sets the bar high in terms of craftsmanship, and makes it clear from the outset that no detail is unimportant for O’ Caoimh. The patch pocket poetry of the lyric is stitched to the kind of bespoke melody that, like an old raincoat, will never let you down. Somehow, Cormac O’ Caoimh manages to go on from there with one great song idea after another, and rarely takes a wrong turn into makeweight diversions.
Cormac O’ Caoimh has always had access to a deep well of inspiration, but if he’s thrown a few coins in for luck then his investment has grown exponentially. The sophisticated Silence and Sound, the swamp blues of In The Hollow of an Oak and the insistent Proud are highly differentiated in terms of source and style, but they knit comfortably together on a carefully planned out set of songs.
If O’ Caoimh has rich threads to work with then that is largely down to knowledge, experience and a lifelong love of the kind of pop music that soundtracks our formative years. Yet, for all that, it’s his versatile and heartfelt vocal expression that brings out the meaning in full of songs like Hey You, Tea in My Teacup and Lampshade Lights. These titles may smack of whimsy, but don’t be fooled. They are rich, rewarding exemplars of mature, observational songwriting, as though The Smiths had actually grown up and become responsible adults.
They say that you have to sing it like you mean it, but Cormac O’ Caoimh is such a genuine pop humanist that I don’t think that he could sing any other way, even if he tried. Shiny Silvery Things is a love letter to the author’s own musical past, made in the full knowledge that his next song might be his best work….and the song after that, and the song after that.