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[The Sky's Awful Blue] also underscores Coughlan's abilities as a songwriter, with the bare minimum of words conveying maximum emotional impact. read more

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As The Sky's Awful Blue shows, Cathal Coughlan, as in his early-1990's outfit Fatima Mansions, remains a master of wordplay and a confirmed cynic destined to catalog society's ills. This time around, on his third solo album, the Irish expatriate has matched his words and deep voice with a sparse treatment of strummed guitars and brushed drums.

The mood is often eerie, but plain and effective as song styles vary from the sprightly boneyard travelogue "Denial Of The Right To Dream" to the 80's anti-nostalgia of "Goodbye Sadness." The camp drama of "You Turned Me," with a lone clarinet highlighting a lush orchestration, begs to be set to film. Especially with the lyric, "You turned me/So it's the Nobel Prize for you/Now you're looking so stately, pious yet shapely/ Parading down the avenue." But with lyrics that vivid, film would almost be redundant.

In the grim denouement of "A Drunken Hangman", the hero of the song's title, battered by years of intoxication and sober only in the wake of a final failure to do his brutal work, sights the image of his now-unachievable redemption in the smile of a young woman in a boarding-house. Simple piano and strings give way to dissonant guitars as the lyrics underpin the hangman's grim situation.

Despite their differences, the songs on The Sky's Awful Blue all retain a rugged theme of inevitable desperation delivered matter-of-factly in Coughlan's unforgettable baritone.

"It just now happens that things hit me in the face that I think are worth talking aboutwhich are not terribly cheerful," explains Coughlan. "The Sky's Awful Blue is the most single-minded of my solo records so far. It has an urgency about it, which is partly due to not having used other people's money to make it."

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