Gabriel Moreno - The Year Of The Rat (self released)

Gabriel Moreno – The Year Of The Rat (self released)

I’ll be honest, I get a LOT of email requests from artists wanting us to cover their releases. That’s as well as the hundreds of other emails I get every day from official PR folk, the non-music related emails and the spam. If I bothered to listen to – or even read – every single one of them, I would never have time to eat and likely die of starvation. So if you’re going to send me something, you’d better make damn sure that your email catches my eye, and if it does, is sure as hell had better be good!

This is where Gabriel Moreno comes in. I’m not even sure what it was about it, but somehow his email piqued my interest. I had a gut feeling, let’s say, which was further enhanced when he sent me a proper CD of his album that featured a papier-mache image of the titular rodent made from discarded song lyrics. Gabriel now well and truly had my attention.

Happily, The Year Of The Rat is as good as I had hoped it would be. Gabriel’s vocals lie somewhere between Leonard Cohen, Cat Stevens, Nick Cave and Julio Iglesias. Opening track ‘Solitude‘ proves that he also shares Cohen’s sense of humour, perhaps best perpetuated by the lyric: “My brothers they forget to shave, my sisters don’t wear bras / They just hang around in space all day and sing like sparrows in gowns.”

All of this is set to sparse, fingerpicked acoustic guitar, with ostensibly downbeat minor tones but, but it is somehow also supremely uplifting. Sometimes though, the effect is heart-rendingly romantic and pretty, such as ‘Dance In An Empty Field‘ or the smooth, utterly mesmerising ‘Feel Like Dancing‘.

What sets Gabriel Moreno apart from his contemporaries, however, is his ever-intriguing usage of the English language to address socio-political issues. Often this is presented in a humorous way, but absolutely not in a ‘novelty act’ kind of way; it’s much classier than that. It’s just that sometimes the lyrics make you laugh while at the same time not being quite sure of the point being made. For example, some of the words to ‘The Dreams Of The Poor‘, which run thus: “How do you pay for a flat in Paris? Must you sell your moustache, or paint the wives of the banking staff?

Those kind of idiosyncrasies are part of what makes Gabriel Moreno’s music so endearing. No doubt it’s also a huge reason why it’s kept the Gibraltan singer-songwriter active for a whole twenty years now. My only regret is that it’s taken me this long to discover this artist and his ability to deliver such jaw-droppingly brilliant lyrics, like these, from the title track: “They tore down the bridge and made England concede to terror and greed so that dragons in wigs could afford their flats in Japan.”

Splendid stuff.

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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.