Paul Mescal is the new patron saint of sound lads.
Of normal people, guffaw, guffaw!
‘Sound lads’, for you non-natives, is a quintessentially Irish construction — both the ‘sound’ and the ‘lads’.
Every dialect, tongue, or slanguage, as my great French friend Joel put it one time, has a way of saying something that is simultaneously understood but open to interpretation, depending who says it, who they say it to, and how they say it — and coloured in turn by how the person hears it, depending on tone and context.
Still with me?
So my idea of ‘sound’, goes along the lines of someone who is … let me see, cool, but not obviously so … independent-minded but open to other people’s opinions … never flashy, never pretentious.
A sound person is … genuine, reliable, kind, caring, funny, interesting without being a know-it-all … approachable without being obsequious … would do you a good turn without looking for one back … always has your back … is someone you’d love to go for a pint with, the ultimate measure of ‘soundness’ in these parts.
Which of course would make you ‘sound’ too, but you’d be too sound to admit that.
You’re getting the idea? … Ultimately, a sound lad, as John Martyn put it in his great song May You Never, would “never talk dirty behind my back, although there are some who do”.
‘Lad’ here is nothing to do with Jack the Lad, or smutty Lad Mag associations.
In Ireland, again, we refer to blokes up to … around 30 … as ‘lads’, subdivided into ‘good lads’, and … well, not good lads.
A sound lad is also a good lad!
So a sound lad is usually friendly and never — ever! — above himself. Even if he has every reason to be.
… Like Paul Mescal.
Look, I watched Normal People like a few trillion of us Global Covid Castaways, and it was the first I ever heard of him.
I’ve looked him up since, of course, to find that as well as his acting chops, he was/is a genuinely talented footballer, who represented, even captained his county team, Kildare, at underage level …
I’ve read the odd twitter and online thing … snippets of interviews, him reading poetry, singing and playing a keyboard, and so on … all very impressive, and despite the pratfalls awaiting sudden social media celebs, he seems to be staying well this side of wankery, or even self-promotion.
A hard thing to do when you are, in fact, promoting yourself.
Which actors have to.
He seems to be still sound.
Even has the grace to look uneasy on the Graham Norton show.
Happy in his football shorts hitting the supermarket, holding a scuzzy plastic shopping bag, chomping on an ice-cream, or strolling/running around some London park, social distancing properly … all very sound.
A seriously talented, but sound lad.
Like a properly confident Connell.
A sense of humour, too …
There they were, himself and ‘Marianne’, Daisy Edgar-Jones, with Andrew Scott, reprising his Hot Priest role from Fleabag, in a wonderful sketch for RTE television’s Comic Relief fundraiser.
Set in a confessional, and all three breaking into Tracy Chapman’s gorgeous Baby Can I Hold You… hilarious, touching and just stunning.
So, the Mescal boy can sing, which he further proves my sharing a duet online with the seriously talented Dermot Kennedy.
But there is another thing about “sound” lads, up to now, they have never caught the zeitgeist, or even the girl … at least not in the movies or in the best songs …
Like, you couldn’t imagine pitching a sound lad hero story in Hollywood before … “I’ve got this killer idea for our new blockbuster … there’s this sound lad, see? … sensitive, has a brilliant relationship with his single mom mother … loves women, but can’t talk to them, and there’s this beautiful doe-eyed girl he’s mad about, but he can’t tell her … no, listen, please, listen! …
Sure now, it will be: “You got that Paul Mescal guy lined up… call his agent, now! …”
Young Mr Mescal, or maybe his character Connell in Normal People, might just have at least cracked the mould on this one … okay he’s obviously a bit of physical all-right, but there’s lots of those around, that’s not what knocked this one out of the ball park.
What resonated with men and women, with anyone who ever had a heart …
For me, it was the obvious decency, integrity and, yes, soundness of the character, all wrapped up in confusion and hard to articulate love yearnings.
Connell/Paul has made ‘sound’ cool.
By really, why I am nailed-on convinced of Mescal’s soundness is his taste in music, or sounds in the tunes sense, as revealed by the fact he is a serious fan of American “Sad Girl” singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers.
*(Written before their relationship hit tsocial; media)
Forget about the online stuff about whether the pair have hooked up, or not, following a reported meeting up in the seaside town of Kinsale in Ireland.
I couldn’t care less .…
But listening now to Bridgers’ stuff … two albums to date, Stranger In The Alps (2017) and recently, Punisher, she is just marvellous.
Don’t believe me? … Check them out, and my favourite, Funeral, on her first album.
This song actually shocked me with its beauty, emotion and perspective.
Her’s is the kind of talent only a sound lad — or person — would appreciate.
Okay, I’m in danger of outing myself here as wannabe sound lad, but feck it, I admit it, I’m a musical snob.
Someone tweeted recently enough that should never trust someone who is not a musical snob, and I kind of get what they meant.
If a song or artist means something to you, you take a dim view of those who don’t agree.
Doesn’t sound very sound, but I think it is, ultimately.
Maybe this is where another connotation of ‘sound’ comes into play.
As in, stands up to examination, or is “based on valid reason or good judgement,” as the Oxford English dictionary puts it.
So, there you, Paul Mescal is the new patron saint of sound lads.
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