Cian Ciarán: They Are Nothing Without Us – album review
Cian Ciarán: They Are Nothing Without Us (Strangetown)
Available 23rd Sept 2013
Super Furries vocalist Cian Ciarán is back with a new album – Michael Patrick Hicks checks it out.
Super Furry Animals songwriter, vocalist, keyboard player and producer, Cian Ciarán‘s second solo album under his own name, the self-produced They Are Nothing Without Us, is the follow up to Outside In, his critically acclaimed debut from 2012.
The album’s first two songs, 5c Cotton 40c Beef and 43, 000, 000, are pure, stripped down garage rock. 5c Cotton 40c Beef is all fuzzed riffs and psychedelic lead lines. A three minute long rallying call of warning, ‘I can see life is getting darker by the day if we don’t make our voices heard,’ and hope, ‘I pray there’s a better way out.’ 43, 000, 000 is equally menacing. ’43, 000, 000. One gun shot. One death it take.’
With lines such as, ‘I won’t help you fatten your wallet/and I hope you choke on your profit’ third song, Sewn Up, lays into oil corporations and the nuclear industry causing environmental mayhem whilst prioritising profit. It has an anthemic quality, which brings to mind the sound of New Order. Sewn Up has single written all over it.
The spine of the album is where gold can be found. Sleepless Nights is an acoustic driven number with melodic George Harrison lines. It has a comforting woozy nature, both in the instrumentation, but also in Ciaran’s vocal delivery. He sings of fears – which befit the insomnia of the title. ‘Can’t see no future without you in my life.’ The coda is beautiful. If Sleepless Nights is about the things that keep us awake, No More is the dream. Ennio Morriconi spaghetti western guitar reinforced with wonderful soulful singing of the chorus, ‘I can’t take no more.’ A definite standout. Bee My Baby completes the trilogy. A finger picked opening is then joined by a slow striding drum and bass part. ‘Never thought I’d see the day when they threatened to take you away. Only together can we survive. And I’ll love you until the day I die.’ Again, a lovely dreamlike number.
Cian Ciarán has said that They Are Nothing Without Us owes much to The Pixies, The Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine. The 10th song on the album, Peaked, also owes much to fellow disciples of The Pixies, Nirvana. It shares the same melody as the verses on Heart Shaped Box. Indeed, the second half of this release mines this well. We get modulated guitar and a less is more approach. There’s dirt, but there is prettiness to the dirt.
Whereas previous material was written on piano, They Are Nothing Without Us is Ciarán’s guitar album. Purposefully aggressive without compromising melody. Aimless aggression, both musically and lyrically, can sometimes sound sterile, but not this. His aim is true, which adds to a very organic sounding album. It’s awash with 12 string, backwards guitar, fuzzed tones and every classic guitar sound in between. The guitars on this album are wonderfully orchestrated. They never collide and if they do – it’s a beautiful collision. It reveals his skill as a producer. The songs build and build. They are short, never outstaying their welcome. Ciaran says it all in the confines of three minutes. He warns against greed, corruption and establishment rhetoric. These warnings are delivered with hushed vocals and gorgeous harmonies. Sometimes a whisper is louder than a scream. To quote a line from the album’s send off, Pachamama, ‘Please listen. I’ve shown you there’s a better way.’ Cian Ciarán has and They Are Nothing Without Us does.