Xtra Mile Records

Sean McGowan - Curate Calm, Create Chaos EP

Southampton's favourite son Sean McGowan releases the EP 'Curate Calm, Create Chaos' via Xtra Mile Recordings on the 1st November.

Although McGowan's debut album (Son of Smith) was all of a high standard, its flaw was it was disparate in style at times. Here, a focus on stripped back acoustic guitars and cinematic orchestration has heightened the two things McGowan does best, defiance and emotion!

Here's our track by track review:


I'm OK

McGowan's ability to find melody and simultaneously offer gut wrenching honesty lyrically is out in full force here.

The universality to 'dealing with death / dealing with demons' is one all can relate to but, few use this pain to such positive effect.

With ‘The Joker’ causing a stir amongst those who have missed the fucking point, McGowan's song about mental health is perfectly timed. ‘The Joker’ is not about inciting violence, it’s a clear shot at the criminal under-funding of mental healthcare. As McGowan sings 'this one is for the lost', the poignancy of the film and the song strike home, painfully so.

Heartbreaker 

Even in 2019, for a man to lay their inner most feelings, especially romantic feelings on the line like this, is rare and courageous. The confusion, the hurt and the sense of loss McGowan displays being in a relationship, let alone out of one is laid bear with a fine eloquence.

The stunning Celtic style backing vocals of Kate Lynn (also violinist on the EP) and McGowan's lyrics will bring self-examination of the brutal kind. Am I enough? Will me and you make it? How do I know you're OK?

Silk

In the 90s, the tabloids and magazines heightened what it was to be a man and a woman. You must be a supermodel on a diet or you must a super lad drinking and shagging. As impactful as it was, the rise of Social Media feels more over bearing with its 24/7 access.

With that in mind, McGowan examines the negative side of Social Media on society. The intense pressure on how to live your life from both the male and female perspective are looked at with heart and soul.

As the orchestration builds, the fragility and beauty of life being tormented is rammed home with gut wrenching effect.

Money

Frankly, any song with an Only Fools and Horses reference in deserves to be number one! Much like Del Boy, McGowan has dreamer’s mind-set. No matter what is thrown in his way, McGowan walks forwards swinging, hits the canvas and then gets up again with a grin on his face.

Queen of the West

The EP’s standout moment! Such is the clarity of the music; McGowan need not have sung a word. The subtle acoustic guitar build is bitter-sweet and tinged with an acceptance that someone close (Margret) has passed away.

As the Lynn’s violin and vocals soar, the military drums pound into view, laying the platform for McGowan’s most daring and triumphant moment to date.

His punk fire rattling alongside the innocent Noah & The Whale 'First Days of Spring' beauty to bring all of McGowan’s hurt and grief to beautiful climax!

Whoever Margret is, McGowan has gone further than “write her name in history”, he has etched her into the hearts of his fans.

Sean McGowan - Son of the Smith

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.