From the moment the emotive ‘Slainte’ and fire breathing ‘£5.25’ came to be in 2012, the excitement for another great British songwriter grew. Six years have passed, and, with help from his good mat Sam Duckworth, the debut album was recorded in Southend.
The six years, musically, have been good to McGowan. He has gone well beyond a protest singer with righteous polemic. Opener ‘Mind The Doors’ has the lyrical cadence of Scroobious Pip, ‘Skin & Bone (& Blood Moaning)’ has Oasis easiness to it and ‘Porky Pies’ lends itself to punk and funk.
The disparate styles don’t always land, but, this is ‘Catch 22’ stuff. If he hones a style social commentary lyrics, he’ll spend a lifetime fighting this perception. The broadness obtained is laudable but, it also gives a narrow minded media no chance of pigeon holing him.
‘Local Boy’ and ‘Springhill’ witness McGowan in a reflective teenage mood. The former, with its use of slide guitar, details the average boy’s hopes of winning the FA Cup. More impressively, it contemplates the errors along the way to adulthood, and how dreams can fade. The aching tones go beyond its subject matter, for anyone stuck in an office, or creatively ignored, ‘Local Boy’ has the ability to emphasise.
‘Springhill’ is a poignant promise to a best friends dying mother to always be around their best friend. Celtic folk influences seep in via the violin and backing vocals which, heighten the already emotionally charged content.
McGowan though, is the embodiment of punk rock and, on ‘Off The Rails’, he gives Billy Bragg’s ‘Brewing Up With Billy Bragg’ album a modern update. ‘Cuppa Tea’ takes the early machinations of Frank Turner’s ‘Fathers Day’ and ‘Vital Signs’ and splices it with a rapid fire Slaves-esque vocals. If this wasn’t enough, there is a brief guitar breakdown which takes from poppier moments of Dreampop and Shoegaze.
McGowan has toured with Billy Bragg, Frank Turner and Get Cape Wear Cape Fly in the past and clearly taken notes. From brass to funk to punk to pop, McGowan has taken a swing at them all. For the most part, made solid connections. Sometimes, bands/artists debut is all they have, a lifetimes dreams desperately oozing from their souls. What’s on display here is, clearly a man with aspirations and dreams way beyond teenage discourse.