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Album Review: NewDad – MADRA

Album Release Date: January 26, 2024                                                                       
Genre: Indie Rock / Shoegaze
 

It’s no secret that Ireland’s bountiful music scene is currently having a bit of a moment. With Sprints, The Murder Capital, and the more established Fontaines D.C. bowling over fans and critics with ease, there is a case to be made that The Emerald Isle is producing the world’s best contemporary alternative acts. Slotting nicely into that narrative is Galway’s four-piece NewDad and their assured debut MADRA – dog in Irish Gaelic. 


While their contemporaries proudly display their love of The Fall, Wire, and the Beat Generation poets, it’s clear that NewDad worships at the altar of the dreamy weirdos. The album’s eleven tracks contain the DNA of many a cult act, from the melodic basslines of The Cure to the jangled textures of Lush and The Cranberries. This is music to sway to, not write a political slogan. Happily, the lyrics and vocals of Julia Dawson add an immediacy and modern touch not often found on beloved shoegaze albums of old.


Lines such as “I wish you were everything I hate in the world / Not the best person in it” from the album highlight Nightmare, giving the listener some relationship drama to hang on to as Fiachra Parslow’s reactive drumming propels the song forward. Despite its name, Nosebleed offers the LP’s sweetest moment, a swooning chorus masking lyrics on neglectful parents and dysfunctional relationships—heartbroken words over the prettiest earworms – pure Robert Smith school of songwriting. 


Helping the layers of guitar and rhythm section not sound like total soup is co-mixer Alan Moulder, frankly the quintessential alt-rock sound engineer thanks to his work with Nine Inch Nails, The Smashing Pumpkins, and My Bloody Valentine, to name just a few. This, along with the well-balanced touch of producer Chris W Ryan, helps MADRA sound far more polished than many a band’s debut. It’s pensive sounding, with just enough weight to stop things feeling too lightweight. The same could be said for much of the songwriting, too, however. 


The likes of opener Angel, rocker Sickly Sweet, and poppy cut In My Head have enough structure or fuel to cut through the haze, but a good third of the album only lingers a short time after listening to it. The biggest pitfall of any band playing with jangly, reverb-drenched genres is creating songs that stick long-term. MBV does this by throwing your eardrums into a black hole while the likes of The Smith’s leaned into 60s pop melodies to keep you coming back for more. 


MADRA is an accomplished debut that wears its influences on its sleeve, sometimes to its detriment. Still, there’s enough here, especially the confessional lyrics and bass work, to make NewDad a band to watch. They’ve got a vibe down that’ll please lovers of introspection. Let’s hope they put their stamp on whatever they do next with more force. 

Words by Sam Walker-Smart

 

CONE Mag Album Score: 71%

 

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