Earnestness is still en vogue; character-driven lyrics are cutting edge; and the '80s never ended.
That's the vibe you're left with listening to NEVAHLAND, the debut solo LP by Liam Corcoran of Two Hours Traffic. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the throwback quality that the Charlottetown indie rocker instils NEVAHLAND with.
Jaded listeners will try their damnedest to deny its charms, but they'll fail dismally. "About Time," features lyrics so heartfelt, delivered in an almost pleading delivery, that that it's tempting to dismiss it as an eye-roller, but then its chorus kicks in with its luscious "oohs" and "ay-yi-yi-ahs," and you won't be able to resist singing along. That's because Corcoran knows his way around a hook nearly as well as one of his obviously key influences: Bruce Springsteen. He seems especially keen to take a few cues from The Boss's anthemic, studio-slick 2002 release The Rising on NEVAHLAND, and he shares Springsteen's penchant for writing downtrodden lyrical protagonists, from William and his lady friend on the thunderously drummed "Tick Tock" to Angie coming down from figurative and chemical highs on the acoustic guitar- and piano-driven "Party's Over."
That's not to say Corcoran's Springsteen-y and Mellencamp-y tendencies are overwrought; they're just apparent, and effective, even though his own distinctive strengths as a songwriter also shine. You'll revel in the latter on songs like "Never Ever," which has a robust pop instrumental that thrillingly kicks in after several spare, piano-driven bars.
Corcoran's strong on "Party's Over," as well; just when he starts to lean a little too heavily on the "aw shucks" trials of the song's characters, he takes an inventive lyrical turn: "When the view is not what I expected to see / the light bending through empty bottles / and this vision on the wall, it couldn't be me…"
Lyric lovers will fixate on the album's concept elements (a press release says the LP "follows three couples facing an impossible decision"), but you'll have more fun by just letting the hooks and choruses draw you in. Meanwhile, Two Hours Traffic diehards will be curious to see Corcoran's dynamic with NEVAHLAND's deep roster of guest stars (from Kinley Dowling of Hey Rosetta! to Brian Murphy of Alvvays). For my part, I was most impressed by how this rising star meshes pop elements of yesteryear seamlessly with his own unique songwriting strengths.
Regardless, this is a fun and beautifully crafted album that's bound to draw in a wide swath of fans, even though many of them will be turning to NEVAHLAND for various and unexpected reasons. (Independent)