10 years ago, local songwriter Chris Flood released his debut album – ‘Opinion Is Not A Substitute For Reason’. The album was a rich and colourful burst of promise. There was rabble-rousing indie (Razorblade Party); sparsely catchy alt-rock (Machines); hints at expansive experimentalism (Scabs, Another Dreadful Earache)) and impassioned, Lennon-esque soul-baring (Father). The album, allied to his formidable live reputation, saw Flood take his place as one of the Island’s most promising melodic craftsmen.
In the ensuing decade that followed, the state of the world, as governed by the frothing echo-chambers of social media, seemed to run parallel to the title of Flood’s debut. In retrospect, that title is oddly prescient – hinting at a future of heightened tribalism with little or no concern for nuance in debate.
Journalistic principles would take a sharp decline, losing focus on objective reporting and instead appeasing those who tweeted the loudest. Clickbait culture and the democratisation of opinion dressed up as fact, have rendered reason a distant ideal condemned to memory; fake news and aggression over compassion plunge us ever deeper into these, the shithouse times. Reason has, in actuality, drifted out of the public conversation some time ago. As had, for much of the turbulent decade, Flood’s recording and gigging career.
Chris was struggling through a dark period, suffering with his own internal turmoil, a black cloud of anxiety looming over him, sapping his confidence as a live performer and recording artist. He dropped off the scene for a bit and even shelved a fully recorded second album. Raising the profile of mental health awareness is a subject close to his heart, understandably. Luckily, he’s made it through the other side of the wretchedness.
“I hope to use this platform to encourage others to speak out or to prove that there really is a way of turning things round”
And now, we can rejoice as he’s back with a new EP – “New Dawn”, returning as a regular fixture once again on the Island circuit. He cuts a more rounded and beguiling performer than ever; the effortlessly fluid vocal histrionics are even stronger, clearer somehow, as the fog of youth has lifted, lending a renewed sense of defiance. The idea of rebirth, of determination and finding a way out of dispirited dejection runs throughout the EP.
“Shadows creep back underground as silence breaks into sound”, so sings Chris on the eponymous title track. It’s the beautifully poetic dilution of the EP’s core theme: Recovery. As I interpret it, this is Chris’s struggles slowly diminishing into the darkness, vacating to the shadows; his stormy period of soul-suffocating silence is no more. Chris Flood is back, breaking into sound – and what a glorious, rejuvenated sound it is too.
“Influence really comes from a yearning to do something slightly different to my other stuff but still recognisable as me”
There’s no doubt this is Chris Flood. But this is not a straight up alternative rock album. The years away have given this multi-instrumentalist time to ponder, reflect and to reignite his creative spark. Here’s a track by track breakdown of the EP:
Instantly there’s an ominous vibe, with a gentle guitar jangle and a pulsing bass bobbing in the background as Chris’ clean and potent weapon of a voice veers from icy-cool detachment to howling wail. “Under this veil, I am a humble man”, he sings. The melodies that seem to pour out of him are still intact whilst the biblical imagery of Israelite’s on the march, blowing trumpets and watching walls crumble, suggest anything but stability. A stomping opener with hints at the electronic flourishes that pervade throughout the EP’s 27 minutes.
Warm, soft keys and gentle orchestration bed us in to the beginning of Sonder, as Flood initially sings in a lower register, a sonorous yet crisp tone, deep and building. There is trust in the song – a 6 minute opus is given space to breathe thanks to Simon Talbot’s production – and as the multi-tracked, harmonious vocals emerge, so too does the sense of optimism. The Lynchian portentousness soon drifts away, allowing peeks of daylight to creep in, soft amber shimmers through the curtains of suburbia. The last two minutes is Flood unleashed. “As long as these lungs keep me breathing and this heart keeps on beating, I won’t give in”, he bellows, with goosebump-inducing resolve. It’s clear this is far more than an acoustic troubadour; he is pushing things forward sonically while still allowing the voice and words star-billing.
This is Chris’ magnum opus. A snap and rattle of drum machine forms the backbeat along with elegiac guitar. Here he is pushing his spectacular voice to the edges, higher than before, yo-yoing with gymnastic deft. It has the unbridled force of Jeff Buckley at his best, as visceral and wild; potent and unpredictable as the great man. There’s catch and release throughout here; this is a singer leaving you wanting more, knowing when to tone it back, to keep the blow-outs at a minimum, and in doing so, only furthering their arresting might. Twinkly electronics add to the mood without overpowering it, serving the song in adding nuance, texture and depth. Stunning.
Perhaps the darkest song on the album but again, rather than bashing you over the skull with unrepentant force, this is more of a brooding number. Soft electronic beats allow that marvel of a voice to dance around the song, working its way into it, float beneath its weight and, on occasion, emerge, with righteous zeal to dominate it. An industrial groove kicks in, adding subtle heft to the vocal histrionics, playing out with gurgled buzzsaw guitar, a desolate Flood “shaken to the core, can’t watch this anymore”. Sharp strings, guttural howls and plaintive cries see the song out, in an apocalyptic and provocative powerful crescendo. Check out the fantastic video directed by Brook Wassall below.
The most experimental track closes out this highly innovative EP. At first, it sounds like a desolate, dystopian musical reaching its crescendo. Flood sings in the low baritone, like a despondent John Grant before the song takes the first of many wild and intriguing divergences. A sinister electronic brass section joins the fray as Flood pushes the boundaries vocally; silk-like and sombre; soulful and dramatic; always dazzling. A gothic swarm of dystopian synths make way for intricate flamenco guitar, a transcendent leap from Pale Green Ghosts-era John Grant to a Sergio Leone Western. “Look for me between the spaces. On every line between the words. In every book on all the pages. Ostentatious returns”. The EP reaches its denouement, each intermittent strum of the acoustic guitar signalling the end of something; death in some form, but perhaps a rebirth too. An ostentatious return, indeed.
The New Dawn EP is available on Amazon Music, iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, EVERYWHERE, mate.
Dead Skin video – directed by Brook Wassall
New Dawn live – at Sound of the Glen