The prospect of yet another Irish singer songwriter might be enough to instil terror into the hearts of many but Niall James Holohan, Dublin’s self-proclaimed 'Dark Prince of Pop’, promises to stand out from the crowd. Describing himself as “a formidable live performer, and a gentleman and scholar to boot” he is also astonishingly prolific with some 15 DIY releases already under his belt. He has been equally busy on the gigging front, having played shows everywhere from the SXSW festival in Texas to In The City in Manchester. A Beautiful Corpse is a selection of 17 tracks, provided as a taster in advance of Holohan’s commercial debut release next year.
It is immediately evident that Holohan is by no means another Paddy Casey/Glen Hansard/Mundy clone. Although his songs never stray far from guitar plus vocals territory he manages to achieve a unique sound, or more accurately sounds, through inventive use of instrumentation and backing vocals. He also displays a good ear for a tune, succeeding from time to time in conjuring one of those wickedly catchy melodies that lodges itself stubbornly on your internal jukebox for days on end. A track with the unlikely title of No Instant Gratification For You (I’m Up There With The Best of Them) has taken up particular residence in my brain.
There are many influences evident throughout these tracks, everyone from Daniel Johnston to The Cure (I like Chucking Parties (When I’m Not Around) being very reminiscent of the fiesta spirit of the latter’s Close to Me). The song Give Me Graffiti, Baby has a frenzied sound closer to that of the Surfer Rosa-era Pixies. He is also capable of a more calm and contemplative style, such as in I Must Be a Fool to Still be Surprised That I’m Alone, although the more sedate moments on the CD unfortunately tend to be the less interesting from a musical point of view.
Lyrically the tone varies from Morrissey-esque misanthropic wit: “I don’t know your name and I don’t want to hear your feelings expressed at all” to the more political rants of songs like Who You Gonna Follow? Insults are biting, compliments few and a sharp sense of humour is prevalent throughout. Song titles such as Whistle Down the Wind in Cuzco with Some Rich, Thick, Faux Inca Goddess are also a good indication of the rampant verbosity that informs all of the songs on this compilation. There is a definite impression of a man who is rarely lost for words!
As this compilation of tracks is only a showcase of Holohan’s works as opposed to a commercial release it’s not possible for the uninitiated to know in which order tracks were written and consequently how Holohan’s music has been progressing. Given this and the eclecticism of the songwriter involved it is hard to predict how next year’s release will sound. Going from A Beautiful Corpse Holohan’s music is pop but of a kind not likely to be bothering the upper echelons of the music charts. It doesn’t have the sort of high gloss sound associated with your average Top Ten hit but is instead a more old-school indie version involving infectious melodies, heartfelt vocals and eccentric personalities. The lo-fi sound of his musical output won’t appeal to those in search of polished production values and complex arrangements nor, on the other hand, are all these songs as original as might be expected. That said, where he is good he is very, very good – and where he is bad he is still far more interesting than many of his contemporaries. Check the listings – Niall James Holohan is definitely someone to look out for!