Friday 5 June 2015

Cathal Smyth - A Comfortable Man

In  a past life, Cathal Smyth traded under the name Chas Smash, and was perhaps the nuttiest of the Nutty Boys (except maybe Lee Thompson?).  He was also the author, or co-author of some of the most exuberant moments of the bands releases, as well as some of the darker tinged moments.

The first obvious statement to make about the album is if you come to it expecting a 21st Century Nutty Boy shouting "Hey You! - don't watch that. watch this..." and prancing round the stage, then you're in for disappointment.
This album as a collection of stories from a man who has been through the mill, come out the other side, and is willing to share his experiences.
The past is represented by the involvement of Alan Winstanley, and particularly Track 2 "Shabat She Comes" which is perhaps the closest to later period Madness of all the songs here.

The songs on this album have been gestating and developing since 2005 (the time of Cathals marriage breakup, and followed by a life of hedomism, Ibizia, booze and stimulants).
This period led to a clearance of the mind (via a hallucinogenic experience with a Peruvian shamen, and the practice of transcendental meditation).
The album is plaintive, mellow, raw and introspective and personal.  No doubt there is a healthy dollop of catharsis mixed in too.
Opening with the eerie, almost funereal sound of a simple piano, and then Smyths cracked voice appears almost pleading.
The production is never "busy" with minimalistic  instrumentation and arrangement throughout even with strings and choirs layed over some of the tracks.
The lyrics are raw and tinged with sadness, yet delivered in a conversational style.  There’s a darkness and melancholy, yet a certain affirmation and redemption too - the term “bitter sweet” is probably too simple a catch-all term.

It is an album that should be properly listened to, ideally in one sitting, probably accompanied by a beer or two and a few moments of personal reflection.
There’s a darkness and melancholy, rawness and sadness, yet a certain affirmation too (dare I say “bitter sweet”?).
In short, it is a truly great album, and (I feel) an incredibly brave undertaking, knowing Chas Smash of the past - the man is now grown up, grown wiser, comfortable with himself, and willing to share his experiences.  It is difficult to say “enjoying it” because I’m not sure that is what you do?

You're Not Alone

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