HAVE SO Cow been brought to the slaughter house to allow Half Forward Line take to the pitch? It remains an open question since band leader Brian Kelly's said this new endeavour "was to write a set of new songs as quickly as possible and perform them as soon as possible".
Whatever the future holds, long time Kelly fans will be pleased that Half Forward Line - which sees the Tuam singer/guitarist/songwriter join forces with Oh Boland's Niall Murphy (bass ) and Ciaran Ó Maoláin (drums ), a kind of Galway 'supergroup' if you will - and their debut album, The Back Of Mass, deliver 34 minutes of short, sharp pop-punk, filled with off-kilter melodies, hook laden choruses, the odd Replacements nod, and slice o'life lyrics brimming with Kelly's trademark sardonic, self-deprecating, wit and humour.
A solid offering then, but what really elevates HFL and makes this album so welcome is that it contains the greatest song Kelly has yet written (apologies to Barry Richardson! ) in 'Joint Account'.
A duet with Kelly's wife Heather, it ponders on how, as a single individual we are a lesser being, but with love and companionship, we become another person, a far greater one: "When I'm alone, I let all the plants die. The food in the fridge is all mould and algae/When I'm with you I throw out the bad fruit, even the pears, and they last forever." It comes in a melody at once joyful and achingly bittersweet - this is indie par excellence.
Close to that standard is 'Everyone Else Can F*** Off', a slow, waltzing indie-rock number, on the refuge and sanity a loved one provides from the white noise of the world. If Victor Meldrew were a romantic, this is song he might have sung.
Half Forward Line launch The Back Of Mass in The Blue Note on Friday October 27 at 6pm. The album will be available, via independent Galway label Rusted Rail, on CD, cassette, and for streaming and download on https://rustedrail.bandcamp.com/album/the-back-of-mass