Black Soul Strangers are a young four piece from Ireland, who have been
plying their trade for several years and after doing the circuit in
Ireland and their native Dublin, they have attempted to break it in
England. This has lead to numerous praise and accolades being bestowed
upon them by various music magazines from NME to Q and even having a
Radio 2 'Single of the week' with their melodic track 'The Haunting'
The album 'Animate' was recorded in Van Morrison's Windmill Lane
Studios in Dublin and produced by Tom McFall who has worked with the
likes of Snow Patrol, Bloc Party, Editors and Weezer and mastered by
John Davis who has worked with Led Zeppelin and REM.
From that list you can see the influences on the band, indie rock and a
mixture of originality and mainstream appeal is what they are aiming
for. You can imagine them rolling their sleeves up in the studio
and this strong work ethic comes across the record. Something that is
most apparent is that unlike a lot of bands they get the importance of
harmonies and melody in their songwriting, this is most apparant on
'The Haunting'; you listen to early Beatles and Stones upto the canon
of the Beach Boys - the necessity of harmony coupled with a strong hook
can grab an audiences attention and keep the appeal.
My worry for them would be that if they keep going the way and A&R
only hear the appeal in singles, they may unfortunately become pigeon
holed much like Snow Patrol have become, do they seek mainstream appeal
whilst forsaking the independent roots that is so instilled in them; or
do they follow a route much like The Young Knives who following a
successful debut album and Mercury nomination, worked on a sophmore
effort which led to a credible album that sounded a lot like them and
not devoid of their imprint.
I then went to see Black Soul Strangers on Wednesday 27th July at
'Death Disco' at Notting Hill Arts Club; with a wiff of mint and
Turkish beer swirling around the cramped, underground venue. The stage
is set for a young Irish band to stake a claim to a crowd of about 50
people, can they deliver?
After some annoying sound difficulties, the band do not seemed
flustered and they crash into the beginning. They are all drive and
solid sounding; watch becomes apparent is that all four are good
musicians in their own right and can stand toe to toe. What also helps
is that frontman Barry Gorey also plays guitar, unlike contemporaries
say Ricky Wilson of Kaiser Chiefs, this gives a unity to the band that
they live and die by their conviction as a group of musicians. Drummer
Brendan O'Mahony drives the band in unison with bass of James O'Brien
who adds vocals to the overall harmony, and the hooks are supplied by
Philip Wyer on lead guitar. And then it dawned on me, I was
watching a band that reminded me of Franz Ferdinand live - the boom or
bust of their music with driving basslines, powerful drums and
They have the ability to have a slow sound that builds into a crescendo
of machismo that washes over the audience, 'Lies' has this real
intensity about it, and then the immediate burst into 'Your Hero' has
that mainstream appeal and energy it can share with 'The Haunting'.
There most familiar song weaves into album opener and set closer,
'Panic Sets Direction' this medley of two hits together allows the band
to express their raw energy and vitality over an audience that slowly
grows from 50 to fill out the small space.
Many people arrive not knowing who Black Soul Strangers, but I'm sure
most in attendance will tell their friends about this band who should
remain strangers no more.