The first track sounds like the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel. The third track is modern radio pop, the sixth tune is a country song and the 10th reminds of rhythm and blues. The vast gamut of sounds (you can find an Irish ballad and some Spanish-sounding strings) found on The Guggenheim Grotto’s debut LP, … Waltzing Alone, makes the album a bit of a square peg in today’s round-holed, genre-obsessed music world. That could be part of the reason that, despite placing songs “Philosophia” and “Vertigo” on a pair of ABC primetime shows and Damien Rice’s endorsement of Independent Music Award-winning track “Lifetime in Heat,” the Irish Trio is still largely flying under the radar.
Singer and lyricist Kevin May calls their approach a double-edged sword. On one side, the eclectic collection makes it difficult for journalists to slap a label on it, on the other it gives him and bandmates Mick Lynch and Shane Power the freedom to pursue any musical avenue they choose from here on out.
“I think what we do best is anything,” May says over the phone from across the Atlantic.
He’s right about that. Even if you have trouble following the album’s flow from the poppy, radio-friendly “Told You So” to the darkly paradoxical “Wonderful Wizard,” you have to appreciate the care The Guggenheim Grotto put into their work.
The prolific liner notes inside the leather-bound packaging refer to inspirations ranging from old activism ad on MTV to online transcripts with Leonard Cohen and close readings of Milan Kundera’s “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.”
“We really work on crafting the lyrics,” May says. “We don’t always go for, you know, ‘I love you, honeybunch.’ There’s some depth there and we aim for that.”
That depth is part of the reason May was asked to appear on highly-regarded “The Lit Show” on WNUR. It was the show’s first invitation to a musician.
“I was nervous because I thought I had to sound intelligent,” May laughs. “They were asking some tough questions and before this I would just get stuff like ‘What’s your band name mean?’”
So perhaps, given the body of evidence, we can classify The Guggenheim Grotto as a collection of musical professors, tirelessly studying their art.
“My friend just purchased a [Nintendo] Wii and I’m ashamed to say I’m addicted,” May admits. “It’s an incredible waste of time, but it is entertaining.”
Then again, maybe they defy that label too. At least they’re consistent.
Perhaps, though, one applicable label can be found in the longing chorus of album opener “Philosophia,” a refrain that reads: “Oh, to be a work of art.” After spanning the full breadth of its very varied terrain, … Waltzing Alone should certainly be counted as one.