Fionn Regan – The Bunkhouse Vol. 1: Anchor Black Tattoo
On Fionn Regan’s previous album, 100 Acres of Sycamore, many of the songs were modular. One basic block of often complex music was repeated usually twice, sometimes three times. The result was that the songs often built up in intensity, which was then released only to build up again. The effect was mesmerising, notably in ‘The Lake District’ with its ending, “Marry Me, In a Registry, Like A Foreign Film Scene”. Like 100 Acres, Fionn Regan’s new album, The Bunkhouse Vol. 1: Anchor Black Tattoo, is no exercise in verse, chorus, verse, chorus. But here, the structure is more like his earliest work. Stream of consciousness songs. They just sort of go places. Nice-sounding places to be sure. But there’s no systematic build up and release of tension. And The Bunkhouse doesn’t sound like 100 Acres either. The innovation there was the gentle orchestration. Understated, but transformative. Here, it’s just Fionn and an acoustic guitar. The beauty of 100 Acres (a big EHL) was how the orchestration accentuated the melodies. They were lovely songs and they were made to sound beautiful. On The Bunkhouse there are songs that probably could have been made to sound like 100 Acres, but here they’re presented more plainly. A good example is ‘Mizen to Malin’. On 100 Acres this would have been a dramatic piece. You’d really feel the waves “doubling in size”. Here, perhaps because 100 Acres set the precedent, the sound feels slightly lonely. Yet what both albums, and all Fionn Regan albums, have in common are the lyrics. Along with people like Sam Beam, Kurt Wagner and Conor O’Brien, Fionn Regan is one of the best lyricists around. He can tell a poignant story, “From the sticks to the big smoke, She looked out the window barely spoke” on Midnight Ferry Crossing. He also does impressionism. ‘The wind it blew the slates off, Your prayers float through the foxglove, Grip the iron bedpost quickly’. This is The Bunkhouse Vol. 1. With luck, Vol. 2 will follow quickly.