Lucky Bones “Matchstick Men” (Lucky Bones Promotions, 2018)

It is puzzling why one band can ‘make it’ while others continually fly below the radar. And so it is with Lucky Bones. They are the kind of band that take to a festival stage late afternoon and draw ‘who are these?’ looks from the crowd which soon become murmurs of ‘How come I haven’t heard of these guys before?’ Lucky Bones is the vehicle for the writing of Dublin born singer-songwriter Eamonn O’Connor and truth be told they are not unknown to this site; O’Connor’s first album as Lucky Bones ‘Together We Are All Alone’ was described on here as ‘The first great album of 2010’.

Matchstick Men’ is the band’s third outing, though to call it an album is perhaps stretching it  With eight tracks and clocking in at around 30 minutes it is more like a long EP. But better to be short on length and high on quality than vice versa. Ironically, O’Connor himself cites Ryan Adams as one of the artists he most admires, but clearly he has a stronger grasp of the quality – quality ratio than Adams who has sometimes been accused of being too prolific. While the Adams influence may be detectable in the ‘soul-searching introspection’ approach to mood and lyricism, musically Lucky Bones are more likely to invoke the energy and intensity of The Waterboys. At other times the music might tug at memories of other Irish guitar- driven bands such as Cactus World News or The 4 of Us. Listen out too for those hints of REM guitar jangle or touches of the lush shimmering and chiming reminiscent of that genre of bands once grouped together as the ‘Paisley Underground’.

Listening to ‘Matchstick Men’ can feel like approaching a smorgasbord and wondering if your plate is not quite big enough – you want a bit more of this and a little more of that because it is all so inviting, delicious and varied.

Therein lies maybe the strength and weakness of this release; it’s all satisfying and familiar but in truth of course you’ve heard all of this before. The question, therefore, may well be, do you want to hear it again? The answer to that is most probably ‘yes.’ As the adage goes ‘if it ain’t broke….’ And let’s face it, there is little new in the world, so if you do what you do well then quality wins through. Play ‘Matchstick Men’ a few times and you will spend less time spotting the influence and more time realising there is a lot on this record that is rather lovely.

Opening with the title track, false starts leads into a simple clean guitar refrain led song that will no doubt not get the radio play it deserves. ‘The Things (That We take)’ slows the pace but not the feeling that this is a very well put together record.  ‘Gone’ changes tack – synth led and yearning – while ‘Breathe’ springs back with a more REM feel. By the time we get to ‘I Can Feel It Coming’ which cannot but help make you think Tom Petty you realise this is a strong record. ‘Neon Morgue’ takes us into a different area and shows that O’Connor can vary his song writing, building this track from a low synth opening to an intense climax. ‘Home To You’ is perhaps the ‘stock’ track that does not quite hit the same height as the rest of the record. Which just leaves the six and a half minute final song, ‘The Walls,’ pitching itself for band epic and doing a good job building from a slow tempo to the four minute mark where a fade out is a distinct possibility. But don’t be fooled: the last minute and a half crank up the intensity with some slow burning guitar and impassioned vocals, a set closer in the making.

So the album may invite comparisons, but this is standing on the shoulders of giants not mere mimicry, push ‘em up that festival bill – more people should hear Lucky Bones.

8/10

Summary

Creative collection of songs wearing influences on sleeve but adding joyfully to the genre – kickback and enjoy

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