Gabriel Moreno is a Gibraltarian poet, songwriter and performer now living in London. The Year Of The Rat is his third album and we can all guess what year he’s talking about. He’s accompanied by The Quivering Poets, a flexible multi-cultural band who bring unexpected musical textures and rich backing vocals to his records. Gabriel is a fine songwriter, heavily influenced by Leonard Cohen it has to be said but is that a bad thing? His accent brings an odd exoticism to the songs and he doesn’t sound like anybody else. He’s certainly no Cohen clone.
The album begins with ‘Solitude’ introduced by a warm acoustic guitar, a style used on several songs. The song sums up the experience of The Year Of The Rat perfectly: “My brothers they forgot to shave, my sisters don’t wear bras” is something we can all relate to. The song builds up steadily as Gabriel looks forward to it all being over, while criticising, by implication, the government that caused it. ‘Painter, Painter’ is a meditation on the failure of a portrait to represent the soul of the sitter concluding with the advice to “paint with your light” and “paint with your mind”.
Found sound introduces ‘Feel Like Dancing’ indicating that the singer is still alone. The Quivering Poets add a lot to this song and I think I detect a flamenco beat underpinning it. ‘Sellotape My Heart’ involves closed bars, the search for the grave of Garcia Lorca and Baudelaire and again has a Spanish feel while ‘Everyday News’ is built on a sparse piano. ‘Dreams Of The Poor’ is back to acoustic guitar and the politics of wealth and poverty and ‘Dance in An Empty Field’ returns to the themes isolation and loneliness – both bitter songs. Relentlessly, Gabriel continues these thoughts with ‘All That We Have’, a solemn piece decorated with a solo trumpet, but then wonders how it will be when it is all over. He doesn’t sound very confident.
Finally the title track pulls all these ideas together in another big production number – by Gabriel’s standards, at least – with more anger dripping from every word. The Year Of The Rat isn’t always easy listening but a like it a lot and I have a feeling that a few years down the line we’ll listen again and say, “yes, it was like that”.
Artist’s website: www.gabrielmoreno.co.uk
‘Feel Like Dancing’ – official video: