As longtime bassist with The Young Dubliners, Bren Holmes helped the band craft an impressive mix of Celtic rock that paid just as much attention to the lyrics as they did to their Irish influences.
On his solo debut, Everything You Never Wanted, Holmes brings that same attention to lyrical detail, even if the music is slightly different. His solo effort is more in the folk/Americana vein but is just as creative. The album opens with “Sweet Talking Angel,” one of the album’s rootsier tracks, but he quickly dips into pop music, rock and folk at various stages throughout. The result vacillates from good to great. “Can’t Stop Thinkin’,” is a stunningly sweet song that expresses a pretty simple sentiment but does so beautifully thanks to Holmes emotive vocals, the rising cello and the harmonies throughout. “Ugly,” a more unconventional love song, is another solid standout with The Donna’s Brett Anderson kicking in backing vocals. In addition to a mix of session musicians and friends, Holmes also brought in his ex-Young Dubliners band mate Pat D’Arcy to play pipes, whistles and the bodhran (you can take the boy out of Ireland…).
There are a few paint by number folk pop tracks here, but even those still manage to entertain. Holmes also manages to include a pretty clever cover of Abba’s “S.O.S.,” a song that evolves the pop standard without slagging it in the slightest, making for a genuinely endearing salute to the Swedish pop icons. The album ends on “Somewhere (Ode To Sane)” with the song’s namesake – The Pogues’ frontman Shane MacGowan – on vocals, a remarkable all glasses in the bar raised singalong.
“I don’t set out to write a particular song or music,” Holmes said recently. “Whatever comes out, I just go with it. There’s no particular theme to the record, either. As a sort of an outsider looking in, I’d say it’s about loss and heartbreak over a long span of time.”