The cynical, sceptical Louis Brennan casts his eye over the messed-up world we live in.
‘Love Island’ is the second album from London-based Dubliner Louis Brennan, the long awaited follow up to his 2018 album ‘Dead Capital’ which this esteemed website called “an outstanding album; deep, dark and demanding of attention” a quote that can be applied equally to this album too.
Recorded at the legendary Rockfield Studios in Wales where the likes of Del Shannon, Motorhead, Bellowhead, The Proclaimers and many, many more have recorded over the past six decades or so and mixed at the even more legendary Abbey Road, ‘Love Island’ sounds more like it was recorded in the heart of Nashville rather than in the heart on Monmouthshire and far from sounding like a Dubliner, Brennan’s expressive baritone sounds like the bastard son of Merle Haggard and Harry Nilsson which can’t be a bad thing.
The ten tracks vary in feel from the old school country ‘God Is Dead’ to the bossa nova lilt of ‘The Post Truth Blues’ via the poppy ‘A Zero-Sum Game’ and lots in between – it’s a pretty eclectic album that’s held together by Brennan’s powerful voice along with some impressive musicians backing him. There’s Joe Harvey-Whyte on pedal steel, lap steel and electric guitar, Laurence Saywood on bass, Ned Cartwright on keyboards, C J Jones on drums and percussion and Joe Jones who not only engineered the album but is also in charge of oscillators and tape. On a couple of tracks there’s some excellent brass from Rhys Taylor on saxophone, Joanna Bartlett on trombone and Helen Whitemore on trumpet adding another layer to the likes of ‘Cruel Britannia’ and the soulful ‘My Favourite Disguise’. There’s also The Mavron Quartet adding strings to a couple of tracks, most notably the last song on the album, ‘Naked And Afraid’ where the strings carry Brennan along to the conclusion of this excellent album.
As interesting as Brennan’s voice is and as excellent as the musicians backing him are, what stands out are Brennan’s superb lyrics. He writes about post-Brexit Britain, tech overlords, reality television and internet trolls amongst other subjects. At times Brennan is cynical, ironic, sceptical and bitter, casting a jaundiced eye over the world we live in. His lyrics have a freshness and often have a mocking and self-deprecating tone that belies the sweet charm of his voice and makes for an album that never bores. As Brennan says: “Personally, I identify strongly with the folk tradition of speaking truth to power and whilst technology and social media seem to be at the centre of most of our everyday existences these days very few singer-songwriters on the folk/roots/americana spectrum seem to be writing about it which I find odd”.
‘Love Island’ is a powerful album consisting of ten outstanding songs superbly sung and played by Louis Brennan and his excellent musicians. To quote Brennan again: As a body of work ‘Love Island’ is as esoteric as you’re likely to find within the often-formulaic world of straight white men with acoustic guitars’ a sentiment this reviewer couldn’t have put any better and he’s listened to a lot of albums from straight white men with acoustic guitars and ‘Love Island’ is definitely up there with the best of them.