Eugene McGuinness is the Judas of rock highway. On signing to Domino Records he unapologetically leapt from the back of his University band, an operatic rock outfit, onto a bric-a-brac carriage previous hired by Devendra Banhart. That short but prolific journey spawned The Early Learnings of Eugene McGuinness, an aptly titled debut that musically hints at the singer-songwriter’s turncoat nature. Not bored of his acoustic guitar but seeking something with more bite, McGuinness soon traded in for the bucking broncho of his self-titled sophomore, and later recruited a driver and bellboy to jump on the twisted pop of Glue. Now riding 100mph away from his most accomplished sound, with his fourth studio release McGuinness has reached a turn in the road, and it’s one that has caused many acts to turn their automobiles over. The Invitation to the Voyage hurtles towards Indie Pop Avenue.
Anyone who witnessed Mr McGuinness’ performance at Blissfields this summer will know what a hideous car crash this release is. Overshadowed by scores of bands who are far, far better at shifting gears, McGuinness’ attempt to join in with the lads is as dismal as the faces that gawked at him from that sunny field in June.
It all starts with the electronic squeal of "Harlequinade", quickly transformed into the mechanic groan of "Sugarplum" and the deafening clank of "Lion". Only "Shotgun" and "Thunderbolt" – wedged at the halfway point - flash a glimpse of life as Eugene once knew it. Thanks mainly to the return of Eugene’s trademark yelp, if the tracks weren’t rubbing shoulders with his worst material to date, they would land free of the wreckage. Instead the whole chaotic mess is left squirming for its last breath on "I Love You Josh" and "Japanese Cars", both fundamentally tedious and strangely flat odes to the dancefloor. Yawn.
This analogy implies there is something exciting about The Invitation to the Voyage, but unfortunately the truth is quite the opposite: the album is overpoweringly boring. It’s the equivalent of a toy car coming off its Scalextric rail only to land safely on some cotton wool Mummy put down. There’s no blood, guts and glory to replace McGuinness’ failure at tackling the mainstream. It’s not even funny. It’s certainly not a ride to hitch, if you value your time on this earth.
Release: 6th August 2012, Domino