❉ A piercing, poetic soundscape created with uncompromising abandon.
“The album, effortlessly commercial on nearly every front, excels through an almost blinding succession of new identities. There’s the shallowness of a birthday candle burning the anger Balfe feeds into the music; there’s the guilt that washes the album in all of its primal agony; and there’s the traditions – old and new – that brings the listener to the staggering climactic centrepiece.”
However eager he was to leave Dublin, the city never left James Joyce’s mind, sight or pen. Plastering himself with the characters that walked the streets of Dublin, Joyce conjured a portrait of a Dublin even more concrete than the avenues that bolster Ireland’s largest and greatest city. History washes over Dublin, as Jewish, Catholic and Protestant citadels come together as one singular voice. And just as writers Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw reminded themselves of the happy citizens that crept into their work with shrill abandon, now, 29 year old Dublin visual artist and producer David Balfe, recording as For Those I Love, has picked up the mantle, conjuring up one of the most complex portraits Dublin has presented since Bloom and Dedalus completed their personal odysseys.
Inspired by the death of his friend Paul Curran, the record creates a soundscape where hangovers, hiccups and Reddit profiles journey with the listener into the author’s life. Some of it sounds strangely familiar (You Stayed/To Live plays to what sounds like a loop from Paul McCartney’s excellent McCartney II), but much of it lunges us into the burning centre with angry, uncompromising abandon.
Take I Have A Love, the album’s startling opener, wallowing in the recessionary footprints left behind by the ignorance of social politics; take Birthday/The Pain, a kaleidoscopic venture into collective, communal grief; or take You Live/No On Likes You, the author’s most comprehensive outlook on an Ireland changing before his saddened eyes. As the album continues to unravel so solemnly and swiftly, the scenery-daunting, as it is ominous – grows even more impatient. The album, effortlessly commercial on nearly every front, excels through an almost blinding succession of new identities.
There’s the shallowness of a birthday candle burning the anger by which the singer feeds himself into the music; there’s the guilt which hangs on the socio-political tide that washes the album in all of its primal agony; and there’s the traditions – old and contemporary – that brings the listener to the staggering climactic centrepiece. Everything he touches was shaped by this friendship, everything he delivers comes from a place of great truth.
Mindful of the death that channelled his creative muse so fulsomely, Balfe cautions a journalist’s desire to write off their friendship as anything more than an elegy. “Even if that hadn’t occurred,” Balfe admits, “the album would have looked at our friendships against the backdrop of how we grew up and where we grew up. It wasn’t ever going to just be a ‘Kumbaya, My Lord,’ it was more a testament what we survived and how we learned to love each other.”
Through this work, piercing as it is poetic, Balfe pays tribute to a man whose friendship meant more to him than any compliment could convey. What with this album closing out one friendship, Balfe opens himself and his listeners to the memories, moments and Dublin’s that populate a person’s life, and by doing so, paints the city more completely than many have done since the days of Mr. Joyce.
❉ A regular contributor to We Are Cult, Eoghan Lyng is the author of ‘U2: Every Album, Every Song’ which is out now and available from Sonicbond Publishing, RRP £14.99 (ISBN 1789520789). Follow him on Twitter. Visit his homepage.