Black Irish

Screen Door Kind

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Contrary to what the band name implies, this is not a Celtic album. Instead, it is the product of a self-taught rock band from Austin, TX, back in the mid-'90s. The name has more to do with the heritage of the bandmembers than the band's sound. It is an album of mainly self-written pop tunes, but the band has a tendency to want to rock out on the heavier side, as heard most clearly at the end of "Heaven and Wine." An early review of the band, back when they used the name Hey Zeus, made comparisons to bands like Squeeze and Crowded House. Those comparisons are most valid in the context of lyrical content. Many of the band's lyrics were written by bassist Rob Thomas, who later became an author and television producer in Hollywood. His writer's approach to the words make the lyrics descriptive, intelligent, and literate, which can bring to mind a Squeeze song like "Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)." This intellectual approach also reflects in the choice of covering Simon and Garfunkel's "Keep the Customer Satisfied" from Bridge Over Troubled Water. However, there's nothing good enough on this album to make one regret that Black Irish never made it big. The band's biggest drawback is the annoying organ-like keyboard sound Greg McCormack uses half the time. It sounds too synthetic and gives an airy, dreamy quality to the music, which is inappropriate for this band's sound. It hurts songs such as "Something's Got to Change" and "Drink With Me." This is straight-ahead pop/rock, not progressive rock. The songs benefit most from being driven by a clean piano sound, and the best songs on this album keep the synthesizer to a minimum, like "Suzanne," "Heaven and Wine," and "Sidney." Years after the fact, it is clear from Screen Door Kind that this band had the potential to become something bigger than what they were. The album is still a worthwhile listen if you come across it.