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MEDIA: Reviews: People

Australian Rolling Stone magazine (1988 Yearbook)

from issue 426 - review by David Fricke

Being Irish, deeply spiritual, lyrically thoughtful and buried up to their necks in the twin traditions of Celtic folk and American Sixties soul, Hothouse Flowers are enduring frequent comparisons to fellow countrymen Van Morrison and U know who. On People, the Flowers' debut, they certainly do Morrison proud with the low ballad boil of "Forgiven" and the churchy R&B glow of "It'll Be Easier In The Morning", both of which taste nicely of Tupelo Honey. It is refreshing, in turn, to hear an Irish band make a joyful-rock noise with willowy acoustic strumming and lusty Jr. Walker-style sax instead of ringing Edge-like guitars. And while singer Liam O'Maonlai occasionally lets his tell-it-from-the-mountain mannerisms get the better of his message, his urgent pleading in "Don't Go" is ample evidence that he has, as he puts it in one song, "my feet on the ground (buried in soul)".

Q magazine: *** stars (out of *****)

review by Paul Davies

Already the major Irish success story of 1988, Hothouse Flowers have been topping Ireland's singles and album charts, scooping Best Group award at the Irish equivalent of the BPI Awards, and seem poised to usurp U2's lofty position. The quality of this debut LP suggests that their success is likely to be repeated on this side of the Irish Sea, and beyond.

Their overall sound is distinctly transatlantic in flavour and Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley's production is dominated by the voice of Liam O'Maonlai, a lonesome plaintive yowl, the lyrics drawled out in a sprawling, stream of consciousness-type delivery, which doffs a reverent cap to Van Morrison. Apart from the excellent single Don't Go, listen out for the full-force exuberance of the gospel sounds of It'll Be Easier In The Morning, the R&B stomp of Feet On The Ground, and the evocative Wild West style saga, The Ballad Of Katie, our heroes striding manfully over the horizon into the darkness on the edge of Bruce Springsteen Country.

All Music Guide

review by Rick Clark

Irish sensation shoots for the big mystical picture, not unlike U2. Musically owes more to Van Morrison and various R&B rock influences. This debut is fairly solid from start to finish. Highlights are the prayerful "Forgiven", the affirmative "Yes I Was" and the exuberant hit single "I'm Sorry".

1988 - review by John Wilde - publication unknown
Lord knows, they almost blew the big chance. "People" might have turned out to be a heavyweight miscarriage. It hasn't. "People" is a grand descent into experience. Surprised?

"Don't Go" had tantalised from the start, the first time around. It wasn't just the prettiness. Nor the poise in the pleading. Nor the way Liam O'Maonlai sang lines like "the black cat tells me that love is on its way" with something in the his manner that suggested he knew about these things. Sung with a kind of slovenly grace. The kind that Van Morrison knows all about. The kind that turns into sensuality before it spaces out. The kind of honesty I can actually stomach.

But it wasn't just that. It was the detail that filled in the white space. The way the grass was "freshly cut". The white horses and the blue sirocco. It was far from coarse and far from obvious. Maonlai's meditations were loaded. Hothouse Flowers were like eye contact. Immediate experience. "Don't Go" was and is an evocative lullaby. Irish soul music, basically.

Then I find myself in Dublin, watching Hothouse Flowers perform a sloppy, slobbering pub rock set and I start to think, "oh, oh, I am surely wrong". It did not bode well. It verged on the hideous. To be frank, I almost forgot about them. Then, before you could blink, there was Eurovision and suddenly everyone is humming Hothouse Flowers. Before you could blink again, there's "People", the debut LP.

"This song tells exactly how, when I was, while I was sitting back on my deep pile reclining chair/Thinking about my life and all the good things that happened." This is how the record starts. A vivid sense of the life around him. You know where he is sitting and what he is thinking. The song is called "I'm Sorry". Like all the songs on this LP, it is in every sense, a love song. This one is the apology. Begging for a reprieve. Very "Hard Nose The Highway"; that kind of steamed-up, stringent white blues. Maonlai sings like a man who has seen much but not too much.

"People" is at its best when it gets gentle. With "Forgiven", an impeccably lush ballad where O'Maonlai gleams, "We have been wrong/But the light will save us". With "If You Go" which is even more lush and considers the prospect of Heaven. Or some kind of bliss. "It'll Be Easier In The Morning" is a haunting country cavalcade. "Feet On The Ground" is the obilgatory rock stomp; a direct appeal to the groin quite honestly.

In "Yes I Was", I keep thinking of The Band circa "Big Pink" - O'Maonlai's traumatic vocal recalling Richard Manuel at his most overwrought. "Ballad of Katie" is an eerie invocation of "Purple Rain", yearning for home, just holding on. "Hallelujah Jordan" is the closest they brush to a pure blues, building to a Springsteenish climax, drowning feverishly in their own sorrows.

"Don't Go" aside, though, the LP's greatest moment is "The Older We Get", even if, structurally, it haunts the final song from Pink Floyd's "Dark Side Of The Moon". That cannot be helped. This is the song for lovers. It is also, again, a song about lovers. "The older we get the further we see," it notes. "The more we mean to each other/The more you mean to me." The language of personal awakening is in safe hands here. Mike Scott has spent a decade trying to get so naked. He should be so lucky. It swells towards glory before decending into the most gentle of whispers. It should finish there. It is nevertheless, a devastating beginning to Side Two.

All the scoffers will tssskk their tongues and go back to playing Paint The Tail On The Donkey, metaphorically speaking. They will despise the virtue of "People" in all its watertight finality. Turn a deaf ear. Hothouse Flowers have turned themselves around and made a debut LP that aims far and wide. And succeeded too. "People" is a magnificent quaff. A blinder.