A great live band, but with limited audience potential beyond a hardened few.
Mike Diver 2010
One of LaFaro’s achievements to date well illustrates the divide between what receives critical acclaim in Northern Ireland and what crosses over to sizeable audiences on the other side of the Irish Sea. The Belfast-based quartet’s thuggish Tuppenny Nudger beat efforts from the likes of Snow Patrol and Ash to claim the title of Best Northern Irish Song of the Past Five Years in an Alternative Ulster survey of 2008. But until its inclusion here, these ears had never experienced it – and believe me, my lugholes are always lusting after acts akin to the raucous likes of The Jesus Lizard and Mclusky.
LaFaro are far from the first Northern Irish rockers to fail to embrace wider UK exposure – although that record will hopefully be changed by this one, obviously. Jetplane Landing never quite took off despite positive album reviews from more on-it blogs and magazines, and celebrated post-rockers And So I Watch You From Afar have so far failed to turn great press into something more substantial. So what hope do LaFaro have of breaking something of a hex that’s beset Northern Irish rock acts of a harder-than-Snow Patrol slant for several years?
Truth be told, they’ve every chance of acquiring and maintaining a cult following from Perthshire to Portsmouth – but perspective needs to be maintained. Future of the Left, essentially Mclusky mk II, have fantastically loyal fans, but said audience is smaller than a band of their excellent critical standing should hope for. That they recently parted company with their record label is a telltale indication that enviable prowess in the live arena does not amount to acceptable album sales. LaFaro will fill sweat-pits with ease, but does anything bigger beckon, honestly?
Probably not. But this eponymous effort is evidently unconcerned with courting the mainstream, such is its aggressive streak best articulated in vocalist Johnny Black’s confrontational snarl of loquacious loathing. Throughout it convulses with an accomplished confidence attained through tireless touring, delivering blistering riffs that bounce about the skull like the best of the post-grunge punk fraternity: from the aforementioned through to the driving intensity of Hot Snakes and the youthful abandonment of early Idlewild.
But a game-changer it’s certainly not, and if LaFaro aren’t happy with their present lot – a great live band, but with limited audience potential beyond a few hundred kids going ballistic – they’re unlikely to traverse new ground anytime soon.