Press Reviews : The Criminal Ear Album


4.5 out of 5 stars - Celtic Rock Radio, Germany


"Voodoo Loons’ debut album, 2008’s Euphobia, was lauded for its solid blend of diverse influences and The Criminal Ear shows how that mix, the songwriting and the overall performances and production have been sharpened and refined over the intervening years. It’s not just the diversity that makes The Criminal Ear a thoroughly entertaining start-to-finish listen; the material is also top notch.


"The 10 tracks on The Criminal Ear are split between acoustic songs that show elements of Irish and American Roots music and big, distorted, multifaceted Alternative Rock. The album kicks off with the seven-minute “Loving the Monster,” which sparkles with jangly guitar and rhythmic tricks that recall The Police before erupting into a hard, intense chorus, with varied psychedelic noise sprinkled throughout. On “In a Locket,” the Loons’ acoustic and electric sonic personas come together on one track, opening with acoustic guitar and O’Hagan’s creeping, distorted melodies swelling alongside somber string sounds and building into full-Rock mode, with the vocals likewise rising in intensity.


"Elsewhere, the gorgeous “The Winter Trail” shows the Loons can be just as powerful with acoustic guitars and mandolin, while “Nothing Happens in Wexford” sounds like an aural gene splice of Roy Orbison, The Waterboys and The Ass Ponys. 


"Another highlight is “Delicate Flower,” a swaying, swaggering track with a spooky vibe reminiscent of some of Greg Dulli’s best work with Twilight Singers. Before closing the album out with “Reprise,” an acoustic instrumental that most reveals the traditional Irish music influence on the band, the Loons offer up the punkish “The Restraining Order Song,” which is loaded with big riffs, raw soloing, a stinging harmonica interlude and compelling lyrics of confused heartbreak." - Mike Breen, CityBeat Magazine, Cincinnati


"Perhaps it's the dichotomy presented by the band's dual citizenship (Cincinnati, OH and Donegal, Ireland), or maybe it's the Grand Canyon range of influences which include the PIxies, Grateful Dead and World Party, the latest offering from Voodoo Loons (The Criminal Ear, MPG) sucks you in at the opening snarl of Dennis O’Hagan’s guitar from “Loving The Monster”.


"After coming back to earth with the acoustic power ballad “In A Locket”, O’Hagan pays homage to Zeppelin’s “The Battle of Evermore” with a beautifully crafted mystic-folk number that needs to be heard on headphones. The Criminal Ear plays like a concept album and needs to be heard from start to finish in a single session to be fully appreciated. Who knew such a concept album could emerge from the dust bins of indie record labels?  I know I didn’t and I’m thankful for the epiphany.


"Chris Hooks (bass) and Bill McCarthy (percussion) maintain an understated rhythm section as an alter-ego to the rich melodies of O’Hagan’s guitar and vocals. Fans of Frank Black, Lou Barlow and Jeff Tweedy need to buy this record. Now.  A remarkable album from a remarkably talented band. – Mark Lefebvre, Scurvy Dog Radio, WSCA 106.1  Portsmouth, NH


"If you were to Google the phrase "great rock storytellers" you'd get... well, a list of useless garbage. But, if you were to ask me, I would probably give you a list of names like Pete Townshend, Shane MacGowan, Bob Dylan, Roger Waters, Neil Young... and I would then find some way to include the names of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Willie Nelson because, although they are not rock storytellers, they are probably the greatest American musical storytellers of all time - and their influence of those listed previously is undeniable.


"When it comes to local musicians, there aren't many who can match the enticingly dark, edgy and wonderfully engaging musical storytelling of Voodoo Loons in their new album The Criminal Ear.


"At the heart of Voodoo Loons is Chris Hooks (bass), Bill McCarthy (drums) and Dennis O'Hagan (guitar & vocals) who lay claim to both Cincinnati and Wexford, Ireland as their home towns. It is that delightful synergy of American moxie and Irish wit that makes their songs so attractive and intriguing.


"Musically, Hooks, McCarty and O'Hagan are equally adept at intense multi-dimensional psychedelic explorations as they are at simple, folksy tunes that harken to O'Hagan's Celtic roots. I was simultaneously reminded of latter-day Pink Floyd (Learning to Fly) and Harvest Moon-era Neil Young. Throughout The Criminal Ear, the Loons are joined by their friends Mark Daly on mandolin, Brad Wehlitz on guitar, Mike Sokolowski on piano and Rob Mulhauser on horns. These additional layers of sound lend a polish and shine to the near-stream-of-consciousness approach to songwriting that O'Hagan utilizes.


"Lyrically, the storytelling aspect of the Loons' material is most evident in tracks like "Nothing Happens in Wexford," the deliciously macabre "In a Locket" and "Jesus Cut His Hair" - a song that speaks to the artist and dreamer inside all of us - and that is the magic of the songwriting. The themes are deeply insightful yet universal. Even if we haven't experienced some of these events personally, the language is so precisely chosen that we can't help but find a little piece of ourselves in the story.


"The Voodoo Loons are known for their unconventional live shows - often choosing to play festivals and events (on both sides of the Atlantic) as opposed to bar and small club gigs. However, one should always expect the unexpected. They may play a largely acoustic set or they may start ofF the show with an amplifier that bursts into flames (i.e. the 2006 MidPoint Music Festival). Either way, please seek out The Voodoo Loons as they support their new album The Criminal Ear and experience great musical storytelling for yourself. -Jim Nolan, 91.7 WVXU, Cincinnati 

(you can listen to the audio of the on-air WVXU review here)


"A fairly new band emerging in 2006, they have a great mix of rock and roll and a traditional Celtic folk sound stemming from the vocals and rhythms. The clash of old and new, rock and folk makes the band unique and offers something great for listeners looking for a new sound. -Collin Kleinman, Southbay Magazine, Los Angeles