There's lots to like and admire here
Michael Quinn 2008-10-10
Bless him. All dressed up in Olympic fencing garb, young, fresh-faced, mop-topped Eugene McGuinness has been doing a lot of growing up recently, and don't we know it. His eponymous debut runs the formative gamut of angsty, carefree, happy-sad, hormone-fuelled, late-teens emotions with a solipsistic disregard for any feelings but his own (oh, and a girl called Wendy, God and the Moscow State Circus). And quite right, too.
The dozen tracks here build on last year's enthusiastically received eight-track offering, The Early Learnings Of, providing more of the same blissfully self-referential pop concoctions delivered with a voice that veers between brittle vulnerability to bolshie bravado with the occasional saccharine sugariness that threatens to take the enamel off your teeth.
Album opener Rings Around Rosa gets things of to a distinctive start – imagine Blur playing skiffle or that that nice Nick Heyward hadn’t been so nice after all. Fonz is a thumping post-punk anthem, Those Old Black and White Movies Were True a gooey experiment in nostalgia borne along on an Art Garfunkel falsetto, and lead single Moscow State Circus the kind of chirpy musical calling card we’ve come to expect of Neil Hannon's Divine Comedy.
Where Atlas shamelessly apes Damon Albarn again, Nightshift is a stroppy, foot-stamping, sweary-mouthed miniature, Not So Academic is tongue-in-cheek busking shot through with a decidedly acidic bed-sit ethic, and Knock Down Ginger delivers a pre-emptive strike against the build-'em-up-to-knock-'em-down tabloids that sounds like the Beach Boys gone slightly sour.
There's lots to like and admire here, and lots that will undoubtedly accelerate McGuinness's upward trajectory. Somebody should book him onto as many Freshers' Balls as possible – he'll go down an absolute storm in studentland, the material pop literate enough to flatter its audience, but I suspect it's all a touch fey and calculated to find its way into the charts. I might be wrong. Prove me wrong, please.