Sunday 21 January 2018

Review - Rock: PictureHouse, Button Factory, Dublin

Dave Browne - a chipper fellow.
Dave Browne - a chipper fellow.
Ed Power

Ed Power

The no-man's land between pop and rock is to be approached with caution.

Stray in the wrong direction and you may end up with sorry hodgepodge acts such as The Script and Maroon 5 which have been harassing audiences for the past half decade: a flimflam of grooves and gushiness that doesn't know whether it is trying to draw you into the mosh-pit or coax you into bed. As with many musical hybrids, it ends up neither one nor the other.

This is a lesson that could surely apply to PictureHouse, a shiny-pated sextet who have, through a 20-year career, tried to persuade the world that wispy melodies and crunching guitars can exist in harmony. For their troubles they have become a kind of musical punching bag – one of those Irish bands that, it can sometimes feel, exist simply to be looked down upon by self-appointed tastemakers. Best thought of as the group you call when Aslan aren't available for your corporate shindig, the Dubliners are vituperatively disliked by the snootier stripe of critic, their unspeakable crime a determination to rise above pub rock origins via soaringly persuasive hooks and classic songwriting values.

However, PictureHouse seem to be enjoying the final chuckle, having recently signed to esteemed UK label Cherry Red. Were we wrong to scoff all along? Or has Cherry Red mistaken solid writing for something more sublime?

Though the six-piece cannot be faulted for effort or determination, in concert they don't quite surmount your prejudices. Maybe it's latent snobbery on the listener's part, but the endless sunniness has an almost numbing effect: individually the tunes are exceedingly competent yet, after a while, blend into a blobby mass of Beatles boisterousness, Eagles harmonies and affirmative sentimentalising reminiscent of Westlife and Boyzone at full, bestubbled balladeer pitch.

You almost blame yourself for not liking them more. Frontman Dave Browne  is a chipper fellow, at pains not to come across as bitter about the (relative) lack of appreciation (some of his peers could learn a thing or two from his graciousness). And the material certainly goes down easy. 'Pornstar' is cloud-scraping and effusive, 'Sunburst' an adroit drive-time rocker and showcase for Browne's burnished falsetto. The problem is that melody without melancholy ultimately makes for a thin gruel.

PictureHouse write wonderfully joyous choruses and new album Evolution looks set to substantially widen their following. But how they could do with a little sadness in their songs.

Irish Independent

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