Reviews Zone

Kingdom Of Crows: Despondency (Self released) 21st November 2017


4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)




While listening to this lovely second album from Dublin band Kingdom Of Crows, it struck me that there’s plenty of stuff here for the music supervisors on movies and TV dramas/documentaries to grab for synch’ deals to add to soundtracks.

Which made me smile, when I read the press blurb that accompanied the promo of this album, which told me that track six, “Sculptor’s Run” has already been chosen for the soundtrack of “Killers Within” by Two Joker Films, which will be released next year.

This is a formidable line-up, fronted by singer and lyricist Lucy Earley, guitarist, keyboard player and songwriter Stephen Kelly, bassist Robert Stanley and drummer Ken McGrath. With contributions from Mick Earley, Dermot Bohan, Darren O’Connor and Jane McCullough.

It is two years since their debut album in 2015, “The Truth is the Trip”. This new ten track offering has a core theme of the title’s despondency, and reflections of the writers’ personal lives and journeys, and those of the wider world. Songs that took two full years to be born.

The opener, The “Womb” is a three and a half minute mid-tempo atmospheric instrumental, with a lilting ambience, and a 60s black and white TV detective theme tune about it. Unusual way to kick off a mainly vocal album with an instrumental, but it works for me. The guitars sound lovely and the drums cut through like a bitch. They’ve got my attention…

“Sycadia” bubbles into life with a grunged-up bass line, and the reverb-soaked ethereal vocal then comes in from Lucy. The 80s synths add to the feel, and the electro pop flavours are lush. That gal has some decent pipes on her and knows how to use sonic brush strokes with her voice, rather than fill up every space with a line of lyric. From 2.18 in the five minutes and two second track, she takes on a Donna Summer soulful howl, and I half expected the lyric “I love to love you baby” to kick in.

“Four Words” brings more echoey vocals, guitars to the fore and those guitars sound fab. Slight hey-day Blondie meets Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac flavours perhaps. I like the way they weave a tapestry of sound and nail it, without veering off the path of the main riff.

“The Walk” dips back into the electro side of things. A moody, mesmerising Siousxie and the Banshees type affair, which blends seamlessly into an oriental vibe about it. Really nice.

The title cut “Despondency”  is a loud and rambunctious slice of guitar band and electro pop. It builds in intensity, and Lucy’s sporadic vocals weave in and out of the track, and help to create a layered texture.  A change in sonic values, with acoustic guitar and almost monastic chanting, interspersed with deep synth, before the higher register vocals come in.

“Needle” slows down the pace and reminded me of Robert John Godfrey’s classical-tinged The Enid, when they reformed as just Enid with a very late 1980s, early 90s line-up and merged his trademark classical meets Prog’ rock with modern day electric dance sensibilities.

Dick Dale, Duane Eddy, Link Wray twangy guitar chops on “Sculptor’s Run”, and The Cramps also flash into my head. Kind of Blondie meets Siouxsie territory perhaps. The repetition of the lyric, “You know what you’re saying to me”, sticks in your head.

“No Later Than Now”, Cerys Matthews and Catatonia nods maybe. “Arbulus” the second of two instrumentals; this one guitar-Centric, mainly indie to the ear and very nice. “The Drip” sits on an acoustic guitar riff that reminded me of Mason Williams’ timeless “Classical Gas”. Could hear this one, and some of the other cuts here, soaked with lush string arrangements and a full orchestral approach.

Retro nods to punk, indie, electro pop, new wave and maybe even Goth, with a  Bauhaus/Love and Rockets tip thrown in for good measure. But it all seems to slot right into the on-trend stuff that is selling and getting air play today. If the late and the great John Peel were still with us, he’d be all over this methinks; yeah, I bet he’d dig this game of Crows.

The material and production values are at times pretty cinematic, and some of the stuff gets close to Anthemic. It doesn’t sound like these four Dubliners found it to be “that difficult second album” at all. Despondent? They really shouldn’t be…


By Simon Redley





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