Ruairi and the Owls is the brainchild of Furlo bassist Ruairi Connolly. Hailing from Derry, the band consist of members from various local outfits including Mike Hamill (Chase Atlantis), Conor Crampsie (Dyingbreed) and Jamie O’ Hara (Think Fast Killer), Ruairi and the Owls have released a plethora of EPs since 2012 and have just recently released their latest EP Man About A Dog with producer Niall Dalton. It consists of four tracks, originally released as singles, with the title track ”Thaw” leading the charge on this their latest body of work.
It’s safe to say that this EP took me on a conflicting pop/rock rollercoaster ride. Aspects of it shun with strong hints of The Riptide Movement influences, with other areas throwing me back to the days of Green Days subtle acoustic runs. While each track is a different character in itself, some more than others stood out as the dominant hero’s on this project and if the band build on these positive attributes and sounds then the only way is up.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect when hitting the play button for the opening track ”Thaw”, but to say I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement. Hats have to be taken off to the producer here as the quality of the recording, and the tightness of the band hits you like a boxer out to make a statement in the first round. From the initial opening lines the track grips you and doesn’t let go. In terms of style, both ”Thaw” and the following track ”Memory Stick” hold a lot of the same characteristics. In both cases the heartbeat of the track lies with the driving drum beats. For me the tracks have a quintessential feel of The Riptide Movement about them, not in a cover band type of way, but more in sound, originality and all round attitude and enjoyment. Lyrically, their subtly very clever, as is thoughtful arrangement of the tracks overall, and in particular the interplay between drums and electric is definitely worth a note, creating the drive momentum, definite foot tappers. Both songs have plenty of room to breathe both lyrically and instrumental wise. They are really well-balanced all round, everyone plays their part and plays it well and, as a result these tracks really come together and complementing each of the individuals involved from the musicians to the producer and the engineers.
My rollercoaster ride had an unexpected dip, not fall, on the final two tracks ”Egg and Spoon” and ”Contagious”. It has to be said that this was not a huge negative, but in comparison to ”Thaw” and ”Memory Stick” I just felt that the same creative energies were somewhat lacking. Both tracks drop the tempo and have a much more acoustic feel to them, dominated by vocals, harmonies and acoustic guitar, which is great in terms of changing the dynamic of the EP, but where the opening tracks paved the way for great arrangement, I felt these just didn’t quiet hit the mark and left them feeling a bit second best to the openers. They have a hint of an early, stripped back, Green Day style feel to them, which showed great potential, but I felt that lyrically and in terms of production, they could have been edgier and grainier in places, resulting in a solid overall identity and direction for Ruairi and the Owls. It has to be said that the harmonies were great and the addition of a female on there was a nice touch also. Overall, the framework is there on these songs, they just need a bit more time on the arrangement front and a toughening up lyrically in places.
Overall I really enjoyed this EP, and with ”Thaw” being the newest creation of work by Ruairi and the Owls, I can only hope that it’s the sign of more great music to come from. There are some very strong indicators on Man About A Dog that this band is one to watch out for, and if they continue to build on the positives, clearly hammering through, then the sky really is the limit.