Eugene McGuinness – The Invitation To The Voyage
As a young, talented and versatile songwriter signed to Domino, it’s nearly unthinkable that Eugene McGuinness didn’t get a whole lot of mainstream attention after releasing his self-titled debut album. But that’s just what happened, and one senses that this precipitated McGuinness’ musical direction on The Invitation To The Voyage, which streamlines and slicks up his sound even as he remains as eclectic and idiosyncratic as ever. Moreover, some of the tight, rhythmic post-punk of his little-heard Eugene + The Lizards detour, Glue, rubs off here as well. So even though the music is as varied as on his debut, Voyage has a sleek, modern pulse absent from most of his previous music—witness how “Harlequinade” rides in on buzzing synths and a tough beat or how “Shotgun” blends a Peter Gunn-inspired bass riff with some Middle Eastern influences. Actually, every song here is danceable in some fashion; drums even eventually kick in on the relative ballads, “Concrete Moon” and “Invitation To The Voyage.” Unfortunately, this insistent backbeat and shinier production end up making Voyage less dynamic than his past efforts since they flatten a bit of what makes McGuinness so unique in the first place. Little emphasis is placed on the different sounds he explores or his literate lyrics, and where his earlier work would take time to speed things up or slow things down, everything here sort of falls into the midtempo. On this album, there’s nothing as freewheeling as “Nightshift,” nothing as wistful as “Bold Street” or “Those Old Black And White Movies Were True” (though the title track comes close), and tracks like “Joshua” and “Videogame” fall dangerously close to middling territory. That being said, when Voyage works, it works well. McGuinness still can churn out inventive, offbeat singles like the cool, jittery “Lion” and the neon “Harlequinade,” and when he strays toward the more jagged, fraying ends of his sound, he comes up with a winner in the dense “Thunderbolt.” Plus, when the songs don’t quite work, the album never really drags because it’s so tightly produced and because McGuinness’ songwriting always yields memorable moments regardless of whether a song works as a whole. With any luck, The Invitation To The Voyage will turn on more listeners to Mr. McGuinness, yet interested parties may be better off seeking out his earlier work.