This is a review of "Start of the Mile" recorded by Daghdha. The review was written by Lewis Denby in 2004.
This band will be big.
When trawling through the thriving yet generally unimaginative Leeds scene, dominated as it is by generic pop-punk and the occasional 'innovative' ska movement, it's a relief to chance upon something a bit different. Daghdha, a young and upcoming Irish-influenced five-piece, are definitely that: despite being clearly inspired by a variety of previous bands, the blend of musical styles is something very rarely heard in the music underground today.
Debut release Start of the Mile, recorded and released by the band itself, is a fairly short album, at only six tracks and less than twenty minutes play time. Still, it's a clear indication of things to come. Daghdha label their style as 'folk-punk'; a more accurate description would probably be 'aggressive folk-rock'. The strong punk influences don't really stem far past their inventive cover of The Clash's famous London Calling, but some subtle undertones do flow throughout.
Daghdha's speciality, as demonstrated by Start of the Mile, is taking existing songs and putting their own twist on them - indeed, the vast majority of the record comprises covers of one form or another. Track two is a faithful homage to The Clash: London Calling keeps its unique feel, but is effectively 'Daghdhified' by Simon Barr's excellent violin lead. Half way through the CD, a gorgeous rendition of Waltzing Matilda kicks in; anyone that doesn't find themselves screaming "Waltzing Matilda, WALTZING MATILDA" at the top of their voice after listening must have some sort of problem. It's sublime.
The individual musicians are clearly talented, with some decent work from each and every band member at some point, but Daghdha are more about the overall sound. It's reminiscent of a kind of heavier Pogues, with grizzly, distorted guitars making way for cheerful jig-esque violin work. It's not a particularly varied recording, but the consistent style is more than a little unique.
Start of the Mile is true to its name in a number of ways. It's not technically the best album ever. Some of the levels seem a little dubious, and at times you begin to wonder whether Tom King's vocals really are meant to have a 'folk charm', or whether he just isn't a very good singer. Moreover, some tracks don't have much of a structure, and revolve around the standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus format.
However, if there's one thing to take from this charming EP, it's that this really is the start of the mile for Daghdha. In such tedious times, a breath of fresh air like this is certain to do well. Watch out for this lot. You'll be seeing more of them.