Microlip's debut shows you can buy a polished production, but you can't buy cool
In the world of music, you can’t put a price on cool. Anything that doesn’t make the grade is cast out, persona non grata. Microlip are patently not cool, but is this enough to stop them achieving the chart-topping status they so greatly crave?
Silver Lining is a perfectly accomplished album. It has a top quality production courtesy of Einstein Studio’s Frankie McClay, the songs are all well arranged and performed and the music ranges from pop ballads to slightly harder-edged indie-dance numbers.
Microlip's sound, in fact, is not a million miles away from something like Bangor band Two Door Cinema Club, who are all over your television sets and radio playlists at the moment.
But it’s so hard to shake the notion that this is deeply uncool music, the kind of thing your father would maybe turn his nose up at for being 'a bit soft'.
Part of the problem stems from the fact that Microlip make no bones about the fact that they are intentionally populist.
In any other industry, such a will to succeed would be met with a bonus. In the music world, however, bands with a mainstream sensibility are frequently admonished as either 'desperate' or 'sell outs'. Microlip would have difficulty avoiding accusations of either.
Ballads such as ‘Man of Steel’, with its tribute to a father figure, and ‘Dance Beneath the Feet’ are polished, but lacking the grit to raise the sentiments they peddle above mawkish or pedestrian. They’re well put together tracks, but come across as calculatingly commercial.
On the other hand, songs like ‘It’s not Easy’ and ‘You’re not the One’ display a fine pop sensibility, albeit one filtered through a stiflingly commercial lens. Jagged, yet melodic, they display a side of the band not dissimilar to Snow Patrol at their edgiest. An over-abundance of tacky synth sounds can leave a bitter taste, but these songs are strong enough to survive on their own merits.
The band’s idols seem to be the unholy duo of U2 and The Script, with their lyrics and melodies calling to mind the spiritual sounding, but ultimately meaningless bluster of U2 in their pomp ('You were the man now you're half that man / Your legend lives, but you just linger').
Meanwhile, the music has that vaguely inoffensive sheen that has seen The Script become massive international superstars. In a realistic sense, young Irish bands should look to learn from such bands, and yet their resulting output can seem like 'product' rather than 'art'.
But if coolness is in the eye of the beholder, then Microlip can stand proud for what they’ve achieved. Their career seems to be on the up, having supported the likes of The Coronas, Two Door Cinema Club, and – oh, hello! – The Script recently. Silver Lining is an accomplished set of pop-rock songs that has every conceivable chance of taking them to where they want to go.
It might not be very cool, but it could just be enough to get the job done.