ARCHIVE: Creativity to the very end

Creativity to the very end

May 27 2001 12:11 AM –

Sam Healy meets the band Revelino, makers of a ‘robustly brilliant’ new album.

NO-ONE in their right mind would dream of calling the music industry a meritocracy. If anything, the reverse is true; the demand for individually wrapped, bland, easily digestible sonic snacks is so great that truly innovative music is all but guaranteed a place in the penumbra.

This is not, however, as bad as it sounds. It allows a self-contained community of originators and appreciators to exist parallel to, but completely independent of, the world of charts, photo-shoots and sucking up to insufferably vapid MTV presenters. The proof of this statement is Revelino. Since their debut album in 1994 (and before), they have been crafting superb music, unanimously acclaimed by critics, DJs and aficionados. Success as measured in platinum discs, country houses and MTV appearances has never come their way, and if it is this semi-obscurity which has allowed them to create their new album To the End, long may it last.

To the End is robustly brilliant. From the elegiac opening strings on We are not Afraid to the Waits-style instrumental Waltz to the End, it sustains a tone of unhurried force and honesty without compromising songwriting creativity. But even more evident is its depth.

Even without the knowledge that Revelino’s previous album, Broadcaster, was released over four years ago, that John Peel chose the track Step on High as one of the top five singles of that year and that the band’s career as melodic rock front-liners has already exceeded the average several times over, it’s easy to feel the sense of history which pervades To the End. Brendan Tallon, lead singer and songwriter, is both aware of this and very happy with it. “It’s a more personal record, definitely, and I don’t think it could have been written at any other point in the band’s career. There is a consistency to it; we are trying to capture the atmosphere that hangs over change.”

This is an allusion to significant personal and professional changes which occurred in the Revelino camp over the last three years. Most importantly, the drummer and bass player left; the band is now a three-piece consisting of Tallon, his brother Ciaran and Brendan Berry. This departure also signalled a change in the band’s world-view. “We became less naive,” explains Tallon. “Not cynical being a musician, for me, is about fighting cynicism but less idealistic. It’s hard to keep idealism up when the realities of life are at your door.”

By these realities are meant the financial and interpersonal stresses which led to Revelino’s downsizing. But the remaining members are anything but negative. “In fact, we’re far happier sound-wise with this album than the previous two,” says Berry, who moved from guitar to keyboards for To the End. Tallon agrees, elaborating that where in the past the band’s music was a mish-mash (albeit a cohesive mish-mash) of external influences, the recent output is the result of a purer, more introspective ethic.

TALLON, indeed, is a purist, and despite his claims to the contrary, retains an idealistic outlook. “People are sensitive,” he believes. “They sense when bands are trying to cash in on a ‘movement’, and they sense when bands are real. Hence, the trick is absolute honesty.” His view of music is almost spiritual. The musician’s task is to get “closer and closer to the real gold that’s in great songs. It’s a mysterious thing … hard to quantify but easy to identify.”

Quite possibly, it is this spirituality which leads to the captivatingly paradoxical tone of To the End: even at its most superficially downbeat, the record is vibrant, inspiring. Darkness Doubled, the anthemic penultimate track which formed the ideological basis for the album, is dirge-slow and brooding. But for some reason, it leaves the listener with an undeniable feeling of optimism and power. And this strange duality is present on almost every track.

It is beyond question that Revelino have created another great album. Their next challenge is live performance. Tallon admits that, because of the less outwardly grungey sensibility of To the End, “we really have to hold our nerve [playing live], to be the band we think we are now, instead of lashing out all the hits from the past”. The implication is that the band they are now is the best they’ve ever been. I am compelled to agree.

* Revelino are supporting Bob Dylan in Kilkenny on July 15, and are currently planning an Irish tour

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