Jinx Lennon: In Dundalk we often forget to cherish what we have

Niall McCann reviews the new album from Dundalk’s finest punk poet Jinx Lennon

Jinx Lennon: In Dundalk we often forget to cherish what we have

Jinx Lennon is back with his new album 'Grow A Pair'

The world can be seen as a scary and confusing place sometimes (all the time), this year alone - off the top of my head - we have had the death by poachers of the last male White Rhino in the wild, Donald Trump is still president of the United States, lying with every breath while making the rich richer and the poor poorer, the DUP are still living in the 1700’s and Brexit threatens to bring the border back to our island and our town.

Fake news has replaced whatever ‘real news’ was and everyone is an expert on everything and nothing at all.

This is the age of the non-expert, the spoofer, the hater and the coiffed charlatan. Say hello to post-modernity, say hello to the post-everything world were to paraphrase the academic Frederick Jameson - there is more and more information and less and less meaning.

Rather than watching an Adam Curtis film, we are now stuck in one and it’s on repeat. Scary times indeed, so it’s a welcome relief that there is still one artist who is here to remind us that in these troubled and troubling times we don’t have much choice but “to stand up when we don’t feel tall” and “to grow a pair of balls.”

Ladies and gentlemen welcome once again to the sound and fury of the ever brilliant Jinx Lennon.

They say good things come to those who wait and after a hiatus of nearly six years, Dundalk’s finest returned in 2016 with not one but two albums, the punchy melodies of PAST PUPIL STAY SANE and the darker soundscapes of its twin MAGIC BULLETS OF MADNESS TO UPLIFT GRIEF MAGNETS. Now more prolific than ever, Jinx returns, quickly following that pair of albums with another frankly stunning new LP aptly titled GROW A PAIR!!! This is a work packed to the brim with 18 tracks of beautiful, empathetic and engaging songs of schizo border brilliance, reminding us that despite the seemingly endless darkness there is always the promise of oncoming light if we can hold on long enough.

With this, his 9th album release Lennon reaffirms his claim to being not just the best songwriter in Louth but as one of Ireland’s greatest artists and not just of now. What is startling here is the level of quality that he doesn’t allow to dip at all over its 18 tracks. Described by Lennon himself in typically idiosyncratic fashion as “border cosmic schizo folk, the sound of a thousand smuggler roads leading into concrete jungle purgatory, sarcastic faced wisdom and the holy wells of Bridge Street”.

This is the sound of a singular artist defiant in the face of battles brought forth by the so-called modern world. As with all his work, the record is bursting with empathy and compassion; we get songs about abused women pushed to breaking point in Now I Am In Singapore, renters crammed into slums by greedy landlords on Afraid to Open My Mouth and Black Polly Bags, a southern lad who falls for a girl from Newry (Dundalk’s evil twin) despite her 5000 cousins waiting for him outside on the aptly titled Newry Bird, a song which showcases Lennon’s considerable strengths, at once moving, harrowing, disturbing and funny.

Becoming a father has clearly had a huge effect on the musician (how would it not) and here it is addressed on the touching You’ll Be Kept. If anything, parenthood seems to have boosted the empathy in the man and in his work, there is even a track here that gives us the point of view of someone who would actually vote for Donald Trump on Silver Spoon and we get a nod to Castleblaney, Keady and Big Tom on the brilliant single 300 Pianos with its infectious chorus “there are 300 pianos in Castleblaney to give you hope when hope is gone, there are 600 cowboy boots over in Keady and in the cars they play Big Tom”. The song features an audio sample of an interview with Big Tom at the end, this made all the more moving by the country star’s recent passing this week.

On GPO he addresses the governments co-opting of a fading past as a distraction against the ills of today (See Varadkar’s call for a Republic Day when 10,000 people are homeless and rents are going through the roof.)

As ever, Lennon addresses issues that most musicians on the island shy away from. There is plenty here that celebrates the strangeness and unique nature of Ireland and border-living, such as on the knowing and hilarious We Don’t See Anything.

Difficult time

In a recent interview with RTE’s Sean Rocks (who funnily enough used to teach in the Friary primary school in Dundalk) Jinx spoke about how going through a difficult time on a personal level helped shape the themes of the record, which could best be described as one of defiance; defiance in the face of an increasingly crazy, unpredictable world which seems to defy reason with each passing day. The title track Grow a Pair is a clarion call to standing up, for oneself, for what you believe in, for what is right and for others.

Its description of a woman being abused on a bus by some lunatic while other passengers sit and do nothing is a scene we will all recognise, the knowing that the right thing to do is to stand up and intervene coupled with the fear that this ‘lula’s’ ire will be turned to you.

Musically this record showcases a more acoustically inclined approach then some of his previous work, but then as anyone who attends his brilliant gigs will testify Jinx has always been a punk poet. Armed with his guitar flourishes of electronica are as present as ever, there are even traces of dub and spoken word amongst the folk and Americana.

As ever, Lennon borrows from a melting pot of sounds and ideas and turns them into something unique and very much his own. No one sounds like this, no one else could.

Jinx’s ear for a catchy melody and infectious hooks are stronger than ever and one would be hard pressed to find a better record and collection of songs anywhere else this year or indeed any year.

In Dundalk we can often forget to cherish what we have on our own doorstep, we are extremely lucky to have an artist as raw, honest and gifted as Jinx Lennon and we should cherish him while we have him. If someone as boring as Bono is a star, then Lennon is a solar system.

As Jinx told me recently at a gig of his in Dublin, the message of this record is “If you let it go on..... Trouble will come on” so let’s all stand up and grow a pair and get our arses down to the Spirit Store on Friday 27th April for the Dundalk launch of this LP, which is out now.

You’d be a fool not to.

Album Rating: 9/10