“Sean McGowan is back and has found his ‘voice’ on this interconnected concept album (although it’s an EP) discussing mental health.”

Sean McGowan is back and has found his ‘voice’ on this interconnected concept album (although it’s an EP) discussing mental health. The beauty of the work is it’s ability to avoid seeming cliché- well maybe calling the opening track I’m Ok is a bit naff but Sean’s integrity speaks above everything. The term concept album has a wide scoping meaning which could be discussed at length but often relates to group of tracks which musically or lyrically follow a similar theme, to Sean’s credit he takes things a step further with the EP’s title Curate Calm, Create Chaos (not a track name) and the photographic artwork of the EP cover and singles; the cynical could comment that the photography is simple black and white, but we see internal storm within Sean extending to the weather within the photos.

“Thankfully the EP isn’t a meme filled whimper but Curate Calm, Create Chaos is the triumphant progression Sean has been building his expertise to allow him to write.”

At only 5 tracks in length with 2 being dropped as single ahead of the EP’s release it this feels similar to Fontaines DC’s Dogrel earlier this year- we knew what we were in for but we had to wait for the whole release to appreciate the full subtleties Curate Calm, Create Chaos would offer. Aside from the bland title I’m Ok Sean’s lyrics on the track shows he’s become more than a Jamie T rip off. We learn in opener I’m Ok that this is where the EP’s title was born in the lyric “If I can’t curate calm, I create chaos, If it anint bolted down it’s going out the window.” These lines are closely followed by Sean stating “I can be insecure”; as a man who frequents the other side of the bar at Southampton’s Joiners music venue pouring pints for the myriad of upcoming touring acts coming through the venue and local music aficionados this is a bold approach to be so honest with his listeners. Thankfully the EP isn’t a meme filled whimper but Curate Calm, Create Chaos is the triumphant progression Sean has been building his expertise to allow him to write.

Latest single Heartbreaker has all the markings of Sean’s close friend Frank Turner’s early work, which is said as no insult- Frank is one of the UK’s best songwriters and with the pair having polar opposite vocal styles it feels like a nod to Frank and not a rip-off. Frank Turner, Johnny Lloyd and Sean Mcgowan are all Xtra Mile Recordings artists which you can feel particularly in Heartbreaker and again in 4th track Money, they both have the indescribable hallmarks of the Xtra Mile roster. Finishing Heartbreaker Sean has to stamp his Cuppa Tea jack-the-lad mark on it “whatever Trevor, I’m off to get wiser and older” whereas on Money Sean displays a diaphragm full vocal performance which circumvents its ability to be a mundane track.

“it’s natural that Sean wanted to reveal to the world [Silk,] his perfect lyrical social commentary as soon as possibly could- Sean you must have felt like a kid with a brilliant secret to share with friends.”

Disappointingly Sean did let ‘the cat out of the bag’ dropping Silk as a single ahead of the EP which is Sean’s best work to date and is not close to being matched on the rest of the EP or even his whole discography. Although we comment that it is disappointing, it’s natural that Sean wanted to reveal to the world his perfect lyrical social commentary as soon as possibly could- Sean you must have felt like a kid with a brilliant secret to share with friends. With Silk Sean managed to channel all his best qualities- the mockney esque vocal rhythm, brutal honest lyricism whilst avoiding being corny and backed by well measured simplistic guitar to allow the lyrics to shine. Certain listeners will hear this track and feel that Sean is writing about them when in reality the faultless words reflect the lives of swathes of societies youth.

“[On Queen Of The West] Sean [proves] he is not ‘a one trick pony’, this is epic and leaves us wanting more.”

Closing the EP with Queen Of The West Sean presents his ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Silk is Sean’s most accessible work with its lyrically important content but Queen Of The West is the track that Sean shows his biggest growth as a writer. With 2 minutes almost solely featuring acoustic guitar and Sean’s vocal we begin to know that the Queen… is building to something when strings (a common feature of this EP) join Sean’s solo performance, after a tiny pause the acoustic guitar line thrashes backed by cascading military style drums, a multitude of string drizzled with a topping of Sean’s vocal line- this is Sean proving he is not a one trick pony, this is epic and leaves us wanting more both to its credit and failing.

8/10

Out 1st of November on Xtra Mile Recordings.

Words: James Wadsworth @jamespart31

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