A Dark Litany: Review of Villagers’ Earthly Pleasure.

February 16, 2013 11:15 am

O'Brien looking... right.It can be a little tricky to define music in terms of epochs. Sub-genres wax and wane, bands bubble up and simmer down. With some, though, it is the space between releases that structure an era. The three years between Villagers’ Becoming a Jackal and new LP Awayland were the Villagerless years. They left me wantingOnly spinning the sensational début for the nth time satiated the constant feeling of musical hunger.

So it is fitting for the record that feeds the famine be of a darker, more human, hue. Humming along to ‘Home’ has been replaced by wan rumination over ‘The Waves’. It is a long play that delivers more in thought than deed. Indeed, the most opaque of tracks, ‘Earthly Pleasure’, drags one over the darker depths of Conor O’Brien’s self-sketched abyss.

We find ourselves within four minutes of humanism and contemplation on the ‘cavern of the soul’; on purity and hedonism; on ‘misery and suffering and pain’. We are spun in a web of this tantalising tale, all senses pounded by the drama of it.

The track begins unsure of itself, bundling towards the first steps of vocals, each instrument jostling with the next to gain ascendency. This bubbling disorder gives rise to a bigger, stronger, more resolute sound once Conor surges to the foreground, paralleling the development of our heroic protagonist. The mature lyricism – improved on the barren Villagerless sands, no doubt – bounces along with the frenetic, inconstant musicianship.

Metamorphosing from ‘shrapnel on the ground’ to the ‘another body, a heavy sort of suit’, He walks the line from whispered doubt to a thunderous run of consciousness. Purity and the ordinary are replaced by Kafkaesque thoughts of absurdity and Beelzebubic nefarious seduction, blurring the line between ‘sickness’ and ‘the cure’. A litany of dark fantasy; belief in the misbelief.

We are hurled headlong towards closing credits, the curtain call, that concludes: ‘Now I truly understand / that I don’t understand a thing / so let this earthly pleasure sing’. Such finality in the infinite defines this track as an epic within a constructed album of true beauty. Villagers may have moved from their safe hamlet of acoustic folk, but their urban energy is enough to blow the halcyon days of Jackal-hood into mere memory.

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