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Villagers - Becoming a Jackal

  by Dixie Ernill

published: 8 / 6 / 2010

Villagers - Becoming a Jackal
Label: Domino Records
Format: CD


Extraordinary and dizzying pop on stunning debut album from Irish act, Villagers

I have always been fascinated by the transformation of caterpillar to butterfly - the extraordinary transformation of something workmanlike and functional to something of beauty and grace. The change from Conor O’Brien’s previous band the Immediate to current band Villagers is probably the most striking musical example of this I have come across. Whilst it is fair to say that O’Brien was only limited in his influence with the Immediate, it is equally true that there wasn’t much more than the tiniest hint of the song-writing skills he has shown in Villagers - though without the caterpillar, we would never have the butterfly….. And so to the present and an album of dizzying delights that is 'Becoming a Jackal'. Opener I Saw the Dead' is a haunting and taut introduction that marries obtuse and obvious lyrics (which is a common theme throughout the album) in a way that literally makes you stop breathing part way through. The Montgolfier Brothers and David Ford may be reference points, but don’t really unveil the true nature of the song. The lead single and title track follows and quickly transcends the Simon and Garfunkel comparisons as O’Brien’s vocals are beautifully harmonised by his band and build the song into an absolute classic tale of escapism. Simply brilliant. The fact that it isn’t the best song here bares testament to just how far the boy O’Brien has progressed since the band formed less than two years ago. It’s hard to actually pinpoint which is the true highlight, but at a push I think 'That Day' just about steals it as the lyrical inspiration behind the Smiths 'Girl Afraid' is reworked through a slightly different angle to produce a near perfect pop nugget. Elsewhere, the tribal, almost hypnotic rolling drums that power 'Ship of Promises' or the subtle understated piano work on 'Home' are special moments and 'The Pact (I’ll Be Your Fever)' is pure pop with a very 60’s feel. Whilst I would implore anyone to buy this album, it isn’t quite perfect as “'Pieces' is below par and doesn’t really benefit from the howls that O’Brien makes at the end of it. But with songs like 'Set the Tigers Free' and the heartfelt closer 'To Be Counted Amongst Men' in close proximity, it is a mere footnote in this enthralling encyclopaedia of stunning music. The must buy album of 2010.

Track Listing:-
1 I Saw The Dead
2 Becoming A Jackal
3 Ship Of Promises
4 The Meaning Of The Ritual
5 Home
6 That Day
7 The Pact (I'll Be Your Fever)
8 Set The Tigers Free
9 Twenty Seven Strangers
10 Pieces
11 To Be Counted Among Men

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