Picture This: Parked Car Conversations – Solid pop songs with a saccharine heartbeat

Tired lovelorn paeans dominate this album, while upbeat anthems are where the band’s strengths truly lie

Parked Car Conversations
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Artist: Picture This
Genre: Pop
Label: Sony

They have spent most of their career being dismissed by musos, but it doesn’t seem to have halted the progress of Picture This. The Athy four-piece have cruised the mainstream with a loyal fan base at their back, even signing to Joe Jonas’s Let’s Get It label for their last album, Life in Colour – a release accompanied by a mid-pandemic, high-profile appearance on James Corden’s former US talkshow. Three years on, Stateside fame and glory remain out of their reach, while their connection with Jonas appears to have been quietly severed.

Their fourth album may not be the record to clinch it, either, but these are solid pop songs with a saccharine heartbeat. When they work, as on the 1980s-tinged Act of Innocence, the uplifting Call It Love or the ubercatchy synth-laced Gorgeous, they’re great. When they don’t, and frontman Ryan Hennessy’s introspection overpowers his writing, they blend into a soggy mishmash of Ed Sheeran cast-offs, as heard on Oh My Love and the mopey Best Thing.

Hennessy’s tendency to mine overwrought love stories can make for clunky songs and cliched lyrics, such as On Your Side’s “If we had 200 lives, I’d love you 200 times”, while the use of a backing choir on the glossy, 1975-esque Get on My Love and the tepid The One You Call has been done to death and only makes Picture This look as if they’re fresh out of ideas.

One of the best and most moving songs here is Song to Myself, addressed to the “sad little kid” that Hennessy once was, urging him, “If you need some help, just f**king reach out / If you dive into your head, make sure you don’t drown,” and offering a truthful portrait of himself and his tendency to draw comparisons (“I know it’s bad for my mental health”). It also demonstrates that Hennessy is capable of more than the tired lovelorn paeans that dominate this overlong album – and that the upbeat, radio-friendly anthems, as comparatively frivolous as they may be, are arguably where his band’s strengths truly lie.

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy is a freelance journalist and broadcaster. She writes about music and the arts for The Irish Times