Follow Us on Twitter

Larrikin Love - The Freedom Spark

Larrikin Love, Freedom Fields

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

AS concept albums go, Larrikin Love’s The Freedom Spark isn’t a bad effort. It’s quick, often upbeat and almost always surprising in terms of its scope and ambition.

But it’s not entirely a success. The madcap energy and edgy mix of Irish-style folk, ska-influenced beats and punk-laced vocals tends to become repetitive and doesn’t always blend as effectively as it might.

And the album struggles to escape the confines of being a concept, which may in turn lead to claims that it falls prey to pretensiousness. Certainly, listening to lead singer Edward Larrikin describe it, listeners might automatically start to think that this isn’t for them.

Explains Ed: “The Freedom Spark is a record consisting of three parts. Through these acts is a journey from an uncomfortable mind to some peace of mind. It’s an exploration of innocence, of childhood, of human nature and, ultimately, the yearning to have a real sense of freedom.

“The first part – referred to as the hate section – is five songs. All are intrinsic, claustrophobic tales of self-doubt, constraint, hormones and, at its darkest, rape and murder.

“The middle section, known as the fairytale, is one song. It’s a reminder of the purity and sweet blind ignorance of being a child. It talks of the feeling of freedom induced by the memory of a childhood garden.

“The final part of the album is known simply as the freedom section. Here are four songs which use the concept of the previous part to realise that the sensation of freedom is easy to achieve. However, as these songs learn, it’s not easy to hold on to.

The Freedom Spark is the first installment of an ongoing exploration. It reaches its own conclusion as a first segment but in no way is it the finale.”

Sound ambitious? You bet. But musically, the album doesn’t conform to many of the traditions that make concept albums such a tough listen. Rather, it’s lively, raucous and blends those pop-punk elements with banjos, fiddles and all manner of instrumentation that lends it the sort of energy that you might expect to find down an O’Neills pub on a Saturday night.

Former single and live favourite Edwould is a prime case in point, stomping along in furious fashion, before dropping in a lively fiddle solo midway through. As upbeat as the music is, however, there is a darkness to the lyrics that would make The Smiths proud.

Edwould, for instance, kicks off with the line: “I’ve penned your poison a thousand times, you think you’re mighty – I believe you’re a swine.”

Downing Street Kindling, meanwhile, speaks of Ed’s disillusionment with England and Tony Blair, proclaiming defiantly that the country has nothing more to offer him, and that “everything that I adore came well before 1984”. It’s a sentiment that applies to many of our contemporary frustrations yet it’s delivered in typically boisterous fashion.

Needless to say, both tracks fall under the ‘hate’ part of the long-player – as does Happy As Annie, a deceptively upbeat romp that actually turns into a dark, dark tale of rape and murder. The last verse, especially, sends a shiver down the spine: “And as I tried to get her to speak, I realise that the little girl was not asleep, I moved her hat to find that her face was grey, her knickers wrapped around her ankles, it’s not funny!”

Occasionally, such a mix of sentiments becomes unsettling – you almost feel guilty for wanting to dance along to such feelgood melodies when the lyrics are so dark. It’s a million miles away from Radiohead.

As the album then shifts from darker material into the lighter stuff of fairytale and freedom, it actually gets stronger. The fiddles and banjos are particularly pronounced on Fell At The Feet of Rae, while the unbridled energy of Well, Love Does Furnish A Life occasionally hints at early REM mixed with a little Hard-Fi or Athlete. The chorus, especially, is a breezy affair that’s utterly contagious.

Forever Untitled, meanwhile, finds Larrikin Love at their most positive and vibrant and rates among the best tracks on the whole album.

As impressive as such moments are, however, the lingering doubts remain. Some tracks, such as Six Queens and On Sussex Downs struggle to make any sort of impression and sound like album fillers, while the aforementioned mix of hard-hitting lyrics and party-style melodies rests a little uneasily.

If nothing else, though, The Freedom Spark will force you to have an opinion once you’ve listened to it properly. So while it may not work as a whole, it deserves to be acclaimed for the scope of its ambition and for the quality of its standout songs. We’d recommend giving it a listen.

Track listing:

  1. Spark
  2. Six Queens
  3. Edwould
  4. Downing Street Kindling
  5. Happy As Annie
  6. Meet Me By The Getaway Car
  7. At The Feet Of Re
  8. Well Love Does Furnish A Life
  9. On Sussex Downs
  10. Forever Untitled
  11. Burning Coast