Cernan - 32.19
Owain Paciuszko 26/04/2010
27 year old sheet metal worker has a distinctively Northern Soul voice, except it's surrounded by a somewhat unexpected acoustic feeling, all entangled with drum machines, Americana folk and wistful Paul Weller-isms.
Opening track The Kings of Now has a high tempo slurred with excellent backing vocals over Cernan's drawled Tim Burgess-like lead vocal, the mish mash of elements; drum machine, tambourine, electric and acoustic guitars all gel together to create a strong start to the record. The Last Man in England has more of a simplistic protest song feel, the acoustic guitar eventually accompanied by handclaps - though foot-stomping would be more appropriate - but if there's a point it's a little obscure (though a note on the CD's inlay suggests; 'Persons attempting to find a moral in (this narrative) will be banished'). Grindstone finds Cernan's voice laced with gravel and echoes, it also belies a Neil Young influence and a memorable chorus of; 'Everybody is a whole it just depends on what you've sold.' But it never really develops beyond this.
There's a bit too much fizz in the production messing up Throwing Bullets, I'm not averse to dirty recordings, but the track sounds distant rather than raw, and with its cynical, angry lyrics an up-close, personal feeling would benefit this track, and, drenched in reverb Cernan's voice flounders. As the record draws on little new comes to the table, there's harmonica on brief, disposable instrumental Distance and it returns on By The River, which thankfully slows things down and in its simplicity it finds strength again in Cernan's voice, which, too often on the faster tracks, threatened to go a bit Ian Brown. Indeed, By The River winds up, alongside the opener, as one of the strongest tracks here, and it's laidback sound is intimate and comforting and the lyrics touching and poignant, specifically closing sentiment; 'Coming home is the hardest thing I know.'
No One's Son, especially following on from such a strong track, feels particularly misjudged; it's a half-baked anti-war song, but at the same time, is quite dismissive and flippant, never really finding any kind of throughline to really engage the listener lyrically, and musically it's quite basic and repetitive, when this should be a heavily charged piece of polemic. Closing track Daisy Chains is a languid affair that doesn't do much to remind you of Cernan's strengths, instead falling foul of a lot of the sombre traits that blighted a tad too much of this LP.
Wisely tempering his acoustic singer-songwriter guise with carefully administered doses of drum machines, synths and eerie backing vocals, there's goodness tucked away in a few tracks on this home-recorded debut LP. But some of the tracks need refinement, lacking drive or depth beyond an initial hook or idea. Perhaps that's a great EP lurking in amongst here, but as a longer release it's a touch wearisome.