Ian Daniel Kehoe's '80s Throwback Is a Little Too Accurate on 'Rock & Roll Illusion'

BY Oliver CrookPublished Oct 16, 2020

Ian Daniel Kehoe's music has always felt like a throwback. The multi-instrumentalist — known as a former member of Attack in Black and the drummer for Andy Shauf and the Weather Station — released his mournful pop album Secret Republic just last year. Now, he's back with the official release of Rock & Roll Illusion — an album he dropped on Bandcamp as part of a trio of releases in August.

The other two Bandcamp records are completely different: Disco Body Buzz is, yep, disco, while Charging the Stone has an alt-country feel. Rock & Roll Illusion, on the other hand, feels like a mellowed out Eddie Money album.

Everything about it is '80s arena synth-rock. From the cover art's aviators and tussled hair to the distorted, airy guitars, it's an ode that borders on mimicry. This is not a comment on the quality of the music — if the record had come out in 1983, like it should have, it would have rivalled Bob Seger and John Mellancamp. Rather, it's an acknowledgement that Kehoe hasn't attempted to mess with the form at all.

Tracks such as "Bye Bye Innocence" and "Deja Vu" come complete with the cheesy synths and stuttering guitars that encapsulate the era. Kehoe has that soft affectation which brings back memories of "Summer of '69," but without the heart-tugging emotion.

Therein lies the problem with this record: Kehoe is chasing an illusion, a ghost of a bygone era that can't be recreated — even by those who were there.

All of this gives a strange sense of knowing the songs on first listen, making it feel tiresome over eight songs. Unless you're pining for your glory days or a die-hard Kehoe fan, there isn't an awful lot here you haven't heard before.
(Tin Angel)

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