‘Hot Scary Summer’ by Villagers is set in the rare heat of a Dublin evening. Two lovers leave the house, bound for the cobblestones and the crowds. But while they are kissing al fresco, there is a sense of unease. The singer watches “all the pretty homophobes looking for a fight” and his joy ceases. He thinks about his life of pretending. He also realises that the affair is over. The two men have run out of commitment, their emotions are all used up. He sings about being “half a person, half a monster”. It is the most affecting farewell. ‘Hot Scary Summer’ breaks your heart.
The sadness is deeper because the gay ballads of Ireland have always sounded like this. Almost fifty years of covert love, about shadows and disguise and fear. Conor addresses this on his new songs while he sings out for the gift of courage and he even tries to empathise on the lyric of ‘Little Bigots’. His current album, ‘Darling Arithmetic’ was inspired by a friendship with John Grant and the latter’s monumental song ‘Glacier’. Conor vowed to be more open about his own life experiences. So there is tenderness and quiet rapture as he writes about all the phases of a relationship. Many of the songs have a universal value, regardless of sexuality. But on a handful of these tracks we also hear what it’s like to be out on the margins, less than a fully realised human.