APRIL 2011 IT’S WHEELY GREAT!
MUSIC & REVIEWS
GIGS & EVENTS
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
- featuring -
“Sometimes I wish that people would lower their expectations of what we might do”
The Mongol Rally
Across the planet in a beaten-up Berlingo – two men relive the trip of a lifetime
LIGHTS, CAMERA… ULSTER! Bel Air to Belfast: How cinema’s big names are enjoying a Northern Irish welcome Boxcutter Five years at the cutting edge: an electronic pioneer profiled Mark Thomas The arch-provocateur on Israel and Palestine, Paisley and McGuinness, and Irish stone circles… Girls Names A pint and a sit-down with the Sound of Young Belfast
HOLY GHOST! | BC-ONE | THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART | BROCCOLI | WOODY ALLEN | APPLE | CAPTAIN BEEFHEART | THE CAST OF CHEERS
my inspiration Glasvegas
You make me so lonely baby I get so lonely I get so lonely I could die Elvis Presley
Photography by Pip
Words and music to ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ by Mae Boren Axton, Thomas Durden and Elvis Presley. © 1956 EMI Music Publishing Ltd.
MAGAZINE ISSUE 72 | CONTENTS EDITORIAL So, the news is finally out – the MTV European Music Awards are coming to Belfast. Now, while you’re going to get the obligatory naysayers talking a bit of trash (would we be Nordies if we didn’t backbite?) the reality is that this is really big, good news. It’s not just the fact that the world’s largest music network and media is bringing their party to Belfast, it’s not just that millions of eyes will be on Northern Ireland, it’s not just the huge influx of people that the event will bring to the city, it’s not just that the city is going to be full of ‘A-Listers’, and it’s not just the revenue it will generate. These things are all good, but there is an even bigger reason to be enthused about the event. Belfast City Council have seized the opportunity to make this about more than just one night with MTV. The days preceding the EMA’s are going to be devoted Belfast Music Week. There are going to be showcases, workshops, gigs, events and more, all focussing on representing Northern Ireland and it’s music in the best way possible. And all this is being done with the support of MTV. It’s not just about who is coming to NI, it’s about who is already here. Give credit to BCC. They’re making sure that not only is there a spotlight being shone on Belfast, but that we’re right under it when it hits. Light up, light up. Jonny
UP FRONT – News and views from the world of AU
Page 47 – Album Reviews Page 53 – Young Blood Page 54 – Live Reviews
PHOTO BY KIERAN FROST
ROLL CALL Publisher / Editor-in-Chief – Jonny Tiernan Editor – Chris Jones Business Manager – Andrew Scott Contributing Editors – Francis Jones, Ross Thompson Album Reviews Sub-editor – Patrick Conboy Design – Tim Farrell Illustration – Rebecca Hendin, Shauna McGowan, Mark Reihill. Photography – Kieran Frost, Ian Keegan, Gary McCall, Will Neill, Loreana Rushe, Gavin Sloan Contributors Dominic Brogan, Niall Byrne, Patrick Conboy, Brian Coney, Barry Cullen, Neill Dougan, John Freeman, Lee Gorman, Daniel Harrison, James Hendicott, Andrew Johnston, Adam Lacey, Catherine Maguire, Ailbhe Malone, Kirstie May, Darragh McCausland, Karl McDonald, Mike McGrath-Bryan, Sarah Millar, Kenny Murdock, Lauren Murphy, Joe Nawaz, Mischa Pearlman, Steven Rainey, Katherine Rodgers, Eamonn Seoige, Dean Van Nguyen.
STUPID THINGS SAID THIS MONTH I like your glass. Your world is quite niche. I hope that when I send him my CD he chair humps. They need the youth to take tons of acid and sort this shit out. I actually like the smell of books. She’s not life material. I’m a bit reluctant to broach god. Your penis could get us on the bus. That’s how much faith I have in your penis. I’d say he still looks pretty impressive with his top off.
Going Out or Staying In
Page 8 – Hot Topic – Lights, Camera... Ulster! Page 10 – Scene Spirit: Galway Page 11 – Mouthing Off Page 12 – Girls Names Page 13 – Season’s Eatings Page 14 – Label Profile: Ed Banger Page 16 – Games / Hip-hop Guest Spots Page 17 – Lorcan McGrane Page 18 – Cut O’ Ye! Page 19 – My First Band: Tony Wright Page 20 – Unknown Pleasures / Breaking The Habit Page 21 – In The Studio: The Cast Of Cheers Page 22 – Back Of The Net Page 24 – Incoming: Feldberg / Hunx And His Punx / Adventure / Cloud Control
I’m fat enough to have tits so it’s ok. I wonder what the next evolutionary step for humans will be. I’m hoping it’s no body hair. You can’t wank over personality. I see you devoured my nuts.
REVIEWS – Albums, gigs movies and games: The AU Verdict
55 DVD & Game Reviews
REWIND – AU rolls back the years Page 56 – Flashback: The Foundation Of The Apple Empire Page 57 – Classic Album: Trout Mask Replica Page 58 – Respect Your Shelf: Woody Allen Page 60 – In Pictures: The Vaccines / The Monster Mash All-Ireland Bike Jam
If you’d like to stock AU in your business, or you live in an area where AU isn’t currently stocked, but you’d like to see it available, then drop email@example.com a line. We’ll sort you out. To advertise in AU Magazine contact the sales team Tel: 028 9032 4888 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org The opinions expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of the editor or the publisher. Copyright remains with the author / photographer / designer. Send demos / mail / material to: AU Magazine, 2nd Floor, 21 Ormeau Avenue, Belfast, BT2 8HD For more info contact: email@example.com For all general and editorial enquiries call: 028 9032 4455 AU Magazine graciously acknowledges funding support from the Arts Council Of Northern Ireland
26 A to Z of Comebacks Page 30 – The Strokes Page 36 – Holy Ghost! Page 38 – Mark Thomas Page 40 – The Mongol Rally Page 44 – Boxcutter
62 The Last Word: Glasvegas
TV ON THE RADIO NINE TYPES OF LIGHT The Brooklynites suffered a blow recently with the news that bassist Gerard Smith (far right) must undergo treatment for lung cancer. However, the band carry on and release their fourth album Nine Types Of Light on April 12. Two songs have aired so far – the stately, beat-driven ‘Will Do’ and the swaggering rocker ‘Caffeinated Consciousness’ – and each is getting us hyped for another superb indie/rock/soul/funk stew from one of the most ingenious bands around. CJ
MONSTERS THE DVD
Not so much made on a shoestring as made on the little plastic aglet on the end of a shoestring, this British sci-fi cracker was one of last year’s unexpected cinematic treats. More impressive than the fact that first time director Gareth Edwards did all the titular monster effects in his bedroom is the depth of characterisation and pathos found amidst the bombast. A blockbuster of sorts but one which has a heart where most filmmakers would put a wallet. RT
MONSTERS is out APRIL 11 ON DVD and Blu-Ray.
Homefront THE GAME
Written by industry legend John Milius, the unique twist in this barnstorming first person shooter is that a future America has been conquered by the Korean People’s Army. But ignore the hullabaloo surrounding the dodgy politics; what really counts here is the ability to shoot stuff, blow stuff up and mow stuff down with a wide variety of weapons and vehicles. It’s all done with the bang and pow you might expect from a game of its type. RT
HOMEFRONT is out now on PC, PS3 & Xbox 360.
Fancy a night cocooned at home? This lot should keep you busy…
RED DEVIL THE NOVEL
Texan writer Joe R. Lansdale continues to prove his mettle as the most prolific and original storyteller around with the latest in his series involving Hap and Leonard, two old friends who are attracted to trouble like a mutt to a fire hydrant. This time around the dancefloor they manage to bungle their way into a murder investigation which leads them to butt heads with a vampire cult. As funny, sassy and melancholy as ever, Lansdale remains at the top of his game. RT
Nintendo’s plans for world domination gather further momentum with this new take on their hugely successful handheld. Unlike the Wii, the 3DS actually does something interesting with the technology, giving the illusion of further dimensions without the need to don a ridiculous pair of plastic glasses. While the software line-up at launch is typically meagre the future will bring updates of Kid Icarus, Metal Gear and, most tantalisingly, Zelda: The Ocarina Of Time, widely said to be the most accomplished videogame of all time. RT
OUT NOW, PUBLISHED BY KNOPF
THE NINTENDO 3DS IS AVAILABLE NOW
Andrew Lansley Rap
Think of political or ‘conscious’ hip-hop and you think of American rappers tackling the big issues of race, capitalism and alienation. What you don’t expect is a cogent, detailed takedown of UK Health Minister Andrew Lansley’s controversial plans for the NHS, but Loughborough rapper NxtGen has done just that with a video on the verge of going viral. Altogether now, “Andrew Lansley, greedy! Andrew Lansley, tosser! The NHS is not for sale, you grey-haired manky codger!” CJ
The original iPad may not have been around for long – it launched internationally at the end of May last year – but already it is feeling the heat from rival tablets made by Samsung, Motorola and the rest. Just as well, then, that they have swiftly wrested back attention with the apparently slimmer, lighter and faster iPad 2. The new model is said to feature a faster processor, improved graphics, and front and rear cameras, but whether these added bells and whistles will be enough to retain market dominance, time will tell. CJ
THE YOUTUBE VIDEO
THE GADGET Watch the video at bit.ly/lansleyrap
Apple’s iPad 2 is available now, priced between £300 and £500
BORED TO DEATH
THE TV PREMIERE
Here’s another treat from HBO, via the recently launched Sky Atlantic channel. In Jonathan Ames’ comedy series, Jason Schwartzman plays a fictionalised version of Ames himself, a struggling writer based in Brooklyn who moonlights as a private investigator, advertising himself on Craigslist. With Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis also heavily involved, this smacks of the usual HBO class. CJ
BORED TO DEATH IS ON SKY ATLANTIC EVERY MONDAY NIGHT.
ASIWYFA ALBUM LAUNCH SHOWS
North coast trailblazers And So I Watch You From Afar have spread the love far and wide over the last year or so – a full US tour with Envy, Trash Talk and Touché Amoré; European dates supporting rawk supergroup Them Crooked Vultures that saw them share some quality time with Dave Grohl and friends; an extensive and hugely successful tour of Russia and Ukraine in January, of all the months to do it – the band have barely stopped. Somehow among all this gallivanting, however, they have managed to commit their second full-length album to virtual tape, and it will be unleashed on the world at the start of May. Gangs is as monumental as you might expect, and lead single ‘Search:Party:Animal’ a fine precursor, with rumbling low-end, frantic tubthumping and guitars set, as ever, to kill. Your first chance to hear the rest of the album will be live, at the launch shows – the band’s first Irish headliners since their mad day of three intimate gigs in Belfast last December. First up, they play what is bound to be a sold-out Mandela Hall in Belfast on April 29, before moving south to play their biggest Dublin headline gig yet, at the Button Factory in Temple Bar. Prepare to have your senses ravages in the sweetest way imaginable. CJ
What’s in store?
Fresh from their first birthday celebrations, Pressure continue to put on some of the finest electronic nights in Belfast in a variety of venues. /2Bit/Messyfuture/Nez This time, they’re inJ.King the Menagerie with Sub One and Olan from Dublin’s All City Records, one of our favourite Irish labels. The label has been putting out some of the most forward-thinking hiphop and electronica in the world for a while now, including releases such as the stupidly brilliant LA pm to am series involving the likes of Daedelus, Teebs and Dam-Funk. This will be excellent. ASpounds
Ex-Beta Band man Steve Mason finally turned the page on a new chapter in his topsy-turvy career with the release of last year’s excellent Boys Outside album. Six years on from the split of the Scottish indie darlings, his solo masterpiece deals with his troubled life and continuous battle with manic depression. Gone are the hip-hop/folk/reggae mash-ups of yore, in favour of simplified, delicate piano and guitar-driven melodies. Mason is a superbly accomplished live performer; these gigs are not to be missed! ES
With the closure of several independent record shops around the country over the last 12 months, the importance of Record Store Day 2011 seems more significant than ever before. Many of the participating outlets will have live performances, special offers and plenty of limited RSD editions (including records by Kate Bush, Deftones and R.E.M.) on sale, so pop along to your local store to indulge on April 16. And don’t forget the other 364 days, either – or the racks to rifle through may become fewer and further between. LM
Pressure Presents Sub-One and Olan from All City Records at the Menagerie, Belfast on April 9.
Steve Mason plays Spring & Airbrake, Belfast on April 15, the Button Factory, Dublin on April 16 and the Roisin Dubh, Galway on April 17.
Record Store Day is April 16 – check www.recordstoreday.com for participating stores.
SUB ONE & OLAN
all City records
University street Belfast
9.30 late 5
AU’S PICKS OF THE BEST GIGS, CLUBS AND EVENTS
A Fight Like Apes gig is always an event. Take it from us – we’ve seen them a zillion times at this stage, and they’re always, always entertaining. Dismiss the electro-punk Dubliners as ‘zany’ at your peril, though; the foursome have two exhilarating albums in their canon, and they know how to fire up a crowd. Touring nationwide before they head eastwards for The Body of Christ and the Legs of Tina Turner’s UK release, this is also their first tour without gangly bassist Tom Ryan. LM
Mother Nature has been particularly cruel in the last few months, and the recent tragedy in Japan has been on a scale that is almost impossible to comprehend. In order to show a bit of solidarity and assist with the efforts of the British Red Cross in caring for those who have lost so much, deadonmusic and Communion Belfast are putting on a benefit show at the Oh Yeah Centre on April 6. The line-up will include four or five of NI’s biggest bands, as well as DJs from Skibunny and Sketchy. A worthy cause. AS
Here at AU we are lucky to be able to call on the talents of a diverse group of illustrators, and two of the best are based in Belfast – Shauna McGowan and Mark Reihill. Shauna and Mark have teamed up to put together an exhibition of their favourite cinematic icons named 24 Frames Per Second. It showcases both of their unique styles – Mark uses digital techniques, while Shauna specialises in watercolours and mixed media. A feast for the eyes and no mistake. CJ
Fight Like Apes tour Ireland throughout April. See www.fightlikeapesmusic.com for dates.
The exhibition runs at the QFT in Belfast until April 14.
The Belfast Film Festival kicks off with a film title that, if it were a documentary, would surely be one of the greatest works of all time. Unfortunately, Killing Bono (pictured) is actually a feature film that looks at a young U2 kicking off what will become an epic career. Running for two weeks, other festival highlights include Michelle Williams in moody western Meek’s Cutoff and 1974’s Richard Harris disaster flick Juggernaut, which screens on a boat on the Lagan. AL
It has been a frightening ten years since the Scream trilogy disappeared into its own self-referential wormhole, thereby becoming a pastiche of the lame slasher sequels it once pastiched. However, the surviving cast and, crucially, director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson, are back for another (ahem) stab at sending up horror clichés. If it is as fresh and funny as the first instalment it could be exactly what the tired genre needs right now. RT
The attraction of surfing over the years is easy to explain: Point Break. Maybe. And the Monster Energy Open Surf Championships in Portrush won’t just host some of the finest waveriding around ahead of the upcoming European Surfing Championship in Bundoran in September; there will also be music, movies, art and photography exhibitions. You won’t be board… ahem. AL
THE BELFAST FILM FESTIVAL RUNS AT VENUES AROUND THE CITY UNTIL APRIL 14. WWW.BELFASTFILMFESTIVAL.ORG
SCREAM 4 IS IN CINEMAS ON APRIL 16
The championships are held in Portrush, Co. Antrim, on April 9 and 10.
Lights, Cameraâ€Ś Ulster!
Northern Ireland is becoming a major player in movies and television. Andrew Johnston investigates our homegrown Hollywood. Words By Andrew Johnston Illustration By Rebecca Hendin
It’s typical. You wait years for a movie to be made in Northern Ireland, and then dozens come along at once. The homegrown film industry is in rude health, with a steady stream of local and international productions taking advantage of our topography, talent and, well, tax breaks. This month alone sees the release of Universal Pictures’ stoner comedy Your Highness, shot in Belfast and Parkgate, and Killing Bono, filmed on Belfast streets made to look like 1970s Dublin. These big-screen bonanzas follow hot on the heels of the award-winning likes of City Of Ember and Hunger. It has become almost commonplace to see legends like Bill Murray, Tim Robbins or Martin Sheen out and about in the North, while directors of the calibre of Lord Richard Attenborough and Steve McQueen have worked here. It’s some turnaround from the 1990s and early 2000s, when the best you could hope for was Colin Murphy filming a Harp ad. Your Highness boasts two Oscar-friendly stars – James Franco and Natalie Portman. The pair have seen their careers go stellar since production wrapped at Belfast’s Paint Hall Studio in October 2009. Your Highness’s American producer Scott Stuber believes the film will mark a similar transformation for co-star
“I would bring a movie back here in a second.” Scott Stuber, producer of Your Highness and co-writer Danny McBride. “There’s always that turning point in an actor’s life,” Scott says. “Over the years I’ve seen that quite a bit, in different variations. When we were shooting The Break-Up, Wedding Crashers came out, and catapulted Vince [Vaughn] and Owen [Wilson].” Having a man in Belfast who can namedrop Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson is impressive, but Stuber is no mere LA loudmouth. The vice chairman of international production at Universal turns out to be an engaging, down-to-earth fellow, and he can’t praise Northern Ireland enough. “It’s been fantastic,” he beams. “Truthfully, we’ve loved it. I would bring a movie back here in a second. I was worried it was going to rain on me every day, but the topography is beautiful. Rarely do you get a chance to go out like we did, and shoot in forests and on the water. Being around that, just as a human being, not even as a producer, was amazing.” There was concern on the part of some local politicians that the movie’s themes might be inappropriate for Ulster’s supposedly God-fearing populace. The presence of cult director David Gordon Green certainly supports expectations of a drug-fuelled romp, while Stuber describes Your Highness as “Pineapple Express meets Lord Of The Rings.” “This is a fairytale movie told through an R-rated lens,” he proclaims. “We’re able to really kill people and show the blood, and to say the dirty
words, and to show the nudity of the princesses.” None of which, you imagine, sits well with the Free Presbyterians or the Catholic Church. Mary McGlinchey of Northern Ireland Screen believes the benefits of accommodating such a project outweigh the moral worries. “Your Highness brought Universal Pictures to Northern Ireland for the first time,” she shrugs. “This is a major Hollywood studio which brought in nearly £12 million to the economy.” As well as the more obvious beneficiaries – local actors, technicians, paparazzi photographers – Mary reels off the numerous industries that have reaped rewards: “Greensmen, farmers, caterers, hairdressers, electricians, plasterers, accountants, jewellers… The list goes on and on.” Mary highlights the economic boons and cultural good brought by having creative types set up shop here. “This is an industry which in the past year alone has brought in £22 million to the Northern Ireland economy at a ratio of 5.5 to 1 on a £3.9 million investment, and has employed hundreds of Northern Ireland-resident cast and crew. The knock-on positive effects give a boost to the indigenous sector, creating a buzz in the screen industry from which everyone can benefit.” As well as the incoming feature films, there is a host of locally generated fare being made by companies such as Waddell Media, Wild Rover Productions, DoubleBand Films and Below The Radar. In recent years, Northern Ireland has given the world everything from US quiz shows to acclaimed television dramas. On a marquee level, Ulster-born icons Liam Neeson, Kenneth Branagh and James Nesbitt continue to fly the flag for top-flight acting and directing. New blood includes west Belfast actor Martin McCann, who springboarded from Dickie Attenborough’s Closing The Ring to Steven Spielberg’s The Pacific and the Clash Of The Titans remake. Brian Kirk, meanwhile, who directed low-budget flick Middletown in 2006, has since helmed episodes of Boardwalk Empire, The Tudors and Dexter, as well as working on the much-anticipated Game Of Thrones. The upcoming HBO series was shot at locations around Northern Ireland, including Shane’s Castle in Antrim, Castle Ward near Strangford and Tollymore Forest Park near Newcastle. Mary believes Northern Ireland’s unique scenery is a key selling point. “We like to bill Northern Ireland as being the most compact 5,196 square miles of back-lot in the world, with everything being within reach in a day’s filming schedule,” she says. “We can offer stunning locations, from beautiful coastlines to idyllic villages, mountains, glens, cliffs, beaches and loughs, through to urban landscapes with a diverse mix of architectural styles, from Victorian red-brick to 21st-century glass and steel.” The Your Highness shoot, which included outdoor filming at Parkgate Quarry, certainly seems to have been a relaxed affair. “The community that’s working on the movie feel good that the movie’s here in Belfast, and it’s providing jobs,” smiles Scott Stuber. “We socialise a lot together, and we have definitely put a lot of money into the local economy. I think we’ve done a very good job of supporting McHugh’s pub!” www.northernirelandscreen.co.uk
Hollywood Hits The North
Coming soon to a screen near you WAKE WOOD Released: Out now in cinemas and on DVD The skinny: Hammer Film Productions continues its comeback with the help of Timothy Spall and the Fermanagh-Donegal border village of Pettigo. Wake Wood concerns crazed dogs, a child’s death and pagan rituals in a remote Irish backwater… www.wakewoodmovie.com KILLING BONO Released: April 1 The skinny: Nick Hamm directs Ben Barnes, Robert Sheehan and Martin McCann in an adaptation of Seventies punk also-ran Neil McCormick’s hilarious memoir Killing Bono: I Was Bono’s Doppelgänger, about a band languishing in U2’s shadow. The film also features the late Pete Postlethwaite in his final screen role. www.killingbono.co.uk YOUR HIGHNESS Released: April 13 The skinny: Danny McBride’s lazy, arrogant prince bags an unlikely, Natalie Portman-shaped love interest in this epic quest movie-cum-gross-out comedy romp, co-starring James Franco, Zooey Deschanel and Charles Dance. Portman’s casting makes sense when you learn that McBride co-wrote the script. www.yourhighnessmovie.net GAME OF THRONES Debuts: April 18 on Sky Atlantic The skinny: Geeks and Sharpe fans rejoice. Based on George RR Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire medieval fantasy novels, this ultra-violent HBO series chronicles the dynastic struggles for control of the Iron Throne of Westeros, with a scowling central turn from Sean Bean. www.hbo.com/game-of-thrones GOOD VIBRATIONS Released: 2011 The skinny: Theatrical Hurricane Richard Dormer takes a break from playing Alex Higgins to essay Belfast’s one-eyed punk godfather and record shop impresario Terri Hooley. Husband-and-wife team Glen Leyburn and Lisa Barros D’Sa direct, with a script by journo Colin Carberry and novelist Glenn Patterson. Search for Good Vibrations on Facebook
SCENE SPIRIT: GALWAY In the second of our regular reports from around Ireland, Daniel Harrison lets us in on the secrets to be found in Connacht’s biggest city.
A relaxed, bohemian city, Galway’s music scene is varied. Whether it’s indie-rock, punk, hardcore, electronica or bass music, there’s something for any taste, with smaller, interconnected scenes developing around certain sounds and aesthetics. Scene Stalwarts: Galway’s most famous musical sons are probably The Saw Doctors and The Stunning. Today, the city is home to a diverse range of talents. There’s a vibrant hardcore/punk/metal scene that centres around Richardson’s pub, with the Us vs Them collective and Randal Records frequently putting on shows. Prominent local acts include Neifenbach, Only Fumes & Corpses, Trenches, Them Martyrs, Bacchus and Rites, making for an interconnected and inclusive scene. Elsewhere, The Hardcore Priests Of Yemen have built up a cult following with their invigorating brand of skapunk-funk-trad-jazz. Indie-wise, Lost Chord and Go Panda Go have established themselves as key players, with the former having just released new EP Canada. In a more experimental vein, DeclanQKelly has impressed with absorbing, loop-based atmospherics, while Laura Sheeran follows up her eerie Music For The Deep Woods EP with a full-length in a matter of weeks. Acclaimed shoegaze/dream-pop duo Low Sea aren’t strictly Galwegians but they’ve been based there for some time. So Cow’s fuzzy lo-fi rock
has seen him grab the attention of Pitchfork, while Julie Feeney’s idiosyncratic brand of pop classicism continues to confound and Music For Dead Birds and A Band Called Wanda deal in beguiling indie/ anti-folk. More straight-ahead thrills are provided by The Depravations, Blasterbra and Mugger Dave. On the electronic side of things, the sounds of Deviant & Naive Ted, Jimmy The Hideous Penguin and Bitwise Operator are well worth checking out – the latter has just released new album Samurai Hack. Newcomers: Electronic artist Milan Jay released excellent debut EP To The Sea And Swim last year, with further releases due in 2011. The mysterious Twomilliondays has just uploaded an album’sworth of absorbing, intricate tunes to Bandcamp. On a punkier tip, Rural Savage and Kid-Oh have made names for themselves: the latter have just released free album Millions Of Dead Copycats. There’s been plenty of buzz building around Elaine Mai’s nuanced ‘electroacoustic’ pop. The Followers Of Otis showcase a nifty take on classic folk/pop influences. B-Movie Lightning is the beguiling new project of Cane141 man Mike Smalle, while Evil Uncle does a nice line in skewed, twisted singer-songwriter-isms. Metrognome, meanwhile, is the dubstep-influenced project of Ian Dunne. Venues And Clubs: The Roisin Dubh is the heart of the Galway music scene for many: it has played host to Sebadoh, Mudhoney, Maxïmo Park and a set by Fuck
Buttons that was easily one of the best gigs this writer has ever seen. Promoter/booker/DJ Gugai has also brought acts of the calibre of Mogwai, Dinosaur Jr and Modest Mouse to Galway in recent times. Monroe’s has upped its game as a live venue, recently playing host to Pitchfork darlings Girls, while Kelly’s is also a notable venue, playing host French house DJ Sébastien Léger among others. The regular Citóg nights – which have transferred from the closed-down Cellar to De Burgos – are a vital showcase for new and upcoming acts, and Áras na nGael frequently plays host to more underthe-radar affairs, which include gig nights involving The Hardcore Priests Of Yemen and Madek. Places To Go: Independent store Wingnut Records is a welcome new addition to Galway – stocking a wide range of labels (from Randal Records to Popical Island to Richter Collective), it’s situated in The Bell, Book And Candle, which is itself a fantastic place to find second-hand books, comics and VHS tapes. Pubs like Massimo’s, The Blue Note, Neachtains and The Quays have a character and vibe all of their own, with a relaxing atmosphere and good tunes guaranteed. The Spanish Arch and its picturesque environs are perfect for chilling on long summer days. Art galleries like The Kenny Gallery and the Galway Art Centre are also worth a visit.
Andrew Johnston vents his considerable spleen for your pleasure
I’ve been vegetarian since 1987, and I admit I have some pretty extreme views on the subject. The main one that seems to rile people is when I suggest that future generations will look back at the meat industry in much the same way as we now regard the slave trade. As far as I’m concerned, meat is and will always be murder. People’s excuses drive me mad. Carnivores will say, “But I like meat,” as if ‘liking’ something is ample justification. If this was the case, then Gary Glitter should have just proclaimed, “But I like looking at child porn,” when the cops rumbled his hard drive. And don’t even start me on the Christians’ belief that animals were put here for us to eat. This overlooks the fact that most of them were on Earth millennia before we came crawling out of the slime. But even meat-eaters can empathise on one thing: that Belfast is amongst the worst cities in Europe for vegetarian food. No wonder we failed in our bid to become European Capital of Culture when our veggie options are worse even than former Eastern Bloc states. Sure, there is Chinese or Indian food, but Belfast must be the only city in these islands without a dedicated vegetarian restaurant.
The general attitude seems to be: eat pasta or goat’s cheese, or starve. Most Belfast restaurants’ pasta dishes seem to have been thrown together with contempt, and goat’s cheese is fine if you only intend to eat out once every six months. At lunchtime, we’re stuck with soup – if it’s not made with meat stock – or supermarket sandwiches. A couple of years ago, in a café that shall remain unnamed, I was informed that the vegetarian option was baked potato. When I asked what I could get with that, I was told: “Chips.” Belfast excels at ignorance. If you dare to ask for vegetarian options, at best the staff won’t know; at worst they’ll make you feel like an awkward freak. And if you’re vegan or have a cheese allergy, you may as well never leave the house. Compare this to, say, Edinburgh, where there are loads of imaginative, exciting, veggie-friendly eateries. Crucially, these are also popular with meat-eaters. If Belfast wants to be taken seriously on the same level as the likes of Edinburgh or London – heck, even Dundee or Norwich – then it needs to stop pandering to Northern Ireland’s ‘must… have… meat’ mentality. After all, I thought we left murder behind with The Troubles.
DEAD GOOD Belfast indie-pop trio Girls Names on their morbidly-themed debut album
Photo by Gavin Sloan
Girls Names are Cathal Cully, Neil Brogan and Claire Miskimmin. Alright, only one of them actually has a girl’s name, but nomenclature notwithstanding the band have made quite a name for themselves in the two years they’ve been around. A couple of sterling EP releases, a slew of highprofile support slots and now they’re set to release their shiny new debut long player, Dead To Me. Or rather it isn’t so new, as singer and guitarist Cathal tells AU when the band convenes for a halfpint of Guinness in the John Hewitt pub. “We actually made it last June,” he reveals. “Yeah, we’ve kind of got a second album ready to go,” adds drummer Neil, showing a refreshing lack of what spin doctor types call being ‘on message’. Cathal agrees: “It’s interesting. Looking at it now is like looking back at a certain time and place in our lives. Our sound has definitely changed in that time.”
“But don’t put down that we’re dismissing our debut before it’s released,” jokes Neil. “We are really pleased with it.” They have good reason to be. Dead To Me is littered with cute, melancholic Postcard-style pop gems like ‘When You Cry’, ‘Bury Me’ and ‘I Lose’, and though Girls Names may have already outgrown their soon-to-be-released debut, it’s nevertheless a fresh and vigorous shot of fun and an excellent introduction to the ‘Sound of Young Belfast’ (writer’s own conceit). What is striking about Girls Names is how unassuming they are and also how unimpressed by the current hype that’s being flung at them. Having already supported the likes of British Sea Power, Abe Vigoda and the Dum Dum Girls, they’re unfazed by playing to other demographics. “We kind of thrive in that environment,” says Neil. “And the really hostile audience gives you something to play against.” Claire remembers a recent support slot in Dublin with Two Door Cinema Club. “That was slightly insane. We went on in front of thousands of perky teens who just stared back at us blankly,” she reminisces laughing.
“We’re pop,” Cathal reflects. “Just not that pop.” And yet, they’re gathering their own fans apace. The brand of pop they peddle is as infectious as it is charmingly ramshackle. “And there seems to be a lot of death in there lyrically,” suggests Neil of the album. Songwriter Cathal doesn’t quite agree… “Well what about the references to being buried in a couple of songs?” Neil insists. “What about ‘Séance On A Wet Afternoon’?” His bandmate reluctantly demurs. The laid-back frontman is more interested in the suggestion that their recent gigs have replaced some of that ramshackle Postcard charm for the darker, but contemporaneous vibe of very early Echo and the Bunnymen. “That’s the kind of direction we’re taking things in,” he reflects. “Ultimately, we do this because we enjoy it. We definitely don’t feel part of any ‘scene’. The very word has exclusiveness built into it and we’re not about that.” Neil asserts: “You can definitely say that we aren’t scenesters.” And with that, the band go across the bar to meet their mates, have a proper drink and not talk about Girls Names. Joe Nawaz
SEASON’S EATINGS Spring is upon us, and now is the time to break out the cauliflower and broccoli. Wondering how to make them tasty? Let Darragh McCausland be your guide... April is upon us, and the grim mono-season that so often seems to stretch from November to March is finally letting some colour through the cracks in the tedium. Now, I know it’s probably raining as you read this, but hey, there must be a daffodil or two flowering nearby somewhere? Similarly, check your freshly delivered organic basket (ya big food snob) and you’ll see that it’s not all parsnips and cabbage. There are other exciting veg in there – *drumroll please* - ladies and gentlemen, I give you cauliflower and broccoli.
Both of these vegetables are in season right now, and both are extremely underrated. When prepared with care they are tastier than most people imagine, especially when they are in season and very tender. While both are cousins, poor cauliflower is the less popular member of the family, perhaps because of its unfortunate resemblance to Darth Vadar’s helmet-less bonce. So when preparing the simple recipe below, I advise you to pay it special attention, remembering that Irish and British cauliflower farmers need your imaginative recipes to help out this overlooked knobbly white veg.
BAKED CAULIFLOWER AND BROCOLLI The following (sorta Italian) recipe is a simple but exceptionally tasty baked preparation for cauliflower and broccoli. The cauliflower, in particular, responds well to baking and the slightly browned florets love the zest of garlic and lemon. The dish works just a treat on its own, but it would also succeed as a side-dish for a lighter-than-usual roast joint of pork or chicken. Serves 2 as a main course, 2-3 as a side dish 1 medium cauliflower broken into florets
PHOTO BY LOREANA RUSHE THERE’S THIS LITTLE PLACE...
Base Wood Fired Pizza 92 Terenure Road East Terenure, Dublin 6
T: +353 (0)1 440 4800 W: www.basewfp.com
Anybody who has ever visited Naples, an edgy place if ever there was one, may well find that they are never completely satisfied with a pizza again. There is something about the way pizza is prepared in that city (in 30 seconds flat,, at ridiculous heat, in a wood-burning oven) that is rarely replicated successfully. Base Pizza take-away in Terenure, Dublin have a fine lash at it, using wood-burning cooking methods and ingredients that would pass muster in a respectable Neopolitan joint. Of course, the pizzas cost a lot more, and you won’t feel like you’re in the middle of a gritty crime movie eating one, but as far as Dublin pizza goes, this is the real thing. Have it simple, with a smear of tomato, mozzarella, and anchovies.
250g broccoli florets
Half a lemon, or if you’re adventurous an orange
75g or your own favourite generous amount of grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground pepper Olive oil
50g breadcrumbs 3 cloves of garlic, well minced
Baking dish to serve
Preheat the oven to 210 degrees Celsius. Lightly blanch the cauliflower and broccoli in a saucepan until they are just tender (under four minutes) and let them steam dry in a colander. Toss the broccoli and cauliflower florets in olive oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper, until they are well covered in the seasoning mixture. Lay them out in the baking dish. Next, sprinkle them with the grated Parmesan. If you want, at this stage, you could even add more of a different type of cheese and even mix in some cream to go for more of a cheesy ‘bake’ – but I think this is a nice simple preparation that lets the cauliflower sing.
and the lemon (which deteriorates if added too early in the cooking process).
At this point place the tray in the oven. The vegetables should be left to bake uncovered at 210 degrees for about 25 minutes (or until the pasty cauliflower goes gorgeous golden at the edges). After 15 minutes, remove the tray and toss everything well. At this stage sprinkle it with the breadcrumbs
Before long, you and a cauliflower sceptic friend of your choice will have your faces full of this wonderful, cheap vegetable and its bruiser cousin broccoli. You won’t know what to compliment more; the zingy marriage of flavours, the crunch of the breadcrumbs, or the punch of the garlic? What you will know, for sure, is that you’ll never overlook this unassuming native vegetable again. Give it a go, and next time try it in a cold salad with bits of orange zest. You’ll never look back.
LABEL PROFILE: ED BANGER
Words by Chris Jones
Founded: 2003 Based: Paris Run By: Pedro Winter (aka Busy P) Key Acts: Justice, Mr. Oizo, SebastiAn, Cassius.
After a series of label compilations, French electro-house label Ed Banger have just released their first ever mix album, featuring more than a dozen nonlabel acts alongside their own flagship artists. We spoke to label boss – and former Daft Punk manager – Pedro Winter about the mix and a label that he feels is somewhat misunderstood. You are about to release a new mix album, Let The Children Techno, which features lots of non-Ed Banger artists like Skream and Flying Lotus. Have you had much contact with those artists in the past? It’s funny, a lot of people think it’s crazy that we have Flying Lotus, Skream, Duke Dumont and stuff like that. But for me it’s really natural. Flying Lotus knows Ed Banger very well, Skream knows Ed Banger very well, and when I asked for some tracks they were the first ones to say, ‘Yeah, I’m up for
it’. Of course I understand that with the success of Justice or Mr. Oizo, people can put us in one genre – noisy electro or whatever – but there’s also Mr. Flash, DJ Feadz, DJ Mehdi, Krazy Baldhead, myself as Busy P. So maybe people forget, or didn’t search enough into what Ed Banger is. Maybe me doing this compilation was a way to tell everybody loudly, ‘Yeah, this is who we are; this is what we like; this is how I want us to sound; enjoy it with us. Join us!’. Do you feel any frustration at how Ed Banger is perceived? I’m not really a frustrated person to be honest with you, but sometimes I’m annoyed with answering the same question, when people say ‘this is not the Ed Banger sound’. What is the Ed Banger sound for you, then? I’m excited by a lot of things. I’m opening my ears and my eyes, and the rest will follow. I’m not frustrated by anything. How did the label get started in the first place? I started the label in 2003. I had been managing Daft Punk for 12 years and I was a bit fed up with managing artists – I was also managing Cassius, DJ Mehdi, Cosmo Vitelli, Mr. Oizo and stuff. So I met an artist called Mr. Flash, and he came up with a track and said, ‘I want you to be my manager’. But I said ‘No, I don’t want to be your manager but I
want to be your partner, your producer – let’s set up a record label’, and I started Ed Banger like this, by accident. And then the lucky star around my head brought me Justice and the track ‘We Are Your Friends’, and you can imagine everything went faster and faster, and crazier and crazier. This was eight years ago and… I’m a happy man, you know! You mentioned ‘We Are Your Friends’ and Justice – things blew up about four or five years ago with their success as well as Uffie and SebastiAn. It must have been crazy. Yeah, it was a big time. We had support from everybody, maybe because we brought fun back into electro. It was a good time. I mostly see those years as a good foundation. I like building a strong history – like I did with Daft Punk and I’m doing with Ed Banger – and it’s important for me to have a strong foundation, and after that you can have fun doing crazy stuff. But it’s important to have a strong base. What has been the single most important release on the label? The second one – Justice vs Simian – ‘We Are Your Friends’. It was the key to the world for us! Let The Children Techno is out now. www.edbangerrecords.com
Entertainment 29 April-09 May 2011
Return of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival If you love all kinds of music and artistic entertainment, the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival will be right up your street. This boutique festival is cutting-edge and quirky – with a great mix of performances and shows. Celebrating the supreme offerings of music, books, theatre, comedy , dance and visual arts, the CQAF is a fringe festival in the heart of Belfast – sizzling with animation and good craic. This year’s highlights include appearances from Bell X1, Mark Steel, The Human League and Brassroots. Make space in your diary for this treasured happening – it’s a highlight of Belfast’s artsy calendar.
If you like the sound of this, don’t miss... Belfast Film Festival
31 March – 14 April , Belfast Revel in local talent and the best of new International cinema. A movie–lover’s paradise.
City of Derry and Big Band Festival 28 April – 01 May, Londonderry
This festival is an ode to a glittering musical era – a jazz, blues and Big Band extravaganza.
Festival of Fools
28 April – 2 May, Belfast Five glorious days of circus acts, puppet shows, comedians and all kinds of street theatre. For more details, ticket info & accommodation offers, visit Photo by Edel Gribben
BULLETSTORM IN A TEACUP
More criticism for the videogames industry
When rap stars play second fiddle A stunning verse on someone else’s track can propel unknown rappers towards superstardom, helping build up that much sought after commodity, hype. Others go relatively unnoticed, only to resurface later as an interesting story that preludes a successful career. Here are four of the most interesting hip-hop guest spots. Main Source feat. Nas
You do a football slide along the ground, shooting a mutant grunt into the air. You unload two barrels of buckshot into his trunk, bisecting him with a thunder crack, and both parts are impaled on an overgrown cactus. The words ‘Torpedo’, ‘Topless’ and ‘Pricked’ appear onscreen like BIFFs and POWs in a comic book, accompanied by buckets of animated blood squibs and the kerching! of multiple points being racked up. This sounds pretty unpleasant when starkly described in print but in action it’s so cartoonish and wilfully far-fetched that it raises more guffaws than heckles. This is, however, a quality that the media’s self-appointed moral arbiters have missed. Bulletstorm, the latest rock-and-rolling shooter from Epic Games, has swaggered its way into a whole heap of trouble for its parade of non-stop ultraviolence and profanity. The unrelenting brutality or aforementioned ‘Skillshots’, most of which are rooted in obvious sexual innuendo, have invited yet more criticism upon the gaming medium, with critics again carping that it’s dangerous and downright corruptive. There are, of course, several problems with this argument. Firstly, videogames are censored and rated by boards such as the PEGI who are much more punitive than the BBFC, for example. If they brand a game’s box art with an 18 certificate it means exactly that: this is not for young eyes. If a parent permits their pre-teen child to play Call Of Duty it’s certainly not the game company’s fault. Secondly, if a title is given a high age rating then surely the consumer should
be permitted to decide for themselves if they should play it or not. It’s only logical. We don’t sell cigarettes to people and then tell them that they can’t have them, regardless of how damaging they are. That’s not how free choice or free trade works. Finally, the recent brouhaha irritates because the naysayers have spent no time playing the actual game or conducting interviews with its makers. In short: doing their research. If they had done so they would know that the most salty material dissipates after 30 minutes. It then transforms into a fun and well structured score attack game which is truly no more violent than Space Invaders. Both of them involve killing aliens, though graphics have improved somewhat since 1978. Nonetheless, it’s an issue which refuses to die and will undoubtedly be stirred up again when Duke Nukem, the daddy of videogame splatter, drops in June. Ross Thompson
Live at the BBQ (1991) Main Source’s debut record Breaking Atoms influenced a generation of hip-hop producers with its layered and complex beats built from old soul and jazz samples and intricately weaved by the group’s main man Large Professor. Also noteworthy: it helped launch the career of a young Nasir Jones. Appearing on record for the first time, Nas is the first of four MCs who lay down a verse, springing out of the blocks like with the instant energy of a relay runner. With a little help from Large Pro he’d drop his seminal masterpiece Illmatic three years later, but the road to greatness started right here. Listen: bit.ly/mainsourcenas Jagged Edge feat. Kanye West Let’s Get Married (Reception Remix) (2000) As a working producer at the turn of the millennium, Kanye was being dissuaded by his peers from making the step from the mixing desk tothe mic. Listening tohis remix of Jagged Edge’s syrupy R&B standard ‘Let’s Get Married’, it’s easy to understand why. The beat itself actually hinted at his Late Registration-era productions, with a prominent string sample and deep drum thumps. Ye’s verse is hilariously inept, but it did give advance warning of the 22-yearold’s legendary appetite for excess: “Since
WORDS BY DEAN VAN NGUYEN
my money get right these days / I wanna give you more ice than the ice capades.” He did get better. Listen: bit.ly/jaggededgekanye J-Lo feat. 50 Cent I’m Gonna Be Alright (2002) Approached to appear on a J-Lo remix album back in 2002, little-known rapper 50 Cent could hardly turn down the exposure – or pay cheque – he’d receive, so street cred would have to temporarily be put to one side. His verse on ‘I’m Gonna Be Alright’ was about what you would expect from a hardened street MC forced to water down his style to match a pop starlet. Perhaps that’s why when the track was selected for a single, Lopez and her label Epic deemed it best to replace 50 with the better known Nas. Feeling betrayed by his then friend, 50 has apparently never gotten over it. Listen: bit.ly/jlo50cent Kanye West feat. Nicki Minaj
Monster (2010) A bidding war among major labels meant a healthy dollop of hype was already attached to the Nicki Minaj name before she ever stepped into a studio. But it was ‘Monster’ that really made hip-hop fans tingle with excitement. Kanye’s colossal beat was a perfect showcase, and even in such esteemed company as Jay-Z and Rick Ross, Nicki outstripped her more experienced counterparts. Weaving in-and-out of hard-and-soft, heavily accented and not, Minaj stunning verse proved the most monstrous. So while Jay compared himself to “Sasquatch, Godzilla, King Kong, Loch Ness,” he was roared down by a 5’2 demon in a pink wig. Listen: bit.ly/kanyeandnicki
PORN TO BE WILD Hardcore humorist Lorcan McGrane hits Belfast. audiences, regardless of their level of knowledge of skinflicks: “You can get away with any subject if it’s done honestly and it’s funny. Though it is always good when you get sheepish laughs after mentioning certain performers, directors or bizarre sexual proclivities.” As an Ulsterman from just across the border, Lorcan is familiar with the NI comedy scene. He first got to grips with the northern sense of humour when he hooked up with Belfast surrealist Marcus Keeley as a fellow student of the University of East Anglia in Norwich. “After gigs we would have pints of Guinness outside and look forlornly into the windows of trendy bars,” he remembers. “So we decided to come back to Ireland – where we immediately set to work having pints and looking forlornly into the windows of Irish bars.” Having resided all over these islands, Lorcan is now able to spot the differences between the various styles of comedy. UK stand-up is “more one-liners and obviously written material” he reckons, whilst Irish comedians purvey a “more conversational, ‘great craic altogether’, bloke-down-the-pub” approach. I think Northern Irish comedians have a unique position to combine the best of both,” he adds.
Photo by Gavin Sloan
If you don’t know who Belladonna, Rocco Siffredi or Nacho Vidal are, or what ‘ebony’, ‘creampies’ or ‘ATM’ mean, much of Monaghan funnyman Lorcan McGrane’s material might be lost on you. The porn-obsessed jokester has cornered the market in mucky, confessional schtick. It’s not just smut, though. McGrane’s set also goes into the kind of detail about cult comics and movies that would have even Jonathan Ross’s head spinning. (His university dissertation was entitled New Flesh For Film Studies: David Cronenberg And The Horror Of The Corporeal, ferchrissakes.)
The 35-year-old stand-up has gigged in Belfast numerous times, but plays his first proper top-billed show on April 6 at the Black Box. “I’ve headlined open mic nights before, but I think headlining the Black Box is a step closer to that elusive goal of gigging more regularly and professionally,” he says. McGrane is no stranger to Belfast, having lived on the Ormeau Road during the late 1990s, where things could get rather – ahem – heated. “We had conscientious neighbours,” he smiles. “They used to make sure our garden was nice and warm by having a barrel on fire in it.” Still, Lorcan has mostly fond memories of living in Northern Ireland during the final years of The Troubles. “My main concern back then was that the security guards searching the bags in Castle Court would find my gentlemen’s periodicals,” he says. Lorcan insists his X-rated gags go down well with
In closing, Lorcan sums up the comedic clash of cultures: “Some of my stuff on growing up in rural Ireland involving inbred kittens with no backbones or ‘burying’ pets by putting them in a fertiliser bag and fecking them into a ditch might have shock value in Norwich, but could come across as a mundane observation when performing in Monaghan.” Andrew Johnston Lorcan McGrane plays the Black Box, Belfast on April 6. lorcanmcgrane.blogspot.com
BAND BAND MATHS MATHS NO.8: NO.1: The U2 Rolling Stones 45% - Riffs to kill your granny for 21% - Zimmer frames 18% - Invincible Keef 12% - Flogging a dead horse 4% - Lips
Cut O’ Ye! AU singles out the stylish for pictures and probing
Name: Holly Occupation: GCSE student Personal fashion disaster: “A Hawaiian shirt” Shame on you Holly – everyone knows that the only person who can successfully pull off a Hawaiian shirt is the ‘tachemaster, Tom Selleck.
Name: Michael Occupation: Chemist Personal fashion disaster: “This” Come come, Michael. You look simply divine.
Name: Bryony Occupation: Student Personal fashion disaster: “A tracksuit” Just be glad you aren’t a few years older Bryony – it could have been a shellsuit.
Name: Eddie ‘Vegas’ Occupation: Tattoo artist Personal fashion disaster: “Dungarees” We caught Eddie on his way back from the skate shop. That man has decks appeal!
Name: Amy Occupation: student Personal fashion disaster: “A tracksuit” Another one who regrets that tracksuit phase. You sure it wasn’t a shellsuit, Amy? ;-)
Name: Sophie Occupation: Skills coach Personal fashion disaster: “Burgundy corduroy leggings” Cord blimey, that’s a bad choice! We’re so sorry…
Photos by Will Neill. Selection by Catherine Maguire and Sarah Millar.
MY FIRST BAND
Photo by Ruth Woodside
With Tony Wright from ASIWYFA and VerseChorusVerse Band Name: Kaon/The Roswell Incident Influences: Nirvana, Fugazi, Sonic Youth. Age: 13/14 We played our first gig when I was about 13. We did a couple of originals and the standard glut of Nirvana, Green Day, Sonic Youth and Fugazi covers. We did Pennyroyal Tea and it was the only point in the evening where I had a guitar solo. I was so excited about it I played it at about
did one that caused the Derry in Portrush to be shut down for six months because every 15-year-old in the local area descended on the place. There was about 250 there and we were all 14, 15, drunk and fuckin’! I remember someone was doing a guitar solo and a girl motioned towards the toilet, so he just walked to the toilet with his guitar still on – the lead popped out halfway through – went in and banged this girl. There was all manner of sexy goings-on.
“There was about 250 there and we were all 14, 15, drunk and fuckin’!” seven times the speed it should have been played at! We did ‘100%’ by Sonic Youth, ‘Waiting Room’ by Fugazi. I’m trying to think of the cool songs… we did ‘Telephone’ by Flipper. I remember we attempted to do a Pearl Jam song, but we weren’t good enough to do any of them. They were all cock rock – stick to the lo-fi punk rock! Kaon played about two or three gigs and then The Roswell Incident
We only knew about five songs but we were supposed to play for two hours, so we got people up from the audience to play. Andrew Wilson and Paul Irwin from Ed Zealous were in a band called Bellyjean, and they came up and played a couple of Green Day covers. They were far better than us. www.myspace.com/ andsoiwatchyoufromafar Search Tony’s solo project VerseChorusVerse on Facebook
UNKNOWN PLEASURES Niall Byrne digs deep to uncover the freshest new music
BREAKING THE HABIT Blog Buzz – Big Freedia Let’s start with something weird and filthy. The words ‘booty’ and ‘bass’ are made to go together. Big Freedia is the gender-bending queen diva of the New Orleans bounce scene whose tunes ‘Azz Everywhere’ and ‘Y’all Get Back Now’ (geddit) have been creeping into blog feeds of late like a booty-obsessed pied piper. - bit.ly/bigfreedia
7” - Icona Pop Oh, Sweden. How your land is most fertile in the chemical known as pop. The latest darlings of Sverige are Aino Jawo and Caroline Hjelt, who make up Icona Pop. Their debut 7” record was released on those New Yorkbased mediators of cool, Neon Gold Records, who have already thrust Marina & Diamonds and Passion Pit upon us. A-side ‘Manners’ is a double dollop of synth-creak and viral chorus while B-side ‘Top Rated’ sounds like Katy Perry in an alt-pop universe. - myspace.com/iconapop 10” – Therapies Son 19-year-old Alex Jacob is making music wise beyond his years, flitting from Grizzly Bear-esque orchestral folk to swoonsome avant-pop. It’s all lovely and wholly worth devouring if his debut EP Over The Sea is anything to go by. Snap it up. - therapiesson.bandcamp.com
Donate to Japan’s Relief Fund through music Musicians were quick in releasing once-off compilations, singles and EPs in aid of the Japanese relief fund once the earthquake and tsunami disaster struck in early March. This blog has been collating releases whose profits are going to aid in the region. So, if you want to support the fundraising as well as get some great music for your efforts, there are plenty of options – from the Morning Benders EP, to techno and punk compilations, to Warp Records t-shirts, to Japan’s own folk superstar Shugo Tokumaru. - musicreliefjapan.blogspot.com
Blog Buzz – Just A Number 05272011 Just when you thought the whole rapegaze, witch house, drag, chillwave name generator fad (I’m not making this shit up), which brought us names like oOoOO, BL§§D ØU†, †‡† and ∆ had passed (see?), along comes Just A Number 05272011. Something prophetic better happen on the 27th of May 2011 or this band name is the dumbest shit ever. It’s your usual enigmatic group (who may or may not be from the Isle of Man) but their tunes ‘The Pain’ and ‘He Didn’t Want A Love Song’ are The Knife-esque electro jams, worthy of more investigation. - vimeo.com/user5377109
Major b-boy event comes to Belfast’s Ulster Hall Urban culture is on the rise again in Belfast. Maybe it never went away, but with a string of recent events such as Winter BASE at the Ulster Hall and the opening of the T-13 skate and BMX park, it seems to finally have been given the platform it deserves. Added to these comes Red Bull’s BC-One Cypher Event, part of the largest and most prestigious b-boy competition in the world. Breaking in Ireland has had a relatively small following over the years, but there are a growing number of competitors, and events like this always draw a good crowd. The BC-One Cypher event takes place in The Ulster Hall on May 8 and involves a one-on-one breaking competition, bringing it back to its roots and avoiding the team format made popular by some cringeinducing reality TV shows in recent years. B-boys and b-girls from all over Ireland will be competing and you can apply online for a place in the qualifying round at www. redbull.ie. The winner of the event will go on to represent Ireland at the European Qualifier in Barcelona, and if they make it through that, they’ll be heading to the world final in Russia later in the year.
Of course, the b-boy scene did not begin with the video of Jason Nevins vs Run DMC’s 1998 hit ‘It’s Like That’. It harks back to a dance movement which originates in the late Seventies in the Bronx in New York, and has always had strong links with the hip-hop community. Artists like KRS-One, Afrika Bambaataa and the aforementioned Run DMC have often championed hip-hop subcultures like breaking and graffiti, with others often proclaiming these elements to be as important as the music itself. Belfast also has a long history of breakers and has its own legendary b-boy crew in the form of the Belfast City Breakers. The original members formed way back in the early Eighties, and although some have come and gone, the crew remains intact and AU have witnessed some memorable performances at various events over the years. So, whether you fancy competing, or just want to do something a bit different with your Sunday evening, all the info you need can be found on the Red Bull website. Plus it’s free in, so you really have no excuse not to. Andrew Scott Red Bull’s BC-One Cypher Event takes place at the Ulster Hall, Belfast on May 8 www.redbull.ie
IN THE STUDIO: THE CAST OF CHEERS
Words & Photos by James Hendicott
WHAT: Second album TITLE: TBC PRODUCER: Vinny McCreith STUDIO: The Meadows TRACK TITLES: ‘Building Blocks’, ‘They Call It A Race’, ‘Human Elevator’.
Winners of RTE’s Outstanding Contribution to Irish Music award, gigs in New York, Berlin and London, and the first act ever to be nominated for the Choice Music Prize for a downloadonly album: when The Cast Of Cheers released Chariot in March 2010 without ever having played a live show, they could scarcely have imagined things going better. Not ones to rest on their laurels, though, brothers and frontmen Conor and Neil Adams, bassist John Higgins and drummer Kevin Curran are already back in a top-secret studio recording the follow up. AU dropped in to soak up a few pre-mix tracks and ask the guys ‘where to now’?
So how is the album sounding? Conor Adams (vocals, guitar): It’s not a dramatic departure from Chariot, but we feel the songs are a bit more developed, and they draw on our experiences since then. There’s one called ‘They Call It A Race’, which is a kind of anti rat-race, equality song. There are 14 or 15 tracks in total, but the album will be cut down to 11 or 12. John Higgins (bass): It’s a better reflection of where we are as a band now. We’ve come a long way from the band that had never played a show when we recorded Chariot. It takes a few influences from what’s happened this year. Conor’s lyrics on some of the tracks are amazing. It blows me away every time I come into the studio and hear what’s been added. Tell us a bit about the recording technique on the new album… Neil Adams (guitar, vocals): It’s very deeply layered, vocally. It’s a sound Conor came up with when we were recording Chariot, having half a dozen layers of vocals on top of each other. They’re all in the mix at the moment, and it adds a real weight to the sound. Most of it’s recorded individually and then thrown together in the mix, so even we’re only just getting a full sense of what it’s going to sound like. Now Vinny [McCreith, producer] is going to work his magic!
The next album is clearly going to be a very different story to ‘Chariot’ in terms of promotion. When you get to that point, how will you promote the album this time round? Conor: Well we know Mick Roe [band manager and Richter Collective boss] has been thinking a lot about it, but we’ve really just been concentrating on the recording up to now. We’ll probably start thinking about it from now on, with the final tracks finished now and heading off for mixing. Neil: Whatever we say, it’ll end up being something different. Whenever we make plans like that they seem to change a week later. Let’s be insanely ambitious and say you sell half a million copies of this album. What would you do with the stage show? Neil: I’d focus on getting a really good light show down. Having the production down really well makes all the difference. The light show was one thing about Two Door Cinema Club that really impressed me. Kev: I’d have a trampoline drum kit. John: I want to enter the gig on a zip line. Or play the gig on Segways, with Kev’s drum on rails. Neil: One half of the stage would be all sparkly and glitzy, like a Muse gig, and the other half like a pub gig. It’s all about the music!
HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU(TUBE) A Black Day
Words by Neill Dougan and Connor Dougan
Despite being inveterate music snobs, AU recognise good, popular music when we hear it. Girls Aloud, Rihanna – hell, even Take That have knocked out a few decent tunes. And, on the flipside, we can also identify horrible dross masquerading as pop. And ‘Friday’ – the by-now infamous debut single from 13-year-old wannabe Rebecca Black – is an especially egregious example. Join us now as we celebrate the sheer crappiness of this, possibly the worst single song ever recorded...
FRIDAY I’M (NOT) IN LOVE
TALKIN’ FRIDAY MORNING GOTTA GO TO SCHOOL BLUES
HEY MAN, SLOW DOWN
For the – ahem – ‘benefit’ of anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure, here’s the original version of ‘Friday’ in all its glory. Highlights include the mind-meltingly banal lyrics about getting ready for school (“Gotta have my bowl / Gotta have cereal”), the grating, over-processed vocals, the unutterably awful video and a rap about overtaking school buses (starting at 2.30, and well done if you can make it that far) that is so bad you won’t know whether to laugh or ram two sharp pencils into both of your ears simultaneously. Think we’re being unnecessarily harsh on the efforts of a 13-year-old girl? Go and listen to it. Changed your mind? Thought so...
But what’s this? It seems that young Rebecca has in fact daringly reinvented an obscure Bob Dylan rarity, possibly culled from the legendary ‘Basement’ sessions he recorded with The Band in the mid-Sixties. We should have known: only a man wracked by the pressures of inescapable fame, possibly in the grip of a serious chemical dependency, could pen lines as anguished as “Gotta get down to the bus-stop / Gotta catch my bus / I see my friends / Kickin’ in the front seat / Sittin’ in the back seat / Gotta make up my mind / Which seat can I take?”. Up there with ‘Like A Rolling Stone’. He really is a genius, that Dylan.
Slowed-down versions of popular hits are nothing new on YouTube, but the reduced-speed version of ‘Friday’ is particularly entertaining – not least because it’s much, much more enjoyable than the original. Sounding strangely melancholic and doom-laden, ideally you’d listen to this version at ear-splitting volume while standing on a beach, looking out across the water as a massive asteroid hit home to rain fiery death down upon us all, Deep Impact-style. Nothing less than we deserve for creating a world in which these children of Satan can live and prosper to breed anew. Bring on the singularity!
WEIRD WIDE WEB
Beyond just storing pictures of your teenage drunken self for employers and grandchildren to peruse, the internet has the capacity to preserve important things that would otherwise have completely disappeared. On this site, we are ushered through an interactive scrap book of audio clips, grainy film footage, old frayed photos and sepia memories of a mining town in the far north of Canada. The twist? When the mine stopped producing in 1988, the town simply ceased to exist.
The rise of Odd Future has been almost entirely fuelled by the internet, culminating in the one-two meme punch of founder/leader Tyler jumping on Jimmy Fallon’s back on their television debut and the cockroach/vomit/suicide-centric video for ‘Yonkers’ (which Kanye decided, in March, was the best video of the year). It’s worth exploring the side-alleys too, such as this Tumblr that mashes up Odd Future lyrics with Peanuts comics for no apparent reason. It works surprisingly well.
Words by Karl McDonald
Pitchfork.tv’s Selector show presents established rappers – straightforward guys like Big Boi as well as the self-aware likes of Das Racist – with two beats to choose between from genres that are, for want of a better term, ‘Pitchforky’. Hearing freestyles over chillwave beats is fun in itself, but the high point comes with Curren$y’s weed-assisted enthusiasm for Gold Panda’s name. “That is absolutely how I want to introduce myself to people. Gold Panda.” - pitchfork.com/tv/#/selector
STORY OF THE VIDEO
"aaagh! my eyes!"
Robyn G. Shiels
The column that’s a fuckin’ walkin’ paradox; no it’s not. Words by Neill Dougan
It may have been the Yalta Conference, but ‘Joker’ Joe Stalin couldn’t resist squeezing out a cheeky fart which, as usual, tickled him pink. - TINYURL.COM/STALINCHUCKLES Title: ‘Look What You’ve Done’ Director: Tristan Crowe
Following its low-key appearance last Spring, Belfast’s best-kept secret Robyn G. Shiels has just re-released his EP The Great Depression. ‘Look What You’ve Done’ has had the video treatment from director Tristan Crowe, who has captured the heartbreaking ballad quite beautifully in an intimate performance video. Here, he tells all. Where and when did you record the video? It was recorded at the Start Together music studios in Belfast where Ben [McAuley, drums] works as an engineer and recorded Robyn’s EP. We looked at a few different venues, but as we were planning to make the video quite dark and do a lot of close-ups it was decided that the studio would simply be the handiest as the drum kit and piano were already set up. Plus, the lack of any budget dictated a venue we could get for free! How was Robyn to work with? Really good. He was pretty particular about making the video suit the mood of the song, and didn’t want to do anything that could be seen as cheesy, or too pretentious. Hopefully the video
will get him a bit of attention outside of Northern Ireland as I don’t really think that the current music scene here suits his music. Why did you choose a performance video? We did plan to place less emphasis on the performance parts in the original idea, but we really liked the way that it looked so it turned into a more performance based video in the editing stages. I really liked the way Robyn gets engrossed in the music when he’s performing, and with it being quite an emotional track I thought that seeing him perform more suited it well. I also wanted to experiment with filming the band playing in slow motion. They had to mime to the track which was playing at about 1/3 faster than normal which was a challenge to them at the beginning. The song is quite minimal and also quite long for a video – did these present challenges? I was worried before shooting about the length of the track, but after digitising the footage, the first take that I looked at was a still mid-shot of Robyn singing the whole track and I loved it. The video could have been that one shot for me. I just love the emotion that he shows when performing. He sings like he really means it. Watch the video online at bit.ly/robyngshiels - robyngshiels.bandcamp.com
Most viewers agreed there was something just not quite right about the new series of Gladiators. - TINYURL.COM/CRAZYGLADIATORS
Little Johnny learned the hard way that the highly venomous Mexican Tree Lizard didn’t take kindly to displays of cheeky boyhood japery. - TINYURL.COM/TONGUELIZARD
THE EMERGING ACTS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT
Members: Formation: For Fans Of: Check Out: Website:
Rósa Birgitta (voice), Einar Tönsberg (instruments) Iceland, 2008 Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra, She& Him Don’t Be A Stranger, out on April 11 via Smalltown America. www.myspace.com/feldbergmusic
Hunx and His Punx
Members: Formation: For Fans Of: Check Out: Website:
Seth Bogart (vocals), Shannon Shaw (bass), Michelle Santamaria (guitar), Erin Emslie (drums), Amy Blaustein (organ/guitar). Oakland, California, 2008 The Shangri-Las, Girls, MC5 Second album Too Young To Be In Love, out now on Hardly Art. www.myspace.com/hunxsolo
Multi-instrumentalist Einar Tönsberg met Rósa Birgitta when he was looking for a vocalist for a song for an ad for an Icelandic shopping mall. The connection was so profound (“like a relationship without the romance”) that they decided to write a bunch of songs together. The resulting album, Don’t Be A Stranger is the latest gem on the Derry-based label Smalltown America’s roster. Its dream-like and melodic mélange of swooning pastoral noise has just a dash of mild menace about it. The mall ad ‘Running Around’ is just one queasy delight in a collection that might soundtrack an imaginary Terence Malick movie.
If you don’t know Seth Bogart for his throwback, Sixties girl group-inspired garage rock, you might have encountered him in last year’s controversial video for ‘Lust For Life’ by Girls. But when he’s not pretending penises are microphones, Bogart, known as Hunx, does a pretty good line in shambling pop. His first record, Gay Singles, was a collection of the vinyl Hunx and His Punx released on various different labels since its inception, but its studio follow-up, Too Young To Be In Love, retains the ‘greatest hits’ feel. “I think it listens through perfectly, but could also easily be standalone pop hits,” he says. “I only like doing songs that have a hook to them.”
“A mild unease sounds real and healthy,” avers Einar. “Too much happiness never tells the whole story.” He’s also quick to dismiss the stereotypical ‘quirky Icelandic band’ tag. “I guess every country has their music stereotyped in some way or other. Quirky, eccentric and surreal sounds fine unless you are describing your doctor. And of course, there are many different types of music thriving in Iceland far away from the stereotype.” He adds of the ever fruitful Feldberg marriage: “For Rósa and I the music is our child, our love and pride. And I get to carry her bags and she has to put up with me not changing socks for days.” Joe Nawaz
Hunx seems to be following a fairly anachronistic Spector girl group-type model with his music, to the extent that he even put together an all-female band for this album. “So many bands are gross men with a lady singer,” he complains. “I wanted to reverse that. Lovely ladies with a disgusting male singer.” When he’s not paying homage with his pop hits, he runs a hair salon with some of his bandmates, and he’s also working on a fairly surreal-sounding television show based there, but his true home is on the live stage, where he can properly express himself: “Sometimes, if you’re lucky, my crotch will be in your face if you’re smart enough to be in the front row.” Karl McDonald
Real Name: Based: For Fans Of: Check Out: Website:
Benny Boeldt Baltimore Neon Indian, Dan Deacon, New Order. Lesser Known, out now on Carpark Records. www.myspace.com/adventuresound
‘Pop’ is slowly making its way back towards the heart of underground music. Melody is ‘in’. Danceable rhythm is ‘in’. Nostalgia is ‘in’. And all over the western world, kids with laptops and ideas are making their own version of perfect-pop, filtered through an ever-so-slightly skewed version of what the past sounded like. One listen to Adventure’s second album, and the slightly older amongst us might be inclined to recall the Balearic beats of New Order’s Technique, that hazy, ill-defined summer that we never want to stop. “I draw a lot of influence from experiences from my own life, how I got to where I am right now,” explains Benny Boeldt, the force behind Adventure. “I love when music can help reflect upon the things that have happened to you, and the memories that are incorporated with them. It feels good to channel into those feelings, re-conjuring forgotten memories from summer days long past.” With its undulating synths, pulsing beats, and distorted vocal stabs, Lesser Known succeeds in taking the listener somewhere farther than the multi-layered black and white photograph on the cover might suggest. This is dream music, and Benny Boeldt is the dreamer. Steven Rainey
Cloud Control Members: Alister Wright (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Heidi Lenffer (vocals, keyboards), Ulrich Lenffer (drums, percussion), Jeremy Kelshaw (bass guitar). Formation: Sydney, Australia, 2007. For Fans Of: Vampire Weekend, Butthole Surfers, Yeasayer. Check Out: Bliss Release album, out May 23 on Infectious. Website: www.myspace.com/cloudcontrol These fresh-faced Aussies look like they’ve stepped straight out of the Cajun Dance Party mould, but in fact, back home, they are seasoned professionals. Having toured alongside The Temper Trap and Vampire Weekend, they’re right at home in their dressing room at the Kentish Town Forum, London, where we meet. Though it seems that butter wouldn’t melt in their sun-faded American Apparel lo-fi mouths, the group have something to ‘fess up to, and won’t let the interview begin without spilling the beans. It’s the back story, you see. The internet proclaims that Cloud Control met – whimsy alert! – backstage at rehearsals for a production of Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Pirates Of Penzance. But, erm, they didn’t. Keyboardist Heidi Lenffer blurts out the truth. “The Pirates Of Penzance thing isn’t actually a
true story. We made it up when we started playing together five years ago. I think we posted it our MySpace, it was there for like a year – we hadn’t even played any shows – and somehow it’s still on the internet. We can’t get rid of it. It’s so funny to see it now, like turning up in NME.” Nodding, lead singer Alister Wright notes that it took skill to create a back story so odd, yet so plausible. “The most important thing about a good lie is the detail. You need to keep the details believable. But we don’t lie very much. Once, we got asked on radio whether we were an honest band. That was weird.” They all actually met at a battle of the bands during university (yes, less exciting). More exciting, though, is the fact that it was at that battle of the bands that Cloud Control were spotted by a music industry type, and managed to score their first demo recording. Slightly baffled at their own good luck, bassist Jeremy Kelshaw compares the experience to being “a bit like Bill and Ted. Going in there, we didn’t know anything – how to get proper gigs, how to get a label, all those things. We just thought we’d write some songs. Things blew up on stage, it was bizarre. We had numerous instrument meltdowns. And then, like a Disney movie, someone in the crowd spotted us, and it led to our first demo.”
That’s not really important, though. What’s important is what they sound like. Forthcoming album Bliss Release does exactly that – think a more cerebral Best Coast, or Yeasayer with less sulkiness. Tracks such as ‘There’s Nothing In The Water We Can’t Fight’ layer jangly guitars with melting harmonies over minor chord progressions, bringing to mind a fight between the Byrds and Neutral Milk Hotel. At the time of writing, there’s no UK/Ireland release date set for Bliss Release, but rest assured, when it’s being toured over here, there will be some unexpected surprises thrown in. Wright promises, “We just want to write new songs, and when we’re touring the album in the UK, we’ll probably chuck in some new ones.” And it seems like there’s a lot more new music on its way. “I think that albums are becoming less relevant,” says Wright, “and it really depends on what kind of band you are. And for us, it’s worked pretty well. It’s gotten us over here and all that, but I think that there’s more than one way to do it now. It depends on how you write music as well. Releasing EPs could be good for us – I don’t know. There aren’t as many rules any more. You can do anything as long as it’s decent.” Ailbhe Malone Cloud Control play the Stiff Kitten, Belfast on April 6 and the Academy 2, Dublin on April 7.
A to Z
COMEBACKS While we, the general public, love nothing more than building someone up only to knock them down, what we arguably love even more is when someone falls from their lofty pedestal, only to dust themselves down, grit their teeth and clamber right back to the top. We admire their unyielding determination, their perseverance, their single-minded desire to reclaim their crown. Also, it makes it even sweeter when they fall from grace all over again and we can point and laugh at their misfortune for a second or even a third time. Themâ€™s the rules, you daft celebrities. Words by Neill Dougan Illustration by Mark Reihill
A is for
I is for
Following a decade in the doldrums the Bostonians’ 1986 collaboration with Run DMC ‘Walk This Way’ catapulted them back to the big-time and ushered in a new phase of left-field, boldly radical sonic experimentation that prefigured Kid A by some 15 years. Or rather, they continued to recycle the same boogie-woogie blues rock practically unchanged for the next two decades and beyond. Sorry, got confused there for a second.
Back in days of yore, only posh people could afford to go to school, with the result that literacy was the preserve of a select few. Progress being what it is, most people can now spell. Or at least they could, until the advent of text messaging. Now it’s all ‘dis’ and ‘dat’ and ‘m8’ and ‘lol’. Sickening. I mean, why not go the whole hog and just abandon speech altogether in favour of grunting like apes? We could even go back to flinging our shit at each other.
J is for
B is for
It used to be that bands would get together, release a few records, start to hate each other and split up. Not anymore. Nowadays it’s de rigueur for bands to call it a day, only to reform a few years later. And anyone who suggests that it’s all about the lucrative reunion tours, and not the music, is just a pitiful cynic. So there.
E is for
AU grew up in the Eighties, and remembers it as being mostly crap. Obviously some people felt differently, and today the iPod of any selfrespecting indie hipster will feature the music of such Eighties-influenced acts as Holy Ghost!, Chapel Club, Cut Copy and so on. They will also wear Eighties-tastic skinny jeans and, in all likelihood, be unemployed. Yes, things really have come full circle.
F is for
C is for
Here’s a tip from AU’s style department: never throw any clothes away, even when your outfits become hideously uncool. Fashion is cyclical, you see, and if something has been trendy once, it’s only a matter of time before it’s hot again. Our tip for the next big fashion comeback: Global Hypercolour t-shirts and the ‘under-cut’ hairdo. You heard it here first.
G is for
Guns N’ Roses
By the 1980s, Cash was in a mess, even recording an intentionally ludicrous song, ‘Chicken In Black’, in protest at record company Columbia’s lack of interest in promoting him. Enter producer Rick Rubin who got Cash to record a series of stripped ba,ck, intimate albums featuring new versions of his own songs – as well as covers of modern artists – that completely restored his reputation. He chose not to revisit ‘Chicken In Black’, though…
Of course, not all comebacks are a success. Hard to believe now, but Guns N’ Roses were once the world’s biggest band. That was until Axl went slowly nuts, kicked out all his bandmates, hired a guitarist called Buckethead (who he also fired, naturally) and took forever to release the follow-up to the Use Your Illusion albums. When it did finally appear, Chinese Democracy was about as enjoyable as passing a kidney stone.
D is for
H is for
The 1980s weren’t kind to Dylan either, as a temporary conversion to evangelical Christianity and a series of leaden albums saw his stock plummet. The slump lasted until the mid-Nineties when he surprised all and sundry with the excellent Time Out Of Mind, while 2001’s Love And Theft continued the upward trend, and it’s been mostly good since then. Still shit live though!
Adolf Hitler first tried to seize power in 1923, in the infamous Munich Beer Hall Putsch. It was a dismal failure and Ol’ Addy (as he wasn’t known) was locked up in chokey for eight months. Undeterred, he persevered and upon his release worked his way back up the ladder until, by 1934, he was undisputed leader of Germany. A lesson for would-be fascist dictators everywhere.
As comebacks go, they don’t come much greater than the Big J who, three days after he was crucified, came back from the dead, rolled the stone from his grave and casually said ‘Hi’ to a few acquaintances, freaking them out somewhat in the process. Beat that, David Blaine!
K is for
Eighties classic Knight Rider saw David Hasselhoff’s Michael Knight form a top crime-fighting, borderline homo-erotic, friendship with KITT, his deadpan talking sports car. It was brilliant. In 2008, the show was re-booted for an NBC series featuring Val Kilmer as the voice of KITT. It was shit.
L is for
Liverpool v AC Milan, 2005 As a Man Utd fan, it gives AU no pleasure to say this [speak for yourself, Dougan! –Ed.], but Liverpool’s comeback in the 2005 European Cup final – clawing their way back from 3-0 down at halftime against the mighty AC Milan to eventually prevail on penalties – was something very special indeed. Although the Nou Camp in 1999 was better, obviously.
M is for
From notorious “terrorist”, locked up on Robben Island for 25 years, to revered global statesman and leader of a new South Africa, it was quite a turnaround for Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. They even named a student bar in Belfast after him – arguably his greatest achievement of all.
N is for
It looked bad for Joy Division when singer Ian Curtis hanged himself in 1980. But the remaining members of the band regrouped under the name New Order and – against the odds – produced some of the greatest music of the ensuing decade and beyond. They eventually went a bit pants, but that’s another, less interesting, story.
O is for
Olympic 10,000 Metres Final, 1972 Finnish athlete Lasse Virén wasn’t among the favourites for the 10,000 metres title in the Munich Olympics in 1972. He became even less of a favourite when, on the 12th lap, he became tangled up with Belgian Emiel Puttemans and crashed to the ground. Remarkably, not only did Virén catch up with the field, he went on to take the gold and break the world record. ‘Finn-tastic!’ screamed the headlines. Probably.
P is for
The original pirates were bearded, peg-legged, cackling fiends who wore eye-patches, had pet parrots they kept on their shoulders and were fond of the expression ‘Yaaarrrr, me hearties’. Quite a quaint bunch really. Modern day pirates – poverty-stricken, automatic-weapon-toting Somalian desperadoes who aren’t above a bit of kidnapping, extortion and execution – are a rather more serious proposition. Still, it’s nice to see traditions being kept alive, eh?
Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!, which will – at the mere cost of all your dignity and self-respect – catapult you briefly back into the public eye. Well worth the price.
S is for
Charlie Sheen’s career is notable less for one big comeback than for being an endless rollercoaster ride of peaks and troughs. On the plus side, he’s had a successful movie and TV career, bagging a Golden Globe in 2002 for his role in Spin City. The lows have indeed been low: cocaine overdoses, stints in rehab and a worrying propensity for domestic violence. Most recently, he’s been fired from Two And A Half Men and has suffered what appears to be a very public mental breakdown. Or, as Sheen himself might call it, ‘Winning!’.
US Masters 1996
Quinine, an alkaloid extracted from the bark of the chinchona tree, was used as an anti-malaria drug as long ago as 1631. After a while, we found better drugs for malaria and quinine fell into disuse – only to make a spectacular reappearance as a central ingredient in tonic water, vital staple of that most superior of alcoholic beverages, the gin and tonic. Cheers!
R is for
So you’re a celebrity, possibly a singer or a TV presenter. Only problem is, you’ve been out of the public eye for years. What can you do about it? Basically, you need to get yourself booked onto a show like Celebrity Big Brother or I’m A
1989’s Super Bowl XXII (or, if you prefer, ‘23’) has gone down in history as the game in which the legendary Joe Montana dragged his San Francisco 49ers side back from 16-13 down with three minutes left, throwing the winning pass with 35 seconds left on the clock. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of this dramatic sporting event: it’s American Football, so no-one outside the USA actually cares.
1970s heart-throb Travolta’s career had long hit the skids when Quentin Tarantino cast him as heroin-loving mobster Vincent Vega in 1994’s Pulp Fiction. His brilliant, Oscar-nominated turn in the film instantly reignited his career. And what did he do with this newly-regained kudos? He only went and made Battleship Earth. D’oh!
AU is normally no fan of golf, but the final round of the 1996 Masters tournament was undeniably dramatic. Nick Faldo trailed Greg Norman by six shots and the Australian was odds-on to bag the trophy. But Faldo stormed back to win by five shots – although, to be honest, this was less an example of a comeback than of one of the biggest sporting meltdowns ever on the part of the unfortunate Norman. Oh well. We can only hope that his vast, vast personal fortune brings him some small consolation.
X is for
T is for
U is for
Q is for
prevailed and the Wispa was reintroduced. Hooray! Truly, we can now die happy.
V is for
For many years, vinyl was your only option if you wished to listen to recorded sound. The advent of the CD seemed to spell the end for the humble gramophone record, but in recent years it has had a remarkable resurgence. It’s a lot harder to steal a record than a download, of course. Unless you’re wearing a really, really big coat.
W is for
The Wispa was a delicious, bubbly chocolate bar introduced by Cadbury’s in 1983. After 20 glorious years, some utter moron decided to discontinue the range in 2003. And for five long years we laboured in a barren, Wispa-less desert, somehow surviving on the far inferior Aero. Those were tough times, my children. Finally though, in 2008, sense
Y is for
The wheels came off for folk-rock iconoclast Young in the Eighties, as he released a series of spectacularly bad records, including Landing On Water, of which Young himself remarked, “Yeah, it was a piece of shit.” However, 1989’s stunning Freedom marked a creative rebirth that saw the Canadian release such crackers as Sleeps With Angels, Harvest Moon and Mirrorball. It’s been hit and miss since then, mind. This is Neil Young we’re talking about, after all.
Z is for
Although they were already popular, it was Texan rockers ZZ Top’s 1977 decision to go on a twoyear hiatus that was the making of them. For it was during this downtime that singer/guitarist Billy Gibbons and bassist Dusty Hill made the fateful decision to simultaneously grow chest-length beards. On their return to the scene, they were easily identifiable by their ridiculous appearance, and mega-stardom soon followed. Never underestimate the power of a good beard.
After five long years, The Strokes are back with a new album, Angles. Having survived excess-induced burnout, solo careers and endless rumours about their strained inter-band relationships, Angles represents something of a miracle. It may not be the best album of their career – but it exists. AU spoke to guitarist Nick Valensi about its painful inception and ten years after their glorious debut just what – if anything – The Strokes have to offer in 2011. Words by John Freeman According to musical folklore, The Strokes arrived from Planet Cool in 2001 and saved us from the evil clutches of commercial dance music. Like most revisionist history conspiracies, this claim is utter hogwash. While their debut Is This It did sound like an instant classic, The Strokes seemed like a band perfectly fashioned for the moment and not built to lead a revolution. And of course, music was so in the doldrums that 2000 alone produced Radiohead’s Kid A, Primal Scream’s XTRMNTR, The White Stripes’ De Stijl and PJ Harvey’s Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea. Desperate times indeed… What The Strokes did have was the intoxicating blend of swaggering good looks, that too-cool-for-school insouciance and a set of brilliantly simple rock songs, forged in awe from the ore of Blondie, the Ramones and The Velvet Underground. They were the antithesis of lad-rock on a pedestal of über New York chic. They kept up the pretense with 2003’s solid Room On Fire, before a combination of drugs, bickering and the need to experiment musically delivered 2006’s very unfortunate First Impressions Of Earth. And then it went quiet. Various band members went off and started solo careers (with mixed results) while some became fathers, but as the years ticked by, the possibility
of The Strokes producing another album seemed to dim. Finally, news that the band were writing together again filtered through in 2009. But as the months passed and initial producer Joe Chicarelli was chewed up and spat out, it became apparent that things were not completely peachy. While the band wrote new songs together – as opposed to singer Julian Casablancas being the main songwriter – the album has ended up being recorded over a 12-month period with Casablancas providing his vocals separate from the rest of the band. So, it is not surprising that the resultant Angles is a tad patchy. When we speak to guitarist Nick Valensi, he is in New York, and we start out by telling him that the opener ‘Machu Picchu’ – with its jagged guitars – and the elegant pop of the final track ‘Life Is Simple In The Moonlight’ are our favourite songs from the album. “Yeah, I really like those two as well – they are my favourites too,” he tells us in a languorous drawl. Unfortunately, they are the only songs we really like on Angles. We don’t admit this to him. In the weeks leading up to our interview Nick has been a noisy boy in the press, claiming that the making of Angles was “awful” and that the “old tensions” had resurfaced. Having clearly reflected on his comments,
“The fear for me was that we wouldn’t get back together until it was some kind of 20-year reunion, like all those bands that don’t do anything for years and then they go on a reunion tour. I really didn’t want to turn into that.”
he is in back-pedalling mode during our chat. “I know I was quoted as saying how bad it was, but I think they just caught me on a bad day,” he says, slightly unconvincingly.
guys in the band and I have a lot of respect for them and their musical opinions. So, while it was frustrating to have to compromise, it was exciting to see how much better the song could get.”
So what was the creation of Angles really like? The writing process, with all members chipping in and less reliance on Casablancas, seems ego-pleasingly diplomatic. But the flipside of diplomacy is compromise – and the danger that song quality might suffer in the desire to include input from each and every person. Nick disagrees, “It wasn’t so much about having to make compromises so that everyone got something on the record. But, for me personally, I had to compromise certain things that I wrote. There was one song – ‘Games’ - where I brought in a bunch of chords and Julian wrote some melodies for it and I wanted it to be this guitar-driven thing, and some of the others really wanted to put a bunch of keys on it and that wasn’t exactly how I saw it ending up. So, I had to compromise my vision, I suppose.” With its squidgy synth line, ‘Games’ is one of the better songs on Angles. But as an artist, isn’t that extremely frustrating? “On the one hand it is frustrating, on the other hand it is why I wanted to bring all those songs into the band to see what they could turn into,” Nick says. “I like working with the
Diplomacy seems to be critical to the making of Angles. For The Strokes to continue as a creative entity, the five friends had to rebuild their working relationships. While the writing process was inclusive, the recording of the album – with Casablancas absent – would appear hugely flawed. “We didn’t set out to do it like that intentionally,” Nick explains when we ask him why it happened that way. “It just worked out that when it was time to start recording Julian was on tour and everyone wanted to do some stuff anyway. It wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be. It was just not easy, that’s all. It is really hard to be creative by doing it over email and text messages and stuff. So, there are obvious downsides to that, but, on the other hand, recording the record was a lot of fun. We really had a blast.” Hmm. It is not that we don’t believe Nick; maybe we want to believe him more than we do.
The World According To Nick. Valensi’s views on…
The Strokes were having a blast back in 2001. Is This It was universally acclaimed and the band was catapulted onto the rock music A-list. Ten years on, and their debut feels more and more like
TOURING “I don’t think we are going to do really big tours for this record – maybe in the future we will. There are certain people in the band that are not that psyched about going on tour.” HIS KIDS’ MUSICAL TASTES “They have come to a bunch of our shows already and they loved them. I only play certain kinds of music for my kids, mostly The Beatles, Bob Marley and The Strokes, so I put myself on quite a pedestal in their eyes.”
an albatross, with each subsequent album being checked and measured against its credentials. Nick is still at a loss as to why Is This It attracts such veneration. “I can see that Is This It is really revered and I do appreciate the impact it seems to have had, but I can’t say that I totally get it,” he admits. “So, it is a little bit weird. What is difficult for me is the expectation that is put on us. We are about to put this album out and sometimes I wish that people slightly lower their expectations of what we might do, so that maybe they would be pleasantly surprised when it was good, as opposed to wanting us to just put out another album that would have the same impact. That level of expectation is impossible to live up to – you are setting yourself up for failure.” From the outside, we imagine a sense of frustration about folk constantly comparing Is This It with subsequent albums. Nick, once again, is not having it. “It’s not frustrating. I am pleased and honoured. I love the first album too. When we play live and we get to play ‘Hard To Explain’, ‘New York City Cops’ or ‘Take It Or Leave It’, they are great. Those are our songs and they always will be. I do feel proud of them. Although I feel that when we are trying to create now, I don’t want to be living in 2001 or trying to live up to that in some way.”
THE PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF BAND TENSIONS “We may have some small issues that end up getting talked about with a journalist and then gets really blown out of proportion. It’s just our own faults for airing a little bit of dirty laundry out in public and the way that it is portrayed is not entirely accurate. Plus, do our fans really need to hear about how there may be some tension or frustration? Is that fascinating to people?” ON WHEN THE NEXT STROKES’ ALBUM MIGHT APPEAR “I am hoping to have
it out really soon. We actually have a lot of material which is just sitting around – there is no shortage of tunes right now. Albert has his home studio and we can go in there and record whenever we want to. So, there is no reason why it should take several years before another record is out.” ON HIS WIFE AMANDA DE CADENET’S ROLE ON THE 1990S SEMINAL FRIDAY NIGHT TV SHOW, THE WORD “Amanda has made me watch a few episodes. Did I like it? It was a crazy show.”
While Nick may not want to be in 2001 again, he talks about getting back to basics for Angles. This is a wise move; First Impressions Of Earth saw a move away from their classic sound, with pretty disastrous results. But, after various band members had sprouted solo ventures in the intervening years, it appears that The Strokes clicked back into their sound with ease. “It’s weird. Something happens when we all play together. There is something about the way that Albert and I play guitar together. To me, evolving is kind of a struggle. It is easier to stay on the same thing, even though we have wanted to evolve and we have tried to evolve and we are still trying to. There is always that familiarity of our sound that we struck on in the first place. We need to hold on to that too – it’s what made us special in the first place.” AU is intrigued at the thought of a hugely successful band struggling to evolve and we probe Nick as to why that might be the case. As with all his answers, there is an initial
in the first place.” Trying to survive? We ask Nick whether he ever thought there was a point that The Strokes would split up. “I never thought we would split up or never make an album, or never do a tour together again. But, the fear for me was when? It was three years, and then three turned into four and four turned into five. The fear for me was that we wouldn’t get back together until it was some kind of 20-year reunion, like all those bands that don’t do anything for years and then they go on a reunion tour. I really didn’t want to turn into that.” Indeed, Nick gives the impression of being in a much more positive frame of mind during our interview that his recent press would suggest. With prompting, he suddenly delivers a short monologue which sounds almost pre-rehearsed. “I feel like this record is really good and I am really happy that we made it. There were times when it wasn’t clear when we would make another album. So, this one feels like a really good branch for
“I can see that Is This It is really revered and I do appreciate the impact it seems to have had, but I can’t say that I totally get it” pregnant (and slightly disconcerting) pause. “Well, when we were doing the First Impressions Of Earth record we were trying to get a little bit more sophisticated in terms of the songwriting and maybe a little bit more technically challenging in how we arranged the songs and the parts we were actually playing. I guess that doesn’t come naturally. But, what comes most naturally to us is being that simple rock band – the two guitars, the bass, the drums and the one singer. Sometimes we get bored of that so you have to go out of your comfort zone for a bit. That’s kinda been a struggle for us.” So, after five years of inaction, it would appear that The Strokes have balanced invention with a reliance on their natural modus operandi to create Angles. Although the results are not stunning in any way (the awful ‘Gratisfaction’ sounds like Seventies glam-rockers Mud), perhaps we should be just pleased the album has been made. “The whole idea was to just get back together and get back to what we used to do – to reinvigorate ourselves a little bit,” Nick says. “If we had gone back to the studio and it had been, you know – I don’t know what the word is – a miserable experience, then that would have defeated the point of trying to survive
plus Sounds of Guns Tues 12th April, Mandela Hall
TWIN ATLANTIC plus special guests
Wed 27th April Speakeasy, Belfast, +14s show
WILLY MASON plus special guests Wed 4th May Speakeasy, Belfast
the rest of our career – a really strong stepping stone to the next one and the next one and the next one.” As our allotted time draws to a close, the publicist chimes in with a 30-second warning and one last question. If one version of music history is to be believed, The Strokes saved guitar music back in 2001. AU is left wondering just what impact the 2011 version might have. “Oh man. That is too difficult for me to answer – I have no idea. I didn’t know what happened in 2001. When you are looking back at it, it is difficult for me to assess what the fuck happened. I’m just happy that we are doing stuff together again and I look forward to the future and doing more music together.” And therein lies the raison d’être of Angles. It may not be a great album, but it allows The Strokes a future and the chance to write some more history. Take it or leave it. Angles is out now on Rough Trade www.thestrokes.com
PETER DOHERTY plus special guests
Sun 29th May (Bank Holiday Weekend) Mandela Hall, Belfast
plus special guests Fri 3rd June Mandela Hall, Belfast, +14s show
FRAMING HANLEY plus special guests Sat 18th June Speakeasy, Belfast +14s show
The Strokes play Oxegen Festival, Punchestown, Co. Kildare, Sunday July 10.
Tickets for all shows available from Ticketmaster outlets, www.ticketmaster.ie and from Queens Student Union.
Holy Ghost! have it all: a cool label in James Murphy’s DFA Records, a none-more-fashionable Eighties-influenced sound, a list of influential collaborators that includes the late Jerry Fuchs and, er, Steely Dan’s Michael McDonald, and most importantly a very fine self-titled debut album. But Nick Millhiser, one half of the hotly-tipped NYC duo, would rather talk about bargain-bin disco 12” records. Okay then! Words by Neill Dougan
he laconic, wryly amusing Millhiser – chatting to AU from his native New York – is talking about the disco influence on Holy Ghost!, a pristine, sparkling slice of infectious electro-pop, and he is only too happy to elaborate. “Alex [Frankel, HG! partner in crime] and I were in a hip-hop group [Automato], and we got into disco in two ways that sort of happened at the same time,” he says. “One was that there was this really great record store by our first apartment that had these killer ‘dollar bins’ that were basically all disco 12”s. This was kind of before disco became cool again – there were no disco records that would cost more than a dollar! So Alex and I would go record shopping, looking for samples, and we very quickly learned that all these disco records had the best drum breaks, and we very slowly started amassing quite a sizeable collection of disco 12”s. And as you do – as any hip-hop producer will tell you – when you’re looking for samples, every one in 10 records you buy, you end up falling for really hard. Most of the rest of them are fucking horrendous! “Right about the same time, we met James [Murphy] and Tim [Goldsworthy, DFA co-owner]. We weren’t really friends before we starting making the Automato record, so we started playing each other music so we could find a reference point, find a language and have a dialogue. And I think they played ‘Is It All Over My Face’, the Loose Joints record, and I was like, ‘Oh, I have this! This is the weird disco track with the drum break at the beginning’. And it kind of made us feel like it was okay to like these disco records. And those two things happening at once solidified our love of disco.” When talk does turn to the album, one point to be clarified is why the freakin’ hell it’s taken them so long – album centrepiece and six-minute dancefloor monster ‘Hold On’ was released as far back as November 2007. In the band’s defence, they’ve hardly been idle since then (a veritable slew of remixes for the likes of LCD Soundsystem, MGMT and Cut Copy was followed by the Static On The Wire EP last May). But still, what gives with the three year delay between debut single and debut album? “It was kind of self-imposed,” says Millhiser. “‘Hold On’ was the very first thing Alex and I did as Holy Ghost!, and we knew we wanted to make a record but I don’t think we really knew what we wanted it to be. So we took our time figuring it out and in the meantime started DJing a lot, touring a lot, we did a zillion different remixes. And it was through those remixes that we taught ourselves about production and engineering and figured out an aesthetic that we wanted for our record. It certainly wouldn’t take us that long to do a record next time around but it was definitely necessary for this one.” Still, good things come to those who wait and Holy Ghost! is with us now – sleek, hook-heavy, impeccably-produced and made as much for headphones as the dancefloor, conjuring the spirits of everyone from Arthur Baker and New Order to contemporaries Cut Copy and LCD. One notable presence on the album is the sadly passed former !!!, Maserati and DFA house drummer Jerry Fuchs, who plays on a number of tracks, including tribute song ‘Jam For Jerry’ which was based around one of the last beats he recorded before his
death in November 2009. It’s clear that Nick still misses a man who was both a close buddy and a highly-valued musical foil. “He was a really dear friend and an amazing dude, but also really the best drummer I’ve ever seen,” he says. “He played a lot on the record, but he was also going to be part of the live band. So saying nothing of the personal loss, it was a pretty serious blow to us as a band. He was such an amazing player, we really always intended him [to be in the band] – even at the very beginning when Alex and I first started, we’d say, ‘Well, if we ever play live, we’re really going to need Jerry.’ And a couple of months before he died we started thinking seriously about putting together a live band, and he was down to do it, he was talking about rehearsals and everything. So the whole time we were operating under the assumption that we were going to have the world’s greatest drummer!” As for the song ‘Jam For Jerry’, Nick says: “We only had two days with him as he was about to leave on tour with Maserati, one of his many other bands. There were a couple of songs we knew we wanted him to play on, but we also knew we wanted to start something with him. We had him play a really simple, crazy sequence. Then after he passed away we started writing the song around his drum take.” And Fuchs isn’t the only collaborator on Holy Ghost!. An altogether more unexpected guest pops up on final track ‘Some Children’. “It was maybe the second thing we’d finished, very shortly after ‘Hold On’. But the problem was the chorus was slightly out of Alex’s vocal range, so the only way he could hit the notes was to do this very bad impression of Michael McDonald [noted soft-rock vocalist with Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers]. Everyone really liked the song, but there was this issue, ‘We have to get someone else to sing the chorus!’ “We were debating it, and we were going, ‘Should we try and get a big name in?’, but big name collaborations always seem a little silly. And then Alex sort of jokingly said, ‘Well, why don’t we just have Michael McDonald do it?’. And immediately after having this long discussion about how we didn’t want a ‘featured guest’, we all sort of agreed that if Michael McDonald said yes, then we’d all want him to do it. So totally on a long shot we reached out to him through this ridiculous chain of people, and right away he got back to us going, ‘Yeah, totally, I’ll do it’, and within a matter of days we had the vocals. And he was really awesome and pleasant about the whole thing, and his vocals sound incredible!” With our conversation drawing to a close, there’s just time to ask Nick about the future of Holy Ghost!. With the first album in the bag, what comes next? Second album? “Beyond making one, there is no plan!” he chuckles. “We’ve committed the next few months of our lives at the very least to being on tour. The only plan is to make a second record as quickly as possible, and definitely do it differently to how we did the first one. I think the next one will be something much more traditional, where we just sort of set aside two or three months, go into a studio, work every day and make an album. It shouldn’t take another three years, but who knows!” Holy Ghost! is out now on DFA. www.holyghostnyc.com
Walking on the wild side For over 20 years, comedian and activist Mark Thomas has been a thorn in the side of the establishment. Now he turns his eye squarely on the Middle East, with a book documenting a 700km ramble on both sides of the Israeli Separation Border. As you do. But that isn’t all that is exercising this arch-provoker… AU meets him in Belfast.
ark Thomas is a funny, engaging and extremely talkative man. He’s been demonstrating it for years now in many guises. These days he’s a wonderfully fluid social interlocutor who is variously and simultaneously a radical activist, raconteur, polemicist and, heck, a stand-up comedian. “Some nights before I go on stage,” the drama graduate says, tongue only ever-so-slightly in cheek, “my tour manager turns to me and says [in mock luvvie voice] ‘For goodness sake, don’t let them know that it’s theatre, darling!’.” He’s talking to AU in the bar of the Malmaison Hotel in Belfast, the morning after the night before. The night before was a very funny gig at the Empire Music Hall which brought howls of laughter on the subject of Palestinian dispossession. Surely a first. His latest show and book Extreme Rambling: Walking The Wall, is about just that – a nice, if slightly insane, ramble along the very dodgy, internationally illegal Israeli Separation Barrier which runs along and across the border with the Palestinian West Bank. This wall, which was started in 2002, not only engenders a very physical apartheid but also calculatedly cuts into West Bank territory – some 500,000 Israeli settlers now live in the West Bank, courtesy of this wall. Taking two of his favourite things – exposing injustice and a good old ramble – Thomas’s account of his trek along the 723 km wall (on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides) is funny, moving and righteously angry. His account of the people and places on both sides of this ugly barrier provides real illumination on an issue that is familiar yet frequently obfuscated by skewed reportage. Mark Thomas is no stranger to irritating the powerful. He’s the funnyman who has also previously told you about the Coca-Cola-linked death squads in Colombia, embarrassed English toffs into paying their inheritance tax and thrown the odd humiliating hoo-ha at arms fairs. He had a successful TV career as Channel 4’s campaigning conscience with The Mark Thomas Comedy Product and, as the laughs increasingly became stuck in the throat, The Mark Thomas Product. Surprisingly he lasted seven years (not counting the odd ‘Dispatch’). Unsurprisingly, he drew the line at ‘Celebrity Guantanamo’. The stand-up who started on the likes of Saturday Zoo might now well be seen as an activist who uses comedy as a tool. But as he puts it: “That’s like asking Jim Davidson what comes to him first – the gags or the racism.”
Words by Joe Nawaz Trying to keep Mark Thomas pegged to one subject is like nailing jelly: futile and ultimately not very useful. So the two-hour ‘interview’ becomes an enjoyable, caffeine-fuelled, tangentially capricious conversation that veers pell-mell from Brecht (“Dear Bert!”) and guerrilla knitting to his love of stone circles. Along the way we touch on the great early Labour politician Dr Alfred Salter, stopping by the emerging Belfast comedy scene, Ernst Lubitsch and even occasionally onto issues Israeli/Palestinian. You wonder what chance the Israeli Defence Force stood against such verbosity, and AU scarcely has enough virtual magnetic tape to record it all. “I’ve got two things to do today,” he explains with just a hint of a hangover. “I’ve got to prepare my daughter’s PTA school quiz and then I’ve got to go to Dublin and try and catch a stone circle on the way. You’ve got some great examples of them over here.” Thomas’s love of stone circles is “about getting away from the norm and seeing and doing something unusual,” which would also explain his urge to take a jaunt along one of the most scarily militarised walls in the world. “Everybody has their shibboleths,” he continues, referring to the Israel/Palestine ‘question’. “But for me, it’s a simple issue of colonialism. This is about justice – you just can’t treat a bunch of people like dirt. There’s people on both sides who blur the lines. You’ll get Israeli nationalists who’ll say if you criticise the state of Israel, then you’re anti-Semitic, which is a stupid argument. But then there are parts of the [pro-Palestinian] movement that run dangerously close to anti-Semitism, which is also fucking appalling and you have to differentiate.” Never one to shirk from the responsibility of pointing to the pachyderm in the parlour, the Lambeth radical’s thoughts turn to the often surreal co-opting of the Israeli/Palestinian struggle in ‘aar wee praavince’. “I was chatting last night about how factions grab hold of other factions” he explains. “In Northern Ireland, republicans grabbed the Palestinians and so the loyalists grabbed the Israelis. There’s a weird tendency here – and I say this at the risk of being rude. I call it the ‘green-necks’ – as opposed to rednecks. People tend to collect injuries like scout badges: disappearances, collusion with paramilitaries, peace lines and so on.” He’s warming to his ever-so-slightly provocative rumination. “They’re like badges that you compare with anywhere else in the world. The children who
are attacked on the way to school in a West Bank village, for instance; people say, ‘Oh, we have that here’. And it’s true to an extent but, and here’s the thing: they’re just echoes. They’re not the same. And yes I can see why the republican movement does that. But I also see why the loyalists link to the Israelis. Both see themselves as receiving approbation from the outside world. It’s like: ‘We’re Millwall FC – no-one likes us and we don’t care!’.” Again totally uncontroversially, the last time Mark Thomas was in town it was with his ‘People’s Manifesto’ show at the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival. The audience voted unanimously for bringing the UK’s 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland. It hasn’t happened yet, and he is still passionate about the issue yet concedes that Northern Ireland isn’t quite the progressive idyll that the postconflict newspeak would often have us believe. “It makes me smile when people wondered why Paisley and McGuiness got on so well! I’m thinking, ‘Really? You’re really asking that question?’. You really truly need a progressive party like the Greens to advocate for the abortion act here. As a party of social justice, you should directly advocate rather than pay lip service. Mind you,” he adds thoughtfully, “saying you’re Green in Northern Ireland may cast rather a different complexion on things…” It’s nearing midday, the coffees are wearing off and there are stone circles to hit before Dublin, but the ‘serious organised criminal’ can’t leave without commenting on the current burgeoning climate of dissent. “Look, public sector workers are losing jobs and a generation of students are lumbered with massive debt. They’re thinking, ‘What the fuck do we do?’ You have these two groups of people being radicalised at the same time and that’s a heady combination.” He’s grinning from ear to ear as he ponders the possibilities for real, radicalised action. “And then you have social networking and the way in which arguments can be disseminated and facts sent out instantaneously. You can organise a demo and superglue yourself to a shop window in Brighton, over tax avoidance within half an hour – now that’s exciting. I adore it!” Extreme Rambling: Walking The Wall is out on April 14, published by Ebury Press www.markthomasinfo.com
The Mongol Rally How two Northern Irish lads tackled three continents and over 11,000 miles in a clappedout Citroen Berlingo.
Words by James Hendicott Photos by Steve Neill & Barry Keenan
Sponsorship. Route planning. Team bonding and fundraising events; vancramming and graffiti-acquiring. Even the work that goes into preparing for Mongol Rally – a death-defying charity odyssey from the UK to Mongolia – is a mammoth undertaking. Buying up a scrap-heap-ready Citroen Berlingo, which the spirit of the rally dictates should be scrawled all over (read: covered in sticky-taped Tayto packets and welded shopping trolleys) was the first part. Next, Dirty Sanchez star Mike Locke (aka Pancho) was persuaded to aid in the fundraising and promotional efforts by allowing donors to staple notes directly into his equally scrap-heap-ready body. This, though, was only the start of a journey that was to take two Belfast lads around almost half the globe. The aim of the Mongol Rally, ostensibly, is to deliver used cars for auction in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and raise a lot of cash for charity along the way. However, Norn Iron duo Steve Neill and Barry Keenan (and, for a large portion of the journey, Steve’s wife Sarah), tagged on a few of their own personal aims. They live by the motto “For lust of knowing what should not be known”, a quote, appropriately, from early 20th century poet James Elroy Flecker’s ‘The Golden Journey To Samarkand’, and were determined to unveil a ludicrous number of oddities along the way. Aside from seeing far-flung corners of the globe, the team that would be come known as Team Charolastra (space cowboy in Spanish) also intended to cram their sizable van with helpful charitable donations, ingratiate themselves with the local police by handing out gifts of t-shirts from one of their main sponsors Tayto and generally get by on a wing and a prayer. The van itself was an exception to the rally’s generally accepted rules – a more practical vehicle than most, pushed past the left-field organising committee and into the contest as Barry and Steve believed it would prove to be more useful at the far end. Despite the restrictions presented by piloting a shoddy 1.8 litre shed, the space cowboys chose one of the rally’s more challenging routes, a pathway incorporating the historic Pamir Highway through Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and a jaunt through Iran commonly rejected as too difficult. In short, things were set to be just a touch intense. The real fun started in Eastern Europe. Cruising down Transfăgărăşan – the Romanian military highway Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson named as ‘the best road in the world’ after tackling it in a supercar – Team Charolastra paused to photograph the view, together with a few ‘on location’ shots of their beleaguered Berlingo. When a colourful frog entered their eye line, Steve decided to photograph it on the Berlingo’s bonnet. However, Steve soon found himself winding down a cliff-side road with lights and colours swirling before his eyes. “I hadn’t realised that the frog had deposited some poison on the body of the camera,” Steve explains, “so
“Iran gave us silk, the basis of medicine and philosophy. We gave them cheese and onion crisps.” proceeded to spend the next half hour using the camera and got the frog poison in my mouth. “Twenty minutes later we were driving past Dracula’s ‘homeland’ and I started to feel the effects of what can only be described as a hallucinogen.” A 100-mile race down the mountain – aided by their GPS, which fortunately still worked in Europe – the picture of the frog and some comedy body language explained the situation to the staff of the local hospital. Following a short period of blindness and a hasty buttock injection from a syringe containing something unidentifiable, the shabby Citroen was back on the road. In hindsight, however, Steve remembers Europe as being “very normal”. Heading west, the most abrupt change takes place in Istanbul, where you’re welcomed to Asia, and western Christian-based society is quickly replaced by a predominantly Islamic surroundings. “If you listened to the mainstream media you’d believe that places like Central Asia and the Middle East are just crazy,”
Steve explains, “but some of the hospitality is unlike anything else we’ve ever experienced. Something like this does so much to reaffirm that we’re all just the same underneath. People just want to be healthy and safe, have a roof over their heads and not be hungry. The trip blew apart for us the tabloid myth of certain places being aggressive or dangerous.” The bottom line in Asia, however, is still somewhat more nerve-wracking: “You have to accept that, essentially, you’re on your own. There’s no back-up.” With the route taking on a path not dissimilar to the old Silk Road in reverse, Team Charolastra soon found themselves in Iran. Observing the cultural revolution of the modern world – which essentially flowed east to west – Steve and Barry decided to deliver a bit of western ‘culture’ back to various areas of the east along the way. With Guinness and Jameson presenting an obvious border-crossing problem, they chose to do so in the form of Tayto crisps (“They gave us silk, the basis of medicine and philosophy. We gave them cheese
Team Charolastra’s Mongol Rally Facts:
Journey time between Belfast and Ulaanbaatar: 7 weeks Distance covered before the crash: 11,000 miles Distance covered after the crash: 600 miles in a single ‘taxi’ journey at a cost of just $300. Official awards collected: 2 – best vehicle, and best crash. Hours spent following an ‘ambulance’ that contained nothing more than other competitors and Charolastra’s charitable equipment, and was no use whatsoever in dealing with hallucinogenic frogs or broken ribs: 72 Hospital trips: 1 made. 1 evaded. Photos of donuts, drinking and parties in Russian/ Mongolian no-man’s-land deleted after guards overindulged: thousands. Faith in the British tabloids remaining: zero (not that they ever had any to begin with) Memories: countless.
and onion crisps. And that’s it!”). The team were blown away by their cultural encounters: Persepolis in Iran still stands as it did several centuries ago, and in Steve’s well-travelled view, “totally eclipses numerous world heritage sights”. Walking the very same stone paths as Alexander The Great, the pair ate and slept under the exceptional hospitality of the local families, many of whom invited entire villages to greet their western guests. The hospitality was so charming, in fact, that the team found themselves having to drive 800 miles in a single 24-hour period as they’d simply been slowed down too much by the local welcome. “It’s a crazy juxtaposition.” Steve explains. “It’s almost embarrassing. A conversation turns into lunch, accommodation… if Iranians could get visas to come back to the UK and Ireland, this would never happen. They’d just think we’re assholes. The friendly stranger is almost demanded culturally; the stereotypes couldn’t be more wrong.” In another town, a group of Iranian girls in a car pulled back their veils to show trendy American clothes and invited the boys to party; unsurprisingly the same town was one of the first to kick off when the Iranian revolutionary efforts came about early this
year. Last July, the ‘anti-authoritarian’ feeling in this strictly controlled corner of the world was already bubbling heavily under the surface. It’s difficult to think of the team’s next leg, Central Asia, without a certain ‘roughing it’ image coming to mind. In the hottest desert in Asia, the Karakum in Turkmenistan, the team joined in a drinking session alongside the relentlessly burning remains of a Soviet attempt at building an gas well – the socalled ‘Gates of Hell’, a site that years of attempts have failed to extinguish – and failed similarly spectacularly with ‘recycled beer’ from the edge. 40-degree heat also forced a few air-conditioned hotel pit stops, while picking up a satellite dish in Turkey – combined with a web address that ends in .tv – didn’t help with border crossings, where several guards convinced themselves that Irish TV companies travel in decrepit Citroens. All this despite the ‘best vehicle’ trophy duct taped to the front of the car in honour of their graffiti-fuelled flamboyance. In places like Turkmenistan, where beer is “regarded as a soft drink” the trip took a distinct turn towards the drunkenly shambolic. Bribery became a part of everyday life. Outside
Europe, says Steve, “Nothing has a fixed price, and you can forget the idea of authority figures being in any way trustworthy. Romania, though, probably remains the worst.” Turkmenistan administered a $100 fine for ‘a dirty vehicle’; Takijistan’s border guards accepted a Tayto t-shirt in lieu of a $30 border bribe, while the team took to “talking shit” to avoid paying. The Belfast accent combined with random gifts proved an ideal mix of ‘philanthropy’ and frustration, and almost every attempt to extract money was eventually evaded. By the time the team reached the notorious Pamir Highway, the car was almost literally held together with duct tape. Furthermore, they endured an unwanted trip to Jalalabat, Kyrgyzstan, at the time in the middle of some serious ethnic cleansing issues. The tattered car drew into the city as the curfew came down, and the teams headed out on the lash surrounded by Kalashnikov-wielding locals and watching the smoke rise from a city crumbling around them. Extremely potent fermented horse milk and some ‘friendly’ Tajik drinking partners led to stolen phones and empty wallets. Who knows just how many suspicious substances were imbibed by
mistake, but it sat well with the overall intoxicated feel of Central Asian travel. The Pamir Highway, incidentally, rises to 4,500 metres, making it the second highest road in the world. It rarely allows the vehicles out of first gear, and fills the car with a swirling, relentless stream of dust. In its heart, staring into the birthplace of Buddhism and worrying about their limited food supplies is an experience that Steve describes as “sublime in the truest sense”. Later, driving along the highway’s single lane, cliff-side border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, the team heard the thud of military hardware across the mountains, while the locals simply smiled and waved (“If you believed the Daily Mail, they’d be shooting at you”) from the wrong side of a river dividing a country at war and a country at peace. Then came a jaunt through Kazakhstan before, finally, the teams emerged into Russia, where a border party in noman’s-land deteriorated into skidding donuts and camera confiscations. Sadly, not everything finished quite the way the team might have liked. Already inside Mongolia, their van veered from the road and barrel rolled in an almost cartoon fashion, an event that Steve is still unable to recall. It left him with several broken ribs, and prevented the beleaguered Berlingo from
ever reaching Ulaanbaatar or fulfilling its intended role. Another team – who in a bizarrely suitable twist were driving an ambulance – delivered the team’s equipment to the finishing line, while Steve and Barry trailed behind in a 72-hour 4x4 ride, completing a mad dash on appalling roads. Come the end, Steve – in true Mongol Rally spirits – chose to forgo the local hospital in favour of the finishers’ party. The crash, though, had done nothing to spoil the memories. “When we look at the roads we’ve driven, the mountains and deserts we’ve passed through, the war zones we’ve stopped in… I hesitate to say it because there’s nothing worse when you’re travelling than meeting someone who loves to talk up their own experiences, but it really, really was pretty fucking hardcore.” Heady, frantic and incident filled, we still need barely dig below the surface to learn why such trips shouldn’t be taken as lightly the team’s giddy experience suggests. The 2010 Mongol rally was the first to suffer fatalities; Team Charolastra delivered all their valuable charitable equipment to its destination – minus its battered vehicular container – and Steve and Barry returned home well enough to treasure every frenetic memory. The team had made it all but 1,000 kilometres, and dragged the important parts of their ramshackle arrangement over the line with the aid of a sleep-deprived Kazakh 4x4 driver. The former contents of their forlorn van
now fills a Mongol Ger tent, where it is used to assist in the upbringing and education of deprived local children under the care of a ‘Ger mother’. Proof, if it were needed, that a corporate sponsored, alcoholfuelled, multi-continental rollercoaster in a junkyard Citroen van – taking in amphibian hallucinogens, cartoon crashes and cultural awakening – really can be far more than just a euphoric journey of self discovery. Just ask the tiny population of Mongolia with an electrical generator and an essential selection of extra toothpaste, condoms, bandages and essential charitable cash tucked into their back pockets. Or, perhaps, the owners of a Ger tent somewhere in rural Inner Mongolia that is now home to a widescreen TV, sound system, mini fridge and sizable electric generator. After all, they do say it’s the little things… Barry and Steve were raising money for the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation, which helps vulnerable kids in Vietnam and Mongolia. Visit www.cncf.org to find out more. For more Wacky Racer style stories, or to donate to Steve and Barry’s charitable efforts, visit www. charolastra.tv
Boxcutter 44 AU72
From being right at the crucible of dubstep’s early days to his new adventures in psychedelia, Lurgan producer Barry Lynn has covered a lot of ground in the last five years. He tells AU about his teenage inspirations, the story so far, and the path ahead. Words by Chris Jones It’s hard to know what to expect when you meet Barry Lynn for the first time. Now preparing to release the fourth album of his career, all on respected UK electronic label Planet Mu, Lynn has never courted publicity, giving interviews only reluctantly and admitting to being uneasy at the process. He recently used his Twitter account to complain that a recent email interview was “like collaborating with a stranger and letting them do the mixdown.” Perhaps it’s to do with control – after all, this is a guy who for the last six years has been recording and producing records almost entirely alone, travelling alone to play DJ and live shows and, lately, running a small record label – Kinnego Records, which he describes as “a vanity project” – by himself. Even his collaborations are often tracks begun by others and finished by Lynn. Leaving someone else in charge doesn’t come naturally. But when we meet in Belfast, any fears of a sullen, uncommunicative interview subject are immediately set to one side. In person, Lynn is an intense, buzzing, friendly presence – synapses firing and ideas flowing, almost faster than his heavily accented words can carry them at times. Leading the conversation, he explains that he has a long-term affection for music journalism, and you sense that any wariness is a direct result of his sharp insight into the way journalism works. That interest was born growing up in a “provincial shithole” near Lurgan, Co. Armagh, where as a teenager in the mid-to-late Nineties he would read the NME “religiously”. “It was the only way you would find people talking about counter-cultural things
feedback he was receiving that his early tunes were intense, bassheavy and club-ready. “One of the last bits of feedback I’d got was for ‘Brood’, that came out on Hotflush, and it was Aphex Twin saying, ‘I like this – it’s a lot more ballsy’. So I got this notion that, okay, ballsy is probably a good direction to go in, to try and be upfront and aggressive and catchy. And it worked!” But it spawned criticism, with Lynn fielding accusations of being an “IDM throwback fixated on digital techniques.” The Dissolve represents, therefore, “a reaction” to some of those catcalls. “I don’t necessarily want a record to shout at me,” he explains. “There’s a whole lot of different ways you can get into and appreciate music and it doesn’t have to be like that. Glyphic was a pretty soft record as well, I felt, and with Arecibo… it was a lot of odd synthesiser tones and finding ways of taking that halfstep/dubstep/garage thing to places it wasn’t being used in at the time. And the new one is probably a bit of all of them but overall it’s a bit gentler and more on a chilled tip.” This fascination with dense, woozy music and psychedelia in general brings Lynn full circle to the musical obsessions of his NME-reading, flares-wearing teenage years, dabbling in magic mushrooms (legal at the time, he stresses) and listening to music with his mates. “That’s where it all came together – what music could be and the extent to which it could interlock with your mind and be a really profound, almost sacred experience,” he says, in one of many moments where he really becomes animated. “I’ve always got that in mind – it’s not a throwaway activity, it’s
“Music is not a throwaway activity, it’s a really special thing” and tripped-out stuff,” he recalls. “It was a weekly window into all sorts of strange minds.” This is the era, remember, when the weekly magazine’s cover was regularly graced not only by the dregs of the post-Britpop era (Campag Velocet, anyone?) but also by visionary artists like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Aphex Twin. More than a decade on and not long past his 30th birthday, Lynn continues to reside in Northern Ireland – keeping keyboards at his “ma’s house” – but his position is now as a key player in leftfield electronic music, and the bass spectrum in particular. For a time he was a leading name in the emergence of dubstep, especially in Ireland – his first two albums Oneiric (2006) and Glyphic (2007) are classics of the genre – but his take on it was never as pure as early leading lights like Pinch, Loefah and Digital Mystikz. He fondly remembers “key raves” such as the DMZ first birthday in Brixton, 2006, but being based in Northern Ireland and therefore feeling disconnected from the scene’s south London hub – as well as amused by the politics of it all – meant that he forged his own path, working with a broader palette. Glyphic was a lush, varied record and 2009’s Arecibo Message even more so, as for the first time, Lynn’s love of soul, funk, hip-hop, jazz and psychedelia vied for attention with dub, dubstep and garage in what was a dizzyingly diverse album. The new record, The Dissolve, sees Lynn diversifying further, with several smooth vocal tracks courtesy of long-term friend Brian Greene, a smattering of disco and dancehall and even less dubstep. Before releasing his first single on dubstep/garage label Hotflush and then signing to Planet Mu, Lynn was in regular contact with labels like Ninja Tune and Rephlex, and it was partly due to the
a really special thing. It’s so enmeshed in my whole life now, that psychedelia. That’s ‘The Dissolve’ – dissolving your mind into the sound. It’s that total immersion. And fair enough, drugs are a really good way into that mindset for a lot of people.” The Dissolve – the name also refers to Lynn’s fascination with video art – is so far removed from his early records and the lingering perception of him as a dubstep artist that he even considered changing his name and leaving the Boxcutter moniker behind. On several occasions in our conversation, he mentions ‘branding’ – when talking about the genesis of dubstep and how that genre name became one out of many at the time that could have gained traction – when discussing Burial’s success, and how he was successfully “branded” as a dubstep artist even though he never was in the true sense – and when talking about his own “brand”, and how if you play things right and stick to your guns, it can be a fluid, ever-changing thing. “When you’ve been in the game long enough, people have as many negative prejudices about you as they have positive ones,” he admits. “But I think if I keep going, people will know not to have preconceptions. They’ll come to expect diversity. That’s the thing, you can rebrand, but that also means that you can’t really get too big. It’s like that marketing strategy – if Coca-Cola tried to start selling oil, it wouldn’t work, whereas if was a smaller company, it could. As long as I don’t go for any commercial shit or sell out in any way, I’m allowed to change. And it will feel consistent and honest.” The Dissolve is out on April 25 via Planet Mu www.myspace.com/barrylynnmusic
THE12TH CATHEDRAL QUARTER ARTS FESTIVAL 28APRIL-08MAY2011
• pg 47 Record Reviews | pg 53 Young Blood | PG 54 Live Reviews | pg 55 MOVIE & GAME REVIEWS •
Illustration by Mark Reihill
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart Belong PLAY IT AGAIN SAM/FORTUNA POP!
Two years on since their celebrated, self-titled debut, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart return with second long-player Belong. Okay, so they haven’t reinvented the wheel, but does it really matter? This is a fine record, guarantee to dazzle in a live setting. Unsurprisingly, the ace production team of Flood and Moulder (Smashing Pumpkins, Nick Cave, Nine Inch Nails) tinkered a little. The uncompromising distortion, noticeable on TPOBPAH’s debut, is toned down somewhat, without discarding the fuzzy edge and twee tendencies that made them so distinctive in the first place. To simply classify Belong as ‘noise pop’, though, is doing it a massive disservice. On face value it’s relatively uncomplicated and generously peppered with the substantive influence of grunge and early
shoegaze. Instantly gripping, noisy and hookladen, it bursts forth with all the effervescence of emotionally charged adolescence. Opener ‘Belong’ begins like a gentle breeze then rapidly descends into flurry of crunchy guitars. However, it’s something of an anomaly when compared with the record as a whole. Like a long-lost B-side from the Siamese Dream vault, the song’s mood, structure and sound strongly evoke the Smashing Pumpkins in their early Nineties pomp. Is this cynical targeting of trend-conscious, cool kids eager for that Nineties revivalist sound? Maybe it’s simply the heavy hand of the veteran production team? Either way, this blatant aping doesn’t extend beyond the icebreaker. From there on, the album sparkles with true integrity. Its enthralling combination of anthemic chord progressions set against Kip Berman and Peggy Wang’s wistful, whispery vocals is inspired; each hum-along blast the perfect soundtrack to the heartbreaking lyrical narrative. The album drips with the atmosphere of nostalgia, tales of blissful, youthful romance and failed liaisons, all wrapped up in a dramatic, soaring chorus. Granted, the music rarely strays from its trustworthy template, but it retains
interest due to the unfailing quality of songwriting. Amongst the many highlights is the misdirected teen torment of ‘Heart In Your Heartbreak’. It’s truly compelling stuff, decorated with jangling guitars, sweet choral melodies, moody synth and a driving, four-to-the-floor drum/bass rock structure. The fantastic ‘Even In Dreams’ reels you in with its gentle synth/guitar progression before gushing forth in a glorious, thunderous clatter. Kip’s mournful vocals are met head-on in a noisy, guitar led, tour de force, the calmly passionate chorus, “Even in dreams, I could not betray you”, soaring majestically above the instrumental fuzz. Sure, it doesn’t all dazzle like the aforementioned, but then again not much does. All in all, Belong is a blast of pure alt-pop excellence from a band moving effortlessly in the right direction. Eamonn Seoige
KEY TRACKS: ‘EVEN IN DREAMS’, ‘HEART IN YOUR HEARTBREAK’, ‘STRANGE’. FOR FANS OF: THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN, SMASHING PUMPKINS, YUCK.
tUnE-yArDs whokill 4AD
tUnE-yArDs is the solo project of Oaklandbased Merrill Garbus. Described by the New York Times as “somewhere between Aretha Franklin and Yoko Ono”, Garbus’ voice can go from gentle croon on ‘Wolly Wolly Gong’ to whimsical Afrobeat on ‘Killa’. The delightfully demented ‘Gangsta’ is a mixture of found sounds, horns, percussion and chiptune, while single ‘Bizniss’ opens with a vocal imitation of a xylophone riff, before launching into an almost Yeasayer-ish chant. And there’s something not unlike Tibetan throat singing involved too. Imagine Vampire Weekend on a double date with the CocoRosie girls and you wouldn’t be far off. It’s entirely weird. And it’s also entirely great. Ailbhe Malone
KEY TRACKS: ‘GANGSTA’, ‘YOU YES YOU’. FOR FANS OF: COCOROSIE, YEASAYER, VAMPIRE WEEKEND.
Girls Names Dead To Me TOUGH LOVE
Together for two years and with international recognition already gained thanks to their EP releases, Girls Names now present their debut album. Dead To Me has a more retro Fifties surf vibe compared to their previous, more angular releases, while the trademark reverb-drenched vocals and rushing guitars lines remain, played in the ragged style that is their trademark. Opening track ‘Lawrence’ sets the tone, while ‘I Could Die’ offers up some doo-wop combined with bright, jangly guitar lines. Cathal Cully’s crooning floats above the music throughout, notably on ‘Séance On A Wet Afternoon’, giving a suitably ethereal feel to the close of the album. Belfast’s alternative poster boys (and girl) have delivered a great pop album and all eyes are on them to see what they do next. Stevie Lennox
KEY TRACKS: ‘I LOSE’, ‘SÉANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON’, ‘WHEN YOU CRY’. FOR FANS OF: THE JESUS & MARY CHAIN, NO MONSTER CLUB, COCTEAU TWINS.
Bibio Mind Bokeh WARP
If you ever listened to one of the wispy interludes on a Boards of Canada album and wondered what it would sound like fleshed out into a full pop song, then Bibio is the man for you. Mind Bokeh, his second album on the Warp imprint, takes bold steps into the disco light where previous releases were happy to melt into the background. The ingredients may be familiar to
observers of the chillwave phenomenon – crunchy toytown hip-hop, blurred tape-reel production – but the pop chops on display are formidable, with addictive songs continually catching you off guard by receding in unexpected, often strangely sad, directions. Darragh McCausland
KEY TRACKS: ‘WAKE UP!’ ‘K IS FOR KELSON’. FOR FANS OF: BOARDS OF CANADA, CASINO VERSUS JAPAN.
The Strokes Angles ROUGH TRADE
After 2006’s disappointing First Impressions Of Earth and five years of brain-numbing rumour, gossip and hype, the return of The Strokes should be regarded as an achievement in diplomacy and tenacity. If the songs were written by group committee, the recording of Angles was fractured – with singer Julian Casablancas laying down vocals in absentia. Even so, Angles is out of the blocks with a blast – opener ‘Machu Picchu’ is fabulous wall of Hammond Jr./ Valensi’s duelling guitars, while the single ‘Under Cover Of Darkness’ is a solid dot-to-dot Strokes anthem. And then things begin to fall apart. Although the new wave synth of ‘Games’ works well, the arseend of the album contains the horrible glam-rock sludge of ‘Gratisfaction’ and the compromised mess of ‘Metabolism’. The lovely closer, ‘Life Is Simple In The Moonlight’, almost feels like an annoying tease – a reminder how good The Strokes should be. But at least they are back. John Freeman
KEY TRACKS: ’MACHU PICCHU’, ‘LIFE IS SIMPLE IN THE MOONLIGHT’, ‘GAMES’. FOR FANS OF: BLONDIE, THE RAMONES, MAZES.
Glasvegas Euphoric /// Heartbreak \\\ COLUMBIA
When a fledgling Glasvegas broke cover over five years ago, they were assailed with the kind of hyperbole previously reserved for, well, the Arctic Monkeys. Their eponymous debut wasn’t really the ‘best album ever’, or even of that year, but it was a remarkably assured collection of songs engorged with narrative, soul and that all engulfing, ‘wall of sound’ production. So where do they go after capturing the media’s ill-starred zeitgeist? Well, on Euphoric /// Heartbreak \\\, the wall of sound has been mostly reduced to sonic rubble. Opener ‘Pain Pain Never Again’ introduces three minutes’ worth of spectral ambient keyboards and a sampled, gently intoning French female voice. You’d be forgiven for doublechecking the name of the band on the sleeve. Throughout the LP, space, refinement and pause replace the relentless echo chamber effects that ended up bludgeoning listeners on the debut. Veteran producer Flood must take credit for allowing James Allan’s song-writing talent room to roam within a much broader soundscape. ‘Whatever Hurts You Through the Night’ is a cross between an Eighties power ballad and Johnnie Ray, with its stabbing synth crescendos and Allan’s near-falsetto lament. That the album is book-ended with the voice of a Glaswegian mother reassuring a child reminds us just where the band come from, but also how far they’ve come on this rather excellent album. Jesus and Mary who? Joe Nawaz
KEY TRACKS: ’WHATEVER HURTS YOU THROUGH THE NIGHT’, ‘DREAM DREAM DREAMING’, ‘I FEEL WRONG (HOMOSEXUALITY PART 1)’. FOR FANS OF: THE NATIONAL, ARCADE FIRE.
Low C’mon SUB POP
Having proved over the last four LPs that there’s more to Low than slowcore, Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker return with their ninth studio album. While it’s not a return to the sparse serenity of their early sound, C’mon seems to represent an end to a period of turbulence in Sparhawk’s personal life. Opener ‘Try To Sleep’ shuffles in on a languid, deliberate melody that will draw comparison to ‘Hoppipolla’ by Sigur Ros and have Stuart Murdoch demented, trying to out-do the twee factor. ‘Done’ could have been lifted from the band’s 1999 masterpiece, Secret Name, as Sparhawk laments his frailties over minimal electric guitar and timpani, while Parker soothes the obvious hurt with beautiful, peerless harmonies. Parker assumes main vocal for only two tracks, one of which is the album’s highlight, ‘Especially Me’. Over ominous, atmospheric percussion and the steady heartbeat of the bass drum she seems to empathise with her husband’s paranoia, repeating: “If we knew where we belong, we’d have no doubt where we’re from.” It’s a message that receives a reply in the tender ‘Nothing But Heart’, with Sparhawk pledging his eternal love. Every Low album has been made with love. Thankfully the peace has also returned. Kenny Murdock
KEY TRACKS: ’ESPECIALLY ME’, ‘SOMETHING’S TURNING OVER’. FOR FANS OF: GALAXIE 500, RETRIBUTION GOSPEL CHOIR.
Bell X1 Bloodless Coup BELLYUP
This fifth full-length effort finds the redoubtable Bell X1 in characteristically sparkling form. As with each successive release, Bloodless Coup retains its own flavour; the electronic elements froth to the top this time, the band’s more organic instrumentation spinning an intricate support web beneath. Superb opening track ‘Hey Anna Lena’ and ‘Sugar High’ swell from minimalist beginnings into ecstatic release; ‘Safer Than Love’ is quite a departure, swerving into full-on, sighing electro in the Hurts vein;
‘Four Minute Mile’ channels electro-funk. Their rock side is given vent in lead single ‘Velcro’, while their trademark hushed balladry takes a digital twist on ‘Built To Last’ and ‘The Trailing Skirts Of God’. As ‘74 Swans’ brings proceedings to a typically evocative close on waves of piano and layered synths, it’s clear that as long as Paul Noonan’s soulful voice and cultured songwriting are at the core of the Bell X1 sound, they’re capable of pulling off any style they choose. Lee Gorman
KEY TRACKS: ‘HEY ANNA LENA’, ‘VELCRO’, ‘SAFER THAN LOVE’. FOR FANS OF: RADIOHEAD, ATHLETE, SNOW PATROL.
Feldberg Don’t Be A Stranger
Yeh Deadlies The First Book of Lessons
Never let it be said that Alfred Darlington isn’t prolific. His list of releases under the Daedelus moniker is as long as the proverbial arm, never mind his work on countless other projects. He has also maintained an impressive consistency along the way, so this next statement shouldn’t be taken lightly: Bespoke is quite possibly the closest he’s come to absolute perfection. It’s not something he’s achieved on his own, though, with a number of carefully-chosen collaborators lending their voices to Darlington’s hip-hop- and R&B-inflected textures – folks like Baths, Bilal and Busdriver. It makes for a heady mixture, with tracks like ‘Overwhelmed’ and ‘Slowercase D’ quite possibly leading the listener to break out some unforeseen dance moves. On the flipside, the likes of ‘French Cuffs’ and ‘In Tatters’ are fine examples of postparty chillout. If you’re looking for a soundtrack to your weekend, check this out. Patrick Conboy
You’ve come expect a certain ‘quirky’ disposition from your average Icelandic pop act.On the surface, Feldberg are unspectacular in their kookiness, to the extent that it’s only mildly diverting to know that multi-instrumentalist Einar met singer Rosa when he needed a vocalist for an Icelandic shopping mall ad. Jokes about shopping at Iceland notwithstanding, there’s a persistently keening and subtle sense of melody in their debut that makes these ostensibly wispy vignettes bear repeated listening. The sweet tunefulness and song titles (‘Dreamin’, ‘You and Me’) mask a barely tangible menace, like a soundtrack for a serial killer’s summer holiday. Even the title is sweetly sinister. Psycho-pastoral bleepcore may only be a genre in this writer’s addled mind, but Feldberg are at the vanguard nonetheless. A queasily magical addition to Smalltown America’s ever impressive roster. Joe Nawaz
KEY TRACKS: ‘TAILOR-MADE’, ‘PENNY LOATHERS’, ‘OVERWHELMED’. FOR FANS OF: ADVENTURE TIME, FLYING LOTUS, JOGGER.
KEY TRACKS: ‘SLEEPY’, ‘IN YOUR ARMS’, ‘YOU AND ME’. FOR FANS OF: SONDRE LERCHE, SHE & HIM, NANCY SINATRA & LEE HAZLEWOOD.
The problem with these sunny, surf-pop types is that they usually turn out to be as genuine as your ‘distressed’ skinny jeans from Urban Outfitters – soon enough, some drearily uptight, public school upbringing is revealed and the illusion comes crashing down like a particularly crumbly sandcastle. But Yeh Deadlies seem to be very much the real thing. On The First Book of Lessons, they manage to embody all of The Drums’ sunkissed lo-fi without any of the aftertaste. The likes of ‘Disc Jockey Blues’ (an ode to seedy nightlife) pinwheel along dizzingly, buoyed by their perpetual cheeriness, while lush opener ‘The Present Perfect’ is a tangle of synth-washed pop – all wind-up guitar lines and hazy vocals. It might be cold outside but The First Book of Lessons is your ticket to high summer. Stick on your suncream and fall in love. Katherine Rodgers
KEY TRACKS: ‘THE PRESENT PERFECT’, ‘DISC JOCKEY BLUES’, ‘MAGAZINE’. FOR FANS OF: THE MAGNETIC FIELDS, THE FIELD MICE, THE DRUMS.
Holy Ghost! Holy Ghost! DFA
It’s been a long, slow process for NYC disco dudes Holy Ghost! to get this far, with their first single ‘Hold On’ having been released way back in 2007. It wasn’t a mammoth hit, but it got them noticed well enough for the duo to embark on a prolific remixing career while they worked out how best to write and record some more songs. The care taken paid dividends. Drawing mainly from disco and shiny Eighties synth-pop, their debut album is more than a collection of dance tracks, as although the lyrics are often relatively banal, the songwriting is sharp. Hooks and energetic choruses come thick and fast, while you never forget you are listening to live musicians. Touring partners Cut Copy are a clear comparison, but while their Zonoscope was bloated and overlong, the likes of ‘Wait And See’, ‘Slow Motion’ and ‘Do It Again’ positively sparkle. And they can do poignant, too – ‘Jam For Jerry’ is a fitting tribute to the late Jerry Fuchs. As mentors LCD Soundsystem fade into retirement, Holy Ghost! have graduated with honours. Chris Jones
KEY TRACKS: ‘HOLD ON’, ‘JAM FOR JERRY’, ‘SLOW MOTION’. FOR FANS OF: LCD SOUNDSYSTEM, CUT COPY, CHROMEO.
Cashier No. 9 Goldstar CN9 RECORDINGS
Cashier No. 9’s Goldstar EP showcases the band’s penchant for slurrily-sung, slow-paced indie with a Nineties twist. The vibe is not so much reminiscent of Oasis or Blur as it is a dabbling in Pulp’s mellower moments, blended with Bobby Gillespie on chill pills. The title track is a stand out moment – melodic and riddled with clever musical interludes – while the verses in ‘Oh Pity’ have a summery glow that edges into a darkly tinged, cluttered chorus. It’s well worth a listen or three if only to revel in the nostalgic Britpop glory of a male vocalist belting out lines like “I look better with my high heels on.” James Hendicott
KEY TRACKS: ’GOLDSTAR’, ‘OH PITY’. FOR FANS OF: PRIMAL SCREAM, DAVID HOLMES.
Panic! At The Disco Vices & Virtues ATLANTIC
Las Vegas duo Spencer Smith and Brendan Urie return with Vices & Virtues, the first release from Panic! At The Disco since chief songwriter Ryan Ross and Jon Walker controversially left the band. Predictably, they’ve set out to recreate the superproduced, emo sound of truckload selling debut A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. Problem is that, even by their standards, Vices & Virtues is seriously low on quality songwriting. With the exclamation
mark reinstated into the band’s title, drama-king extraordinaire Urie has sought to turn back the clock to their theatrical days of yore. The blackfingernailed, teeny angst-fest begins with lead-single ‘The Ballad Of Mona Lisa’, which is slick, glossy and utterly banal. It’s all produced to within an inch of its life, but no amount of over-dubs can compensate for the complete absence of worthwhile material. Not so sure the kids will fall for it second time round. Eamonn Seoige
KEY TRACKS: ‘THE BALLAD OF MONA LISA’, ‘LET’S KILL TONIGHT’. FOR FANS OF: MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE, FALL OUT BOY.
Hunx And His Punx Too Young To Be In Love HARDLY ART
“I feel like I’m a girl group,” Hunx revealed in a recent interview. His music is a scuzzier, more garage-infused version of female girl group music from a more innocent age. With an all-female backing band and liberal use of classic tropes, they re-weave Letterman jacket and hair band romances into leather jacket and leopard-spotted legging romances. It works. Hunx And His Punx actually fit really well into the US west coast lo-fi scene despite literally being hairdresser music (they run a salon). With wantonly naïve lyrics on tracks like ‘My Boyfriend’s Coming Back’ and lovely off-key oohs on almost everything, they do a pretty good job of reconstructing the pieces of a nostalgic genre into something it never really was. Karl McDonald
KEY TRACKS: ‘MY BOYFRIEND’S COMING BACK’, ‘BLOW ME AWAY’, ‘LOVERS LANE’. FOR FANS OF: NOBUNNY, GIRLS, THE SHANGRI-LAS.
The Human League Credo
Pharoahe Monch W.A.R. (We Are Renegades) W.A.R. MEDIA
Pharoahe Monch is a good example of someone who practices what he preaches, standing outside commercial hip-hop and sticking to subject matter he cares deeply about. But that might be why he’s falling behind. He’s got an impeccable flow, rounded out since his Organized Konfusion days in the Nineties, but it’s hard to stay interesting by simply being good at rapping like a Nineties rapper. Featuring a substratum of post-apocalyptic spoken word intros, Monch unleashes his “vernacular original miraculous spectacular flow” over staid beats with more than the desired amount of Eighties lead guitar and churchy organs. Though Monch has high points, Jean Grae’s guest verse on ‘Assassins’ probably marks the high point on an album that’s never bad per se, but not exactly enrapturing. Karl McDonald
KEY TRACKS: ‘ASSASSINS’, ‘EVOLVE’, ‘LET MY PEOPLE GO’. FOR FANS OF: Q-TIP, KRS-ONE, MOS DEF.
Times New Viking Dancer Equired MERGE
While there will never be a shortage of artists trying to recapture the sound of times past, there will always be those going about it in an uncannily convincing way. Take TNV’s third attempt at taking on another era altogether; a record which faithfully embodies a sense of starry-eyed simplicity and disaffected charm the likes of which wouldn’t sound out of place on mid-1990s Midwest college radio. Standout track ‘No Room To Live’ sums up the whole: sugarcoated, semi-retrospective romanticism à la Best Coast and No Age meets the lo-fi power-pop surge of Girls In The Eighties and Vaselines - the musical equivalent of discovering a long-lost Polaroid in the attic of yer imagination. Stevie Lennox
WALL OF SOUND
Back in 1979 Bowie called The Human League ‘the sound of the future’. And with Phil Oakey’s curious side-swept fringe, the avant-garde Sheffield trio were the most forward-thinking musical combo to come out of the grim north. The band’s isolated electronica had a robotic darkness which seemed curiously absent from their best-known hit ‘Don’t You Want Me’, but three decades on they’re still throwing shapes at the discotheque. Single ‘Night People’ may be the easy entry point for new fans, but it sits at the weaker end of the record. ‘Single Minded’ shows Oakey at his most louche, while there are flashes of the old greatness on ‘Into The Night’. But really, there’s little here that hasn’t been brought to life recently by La Roux. Kirstie May
KEY TRACKS: ‘NEVER LET ME GO’, ‘INTO THE NiGHT’, ‘BREAKING THE CHAINS’. FOR FANS OF: HEAVEN 17, LITTLE BOOTS, GARY NUMAN.
KEY TRACKS: ‘NO ROOM TO LIVE’, ‘IT’S A CULTURE’, ‘DON’T GO TO LIVERPOOL’. FOR FANS OF: GIRLS IN THE EIGHTIES, BEST COAST, NO AGE.
King Creosote & Jon Hopkins Diamond Mine DOUBLE SIX
This is what music is about - two friends getting together over the course of a few years to write and record songs as and when they can. Instead of rushing something out, King Creosote and Jon Hopkins took their time, paying due care and attention to the craft of songwriting. The result is seven tracks of whispered beauty – sparse washes of fragile sound designed, apparently, to be one single listening experience. As such, the only gap between songs comes between ‘Your Own Spell’ and ‘Your Young Voice’, two slowmotion expressions of abject melancholy. Everywhere
else, there’s always something connecting the compositions, even if it’s just a few low volume bird calls in the background. Although the songs are very much distinct entities, this does forge a sense of continuity and narrative and it feels, if you were to turn this off or skip tracks, that part of the experience would be lost. What with the sumptuous yet primitive tenderness of ‘John Taylor’s Month Away’ and the wistful, aching, sparse crackling piano of ‘Bats In The Attic’, that would be a real shame. Mischa Pearlman
KEY TRACKS: ‘BATS IN THE ATTIC’, ‘JOHN TAYLOR’S MONTH AWAY’, ‘YOUR OWN SPELL’. FOR FANS OF: SIGUR ROS, BADLY DRAWN BOY, NICK DRAKE.
2562 Fever WHEN IN DOUBT
Plying his trade in the murky hinterland where dubstep meets techno, few would have pegged Dave Huismans as a disco aficionado. But seemingly he’s a big fan: the main conceit behind his third album is that every single sample and sound is taken from a disco record. But this is no attempt to recreate the groovy bonhomie of the Studio 54 era. On the contrary: Fever sounds absolutely of a kind with its well-received predecessors Aerial and Unbalance. Thus we get the dark, minor-key synth stabs and speaker-threatening sub-bass of excellent opener ‘Winamp Melodrama’, the syncopated whip-crack beats of ‘Juxtaposed’ and the absolutely thunderous, foreboding ‘Flavour Park Jam’. Different source material, then, but very much the same 2562 sound. Who’s complaining? Neill Dougan
KEY TRACKS: ‘WINAMP MELODRAMA’, FLAVOUR PARK JAM’, ‘JUXTAPOSE’. FOR FANS OF: PINCH, AUTECHRE.
Maschine Maschine PSYCHONAVIGATION
Originally a duo, Maschine is now a vehicle for solo producer Eoin Coughlan. This self-titled album opens with safe beats; the clean drum ‘n’ bass routine is tight but the thrills reveal themselves further in. Good news then, as it’s not long in before we get to explore electro, breaks and deep, low-end activity. It’s familiar sonic territory for fans of Rephlex and Warp. There are off-kilter drum grooves, spooky synth textures and dreamy chords playing between major and minor. Those looking for some fresh ‘braindance’-style material will find a bit of what they need here. A prime example is track three, ‘DnB’, which mixes beats, square waves and acid filtering in a way that channels rave energy, funk and melody to show off Coughlan’s skills as an inspired grid-bothering loop-tweaker. Barry Cullen
KEY TRACKS: ‘DNB’, ‘NEWBINC’. FOR FANS OF: SQUAREPUSHER, AFX, BOARDS OF CANADA.
Prefuse 73 The Only She Chapters WARP
Restless, adventurous, prolific – Guillermo Scott Herren may be all these things, but predictable? Never. Thus, on The Only She Chapters, the glitchy broken beat with which he made his name as Prefuse 73 is almost entirely absent, in its place a wildly experimental, choral, disconcerting and oddly beautiful barrage of sound. An exclusively female roster of guest vocalists features heavily
(My Brightest Diamond on the delicate ‘The Only Hand To Hold’, the late Trish Keenan of Broadcast on the slow-motion acid-fried hip-hop of ‘The Only Trial Of 9000 Suns’), but this never feels contrived or forced – rather, the voices slip ethereally in and out of the dreamy, blissful aural tapestry that Herren weaves. Deeply strange and altogether different. In a good way. Neill Dougan
KEY TRACKS: ‘THE ONLY HAND TO HOLD’, ‘THE ONLY TRIAL OF 9000 SUNS’, ‘THE ONLY REPEAT’. FOR FANS OF: FLYING LOTUS, STEVE REICH.
The Mountain Goats All Eternals Deck
Team Horse Children Of The Winter
Pre-release talk about All Eternals Deck - the 18th studio album by The Mountain Goats - has focused on the presence of death metal legend Erik Rutan on production duties. However, this record is no radical departure; it’s characterised by gritty, weary vignettes focusing on themes of redemption and faith. John Darnielle has emphasised the feeling of dread that runs through the record, and it’s true of both atmosphere and lyrical content. “Someone’s coming to reward us, you wait and see/Or crush us both like fleas,” he sings on ‘Beautiful Gas Mask’, while elsewhere there’s characteristically dark humour on the resigned-sounding ‘Liza Forever Minelli’: “Anyone here mentions Hotel California dies before the first line clears his lips...” Despite the ever-engaging lyrical content, the arrangements don’t always match up – ultimately, this record doesn’t linger or get under your skin as much as its predecessor, The Life Of The World To Come. Daniel Harrison
KEY TRACKS: ‘BIRTH OF SERPENTS’, ‘SOURDOIRE VALLEY SONG’, ‘FOR CHARLES BRONSON’. FOR FANS OF: OKKERVIL RIVER, JOHN VANDERSLICE, SILVER JEWS.
After a series of low-key releases under a variety of monikers, it would seem that Co. Down’s Geoff Topley has chosen his time to land a work such as Children Of The Winter. The title track skitters along, a revelatory rumble under clatterslap beats, while leadoff track ‘Satellites’ shines brightly, a slice of postrock perfection stapled together with circular, almost revolving loops. ‘Some Of Us Get What We Deserve’, however is the real standout, a spacey, atmospheric slow-build of a tune with a gentle drop-off. In thrall to his influences, there are subtle hints of Jesu, Mogwai and even DJ Shadow darting about Team Horse’s sonic landscape, but these are mere tracers in a larger audio sky, refreshingly populated with a plethora of moods and muses. That such texture and subtlety can be pulled out of simply a bass and the bare minimum of studio equipment is not just a novel angle, but a triumph for independently-spirited lo-fi in the truest sense of the term. Mike McGrath-Bryan
KEY TRACKS: ‘SATELLITES’, ‘SOME OF US GET WHAT WE DESERVE’, ‘THE BLACK HEART PROCESSION’. FOR FANS OF: JESU, MOGWAI, EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY.
The Vaccines What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? SUB POP
You knew something was up when The Vaccines spluttered onto the scene last year, championed by tastemakers and scenesetters. Their calling card, ‘If You Wanna’, had all the naïve charm of early Stone Roses and the polite, dizzy swagger of a more suburban New York Dolls. It wasn’t anything new, but it was something rather shiny, insistent and refreshingly vigorous. That was then. Now they’re teetering on the precipice of hugeness, thanks to a substantial dollop of the right look, right time and right record collection. The litany of references on What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? are puckish in their blatancy and abundance. Take your pick, for starters, from The Jesus And Mary Chain, The Strokes, The Ramones, The Ronettes, heck, even labelmates Glasvegas. But what lifts it just beyond mere indie rock parody is the assuredness, the knowingness of the whole thing. With the swooping harmonies and stupid lyrics of a song like ‘Wetsuit’, you know you’re being played, but you kind of don’t mind. Each track feels like it’s been carefully reconstructed from old yellowing Airfix instructions for a previous model. Even the album’s title seems bespoke to market just the right amount of feckless rebel sneer. Half way between authenticity and artifice, a band waits to transcend its influences. In the meanwhile, What Did You Expect… will make Jake Gyllenhaal very happy. Joe Nawaz
KEY TRACKS: ’IF YOU WANNA’, ‘ALL IN WHITE’, ‘WOLF PACK’. FOR FANS OF: THE STROKES, GLASVEGAS.
Crystal Stilts In Love With Oblivion FORTUNA POP
‘In Love With Oblivion’ is the second LP from New York quintet Crystal Stilts. It opens with the organdriven ‘Sycamore Tree’, surging forward with eerie presence not unlike The Doors in their prime, while the jangly ‘Silver Sun’ is abundant with chiming Byrds-like Rickenbacker sounds. Sparse, reverbdrenched dirges dominate parts of the album, as on ‘Alien Rivers’ – the gloom of which has been unmatched since the days of the band’s heroes The Fall. Further on, more upbeat surfy sounds emerge in the form of ‘Blood Barons’, powered by an amazing pounding bassline, while Brad Hargett’s soporific melodies serve the dreamy purpose of the music appropriately – his croon sounding like Ian Curtis on morphine. Crystal Stilts have scaled the peaks of noise-pop, and have created a sublime album in doing so. Stevie Lennox
KEY TRACKS: ‘SYCAMORE TREE’, ‘ALIEN RIVERS’, ‘BLOOD BARONS’. FOR FANS OF: SUICIDE, GIRLS NAMES, THE FALL.
Metronomy The English Riviera BECAUSE MUSIC
The squall of seagulls and crash of waves are the first sounds on a record that is is a loose, electronic love-letter to the area of Devon coastline in which Metronomy lynchpin Joseph Mount grew up. When not detailing his love of this particular stretch of land on the likes of ‘We Broke Free’ and ‘The Bay’, Mount turns his attentions to affairs of the heart. ‘Everything Goes My Way’ is particularly noteworthy, Roxanne Clifford of Veronica Falls cooing like the most smitten lovebird in the whole damn aviary as keys shuffle sweetly along. Elsewhere, the percussive rattle
and synthetic hum of ‘The Look’ is instantly moreish, ‘Trouble’ tangoes woozily and winningly between guitar and keys, whilst ‘Corinne’ spins a web of boy-girl vocals, nagging guitar lines and hyperventilating beats. In recent interviews, Mount has suggested that this release has a more ‘professional’ sound than its two predecessors. He has a point. The production is meticulous and sharp-edged enough to evoke Steely Dan, the record’s bounty of melodies as polished as granny’s prized silver. Francis Jones
KEY TRACKS: ‘THE LOOK’, ‘EVERYTHING GOES MY WAY’, ‘THE BAY’. FOR FANS OF: EVERYTHING EVERYTHING, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, E.L.O.
Young Blood Your indispensable guide to new releases from up-and-coming acts Words by Chris Jones
Pixel vs Nanobot Pixel vs Nanobot EP If there is one thing this trio have in abundance, it’s confidence. Full of brio and volume, they blend dramatic synth-pop with a punk rhythm section to good effect. Having said that, Shauna Donaghy’s vocals will be a selling point for some and a sticking point for others – she’s out in front, loud and proud, dominating songs like the strident ‘Shadows’ and ‘The Pink’. As polished as this release is, though, a bit of grit wouldn’t go amiss – sometimes the road less travelled is the most interesting. - pixelvsnanobot.co.uk
Youth Mass Tony, Don’t You Worry Hailing from the none-more-rawk environs of Trim, Co. Meath, Youth Mass have garnered a fair bit of support very quickly, with their debut EP Misanthropy going down well last year. They are soon to follow it up with a second EP, Mood Swings, but in the meantime this free single will tide fans over. The sound of both tracks is set within some pretty narrow parameters – anthemic and chock-full of big melodies, the vocals are the star. But is it really worth getting excited about delicate falsetto vocals and chiming guitar over a mid-tempo rock beat? Not unless it’s something really special, and this isn’t. - facebook.com/thisisyouthmass
Photo by Jennifer Atcheson
InProfile: ACT: Pixel vs Nanobot FROM: Belfast MEMBERS: Shauna Donaghy (vocals, synth), Cahir Doherty (bass, vocals), Oran Heron (drums, vocals). FOR FANS OF: Fight Like Apes, Yes Cadets, Crystal Castles. WEBSITE: www.pixelvsnanobot.co.uk From mid-Ulster but based in Belfast, the trio that make up Pixel vs Nanobot have been gigging hard over the last year or so. Following a show-stealing performance at Belfast’s New Blood showcase and the release of their debut EP, it’s high time we got the lowdown. Drummer Oran answers the questions.
Ireland is well-stocked with bands in thrall to And So I Watch You From Afar, The Redneck Manifesto and their respective forebears, so it’s nice to be introduced to a (mainly) instrumental band that is developing a sound of its own. TransAutoRadio are just as happy crafting minisymphonies out of alt.rock building blocks – elements of Muse and even Placebo can be heard in ‘Waving Not Drowning’ – as turning their hand to brass, woodwind and choral vocals. Add an idiosyncratic approach to using vocals – both live and sampled – and you have a new band worth following.
First things first, how and when did you form the band? The band formed fully in around 2009. Cahir and I had been playing about with a few riffs and rhythms for the previous couple years, but never had the chance to take it further. We decided in 08/09 to take it more seriously and get some female vocals and synths involved. Cahir posted an ad online and Shauna replied almost instantly. After deciding to give her first refusal, she came along to a practice to have a jam. Half-way through the first song, the band was formed!
What was the idea behind the band at the outset?
The main idea was to create fun songs that anybody can dance to. Keep everything simple. Good, solid rhythms with effective harmonies from the bass and keys/synth. Catchy hooks with infectious vocals. I have to ask - what’s the story behind the name? We wanted something that describes us well. Pixels sounded too much like the Pixies and Nanobots just didn’t feel complete. So... Pixel Vs Nanobot was created. How would you describe yourselves to someone who has never heard you? Electro-punk! Bringing 8bit console sounds into a new generation. Doesn’t matter what music you are into, we’ll make your foot tap! Your set at New Blood was well-received and you got asked to play again. How was the experience for you? It was an amazing day for us. We had played the Spring and Airbrake once before and loved it. To get back on that stage was fantastic. I found out the night before that Like Statues had to pull out, but we never considered the possibility of us filling in for them. It was tough too because Shauna had been suffering with a sore throat all week, so it was an all or nothing attitude and it paid off well for us. We were very grateful for playing one set, but to follow that with our first Limelight gig, simply unbeatable! What plans do you have in store? Play as many gigs as we can and get our name and our sound out there! Everyone needs a little joy in their lives, we just want to bring it to them!
Raekwon Button Factory, Dublin Ah yes, live hip-hop shows – renowned for poor sound, ramshackle delivery, tardy beginnings and brief sets. Corey Woods, aka Raekwon the Chef, the 41-year-old behemoth of a Wu-Tang Clan legend, is in the Button Factory as part of a whirlwind tour to plug new album Shaolin vs Wu Tang. And Christ knows rappers know how to plug their wares. His brief? To bang out 1995’s classic Only Built For Cuban Linx in its entirety for all the “true hip-hop fans”. His plan? To ignore the brief and do what the fuck he feels like doing. After a spooky, solid support slot from Irish pirate hip-hoppers Melodica Deathship, the crowd are now playing the waiting game. Not that anyone is surprised. And there’s plenty of mickeying around to be done yet as it soon becomes obvious that Rae is most likely not even in the country yet, let alone the building. Eventually, his voice booms over the PA system demanding a green Guinness and confirming to all and sundry that he has donned the correctly coloured boxers for the occasion and he is ready to go (possibly to board his flight to Dublin?). At around 11pm Raekwon bounds on stage and since he’s about 30 stone, his bounding is all the more impressive. There are Wu samples and scratchy kung fu sounds and he bursts into ‘House of Flying Daggers’ from 2009’s OBFCL II. Unsurprisingly, the Chef has ditched the script. No matter. His monster career in both a solo and Wu capacity has enough tracks to play for a day straight and he knocks around his career like a pinball, hitting ‘C.R.E.A.M.’, ‘Protect Ya Neck’ and at least a minute of most tracks from both OBFCL albums as well as a scattering of cuts from Shaolin vs Wu Tang. The problem with the show is that the admittedly drunk Raekwon is able to kick tracks off and get his rhyme on, but inevitably, due to a lack of Ghostface or any other Wu guests and coupled with the preshow boozing, he forgets the lyrics and many tracks bomb out, Tim Westwood-style, after a few minutes. No-one seems too bothered though, and as Rae bangs through a jam-packed 50-minute set at an alarming rate, he seems to be having the time of his life. The atmosphere is electric, even if the full tracks aren’t forthcoming, and by the time he gets to the close, he even kicks off the Wu’s ‘Triumph’. We wonder aloud how he’s going to pull this monsterversed tune off without the rest of the Clan. Then, after a minute, there’s the familiar explosion sound effect and he’s out. But not before we get told to go buy a t-shirt. Yeah baby, he likes it raw. Adam Lacey
Photo by Ian Keegan
Gogol Bordello, And So I Watch You From Afar Olympia Theatre, Dublin And So I Watch You From Afar have always let their music do the talking. A rare Olympia outing sees the Belfast band showcase plenty of new material, including recent singles ‘Search:Party:Animal’ and ‘Straight Through The Sun’. Their new efforts prove subtler and more melodic than debut album fist-pumpers such as ‘Set Guitars To Kill’ and ‘Don’t Waste Time Doing Things You Hate’, and offsetting their axe-rampage with something a little mellower along the way does the live show no harm. Tonight’s performance is as tight as ever, but competent without quite being genuinely compelling. To be fair, few bands could hold a torch to what is to follow. Gogol Bordello profess a genuinely deep connection to Dublin, and tonight they seem determined to show it. Their colourful persona is one brash, flamboyant ball of energy, a whirl of bouncing, strutting bodies. Stood at centre stage, Ukrainian frontman Eugene Hutz holds his acoustic guitar like he’s threatening to machine gun the crowd. He quickly sheds his shirt to leap about in a pair of three-quarter-lengths, his guitar hiding his lanky frame while he smiles incessantly beneath his hairy handlebar. His right hand man – Russian violinist Sergey Ryabtsev – alternates between frantically stroking out countless notes per second in a conventional violin style and strumming at his waist. Backing vocalist Elizabeth and shouty bongo player Pedro, too, have more than enough charisma to stand alone up top in any other band. At times the whirling harmonica bridges and
hyperactive violins recall Dropkick Murphys’ Irish-accented punk, but Gogol Bordello are that bit more believable: they seem to live and breathe their gypsy roots, campaigning for genuine issues in true punk style. Immigration is a particular favorite: ‘Immigraniada’ and ‘Break The Spell’ are set-defining moments, Hutz pointing about the room as he screams the words ‘immigrant, immigrant’, a point that – though less suited to this particular audience than an American one – makes its message perfectly clear. It’s when the encore comes around, though, that the extent of Gogol’s passion for performance and love of Dublin comes to the fore: their return to the stage eventually stretches to nine full songs. Slower numbers like ‘Alcohol’ and a brief reprise of that epic ‘Break The Spell’ mingle with furiously pumped up renditions of Shane McGowan’s ‘Song With No Name’ and a monster crowd love-in to a punk-rock ‘Dirty Old Town’. It has the kind of wide-reaching emotion and vigour that perhaps only fun-loving yet political punk can ever really lay claim to, and even when all that’s over, Hutz is begging the wings to allow him one more. When Gogol finally exit stage left to the gentle tones of Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’, they do so at a shuffle, hugging and beaming at each other in a way that makes clear what most of the audience already know: this is far from your average Gogol Bordello performance. Two hours down and there is not a member of the Olympia crowd who is not vocally screeching for more, and but for the curfew they’d get it. A nine-song double encore, multiple rapturous standing ovations and on-stage emotion clear for all to see: this reviewer is tempted never to watch Gogol Bordello again. The chances of recreating such a manic high are just too low. James Hendicott
Mad Men Season Four
Out now on DVD and Blu-Ray. Watch just one episode of this slick, stylish drama and you will be hard pushed to explain why exactly people rave about it so unashamedly. What could be so compelling about a shower of sharply dressed ad execs mooching about their office, smoking endless cigarettes, downing brandy for lunch and coming on to their secretaries? Watch two episodes, however, and you’ll be hooked like a cufflink in a tailor made suit. First off, the show provides a mirror and a lamp for the 1960s. It’s a fascinating document of the period’s changing fashions and social mores set against a political backdrop of presidential assassination and the space race. Then there’s Don Draper, whose cool, iron-pressed exterior conceals a festering lake of back story which forms much of the programme’s intrigue. Finally, this is a classic example of showing, not telling: no other show equals the subtle manner in which drama is achieved through a roll of eyes, a tap of a cigarette or an unspoken word. Each of these selfsame ad execs, so suave on the outside, harbours secrets which they dare not utter lest they break the spell of capitalist joy they are trying to sell. Season Four sees Draper struggle to keep both his professional and private life being ruined by the festering lies which comprise his back story. Masterful. Ross Thompson
GAMES Kirby’s Epic Yarn (Nintendo, Wii) Kirby, an amorphous pink blob who can turn himself into different shapes, has always suffered next to a certain moustachioed plumber. A little too squeaky, a little too oddball, Kirby’s distinctly Japanese sense of humour has never really sat well with Western audiences. Hopefully that will change with this genuinely innovative release, which injects new life into a staid, overcooked genre. The twist is that the gameworld is entirely crafted from thread, buttons, beads and cloth. In motion it’s a thing to behold, the colour template a refreshing antidote to the bleached browns and greys of the recent slew of post-apocalyptic shooters. Superficially, the gameplay is generic platform fare – leaping and climbing from one end of the level to the other – but developers Good Feel and HAL go all out with the fuzzy felt concept. Hopping inside zips, untangling a woollen squid, fighting a crossstitched dragon... it becomes quite hypnotic as any cynicism about the cutesy visuals soon gives way to childish wonderment. The care with which the game has been sewn together makes this the ideal successor to Super Mario Galaxy 2. High praise indeed. RT
Dragon Age II (Mac, PC, PS3, Xbox 360) Bioware, the developer geniuses behind mammoth achievements such as Mass Effect 2, don’t make videogames; they make narratives. Rich, intricately woven fables in which you can design your own character, choose your own path and, most importantly, moral standing before letting rip in a rich fantasy world populated by creatures, thieves, mages and the eponymous winged beasties. And while this sequel, the tale of the rise to power of the bloodthirsty Hawke, is partially more streamlined
and linear than its predecessor it’s still imbued with a frightening amount of characters, quests and dialogue trees. Bioware have honed their design to a fine art and are now writing on the physical scale and emotional depth of Tolkien. The result, while not quite as technically consistent as their other works, is not a game to be taken lightly; it will consume your time and thoughts but it will reward them with a story-rich, rollicking adventure in which you can forge friendships, break loyalties, hoard treasure, spill blood, cleave skulls and, yes, face off with actual dragons. RT
FLASHBACK The Future Is Now The Foundation Of The Apple Empire, April 1, 1976
35 YEARS AGO
In a world dominated by increasingly monolithic corporations that seem more powerful than any government, it’s strange to think that it all emerged out of good intentions. The Seventies found a new generation of socially aware entrepreneurs navigating the fallout of the post-hippie era to create companies and organisations that aimed to tackle the world head-on in a realistic and socially conscious manner. Fast forward four decades, and our daily lives seem dominated – almost to the point of control – by these same free spirits. What changed? Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were two men who lived through the countercultural subversivness of the Sixties, becoming involved in the nascent home computer industry. Of the two Steves, Wozniak designed the computer, whilst Jobs provided the business skills, hustling to get the money secured to make their dream become a reality. The first Apple computer was far removed from the sleek, refined machines we know today, boasting a home-made
façade, looking more like a hand carved artefact than the computer of choice for professionals.
the company, and so began Apple’s journey into the heart of hipsterdom.
No matter, as the Apple I established Wozniak as a pioneer in computer design, and helped set Jobs on his course to pushing the company he founded further than either of the two men could have imagined when they’d first started operating out of Jobs’ parents’ garage.
To use an analogy, if Gates’ Microsoft was the ‘male’ of computers – sluggish, workmanlike, and lacking in frills – Jobs’ vision of Apple was ‘female’, so much more dynamic and appealing to a new generation of users. Before long, the company began to dominate the world of music with the iPod, revolutionised telecommunications with the iPhone, and offered up the ultimate hipster technological fashion accessory with the iPad. If you are young, dynamic, and creatively viable, nothing says success like an Apple product.
Over the next three decades, Apple would come to define the high end of the affordable home computer market, offering a machine that could be used to produce professional quality results, but was user friendly and appealed to novices and experts alike. For most of the Eighties and Nineties, as the home computer market became increasingly dominated by the gaming industry, Apple’s image was of the slightly stuffy, almost academic older brother, adept at new technologies and business applications such as desk-top publishing, but a little light on ‘fun’. But in the present day, Apple’s image has been completely re-imagined. The stench of patchouli oil and hippy idealism always hung around Apple, in contrast to the increasingly corporate outlook of their biggest rivals, Bill Gate’s Microsoft. But after a period in the wilderness, Jobs returned to helm
As the computer industry continues to expand and dominate our everyday lives, Apple shows no signs of slowing down, confident in their position of industry leaders. One can only wonder what the two hippy-ish young men who started the company in a garage would think of their current incarnation. In an era when the idealism of the Sixties was turning into the pragmatism of the Seventies, it’s safe to say that they would be plenty pleased with themselves. Steven Rainey
CLASSIC ALBUM Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band Trout Mask Replica (1969)
Illustration by Shauna McGowan
The passing of Don Van Vliet in December left a hole in the hearts of his alter ego’s cult following. The work that, like it or not, define’s Beefheart’s legacy is the labyrinthine Trout Mask Replica, an album that would not only make cult icons of a desert blues outfit, but inalterably shake rock ‘n’ roll to its core... Quipped the infamous Don Van Vliet, the musician, artist and mindbender-general known as Captain Beefheart, “If you wanna be a different fish, you gotta jump out of the school.” It was just one of many quotables the man seemed to generate at random and still hold true. Accompanied by his Magic Band over the course of 17 years, Beefheart’s music and sound art evolved from desert blues to not so much challenge the structures, tropes and intricacies of modern music as do away with them, replicating the noise and activity he claimed was going on internally. A close associate and bitter rival of freakout maestro and guitar god Frank Zappa, their pairing was destined to create twisted genius, and when Zappa took production on Beefheart’s 1969 longplayer Trout Mask Replica, the creative freedom he
was allowed resulted in possibly the most baffling, complex, amusing, thought-provoking, layered, willfully awkward and ultimately joyful record to have ever emerged from the rock ‘n’ roll idiom. The product of eight-and-a-half months of rehearsal in Woodland Hills, LA, where Beefheart kept his troops in a strange prison of sorts, Trout Mask Replica’s compositions were pored over and painstakingly transcribed, arranged and rehearsed, up to 14 hours a day, in a cult-like environment where Beefheart asserted dominance, berating and toying with musicians to the point of tears and submission. The result was a winding epic, 28 tracks of just about every influence Beefheart could draw upon, from blues, to rock, to avant-garde, incorporating a capella and sea-shanties as standard practice, showcasing the man’s frankly incredible vocal strength and range, as well as the searing chops of the Magic Band. ‘Frownland’ comes off as the most ramshackle thing ever, making sense and drawing together as it takes its course, Cap’n wailing all the way. ‘Moonlight on Vermont’ displays a joie de vivre that only one as wilfully demented as Beefheart can muster, while ‘Pachuco Cadaver’ bounces along, sunny as the desert and just as arid. ‘Orange Claw Hammer’ and ‘Well’, solemn solo
pieces, are offset by more whimsical ramblings, such as ‘Sweet, Sweet Bulbs’ and ‘Old Fart at Play’. ‘My Human Gets Me Blues’ is almost terrifying in its intensity of language and delivery (“the way you were dancin’, I knew you’d never come back”), yet it represents the zenith of his layered and outright genius poetry. Intentionally difficult, “non-hypnotic” listening, the album sent shockwaves throughout music, with influence felt everywhere from punk and new wave to Therapy?, The White Stripes and PJ Harvey. Meanwhile, after follow-up albums Lick My Decals Off, Baby and Clear Spot/The Spotlight Kid, Beefheart delivered two LPs of conventional rock, before regrouping a new, younger Magic Band and laying down a trilogy of albums that cemented his legend, most notably final record Ice Cream For Crow, before retiring to paint for the rest of his life, finally succumbing to multiple sclerosis last December at the age of 69. His legacy, while thankfully never to be directly pilfered, reaches far and wide. And perhaps, with a grin on that face of his, wherever he is, he can finally appreciate the joy and discovery his creative impulses have brought to so many. Mike McGrath-Bryan
In the history of 20th century cinema, there are few more polarising figures than Woody Allen. For every person awed by his incredible talents as a comedian, writer, and director, there are just as many who find themselves completely repelled by the twitching, neurotic persona he has created, not to mention the slightly more problematic aspects of his personal life. But as his 1986 masterpiece Hannah and Her Sisters celebrates its 25th birthday, AU endeavours to give you a one-stop shop for all you need to know about this titan of cinema. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and it might just change your life – something you’ll no doubt be explaining to your analyst before too long…
Woody Allen Words by Steven Rainey Illustration by Shauna McGowan
The Early Years: Take The Money And Run (1969) Effectively his directorial debut (What’s Up Tiger Lily from 1966 was a previously made film with new dialogue inserted by Allen and his friends), Take The Money And Run probably has the director’s highest percentage of belly laughs per film, reflecting his roots as a stand-up comedian. Almost (but not entirely) ignoring the intellectualism that characterised his later films, Allen presents us with
a mockumentary concerning the life and times of Virgil Starkwell, a meek-mannered kid from the wrong side of the tracks who eventually becomes America’s Public Enemy Number 1. With engaging slapstick, witty one-liners, surrealistic set-pieces, and some good-natured gags, Take The Money And Run is an out-and-out comic romp, albeit framed in an engaging and creative documentary format. It’s not quite the finished article, but it’s ample proof of why this young comedian was able to capture the attention of audiences and critics alike, right from the very beginning. Best Bit: In order to secure an early release from
prison, Virgil agrees to test an experimental vaccine. It is successful, but has the unexpected side-effect of turning him into a rabbi for several hours. La Triviata: The woman who describes Starkwell as a real “Schlemihl” at the very end of the film is Louise Lasser, Allen’s recently divorced ex-wife. The First Classic: Annie Hall (1977) With Sleeper (1973), Allen proved he had serious filmmaking chops, constructing a wonderful variant on a Marx Brothers-style silent comedy, whilst Love And Death (1975) introduced a philosophical backdrop to the laughs. However, Annie Hall represents a quantum leap forward in both Woody Allen’s career, and the history of cinema itself. For decades, the term ‘romantic comedy’ referred to a particular brand of zany, madcap storytelling, frequently also called ‘screwball’ comedies. With their broad strokes and contrived situations, the genre had fallen into obsolescence by the 1970s. Annie Hall completely re-invented the romantic comedy, adding a level of realism and truth to an otherwise forgotten genre. His popular breakthrough, Annie Hall brought the ‘Woody Allen character’ into the mainstream, and set the tone for a million relationships for the next 30 years. The film’s unique mixture of home truths, wry asides, and excursions into fantasy were genuinely inspiring, and spawned countless imitations. Best Bit: After having an argument and breaking up with Annie, Alvy Singer (Allen) wanders through the streets of New York, including passers by in his inner monologue, including an elderly couple who reveal that they spice up their love-life with a “large, vibrating egg.” La Triviata: Annie Hall was originally written and filmed as a murder mystery, only transforming into the film it eventually became during the editing process. The Definitive Article: Manhattan (1979) It’s not Woody Allen’s most humorous film, and whilst the cinematography and direction are masterful, he has bettered them on several occasions. But something about Manhattan resonates within the human soul on a primal level. At its core, it’s a simple tale about finding what it is that makes us happy, and how we always let other things get in the way. But the film possesses so many subtle nuances that it becomes almost a substitute for living itself. Filmed in sumptuous black and white, it rarely even feels like you’re watching a work of fiction, rather a beautifully crafted glimpse into someone’s life; a living, breathing piece of art that has something new to say each time we re-visit it. In many respects, Manhattan is Allen’s love letter to New York, the opening scenes having come to define the city, enduring as the definitive statement
on one of the most incredible cities in the world. Best Bit: After toying with the emotions of Tracy, his teenage sweetheart (art imitating life, perhaps), Isaac Davis (Allen) runs across New York City to declare his true feelings for her, and finds her moving to London. As she asks him to wait a year, saying it’s not that long to wait, the camera hangs on Isaac’s face, the question lingering in the air, as the screen cuts to black and the credits roll, no answer given. La Triviata: Allen has a rule that he never watches his films after completing him, and has since claimed to be deeply unhappy with Manhattan, without elaborating on why. The Mature Artist: Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) After the success of Annie Hall and Manhattan, Allen made his first major misstep in 1980 with Stardust Memories, a film which – on the surface, anyway – found Allen portraying a film director who has come to hate his fans. The public, perhaps understandably, reacted very badly to this intriguing, yet deeply flawed film. However, by 1986 Allen found himself back on top again with Hannah and Her Sisters, a film which, whilst not breaking new ground, found him tapping back into that wryly humorous, yet deeply affecting vein of filmmaking of which he had proved himself to be a master. Taking a backseat as an actor, Allen directed a wonderful ensemble cast, capturing unforgettable performances from Mia Farrow, Michael Caine, Diane West, Max Von Sydow and Barbara Hershey, amongst others. A wonderful meditation on family and infidelity, this was mature filmmaking at its best, a moving story of love and betrayal that knew how to make you laugh and cry in equal measure. Best Bit: Despite only playing a minor character in the film, Allen steals the show with his performance as a television producer who has a spiritual breakdown after a health scare, largely brought on by being a hypochondriac. After being given a clean bill of health, he runs through the streets, expressing his joy to everyone he passes, before stopping dead in his tracks, struck by the fact that one day, he will definitely die. La Triviata: Upon its release, Hannah and Her Sisters was Allen’s most successful film, surpassing some of his more well known efforts. The Storyteller: Sweet and Lowdown (1999) Allen kept a steady profile throughout the Nineties, but delivered this minor masterpiece at the tail-end of the decade – a biography of Emmet Ray, a fictional contemporary of Django Reinhardt. Sean Penn is in the lead role, a chauvinistic, selfish and greedy man, who is nonetheless blessed with an incredible
talent for music. Along the way, his story is told from various viewpoints, exaggerating all the tall tales which have been told about the man through his life. Penn devours the script, giving a performance that is simultaneously grotesque caricature, and sympathetic character study. Allen’s technique as a director and storyteller is such that he skilfully weaves together multiple plotlines and perspectives, ‘documentary’ evidence, shifts in time, and outright lies, without skipping a beat. The end result is a film which is an affectionate portrait of the music Allen loves, as well as a gently moving comedy in its own right. Best Bit: When he’s not weeping at how good Django Reinhardt is, drinking his wages, or crashing cars, Emmet Ray enjoys spending his time by taking his female companions down to the railroad yard to shoot some rats. La Triviata: The film was originally written as a follow-up to Take The Money And Run (see above) and was a return to the faux-documentary style he pioneered in his first film.
Guided By Choices The AU Defence Regardless of what one’s personal opinion of the man is, Woody Allen has rightly been hailed as one of the finest filmmakers of the 20th century. In his creation of the ‘Woody Allen character’, he has given up one of the all-time great comic archetypes, and over the course of his six decades, he has proven himself to be a master of cinematography and script writing. In saying that, not all of Allen’s oeuvre stands up particularly well, and his career is littered with well-intentioned misfires – Bananas (1971) and Broadway Danny Rose (1984) – as well as out and out flops, like Interiors (1978), sandwiched between two of his most loved films, and coming across like a poor imitation of a Bergman psychodrama. Indeed, much of Allen’s 21st century material has been slight, charming in its own way, but adding little to his body of work. But ultimately, he will continue to plough his own furrow, as critical reaction waxes and wanes, not to mention audience attendances. Woody Allen has ultimately always made movies for himself, and as he announces a release date in May for Midnight In Paris, his 42nd feature film as director, he shows no sign of doing anything else. And in the end, many of us will keep going back because, like the man whose brother thought he was a chicken – we need the eggs.
The Vaccines The Speakeasy, Belfast
Phil & Kelly
One of the buzz bands of the moment made their Belfast debut with aplomb to a sold out Speakeasy bar. With a top five debut record under their belts, expectations were high and the band exceeded them with an energetic show that demonstrated that sometimes a band is worthy of the hype. At 40 minutes, their set was made up of the entirety of the record but nothing felt like filler. Outside of the album, these songs come to life, not least current single â€˜If You Wannaâ€™ which saw the entire dancefloor pogo in unison, singing every word back at the band. They might not be the saviours of indie rock that some have proclaimed but live The Vaccines showed why so many people got excited in the first place.
Words by Dominic Brogan Photos by Will Neill
Ian & Emma
Danny & Sabrina
Ross, Caitlyn, Rochelle & Pete
Glenda & Lacey
Craig, Anna, Anna, Steven & Paddy
Laura, Kerry & Ashleigh
Niamh & Naomi
Paul, Sean & Darren
Nicola, Laura & Sharon
The Monster Mash All-Ireland Bike Jam T-13, Belfast You’d be forgiven for thinking that BMX wasn’t the most popular sport in Ireland. Sure, you see the odd group of guys whizzing past on their bikes from time to time, and near everyone has a mate who is a biker, but you just don’t seem them all in the same place at once. Then you end up at event like this, where all there are hundreds of bikers taking part, and you begin to realise that BMX in Ireland isn’t as underground as you might think. It was non-stop action all day, and seeing the huge T-13 park filled to the brim with people of all ages was a testament to just how good a job everyone involved in the T-13 project is doing. An eye-opening and awesome event.
Words by Jonny Tiernan Photos by Gary McCall
Molly and Hannah, with Harry Main jumping overhead
Breakdancers Kim Calvert & Justin Wright
Chris Nunn from T-13
Does this remind anyone else of E.T.?
Gilly, Lee & Jonny from Chain Reaction cycles
Aaron & Robert
Jonny Gordon doing flatland BMX
He’s got Green credentials
Bill & Ryan McCrorry with their Monster Mini
Jonny, Caelinn, Zoey & Colin
THE LAST WORD With: Rab Allan of Glasvegas
What was the last thing that annoyed you? I wanted a hotdog yesterday at EuroDisney but had to settle for a panini. Then I got the panini and it had tomato on it. Then I wanted a Solero and not one single vendor machine had them because they had run out. I’m never satisfied sometimes. When was the last time you bought a band t-shirt at a gig? I’ve never bought a t-shirt at a gig. I could never afford them. I bought a Depeche Mode t-shirt two weeks ago though. If I could buy any band’s merchandise, though, it would be my own. When was the last time one of your heroes disappointed you? It’s never happened. I’ve met quite a few people that made me want to be in a band and they’ve always been great. Noel and Liam were the nicest guys you could meet. Bono was the real deal too – him and Edge are like wise owls. Ian Brown was the maddest, but again a gentleman. When was the last time you felt vulnerable? This morning in the bath; I thought the cleaner
was going to walk in. I have a thing in hotels where I’m always caught in compromising situation. I like walking around my hotel rooms naked. When was the last time you were embarrassed? Yesterday, [bassist] Paul [Donoghue] fell asleep on the toilet drunk and I had to wake him up. Your mate with his trousers round his ankles trying to shite and falling asleep isn’t a pretty sight. I had to kid on the door was locked but I hit him on the head with it trying to get in. What was the last good record you bought? Beach House – Teen Dream. We got this in Santa Monica when we were doing the demos. It’s my favourite new band. I saw them live in Glasgow and thought they were great. Vampire Weekend was the other great album over there. What was the last thing you Googled? The Raveonettes – I wanted them to support us on our next UK tour but they already had stuff booked. They are one of our favourite bands around. Me and
FAMOUS LAST WORDS Convicted murderer George Appel, before being executed by electric chair in New York in 1928. “Well, gentlemen, you are about to see a baked Appel.” Sir Bors (Terry Gilliam) in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, shortly before attempting to kill a rabbit but in fact having his head bitten off. “Right! Silly little bleeder! One rabbit stew coming right up!”
Interview by John Freeman
James are going to start a band with Sune [Rose Wagner] the singer – maybe do a Hawaiian album. When was the last time you were scared? The last time I was on a plane. I’m a shitbag when it comes to flying. Sometimes I’m okay and other times I want to rip the seats out. Valium is awesome. James [singer and Rab’s brother] tries to calm me down but it normally ends up with me freaking him out. When was the last time you were in hospital? Last time I was in hospital I was two years old. My mum ‘dropped’ me down the stairs. I think I was pushed but she denies it. Apparently she was carrying me down the stairs and tripped, so let me go so I wouldn’t get hurt. I broke my ankle and my wrist. EUPHORIC///HEARTBREAK\\\ by Glasvegas is out now on Columbia. Glasvegas play the Mandela Hall, Belfast on April 27 and the Academy, Dublin on April 28
THIS ISSUE WAS POWERED BY Hot nuts, straight vodka, the Choice Music Prize, Spring, busy Belfast, twitter.com/astonishingsod, Gangs, not fucking off anywhere, Ireland beating England (twice!), meeting your sporting heroes, Ruby’s Diner, an R.E.M. binge, waiting about, the burn.
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