Dublin’s Funeral Suits debut disk, Lily of The Valley, was recorded in Windmill Lane by none other than Stephen Street, the man who helmed recordings by The Smiths and Blur back in the day, whilst simultaneously providing somewhere for drunken revellers on their way out of Bartley’s and the South William to vomit and shove their hands down each other’s pants. It’s a statement of intent, but given Street’s obvious pop credentials, and the Suit’s epic, emotive tendencies, perhaps an odd one.
The sound is an angst plastered vista of guitars, synths, finely tuned slabs of drums and voices that suggest a kind of dark, gothic weariness reminiscent of Interpol, Editors and that ilk. Mary’s Revenge, the opening track, which starts with an a capella chorus, becomes something that resembles Why Can’t This Be Love, by Van Hagar. Of course, it’s not love Funeral Suits are interested in, unless it’s doomed, unrequited love, or the kind of capricious, jealousy fuelled affair that might end in heavy duty, weekend long sulks. In Colour Fade, singer Brian James repeats “I’m a machine” over a dirge-disco beat. Much is extrapolated from a fairly simple premise. Throughout the vocals employ terse yelps, and focus less on melodising, although occasional backing vocals and choral stabs offer colour.
Health reminds me of Californian noise heads, Health. This is the point at which the album rouses itself, and it’s good. Hands Down is near ballad territory. The drumming is a flutter of toms, bass creeps around in the background. It creates the tension necessary for the ferment of the denouement, when guitars swoop in. All Those Friendly People borrows from Mogwai, circa Rock Action, anthemic drums and a spiralling lead guitar give way to litany of grievances and stock glum imagery from the vault of Reznor; sewn eyes, crawling in the dirt, death. We Only Attack Ourselves is acoustic, cello infused. The vocal attack, however doesn’t charge, that same semi strangulated, emotive delivery that somehow fails to convince.
Stars and Spaceships revolves around an insistent, catchy guitar line. The rhythm section can’t help but boot along in support. Here they have a cogent vision for a tune, that doesn’t overbear, and it works, for the most part. Lyrically I find that the medium overpowers the message, in that there’s not much of a message, despite energetic claims to contrary. When they’re thumping along they’re at their best, able to create drama through momentum, rather than the false promise of atmosphere. Machines Too, propelled by a fuzzed flurry of bass continues in this vein, promising a sort of Muse-esque coda to end the record, where they let go, go massive, explode from the confines of the songs, embrace this love of epicness they aspire to. But it never quite happens. They have a sound suited to large stages and grand audiences, but they have to believe in the theatre they’re trying to convey. Perhaps they’ve yet to reach their potential as song-crafters, yet to grow into the scope of their ambitions. This is a good thing, really, as it gives them the rest of their career to do so, rather than, like so many of this ilk, burn brightly, then fade away. It sounds, as you would imagine, magnificent. It never hurts to have a product that is well produced, skillfully mixed and neatly mastered. They are every inch a polished, professional outfit, and with this debut offering, there’s an already established market out there, the one Zane Lowe seems to spend his life sermonising at. There’s enough here to suggest that their career might yet be an interesting one. Or a successful one. Or even, god forbid, both.
Lily Of The Valley is out on Friday 1st June. Funeral Suits play Limerick (Bourkes, 6th), Dublin (Whelan’s 7th) & Galway (8th, Roisin Dubh) next week.