Soda Blonde – Small Talk: Artful, accessible and cinematic

Dublin group has produced a record of quality musicianship, clearheaded lyrics and a signature voice

Small Talk
    
Artist: Soda Blonde
Genre: Alternative
Label: Velveteen Records

About two years ago, Dublin five-piece band Little Green Cars drove into the breaker’s yard and scrapped itself. The decision seemed sudden, as the band was making serious inroads to increasing their following outside Ireland. With one of the original co-founders, Steve Appleby, no longer in the fold, the reasons the remaining four members gave for the change of name seemed untypically vague, but reading between the lines it was clear the issues surrounding the modifications were insurmountable. The new name and creative approaches generated different music but not so much that it could erase established tangible gifts like quality musicianship, clearheaded lyrics and a signature voice. If anything, Soda Blonde proved to be more of a fully formed proposition than their previous incarnation, the rupturing and bonding process from one to the other providing a steeliness that was heretofore lacking or obscured by a particular kind of playfulness.

So it proves with Small Talk, a record so articulate and expressive that its title has to be a wry in-joke. Several of the songs we are already familiar with (In the Heat of the Night, Terrible Hands, Swimming Through the Night, Love me World) present narratives that positioned lyricist/singer Faye O’Rourke in a place of emotional vulnerability. In the album media notes, she talks of “the thrill of the fight”, of depicting bleak parallels between her experiences and those of a close friend and of using relationships as a diversion from the truth (“that I was unhappy and lost”). Tracks such as Try, I Still Have Feelings for You, Champion of my Time and the title song broach different but no less important topics: fractured associations, self-identity, negative responses as a means to stunt personal growth, alcohol and drug abuse and (as O’Rourke says) “the ability to self-destruct, on my own terms”.

In other words, there’s some serious stuff going on here, but to the credit of all concerned the music isn’t a sniper and the listener isn’t a target but rather a shoulder to lean on. The sound of people coming to terms with themselves and their lives isn’t a fresh concept, but Soda Blonde add to the experience with songs that are artful, accessible and cinematic. As fastidious and thorough in their music as they are in their videos (the more recent of which tell a much deeper story, perhaps, about the band’s creative ambitions), Soda Blonde also enrich listener appreciation with a self-awareness that comes from dealing with if, not eliminating, the bad stuff. Looks like it’s good to talk, after all.

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea

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