“You cant go home again.”—Thomas Wolfe
When Wolfe wrote this line, providing the title for his final semi-autobiographical novel, he was living as an expatriate of his hometown in the American South, sentenced to exile, reviled in his community much like kindred spirit William Faulkner. His crime, like Faulkner’s, was using thinly veiled reconfigurations of people and events in his town in order to expose the ugly underbelly of Southern prejudice and hatred. He was predictably ostracized, but not before delivering what is considered by many to be one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. No one would consider Wolfe’s observations to be a tribute, but rather a harsh critical reaction, and his subsequent shunning was almost certainly inevitable. Such “warts and all” honesty never plays to Peoria, especially if you’re from Peoria, because no one wants to be reminded of their shortcomings, either as individuals or as a society. People seek comfort.
The Corrs are a band that provides such comfort in their songs. Never ones to play too close to the fires of uncomfortable truth, they paint in broad strokes of idealization. While some would condemn this as unchallenging or patronizing, it, too, has its place. No one says that you have to be a misanthropic to be honest (for anyone who would argue, take the Beastie Boys’ celebration of New York’s culture and society in most of its great albums as evidence to the contrary). The Corrs’ truths are often similarly sentimental, but where the Beastie Boys choose to pay respect to the rougher edges of their birthplace and its prostitutes, crack dealers and crooked cops, the Corrs’ remembrances are more muted, rendered in watercolor sweeps of sentimentality. Never has this been truer than on the album Home.
From the opening piano figure of first track, “My Lagan Love”, one immediately senses that this is their love letter to their native Ireland. A breezy Celtic-influenced melody winds its way through an Irish folk rhythm, supplemented by a majestic sweeping orchestra that, placed against the lilting strains of a tin whistle, seems to conjure almost mythic images of rolling green hills and lush marshes. The second track “Spancil Hill” confirms, as its circular refrain gives way at the end to a hypnotic jig. By the third track, the mournful, haunting “Peggy Gordon”, if you close your eyes, you can nearly smell the foam crashing against the rocks beneath a grassy, panoramic cliff.
Anyone wishing for the Corrs to deliver one of their bouncy Mutt Lange-produced pop gems has, by this point, almost certainly left the building. But those who remain will find treasure after treasure, as the wistful “Black Is the Colour” leads into a beautiful and subtle reading of chestnut “Heart Like a Wheel” that makes Linda Ronstadt’s version sound nearly burlesque in its overwrought emotion. This is not to say that the album has no moments of boundless bliss. The Phil Lynott-penned “Old Town” may well be the single catchiest song they’ve recorded since “Breathless”. But with its Todd Rundgren beat and Piccadilly Square orchestral flourishes, it’s almost certainly too defiantly retro to have much of an impact on a pop chart dominated by divas and hip-hop chant-a-longs.
But perhaps the album’s greatest moments come when the Corrs break into one of their by now near-legendary instrumentals. These are the moments that fans often come to see in their live shows, and the two here (“Old Hag” and “Haste to the Wedding”) donҒt disappoint. If you don’t at least tap your feet or shake your head side-to-side in a “Riverdance” motion, you may need to see a doctor to assure you still have a pulse. Nearly as mesmerizing, however is the acapella intro to the Gaelic-sung “Brid Og Ni Mhaille”, proving that the band is as diverse as it is talented.
If there is a criticism of this album, it is only that it seems to go by too quickly. The over 45-minute playing time is certainly respectable (a few of the recent, much shorter Weezer albums have regrettably seemed a lot longer), but one is left wanting more. Still, such quibbling aside, anyone who has been waiting since the original, unremixed version of Talk On Corners for the Corrs to abandon their pursuit of the American pop charts to deliver another record along the lines of Forgiven, Not Forgotten will finally find their waiting repaid handsomely. Maybe you cant go home again, but if you never really leave, as the Corrs obviously havenҒt, and if you can make home sound this welcoming, perhaps you can find a way to bring the rest of the world home to you.