Your Gateway to Music and More from a Christian Perspective
Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Artist: The 4 of Us
Label: EMI Records (Ireland)
There was a time as the 80s turned to the '90s when The 4 of Us were the biggest thing in Ireland and the most likely to break world wide. They had a string of hit singles at home including "Drag Your Bad Name Down," "She Hits You" and "Mary." They even out polled U2 in the Hot Press Awards. I remember seeing them twice in London; first in the tiniest pack in pub and second in the Subterranean where having met Brendan Murphy on the plane and traveled with him on the underground I bagged Guest List passes. Those two gigs were as sweaty gigs as I ever enjoyed. The 4 of Us rocked. Then as quickly as they arrived they vanished. It would be seven years after "She Hits You" broke them into the UK Top 40 before they would release another album, the very different Classified Personal.
It is eight years on from that and Fingerprints is only the second album of new songs this decade. The 4 of Us is not a band that is interested in hit singles or the curse of the commercial. Since those "glory days" they have gone on a whole other adventure, honing their songwriting craft and recording intelligent pieces of art, finding a loyal little fan base and discovering a more satisfying way to work. These Newry born brothers (there are two brothers, there were three until Paul left and five in the band – don't ask about the name!) are a refreshing alternative in the music industry and an inspiration to those musicians who get caught in the curse of sales being the only way to test the value of the art.
Maybe the best way to describe the brothers Murphy would be to say they are Ireland's version of the Finn Brothers infused by the earthier spirit of their fellow north country boy Van Morrison in his Saint Dominic Preview days. Fingerprints reveals the maturity of life and songwriting. Brendan's voice still gives you the sense that he wants to rock it up but the focus of vision means restraint and songs of temptation and wild hedonism of the early years have given way to deeper and wiser songs of love and loss. Not that hedonism doesn't still appear; the closing "Late Night Destruction" knows the dangers but still seeks what could harm the body to escape what is ravaging the soul.
"What's To Come" is the song that maybe looks back to the hey day of Mary. It is a song of fear and cynicism at the state of country, world and cosmos but with humour and without despair.Blue with its stark fragile piano is their finest moment; a revelation of songwriting finesse. The fragility but preciousness and uniqueness of our humanity is brought out on "Flesh and Bone" with similar sentiments to Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock:" "Scattered Diamonds shining in the sun/Sparkle and then gone." "Sweet Love" and "Into Your Arms" are as sumptuous love songs as the year will bring. The pastoral poetry of the latter shows the lyrical improvement, "I see the moon brush the leaves/As its falling down/Throws its silver coat on the ground/or us tonight/I hear the wind over the mission stones/Playing a Spanish song/Love's lullaby" These are songs by artists who'd rather spend their time carefully honing songs than wasting big sales riches on frivolous fun.
Steve Stockman is the Presbyterian
Chaplain at Queens University, Belfast, Ireland, where he lives in community
with 88 students. He has written two books Walk On; The Spiritual Journey
of U2 which he is currently updating and The Rock Cries Out; Discovering
Eternal Truth in Unlikely Music. He dabbles in poetry and songwriting and
he has a weekly radio show on BBC Radio Ulster (listen anytime of day or
night @ www.bbc.co.uk/ni/religion/rhythmandsoul). He has his own web page--Rhythms
of Redemption at http://stocki.ni.org . He also tries to spend some time
with his wife Janice and daughters Caitlin and Jasmine.