The End Of History
Be Good Or Be Gone
The Underwood Typewriter
Black Water Child
Put A Penny In The Slot
Snowy Atlas Mountains
Noah (Ghost In A Sheet)
The End Of History
Bunker Or Basement/Campaign Button
FIONN REGAN – THE END OF HISTORY
The community of musicians can be divided into two categories -- those who want to create and those who do so because they have no other choice. As he proves on his dauntingly mature, intriguingly nuanced Lost Highway debut, The End of History, singer-songwriter Fionn Regan clearly falls into the decidedly rarefied latter category.
“I think that songwriting and storytelling are very much in the marrow of your bones,” says Regan. “Some can get by with counterfeit for a while, but people will find holes in the fence, sooner or later” he laughs. “It’s more a matter of tapping into what’s there, opening up a valve.”
The soft-spoken 26-year-old coaxes an intoxicating array of emotion and detail into his fragile-yet-gripping songs -- a body of work that’s already elicited comparisons to forebears as varied as Nick Drake for his guitar playing and to Woody Guthrie for his wordplay. It’s easy to understand why, given the filigreed acoustic finger-picking and raw lyrical stance of songs like the cinematic “Be Good or Be Gone” the menacing “Snowy Atlas Mountains” or the allegorical “Hey Rabbit” with its social conscience, songs that paint intensely vivid pictures -- so vivid, in fact, that Regan hesitates to elaborate as to their deeper origins.
“I think of the songs as documents, short films, the evidence of journeys I’ve taken,” says Regan. “I hesitate to get very specific about them, to give them a date of birth or an address. I liken that to trapping a bird in concrete. Once you start hammering a nail into something, there’s a chance the head of the nail will break off – I don’t want build walls around them.”
There’s little chance of that, thanks in part to Regan’s picturesque imagery and ethereal way with an arrangement. He keeps the frills to a minimum on the dozen-song collection, getting his point across with little more than voice, acoustic guitar and piano (most of The End of History’s songs were captured in one or two takes) he never gives the idea that he’s practicing minimalism for its own sake. That comes into particularly sharp focus when one hones in on his guitar playing, a beguiling brew of rhythmically sturdy finger-picking (the backbone of “Hunters Map”) and (as on the twinkling “Abacus”), lissome passages in which every note resonates with crystalline clarity.
“The album has a definite thread,” says Regan, who produced The End of History himself (mixing the album with one-time Cocteau Twins member Simon Raymonde). “songs present themselves and ask you to do certain things. It’s like going to a party -- some people end up in the garden and others end up in the kitchen. It’s no different with songs.”
Songs began presenting themselves to Regan when he was growing up in Bray, Ireland -- a seaside town in rural county Wicklow -- where his parents presided over what he describes as “a house that was a magnet for every musician and poet within miles.” He takes pains to explain that the family didn’t fit the standard bohemian profile, but hewed closely to old-school traditions -- a homespun attitude that pervades both his plain-spoken, unflaggingly affecting songs and his unfussy demeanor.
Ever restless, he drifted from town to town over the past few years, working odd jobs and touring relentlessly which gradually, inexorably, gathered him a sizable following among both fans and the British press, and when the album was released in the UK last year, it was met with unanimous praise. Mojo proffered four stars in a glowing review that dubbed the disc “a debut that oozes rare confidence, startling maturity and originality,” while The Guardian simply stated “folk music has a new Pied Piper.”
Regan’s siren song, while often melancholy, isn’t universally downbeat. As he proves in several of The End of History’s standout tracks, he’s every bit as capable of tickling listeners with bits of wry humor -- as he does in “Put a Penny in the Slot,” perhaps a kleptomaniac’s paean, or warming them with the burnished nostalgic tones of “The Underwood Typewriter.” Even the album title itself, which, might seem dark on the surface, has an element of uplift in it, in Regan’s eyes.
“I bought this coat in a thrift store, and inside there was this brown paper envelope, folded over,” he explains. “The only thing written on it was that phrase, you reach certain stations in your life, completing that record marks the end of an era for me. Getting to it wasn’t easy; I’ve said making the album was like building an ocean liner with a butter knife. Your fingerprints are all over it, you learn to use the butter knife to your advantage, and then you have to see if it’s seaworthy.”
Set sail with Fionn Regan on The End of History and you’ll experience a trip that will lodge in the memory bank for ages.