Reflecting on the title, I write this review with a slightly mischievous sense of timing, this being the first week of September 2017. In all honesty I’ve had rather an excellent Summer and I sincerely hope Marc has too. But this album casts us back to the Summer of 2016 where the revealing sleeve notes empower us with the knowledge of the misfortune that produced the album, a Summer that wasn’t the best for Marc Gallagher.
The sleeve notes are an interesting and welcome addition, almost a lost art since the rise of digital files and the fall of physical sales. There is an argument to be made that too much information about a work can lead to a forced understanding and the listener (or indeed viewer) should always be allowed to cast their own interpretation. A certain song may be a love song to one person and a tragedy to another whilst the song writer originally penned the tune to commemorate the demise of a pet goldfish. But here Marc has chosen to explain each song which when strung together create an abridged diary of his life during that Shit Summer and in this instance I feel it only furthers the experience. I was hesitantly going to call this a concept album until I noticed Marc attributes this form to the album himself. Concept it is sir.
I shall however make no further mention of the story and merely comment on a few choice songs as I musically hear them and simply encourage you to experience the CD in its entirety, sleeve notes draped your lap like it was 1977.
The opener, One Foot In Front Of The Other is a strong uptempo opener with a real pop lilt followed by an almost bluegrass cheeky offering titled Sexy Butt. A quirky fun song it may be but there’s some mighty fine uke playing worthy of a number of listens. Since You’ve Been Gone has an almost calypso lilt which takes us to I Never Knew Your Had Boyfriend which kicks in with a reggae chop and pans out into a highly contemporary sounding pop sound with some tasty little chord progressions too. Given the right exposure this track has Top 40 written all over it. It’s not without a real sense of irony I can see it being a Summer radio favourite. Pastures New is at the forefront of the pessimism the title always offered with a fast melancholic bent, the song writing tone putting me in mind of Paul Weller. Oh yes friends, this chap can truly write great songs and is worthy of that comparison. It’s not something I type lightly!
There’s a terrific variation in style and a sympathetic approach to the playing. We’re dealing with one guy and uke writing songs, to retain one’s attention for a whole album is tough, very tough. But Marc has “it”, he keeps the interest flowing through the whole 11 tracks, swaying into a rippling jazz riff for example with Perfect Guy At The Wrong Time. Indeed by the time we reach the cutely titled Pretty Young Girl At The Gay Bar we’ve waltzed in an almost classical way, we’ve wandered into true ballad territory and experienced delicately picked folk.
Marc really knows how to play his Cocobolo uke, there are some really nifty licks on this album, and he is clearly a talented song writer brimming with diversity. This album proves once again that great art so often stems from adversity. Here’s to a great Summer in 2018!