Our Daily Bread 501: Sweeney ‘Stay For Sorrow’

March 8, 2022

ALBUM REVIEW/Graham Domain

Sweeney ‘Stay For the Sorrow’
(sound in silence)

This is the fourth solo album by Jason Sweeney (based in Southern Australia) and what a great record it is; a forlorn song cycle of break-up, sadness, mental illness, loneliness and the pursuit of love.

The influences are many – Mark Hollis, Talk Talk, Cousteau, Ian McCulloch, David Sylvian, Scott Matthew, Galaxy 500, David Ackles, Max Richter, Oren Lavie, John Grant, Perfume Genius, Scott Walker, to name a few, but Sweeney somehow manages to rise above them all and produce a great album that sounds like himself.

The first song ‘Lonely Faces’ reminds me of Cousteau in the vocal phrasing – a plaintiff, mysterious piano with a nice melody. On the chorus his vocals take on an Ian McCulloch vibe (circa Heaven Up Here – A Promise) as he cries …Be Alone. A great track. The next song, ‘The Break Up’ has echoes of early Talk Talk and Mark Hollis with its icy programmed synths and electronic drums. While ‘Home Song’ is a moody slow song with descending piano chords and string synths. Here, all hope seems lost as he mumble-sings ‘saved from this Hell outside’ before the song ends with the forlorn repeated plea to his lover to please come home…

‘Fallen Trees Where Houses Meet’ has a very David Sylvian like title but sounds vocally somewhere in-between Galaxy 500 and David Ackles. The music is a programmed keyboard pattern repeated with icy siren synths as Sweeney sings ‘You tell me there’s no moon tonight’ and other oblique lines creating a fairly atmospheric song that fades out too soon, before it has a chance to progress. ‘You Will Move On’ meanwhile, sounds like a semi-robotic hesitant alien computer trying to communicate. I would have liked to listen to this song again but the link blocked me – such is technology! It reminded me of the great, forgotten, Phillip Jap, atmospheric, a cry for help! ‘Years’ has echoes of the emotional Scott Matthew (the Australian, not the Scott Matthews from Wolverhampton) as Sweeney sings …the fear of life, the fear of death… dreams of life, dreams of death …years go by – the anxiety eventually giving way and opening up to summer birdsong at the end (the light at the end of the tunnel)!

The stand-out song, for me, is ‘Anxiety’ – a lilting piano song, almost upbeat, catchy like Covid, cheerful like Tommy Steel with bipolar, as he sings ‘I may die from anxiety, I can feel it killing me, gnawing inside painfully’. It is actually a beautiful song of sadness, mental illness and slow recovery.

‘Dear Friend’ finds a tired half-asleep drum machine talking to a drunken string machine as a Bryan Ferry song plays at the wrong speed on the jukebox. Reminiscent again of Talk Talk or perhaps even Icehouse. The only miscalculation on the album is the song ‘To Be Done’. Lyrically it’s like a song Stuart Staples might write but is ruined by a middle part that is a direct steal from David Sylvian’s ‘Maria’ – so obvious, he should have scrapped it! The final song ‘I Will Be Replaced’  finds the singer replaced in a relationship by another man, while he despairs to know why? A sad George Michael Careless Whisper saxophone plays to heighten the misery.

Overall, a very good, deep album of songs about sadness, loss and the continual search for love. It is an album where the sadness and struggle are somehow inspiring and uplifting. Highly recommended.

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