“Money, power and people: two out of three ain’t bad,” sings Matt McGinn on the opening track of this outstanding new offering. While ‘The End of the Common Man’ is about the corrupting power of corporations, you are left in no doubt throughout that it is “people” that McGinn is in sympathy with, as track by track, a catalogue of stories unfold, some beautiful and touching, some raw and driving, but all united by McGinn’s faith in humanity and contempt for those who seek to threaten or harm (see penultimate track about an elephant called Trump for further details).
Matt McGinn’s previous album, ‘Latter Day Sinner,’ garnered widespread praise for the County Down native, with Bob Harris describing it as “a beautiful album.” McGinn spent 2017 travelling and collaborating with musicians in countries affected by conflict in his “Lessons of War” project and, while influences are not thrust into your face, you have to assume the impact of this is running throughout. Themes of the absolute desperation of poverty, the blight of racism and the lingering threat of nuclear holocaust inform the songs, and the passion of McGinn for social justice and change is clear.
However, this is not an album to drag you down. Instead, it’s an uplifting blend of Soul and Blues influences that deliver an irresistible experience and instantly accessible melodies with tracks such as ‘The Right Name,’ ‘Somewhere to Run’ and ‘The Bells of the Angelus’ sweeping over you and establishing themselves as firm favourites.
The arrangements – with horns and strings used judiciously – to enhance, rather than drown, the sound are mature and impressive and lift ‘The End of the Common Man’ into the bracket of great albums. ‘Marianne’ and ‘The End of Days’ are two of the gentler tracks on the album, but the haunting nature of the songs and impact of the lyrics shows that McGinn can hit the mark in any style he chooses.
An outstanding blend of soulful passion and melody that will haunt and inspire. Well done Matt McGinn, we’re looking forward to the follow-up already.