Single Review: Rams’ Pocket Radio – Love is a Bitter Thing

By on Thursday, 27th March 2014 at 12:00 pm

Fresh off his recent trip to America, which included a stop in Austin, Texas for SXSW 2014, Rams’ Pocket Radio has just released a new single, ‘Love is a Bitter Thing’. The track appears on his full length album, ‘Béton’, and was a hit during Rams’ Pocket Radio’s SXSW shows, except for his last gig, where he rather curiously didn’t include it on the set list.

When I interviewed Rams’ Pocket Radio, who goes by the name Peter McCauley offstage, I was a bit unclear on the status of this new release. The full album was released last autumn, but ‘Love is a Bitter Thing’ is the first track released separately as a single. It is the most readily accessible track on ‘Béton’, with its presumably romantic theme, emotionally charged vocals and dramatic keyboard accompaniment. Where many of the other tracks on the album require more intensive study of the lyrics and musical gestures, ‘Love Is A Bitter Thing’ is fairly straightforward and heartfelt, perhaps proving that McCauley can indeed be “an emotional guy”, as he claimed in the aforementioned interview. The combination of piano and solo violin is a naturally emotional one, but it’s McCauley’s visceral and heartrending vocal delivery that captures breathless attention from the song’s first moment. The accompanying video, directed by Darren Lee of Maverick Renegade Productions, is equally breathtaking.


The single version of ‘Love Is A Bitter Thing’ is accompanied by two remixes from fellow Northern Irish musicians, one by alt-rock quartet More Than Conquerors and the other by electro artist Ryan Vail. Curiously, the More Than Conquerors remix is the more artifically synthetic sounding of the two. For my money, it completely misses the mark, squaring off all the rhythms and applying slick, robotic synthesizers and vocal effects, in the end creating the unfortunate emotional effect of distancing the listener from the rawness of the lyric. Not being an expert in the field of electronic music, or even a really fan of it, I do have to wonder if there isn’t something I’m missing in its particular musical language that might connect the sonic qualities of this remix to the emotional qualities of the original song. Further exploration might enhance my understanding, but I’m not sure this one will ever be a favorite in my heart. The Ryan Vail remix is a bit more organic, warmer and more sensually rhythmic, with light percussion taking the place of the keyboards. The poignant chorus of the original song is left out of this mix, leaving a general sense of dimly lit atmosphere without the intense dramatic motion.

Normally we include numeric ratings with our single reviews here at TGTF, but in this case, I’m left with a bit of a dilemma. If I were rating the original song itself, I would give it 9/10 for its beautifully executed vocals and elegant instrumental arrangement. I am, however, nonplussed by the remix treatments. Listening to Rams’ Pocket Radio always leaves a question mark hanging over my head, and in the end, this seemingly straightforward single has had the same effect.

‘Love Is A Bitter Thing’ was self-released by Rams’ Pocket Radio on the 17th of March and can be purchased via online retailers such as Amazon and iTunes. Rams’ Pocket Radio’s full album, ‘Béton’ is also available on his Web site.

Some lovely still photos from the ‘Love Is A Bitter Thing’ video shoot can be viewed here.

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