Cheers and All the Best is certainly something to write home about. This is because it is something to mourn home about. That oul “pint of Harp” ad from the 80’s comes to mind, “What I miss about home…is the rain, and the greenness…and a pint of Harp”. Emét’s debut EP is chock-full of the same charm, wit, and rootless alienation, and is executed so expertly and tastefully that you’ll be ringing your ma with tears in your eyes and a lump in your throat after your first listen.
Now, I love London. But I think it is fair to say it is one of the more stubborn melting pots in the world. While it is far, far easier to be Irish in the Big Smoke than thirty years ago, there’s still this uncanny sense of alienation that no shamrock-adorned gastro-pub in Camden can alleviate. If anything, my sense of Irishness is intensified in Islington. Emét reawakened these bittersweet memories in the best way.
Recorded in Half Bap Studios, produced by George Sloan of No Oil Paintings and mastered by Pete Maher, you really couldn’t ask for a better lock of lads to realise these tight four tracks. Previously producing local alt-folk soldiers Joel Harkin and Dani Larkin, Half Bap lend the same keen ear to Emét’s soulful world-weariness; the guitars sound faultless and expressive, the drums are crisp without dominating the mix, and the unapologetically doleful Derry accented crooning is absolutely fabulous. A lovely wee xylophone blows kisses into standout track “JJ Johnston”, which is a treat for those with a penchant for the happy-sad.
The title track opens up its arms and lets us cry on its shoulder with a simple guitar arpeggio and sublime first line that really gives us the thesis of the EP, “I don’t know, I guess…getting old is just a montage of regret/And I waste time, drafting lines I’ve not the right to say”. Imposter syndrome is rife in any artist’s life, and indeed, Emét is either describing his own unusual character or envious of one who wears it better, “Wouldn’t see his type round our estate;/Trench coat, peak cap, and the spine I lack,” This is hard-hitting stuff for the first two minutes of a song, and I bloody love it. The lonely guitar is joined by an equally frowning bass (played by Buí’s Rónán McQuillan), and the instrumental palette eventually expands into a justifiably schmaltzy waltz to back the all-too-relatable denial of growing up. A subtle, subdued, but crushing welcome into this paradoxically colourful monochrome world of Emét’s.
This is a smooth transition into the swaying second track, “JJ Johnston”. I’ve adored this song since its single release, and it is even better in the context of the EP. In my eyes and ears it is the best example of Emét’s talents previously gushed about. The guy has a way with words that makes me seethe with jealousy and eye-widening profundity, oh my days. The narrative takes place in the midst of a depressive episode that romanticises a past with someone significant, with whom he was able to “take life for granted”. It looks back on this as well as forward with a lovely assurance that the feeling will return again. A good way to put it is when you’re in the throes of a bad cold with a stuffed/runny nose trying to sleep and just kicking your past self for not appreciating not being sick. Rather than have me clunkily try to describe it, you should just listen to it, really.
Third track “Thran” is a wonderful change of sonic pace. Evidently continuing the narrative of “JJ Johnston”, Emét has swapped his rose-tinted glasses for jade-tinted ones, to better furrow his brow behind bitterly with. He has made some progress in getting over this certain someone, or rather he’s telling himself he has, “I’ll make my bed on cold cement, under jaded skies/And tell myself I’m better now, ‘cause you’re not on my mind” and that is real, man. This glorious gut-punch is reflected in the drums that succeed this line. We’ve the same lovely plucked acoustic and lovely singing voice and all, but the drums (courtesy of Matt Sloan of Buí, once again) are lo-fi as anything, and boy does it work. A tinny rattle at the centre of the mix surrounded by a languorous electric guitar, it’s, again, glorious. Wee bit of distortion here and there doesn’t go amiss, the feedback wail at the end threatens to explode into something else as Emét threatens “to hold someone else’s hand” but this soon dies with the suggestion of the admission that this anger is kinda immature.
“I Am a Bomb Technician (If You See Me Running Try to Keep Up)” encapsulates that emigré’s melancholy better than I ever could, “Tired of Oxford Street, and hiding in crowds/It’s too loud, and my skin’s all but tough/The life that I thought I was living just isn’t enough/…I spend my whole life in this city and keep getting lost”. It’s a tune to sway back and forth to, with a pint sloshing in one arm and the other round a randomer’s shoulder. A rocking end swells with sobbing horns and crunchy guitar, a cracker of an ending to an EP that is only just the beginning for Emét.
There’s echoes of Hozier, Bright Eyes, even Father John Misty (with its witty cynicism) all over this thing. The influences are there but are anything but worn on Emét’s paisley shirt sleeve. It’s a sleeve that is probably soaked through with tears that needed to be shed.