Given the relatively convenient accessibility to recording equipment in this modern day and age, it’s no surprise that we’ve seen a continuously rising spike in alternative singer-songwriters within the music industry throughout the past several years. Whilst a large portion of such artists choose to document the monotonous banality of personal relationships and the dull trials that come accomplice with it, ultimately giving the singer/songwriter movement a negative stereotype, many artists belonging to this genre are choosing to rise against this fashion, creating content that explores social-economical problems within our society whilst adding an emotive touch in the process. One such artist is Sean Mcgowan; a rising artist who is clearly destined for the bigger endeavours that shall arise following the release of his debut full length Son Of The Smith.
Whilst a large portion of acoustic singer songwriters choose to market themselves in a manner that’s universally approachable and familiar to what consumers are expected to, often at the expense of individual traits and character, Sean McGowan wears his ideology, outlook on life and broad musical traits on his sleeve. This all becomes evident immediately within the opening intro track ‘Mind The Doors’ where McGowan briefly touches upon fruitlessly seeking escapism though music in a fashion that borders upon grime tinted frustrated spoken word. Son Of The Smith is an album that’s fully animated by Sean’s vibrant personality, tongue in cheek exploration of the struggles of living young within our society and his varied vocal delivery. Whilst some may annotate his character as laddish in nature, it feels the correct term to describe Sean would be as a lovable rogue troubadour, someone has experienced the unforgiving nature of society and is certainly willing to tell his tales in an genuine and uncensored manner.
The scope of this album is surprising, both in musical themes and lyrical concepts. ‘Cuppa Tea’ revels in a full band alternative folk sound with Sean delving into cockney dialects to emphasise the story being told throughout the track. Lead single ‘Porky Pies’ jovially calls out the bullshit aridity and fraudulence of advertised commercialism in a jeering and cheeky fashion that you can’t help but agree with and the rowdy ‘Off The Rails’ is the musical equivalent of grabbing your mate and kissing them on the cheek whilst you run down a street drinks in hand. Such tracks balance between folk orientated storytelling and contemporary strong structure, giving the album a dynamic edge whilst it authentically and enthusiastically conveys the messages and emotions intended.
In contrast, there’s moments of tenderness present, with the finger-picking of ‘Oh My Days’ seeing McGowan in a sensitive and exposed state, documenting the feeling losing hope in an unforgiving world. In relation, ‘Local Boy’ documents the unrealistic expectations placed upon all of this through a melancholic blues breeze. Each track within this record sees McGowan turn to face another subject whilst presenting different shades and hues of his evidently varied and moldable sound. Son Of The Smith isn’t a record that’s afraid to throw in different hints and shades of various genres into the mix for a fantastic complimentary effect, but at the same time an agreeable, engaging and dynamic blanketing musical theme is present.
With all of this in consideration, the record unfolds like a loose and flexible concept album, one that sees McGowan traveling through London and taking lyrical and musical inspirations from the sites, scenes and memories that greet him. It’s a journey of despondency, bittersweet retrospective and most crucially, one of maintaining youthful energy. The closer and grandiose opus ‘Mind The Gap’ collectively showcases such themes as one and brings conclusion to the saga, with the track stating that the callousness of urban living has made us a population cold and we must collectively acknowledge this to improve as a culture. It’s a fantastic climax to a record that is both agreeable, relatable and a perfect portrayal of maturing in a high pressured environment.
In all, Son Of The Smith is a record that’s abound to push Sean McGowan past his underground cult status and into the forefront of this musical genre and movement. Could we potentially be seeing the birth of the next Frank Turner, Beans On Toast or Billy Brag with this record? Both in musical style, prominence and stature? It’s a likely scenario.