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“Feeling that foot on your head, praying for sirens /All your breathing is violence they fed” -from “Cap in Hand”

(STAND in NY, photo by Carol Fonde)

The cover shows an empty runway with a nondescript crowd in silhouette, and one has to wonder, “Wait a minute, are we in a church or at a fashion show?” Immediately, we get the sense that, thematically speaking, the album takes it up with the commercialization of spirituality and/or the fashionable culture of surface appearances. The horizon, however, is empty and full of light and could potentially make way for some hope.

Well produced by Marc Swersky, “100,000 Ways to Harvest Hope” is a solid rock album and, if there is any space left in this  world of facile and arrogant consumption for some authentic effort and consistently good musicianship, then this ought be the album that Stand should be rewarded for.

Already 11th in the Irish charts within only two days of its release, “100,000 Ways” opens with Dowling’s boldly cynical and dark – yet catchy – “Love Will Never Creep In”, a dirge about the emptiness of love and sexual relations in contemporary culture, and segways into the single “The Living Kind”, a strong, upbeat tune by Walsh with a beautiful blend of vocals by Eurelle and Doyle. “She Is”, a dancey/anthemy tribute to strong women by Walsh/Doyle, has a chorus so addictive you might well be found twirling down the street as you’re humming it.

However, the album peaks at “No Regrets”, possibly the gem of the pack, with an unusual falsetto performance by Doyle who also pens the song (along with Walsh and Eurelle) and shows a soulful depth and a brilliant, albeit late-blooming talent for sophisticated songwriting. (In the past, Doyle was never much of a writer while he could certainly boast the greater rocknroll presence and raw charisma out of the four onstage.)

“Nature My Mother” is a typical Dowling tune, the talented drummer who has written many a song and lyric for the band; “typical” in that it factors Dowling’s concern with the political, socio-economic and environmental flops of our aching society. It’s a powerful tune, as is the mellower yet evocative “Cap In Hand”, which he also pens. With beats that drone to the marching of a soldier headed to his demise, the latter is a nostalgic tune with a particularly moving chorus, and its lyrics are the best in the album. The same cannot be said of “Generation Me”, which is purposefully trite and poppy as it self-awarely points out the bullshit, surface nothingness of the Facebook age. Ironic and self-referential as it might be, it’s not a song I would particularly favor; that said, it might just end up being the tune that will bring the crowd to its feet at a live show, and Dowling, who is witty in that respect, might know that all to well.

“Olivia”, a concerted effort by Doyle and the ever prolific Walsh, would be a good runner up for single number two, in my book; open and breezy, it is a hopeful testimony to the gift that are children in a largely rotten society; “the world is better with you in it”, it muses, and who could possibly disagree with that simple truth?

“Full Circle”, an obscure and odd song which I have yet to process (and this is not necessarily a bad thing as is it often these kinds of songs that ultimately sneak up on you and stick to your skin like bloodsuckers), precedes the lovely “Stuck in my Shoes”, a perfect closer to the album. Doyle curses the world in subtle, Vedderesque angst and makes a powerful statement about the nature of painful, personal stasis while Eurelle, in his best harmonizing finesse and range, weaves in and out of the chorus making this my second favorite pick of the album.

So exactly how does Stand harvest hope in 100,000 ways? Not only by echoing one of Neil Young’s seminal masterpieces within a rather elaborate (and possibly too long) title, but by giving it yet another brilliant try with the same enthusiasm that defined their first excellent effort of many, “Correspondent”, in 1999.

Eleven years of persistent and better than good results should not go by unnoticed. But, will the so-called Generation Me do them justice? We can only hope so and with the same fervor that these four Irish musicians have harvested for over a decade.

(Stand will take the stage in NYC at the Bowery Ballroom on March 20th: )


One Comment

  1. Well said.

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