Luka Bloom: Innocence

A lovely and pensive album, Innocence finds Irish-born singer, songwriter, and acoustic guitarist Luka Bloom in very fine form.

Luka Bloom


Label: Cooking Vinyl
Germany release date: 2005-04-29
US Release Date: 2006-03-21
UK Release Date: Available as import

Once you've seen a lone Irishman infuse Prince's "When Doves Cry" with new fire, armed with nothing more than an acoustic guitar, a sweet tenor voice, and a spark in his eyes, becoming a fan is inevitable. Truth be told, by the time of that 1994 tour, I was already quite enamored of the music of Luka Bloom. Born Barry Moore, he's the younger brother of famed Celtic folk-rocker Christy Moore. In order to step out of the shadow of his older sibling, the junior Moore adopted a new name based on the title character from Suzanne Vega's classic 1987 single and the last name of Molly from James Joyce's Ulysses. Odd, I know. This new persona was adopted on the plane ride from Ireland to the U.S., where he was discovered in the late 1980s, playing a club gig. As I was saying, Luka Bloom is a very charismatic performer.

He's also made some very fine studio albums. His string of three albums for Reprise in the first half of last decade are all quite strong, from the often boisterous Riverside (1990) to the loose and varied Acoustic Motorbike (1992) to the beautiful, elegiac, and grief-mending Turf (1994). He was on a great roll before the major label belt-tightenings of the latter half of the '90s cast Luka adrift, contractless. It would be five years before he returned with A Salty Heaven, an album not quite good enough to reinvigorate my enthusiasm. Half a decade had been a long wait, and I suppose my tastes were geared toward other flavors at that time. Fortunately, not too long ago, I decided to see what ol' Luka had been up to in the years since we parted ways. While his discography here in the 2000s hasn't offered any huge surprises, his work has been consistently strong. And now, with even more time passed, I'll admit to succumbing to a bit of the comfort of nostalgia when I listen to his recent works.

In my defense, Luka Bloom's is a very comfortable sound. It is warm without being empty and cheery. His brand of comfort isn't lying in the grass on a sunny day or curling up in a rocking chair with a cup of tea. Bloom's is the comfort of isolated reflection, like walking through a brisk afternoon down to a quiet pub, ordering a pint of beer, sitting at a table by the window, and stringing together memories, histories, and thoughts of passersby.

This pensive quality is immediately apparent on Luka Bloom's new album, Innocence. There he is on the cover, lost in ruminations. That photo offers an accurate projection of the mood that underscores this CD. Almost all of Luka's music is hemmed by melancholy, aside from a few outbursts of goofy, manic joy. However, those moments -- songs like "Delirious," "An Irishman in Chinatown," or his cover of LL Cool J's "I Need Love" -- are from his past. Innocence, as may first seem ironic, is tinged with a lovely world-weariness, through and through. The whole of the album is summarized well by these lyrics from the title track: "I still love the smell / of the innocent years / And I choose innocence / After my tears". Bittersweet remembrance and longing for a purity lost are made explicit in those words, but the same feeling resides throughout. This is apparent even in the pretty instrumental "Peace on Earth," where Bloom's sighing guitar line is augmented (as are a handful of other tracks) by the quiet thrums of a double-bass and some very understated soprano sax playing (and, unless that instrument is being played by John Coltrane or Branford Marsalis, understatedness is the ideal approach). What idea could seem more remote, more innocent, perhaps, or naïve, than world peace? Still, this is the ideal that the gentle soul of Luka Bloom earnestly reaches toward. That he's not a dopey optimist allows a song like this to hit home. Elsewhere on the album, Bloom offers us wonderful miniaturized stories of Salvadorans wishing for someone's return from Brazil, a girl walking along the beach in Fanore, and Irish immigrants in nineteenth century Chicago, dreaming of a homeland before the famine.

In case I've led you to believe that the mood of this album is monochromatically blue, it does contain its share of major-keyed tunes. Although they're all performed with the same mellow spareness as the disc's more meditative numbers, they add a nice balance in tone to the record. The addition of fiddle and light percussion to a few tracks also aids in serving up just enough variety to keep the listener's ear attentive. These little changes in instrumentation and subtle shifts in mood never break the album's flow; rather, they give contour to the experience. And Luka Bloom's Innocence is a very fine experience, indeed.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.