If the street where I live in Newtown could be a Ramsey St, then ‘our kid’ Darren Cross could be our Scott Robinson.
He can be seen bringing the hits at various stages and DJ decks around the town. With a smile. One of our own. A random comparison to begin a review you say? Not so. As it happens, when I arrive (13 October) opening act Jep + Dep (Darren and his other half), the outback, fireside, sleep-country duo are charming the crowd with a Kylie Minogue cover, 'Confide In Me'.
The windows are blacked out. The stools are high. The hearts are lonely. We could be in season two of 'True Detective'. Our favourite least favourite lives. But if you check out Darren's new record, 'Xantastic' (pronounced 'zan-tastic'), on his Bandcamp page, and you should, you’ll be transported to an emotional battlefield of the North where the fate of this Winterfell lays anywhere between the bastard son of Beck and The Human League and the bastard son of Pavement/ Interpol and, I want to say… Prince. Well, they said John Snrr was dead, and look how that turned out.
Discussing the record later, 'Dep' confirms it was all recorded at home with some carefully placed Rode mics ("there's a plug for ya", Ringo peace sign!), set-up to capture the air in the music/ room. The production nails the music to a golden-brown mast of a becalmed schooner.
Live, his set opens with a backing track not unlike Radiohead's 'How To Disappear Completely'. Unsettling but hard to pinpoint why. With no discernible tempo, the sonic landscape augments the vibe of the song, rising. A wave of minors. Dry as a mine. A kick drum emerges. Conjuring forgotten American landscapes. "Waitin at the greyhound station, old friends of mine." Rufus, Leonard and Tom. Like the tapestry of the drapes in a calm, unreleased Scorsese film.
A harmonica like it's whistling, summoning ol' 'Roots' the dog to round up the lost, eternal-wandering flock. He reveals he's on codeine for a bug. Hasn't had a drink in five years. There was a teacher in my old Limerick school called Cross. Good at rugby. Some of his people went West to ride like the wind. To the border of Mexico. Some went East in chains and grew wings, raised kids and voices. Darren's people. Tonight, that's us.
It's truly remarkable what he has done to this room with just his voice and a skin-strummed guitar. Everybody needs good neighbours. Covet his goods. Check him out at a blacked-out bar near you soon. Outro music 'Revolution' by Dr John.