Volume 95, Issue 40

Tuesday, November 13, 2001
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Shallow Hal isn't so deep, but Gwyneth plays fat well

CHRW is radioactive

Sheehy uses music as therapy

Sheehy uses music as therapy

Michael J. Sheehy

Ill Gotten Gains

Beggars Banquet

Three stars (out of five)

Michael J. Sheehy's got it and it's diving, rattling and looming in the clouds.

Ill Gotten Gains is an album that compiles human baggage and encapsulates pain and misery in musical antics.

The tenderness that drenches Sheehy's depictions of a harsh human reality produces a distinct sound obviously derived from personal experiences and his musical influences, ranging from country, blues, soul and gospel.

The lyrics reveal an angst both inwardly alive and outwardly observed. His melodically lingering lines churn subtle images of limp faces in cupped hands and the lone spirits at the bar, sipping Jack Daniels with drowning stares.

The more abrasive images are generated in songs like "Michael Jnr." Although the title alludes to Sheehy's children, this song isn't necessarily autobiographical.

The track begins with industrial syncopated clamour, as Sheehy's rough and tough vocals give a confession to a son. The persistent and ominous tune, which resembles The Tragically Hip's "So Hard Done By," serves as the backbone metronome of the song.

Songs like "Mystery Train" offer a sound reminiscent of Portishead. But rather than calling the track trip-hop, it dives more into blues and soul. The sound distortion that intervenes to overlay his lucid vocal lines is representative of frustration and chaos.

Sheehy seemingly uses the music as therapy to convey the trauma and confusion inherent in human lives. His message is not prophetic in nature, but reveals the bitter reality of a humanity that lacks spirituality, driven by the bottle and constantly subject to loss.

But it is the bittersweet lullaby quality of his slower songs, with their haunting tones, that infuses illness into the album – more like a contagious narcolepsy.

When the definite punch and bluesy feel characteristic of songs like "Mystery Train" or "Wha'Cha Gonna Do?" subsides, his slower songs, such as "Some People Love to Get Hurt," are s-l-o-w and masochistic to the ear.

Ill Gotten Gains, for the most part, is musical candy for the body that wallows in a drawn-out moment of sorrow (or non-sobriety).

–Christina McKenzie

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