Review Summary: The Streets, Burial and Grief stumble out of a bar...For Those I Love
is a project about love and grief, anger and joy, and the everyday moments in between. It’s a reflection of the working-class experience whereby the beauty of community camaraderie shares an unfortunate set with deadening brutality. It’s both beaming with a specific pride for our narrator’s Dublin estate, whilst applicable to those housed within in a similar setting. It tells tales of the importance of friendship, love, and art as a means of escaping the burden of a life sentence of living. For Those I Love
is David Balfe’s first, a gut-wrenching album written about his best mate’s suicide; a memory-book of snapshots of the times they spent together. It’s a truly special eulogy that, like love, will never fade.
Late Dublin-born spoken word poet Paul Curran features on this album in little bits and pieces of muffled conversations; fragmented, brief moments doing their best to capture a life cut short. But, like obituaries failing to capture a person’s totality, it’s difficult to convey a life’s depth even by those who knew and loved him best. Luckily art lives on, forming a conscience of its own, manifesting into those it touches. Lovers of art mould these pieces into armour, to join alongside them, helping to survive a life more drab. Curran left for us his poetry, still living, to join the journey of those who choose who carry it. However, one of the hardest parts of dealing with such a loss is the full stop. The future poetry unwritten. The words lost could’ve been spliced together into form only he could articulate in his unique, solemn, funny, working class and hometown lad perspective, filling a room with his meaning. Quoting Curran, one of the saddest parts in life is “the art that doesn’t get made”.
In many ways, this album is Paul’s. David Balfe’s first under the moniker For Those I Love
is like a singular open conversation to his lost best friend, an epitaph of sorts. Born and raised in a working class estate, they discovered a mutual love for poetry and art with, as stated, “too much weight” for their age. Tales told by Balfe paint pictures of the pair swapping books and tunes, admiring poetry and football. This artistic escape led into spoken word endeavours, Balfe introducing Curran to this seemingly outdated medium. The parallels between their two sets of works stand clear, as they should within the brains of best friends burning with ambitions from those same fires started. This can be seen when comparing the album's introductory track to Curran’s poem Drive
. In this poem, Curran details them and their mate’s weekly trip to Tesco’s, the innocuous on-the-surface mundanity of such a ride is clear, but as Curran states “you know the scene already” – sometimes car rides with your mates are all you need. In Balfe’s Kia Rio he ponders whether art is only a pastime, as we’re often told, before he recollects over the art that shaped him, from those footballers, tunes and poets. Then, in a flash, he’s joking inside a crisp-aisle at Tesco’s with his mates and, for a brief moment, it all seems alright. Art and love as all you need. In a gut-wrenching and surely intended parallel, on the opening opus, Balfe details those same drives, a mutually shared brief escape between friends who can transform the seemingly mundane into permanent, beautiful souvenirs.
It isn’t just Curran’s influence that breathes across the album’s bleak but moving canvas. The love and importance of art is a key theme emphasised on a lifelong quest to brighten the drab. This can be seen through the countless number of references that Balfe shouts out; those which shaped him. On the album we see references to Kanye West, Mike Skinner, Mount Kimbie, The Dubliners, John Keats, George Moore. Christ, I think there’s even a Taking Back Sunday reference somewhere. The list goes on, one assumes still incomplete.
In a crazy twist on such a melancholic album, the music contrasts the cathartic spoken-word poetry. Balfe’s house production does not brush in a sparse, bleak hue. Instead it channels the euphoria of a rave fit to fill a room for friends to dance together again. As the two artists have discussed in the past, spoken word poetry is often viewed as an increasingly archaic form to find oneself performing, whether fair or not. Thus, Balfe producing 9 songs of Burial inspired house born for warehouse raves and a weekend on the lash is a message of hope and joy within the bleak, a reminder that light needs the dark. These beats, produced on Balfe’s laptop in a shed, are crafted to create memories like those detailed on the album – to soundtrack those important moments stored inside.
Grief haunts some of the greatest art. To channel true feeling and emotion into a piece, no matter how bleak, is an ambitious and admirable goal, and a powerful means of release. In quoting his lost friend on The Shape Of You
, Balfe states “stories to tell never breed sadness, they treat it.” These memories live on. Whether through the art of the future or the past, within Curran’s work itself, or within this truly special album:
Our love will never fade.