Seán McGowan’s debut EP, ‘Graft And Grief’ was released Friday 8 September on Xtra Mile Recordings and firmly cements the Southampton punk poet’s position as the natural-born successor to Billy Bragg.
‘Graft And Grief’ opens with a fiercely spat out poem (‘Gag Part 1’) which talks about his birth and upbringing and what he’s learned along the way. It’s a great opening to an unusual and yet very compelling EP, which calls to mind at times the angry young man attitude and social conscience of The Jam and Billy Bragg. It’s no surprise to discover therefore that 24 year old Seán was raised on a musical diet of The Clash, The Jam, and Billy Bragg, and in fact got his first big break performing on Bragg’s Left Field stage at Glastonbury in 2013.
‘No Show’ with its alt-rock guitar sound is fierce and strident with McGowan lamenting the difficulty young people face in this time of zero-hours contracts and profit margins. Track 3, ‘Apple Core’, is a far jollier affair, but no less political, really letting us know what we’re in for with regard to the rest of the EP.
‘Dog Tag’ and ‘Clear Conscience’ are possibly the most similar tracks on the EP and couple McGowan with a strong instrumental backing. They’re possibly the most “radio” song on the EP, although that should actually not be an issue. ‘Clear Conscience’ opens with a “surfari” style drum rhythm and light guitar, before Seán launches into what is more poetry set to music than actual songs.
Seán recently released the video for sixth track, ‘Costa Del Solution’, which was filmed over two days this summer, when McGowan left his native Southampton to visit the beaches of Bournemouth. The clip is directed by his friend Robert Goulding, who’s also responsible for the videos for ‘No Show’ and ‘Apple Core’. It sees Seán revisit his childhood holiday spot, and he reflects on the short-lived escapism of the holiday getaway. Speaking of the song, McGowan says,
“It dawned on me that people spend 50 weeks of the year thinking about the 2 weeks they get away on holiday. Whilst it’s great to have something to look forward to – I don’t think you’re doing life right if you’re not enjoying more than two weeks a year. It’s tied in with this feeling of being stuck on the conveyor which is a theme that runs through this record. Doing as was done by those before you. Falling into routine. It’s nonsense, do what you want, have fun and make it work.”
‘Graft And Grief’ concludes as it began, with a punk poem not about McGowan’s beginnings, but rather a positive and upbeat plea to consider how we all have our place in this world, regardless of our beginnings. “This world is for everyone, and it will be ours, with a little graft, and grief”.
‘Graft And Grief’ is out now, and is available on silver vinyl, CD, and as a digital download. Find ‘Graft And Grief’ on iTunes, XMR, and Music Glue. Follow Seán McGowan online on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.