When you hear a band name like The Guggenheim Grotto, that “indie feeling” hits immediately. You get the sense that the band will either be overly hipster or sound like everything else in the conglomeration of pop-rock and UK alternative (e.g. Hard-Fi or Kaiser Chiefs). Remarkably, the truth is in-tune with the latter, but in a good way.
The Irish folk trio have quite the assortment of tastes on …Happy The Man, which carries everything from swimming synthesizers to chummy alt. acoustics that all burn under Leonard Cohen-like vocals. These are just groovy dynamics that anyone can dig, and it’s quite expansive. There are angles that could persuade the inner Buddy Holly fan, swirls of modern pop harmonies that devotees to Top 40 material can cozy up to, and even in songs like “Just Not Just” that will please some demographic not previously listed.
…Happy The Man stands solitary as the borderline between cryptic and romantic lyrics. “Wonderful Wizard” with lines like, “Haven’t you been told one mans meat is the ruin of another/your Edgar Allen crow is the very bird that holds me together” from a previous album can be interpreted in so many ways that it never tires one to listen repeatedly. The very nature of the tracks on …Happy The Man have an almost Boomtown Rats aura about it, as the chorus is extremely soothing while the subject matter can at times be rather grim (e.g. “I Don’t Like Mondays”).
Enough cannot be said about the literature genre transcendence of The Guggenheim Grotto during this particular outing, and something tells me they would be phenomenal live. The group expresses an intimacy akin to multiple true pop-rock artists, and a vocabulary sensibility that borders medieval bard eloquence with hints of new millennium sarcasm.
Unlike other UK mainstays such as the aforementioned Kaiser Chiefs or Editors, there is no overuse of distortion when it is not needed to drive any given point home. They instead happily relate to early Genesis or the aforementioned Cohen. It is the true Brit pop-rock revivalist atmosphere that has been strangely absent from musical landscapes since 2000. This can be seen again in the gentle psychedelia of “Sunshine Gets Me High”, which is knee deep in love song rhetoric without coming on too strongly.
All in all, if you are new to this little Dublin ensemble who tends to mesh Zeppelin and [Phil] Collins with twists of [Thom] Yorke wit, then never fear disappointment. That’s the last thing that will cross your mind, as this is easily the last great album that 2008 managed to squeeze out. It’s just a shame that this review was not posted sooner to ring in the new year. Nevertheless, go ahead and march along to an Irish trio that could give Geoffrey Chaucer a smile in his grave.