Irish-born Ciaran McFeely (a.k.a. Simple Kid) had a near miss with fame ’n’ glory at age 17 with glam rockers The Young Offenders. But, as the story goes, McFeely grew disenchanted with the music biz due to tussles over creative control and the label’s promotional effort. Withdrawing to pursue life and music on his own terms, McFeely nonetheless had the good fortune of high-profile support. During a trek opening for Suede, McFeely drew the attention of U.K. label 2M. At age 27, Simple Kid now benefits from a decade of perspective and a studious ear for 40 years of rock and pop.
“Hello” launches Simple Kid’s debut with the perfect mix of Beck’s “Loser,” T. Rex’s “The Slider,” Blur’s “Beetlebum,” and a pinch of Ian Hunter vocal delivery. Call it slacker glam, perhaps. The Neil Young harmonica and acoustic rhythm of “Truck On” combine with pastiche production to create a futuristic blues anthem. Mellotron and found sounds push the mood off kilter, while the song alternates between skepticism and hope that the Good Lord has some plan for us all. Amusingly, McFeely’s vocal inflections on the song bear an undeniable similarity to Adam Sandler’s Saturday Night Live persona, Cajun Man.
“Drugs” is the album’s dance-floor anthem, borrowing Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” clavinet and a funky ’70s horn break. The swaggering and seedy “Supertramps and Superstars” owes the most to Brett Anderson and Suede, with stories about fringe characters McFeely can’t decide whether to spurn or deify. “The Average Man” negotiates the territory between Arlo Guthrie social observation and Ray Davies commentary, with particular kinship to “20th Century Man” from the Kinks’ Muswell Hillbillies LP. And the tone and movement of “Staring at the Sun” are heavily informed by Radiohead’s “Just,” but are warped by Southern rock a la the North Mississippi All-Stars. The song offers tutelage from McFeely’s youthful missteps, exhorting listeners, “How hard can it be just to get along? Don’t go selling your soul.”