Just when we thought that we’d heard the last from the elusive British singer-songwriter Eugene McGuinness, the established classically-minded musician has returned with the release of his fifth studio album Suburban Gothic, four years after the release of the delectable album Chroma.
Eugene McGuinness, who was once creaking the floorboards with Miles Kane as a backing guitarist and considered as much as a silver-tongued riddler as Alex Turner, seemed to have vanished from the radar until, preceding the release, he addressed eagerly anticipating fans with a short but personal Facebook announcement:
“I'm happy to say that my new album, ‘Suburban Gothic' is now OUT. Thank you for your patience and support. Means the world.
Interestingly this time around, McGuinness has released the album under his own name rather than through Domino – the label that supported the release his previous records. A hint that this time he was under no obligation to make this record and has done it on his own terms.
Despite now only an online streaming exclusive, listeners can still expect the same quality and charm as ever. Evoking the cinematic magnetism of The Invitation to the Voyage (2012) and the discreet grace of Chroma (2014), Suburban Gothic showcases ten compositions of alluring indie rock pop.
Overall the atmosphere of Suburban Gothic isn’t drastically different to McGuinness’ previous work.
All the familiar quirky eccentricities, staircase melodies and negotiating vocal harmonies run rampant as ever throughout the record. The scintillating first album taster Start at the Stop and album opener Hope in Hell both unfold with the usual confident swagger and sly wit. New wispy, pastoral psychedelic territories are explored in the likes of Roman and Subterranean while Treat Me and Car to the Airport add a slight nocturnal, sci-fi slant to the album.
Though it’s easier to favour the more electrifying inclusions, Suburban Gothic is more daring in its diversity. We can hear McGuinness channelling 50s crooner-style ballads in the likes of Now Here’s a Look at What You Could’ve Won, High Rise and With Words that seduce the listener with their bittersweet melancholy. The lyrics seem to be more personal (I might be self-obsessed and depressed) and perhaps even a slight autobiographical account of McGuinness’ experience in the music industry (Close but not close enough / now here’s a look at what you could’ve won).
Suburban Gothic is still probably too offbeat to catapult McGuinness beyond his current niche but it still deserves way more credit than a hasty and anonymous release. Yet in this way, it comes across as a real labour of love and if this is indeed McGuinness’ last serenade as a solo artist, then Suburban Gothic is a majestic bow out by an accomplished yet forever-underrated craftsman.
Words by Dean Robinson
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