With the stunning success of Sinéad O’Connor and this gorgeous second effort from Dublin’s second most-talented rock band, the Irish invasion that began with U2 may be just hitting its stride.
There’s nothing new in the Hothouse Flowers’ approach after their hearty 1988 debut, People, but consistency is what more rockers should be looking for. The persistent heavenly angel vocal choruses here may stretch the point a wee bit, yet the Flowers’ reverent, gospel-tinged style usually sounds heartfelt, not hokey.
Liam O’Maonlai’s voice often evokes the emotion of a preacher trying to whip the congregation into an exalted frenzy. “Give It Up” won’t be chasing Taylor Dayne up the charts, but it has a feel-good kick that lingers long after the song ends. Neil Young fans might recall his concert standard “Helpless” when they hear O’Maonlai’s doleful vocals and piano on “Sweet Marie.” One of the better remakes in recent memory just might be the Flowers’ take on Johnny Nash’s 1972 chart-topper, “I Can See Clearly Now.” A gentle piano intro suggests that the storm indeed has lifted, and then a thunderous break drives the song until it settles down again at the end.
CD buyers get the obligatory bonus-cuts, including a live track called “Dance to the Storm.” After that Gaelic hoedown ends, a listener feels like a Bible thumper following a revival meeting, exhausted but filled with conviction. (London)