[4 April 2012]
Available outside the United States since 2010, this, the seventh studio outing from Ireland’s the Saw Doctors, is both a flashback and a flash forward in the annals of rock ‘n’ roll. Recalling the gritty no-frills grit displayed by American acts such as the Del Fuegos and the Del Lords, The Further Adventures Of also predicts a return to a much more understated vibe in the land of rock. The numbers here are almost wholly absent of bombast, hyperbole, pretension, or what we might simply call faking it. The lads from Tuam have never been ones to take themselves too seriously but that doesn’t mean there isn’t wisdom and weariness – ah, the ol’ melancholy –to be found in their sonic declarations. Thematically linked by a desire to return to or climb to happier times, each of the pieces here memorializes those who life seems to have left behind – the bent backs of working men, men who left their best moments when they left their youth, friends who have been absent too long as they’ve become victims of changes or circumstance. That’s not to say that there isn’t uplift – certainly “Someone Loves You” feels like a lifetime dose of kindness and a quick shot of happiness – but odes to the downtrodden prevail.
One of the more beautifully realized pieces is “Indian Summer”, in which you can actually feel the chill of autumn in your bones with each pastel guitar figure. The resolution of the speaker in the song to spend the season with his lover is familiar but brilliant, a case of simplicity becoming novel. “Be Yourself” may not in and of itself be unique, but repeated listens reveals the song’s real beauty and its deeper connections to “As The Light Fades” and “Last Call”. The group’s ability to chronicle life in the world it occupies is well represented in the aforementioned “As The Light Fades” as well as “Well Byes” (a nod to street vendors whose product always seems a little bit too much of a good deal), “Takin’ The Train” and “Friday Town”. These observations – specific to the corner of the world where the Doctors reside – are universal no matter the metaphors and colloquialisms they come wrapped in.
The group’s cult status in North America will probably remain just that for some time to come – this is the country, after all, that just doesn’t get Status Quo – which is unfortunate for all those souls who don’t know what they’re missing but oh-so-rewarding for those of us who can appreciate the simplicity and honesty contained within the three and four-minute portraits heard on records such as this. A tack-on of the group’s late 2011 hit “Downtown” (the Petula Clark tune) might have sweetened an already sweet deal, but, alas, you’ll have to look elsewhere for it, perhaps an invitation to explore more the group’s back story. It’s certainly worth learning more about the Saw Doctors and it’s certainly nice to think that maybe we won’t have to wait quite so long for the next instalment in the story to come along.