Review: Joe McMahon- Another Life (Gunner/ Smartpunk)

Posted: April 16, 2017 in Reviews

Image result for Joe Mcmahon another life

I am a little late to this party, but glad that I finally took a listen to Another Life, because it’s actually a really, really excellent record. If you were unaware, this is Joe McMahon, formerly of Smoke and Fire. They were a melodic punk band that released a couple of albums on Fat in the mid-‘00s. Minus a couple of hits, I never paid much attention to them, but the quality of the songwriting on Another Life suggests that I’ve made an error. This is a classic-sounding country rock record. If I were to read such a description, I would be probably quite put-off; this is not my genre of choice. There is not even much ‘punk’ influence or attitude on the record, except maybe the acoustic re-working of a former Smoke and Fire tune (“Neon Lights”). In contrast with the majority of punk-rockers-turned-singer-songwriters, Joe doesn’t do half measures and instead makes a full-on country-rock record that could that have come from the ‘70s.

So, what makes Another Life stand out? Well, primarily, it is the superior songwriting, as exhibited on the strong first half of the album. Joe is full of regret, bitterness, loss and hope. Opener “It All Went Black” hits you straight off the bat, with its mournful tales of ‘what could have been’. One of the record’s best lines is on this one:

“True love, well there ain’t no such thing/ Because being true is impossible to be in the world we live/ So, walk home and be free- the time has passed, for love or loyalty”

Joe’s vocals help ‘sell’ the songs: they are emotionally charged and pack a punch. “Chained to Ghosts” is one of my favourites and highlights Joe’s passionate vocals the best when he painfully barks out, “Everything’s gone blank”. The title track has a chorus which you will struggle to get out of your head. It also serves to underline the key theme explored on the record: contemplating the path not taken; thinking what could have been. If you’re bored of the whole ‘punk-goes-acoustic’ thing, Another Life may revive your interest.



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