The bond between Ireland and New York City has always been a strong one. Irish culture and personality was imprinted on the Big Apple during the industrial revolution. Then later in the 20th century, the tide turned as NYC became the musical mecca of the world.
Dublin quintent Silverbacks have been paying attention and are clearly devout to this history. Returning with their sophomore LP, Archive Material, they pick up where they left off on critically adored debut Fad.
Archive Material is a record imbued with the famous “cool” of late 60s and 70s New York. The Velvet Underground, Talking Heads and Television are all over this set. You can hear it in the rhythm of the band, while Lou Reed seemingly takes on an Irish brogue at times on tracks like Nothing to Write Home About and A Job Worth Something. The latter examining how many of us simply exist rather than live. This though has clearly been magnified by the past 18 months:
“Who had a job worth something? / When they’re just hanging on.”
Other influences clearly head range from the art-rock playfulness of David Byrne to the west coast alt. rock of Pavement. But that’s enough of the comparisons. Silverbacks are a band very much in their own right and with their own take on what it is to exist in the 21st century.
Singer Daniel O’Kelly’s vocals guide us through a gamut of experiences, sometimes playing it straight but more often through a cynical eye, like on They Were Never Our People, which has the idea of community at its heart:
“Let’s head to the joint where the locals don’t point / and the carpet smells of rain”
Like so many records born during the pandemic, Covid’s impact is keenly felt on Archive Material. Throughout, O’Kelly’s observations come drenched in the same surreal strain of gallows humour that many adopted to lighten their toughest moments.
Meanwhile, Central Tones is an empathetic character study of someone seemingly content to trade off former glories, but secretly deeply unhappy. And on Rolodex City, we hear a scathing assessment of folk who pretend to be something else, something false or self-righteous online often in stark contrast to the reality of everyday life.
Archive Material is, if not breaking any moulds, a sonically satisfying and impressive experience. The groovy bass lines and harmonies of Emma Hanlon along with the frenetic guitars of Kilian O’Kelly (Daniel’s brother) and Paedar Kearney add colourful textures to the grey scenes sung on each track. As with Travel Lodge Punk on debut Fad, there is midpoint ambience on Carshade; again providing an intermission of sorts on each record. The purpose of which simply highlights a band hinting at experimental tendencies which might bear more fruit further down the line.
In the meantime, enjoy a band embracing the past while discovering their own identity.