Paul Tiernan's first album since the brilliant God Knows I Love A Happy Ending doesn't disappoint, and is a rich tapestry of restrained music and deep introspection.
This review published - Wednesday 15/09/2004
by Lorcan Mac Muiris
It's been a while coming, but Belle was worth the wait. I've already gone on record as saying the title track is one of my favourite songs of all time, but the rest of the album is packed with mini-classics wrought from substantial lyrics too, from the tender and sentimental Thin Blood to the aphoristic, pragmatic Lemon.
Belle is soaked with ambience and is an album full of quiet, gentle understatement, though it doesn't want for profundity in spite of that. Instantly memorable guitar lines; full, dark, woody sounds and atmospheric arrangements shine through from the clear, well-balanced recording to paint a picture of a mind more accustomed to looking inwards than outwards - many of the songs concern memories of times past - but it would be a mistake to assume there is no commentary on the human condition here, or to assume that it's all "doom and gloom". Mr Smile, for instance; the emotional, lyrical, harmonic, melodic and timbral low-point of the album, flicks itself out of its lonely daze with a gallic thump or two (Tiernan is based in France and has absorbed a modicum of French flair, it would seem) and gives itself a whole new perspective. Pretend sounds like it could fit in perfectly to the soundtrack of one of those bittersweet "romcoms" that are so bafflingly popular of late. Consistent and true to iitself it may be, but Belle still has a contradiction or two up its sleeve.
All in All this is not an album that will have you up dancing around the room, but wonderful for the equally important practice of sitting quietly and listening. When you do, you will be rewarded: there is a lot to hear here. The quote at the top of this article comes from Belle but can broadly encompass the rest of the songs on the eponymous album too. You may not have to like it, but you take the good with the bad. When you're Paul Tiernan, you write great songs about them both.
PAUL TIERNAN Belle Right Stuff Records *** (Irish Times)
He's plied a trade for a decade now, gradually unpicking his identity from his previous incarnation as Flex and The Fastweather. Paul Tiernan's a singer-songwriter who's suffered from a surplus of on-stage bravado and a tendency towards effete fragility in the recording studio.
His French base proves musically fortuitous: shades of accordion cast subtle shadows across the title track; an organ lends a louche introduction to Pretend, and Tiernan's voice is less mannered than before, inhabiting its own skin comfortably, at last. Belle bursts forth with childhood memories of cricket bats and grand observations on life's intermittent bursts of activity.
Tiernan is gradually stripping the floorboards of his life back to the bare wood: a welcome postcard, not so much from the edge, as from the past.