es, another singer-songwriter that’s popular in Ireland, looking to achieve the same success elsewhere. Damien Rice and David Gray have succeeded—but there are a host of others waiting for their shot. Does Paddy Casey have enough songwriting panache to stand out?
I first came across this chap when he played support to REM at Dublin’s Landsdowne Road venue. A number of nearby gig-goers referred to him as “a David Gray rip-off.” Jesus! Why on earth would anyone want to rip off such a man? Ok, ‘Babylon’ was cool, but that shouldn’t be enough to make Gray the subject of imitation. Come, Paddy: raise your standards and find better heroes to ape!
On reflection, the “Gray rip-off” comment was somewhat misplaced. Ok, they’re both gravely-voiced, earnest singer-songwriters but Gray was hardly the first musician to mine that sort of territory. Casey shares Gray’s influences and has a similar lack of charisma and appealing qualities, but that doesn’t make him a rip-off!
If the good songs on White Ladder represent the high-watermark for this sort of thing, then Casey can at least claim to have created a couple of sweet melodies to rival the likes of “We’re Not Right” and the aforementioned “Babylon”. “Promised Land” possesses a confident shuffle that is absent from most tracks on “Living”. For some reason, it reminds me of Britpop nearly-men Space. And for some reason, this seems like a very good thing. “Saints and Sinners” perfectly captures the sense of dejected melancholy present in David Gray’s better tracks: strings and handclaps complementing a sombrely affecting vocal performance.
Sadly, Casey is consistently undone by his semi-melodic drabness and horrid rhyming-dictionary lyricism. If he had penned 12 scorching tunes, that may have been enough to distract us from lines as hackneyed as “Livin’ in this age / World so full of rage / You try to say I’m crazy / I just call it livin’ in that age” and “Everything is sold / for highways guns and gold.” Unfortunately, the musical backdrop is as uninspired as the words: leaving the shortcomings of both painfully exposed.
Reference points? The jazzy flourishes on opening track “Livin’” call to mind fellow Irishman Van Morrison, while closing protest song “Self Servin’ Society” marries Nick Drake finger-picking to gentle electronic pitter-patter. All familiar influences for ye-olde-Irish-singer-songwriter, and Casey certainly isn’t doing anything new with them.
The glut of plain acoustic troubadours being welcomed feverishly in Ireland is depressing indeed. The world has already followed our lead with Rice and Gray, but I feel that the line should be drawn with Paddy Casey. Enough is enough.
Reviewed by: Kilian Murphy
Reviewed on: 2004-01-23