Things change, time moves seemingly more swiftly at certain points in our lives and with a dull tedious thud at others. Things have changed for The Answer one of Irish Rock’s finest ever bands… And that change is rather pronounced here on ‘Solas’.
The Answer always delivered, let’s get that straight from the start, they always knew how to create a song that would stir the heart and mind as well as move the feet and the head: big chunky riffs, foot to the floor, old school rock and roll with plenty of nods to the past but with an identity and an individuality that put the at the head of the pack. They were to many like me one of the bands most likely to become the next big thing.
So what happens when that doesn’t happen? And when other life changing events sneak up on you at the same time? The answer is simple, you go on, you give in, or you evolve…
The Answer have fallen into the latter, originally with Paul and Cormac writing to please themselves but eventually realising they were not only onto something new but that it was fresh and revitalising. ‘Solas’ may confuse a few old fans, may cause a few others to shake their heads and wonder when normal service will be resumed, but this is the sort of album that could just be what The Answer needed – a fresh start, a new path and a sound that still referees their past yet looks forward in a way I’m guessing these guys couldn’t even have imagined.
Listen to this one a few times, grow into it, play it again and you’ll find layers, ideas and great craft, and not a little love. The band have reached even further back than the classic-styled rock they are famous for to their Gaelic roots and even added new textures to their sound through a more cinematic approach, more acoustic and even mandolin.
‘Solas’ the title track is also probably the most beautifully realised track here, it sits somewhere in the rockier ground of U2 territory. Don’t think the new approach has pushed aside the crunch though: there’s still power to burn after the delicacy of the introduction to ‘Beautiful World’. Elsewhere there’s colour and texture everywhere from the smooth smoulder of ‘Thief of Light’ or the haunting ‘Being Begotten’ to the almost country folk rock and drive of ‘Battle Cry’ or the real hard rock of ‘Untrue Colour’; even the blues infused ‘Demon Driven Man’.
The album ends with two big statements – the wail of ‘Real Life Dreamers’ is hard rock from the heart though I am really not a fan of the female co-vocalist who comes across a little too ‘sweet’, great song though. We end with the sombre notes of ‘Tunnel’ which I guess brings to a head the emotional content of the album and has healthy echoes of Bad Company. It’s a great powerful way to close.
‘Solas’ may not be my favourite album of the year and part of me feels like I’ve lost an old friend but another says I’ve found a new one, who is a lot like they were. One thing’s for sure, the future for us all looks bright.