MusicReview

NewDad: Madra – Galway shoegaze revivalists are soft as silk yet have the crunch of a bear trap

Their cross-generational appeal is as broad as it is long, and within that demographic lies potential success

Madra
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Artist: NewDad
Genre: Post-punk/pop
Label: Fair Youth/Atlantic

What a wonderful time for Irish music: January hasn’t yet drawn its last breath and already there are three albums that could very well end up on best-of-2024 lists. The first two are Sprints’ Letter to Self and Conchur White’s Swirling Violets; the third is Madra, the highly anticipated debut album from the Galway band NewDad, whose home city has had an impact on their music in ways one might never have imagined – their drummer, Fiachra Parslow, has said that “barefooted, hurdy-gurdy-playing buskers” have been one subtle influence.

You get hints of that slightly skewed sonic sedition throughout Madra, which although a long time coming – the band have been together since 2018, and in 2020 they released five singles and recorded a live session for BBC Radio 6 Music – arrives with songs that achieve the considerable double whammy of being as soft as silk yet as crunchy as a bear trap.

Soft yet crunchy, did we say? We are, of course, hinting at the music’s shoegaze-like approaches, for while there is much to enjoy here, there’s no getting away from it: anyone who grew up listening to and being enthralled by the likes of Ride, Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, Curve, Swervedriver and Mazzy Star will find NewDad a familiar dead cert. In other words, the cross-generational appeal is as broad as it is long, and within that demographic lies potentially significant success.

What makes a difference, however, isn’t just age. Not only is there a lightness of touch about Madra, with songs such as Dream of Me, Where I Go, Nosebleed, Change My Mind and In My Head sung by Julie Dawson as if she is deep under the warmest duvet known to humankind; there are also her lyrics, which snag and scratch at regular intervals. “When was the last time you left this place? You’re in awful state, and I can’t stand sight of your face,” she sings ever so tenderly on In My Head while sticking in the knife and twisting the blade.

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There are similar adverse associations in Angel (“You’re kind, but I’m not. It seems that I forgot how to care”) and Nightmares (“I wish you were everything I hate in the world, not the best person in it”), while a delicate if brittle mood underscores the whole shebang, pretty much. Such in-depth and authentic self-exploration means that, while Dawson’s scratching-an-itch narratives match the under-ether soundscapes, they very often drag her away from the threatening heat of the fire.

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in popular culture