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Andrew Fagan, poet, musician and sailor of the South Pacific seas, returns and in fine form. To those who are fans of Fagan’s music from way back, Admiral of the Narrow Seas (put out by Big Ears Music NZ) will not disappoint and will soundtrack your Kiwi summer.
Like a lot of people I best remember him as charismatic front man for The Mockers in the ’80s who penned Kiwi classics like ‘Forever Tuesday Morning, ‘Another Boring Day in the Amazon’ and ‘My Girl Thinks She’s Cleopatra’ so much a part of my teen years.
Later in the ’90s he went solo with Blisters (1993) which contained memorable songs like ‘Now You Know’ and ‘Jerusalem’ and then moved to London for a while where he worked as a roadie and lived on a houseboat on the River Thames, while playing in various creations like Lig in Camden Town.
Now back in Auckland, New Zealand, working in broadcasting with Kiwi FM and Radio Live, he has delivered once more with his long-awaited release from Fagan and the People.
I say ‘long-awaited’ because I heard early demos of some of these songs when Fagan was a guest at a poetry event I co-organised in 2006 called Poetrymath (after the Rolling Stones’ Aftermath album). That year I published his poetry book, Overnight Downpour, through HeadworX. I’ve always like Fagan’s work as well as his dark lyrics, he has that rare gift to write well-crafted and layered pop tunes.
Tracks on this new album ‘Get Light’ and the opener ‘Enjoy the Show’ carry that sonorous, melodious approach resonant of a lot of UK and NZ Indie pop. There is also a feel of UK acts like Bloc Party in tracks like ‘Religion’, ‘Clemency’ or the powerful drum-laden and mad cap ‘Messiah’: ‘I am your Messiah/ I aim take the species higher’ which has a great little guitar solo near the end, a good album closer.
I wouldn’t like to focus on what his songs sound like too much as clearly Fagan is a mature songwriter now and is his own singular artist. The album title, Admiral of the Narrow Seas, for instance is pure Fagan like his lyrics and is ‘a sea phrase that comes from an 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.’
My favourites are the rockier and heavier pop tunes like ‘Prised’, ‘I Know’ and ‘Blame Me’, where his peculiar genius shines through. I also like the use of trombone, sax and trumpet in various places on this album as well as the restless range of musical styles on show here. It gives the album an eclectic mix and variety.
Congrats to all those who worked on this. I would expect this album to rock played live. Fagan has always been a crowd-pleaser and willing to engage his audience. I hope he tours near my place soon.
CD reviewed by Mark Pirie for Poetry Archive of New Zealand Aotearoa website
Mark Pirie is a Wellington poet, publisher, PANZA member, and a former dee-jay on Active 89FM (1993-1996). One of his favourite concerts at Bar Bodega, Wellington, in 1994, was on Fagan’s Blisters tour where, among other things, the audience received a generous dose from Fagan’s Vodka spray bottle (aka ‘Trance Fluid’). He has followed Fagan’s music and poetry closely since he first started listening to popular music at age 10 in 1985 and counts himself a Fagan fan. He published Fagan’s poetry book, Overnight Downpour, in 2006. PANZA owns and holds all four of Fagan’s slim volumes.