Young Eugene McGuinness has certainly learned a few things over the recent years. His previous LP’s, despite having a few shining moments, were a bit of a disappointment: rather half-baked, limp affairs from a talented kid yet to find his sound. But that was the old Eugene. New Eugene slicks his hair back and wears mod revival clothes in an unapologetic and arrogant fashion. He chills with Miles Kane and writes sultry, well-written tunes that ooze a Franz Ferdinand-esque ‘Music To Make Girls Dance’ cool. Overall, he pretty much puts his ex-Rascals and Last Shadow Puppets contemporary to shame.
Seemingly now exuding confidence, McGuinness sings of coke in cubicles, failing to keep it in his trousers and other follies of young, glamorous youth; a soundtrack to a new found rock n roll exuberance that by no means came across on the previous records. With musical styles varying from synth-pop and disco to sixties spy movie riffery, Eugene McGuiness has truly found his voice here; lyrically clever, musically interesting and with an arrogant and irresistible swagger almost from start to finish, The Invitation to the Voyage feels a brilliantly contemporary homage to a romanticised sixties Carnaby Street: impeccable clothing, beautiful femme fatales and all with hair by Vidal Sassoon.
Most of the tracks have an overtly, and purposefully, danceable feel. In opener ‘Harliquinade’ McGuinness claims that it’s a “hoe down, a showdown, a shindig and a knees-up to” against Gary Numan style industrial synths interspersed with disco backing vocals. Combine this with a chorus that with the lyrical focus being “We’re going for the jugular” and you find an opening track that appears to lay down a new manifesto and set the scene for the rest of the record.
Moddish, sixties cool is found in spades on tracks such as ‘Lion’. The opening blues scale riff, handclaps and snare melt seamlessly from this minimalist beginning into a chunky, strutting track; the occasional keyboard flourishes and backing vocals adding extra depth to a particularly well written number that builds and builds until its abrupt end. Similarly insistent, danceable hipness is found on single ‘Shotgun’. “Every time I dance/ every time I dance with you/ I stagger out the club battered an bruised, battered and bruised” our protagonist sings; if Eugene is singing about dancing to his own track, then it’s easy to see why.
Some of the slower numbers, ‘Videogame’, for example, are a bit lacking in substance but the overall songcraft is excellent. McGuinness manages to squeeze an abundance of well thought out lyrics into very few bars by a mixture of repetition and staccato (see ‘Shotgun’, ‘Lion’ and ‘Sugarplum’) and meanwhile puts in some fine words to the comparatively insular, thoughtful songs: “I love you Joshua/ I know I don’t show it/ but I think you ought to know it”, he sings in the heartwarming ‘bromance’ tale that is ‘Joshua’.
Upon hearing his first album in 2008, I wasn’t sure there would be a second; the hallmarks of talent were certainly in place, but the record was inconsistent. The Invitation to the Voyage has turned this on its head; it is a relevant, refreshing pop record and one that may make many end of year journo lists. Soon to be pictured on nights out with Paul Weller and Bradley Wiggins, Eugene McGuinness seems to be on the cusp of greatness.
Released on 6th August 2012 by Domino Recording Company