Album Reviews

Album Review: The Former Soviet Republic – Is Made of This

The Former Soviet Republic – Is Made of This

Mostly the project of Thrill Pier’s Ian “I.H.” Wright, and with some help from Tom Burns (The Kimballs), Alan Tepper (The Kimballs, ex. Lloyd United) and Charles Bissell (The Wrens, ex-Okkervil River), The Former Soviet Republic is a torch songs album, with dark, brooding lyrics and the melodies to match. The blog may now have gone the way of the ether (well that or he just doesn’t want me to see inside), but Irish music is not at a loss, because now we get this sultry debut.

It’s been over two years in fruition, and has all the hallmarks of a well-crafted and well-planned record. It’s sparse and without embellishment, and the simple guitar lines and hushed vocals carry the album along beautifully. ‘House of the Dying Moon’ features the pained refrain “I can’t take more”, and Wright’s vocals have you believing him. It’s a beautiful cry for help.

Programmed drum loops start off ‘PS2′, possibly the most upbeat track on the album, particularly when Tom Burns’ tin whistle kicks in. It adds a lovely sound to the song, and provides the album’s highpoint. The guitarwork of Charles Bissell is splendid on ‘I Mean Everything’, while Alan Pepper’s riffing and backing vocal on ‘Smile (One Day You’ll Get Everything You Want, Just Have Patience)’ end the album with a ‘Lucy in the Sky’-era Beatles feel. Yes, I just compared an Irish act to the Beatles, not bad eh?

The hiss on ‘Black Suited Man’ sounds like rain running down a window, adding a wonderful backing to the track, while ‘Nebraska’ is a brilliant take on the Bruce Springsteen original. It’s pared back to the extent that the lyrics are much more overwrought than the Boss’s original. The only real misstep on the album is ‘Are You Going?’, and why does it suffer? Because at just under eight minutes, it misses out on Wright’s vocal delivery, and then ends very abruptly.

Is Made of This finally proves that music critics aren’t just failed musicians, they can be real musicians too. There’s no arguing with the quality of Wright’s writing, and that’s reflected brilliantly in his songwriting. The album took three years to make, but was well worth the wait.

[xrr rating=3.5/5]

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