‘Cruise Fiction’ is the third solo album from former Talk-Show member LM O’Shea, and promises ‘a blend of Kinks, Bowie and Cars’ – although it’s Iggy Pop fronting ‘This is Hardcore’ era Pulp that comes to mind on the theatrical curtain-raiser, ‘Lonely Like Lucifer’. It paves the way for a set of songs that are magnificently crafted, not to mention varied stylistically, spanning a range of rock, pop, easy, glam, swing, and, well, it’s all going on across the album’s fourteen-track span.
On the surface, many of the songs are simple and sparse, but the arrangements are deceptive, and there’s a lot happening between the layers of instrumentation. The title – a play on words that only reveals itself when you say it quickly – is an indicator of O’Shea’s love of words, which manifests in some nifty lyrics and inventive rhyming as he spins songs of melancholy and regret, as well as joy and optimism..
Sturdy stomper ‘Pretty on the Inside’ (not a Hole cover) steps up into classic rock territory, and then wistful love song ‘Desdemone’ bursts out the brass with a Latin flourish, and time and again, O’Shea proves himself to be an adept and versatile songwriter
It’s not all pure gold: there’s a smooth, almost loungey bounce to ‘New York City Love Song’ that’s a shade too syrupy, and the disco/funk-tinged white soul of ‘Remedy of Love’ fails to fulfil its potential as an ambitious pop tune in the vein of The Associates on account of some rather cliché vocal processing and a somewhat lacklustre hook.
Then, again ‘Oh Juliette’ comes on like a mash up of Squeeze, Bowie, and Roxy Music and more than compensates – and importantly, it’s good fun, while ‘the proggy ‘Gravity’ is abundantly solid. But it’s on ‘Karma Comeback’ that O’Shea hits perhaps that most absolute sweet spot – a timeless classic with eastern scales infusing an understated rock tune.
It all makes for an album that’s easy on the ear and entertaining.