Monday, July 23, 2012

Tom Flannery and the Shillelaghs: Rock and Roll with a Bit of Angst Thrown in For Good Measure

Tom Flannery and the Shillelagh's debut album, Teen Angst and the Green Flannel is not available on vinyl.

But it should be.

It has a pure rock and roll sound that is a throwback to another era; something you rarely hear on the radio today.  And it is a refreshing accompaniment to a hot summer.

I've known Tom now for a few years.  He was one of the composers for my two films, Facing Sudan and Crayons and Paper.  In fact, he provided the very moving song "Crayons and Paper" that accompanied images of war and death drawn by children in Sudan and Sri Lanka and is the centerpiece of both films.  Tom has always been the acoustic guy with a guitar.

Not any more.  Wanting to deliver a hard rocking sound now for years, Tom assembled a band and put together a stellar album of pure rock, full of angst, pain, and love (or something like it).  It is a guitar driven reflection on life from the point of view of what has always driven rock and roll:  youth.  Teen Angst and the Green Flannel is a rock album done right, meant to be played loud.

The album opens with the hard hitting "If I Only Knew" and truly captures the spirit of the entire album:

’cause being me ain’t easy 
like being you must be 
invisible in the hallways 
staring right through me 

I had the pleasure of creating a video for the song.  The images and the story are taken from the liner notes, written in the voice of an 18 year old kid named "Jimmy" who realizes that "maybe I'm in danger of not being a kid anymore.  It sucks feeling this way."  Check out the video below.

Like all great legendary songs of rock and roll, many of the tunes on this album are about girls, love and lust.  "She Ain't Mine (But She Should Be)" opens with a Benny Goodman-esque drum roll and powers through with screaming guitar and a classic rock beat.  Then there's "Now She's Gone" and "I Just Want Her Off My Mind,"  reflecting on feelings we all had growing up.  Listening to them made me wonder how I even made it out of my teen years, when every look, every gesture was misinterpreted and reinterpreted into something much more than it actual was.   "I Just Want Her Off My Mind" hits this home nicely, with Flannery's voice accentuated by solo guitar between stanzas and ending with a melancholic harmonica, reminiscent of vintage Dylan.  It's great hearing Flannery with more than just an acoustic guitar and he seems at home in the midst of distortion, power and beat.  Electricity flows freely through this album.

The album slows down twice, in the retrospective "Cincinnati" and "Maybe It's True."  "Cincinnati" is a stunner of a song, with a beautiful piano accompaniment and lyrics reflecting a love lost and an uncertainty about what lies ahead:

Wounds as raw as a name carved in stone 
When love comes tumblin’ down 
Before I get old there’s safes to be blown 
I’ll dive in the river and drown 

Overall, Teen Angst and the Green Flannel is a hard-hitting rock album that does not disappoint.  True to form, Flannery has crafted an album full of songs that not only reflect on life, but celebrate the essence of rock and roll .

"Once rock got into your head it stayed there," Flannery writes in the voice of Jimmy.  "And if you tried to run away it tracked your ass down and did it to you all over again. Rock that mattered I mean. The kind that made people wince. It’s still around if you look hard enough."

Indeed, it is.


Visit Tom Flannery and the Shillelaghs website.  There you can listen to the entire album online and, if so inclined, purchase a copy from the band.  You will not be disappointed.  The album is also available for download on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.

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