Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Irish Albums of the Decade: 10 - Damien Dempsey - Seize The Day (2003)
Bookended by two songs that sound like extracts from a self-help book, this is the kind of album that could fail spectacularly, but it doesn’t: Dempsey’s positive, anti-cynical stance is perfectly measured, helped by the fact that he doesn’t shy away from dark topics like heroin addiction (‘Ghosts of Overdoses’), street violence (‘Factories’) and institutional abuse (‘Industrial School’). His distinctive Donaghmede accent and singing style isn’t to everyone’s taste; but to these ears it’s a formidable instrument in itself, bringing a much-needed novel angle to a singer-songwriting genre that was already becoming overpopulated when this album was released.
While his more politicised, topical songs tend to suffer sometimes from lyrics that are unsubtle and even a little trite, it’s the more personal, philosophical ones where Dempsey really comes into his own - such as the sublime ‘It’s All Good’ (which features terrific backing vocals from Sinead O’ Connor) and the reggae-tinged ‘Negative Vibes’. There’s also evidence of a quirky sense of humour on ‘Jar Song’, which imagines drinking sessions with a list of Irish literary figures, while ‘Apple Of My Eye’ is an enchanting tribute to New York as the safe haven to many an Irish emigrant. You could draw all kind of inferences from such a song appealing to a demographic who were becoming increasingly intolerant of other cultures, but that’s beside the point: this was an album that disarmed any cynicism and exhorted you to ‘love yourself today’. Good advice.