The Mighty Stef: Year Of The Horse

Dubliners’ delayed comeback defies the doubters.

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‘Be reminded you’re no longer a young man,’ Stefan Murphy tells himself, ‘expected to play a young man’s game.’ The long road to this fourth album’s release saw shattered bandmates leave, Murphy suffer a breakdown and multiple music biz capos condemn his band as thirty-somethings fit for the knacker’s yard.

In a baritone like a more gothically inclined Mark Lanegan, Murphy’s response is to come out swinging. The bohemian ideal of boozing, talking, playing music, and reading Hunter S Thompson whenever you can see straight powers the bonkers early-60s-style ballad A Song For A Blind Girl, and Stella’s organ-pumped R&B.

Rock’n’roll is seen as a vampiric ritual (Ceremony) or a piratical jaunt (Capri Sun), played here with buccaneering swagger. The escalating damage on relationships and livers is clear on the faintly Cult-like epic Horse Tranquilisers.

But Murphy stays defiantly upbeat and unapologetic. The knacker’s yard, the grave and his bed hold equally slim appeal. ‘People my age have been dying,’ he sings on the gently reflective Murder, ‘ever since the day they stopped trying.’/o:p

Nick Hasted

Nick Hasted writes about film, music, books and comics for Classic Rock, The Independent, Uncut, Jazzwise and The Arts Desk. He has published three books: The Dark Story of Eminem (2002), You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks (2011), and Jack White: How He Built An Empire From The Blues (2016).