Album Reviews - Reviews

The Personal Vanity Project – The Personal Vanity Project

Anyone who’s ever been to Féile na Gréine or watched their excellent 2023 documentary film Out of Place will know all about the strength of the resolutely DIY Limerick music scene. Formed as something of a local supergroup, The PVP – short for The Personal Vanity Project – was put together by Cruiser guitarist Chris Quigley, who began recording demos alone during lockdown (initially trying to replicate the imagined sound of Kevin Shields’ fabled unreleased drum’n’bass album), before recruiting James Reidy of His Father’s Voice on keyboards along with drummer Brendan McInerney, who’s played with everyone from Bleeding Heart Pigeons, Hey Rusty and The Low Field to even Dundalk’s finest balladeers The Mary Wallopers.

Though Quigley has acted as recording engineer for his output with Cruiser as well as that of some of his peers, for this album the band headed up to Belfast’s Start Together Studios to record with producer Chris Ryan of Robocobra Quartet, who has produced records by the likes of Just Mustard and NewDad that have propelled both bands beyond Irish shores to international acclaim – and on the strength of this self-titled debut, The PVP are fully deserving of a similar trajectory. While the busy CVs of the personnel involved and the self-deprecating moniker all suggest ‘side project’, this may well be the most impressive record any of the trio have been involved with to date.

“Combining a love of Suicide, Stereolab, Sonic Youth and shoegaze” according to the band, and released on Dundalk’s ever-reliable Pizza Pizza Records, the album is assured and inventive, often deftly weaving between tightly wound post-punk and expansive psych in a similar vein to bands like Ulrika Spacek. The crisp guitar and drums of opener ‘The Bus’ contain hints of Parquet Courts or Cola before the track devolves into a coda of droning effects and organs like Stereolab circa 1993, summoning up an impressive noise for just three people.

Elsewhere, otherworldly guitar effects swirl around the listener on ‘Track 94’ as Reidy’s synth emits a sleek bassline, and the wonderfully titled ‘Late Boomer’ builds to a cacophony of guitar and violin, courtesy of guesting Limerick hero Post Punk Podge. Meanwhile ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ provides the record’s poppiest, catchiest moment with its infectious titular vocal hook repeated throughout its second half. With shoegaze currently in vogue once again, there’s already an army of Slowdive soundalikes popping up in every city in the land, but with more tricks up their sleeves than just an overabundance of reverb, The PVP have carved out a much more distinct identity for themselves that avoids sounding like a simple retread of the early 90s.

Ryan’s production – fleshed out with later self-produced additions by Quigley and mastered in Chicago by Shellac legend Bob Weston – makes the whole album sound immaculate, and it could easily be mistaken for a big-budget indie debut on a label like Matador or Rough Trade rather than the more modest DIY release that it is. What may have started as a mere personal vanity project has just potentially produced one of the Irish albums of the year. Cathal McBride