Keiron Phelan & Peace Signs – Bubblegum Boogie
2020 found Peace Signs songwriter, Keiron Phelan, back in his childhood domicile caring for his dementia suffering mother in the final year of her life. Both her home and he, himself, now unrecognisable to her. The songs comprising Peace Signs third album, the quixotically titled Bubblegum Boogie, were composed entirely under this tightly compressed circumstance and reflect Phelan’s restrictions via a quality of emotional dislocation; the value of old memories that can no longer be shared being microscopically examined. Yet the album pushes even harder to create multiple, imaginative and glamorous avenues of escape from it. Bubblegum Boogie deftly pitches and rolls between sincere emotional dips and highs.
Into the former vein falls a tear of elegant baroque pop; the child-turned-parent, Clifford T Ward toned, sad reflections of ‘I Don’t Know How We’re Going Home From Here’, the Jimmy Campbell country-style, unhappy families lament of ‘You’ve Got Your Mother’s Love’ and the absent friends + closed clubs + solitary nights and lonely afternoons of the elegiac, Cat Stevens tinged, soft-soul, title track ‘Bubblegum Boogie’. The second of Phelan’s Bill Fay cover versions, a loosely rolling and almost sweetly fatalistic take on ‘I Hear You Calling’, folds into this melancholy tone with its pensive awareness of life lived and time wasted.
On the flip of the coin, the bizarre, upbeat, earworm chant of opener ‘Trojan Pony’ chugs along like Tyrannosaurus Rex appearing with Coconut-era-Harry Nillsson at the Grand Ole Opry. Strutting funky camp like an off cut from Transformer (had Marc pinched the mic from Uncle Lou) is ‘My Last Great Love’, while soft rock anthem ‘I Got Ziggy On The Landline’ straddles the album’s emotional mood tones, Phelan retreating into a childhood world of Raleigh Choppers, Milky Bars, adolescent tough talk and burgeoning first loves, relayed to his ‘star friend’ on a lime green rotary dial telephone. The gently hypnotic ‘Song For John Howard‘ presents a Japanese ink stroke picture of a song in which the brief minutiae of new lover’s meetings are trippily shaded into a paean to (Phelan’s friend) the eponymous glam-ballad Godfather, piloting the album into a sense of redemptive happiness. Completing the ride are the Macca vs Mungo Jerry failure to launch relationship of ‘Guessing Game’, the Seals and Crofts influenced, woodwind hook laden, romantic ghost story; ‘Apple Pie’ and an ecstatic, gender-inverted, take on Lynsey de Pauls‘ ‘Sugar Me’. Denouement, the Neil Hannonesque archness of ballad/rocker ‘A Modern Day Dorothy’ laments both lost innocence and provides a simultaneously sweet yet menacing rally call of defiance against harsh times.
Keiron Phelan (Vocals, Acc guit, flute) is joined by Peace Signs mainstays Jenny Brand (Piano, clarinet, backing vocals), Jack Hayter (Pedal steel), Giles Barrett (Bass), Ian Button (Drums, percussion) and James Stringer (Organ, recorder sections).
Recorded by Giles Barrett at Lightship 95. Produced by Giles Barrett and Keiron Phelan.