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Horslips - Short Stories / Tall Tales CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

2.09 | 14 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars The last studio album by the best thing to come out of Ireland since St. Patrick did his act with the snakes is a far cry from the band's Celtic roots, as even a cursory glance at the cover art will all-too obviously indicate. The Polaroid portraits show a quintet of fashionably clean-cut rockers, casually attired in the anti-Prog uniform of the late 1970s: spotted bow ties, colorfully striped tee shirts, and retro-'60s sneakers (although I'm only guessing on that last detail).

The instrumentation is likewise (sadly) up-to-the-minute, with no fiddles, mandolins, or tin whistles anywhere in evidence. And for the first time there's no thematic connection in any of the music to local Irish mythology or culture, and only a hint of The Troubles in a few of the song titles ("Guests of the Nation", "Unapproved Road").

All of which points to an album of watered-down New Wave music that wouldn't be out of place on the same shelf as GENTLE GIANT's "Civilian", another well-meant but misguided compromise by a band ill-suited to the Brave New World of post-Punk power chords. It's too bad, because the energy is still there, and the playing is tighter than ever. "Law on the Run" and the aforementioned "Unapproved Road" are two tracks with a lot of drive, and the acoustic "Rescue Me" is one of the more charming ballads in the HORSLIPS catalogue.

But in the end the album fails the first test of any self-respecting Irish band, by not sounding at all Irish. Maybe it was a deliberate bid to broaden their fan base beyond the Emerald Isle, or maybe the group was just doing their best to keep pace with changing times. Nobody, after all, wants to be accused of living too comfortably in the past, but did they have to completely jettison their musical identity along with their counter-culture wardrobe?

You have to admire the band's commitment and stability: the same line-up that recorded "Happy to Meet, Sorry to Part" in 1973 was still together six years and ten albums later. But after making the transition from Folk Rock troubadours to something resembling a generic, hard-rockin' American bar band, they must have realized it was an aesthetic dead end, and (again, not unlike GENTLE GIANT) wisely called it quits.

Neu!mann | 2/5 |


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