Connells - Ring
Ring is one of those albums which elicits mixed responses in me. I enjoy it when I play it but I so infrequently feel motivated to play it. And if I do fancy a bit of Connells I invariably turn to Boylan Heights instead. Like that earlier album, Ring is unmistakeably American (which makes the success of "74-75" all the more perplexing), but American in a good way. And like many an album of its kind, a sort of light, melodic, sometimes jangly pop rock, it takes a couple of listens before its true qualities begin to emerge. Once it does, you will find it hard to understand why the Connells were never bigger in the UK than they were, let alone in the US.
Of course, "74-75" with its melancholy orchestrated sound is the highlight. But there are songs on here which have a timeless quality about them and, like all the Connells material, is delivered in a melodic and often upbeat manner, leaving you with a collection of songs which, after a few listen, you will find sticking around in your head. The album opener, "Slackjawed" is perhaps the best of these. A great little number based around that moment we have all experienced - when THAT girl walks in the room; you catch sight of her for the first time and stand there like an idiot with your mouth agape. Many of the songs evoke that kind of simple nostalgia when the moments you recall where you wish you could have acted differently are rerun, reassuring you that you were not the only fool on the planet who did what you did. Tracks such as "New Boy" and "Doin' You" convey that feeling perfectly.
Credit for this has to go to the almost effortless way the band seems to hang together. The soothing voice of Doug McMillan has a kind of hometown familiarity about it, while the three guitarists (yes, three) never seek to dominate or overpower a song or each other. It is as if this is how music was always meant to be and the result is that Ring could be from almost any era in modern music, so timeless is its sound. Again, all the more reason to wonder why the hell the band were not a bigger success.
Therein lies part of the appeal of Ring and other Connells albums. The music is not too fast, not too slow; the lyrics are not complicated and pretentious; the musicianship is not overlain with virtuosity or the need for any one individual to rise above the rest. What you have is straightforward you get what you see kind of sounds, and is all the better for it. As I said at the start of this review, this is not going to be the album which makes you jump out of bed early in the morning, tense with anticipation at hearing it again - the Connells are not that sort of band. But there is a warm familiarity to it which, when you are reminded, will bring you back to listening to it. This is never going to be anyone's favourite album of all time, but there are times when you will want to listen to it for reassurance that everything is still alright in your world.
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