NEWRY’S FINEST LOOK BACK
On Sugar Island, The 4 Of Us – led by brothers Brendan and Declan Murphy – reflect on growing up in the border town of Newry, with the Troubles constantly in the background. The approach is largely acoustic, albeit with some intricate arrangements and skillful lyric writing. And, as we have come to expect from The 4 of Us, the songs are imbued with considerable melodic flair.
‘Bird’s Eye View’ blends Simon & Garfunkel-style finger-picked folk with a bluesy melody and a light rhythmic shuffle. Despite the up-beat atmosphere, it’s darkly ominous beneath the surface, with the searchlights of ever-present army choppers hovering overhead, “shooting lightning bolts down an empty street.”
The annual July exodus from the North finds the family piling into the car, “Leaving the parades,pipers and drummers” behind, and ‘Going South’ with “cigarette smoke hanging in the air.” While it’s sad to be reminded of how the innocence of childhood can be colored by darker happenings outside, they broach everyday experiences too. Teenage romance and the bittersweet regret of break-up is explored on the title track, which has echoes of Ricky Nelson’s ‘Garden Party’ in the verse, while the soaring chorus underpins the lovely lyrical sentiment.
Elsewhere, ‘Good Bad News’, ‘Hell To Pay’ and the sublime ‘High Wire Walker’ add to to the memories of carefree youth. The wistful and directly autobiographical ‘Hometown On The Border’ neatly concludes the brothers’ story with the melody and chord progression recalling the Stones’ classic ‘Wild Horses’. Excellent.
Out Now // Colm O’Hare
For their eighth studio album, The 4 Of Us return thematically, if not geographically, to their hometown. Sugar Island mostly concerns itself with Brendan and Declan Murphy’s childhood in Newry, Co. Down. The title is one of several landmarks referenced by the brothers in songs such as Going South and Hometown on the Border, the latter’s mention of ‘soldiers tapping their heels’ being especially evocative. Nostalgia suits the Murphys’ low-key, mainly acoustic folk-pop approach. The gentle flutter of ’73 is easy on the ear, while the brisk rumble of The Little Things and the wistful River Flows are doused in a gauzy hue as comforting as an old family photo album.
Lauren Murphy SUNDAY TIMES
The 4 Of Us – Sugar Island (Future Records)
Three decades on from their breakthrough hits, the Murphy brothers from Newry show how they still know how to write melodic songs with a tender core and barbwire emotive edge.
THE HERALD – Eamonn Carr
If you’ve never seen Brendan and Declan playing live as a duo, you’ve missed a trick. Brendan is the smooth raconteur, telling tales and jokes that draw the audience in with a laid back style that reminds me of the greatly missed Gerry Anderson. And boy, can he sing.
Declan is the quiet one and gets on with the job of playing guitar in a hyper-kinetic and at times slightly manic way, throwing in wild mixtures of styles and rhythms. There’s also the homemade stomp-box of plywood/carpet/towel which gets a fair old workout throughout their set courtesy of Declan’s left foot.
READ FULL REVIEW HERE
Review: Michael Barbour | Photo: Julianne Rouquette
Brendan and Declan joined Chatty Man Alan Carr yesterday as guests on
The Anton Savage Show, Today FM
LISTEN BACK: 13:16 interview & song (Bird’s Eye View)