Entertainment Music

Tuesday 21 November 2017

A lament to the almighty sins of the Tiger years

John Meagher

John Meagher

Damien Dempsey

Almighty Love

(Sony Music)

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Social commentary has long characterised the songs of Damien Dempsey.

The man from Donaghmede, north Dublin, routinely railed against the injustices of the Celtic Tiger -- although he must have felt at the time that his words were falling on deaf ears.

Now, in his first album of new studio material since the crash, he once more casts a cold eye on contemporary Ireland -- and his observations are as keen as ever, even when pointing out the glaringly obvious, like society's weaker members having to pay for the sins of the wealthy.

The scabrous Moneyman is especially pertinent in a week when AIB paid €1bn of taxpayers' money to bondholders.

Dempsey sings about the rank unfairness of a scenario where fat cats seemingly emerge from the wreckage of the economy unscathed, while the rest of us must carry the burden.

And although his sentiments have been expressed a thousand times, it says something about his skill as a songwriter that his impassioned words are still worth hearing. In years to come, when the pain isn't (hopefully) as raw, it's a song that will capture the mood of Ireland in the early years of the century's second decade.

Born Without Hate looks at the futility of war, as one contingent of predominantly working class men are pitted against another from roughly the same socio-economic demographic.

Sure, it's a subject that has exercised a legion of songwriters before, but what makes it worthwhile is Dempsey's willingness to share the spotlight with the forceful British poet Kate Tempest who spits out her words like machine gun fire.

John Reynolds -- Dempsey's long-term producer -- certainly earns his keep on this song, its expansive, inventive sound is in marked contrast to the Dubliner's usual yen for spare acoustic accompaniment.

Elsewhere, Dempsey is on less rewarding ground as a handful of ballads fail to engage as well as they might. Yet, there's beauty in his harsh, Luke Kelly-vocals: Canadian Geese looks at the dreams of a poverty-stricken, marginalised urban dweller while the rousing Fire in the Glen features backing vocals from Sinead O'Connor.

KEY TRACKS Born Without Hate; Canadian Geese

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