When I heard that Ciaran Lavery was working with Iain Archer I was very excited. I had been watching Lavery’s trajectory from Kosher to Let Bad In, from a sound very close to Ryan Adams, though, I would imagine completely unintentionally even nearer to Romantica’s Ben Kyle, to finding his own voice. I loved Let Bad In but there were moments when I needed a more memorable melody to lift Lavery another league higher. Archer could sure do that.
Well, only one of the Archer songs remain, Two Days In Savannah, and though I think it is the best song here, the accessibility throughout is much stronger. Lavery is still ascending.
If anything the influences I hear most on Sweet Decay are his local peers. He has always seemed closely related to Stevie Scullion of Malojian but there are dollops of David C Clements particularly in the opening Everything Is Made To Last, 13 and Morning Bell, which is even based around the word hurricane, a song title on Clements’ brilliant debut album The Longest Day In History. That both Clements and Lavery are channeling their love of Bruce Springsteen might make that inevitable.
All in all though this is the fulfilling of ginormous potential that I had hoped for. Songs of love and loss and mortality with a few soul dives too:
Maybe Jesus knows my name
I can't be sure, I can't be sure
I sin like an every day man
Nothing ever goes to plan
(Everything Is made To Last)
“Do you ever feel like Jesus Christ?
'Cause you're holding yourself like you're bound to leave this life
I feel like a motor car with nowhere to go
Time is just a cigarette and my life is smoke”
Using Jesus and a car as images in the same verse is quite something but Lavery’s honesty, depth of spirit and catharsis of emotion is going to make him a favourite at Greenbelt where he plays this year.
I love everything this Aghagallon songwriter has released to date but Sweet Decay is best of all. There is lovely variety in instrumentation, arrangement and thus ambience. It has the build up crescendos in Wells Tower Song, strident guitars in 13 and the tenderest delicacy of Wicked Teeth. Sweet Decay is more layered, imaginative, richer and thus more enthralling than Let Bad Out… and even better on every listen!