Dublin native Duncan Maitland is joined by an all-star guest line-up on his smashing debut Lullabies for The 21st Century. Colin Moulding from XTC plays bass on the opening track, and also helping out are Fran King, Barry O’Brien, Keith Farrell and Tosh Flood (Pugwash). Recorded at his in-home studio, the album draws influences from many favorites. Starting with the richly melodic “Your Century” it has glowing background harmonies and driving bass line. Followed by the flowing narrative of “Terry The Toad” it adds a great hook in the chorus, and “Crash Position” is a perfect example of modern Beach Boys pop, similar to Rick Gallego (Cloud Eleven). These songs are not simple ear candy, but complex pop symphonies that don’t rely on a straight formulaic approach. Every song on the album is a meticulous study in pop smarts from the Beatlesque touches of “Alien At Home” and “Horror Stories” to the wistful atmosphere of “Supermarket Dream.”
Not every chorus here sticks in your head, but each track is stuffed with details that demand repeat listens. Most tracks come close to the four minute mark or longer, and the last song “Insect Under The Stone” at 5:31 is a Nilsson-like epic that’s just fascinating. The legacy of XTC will always be safe as a Duncan joins the stellar group of bands that take the similar musical approach (Pugwash, Jackdaw4, Paul Steel). Overall a serious pop gem that can’t be ignored and deserves to be on the top ten list for this year.