t’s sweltering up here on the third floor, 30 degrees (Celsius) all day, my computer has decided to give up the ghost (age? heat?), and I’m left listening to Night Light for the fourth time today on my girlfriend’s shitty laptop speakers. Normally all this would be seriously detrimental to my listening experience, but for Pat Deighan it seems somehow appropriate.
Rock and roll may have started, with “Rocket ‘88” or what have you, as high energy music but down through the decades people figured out that the blare and muscle of rock could communicate fatigue, restlessness, and resignation just as exquisitely as it could joy. Hailing from the smallest and one of the poorest of Canada’s provinces (Prince Edward island) and veteran of a couple of indie rock bands, Deighan on his inaugural solo disc plays thirteen songs of ragged-ass, bar-brawl, and hangover rock and roll. As with any form that’s been worked over as much as rock has, Night Light is only subtly different than many of its contemporaries, but it’s those differences that make the difference between a trip to the used record store and an album you find yourself playing over and over again.
Deighan’s voice is almost uncannily reminiscent of Canadian indie luminary Rick White (Eric’s Trip, Elevator, the Unintended) and like White he does both quiet and loud, switching off between gentle acoustic songs like the barely-there “Whiskey Stars” and the countrified “You Lose Again,” which closes out the disc, and harder-edged but still blurry rock tracks like “All The Streets Are Dark” and “Stones Throw Away” that sound like an exhausted bar band plowing through one last song before calling it quits for the evening.
Let me be clear: I mean that as the highest kind of compliment. Even at his peppiest, as on the sublime “Lost At Sea,” there’s an air of acquiescence and disappointment that’s unexpectedly powerful even before it erupts on the relatively epic “Your Hometown,” a muttered, squalling diatribe against the kind of pointless excess and bullshit that comes hand-in-hand with living somewhere you can’t escape from. Despite the prevailing gloom, Night Light isn’t a downer, oddly enough; Deighan sounds weary but also reassuring, and although both “Play All Night” and “Let The Sunshine In” seem mawkish on first listen they turn out to be welcome relief from the rowdy disappointment Deighan encounters everywhere else.
This stuff isn’t fashionable any longer, and it’s hard to argue that it should be, but it shouldn’t be abandoned either. Sometimes it’s simply a relief to put on an album and hear people working through the forms you’ve known and loved since childhood (and if that means subsequent generations defending the newest subtle iterations of the Backstreet Boys or Aphex Twin paradigms, I’m more than okay with that). This is music for wanting the world to just leave you alone for a while, a soundtrack to another night down at the local with nothing more important at hand but small talk and a pint. There’s plenty of exciting stuff out there in the world and that’s a wonderful thing; but every so often you want a breather.
All of this probably doesn’t sound as positive and enthusiastic as I’d like it to sound, but this is seriously potent stuff; it helps that Deighan writes songs that sound familiar from your first encounter with them, and that he’s aware of the power of brevity. At thirty-five minutes Night Light almost seems like a throwback, the kind of late night rock and roll tinged with folk and country that people have been making for decades; but if Pat Deighan isn’t going to change anyone’s life, he is still the very definition of a minor pleasure, one that you’ll find yourself indulging in over and over.
Reviewed by: Ian Mathers
Reviewed on: 2005-06-13