Album Review by Mark Bayross
Bristol’s Day One, the duo of Phelim Byrne and Donnie Hardwidge, release this, their debut album, on Massive Attack’s Melankolic label. Considering their claim that the 11 songs contained here are the first eleven they have ever written together, this record is quite an achievement.
The songs are mainly anecdotal observations about the angst of modern life. BEDROOM DANCING details the tension and anxiety of going to bed with someone and the sexual games people play. LOVE ON THE DOLE is a touching little tragi-comic story of a couple who meet fortnightly at the DSS over a tune that evokes Lou Reed’s ‘Walk On The Wild Side’.
WAITING FOR A BREAK lists all those wannabe actors and musicians who are living the life they want to have, rather than the reality of their mundane existence: “Said he was an actor, bit of a photographer / made his living out of laughter, which makes him a comedian / Waiting for his million, that was soon coming / but for now he was bumming”.
The vibe is funky and mellow, as stoned beats accompany Phelim’s laid-back vocal delivery. Guitars feature throughout, and in places, strings work their way across the mix (WALK NOW; TALK NOW; I’M DOING FINE), while samples play with the listener (BEDROOM DANCING comes complete with porno gasps; TRYING TOO HARD has sampled barking dogs and ringing telephones).
It doesn’t always work: IN YOUR LIFE is a straight guitar song that sounds out of place among the beats and Phelim’s attempt at singing doesn’t really come off either. However, one listen to the lush minor chord strings and piano of TRULY MADLY DEEPLY or PARADISE LOST and all is forgiven. Here, they sound like Portishead or Tricky. Not a bad point of reference.
The album finishes with the piano ballad, ORDINARY MAN, an ode to everyone who has ever wished they were more attractive, although I am glad to day it ends on an upbeat note. Touching, witty, sad and clever, by the end of the album you will have laughed and cried. A bit like life, really.