Into Your Heart
Irish band Hothouse Flowers have always been compared — fairly or unfairly — to U2. First of all, there’s the Irish thing. Also, Bono signed the band to his Mother Records imprint in the late ’80s before they were picked up by Polygram. And then there’s the similarity of the two bands’ passionate approach to music and performance. But where U2’s music is defined by The Edge’s otherworldly guitar sound, the music of Hothouse Flowers relies on more traditional influences, notably Irish folk music and American soul and gospel. Those influences are much in evidence on the band’s fifth studio album, its first since 1998.
Into Your Heart shows Hothouse Flowers shifting focus lyrically a bit. There are more personal, slice of life sketches and fewer broad spiritual anthems. Guitarist Fiachna O’Braonain remembers a bus ride back to L.A. from the beach on the pleasant soul number “Santa Monica.” “Hallelujah” is actually a weird little pseudo-psychedelic groove. And the Van Morrison-like “Magic Bracelets” is a heartfelt tribute to the late Reggae godfather Joe Higgs, with whom the band worked.
Elsewhere, “Your Love Goes On” is a great uplifting opener with trumpets, an expressive vocal from frontman Liam O’Maonlai and one of several appearances by the Dublin Gospel Choir. “Better Man” is Al Green soul all the way. If you were to subtract the loops and dance groove, “Tell Me” could be a late period Beatles rock number. And “Alright” has a sunny, positive pop feel.
An impossibly air-defying vocal from O’Maonlai on “Peace Tonight” shows him becoming more of a chameleon. He also takes some chances on “Baby I Got You” and “Out of Nowhere.” And although he occasionally overextends his vocal capabilities, let’s assume he’s just caught up in the moment.
The CD offers on a live take of the traditional Gaelic number “Si Do Mhamo I,” which will leave anyone longing for a bit of tin whistle satisfied. It also serves to remind what an excellent live band Hothouse Flowers are, much like that other band from Ireland.
Hothouse Flowers: www.hothouseflowers.com