Speaking in native tongues has (thankfully) become artistically de rigueur again. Way back in 2005 A.D. Arctic Monkeys’s Yorkshire Dales wail seemingly banished the then omnipresent trans-Atlantic burr so redolent of the estuary troubadours only for them (and it) to return. In their depressing droves.
But, hark, in 2020 Dublin-based quintet (brothers Daniel and Kilian O’Kelly, Emma Hanlon, Peadar Kearney and Gary Wickham) Silverbacks follow on from fellow Irish brougers The Murder Capital and Fontaines D.C. by bringing their version of the Emerald Isle street-beat and blarney-stone cold realism to town. Authenticity always triumphs artificiality as articulacy trounces ersatz reality.
However, for this listener, where the Fontaines’ enunciated lyrics are a bit too Eire Tourist Boardy (to quote Alan Partridge ‘Dare’s more to Oiland dan dis’), Silverbacks are more a subtle tickle than slap, less abrasive more persuasive, especially in the dressing-down of the dressing-gowned Son of God in ‘Drink it down’; a perennial warning of false prophets and mealy mouthed full of its.
Hotly tipped, highly rated and wittily lipped with lyrics both blunt and serrated, on debut album ‘Fad’ (which is anything but bandwagonesque) Silverbacks draw from and cleverly redeploy a tense past to create a new present tension. Packing in thirteen tight songs in 35 minutes it’s an almost Ramonesian feat in its taut-elasticity and paucity of flab.
The obvious sonic reference points are the lit-witticisms of Pavement (‘Fad 95’ with the wonderfully oblique/opaque observation of ‘’politicians in denim … everybody wants one’ Quite.) and the metropolitan sprechgesang of Parquet Courts (‘Pink Tide’). There’s also less obvious inspiration taken from Sonic Youth’s terror-strewn noise-poise (‘Just in the band’), The Cribs’s languished-anguish on ‘Grinning at the lid’), the Robert Smith meets Afro-fella Kuti on ‘Muted Gold’ with all roads ultimately leading to The Fall. Mark E. Smith’s evergreen forever changing beat-combo a clear echo especially on the glam- rockabilious ‘Last Orders’.
Opener ‘Dunkirk’ uses a trip to see the Christopher Nolan ‘Our boys took one helluva beating’ beach-epic as the nexus to tell the story of ‘every punk trick in the book’ allied to a dystopic nightmarish notion of the slaughter-site becoming a housing and retail estate. Is it a wry wink to their own cultural vulturism and/or a wary nod to the lazy-plagiarists that stalk the alt-t-shirt section in Top Man whilst bookmarking Rightmove Hauts-de-France? You decide.
The scabrous ‘Drink it down’ is a political sideswipe at the blame-averting, head-burying, finger-pointing of generational prejudicial complicity. Racism isn’t a modern construct and the persecuted can easily become the persecutor, the prey becomes the poacher. Our forefathers’ search for roots can easily mutate into barbarous distaste for whomever follows behind: ‘a hatred for something that burns to the core’. Makes you think, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it?
‘Fad’ is a scintillating gauntlet of an album of which many bands would do well to even attempt to pick up.