‘Future harvest’ is the latest CD from SEAN O'BRIEN, a long time veteran of the Californian music scene. There are twelve tracks and the album tends to be split fairly equally between two distinct camps, those which fall into the new wave/guitar rock category, and those which would broadly be classed as country/Americana. Sean’s voice suits both those genres equally, and his guitar playing is spot on. He is more than ably backed by a range of musicians throughout the album, with a notable mention due to Jeff Kane on slide guitar.
Opening with the fast, springy upbeat guitar pop of ‘Shadow Sharks’, this is an album that grips the listener. It's the sort of muscular new wave that bands these days would kill to be able to do effectively. The lyrics are interesting and evocative, all about the rat race, how it grinds you down and how you virtually have to become a part of it to survive: - “Now I am an old man, live on a gated street/ Drive around in a golf cart for my security/ The kids don’t come around much, I can’t blame them/ I guess they’re soaked in bloody water, and they’re swimming with all the rest.”
‘Advice Coming In’, which follows is pure country pop, and allows Sean to show how well his voice is suited to this type of music. The song appears to be told from the perspective of a parent trying to reason with their offspring and comes across as quite touching: - “You can’t read a book, or enroll in a class, and graduate and still not know the task/ I can’t give you dreams to dream. Only a bed to dream them in/ But don’t you listen to anyone, is the best advice coming in.” Absolutely.
‘River of Greed’ is the first truly outstanding track on the album, sitting head and shoulders above the rest. It's a fascinating heavy country blues hybrid, with a Bo Diddley style beat that really shines. The lyrics are self explanatory, and evince a fear of the systems under which the character in the song lives, works, and has struggled to maintain. There is also a degree of vulnerability, as the character realizes that even they are no longer safe: - “I live at the river of greed, and the water is rising high/ In my seersucker suit I wish, I had invested in something to keep me dry...Someone must be coming, to take me by the hand/ I’d trade all of my money for a piece of dry land/ Please don’t let me drown, please don’t let me drown.
I used to be a king, in this town.”
‘The Dress of Tara Jane’ is another excellent track which comes across as a country/rockabilly track, with some supernatural subject matter: “After a night of love I woke up with the sun, only to find that she was gone/ I guess I loved a girl who did not exist. It’s been my failing so long...In the shadows, on the hillside she is waiting for me/ Tara Jane or her ghost twin, for my company.”
For me, the album's finest track of all was ‘Privatized’, the sort of rock track that even Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds would be proud of. Like a lot of their work, the music on this track has a timeless quality and stretches beyond genres, however the lyrics are very much in the here and now, outlining the problems of capitalist society: - “Think of your jailer as father, in the cold, cold absence of light/ Naked in a stressed position, what is the prayer tonight?/ He’s not with the army, but a private company/ He wants to let you out, but he just doesn’t own the key...Let us help you with your fear. We’ve learned so much from the war/ We have a system at the border. The checkpoint is now secure.”
Although one or two tracks didn't quite get there, the accomplished musicianship, inteligent, heartfelt lyrics and all-round tunesmithery all conspir to ensure 'Future Harvest' reaps rich rewards for the lstener.
Sean O'Brien & The Dirty Hands MySpace page