Sometimes, life imitiates art in the ugliest of ways. Bridie Monds-Watson had created Grim Town as a gigantic metaphor for both her fears and the world around her’s capacity for the unexpected and the damned, a place where freedom came at a price but one which a compassionate society should deem worth paying.
In comparison to her first outing as SOAK the tone was far more insistent, self critical and alive to the contradictions of love and self reliance, typified by the heartbreakingly sombre Fell Asleep, Back Seat, on which the singer recounts the numbness of overhearing her parents agreeing to a divorce.
Grim Town’s defining moment however was Knock Me Off My Feet, an oblique but fond olive branch to Monds’ troubled home town of Londonderry. Full of regrets but still sure of it’s place in her DNA, the strife inside the city’s ancient walls and amongst its close-knit communities gave the song a chilling aspect when prominent local journalist Lyra McKee was shot and killed during a riot.
The shoots of optimism – like life – can grow anywhere though. As Grim Town concludes with the uplifting Nothing Looks The Same, the people of Derry have shown their determination not to be intimidated by publicly demanding an end to violence.
Author’s note: The original review of Grim Town was written to coincide with the album’s release and was completed eight days before Lyra Mckee’s murder. The “Gun to the head” reference it contains is entirely co-incidental and is not intended to refer directly to any aspect of her tragic death. You can read the full review here and read about Lyra Mckee’s life and career here.