‘Pook the Destroyer’ sees Daragh Slacke run an amazing gambit of styles to create something exceptional on his second album.
‘Slacke’ is the outlet for musical explorer, and virtuoso guitarist Daragh Slacke, with a band of moveable parts. The exquisite quality of Slacke’s guitar playing is up front and centre on the 10 tracks, as you would expect of a man who commands universal respect for his talent - he occasionally shares a stage with former Mama’s Boy, Pat McManus and Strypes’ Josh McClorey, who incidently features on keyboards in Pook the Destroyer.
Musically, Pook is brimming with ideas, from the driving rock riff of the album opener ‘Scratch That Itch’ through to the Zappa-esque curio that closes the album, ‘Bizzy Little Bee’.
The tracks between see him channel his inner country, with a hoedown on ‘Crazy’, and tap into the influences of a whole realm of ‘90s metal bands like Faith No More, Alice in Chains, and early stage Ozzy can be detected.
Not since the [first] demise of Guns ‘N’ Roses, has the guitar solo been revived with such sustained mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. In addition to the raucous guitar solos, Davey Gough’s funk-laden bass lines are never too far away.
Despite the ferocious talent at his finger-tips Daragh refuses to take himself too seriously, and humour’s seldom far from the tracks. Sean Lamh charts the heroics of a ’giant of a man’ who rescues a heifer and a priests dog from a bog hole: imagine Tom Waits howling a bog gothic number whilst swigging shots of Um Bongo.
Pursuing the turf theme, Darragh proves that you can start a celtic rock song with the phrase ‘EU brought in legislation’. But just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you should. ‘Down at the Bog, Down at the Bog, five generations, Down at the Bog,’ goes the refrain you can imagine Ming Flanagan humming as wanders the corridors of Brussels. At times - such as on the rather earnest ‘Self Respect’ - the lyrics occasionally prove the album’s Achilles, and may explain the reliance on humour. That’s being ultra picky though on an album of such joyous strangeness.
Vocally Darragh gives a commanding performance, even sounding like PIL-era John Lydon on the melodramatic epic ‘Majick’. In addition to McClorey on keys, Gough’s mesmerising basslines and Barry Fitzgerald’s drumming, Stetsons must be doffed to Slacke’s other collaborators namely Alan D’arcy, Clara Rose, Robbie Perry and Mike Patterson all pitching in. Whilst ‘Pook the Destroyer’ is beautifully polished, it’s mercifully not over produced in the hands of co-producers Slacke and Jamie Byrne, while Martin Quinn of Carnaross’ Jam Studios mixed and mastered the final offering.
For this reviewer the stand-out tracks are the soulful ‘So Sorry’, and the wonderfully bonkers ‘Streamlined’ which veers from a banjo-drenched disco number to a full blown rock-out. You can’t look past ‘Scratch that Itch’ either – the Celt’s scratched his eardrums raw with repeated listens.
The Celt wondered at first if the overt quirkiness of a clutch of the tunes reduced them to mere novelty songs? But a colleague wisely advised me to “mood up”. The music is at times sensational.
At its high points Pook the Destroyer’s like nothing else you’ve ever heard from an Irish outfit, which is reason enough to check it out.
Daragh Slacke intends to launch the album in autumn, with a live band under the moniker ‘Dr Slacke & The Palpitations’. The line-up currently includes Liam McCabe (sax), Josh McClorey (bass) and Barry Fitzgerald (drums).