VANDALS IN EDEN by Daniel Thomas.
CD review by Liam Oragh
When I first played Daniel Thomas’ debut album ‘Vandals in Eden’ during the recent short-lived spell of good weather I kept thinking that although this was music that was probably written during the rain, I found it to be the perfect collection of tunes to unwind to on a sunny Summer’s day.
Brimful of emotion, excellent lyrics and intelligent folk and acoustic-driven rock tunes it certainly brought a satisfied smile to my sun-starved face.
But I had a strong feeling I was going to enjoy the music even before I put it on. There was something about the starkness and the bleakness of the album’s artwork that appealed to me: Its cover photo of a desolate woodland scene in the aftermath of a fire and the excellent title – immediately provoking me into looking forward to a musical exploration of this theme of man destroying paradise. But like all good albums – it didn’t turn out to be what I expected.
There are shades of David Gray to the album’s catchy and reflective opener ‘Darlin’ Tonight’. Acoustic guitar driven, this is a song to sway to and to daydream to.
This leads into the sweet and wistful ‘Your Lifeline’ with its beautiful instrumentation and lines like: “Jesus – I’m lost for words most of the day” – a sentiment belied by the consistent ease and fluency of Daniel’s lyric writing.
The horns at the beginning of the mellow third track ‘Blind Piper’ seems to represent the piper of the title. This song shows what a strong vocalist Daniel is, a singer with a real feel for his material. Like ‘Your Lifeline’ this feels like a song about a personal relationship that’s been a real source of strength. Closing with the words: “Just don’t want to wake up out of this lovely dream.” And neither will the listeners.
It’s worth saying at this point that this is an album that seems to get better as it goes along – a sign of true quality and definitely more enjoyable than one that starts well only to peter out.
The title track ‘Vandals in Eden’ with its beguiling vocals and lyrics and a Tom Petty American vibe brought the realisation that although the album has a dark presentation, that its true colour is lighter and about conjuring up brighter moods and hues, like the sun coming out after a bout of bad weather – again appropriate for the year we’ve had.
He wears his Bob Dylan influences on his sleeve for the next two tracks: ‘Miracle like You’ is almost reminiscent of ‘It ain’t me Babe’ with good lyrics again –“as of late I’ve learnt to hate all the bitter pills we’re swallowing, is there nothing else we can consume?”
And ‘Bright Light’ kicks off with some lovely harmonica playing and then backed with beautiful and atmospheric harmonies from the African Gospel Choir Dublin.
Chateau Wood turned out to be my favourite track, a ballad that builds in waves with great arrangements, it’s almost Springsteen-like with its style and conviction and phrasing. I definitely wouldn’t be surprised to find a few Boss CDs in Daniel’s collection.
There’s a forlornness about the next track ‘The Wreck’ with its sea metaphors and backed by complementing twin guitar tracks which are hypnotic in their technique. REM pops into my mind as far as the sound is concerned, but Daniel would be more empathic and revealing lyrically than Stipe.
‘When the Devil had a hold on me’ shows a funkier soulful side to the song-writing and complements the title track as the two songs that hold the Album’s mood and tone together. The lightness of the funky guitars is balanced nicely by the rain references and the devil theme.
‘Ghosts of Our Estate’ is a real zeitgeist of a tune that deserves airplay and attention. Mournful lyrics that conjure up the ghost estates that have been left strewn around Ireland in the aftermath of the housing crash; you can almost picture yourself wandering among the lonely empty houses.
Daniel continues to paint vivid pictures with this song – and that is probably his strongest attribute – pictures that you can see, feel and savour: “This is where we grew up – as little kids we played at being soldiers, we don’t know any better, we’re fighting in these spectral playgrounds in the night.”
Back on the harmonica for the closing track, ‘You might have said’. Again littered with great lines and lyrics as though they come easy to him (“and you know your machine-gun laugh won’t protect you everywhere”) this up-tempo tracks feels like it was put there at the end to lift our spirits after the haunting of the ghosts and to send us home happy.
Overall this was a very satisfying journey, especially if you enjoy music that, instead of punching you in the face, reveals itself with more subtlety; and far from being an album of darkness, this is a bright album about love, hope and especially salvation. And if there was any vandalism done in Eden, then this is an album that
will entice us back to clean up the mess – gladly.
Category: CD Reviews