Who in this world is more enviable than a musician who doesn’t want anything more than a simple life?
Simple Kid, an Ireland-based artist who dropped two projects in the mid-aughts, uses his music to understand the world at large, understand himself and pursue the life of just being a passionate musician without wanting the fame or rock ‘n’ roll cliches that come with it.. Though, you wouldn’t really get that memo soundwise from 1 and 2, his first two projects where one is compared to Blur and Beck in its most ambitious mosaic of grand rock ballads and playful tracks, and another leans more towards the more lo-fi folk end of the spectrum, but both of them approach music from a standpoint of modern psychedelia.
With Simple Kid 3: Health & Safety, an album where Simple Kid — real name Ciaran McFeely — finds himself in a different space than before. Last we saw him, he left music behind to be a schoolteacher and also left with us two demos, one of which opens the album. A decade or so later, he has a girlfriend, kids to take care of and a job as a schoolteacher. He still finds joy in the act of understanding the self and the simplicity of life (which an old demo “The Road” boasts) and watching his kids (heartwarmingly raw “Robot Lion and Grey Ghost”), but he is now faced with new demons and new realizations. The new project slowly trades his patchwork approach to psych-pop music for more live takes on old school psychedelia and glam rock. Acoustic tracks and fully realized musical exercises fill the album, and all of them tackle McFeely’s own raw, imaginative thoughts.
On 3, McFeely approaches being autobiographical in a way that is both empathetic and unflinching. Details from being a musician who failed to deliver the world and to let go of his love of music (the rolling sway of “Failed Musician”) to mourning the end of a marriage (“The Middle Ages,” where he imagines his household like that of a medieval castle) and the need to comfort his younger self (the warm and colorful blanket of “If You Could Talk to Your Teenage Self”) sail through the record with all of the lyrical honesty of a bedroom pop album of your choice.
In between this, McFeely also throws in his two cents about the fiasco that was 2020, from his pained observations about American politics and the #BlackLivesMatter protests (“The End of America”) to lamenting the lengthy social distance of the pandemic (“One Day Off From Your Life”). Every song bleeds as much color as they do raw emotion.
Music lovers may pick up McFeely’s love of Lennon, Bowie and older glam/psych bands. They may also miss the playfulness of the past Simple Kid, but Health & Safety proves that in between the year since we last heard of him and now, Simple Kid hasn’t lost a step. I suppose passion can do that to you better than any rockstar lifestyle can.