Rob Halligan, another fine mess. After the Fire front man pours out tune after tune on an acoustic album with attitude.

11 tracks / 42 minutes
Blatant Records

I usually just think of Halligan as a singer, but this collection really brings out his talent as a writer. There are more strong tunes in this release than anyone has a right to, but this words also show nice touches. “Can anyone see the image in me trying to make its way into the frame upon the wall?” he sings on “Can Anyone Hear?” and in “All We Need is Love” he shows a fresh turn of phrase: “There's been too much fighting, been so much hurting,,,  so much not-liking, dishing-the-dirting. All we need is love.”

That is not at the expense of his singing. Now fronting the re-incarnated Christian rock pioneers After the Fire, he aches, celebrates and urges in this collection, always sounding authentic and impassioned.

Halligan straddles both folk and rock. Opener “Heavenfield” has all the historic sense of a folk song, while it is hard to hear the chorus of “Seen the Light” without thinking of Meatloaf's “Bat out of Hell.” The two combine in ”Wouldn't Be Here,” a dynamic attitude-driven song that makes you want to join in.

Rooted in faith, these songs look at all of life. “Thinking of You” is a post-break-up song; “Birds have Nests” is a scripture-quoting song of social justice; “Hope” is about an outlook on life, written after visiting Ethiopia; “Love Your Smile” is a personal piece and on the title track, he wrestles with doubt and needing support through the dark times in life.

On that and “All We Need is Love,” Esther O'Connor duets with Halligan and makes a tangible difference to the song. She is the daughter of Wet Wet Wet associate Graeme Duffin, who plays guitar and is the co-producer.

But for all its positives, it took me a very long time to get into this album, probably because I found the opening track difficult to relate to immediately. I found the disc too easy to take out and replace with something more instantly gratifying.

Maybe it is a subjective thing, because these songs are very strong and I now enjoy that first track.

Try for yourself - a couple of live performances of tracks from this album reflect the content well:

3nhalf or 4tocks

Derek Walker

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