Tuesday, 2 June 2009

1985 Feargal Sharkey: A Good Heart

'A Good Heart' was written (but not recorded) by Maria McKee in the aftermath of the breakdown of her relationship with Benmont Tench of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers. Sharkey, of course, was the former vocalist with The Undertones, now forging a solo career.

With a lyric detailing bravado in the face of loss and an underlying bitterness that comes from experience, 'A Good Heart' is a good song. Sharkey, however, isn't the singer to do it justice. His distinctive yelp worked well when he was singing about Mars Bars and getting his teenage kicks, but it's ill suited to more serious matter; there's an ever present smirk in his delivery that implies he's not taking things as seriously as he should, despite the studious pose on the sleeve.

This flaw was the weak link in the later, more mature Undertones albums, in the Assembly's 'Never Never' single and it's the weak link here too. It just doesn't ring true.
Sharkey may have grown up since 'My Perfect Cousin', but his voice has stayed behind in perpetual adolescence and it will forever root him to his past. His aim for the rafters on the 'a good hearrrgghht' refrain on the chorus makes him sound more like a man gargling Listerine than a man in emotional torment and it undermines the heartfelt message of the lyric which isn't claiming 'A good heart is hard to find, but I don't care because I'm off to play football with my mates', which is a lyric the Sharkey of 1978 vintage would have sang and sang well.

It's notable too that 'A Good Heart' is driven by the same (albeit slower) relentless, monotonous 4/4 drumbeat and backing keyboard shimmer heard only recently of Midge Ure's 'If I Was', itself borrowed from a Queen song. This highlights both the sheer paucity of imagination that went into the production on this track (hang down your head Dave Stewart) and also the predictable banality of the record buying public. It also makes this version of 'A Good Heart' a bland and uninteresting four minutes, far removed from the abrasive cowpunk Americana genre that McKee operates in. Not to put too fine a point on it, the song deserves better.

On a note of trivia, Benmont Tench wrote a response to this to tell his side of the affair and generally have a pop at Maria. This song, 'You Little Thief', would be Sharkey's next single. The same criticisms would apply.

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