“The Rocky Road to Dublin” is an old Irish folk song about a man’s trip from his hometown of Tuam, Ireland to, you guessed it – Dublin. Along the way, he encounters dogs and lasses, has his belongings stolen, and eventually ditches the city of Dublin to hop ship to Liverpool, where he whacks some contentious Englishmen in the head with his shillelagh for taking the piss out of him.
Brian Kelly, another man out of Tuam, sings under the moniker of So Cow. He turns out songs that bristle with a charming, jittery angst – concise, yet twee at times. Not the check-out-my-cutesy-Belle & Sebastian-plush-dolls twee, but more of the check-out-my-Television Personalities-vinyl-and-the-cigarette-burn-in-my-cardigan ilk. Though if the "t-word" is deemed dirty in your vernacular, perhaps this record isn't for you. This release collects 18 tracks that show Kelly is studied in both the classic British Invasion song structure as well as C81 and C86, both of which gave several nods to the past themselves. Most of the songs were recorded in Ireland and South Korea, a regional blur which could explain some of the lyrics' tendencies towards that ever-so-fond feeling of being lost. I'm not sure whether it's the words themselves or Kelly's inflection, but tracks like "Halcyon Days" and "Shackleton" make me wince like I just saw the girl of my dreams walk out of the dance with that dick who drives a lifted Jeep Wrangler, as I'm left standing near the bleachers in the gym holding the mixtape I made for her like a hopeless romantic dunce. Because let's be honest – love is never as pure as it is in adolescence, and Kelly captures that notion beautifully. The Irishman in love is a rocky road indeed.