Seán McGowan released his debut album, Son of the Smith, through Xtra Mile Recordings in May 2018. The first single taken from the album is ‘Off the Rails’- which you can check out here. ‘Off the Rails’ sears along with an e-bow guitar drone thrumming underneath while Seán gives the lyrical equivalent of an arm around the shoulder and kiss on the cheek of his mates for being there for him.
As a glimpse into Son of the Smith, it captures his band absolutely ploughing through the parts he wrote for them. In that spirit, Son of the Smith captures everything live. Recording at SS2 Studios in Southend with labelmate Sam Duckworth (AKA Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly.) and Jay Malhotra, drums were done without a click-track, each instrument colliding with the rhythm. “It feels urgent, like it could tip over the edge at any point,” Seán says.
‘Porky Pies’ returns to that cheeky pace, sure, jeering at commercial bullshit and fakery. ‘Romance Ain’t Dead’ though is a horn-addled scrabble for passion and love. There are hints of classic solo Seán on the quieter, finger-picked ‘Life Has a Way’ and the affecting arpeggios of ‘Oh My Days’, if more sensitive than before. But on ‘Local Boy’ he’s really looking beyond his own limits with a delicate tangle of pedal steel and strumming that reflects upon Seán’s growth since spending his youth in Southampton
There’s a spine of a concept running through the album, and one of Seán’s oldest ideas for the record: a journey across London between Old Street, Oval and Camberwell, itself a trek through Seán’s current sound. “The city’s breathing,” he begins on opener ‘Mind the Doors’, an undulating spoken word mantra upon a solo acoustic introduction via a bus journey to one of the key refrains to come. The mantra returns, announcing the album’s second half, and this time Seán’s bank card is declined on ‘Mind Your Head’ despite the warm piano promising more exploration. The album closes with drums rumbling as a metronome for Seán’s pitch-perfect grime-tinged flow into the six-minute tube journey on ‘Mind the Gap’. He peers out of his misery at the uncaring floods of commuters while lines peel off along the tracks – “keep tellin’ me to mind the gap, as the space between us grows” and “there ain’t no love on the Northern Line”. The final part of the trilogy, it’s the perfect epilogue to a heartfelt run through his life.
Over 13 tracks, Son of the Smith is disarming in its scope, surprising in its erudite tackling of life’s challenges, and strong of voice with just a dab of laddish humour – the aural personification of Seán himself. McGowan could end up soundtracking our social conscience well into next year.