Saturday, 2 April 2011

Best Irish Albums: ELEVEN

MARC CARROLL – Ten Of Swords (2003) 

Best song: “Crashpad Number”

The moment “Crashpad Number”, the first composition on Ten Of Swords, starts bursting through your speakers, you begin to wonder what is wrong with the world and why is it largely unaware of Marc Carroll. A chiming, anthemic pop-rock gem that sounds not unlike a classic Byrds song updated for modern times, it should have signified far greater things. 

I first heard the song (and, indeed, Marc Carroll) in 2003 thanks to a giveaway CD that came with Uncut (possibly the best music magazine there is). Weird then that it was only several years later that I finally heard the man’s debut album, Ten Of Swords. Thankfully, it was everything I'd expected it to be: full of wonderful harmonies, 12-string Rickenbacker, and, above all, fantastic tunes. 

The thing that struck me, though, was how eclectic this collection is. There are Dylan-esque folk ballads (“Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down”), fleshed-out rock outbursts (“Idiot World”), lovely lilting pop (“Silent And Blind”), etc. And it’s all done with great taste, by a man who can not only write and sing, but also play his guitar in an extremely gutsy, affecting way (check out that terrific guitar break in “Mrs Lullaby”, one of the album’s obvious highlights). 

Ten Of Swords isn’t perfect, but I’ve fallen in love with every song here (bar maybe the slightly draggy – if still pretty – “In Silence”). The album’s so intelligent, so well-written that I can only call it what I usually call it: radio-friendly pop for a better world. 

Irishness? Not much, really. But I swear to God the closing ballad “Terror And Tired Eyes” is literally drenched in this enchanting, slightly surreal atmosphere that I can only identify as Irish. 

RECOMMENDATIONS. Marc Carroll’s relatively short (so far) discography is well worth investigating: there’s All Wrongs Reversed (2003) that contains a couple of fantastic covers (Dylan’s “Gates Of Eden” is phenomenal) and a number of blistering originals (“Mr. Wilson”, Marc’s paean to Brian Wilson, is hardly worse than John Cale’s). And I would also suggest getting World On A Wire (2005), an introspective, more ballad-oriented record that yet again convinced me what a great and underappreciated singer-songwriter the man is.

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