Monday 23 July 2018

Review: The Coronas' Trust The Wire album delve deep inside the soul of Danny O'Reilly

Ahead of sold-out Irish shows, The Coronas have released a set of songs from deep inside the soul of Danny O'Reilly

Danny O'Reilly writes introspective and hugely popular songs
Danny O'Reilly writes introspective and hugely popular songs
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

I don't know whether Danny O'Reilly listens to Dave Bowie much (I imagine he does but not especially) but listening to The Coronas' new EP Reprise and their most recent album Trust The Wire put me in mind of something Mr Bowie said once about songs. That they don't have to be about going out on Saturday night "and having a good drink-up and driving home and crashing cars. A lot of what I've done is about alienation... about where you fit in society".

You could say pretty much the same about Danny O'Reilly and the introspective, and hugely popular, songs he writes and indeed the way he sings them. In certain moments, Danny O'Reilly - unlike his mother Mary Black - appears capable of singing in the key of dread. The key of indie alienation, disquiet, melancholy, mortality, regret, guilt, with glimpses of joy and happiness. All wrapped up in piano-and-guitar melodies that owe more to the Edge or Radiohead than they do to Coldplay, or indeed David Bowie.

You wonder what goes on inside Danny's head. Is it a comfortable place to be? It probably doesn't matter. All that matters is that he and his band (Graham Knox, Dave McPhillips and Conor Egan) have such a keen ear for melody (and arrangement) that it is often uplifting to hear these songs, despite the lyrics that reveal a darkness visible (or maybe just an emotional honesty that the rest of us could do well to follow) about Danny O'Reilly. "Is there a wrong time to be alive?" and "When will I know how that feels?" are two lines that stick in my head from listening to The Coronas' often sublime Trust The Wire album. Then there's song titles like Look At All The Lovers, We Couldn't Fake It, Like It Used to Be and A Bit Withdrawn.

On the latter, Danny sings: "And I'm not quite as brave as I seem. I'm just tired to talk, so I'm not alone I'm just a bit withdrawn. I'm just not alone"; and then, "And once again I'll just leave instead. You know that I'm certain 'cause I'm virtually upset. So I faked a smile, but just in time. At worst I'm not virtuous to anyone. And at best I'm fine. The flame's gone, the flame's gone inside now".

"It just kind of came out of me," Danny told me last year of A Bit Withdrawn, "and I was feeling a bit... I was sitting with a friend of mine and you could sense that she was a bit withdrawn. I'd ask her a question and she was withdrawn, a bit antsy, not really listening to my answer. I'd say to her, 'I do that all the time, wanting to be more present'." He added: "I'd be at dinner with my Mam and Dad, because I'm so comfortable around my family. I sort of just switch off. I might chill and take up my phone, and they'd be giving out to me, saying, 'Talk to us, be present, put down the phone'. So it's all that sort of stuff. It's finding out stuff about yourself - and it's OK."

What did he find out about himself? "That it's OK to feel a bit unsociable sometimes."

Playing 'Live at The Marquee' in Cork on July 13-14, the 3Arena in Dublin on July 21, and King John's Castle in Limerick on August 25, The Coronas have a new five-track EP, Reprise, which features Is There Still Time? and Not Sure How To Lie, two tracks that are more of the revelatory self-analysis that we have come to expect - cherish even - from the Dublin quartet. On Is There Still Time? Danny gives Bon Iver a run for his money with heart-shredding lines like: "I should have known it was just too good to last and, to even things out it had to crash." And then, like a mantra, "Leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me alone!"

"It's what I deserve," Danny also sings without specifying what it is he deserved. There is also mention of if he knew then what he knows now that Danny would have to change a few things. I was sitting on a bus last summer, stuck in Rathmines, when I looked down and there was Danny randomly, looking up, stuck in traffic; he waved up and drove on.

Rave on, Danny O'Reilly.

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