Conor Breen is the lead vocalist and bassist for Wakefield, UK’s Children Of The Year. He’s also an acoustic-alternative singer/songwriter, which is our focus here. Chaos on Carnegie, a five-track EP, is his debut solo release. Breen handled all of the performances on the album, save for a little backing-vocal help.
The album cover, and the music, evokes a gritty, grimy, down-at-the-heels post-industrial Midlands England. Prospects are dim, and there’s not much to do except get into mischief, which starts with “Little White Lie,” a short introductory cut where our protagonist-arsonists light the factory fire that is the focus of the EP. Breen tells his stories with strong, engaging vocal melodies; the music is based around bright acoustic guitar work with bits of percussion and occasional electric-guitar lines mixed in as appropriate.
“Chaos on Carnegie” is the proper kickoff for the album. It’s an uptempo, punky tune, but it’s driven by acoustic, not electric guitar. The song is so strong that the instrumentation doesn’t matter–it would work just fine with electrics, but you don’t miss them at all. The vocal melody is fun and catchy, and the lyrics feature nice internal rhymes. It’s a great starting cut.
“Bloo Rat” keeps the punk feel and adds a bit of electric guitar to the mix. Again, there’s a strong melody as Breen presents a character study of one of his arsonist mates: “no one likes you / you’ve got no home.” That leads us to “The Bridge,” a track with a slower, minor, bluesier, dark feel. There’s lots of space in the music, allowing Breen to spit out lyrics rapid-fire: “the dirty river just seems to flow right through your bones.” The track builds nicely into a searing guitar solo.
The final cut “Danny’s Gone”,is the radio-ready single. It’s a strummed acoustic alt-pop I-V-IV tune (with appropriate suspensions) that features another engaging melody. The chorus soars with its nice vocal harmonies. Breen finishes off with a touch of humor by adding a xylophone(!) part over the coda.
With Chaos on Carnegie, Breen channels that curious English mix of brashness, anger, self-deprecation and taking the piss, all into delightful three-minute chunks. His focus on vocal melody makes the EP a pleasure to spin. The next time you need some Brit-punk, reach to the Midlands for Conor Breen.
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