Does anyone remember pop music? I’m talking about real music with real instruments and real voices which has been recorded on real equipment that still manages to qualify as pop. I can almost guarantee that your mind has drawn you back to the 1960s with the likes of The Beach Boys and The Buffalo Springfield, and that’s a long time to have lost out on pop music. The issue seems to be that classifying your music as “pop” has almost become taboo these days. Playing pop music seems to mean that you’re not a real musician and everything is manufactured; if Biggles Flys Again‘s Conor Deasy had this mindset, he’d probably have described their latest album as “indie-folk-pop” or something else equally as ridiculous.
Well, luckily for us, he didn’t. Deasy is a proud, no nonsense pop musician. Their début album is called Remember Saturday and it was released on the 30th March. Recorded primarily with vintage Casio and Yamaha keyboards, a Hammond organ and the monstrous BBC Neve Recording Console in Dublin’s Hellfire Studios, it manages not to come across as being unnecessarily retro, but still emulates that warmth and familiarity you might feel whilst listening to your favourite records from the ’60s and ’70s.
Opening with gentle birdsong and Deasy’s expressive vocal, Morning is awash with lush harmonies and swelling keyboards. It’s a gradual but fascinating beginning, drawing us softly into this almost otherworldly land of nostalgia established throughout the record. Lead single Friends and the subsequent Singalong up the tempo markedly, the former a cheerful, keyboard-driven ode to friendship, whilst the latter employs a distinctly rockier guitar tone, but doesn’t seem at all out of place.
I’ll admit that Library was a bit of a slow-burner for me. The leisurely opening didn’t initially grab my attention, but the more I listen to it the more it appeals; two minutes in and you’re met with some gorgeous piano riffs and an enchantingly personal atmosphere. The Beach Boys are definitely a prime influence on tracks like the dreamy Roadkill with it’s quirky, electronic flourishes that spill over into Old Pop Song, a song which quickly became a firm favourite of mine.
Local Legend is a beautiful, mellow retrospective that employs those aforementioned vintage instruments, and the result is glorious; it captures a very ‘full’ sound, yet still manages to remain stark and almost hauntingly dreamlike. One of the most striking songs on Remember Saturday is Chambers with it’s poignant lyrics and dramatic, crashing cymbals. The warm, rounded bass lines and the fluid guitar tone on Imaginary Fire lend themselves to a far more stripped-back sound; the band taking a backseat whilst Deasy’s stirring voice takes centre stage on a powerfully honest song, sustaining the listener’s interest even nine songs in.
Although not the last song on the album, Last Song of the Night does manage to make you feel like the end of the journey is drawing near. The language is prosaic and simple, almost childlike, driving home that sense of nostalgia accompanied by gentle keyboards; it’s just enchantingly wistful. A Simple Plan is a primarily drum-driven track that builds to a crashing culmination of cymbals and staccato piano sounds which fall silent before gliding into the ethereal, aptly-named closer, Beginning Not An Ending.
It’s not a wholly sentimental offering per se, but certainly harks back to the past on more than one occasion. Solid musicianship, marvellous vocals and fine-tuned songwriting make this album a seriously impressive début, and when combined with the unique production values it really begins to make sense. These songs are the kind that get better with time, both alone and in the context of the record, which is something I always tend to look for, as no matter high-brow a release may be, it’s practically useless if it’s not listenable. Remember Saturday is an downright success, giving us exciting insight into what’s to come from one of Dublin’s most unique bands; if this is what pop music can be, then please, let’s have some more!
If you want to catch them live, Biggles Flys Again are playing a set in Freebird Records on Wicklow St. along with other great acts such as The Hot Sprockets for Record Store Day this Saturday (20th April)