SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2011 Editorial Pissings
MUSIC & REVIEWS
GIGS & EVENTS
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Belfast & beyond: the unravelling of a legend
Chuck Palahniuk The arch-controversialist on the beating heart that drives his work Apparat Berlinâ€™s finest on life after techno
Taming The Monsters Forget California & Hawaii: big wave surfing is right on your doorstep
Slide On! AU meets the kids behind the latest dance craze Girls The San Fran hippies on their effortless return A to Z: Metal Because the devil has the best tunes
SQUAREHEAD | SOMA RECORDS | THE BEACH BOYS | MUSSELS | FRANK TURNER | BEIRUT | COMMUNITY OF INDEPENDENTS | TUPAC | BLUE VELVET
my inspiration Example
Come doused in mud, soaked in bleach as I want you to be As a trend, as a friend, as an old memory Nirvana
Come As You Are
Photography by Rankin COME AS YOU ARE by Kurt Cobain. Published by EMI Virgin Music Ltd.
MAGAZINE ISSUE 76 | CONTENTS EDITORIAL
UPFRONT News and views from the world of AU
I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to say that the magazine you are holding wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Nirvana. Like a lot of kids in 1991, I was into Nirvana in a big way. My older cousin Stephen had made me a TDK tape with Bleach on one side, and Fugazi’s Margin Walker on the other, coupled with some Faith No More and Sacred Reich songs to fill the full 45 minutes. It’s a tape I still treasure to this day. When Nirvana announced a Belfast concert in 1992, I just had to go. I was only 12 years old at the time, but luckily my mum was mental cool enough to let me go. It was my first ever gig experience, and it’s one I’ll never forget. During the gig an older girl in the crowd decided she liked me and just grabbed me for a snog. It was the first time I’d ever properly kissed a girl, and I was stunned. Seconds later Nirvana started blasting out ‘Negative Creep’ and the crowd went totally nuts. We got separated, but it was OK, I was happy to scream along to my favourite song. I never caught the girls name, let alone saw her again, but I think that might have been the night that I decided I wanted to be involved in music. Fast-forward 20 years and here I am working in the industry full-time. I still can’t decide if Nirvana or that girl left the biggest impression though. Jonny
REVIEWS The AU Verdict
48 Album Reviews
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 (www.timothyfarrell.co.uk) Illustration Rebecca Hendin (cover and centrefold), Shauna McGowan, Mark Reihill Photography Alan Maguire, Gary McCall, Suzie McCracken, Aoife McElwain, Tom McGeehan, Alan Moore, Conn Osborne, Loreana Rushe, Gavin Sloan Contributors Josh Baines, Niall Byrne, Barry Cullen, Dave Donnelly, Neill Dougan, John Freeman, James Hendicott, Andrew Johnston, Adam Lacey, Ian Maleney, Kirstie May, Darragh McCausland, Karl McDonald, Mike McGrath-Bryan, Al Mennie, Lauren Murphy, Mischa Pearlman, Steven Rainey, Mike Ravenscroft, Katherine Rodgers, Eamonn Seoige
STUPID THINGS SAID THIS MONTH I’ve always dreamed of being a librarian. Why are you rubbing my back like I need a boke or something? Chickens get a really rough time. You just can’t be ahead of anything because everyone knows everything because of the Internet. She got special Italian sperm and everything. Ah boys, there’s no point killing each other over quiche. I’m anal about aspect ratios.
Going Out or Staying In
Page 8 – Hot Topic – Shuffle Dancing Page 10 – Pictures from Palestine Page 12 – Scene Spirit: The North Coast Page 13 – Teethgrinder Page 14 – Girls Page 15 – Season’s Eatings Page 16 – Label Profile: Soma Page 18 – My First Band: Frank Turner Page 19 – Squarehead / Band Maths: Pulp Page 20 – Cut O’ Ye Page 21 – Unknown Pleasures / Games Page 22 – In The Studio: Axis Of Page 22 – Back Of The Net Page 24 – Incoming: Big Deal / Sully / CANT / Penguin Prison
Page 53 – Young Blood Page 54 – Live Reviews Page 55 – Movie & Game Reviews
REWIND AU rolls back the years Page 56 – Flashback: The Death of Tupac Page 57 – Classic Movie: Blue Velvet Page 58 – History Lessons: The Beach Boys Page 60 – In Pictures: Whelan’s Record Fair / Tennent’s Vital Day Two
No salt, no point. You know what, I’d shag you for badness. It’s better to have an extra couple of inches in the DJ box.
FEATURES AU goes in-depth
He’s got a crotch like a brick. Tumble dryers are really handy, but they make your clothes smell like biscuits.
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.
44 A to Z of Metal
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
Page 28 – Apparat Page 30 – Nirvana Page 36 – Chuck Palahniuk Page 40 – Big Wave Surfing
62 The Last Word: Ghostpoet
THE TV SHOW
Boardwalk Empire Season 2 HBO have bankrolled some awesome television programmes in the past but they set a new gold standard with Boardwalk Empire, a historically inspired drama about bootlegging and political corruption during Prohibition. With fearless writing, a wonderful cast (notably Stephen Graham as Al Capone, and an emotive Kelly MacDonald) and outstanding set design, it’s a show which deserves superlatives. Season Two promises more tension with bent treasurer Enoch ‘Nucky’ Johnson (Steve Buscemi) getting himself in even deeper guano with rival mobsters and the Klan. We implore you to watch it. RT
Begins on Sky Atlantic at the end of September
Attack The Block THE DVD
This smart sci-fi frolic couldn’t have arrived at a more appropriate time. When a South London high-rise is besieged by alien critters with luminous teeth, the resident hoodies fight back. Admittedly, only half of that premise is similar to recent news events but Joe Cornish’s debut feature proper displays an understanding of inner city teenage life sorely absent from the speeches of out-of-touch politicians. Yes, it owes a debt of gratitude to early John Carpenter, but this is exciting, engaging British cinema. RT Released on DVD and Blu-Ray on September 19.
Rugby World Cup THE SPORT
Okay, so it looks like Ireland might once again flatter to deceive on the world stage, but we’re still holding out some hope. Regardless, the Rugby World Cup is still one of the biggest sporting events in the world, and you can be sure that the tournament will throw up its fair share of surprises and epic matches. Hosts New Zealand, despite having been the world’s best team for the best part of two decades, haven’t won it since 1987, and with that, expectations in their homeland couldn’t be higher. So book a month off work, set your body clock to 11 hours ahead and enjoy! AS Shown from September 9 to October 23 on ITV and RTE.
Bobby Fischer against the World
Gears Of War 3
Chainsaws. Flaming shotguns. Sticky grenades. Tickers. ‘Executions’. Muscles. Grunting. The Hammer of Dawn. Oversized insects. More grunting. Explosions. Marcus Fenix. If these words are meaningless to you, then you have never played Gears Of War – unlike millions of other gamers who are waiting with bated breath and nervous bladders for the imminent release of the third game, which offers four-player co-op, new multiplayer modes and lots and lots of grunting. It will sell more than a few copies. RT
Released for Xbox 360 on September 20.
Released on September 12
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
Another fine HBO documentary which chronicles Fischer’s early life as a chess whizz kid in Brooklyn and his rise to victory over Russian Boris Spassky for the World Championship at the height of the Cold War – a truly global event that Henry Kissinger declared “good for America, good for democracy” The cracks in this flawed genius become ever more apparent as the film goes on and it’s his tragic fall from grace into a life of reclusion and his bizarre re-emergence decades later in Iceland that makes this compelling viewing. PM
When it came out earlier this year, Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom was hailed by critics as a modern take on the great novels of Tolstoy, something the big-headed author didn’t play down (he even went so far as having one of the characters read War And Peace). Now that the hype has dissipated and Freedom has been released as a paperback, we can appreciate the novel for what it is; a satisfying state-ofthe-nation take on modern America, full of deliciously well-observed characters and a palpable overriding conscience that reflects the author’s engagement with green issues. DMcC
This Is A Call: The Life And Times Of Dave Grohl
Former Kerrang! editor (and County Down native) Paul Brannigan draws on more than 15 years of personal history and interviews with Dave Grohl to bring ‘the nicest man in rock’ alive on the page. With unparalleled access and insight, the book covers Kurt Cobain, Nirvana and every aspect of the Foo Fighters’ career including the determination behind Grohl’s famous smile. This Is A Call is the definitive account of one of alternative music’s most compelling figures. KA Published on September 29 by HarperCollins
Out now, published by Fourth Estate.
AV Club Undercover THE WEBSITE
This little online series has an awful lot going for it. Each time, the dudes at The Onion’s sister site draw up a list of 25 classic songs – everything from Loretta Lynn’s ‘The Other Woman’ to Kanye West’s ‘Runaway’ – and then invite 25 bands in to cover them. The catch is, once one cover has been done it gets struck off the list – pity the saps who end up with no choice at all. The song choices are solid and the guest line-up is great too – The Hold Steady, The Decemberists, Surfer Blood, Low and Of Montreal all make an appearance. Dig in. CJ
Watch the full series at avc.lu/qtor0x
Culture Night Belfast There aren’t many occasions in Belfast that bring together such a diverse mix of people as Culture Night. Based in and around the Cathedral Quarter, the sheer volume of interactive events and entertainment is something Belfast should be really proud of. It’s also one of the few events of the year that is truly all-ages friendly, from kids to Granny and Granddad, and all of us in between. As always, there will be an eclectic mix of gigs, exhibitions, theatre, street performers, dance and workshops, basically far too much for us to go into in any real detail here. A few highlights that are worth mentioning though, are the Big Global Market at Custom House Square, live gigs in the Duke Of York and Oh Yeah Music Centre, a Secret Urban Garden Party created by AU’s very own Shauna McGowan, and Little Seville, which sees Garfield Street transformed into a Spanish Quarter for the night... Olé! AS
Culture night is on Friday, September 23. Info at www.culturenightbelfast.com
Sasha at Shine
Pearl Jam Twenty
Shine’s club nights in Queen’s may not be as regular as they once were, but when they do get around to it, their line-ups still pack a considerable punch. Progressive house wouldn’t normally be AU’s genre of choice, but Sasha, like his long-time collaborator John Digweed, brings something a bit different to the table, as those at his legendary gig last year in the Ulster Hall will testify to. If we still haven’t convinced you, then the fact that acid house legends 808 State will be destroying the second room should be the deal-breaker. Support on the night comes from the always excellent Psycatron, Space Dimension Controller and Nez. AS
Cameron Crowe, who has been involved with Pearl Jam since they made a brief cameo in Singles, is the ideal choice to make a documentary to mark the band’s 20th anniversary. He is a former music journalist and they are one of few bands to have survived grunge and kept their dignity. The film, which charts their early years right up to their most recent concerts, affirms what allows the Seattle outfit to rank among the world’s most invigorating live acts. RT
The Dark Knight has been through some strange adventures during his lifetime but nobody could have predicted that he would one day star in his own stage show. Then again, bringing Batman to the stage is no odder than giving Legally Blonde the same treatment. The buzz surrounding this production, which features Gotham’s gothic architecture rendered in 3D, has been positive, and the production, which runs over several nights in Belfast and Dublin, will surely thrill comic and theatre fans alike. RT
Saturday, October 1 at QUB Student’s Union – tickets from www.shine.net
Pearl Jam Twenty shows at QFT on September 20.
Batman Live appears at the Dublin 02 from September 28 to October 1 and the Belfast Odyssey from October 5-8.
Gama Bomb and Onslaught on tour
Branagh and Brydon in The Painkiller
Little Green Cars at Whelan’s
Thrash metal messers Gama Bomb are hitting the road in September to wave a cheery farewell to second album Tales From The Grave In Space (still available for free download from label Earache). Supporting veteran Bristol thrashers Onslaught as they tour a new album of their own, vocalist Philly Byrne had this to say: “We think it’s great that we’ll finally get to tour with these guys; it’ll be like when people take their old and infirm family members on holiday, but a metal holiday.” Quite. Further support from Fallenfate on all nights. MMcG-B
Tickets have been selling like the proverbial hotcakes for this new adaptation of a classic farce. Rob Brydon and Kenneth Branagh star as two very different hotel guests who find themselves in adjacent rooms. Brian (Brydon) is newly single, unsuccessful and suicidal. Ralph (Branagh) is stylish and successful in the business of ‘pain removal’; the crème de la crème. On any other day, things would have ended any other way. But not today... As we went to press, only matinee seats remained for this, so be quick. CJ
Dublin six-piece have burst from nowhere to become one of the brightest new stars in the 2011 sky. Their debut single ‘The John Wayne’ sits somewhere between Fleet Foxes’ heavenly harmonies and the bang and clatter of prime Arcade Fire, and having been released by London label Young & Lost Club, whose alumni include Everything Everything and Noah and the Whale, it’s fair to say great things are coming down the track. Following their Electric Picnic debut, this hometown headline show will be a seriously hot ticket. CJ
Gama Bomb wreck up Spring & Airbrake, Belfast on Sep 29, An Cruiscin Lan, Cork on Sep 30 and The Pint, Dublin on October 1 (Onslaught and Fallenfate only)
September 23 to October 16 at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast.
September 12 at Whelan’s, Dublin.
When she’s not using X Factor appearances to upset the Daily Mail and fail to elicit any sexual tension from Matt Cardle, Barbadian minx Rihanna is busy being one of the biggest and best pop stars in the world. Less of a cartoon and more of a musical heavyweight than Lady Gaga, her Loud tour is nevertheless a feast for eyes, and with a run of singles like she has had, the setlist should be mighty impressive too. The European leg kicks off with three nights in Belfast before moving to Dublin and on through the continent. CJ
Still only 28, Lancaster-born comic Jon Richardson has seen his profile rise steadily over the last five years, from being one of the UK’s brightest new comedians to making his name on radio as the host of BBC 6Music’s Sunday morning show, becoming a panel show fixture before recently taking over as one of the team captains on 8 Out Of 10 Cats. With an endearing wimpy persona and a fine line in selfdeprecation, his comedy is gentler than most, but underestimate him at your peril. CJ
Drowned In Sound stuck their necks out a bit when they anointed Emeralds’ fourth album Does It Look Like I’m Here the finest album of 2010, but it was far from its only appearance in the annual cavalcade of lists. The American trio pile synthesisers, treated guitars and vocals one on top of the other in a cascade of luxuriant, otherworldly sound which is utterly transportive when experienced on headphones, so god only knows what this rescheduled live show will do to people. We wouldn’t be surprised to see grown men weep, put it that way. CJ
September 30 at the Waterfront Studio, Belfast
September 24 at Whelan’s, Dublin
Rihanna plays the Odyssey Arena, Belfast on September 29-30 and October 1 and the O2, Dublin on October 3.
SLIDE ON! Words by Harriet Pittard Photography by Gary McCall
Dance crazes are as old as the hills, and the latest one has taken up residence in Belfast city centre. If you’ve ever wondered what’s going on in the middle of Arthur Square, it’s called shuffle. AU meets the passionate kids – and the odd adult – behind the boom box. Make your way through the flurry of shoppers in Victoria Square on a Saturday afternoon and you may well hear a pounding bassline coming from the middle of Arthur Square. Below the welded metal sculpture known as ‘The Spirit of Belfast’, a crew of teenagers will be hanging out, bouncing about to a hard dance track pumping out of a speaker. The official name for their movements is ‘shuffle’, and it’s a subculture that’s intoxicating teenagers across Northern Ireland, taking over their weekends and changing their way of life.
‘Shuffle’, also known as the ‘Melbourne Shuffle’, having originally sprung up from the Australian city’s underground party scene in the late 1980s, is a footfocused dance style where the dancer slides their feet away from each other in opposite directions, adding spins and tricks in time with the beat. There are no strict rules about the movements or the music – though it is intense at up to 180bpm – and there is an emphasis on developing your own distinct style. Visiting them down by Belfast’s Blue Fish sculpture one Saturday afternoon, it seems a little uncertain as to how the afternoon will pan out. The scrunched up drink tins look a lot like cider cans but in actual fact it’s dozens of guzzled-up energy drinks. The dancers gather around like eager puppies, all wide-eyed and glad of the attention, but also amusingly distracted by the burning impulse to dance every five minutes as their speaker blasts out hard dance hits one after another. It’s impossible not to be bowled over by their enthusiastic charm. Even the security guard who saunters over at one point is full of smiles and happy to have them use the empty concrete patch by the Lagan.
The endorphin-pepped convoy of dancers and their friends come from all over Northern Ireland for the Belfast meet-ups. This particular Saturday there are kids from Finaghy, Ballymena, Castlewellan, Dungannon, Downpatrick and Lagmore as well as from across the border. Paul Bolger, who runs the Dublin branch of Irish Jump Style (IJS), travels up on the train to Belfast most weekends. IJS is the most structured ‘crew’ to have organically grown out of these meet-ups and members can be spotted by their matching green and black hoodies. This doesn’t create any kind of elitism though – much of their time is spent helping new dancers learn moves. Conor Laughlin, the teenage manager of IJS Down, is quick to hone in on the positive intentions of the dance crew. “We do it for fun but we try and get people together from different religions and different places. Instead of fighting, we try and get them socialising and dancing.” When asked how they got into it in the first place, nearly every single dancer cites YouTube as the catalyst. With dozens of tutorials and routines uploaded by dancers from across the globe, the website has been integral to the rising popularity of
shuffle. I ask Conor what makes someone a good dancer and he immediately replies, “YouTube and Facebook.” Dubliner Paul is leading the way for Irish shuffle in this department: “I record clips of all these lads dancing and then I take it away to my computer with all my programmes like Adobe After Effects and edit it into a video and put it onto YouTube. My channel is the second biggest in Ireland.” At 15 years of age, the surprisingly young Paul is fearless in the face of YouTube trolls who get a kick out of insulting his mini-empire. “I’ve had people from all over the world slag my videos, but my channel has over 50,000 views,” he says. Having to fend off negativity doesn’t faze them – not just on YouTube but on the street. The shuffle-mad teen explains that in Dublin, “I’ll be there with my mates and somebody that is completely drunk out of their mind will come over and just mess with us – pushing us around, trying to start a fight.” Conor chips in about that morning’s bus ride into Belfast – “Some fella completely off his head came up and started mocking us and we’re just looking at him thinking, ‘You’re the joke’.”
When they’re not busy watching YouTube videos or defying the haters, the dancers are extremely productive. Paul recently co-organised a dance competition in the car park of Dublin’s City West Hotel alongside Ballymena IJS manager Angela Brown, one of the only adults directly involved. She was so inspired by the enthusiasm her kids Dean and Chloe showed towards the dancing that she let it take over her life too. “We saved up money, me and my husband, and got them proper uniforms,” she smiles. On top of this she has bought them a bus and helped to pay for their sound system. The shuffle-inspired mum of three is also playing a leading role in organising free classes in community centres across Northern Ireland, where teenage members of the three IJS crews teach shuffle and jump style to kids who have never danced before. Along with a whole lot of dedication, there is a refreshingly supportive atmosphere amongst the dancers. Paul tells me. “You do shuffle to express, not impress – if you’re like, ‘I wanna be the best!’, go home. You do it because you love it and you want to make friends.” It’s incredibly life-affirming observing these teenagers taking to the streets of Belfast in order to dance and make friends with people that they
would never have met otherwise – many of whom have never even been to Dublin before, according to Paul. “Most of them are teenagers and their parents wouldn’t let them go. They’ve heard stories about Dublin, that it’s a rough place.” Regardless of location or family circumstance, which for many is difficult, it’s clear that nothing will stop them from dancing. As Paul puts it, “I love shuffle and I’ll always love shuffle – some people grow out of it, but I don’t think I ever will.” Move over Melbourne – with spirit like this, Irish Shuffle has a bright future. Check out Paul Bolger’s videos at www.youtube.com/ user/irishjumpandhardstyl The Playlist Seven shuffle anthems, recommended by the dancers themselves. D Mind - Rising Sun Auburn - Perfect 2 (Knarf ‘n’ Rocco Remix) Hardest Boys - Listen Up Ambassador Inc - Put This On YouTube Kidd Kaos - Beyond Limitations Bossanova - Stone Cold Headhunters - Rock Civilization
AN OCCUPATIONAL HAZarD AU speaks to Belfast-based photographer Tom McGeehan about his remarkable pictures from Palestine.
1 “I was strip-searched twice and interrogated five times at Tel Aviv Airport,” reminisces photographer Tom McGeehan, with something of a wry smile. The grim punchline: “And I was lucky that I got to keep my underpants on. I’d heard of some guys who’d had the full cavity search not long before.”
Softly-spoken Tom was the recipient of such hospitality, not to mention being followed for 12 hours and physically lifted onto a plane as he waited for his flight out of Israel, because he happened to own a camera. Specifically, he owned a camera with which he took pictures of the people and places of Hebron and the Israelioccupied West Bank. Tom was ostensibly visiting his girlfriend Estelle, an international volunteer helping to rebuild Palestinian homes attacked by illegal settlers, but whilst there, he captured some remarkable and often poignant images of
everyday Palestinian life under the repressive cosh of Israeli military might. These images are only still intact thanks to his quick thinking in running down his camera battery just before his airport ‘interviews’. As is touchingly telling in this remarkable document of his time in occupied Palestine, Tom has nothing but affection and admiration for a people who he believes are ill-served by “Western media hype”. “Most of these people have next to nothing, have had their land, their homes, their resources taken and yet still they manage to be good-natured and incredibly warm,” reflects Tom. “I wanted to capture the truth, that sense of humanity, the spirit of the Palestinian people.”
1. Tom: “An Israeli soldier confronts protestors at the beginning of what turned out to be a mostly peaceful protest, outside of Bethlehem.” 2. Tom: “Even with their home coming under weekly attacks from settlers, and their standard of living being greatly reduced due to the actions of the Israeli
government, the children of the tribe are still as playful and inquisitive as children in the comfort of western societies.”
guard; that even when attacked, the protestors maintain their decorum and keep peace as the main goal.”
3. Tom: “A Palestinian protestor stands in goal during a football match as the Israel Defense Forces watch on. The peaceful protest acted as a strong message to the soldiers standing
4. Tom: “With his home and person coming under constant attack by the Jewish settlers, this Palestinian father refused a $3m offer to leave his home, for fear of the other Palestinian families in
his area being intimidated from their land. After this proposition, he was offered a blank cheque. He still refused to accept, and remains in the home of generations of his family before him.” 5. Tom: “The protestors ranged from Palestinian to Israeli, French to Danish, and young to old, with this elderly Palestinian woman
being face-to-face with the Israeli soldiers for the majority of the demonstration.” 6. Tom: “A Palestinian flag flies in the Bedouin tribe of Sussya. Pictured in the background are the air-conditioned and affluent homes of the Jewish settlers.”
Scene Spirit: North Coast In our latest scene report, we head north to the Atlantic coastline. Stevie Lennox and Niall Lawlor guide us through.
PHOTO BY CARRIE DAVENPORT
LANTERN FOR A GALE
AND SO I WATCH YOU FROM AFAR
The north coast is a stunning part of the world, with miles of coastline, beautiful beaches and a vibrant, DIY-minded music scene centred around the twin resorts of Portrush and Portstewart. Stalwarts The north coast has created a fine lineage for itself over the past 10 years, but the godfathers of the scene must be And So I Watch You From Afar, one of the best and most successful bands to come from this isle in recent times. Their second album Gangs has been met with almost universal acclaim, while their (in one case literal) brethren Axis Of are currently recording their yet-to-be-titled debut album, which promises to be a monolithic punk opus (more on that on p.22). The same can be said for punk trio Strait Laces, who are also preparing their first LP, following up last year’s single ‘Where The Wolf Roam’. Rap-rock supergroup Team Fresh – who count members of ASIWYFA and the Panama Kings as alumni – are currently touring their new release ‘Nineteen Eighty Five’/‘Coming Up For Air’, while LaFaro also have roots firmly planted in the North Coast, as signature song ‘Tupenny Nudger’ was written about Barry’s Amusements in Portrush. Their monumental second album Easy Meat is out on October 3.
Newcomers One of the area’s rising stars is Lantern For A Gale, an incredibly tight and atmospheric melodic hardcore band, who can be checked out via their self-titled EP. Ballycastle-based Event Horses, a young, grungy punk outfit not unlike LaFaro, have recently released their Dance With The Devil EP, which can be downloaded for free at eventhorses. bandcamp.com. Folky punk act Under Stars and Gutters have a plethora of great melodies, and have recently released a video for new single Whiskey Night. Dog Will Hunt – yet another great instrumental band from these shores – consists of former members of Team Laser Explosive and Team Fresh, and sound like a combination of LITE and Russian Circles, while Hornets – also containing members of Team Fresh, Panama Kings and Bomb City 7 – have yet to perform live, but are mustering plenty of interest due to the track records of the musicians involved. Venues The Retro Bar in Portrush is perhaps the most iconic venue in the North Coast area, and has had quite a resurgence recently as not only a home to local bands, but touring bands from the UK and Ireland. Also in Portrush, the newly established Playhouse – a converted cinema – is finely decorated, but has yet to build a firm reputation as a live venue. A few miles inland in Ballymoney, Ma Kelly’s has recently become a home to local music,
with shows being played in its attic. At one Axis Of gig the fire service, the police and an ambulance all showed up in the space of an hour. The Carricka-rede Bar in Ballintoy and the Bush Tavern in Ballymoney are sadly no longer in use as music venues, but many adolescent nights of punk and metal were spent – and lost – there. Things To Do As the name suggests, the area’s greatest claim to fame is its stunning coastline. The white rocks, the immortal Barry’s Amusements and the Portstewart and Portrush strands attract people from all over the country in the summer, with an ice cream from Morelli’s being part of the staple diet. As with any seaside area, holiday homes inevitably leads to busy summers, boosting the local economy, but desolate winters can resemble a nuclear apocalypse – perhaps the reason for the number of punk and heavy instrumental bands emanating from the area. The area also has sporting pedigree, hosting popular international events such as the North West 200 motorcycle racing event and youth football’s Milk Cup tournament, while Portrush is home to Major-winning golfers Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell, whose scenic home course Royal Portrush lies high on the coastal rocks. All told, not bad for a little strip of Antrim and Derry coastline.
TEETHGRINDER TTTTTTTTTTTTTTT Dave Donnelly sets the world to rights. This month: concert crowds
Type the phrase “gig etiquette” into Google and you’ll be inundated with all manner of guides on how best to conduct oneself at concerts. Like most things on the internet, they tend to be dryly written, barely interesting and functionally useless. The main thrust is invariably “don’t be an asshole,” an outrageous irony considering the web was conceived by superscientists at CERN as a vehicle for socially-functional humans to act like complete dicks with impunity. The sad fact is that, for all the good intentions of gig-going folk on the internet, all rock concerts the world over are less communal experiences as they are drunken free-for-alls in which ostensibly normal people act like belligerent cattle. I saw indie-pop trio Squarehead perform free in Dublin a couple of months ago to an inglorious chorus of chatter from a handful of tourists who’d blown in and pushed their way to the front – justification that all gigs should charge a cover, if only two quid, to keep out riff-raff. It was less choral than cacophony in June when Villagers played Marlay Park. The gig had massively undersold, prompting organisers to hand out hundreds of freebies, and at times it seemed the sheer volume
of the music was threatening to ruin some great conversations. At Prince, the atmosphere was electric and I found a good spot with space to get a bit of dancing in without spilling my beers. That’s when the most peculiar of Irish phenomena – the wanker with a pint glass of red wine – showed up to wreck my buzz. It wasn’t that he spilled his wine all over himself that irked me so much as the fact he was wearing an over-stuffed backpack he swayed from side to side in my face. I’m non-confrontational, so I just waited until I was down to the disgusting foam at the end of my warm festival beer and spilled it on his stupid bare legs, but everyone has their own way of dealing. Backpacks are pandemic at gigs in Dublin. They make sense if you’re smuggling a bit of rum or vodka. Otherwise you’re just advertising the fact you’re down from the country and too cheap to pay 2 quid for a storage locker - a bit sad when you’re spending a fiver a pop on bottles of ironic German weissbier. So here’s my own personal gig etiquette guide: shut up and stay away from me.
IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER Frisco art-rockers Girls return with divine second album
After last year’s mouthwatering Broken Dreams Club mini-album, San Francisco’s Girls return with their second album proper. Father, Son, Holy Ghost is a hugely impressive record, showcasing a band making a significant step up in confidence. Summer single ‘Vomit’ set the tone – its gentle balladry descending into fractured guitar chaos over six pulsating minutes. In fact ‘Vomit’ was one of the very first Girls songs composed by chief writer Christopher Owens. “I wrote ‘Vomit’ before anything on the first album,” he tells AU. At least that’s what we think he says, such is the raggedness of our phone connection. It meant that the new album was never going to suffer from ‘difficult second album syndrome’. “I didn’t feel any pressure at all,” Owens reveals. “Half of these songs were written at about the same time of the first record. So it was about knowing that we were sitting on all these great songs and wanting to get to the point of recording them. It
may sound pretentious, but I knew that with the songs we had, the quality was taking a big step up.” And he is right. Father, Son, Holy Ghost sounds more rounded and cocksure – mixing, folk, rock and even what Owens describes as an “Everly Brothers-based song” (‘Saying I Love You’). It is a leap from the glorious experimentation of their 2009 debut Album and an innate change born out of practicality. “The first album took us a bit by surprise because we were just recording for fun and because of the internet we suddenly realised the whole world was watching,” Chris explains. “By the time we finished the album we were a band. But there was no band. So, it is just a natural thing – due to playing live shows, we’ve now become a band.” Indeed, Girls are new a ‘proper’ quartet, with Owens and partner-in-crime Chet ‘JR’ White adding drummer Darren Weiss and guitarist John Anderson to the lineup during the making of the new record. Recorded in the basement of an office block owned by “a very nice guy who had made a studio in there” and produced with Doug Boehm, the presence of the new band members had a significant impact into the final sound. “This was the first time on a record that we have recorded with just one musician on their instrument, like [using] the same drummer on the whole record,” Chris says. “Whereas, in the past
it was me doing more experimentation and doing multiple tracks, with random friends coming in to record takes, or asking certain people we liked to come in. This is more of a band record.” Owens is a fascinating character. A former childhood member of the Children of God cult, he has been incredibly frank about his upbringing. He has taken this openness onto Twitter, sharing an impressive array of fascinating insights about himself. “It very much is,” Owens concludes when we ask him whether his tweeting is a form of catharsis. “But then I realised very quickly that a lot of people were paying attention – but I did vent a lot, it was a release for me to talk about things. I don’t know why I feel the need to share.” Through Twitter, we’ve learnt that Owens, perhaps obscurely, is a big fan of Barcelona football club (“I’ve been a diehard supporter since the Nineties”). When AU asks him about José Mourinho, the manager of hated rivals Real Madrid, Owens gives the obvious rock star answer. “I think he is kinda cool, but [Barcelona coach] Pep Guardiola is much, much cooler. Don’t you think?” Yes Chris, we do. John Freeman Girls’ album Father, Son, Holy Ghost is out on September 12 via Fantasytrashcan/Turnstile
SEASON’S EATINGS Fear not, shellfish sceptics, for the humble mussel is cheap, easy to prepare and damn tasty. Here’s how to get the best out of them. For such a tasty shellfish, the mussel gets an unnecessarily bad rap. People with otherwise adventurous appetites will often turn green at the mere mention of these humble bivalves, worried out of their minds about food poisoning. Of course, it would be silly to suggest that mussels carry zero risk of making you ill, but the same is true of other shellfish, and if you stick to a few rules of thumb while cooking them, the risk is negligible. A bowl of mussels prepared in the classic French style (moules marinières), is a restaurant-style
dish guaranteed to impress dinner party guests who will assume that it is tricky to prepare. The truth, however, is that this dish is as simple to prepare as food gets. Not only that, it is ridiculously cheap. Once your guests are tucking happily into their mussels, why not impress them further with some fun mussel facts? Did they know that mussels can live up to 50 years? Or that the adhesive in their beards is so powerful that they can stick to teflon? Impressive little fellows, aren’t they? Damn tasty too.
Moules Marinières (serves 4 as a starter or lunch)
Words by Darragh McCausland Photo by Aoife McElwain THERE’S THIS LITTLE PLACE...
Delhi O’Deli 12 Moore St, Dublin 1
T: +353 (0) 1872 9129 W: www.delhiodeli.com
Tucked away among the fruit markets and phone shops on Dublin’s Moore street is a little Indian restaurant with the amusing name Delhi O’Deli. For those that know it, it is one of the city’s best foodie secrets, a mindbogglingly cheap purveyor of Indian vegetarian street food, with a menu of unusual dishes that you will not find anywhere else in town. Just how cheap is mind-bogglingly cheap? Well, they have a selection of ‘daily fivers’, where you can fill your plate with a selection of tasty curries and accompaniments for €5. Or, if you want to go á la carte, you can try out the likes of chole bature, a sizable plate of curried chickpeas served with dips and two piping hot portions of just-baked bread. The cost? €4.95, and the taste would put most high end Indian restaurants to shame.
1.75kg mussels 1 clove of garlic chopped very fine 2 shallots chopped very fine 20g butter for frying A bouquet garni (a sprig of thyme, parsely and a bay leaf tied together) 75ml dry white wine (sauvignon blanc is good here)
100ml double cream 1 handful chopped flat parsley leaves. Salt and pepper to season Crusty bread to serve
First the mussels need to be prepared in the correct fashion. They need to be rinsed under cold water a few times and scrubbed to remove grit and sand. Then their beards need to be removed by tugging them sharply or by scraping at them with a small sharp knife. At this point, any mussels that are open should be thrown out, as these are bad news.
Remove the saucepan from the heat, stir in the cream and chopped parsley, season, and serve in bowls with plenty of the liquid ladled over the top. Crusty bread is a perfect accompaniment for this dish as people will want to mop up every last delicious drop.
Now that the mussels are squeaky clean it’s time to start cooking. Begin by frying the shallots, garlic and bouquet garni in the butter at the base of a deep saucepan on a medium heat. Once the shallot turns translucent, turn up the heat to medium/ high and then add the mussels and the white wine. Give them a good stir in the liquid, and cover for four or five minutes. The mussels will now cook in the steam from the wine and should open as they cook. It is important to only cook them for four or five minutes and no longer, as overcooked mussels have the texture of seawater-flavoured pencil erasers. Once the mussels are cooked discard any that are unopened as these are again bad news.
You might find after cooking this dish that there is liquid left over in the saucepan. It would be a shame to throw this out as it makes a fine sauce to toss through ribbon pasta such as tagliatelle. Mussels are extremely versatile and moules marinières is only one way of preparing them. They are excellent in chowders, in pasta dishes, or even steamed then roasted with toppings such as breadcrumbs and Parmesan. The next time you visit your fishmonger why not give them a go? For such unassuming little things, they are one of the true treasures of our native cuisine.
Label Profile: Soma as they celebrate 20 years at the dance vanguard, au chats to soma records’ orde meikle
Founded: 1991 Based: Glasgow Run By: Stuart McMillan, Orde Meikle, Dave Clarke and Glenn Gibbons. Key Acts: Slam, Daft Punk, Silicone Soul.
In the fast-moving world of dance music, years pass like dogyears, and for a record label to last for two decades, as Soma Records has, requires something special. As a forthcoming box set reveals, the Glaswegian label has more than a few special things going for it, not least the signing of an unknown French outfit called Daft Punk, if you please. Ahead of the box set’s release, AU catches up with the label to discuss 20 years as an underground institution.
Words by Darragh McCausland
Soma seems to be a label with a very identifiable aesthetic. How would you describe your style? Soma has always strived to release quality recordings from across the electronic music genre and avoiding pigeonholing – developing our artists through to album projects and beyond. The catalogue shows a very varied array of styles, from The Black Dog to Daft Punk and everything in between – change is constant. How did Soma start? Soma started when Slam (Dave Clarke, Stuart McMillan and Orde Meikle) met Rejuvination (Jim Muotune and Glenn Gibbons) over a few beers in a Glasgow pub, initially as a vehicle for our own stuff and others emerging from the early Glasgow dance scene. But after a very quick rise to the European and American dance scenes’ awareness, we started receiving and releasing singles from artists all over the globe. You’ve put out productions by a lot of great artists down the years. Are there any that particularly stand out? We honestly feel they’ve all been “great artists” – all 300-plus. Obvious standouts are Daft Punk, Felix Da Housecat, Silicone Soul, Funk D’Void, Ewan Pearson, Ralph Lawson, David Holmes, Skintrade, Roy Ayres, Alex Smoke… We could go on for hours – thanks to them all. The label put out some of the earliest Daft Punk releases – can you tell us a little about that? We met the Punks in Paris before a gig we we’re doing in Eurodisney – they had contacted us saying they liked the label. We listened to the first four-track demo in one of their friends’ attic flat –
straight away we knew it was special. We ended up releasing half the tracks from the first album Homework as singles. Soma is glad to have been a part of the guys’ history – possibly the band that defines the Nineties. Vive la Daft Punk. The ways in which music is distributed and consumed have changed in the 20 years since Soma started. Now we are in the age of the MP3, how has this affected the label? Massively. We started off with 100% terrestrial vinyl sales – no digital. Now it’s the polar opposite – with MP3 and CD’s making up almost 100% of our sales, with the occasional vinyl release. I think it’s fair to say that the margins are much tighter in the current market place, with file-sharing being the real killer to independent labels – Soma has always been a labour of love for us all. What does the future hold for Soma? We have some great albums from Gary Beck and Alex Under due for release at the beginning of next year. Releases from Steve Rachmad and Heiko Laux, Slam’s Groovelock remixed by the mighty Deepchord, Silicone Soul’s remix/ deconstruction project and some more very tasty Soma 20 remixes. We ended up with so many excellent reinterpretations that they’re going to spill over into next year. That’s just the first couple of months of 2012 – watch this space. The Soma Records 20 Years compilation is out on September 12. www.somarecords.com
MY FIRST BAND
Ireland’s independent musicians showcased in new TV series
COMMU NITY OF INDEPE N DENTS PRESENTS 6
MINUTES INDEPEND OF ENTS
Patric k h is coldKelle h er a nd dead h Axis O an ds f Lafaro Owensi Win din e Jun ior gs 85 WHELANS WEXFORD TUESDAY SEPTEMBER STREET DOORS 6 7.30PM FIVE EUR O
In the last few years, plenty of light has been shone on Ireland’s independent music landscape, with small labels like Richter Collective, Popical Island and Osaka Records receiving plaudits for their ground-level, DIY approach as much as the high-quality Irish music they release. But although there has been a reasonable amount of coverage in the mainstream media – within Ireland anyway – it will always be incumbent on those at the coal face to really show off their scene. Barry Lennon is just such a figure. Along with colleagues John Breslin, Sean Tracey and Jack Dempsey, the Richter Collective co-founder and Hands Up Who Wants To Die frontman is behind a major project at Dublin Community Television, a station available to 500,000 homes on the NTL digital network. Entitled Community Of Independents, it kicked off at the beginning of September with a gig at Whelan’s in Dublin featuring six bands chosen by a panel of experts. The brief was to select the bands that best represent the Irish independent music scene; they chose Patrick Kelleher and his Cold Dead Hands, Axis Of, LaFaro, Owensie, Windings and Junior 85.
With Frank Turner
Following the gig, each band will be profiled in a series entitled Six Minutes Of Independents, while there will also be a documentary about Irish independent music, a televised panel discussion and, Lennon hopes, an ongoing series. “We want to create a document of what is happening in independent music in Ireland and to show the strength of the support network – to build a space on television where we can create a music programme brought to you by the people it represents.
Band Name: Kneejerk Influences: Boysetsfire, Jawbreaker, Sunny Day Real Estate. Age: 16-17
having a prolonged panic attack and playing the entire set about three times faster than I was supposed to be. But we played and that was good.
We were all at school together. I played bass and vocals, mainly because we didn’t know anybody who wanted to play bass. It was literally that we were the three people who had even heard the word hardcore with reference to music before, so we divvied up the instruments from there.
We recorded a bunch of stuff. Looking back now I cringe but then at the same time, we were 16 and 17 years old when we did it, and there’s a fair degree of ambition in there. I think the main thing for me is that I couldn’t really sing then, so it’s the vocals I find intensely painful to listen to now, but we put some records out and people
“I have been involved in independent music in various guises for many years and it has been in my head for ages to make something around independent music that has different levels in it, not just one piece of media. I think this project will grow and evolve, and I would like an on-going music programme to birth out of it. At the moment we have a few ideas knocking around but I envisage this would be a magazine show with live performances, interviews and discussions. We are working on building a volunteer base around this as part of the project to make it sustainable.” Chris Jones
We called the promoter about three times a day each for about two months, going ‘Can we play on the bill?’
We were all collectively obsessed with a band called Boysetsfire. They were coming to the UK to play their first ever London some time in 1997 or 1998. We heard the gig was happening and then all three of us took it in turns to call the promoter about three times a day each for about two months, going ‘Can we play on the bill, can we play on the bill….’. Eventually he relented, so we did and that was our first gig – we went down and we were utterly bollocks as far as I can remember. I seem to remember our drummer
bought them, and we went on to do a few UK tours and people started coming to the shows towards the end of it. I remember we once played a show to 150 people who had come to see us in Manchester! Our minds were blown. We achieved something with that band, if not world domination. Frank Turner plays Set Theatre, Kilkenny on Sept 13, Cyprus Avenue, Cork on Sept 14, Roisin Dubh, Galway on Sept 15, Mandela Hall, Belfast on Sept 17 & Whelan’s, Dublin on September 18.
HEAD MUSIC Somewhere between The Beatles and Blink-182, Squarehead are Dublin’s latest indie heroes
Some bands are slow off the blocks. Others win Irish Song Of The Year readers’ polls for their first single. Squarehead are in the latter camp having come out on top in a Nialler9. com list and, with a year of gigs, another single and a heap of hype behind them, their debut on their Richter Collective didn’t seem like it could come quickly enough for some people. Yeah, Nothing provides, or at least attempts to provide, ‘hit after hit after hit’, after the fashion of the power-pop single-makers of the Sixties and Seventies, but delivered with a little more chutzpah and suburban boredom. The title seems meaningless, or at least casual, and it is. Singer and guitarist Roy Duffy responds to the challenge that it’s nihilistic: “I think it’s got both.” “Yin and Yang man, it’s all there,” drummer Ruan Van Vliet adds. They’re not exactly stone-faced. “The album title itself came from a Gchat conversation I had with Ruan,” says Roy. “Just like, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘Yeah, nothing.’ Something like that.”
Though they’re infinitely less lame, there’s a distinct impression left on Squarehead’s music by the bands Duffy and bassist/teenage coconspirator Ian MacFarlane listened to when they were younger. “We grew up with Blink-182. They’re a hard band to go back to, because they’re such a teenager thing. The pop-punk thing, there are other bands like the Descendents that are a lot more of an influence now,” Duffy says, “and The Distillers were a huge influence too, especially on songs like ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’.” Fed through classic pop and more modern indie rock, the fondness for immediacy and marrying hooks to punch is a clearly inherited pop-punk trait. “But then we started taking mushrooms and listening to Led Zeppelin and The Mars Volta,” MacFarlane adds. That’s less evident. Manager Mick Roe, co-founder of the Richter Collective and drummer in Adebisi Shank, has laid on a four-date tour of England soon. Considering their profile in Ireland, it’s surprising that it’s their longest tour yet and they’re excited. “We’ll get to play places like Liverpool that we’ve never been to before,” says Duffy. “I want to go to the Cavern,” MacFarlane interjects – he mentions The Beatles roughly five times over the course of the interview, both prompted and unprompted.
Given their obvious fondness, their mirrored leftand right-handed instrument wielding and the fact that they both have songs called ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’, it’s possible to mischievously suggest that Squarehead are the modern Beatles. “Yeah!” MacFarlane exclaims. Van Vliet dampens spirits though. “Of course we’re not the modern Beatles. That’s ridiculous.” “That DVD box set did get us through some hard times. We’d just put on the Anthology and smoke hash,” Duffy remembers. Timing, in an indie rock matrix heavily marked by Wavves and similar bands, has led to some other comparisons that aren’t exactly accurate. There are fuzzy guitars and Sixties-style backing vocals, but Squarehead aren’t California wannabes. They’re a rock band. “It’s very flattering to be considered a rock band. We constantly hear ‘lo-fi, surfy wave, slacker’ or whatever. But it’s good to be called a rock band. There are rock bands in every decade, who just play songs,” Duffy says. Van Vliet disagrees, though. “We’re not a rock band. We’re somethingrock.” There’s a pause as they contemplate their self-designation. MacFarlane steps up. “Middle class suburban rock.” Karl McDonald Yeah, Nothing is out on September 19 via Richter Collective
BAND MATHS NO.10: Pulp
37% - Heroic weirdness 27% - Bookshop chic 23% - Festival triumphs 8% - Alan Bennett 5% - Bum-wiggling
Cut O’ Ye! AU singles out the stylish for pictures and probing
Names: Lee Cairns and Kurtis Diven Ages: 18 From: Newtownabbey What’s the strangest item of clothing you own? Lee: “A Pac-man onesie!”
Name: Miriam Kilpatrick Age: 20 From: Glengormley What’s the strangest item of clothing you own? “A bright green and blue mohair cardigan.”
Name: Justin Connolly Age: 24 From: Edinburgh What’s the strangest item of clothing you own? “A vintage mink scarf.”
Name: Fiona McDonnell Age: 19 From: Belfast What’s the strangest item of clothing you own? “Bright green leopard-print skinny jeans that were only £1 in Primark.”
Name: Matthew Nicholl Age: 18 From: Belfast What’s the strangest item of clothing you own? “A travelling bag emblazoned with various stitched badges from different cities I’ve visited.”
Name: Sarah Maguire Age: 20 From: Dundalk What’s the strangest item of clothing you own? “My favourite socks, which make my mum thinks I look innocent.” We know better, Sarah!
Interviews and photos by Suzie McCracken
FIRST CUT IS THE DEEPEST
Niall Byrne digs deep to uncover the freshest new music
As the 3DS sees its price cut by a third, what now for the under-fire handheld?
Blog Buzz – Chromesparks Ann Arbor’s Jeremy Malvin’s debut album release My <3 is a great collection of chillwave-informed electronic pop with crystal-clear beats. Malvin does the smart thing by keeping the number of tracks in the single digits. - chromesparks.bandcamp.com Compilation - LYF STYL: Yin Yang The Golden Era of Hip Hop is a LYF STYL blog-curated downloadable compilation which asks electronic producers to re-imagine songs from Outkast, De La Soul, Raekwon & Gangstarr. - bit.ly/lyfcomp 12” – Rewards Aaron Pfenning left the Brooklyn band Chairlift recently and has already basically surpassed anything that his former band have made to date with the new material for his long running Rewards project. Equal Dreams finds Penning hooking up with Solange Knowles (yes, Beyoncé’s sister) on a disco workout that is released on DFA Records. - bit.ly/rewardsong Blog Buzz – Southern Shores Take Balearic music and transport it to colder environs of Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada and you’ve got Southern Shores, a duo made up of Jamie Townsend and Ben Dalton. The weather might not be as sunkissed but the music the duo make is certainly as idyllic as a summer frolic on a Mediterranean beach. - soundcloud.com/southernshores/sets
Compilation - Wugazi The internet has been spoiling us with decent mashup albums lately from Ghostfunk (Ghostface Killah meets African Highlife) to James Drake (Canadian rapper Drake rapping over yes, James Blake). A clever mashup name appears to be a prerequisite but for my money, the best of the recent lot is Wugazi, the Wu-Tang Clan crossed with Fugazi instrumentals. It does what great mashups should – create a common line between two artists that was previously unimaginable. - wugazi.com 12” - Joe Goddard - Gabriel On Gabriel, the lead track on the new EP from Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard (the schlubby, unkempt-looking one) joins forces with an unknown singer who I’d certainly like to know more about called Valentina. What follows doesn’t deviate too far from Hot Chip’s dancefloor roots with the exception of, oh I don’t know, a chorus of angels and nods to the current zeitgeist of future R&B. - bit.ly/goddardgabe Blog – Indie R&B A Tumblr blog specialising in documenting alternative and experimental modern R&B from artists like J*Davey, Frank Ocean, The Weeknd and How To Dress Well while posting the many skewed Nineties R&B remixes floating around by producers like Balam Acab, Lapalux, CFCF and Mount Kimbie. - indiernb.tumblr.com
Question: when is a price cut not a good thing? Answer: when it arrives a mere four months after release because the product has not met its expected sales targets. As with many of today’s technological innovations, the promise of the Nintendo 3DS was far outweighed by the reality. When it was first announced, gamers were giddy at the prospect of a console which generated three-dimensional graphics without the need to don ridiculous specs. Yet, those who snapped up a 3DS at its March launch were soon bemoaning a classic Nintendo boo-boo. As revolutionary as the hardware was, there simply were not enough games to make that hardware sing. The most desirable was Super Street Fighter IV – a port of a year-old title. It would be another few months before those who had invested their pocket money would be treated to The Legend Of Zelda: The Ocarina Of Time, another wonderful game but one that had been published in various formats several times before. Once widely regarded as the Goliath of the videogame industry, in recent times Nintendo have veered perilously close to losing not only their prime spot in a competitive market but also the respect of those who matter most: gamers themselves. Concerns began with the Wii, a home console whose initial ‘wow’ factor all too quickly diminished with a selection of truly underwhelming games. It was not so much a dearth of actual games as a deluge of party game
compendiums and youngster-friendly knock-offs with cartoon animals. However, while this could be excused as a deliberate attempt on behalf of The Big N to target a family audience, their marketing of the 3DS handheld has been subject to one baffling business decision after another. If only trading on past glories were Nintendo’s only crime here. Any titles which did appear alluring were pushed back further and further in the videogame calendar or, in the case of Mega Man and Assassin’s Creed, were cancelled altogether. The accompanying flagging sales were highlighted by gaming blogs and news sites, an embarrassing fact which did not go unnoticed by Nintendo. This summer the corporation dramatically dropped the price point of the 3DS by a third. One might suggest that this volte-face reveals that the company have already lost faith in the product yet they have promised to reward those early investors, whom they have named “ambassadors” and “most important customers”, with a selection of free downloadable games. Though these are once again ports of old titles the response is both generous and a canny attempt at damage limitation. However, the real problem will always be the lack of software. If a high end sandwich shop sold delicious focaccia bread but no fillings to put in the middle it wouldn’t last for very long. And at this rate, regrettably, neither will the 3DS. Ross Thompson
In The Studio Axis Of
What: Debut album Title: TBC Engineers: Rocky O’Reilly and Barrett Lahey. Studio: Start Together, Belfast. Track Titles: ‘Life Hammer’, ‘Stan Winston’s Rough Seas’, ‘Aung’, ‘Mendelssohnstrasse’, ‘Brobdingnagian’, ‘The World’s Oldest Computer’. Release Date: TBC (tentatively Spring 2012)
Several years ago, Axis Of recorded a hardcore album in their mate’s house and sold it themselves. Since then, however, the personnel has changed and so has the sound. After some hard touring and wellreceived singles, the power trio went into the studio to record what they view as their debut album proper. AU went to meet them. How’s recording been going? Ewen Friers (vocals, bass): It’s tiring but we could do this for another month. Niall Lawlor (guitar): As we’re usually on tour, I find it nice to have that ‘normal work routine’, as people call it. It’s funny to get up early and not be bummed out by it. I’m walking down with a spring in my step. Did you have any firm ideas of what you wanted to end up with as a whole? NL: Early on, we started writing songs and they were fast and energetic and angry, and as we progressed we started broadening our sound a bit.
WORDS BY CHRIS JONES PHOTOS BY GAVIN SLOAN
We’re all really into heavy music but we’re into melodic music as well, so we wanted to write an album that had all the anger and energy but has a lot of really good tunes on it – happy but really heavy at the same time. How is the album sounding? NL: I think the general sound of the songs is bigger. We know that this album will be the start of what we want to achieve, so we want it to sound the best it possibly can. There are a lot of songs that were raw, and people like that, but we wanted to make sure that the songs were done justice and played tightly. Songs like ‘Brodbingnagian’ are going on it and they sound a lot better already. What about subject matter? That’s something you’ve always been associated with, as a political band. EF: We’ve changed over the years with what we’ve sung about. There’s less naïve punk rock stuff going on there but I basically just write about things I’m interested in. There are a lot of historical stories on there. Ethan Harman (drums): It’s a lot more ambiguous than it used to be. I think we found over time that people don’t like being preached to. Not that we were ever preachy, but we were very vocal about our opinions. Everything is quite vague and you can take it whichever way. EF: Vaguecore! I get the sense that overall, musically and lyrically, you feel you have matured as a band over the last few years. EF: Absolutely, yeah. NL: There’s more thought going into everything – the live show and the songs and the recordings.
I guess that comes with playing around so much – you see bands and you’re like, ‘Why do they sound so good?!’. You see the gear they are using or you see a band and think their style is amazing, and you take elements from everyone around you. Playing as many shows as we do, that can’t not happen. If we were still just playing around our home town… EF: …things would never have changed. Who’s putting it out? EF: We have no idea. It’s going to go out somehow and if no-one wants to put it out that’s cool – we can do it ourselves. EH: We want someone who wants to work with us rather than someone who sees us as a number on a page. We want someone who’s behind us in a musical sense, so that will be a big decision when it comes to it.
With a voice as rich as unearthed plunder and an everyman appeal at odds with his classic education, Brendan Gleeson makes for a formidable screen presence. Whether he’s playing a Spartan king, a French knight, a terrorist or one of Harry Potter’s professors, Gleeson not only fills the frame with his imposing physicality but also with his magnetic charm. He frequently becomes the focal point of any movie, as evidenced by his lead role in John Michael McDonagh’s The Guard, a whimsical western of sorts set in, of all places, Connemara.
Just For The Heck(le) Of It
Words by Neill Dougan
Along with being a chef (too much pressure), your humble correspondent’s all-time nightmare career would be as a stand-up comic. For one thing, we tend to pepper our speech with idiot-sounds like ‘uuuhm’ and ‘errrr’ when faced with an audience. For another, we’re regularly told that we are not funny. At all. But the absolute worst thing about being a comedian would be the hecklers – those drunken loudmouths who come to shoot you down, steal the limelight and ruin your show. AU simply would not have the psychological strength to withstand such an onslaught, and would likely finish each show in a gurgling, jibbering heap. Thankfully, this lot are made of sterner stuff. And that’s why they’re pros. Pryor Conviction
Bunch Of Hicks
In A Stew
Comedy god Richard Pryor was at the top of his game when this clip was shot, batting off multiple heckles as effortlessly as he might shoo away a harmless moth. He remains unruffled even when his mother’s good name is besmirched, although admittedly he gets a bit rude. But even then, Pryor stays cool, collected and as funny as ever. Stylish.
A stark contrast to our first clip: when an inebriated female audience member makes the mistake of heckling Bill Hicks, the late firebrand totally loses it. A stream of unbelievable screamed invective follows, the most printable bit of which is, “Go see fuckin’ Madonna you fuckin’ idiot piece of shit!”. He eventually gets back to the funnies, making fun of his own rage-explosion. Still, we wouldn’t have messed with him.
Not so much a heckle, this one, more a surreal intrusion, as a man (apparently called Chris) appears from nowhere and silently, inexplicably ambles right across the stage during a set by everyone’s favourite pinko-liberal comedy-deconstructionist Stewart Lee. True to form, Lee deals with it superbly, improvising deftly on the odd interruption and the nature of Comedy Festival audiences. Bravo, sir.
WEIRD WIDE WEB
Words by Karl McDonald
Run by what must be the only human being in the world more insane and poetic in writing than the actual Ghostface Killah, Big Ghost’s blog is a parody, written in the voice of Wu Tang’s Tony Starks himself. From endlessly ripping on Drake for being weak sauce to actually causing real-life beef between Ghostface and Wiz Khalifa, fake Ghostface’s blog is startlingly consistent and viciously funny.
Free jazz is nonsense, and could be randomly generated by a computer, given some basic instructions. Proof of this comes in the form of the YouTube Free Jazz site, which allows you to search for a term and then scours YouTube to put together a sound collage from pieces of various different videos. The results tend to sound like a cross between a school marching band and a radio being tuned. Just like free jazz.
For a fake sport, it’s incredibly difficult to become a successful professional wrestler. So, just like musicians, the underexposed talent of wrestling have taken to the internet in an attempt to spur an ‘underground movement’ that will get them onto TV and into people’s wallets. Colt Cabana, a Chicago wrestler, has a podcast with a different pro wrestler guest each week and a minute-long sketch comedy show amongst other things. It’s working.
STORY OF THE VIDEO
"aaagh! my eyes!"
The column that spent last night crouched in the foetal position muttering obscenities under its breath Words by Neill Dougan
Her nose buried deep in her tenth armpit of the day, Deirdre reflected that life in the Lynx deodorant factory wasn’t it all it had cracked up to be. Title: ‘The Age That You Start Losing Friends’ Director: Pip
Magherafelt boys General Fiasco are back with a bang. The video for their new single ‘The Age That You Start Losing Friends’ is an energetic, stripped-back affair, appropriately enough for the furiously-paced song. The simplicity presented a challenge for director Pip, but as he told us, the results are pretty exciting. How did you get involved with General Fiasco for the video? Their record label [Dirty Hit] is based here in London. I’d worked with some of their other acts on various photo and film projects before, so they commissioned me to do this video with the General Fiasco boys. What was the brief at the start of the project? This is an introductory single that is going to kick off their entire second album campaign, so the brief was to create a very simple, raw performance video. Nothing gimmicky or conceptual, just showing the
guys doing what they do best. They are such a great live band, so it was about trying to show this to new fans. Was there anything in particular you were trying to achieve with the finished result? It’s an energetic track, and we wanted to transfer this into the imagery. The band have a new fourth member [ex-Panama Kings guitarist Stuart Bell], so we wanted to use this video to introduce him officially to the fans. Where was the video filmed and how did it go? It was shot in a storage unit in the centre of Belfast. It was tiring day with a couple of problems throughout the production, but we pulled it off and everyone is really pleased with the result. How restrictive is it to be making a relatively simple performance video such as this? It’s a pretty difficult task. Purely because you’ve got nothing to cut away to – it’s just continuous shots of the band members in the same space. However good the track is, it’s hard to keep the viewer engaged for several minutes if it’s just a simple performance. But credit to the boys’ effort, I think despite its simplicity it has a definite energy, and it’s exciting to watch.
As Lifetime President of the Bobby Charlton Fanclub, Barry’s devotion to his idol knew no bounds.
Watch the video online at bit.ly/gftheage www.generalfiasco.co.uk www.photographybypip.co.uk
People who assumed Suzanne’s tattoo was misspelled were bang wrong. She just really loved urine.
Members: Alice Costelloe, Kacey Underwood. Formation: London, 2010. For Fans Of: Beach House, Mazzy Star, Galaxie 500. Check Out: Debut album Lights Out, out now on Mute. Website: myspace.com/weareabigdeal
Real Name: Jack Stevens Based: London For Fans Of: Joker, Todd Edwards, DJ Nate Check Out: Debut album Carrier, out September 12 on Keysound Recordings. Website: blackdownsoundboy.blogspot.com
Real Name: Chris Taylor Based: New York For Fans Of: Twin Shadow, Grizzly Bear, How To Dress Well. Check Out: Debut album Dreams Come True, out September 12 on Warp/Terrible Website: warp.net/records/cant
As listeners become more fluent in the various languages and dialects of bass music – that umbrella term that can span Funkystepz to Zomby, Diplo to DJ Mujava – artists like Sully can take more risks, jump from genre to genre, expand palates and push limits. At various points Carrier, his debut full length album, touches on grime, UK funky, footwork and mid-Nineties jungle
As resident producer, player and general soundshaper with Grizzly Bear and patron of the lo-fi arts, it was only a matter of time before the musical itinerant in Chris Taylor got round to making a solo album. Terrible Records, which he set up with Lust Boys’ Ethan Silverman a couple of years back, was something of an earlier statement of intent, hitting up some of Taylor’s pet projects and favourite new acts with a safe house for creative incubation.
While both California native Kacey Underwood and London-born Alice Costello have been involved in bands before – the former as frontman of indie-punks Little Death and the latter as a part of teenage sensations Pull In Emergency – it’s only now that they’ve got the formula exactly right. Having recently released their superb debut album, it seems that Big Deal – unlike their previous false starts – is only going to go from strength to strength. So what’s the secret to this new outfit’s success? “I think it’s the balance,” says Underwood. “We write well together and are pushing each other all the time. That didn’t happen in my past attempts, so it’s refreshing.” “Writing together is definitely key,” confirms Costelloe. “We do push each other... metaphorically and literally... into roads, cars, you name it.” While their answers and attitude in conversation are jovial enough, there’s a disturbingly powerful sense of sadness and loss that permeates the twelve, stripped-back, forlorn songs that constitute their debut. As with all the best art, that melancholy has been channelled directly from their own experience. “I had a hard year or so leading up to it,” explains Underwood. “I’m happier now.” “I’m not,” counters Costelloe. She could be joking, but it’s unlikely. Still, if things continue going well for the pair, it’s likely that will all change soon enough. Mischa Pearlman
Voices – sampled, mangled, inhuman but unbearably sweet and poignant – abound in Sully’s work. He cites both Todd Edwards and the Radiophonic Orchestra as precursors to his uncanny – in the Freudian sense of the word – manipulations, that “mix of man and machine, something familiar twisted into something unnatural”, as he puts it. You sense that temporality is important to Stevens, that a sense of timeless futurism propels his music. Asked whether it was melody or rhythm that fascinated him most, he replies, “There’s no melody without rhythm, you can’t escape time.” That tracks like ‘2Hearts’ initially invoke relatively staid signifiers like gritty urban decay, greying tower blocks, and the heartbroken UK garage swing of Burial – another artist for whom a paucity of personal information has become a selling point – works in his favour; these influences, worn proudly, show us an artist aware of his predecessors, but with the capability to surpass them. Josh Baines
THE EMERGING ACTS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT
Terrible’s ongoing success has now paved the way for this darkly droning collection of songs, released under the ‘guess his middle initials’ moniker of CANT (and under the auspices of Warp in the UK and Europe). The whole thing was recorded in about a week-and-a-half in a bedroom and has multi-intrumentalist Taylor at his most multiinstrumental, on the likes of bass, clarinet, flute, sax and accordian. CANT isn’t quite a one man, cymbals-strapped-to knees outfit, however. Musical muscle and moral support is provided by one George Lewis Jr, aka Twin Shadow, possibly returning the favour for Taylor’s fairy-dust production job on his excellent debut Forget – one of the great Terrible triumphs of 2010. The more immediate moments (such as the slinky ‘Answer’) in fact quite closely mirror Forget’s poppy Eighties fun. But overall, it’s a lugubrious, Lynchian menace that pervades Dreams Come True. Joe Nawaz
Real Name: Based: For Fans Of: Check Out: Website:
Chris Glover New York Holy Ghost!, Prince, Talking Heads. Debut album Penguin Prison, out now on Stranger Records. www.penguinprison.com
Penguin Prison is one-man, alt-disco conjuror Chris Glover; finally stepping out of the long shadows to claim the crown of New York’s new king of synth. Celebrated as a master remixer, Glover finally took time-out from improving other people’s records to make one of his own. The native of Manhattan’s Upper East Side is well versed in the storied history of the Big Apple’s electro/disco/funk scene, and in fact his debut record is something of an homage to his musical roots. With the guiding hand of Dan Grech-Marguerat at the controls, he’s succeeded in creating an essential album, dotted with electropop gems. It’s addictive and instant, yet with a fascinating range of ideas. Greatness surely awaits... “I guess it’s something of a cliché, but I suppose the record has that New York sound,” he tells AU from his Manhattan apartment. “It’s heavily influenced by acts from my home town and other funky stuff. Talking Heads, LCD Soundsystem and Prince, they’re all in there somewhere! Yet, it’s very much my record. I’m the only musician on the album and for me the entire process was something of a labour of love.” However, when Chris hits the road, Penguin Prison will be brought to life in the company of a full band. “I guess it’s a little strange to play with other people. It’s like your little baby, you nurtured it and now you have to loosen controls and invite more people to get involved! Live, I think the tracks work really well. I play guitar, sing and reluctantly, I have other people, great musicians all, on synth and percussion duties. It’s a whole lot of fun on stage – we want people to get down and shake it! I think the music feels more ‘human’ in a concert setting. We’ve done some shows in New York and across the US, but are hoping to head over your direction in the Spring.” The creative process is also very much a solo pursuit for Glover. He favours developing ideas in splendid isolation before bringing them to life in the studio. “It’s something I like to do in my own time, on my terms. I’ll come up with a melody and get it down on tape. On another occasion this drum sequence will start to kick and it’s about fitting a keyboard riff and melody around it. I’ve been making this record on-and-off for two years and I’ve had to be patient at times. For most of that time I had a day job and chiselled away at the record whenever I had an opportunity. I’d work three or four tracks to near completion and then revisit a few months later and apply the finishing touches. It feels almost like a lifetime ago since I started!” Eamonn Seoige
Apparat On his first solo album for four years, Sascha Ring has left dance music behind in favour of ornate electronic pop. AU chats to the Berlin native about that transformation, what it is to be a romantic, and his new role as the frontman of a “rock and roll” band. Words by Darragh McCausland Listen to any one of the tracks on Apparat’s lush new album The Devil’s Walk, and a natural first response might be ‘who are these guys’? You see, the complex, densely arranged, and multi-instrumental music on the record sounds like the work of a post rock band such as Sigur Rós. That it was made by a man who is still better known for wearing the cap he started out with (as a techno producer and DJ), is testament to Sascha Ring’s irrepressible talent. But not surprising. Ring has refused to stand still over the course of a long career that began with dancefloor-oriented techno and since progressed to take in ambient music, collaborative electronic pop, and now, on The Devil’s Walk, a grandly ambitious sounding full-band endeavour that could be one of the year’s biggest crossovers. “It’s quite an organic-sounding record,” says Ring, sounding cheery on the phone from his Berlin home. “That definitely comes from playing with a band. Even though you will hear electronic sounds and effects in there, the timing is human and I like that.” Indeed, he seems to have taken to the band experience like a duck to water, joking about touring “rock and roll-style on a Nightliner bus” and being able “to experience this whole different
‘listening’ music, but when I’ve played it live I’ve always compromised in a way. I always ended up remixing it for the live situation, putting in beats that weren’t there, because I played club shows all the time. But with this record I want to do it differently. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy doing it the other way before, but artistically it is just more rewarding to play the music appropriately to a crowd that appreciates it”. And it seems like he’s overcome the awkwardness of the early shows, too. “Yeah, I’m definitely more into it now and it’s getting more fun. I realise that of course playing live is going to be fucking hard for me if I am that introspective dude who doesn’t connect with the crowd. If I play like I enjoy it, then the crowd enjoys it, the band enjoys it, and that’s what makes it easier. This is a lesson I’ve learned.” Another big learning experience for Ring was discovering a hitherto untapped ability to sing. “That first happened when I was working with my friend Ellen [Allien] on our collaboration Orchestra Of Bubbles. I was basically forced to do it. Since then I’ve been singing more or less for myself in the studio.” Interestingly, this chance moment was a creative eye-opener for him and it appears that
poem by Shelley.” Intriguingly, however, while he willingly criticises the state of Berlin techno for other reasons (“too much formula”, “increasingly affected by club owners and money and profit”), he doesn’t see romance or emotion playing a role in that sort of music. “I only did one DJ night this year. But I realised that night that techno works not because of emotion or anything like that. Techno has a function. It is functional music that helps people escape. I mean if you think about it, it is a dark room full of people dancing and strobe lights and repeating music. That is what it is for. And that is beautiful in its way too.” The location where Apparat recorded The Devil’s Walk was about as far away from a strobe-lit darkened Berlin warehouse as you could get. “We recorded it in Sayulita in Mexico which is a beautiful place, and the studio was near the ocean,” he says; and while he feels that the location did not inspire the songs themselves, “the beautiful weather and location” had a definite effect on how they were recorded. It also influenced the cover art, an ornate ‘day of the dead’ style image of Ring dressed as a Conquistador presiding over a table full of skulls, with the Devil’s shadow looming behind him.
“I realised that the human voice is more or less the most direct instrument you can play” music lifestyle”. Yet the transition from playing solo perched behind a laptop, as he used to, to being the frontman of a proper band must have presented some difficulties? “It was difficult to play live for the first few shows,” he says, describing the few gigs he has already played touring the new album in Europe. “It took me quite a few shows to do that transformation from laptop geek to some kind of frontman. I had to realise that there are quite a few eyes on me including the audience and even the band. If I act insecure that’s going to transfer to the guys in the band and to the crowd. It’s not going to be fun.” It sounds like he is describing one of the classic points of divergence between live dance and rock. Whereas the rock experience requires personality, onstage hi-jinks, presence, and charisma, the DJ’s or producer’s traditional function is more anonymous – it is the cult of the track which counts, and the person selecting the music is in the background, physically situated behind a mixing desk or laptop. Ring elaborates on a slow realisation he experienced around these differences: “You could say the kind of music I’ve been making for quite a while now is
discovering his singing voice has had a significant effect on the increasingly emotive path his music has furrowed since. “I realised that the human voice is more or less the most direct instrument you can play,” he says. “It’s really intuitive and the result is often much closer to a creative idea than it is if you need an interface like your hands or a computer to capture an idea. When I worked on The Devil’s Walk I wanted to change my way of working. I didn’t want to just layer sounds to make a song more intense like I used to do before. I wanted to build the song quite close to the original idea and its emotion. That’s the reason I sing so much on the record; not because I had my story to tell, but because of the emotional qualities of the human voice as an instrument”. ‘Emotion’ – it’s a word that crops up again and again talking to Ring, and it is as good a descriptor as any for the stirring ebb and flow of The Devil’s Walk. Another good descriptor might be ‘romantic’, in the literary as opposed to the Hollywood sense. Does he consider the music on The Devil’s Walk romantic? “Yes, definitely. It’s funny you should say that, because the title of the album is taken from a
“That was inspired by the painter Posada,” he says. “When I visit another country, I always try to find out lots about its culture and when I checked out Mexican art I discovered this guy Posada. The guy was quite a social critic, and then I discovered that Shelley poem and found out he was writing about the same sort of thing. The meanings are similar and very relevant today.” The poem and Posada’s art prod and satirise the hypocrisy of the moneyed classes, and it is not surprising that they chime with an East German wary of his adopted home city of Berlin becoming a “techno industry”. Yet in spite of the album’s earnestness and all the talk of romantic poets and political painters, Sascha Ring remains animated at heart by a party spirit. “I can’t wait to go on the tourbus with this record,” he says, sounding like the polar opposite of every moany rock star ever. “It’s going to feel like a school trip.” The Devil’s Walk is out on September 26 via Mute Records www.apparat.net
When Nirvana played the King’s Hall in Belfast they were arguably the biggest rock band in the world. They had been elevated to that position by the success of Nevermind, their second album, an instant classic and bible for a disaffected generation. On the 20th anniversary of its release, we look back at the album that made Nirvana and would, eventually, break them. Nirvana’s performance at Belfast’s King’s Hall on Monday, June 22, 1992 was the group’s only show in Northern Ireland and their last indoor UK and Ireland gig. They had originally been booked to play the University of Ulster’s Conor Hall in late 1991. The largely un-anticipated success of Nevermind led to the postponement of that gig. Eventually, though, some eight months later – and having been upgraded first to the Ulster Hall and, finally, The King’s Hall – Nirvana made their Belfast bow. The rapid escalation in size of venue gives some indication of the speed with which the Nevermind-propelled band had become a genuine global phenomenon. I remember the show, my first ever concert, only vaguely. More than the gig itself, I distinctly recall the walk through Musgrave Park to the venue. It was a sweltering summer’s day, small pockets of teenage boys – only boys, it seemed – huddled around park benches, looking like escapees from Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, all lumberjack shirts and distressed denim, swilling illicitly from tins of cheap beer and even cheaper cider. The King’s Hall itself was aircraft hangar huge, cold and imposing, all unforgiving steel and brute concrete. I had little interest in the bright guitar jangle of opening act Teenage Fanclub, though I do remember being captivated by the other support act, The Breeders. Cobain had described the latter’s 1990 album Pod as being hugely influential, “an epic that will never let you forget your ex-girlfriend”. As for Nirvana, well, I’d like to be able to relay details, what Kurt said, which songs really gripped me, but at this remove what remains are mere impressions – the tide-like sway of the tight crowd, the tinnitus-inducing loudness of it all and Cobain’s unholy howl. For many, myself included, witnessing Nirvana was a defining moment. Local musicians such as Tim Wheeler – whose own band Ash formed that same year – and Cahir O’Doherty –
THE GIG “I was 15. It was the end of the school term. I have vague recollections, but I remember getting into the moshpit. I was pretty young and small, but there were loads of other teenagers there; it seemed a pretty young crowd. One other detail I remember is Kurt pirouetting onstage to Tori Amos’s version of
Fighting With Wire not even a twinkle in his eye – were both in the crowd (see sidebars). Stories regarding the evening are legion. For example, it was in Belfast that Cobain acquired his famous Dennis The Menace-style knitwear. According to one version of the story, the frontman hauled a punk being beaten up by bouncers out of the King’s Hall crowd and sent him backstage. There, the fan was met by Courtney Love – Cobain’s bride of little more than four months. Love took an immediate shine to the punk’s red and black striped jumper – ripped though it was from where the punk had clambered over a fence in Botanic Gardens earlier that evening. Love bought the jumper for £30 and, as Kurt came offstage, she was seen to pull the top over his head. I’d heard this story for years and believed it to be a myth, but, in 2004, the BBC Across The Line team tracked down the punk and unwitting fashion muse – one Chris Black, originally from Whitehead in County Antrim. At the time, a spokesman for the band confirmed to the Melody Maker that there had been a skirmish with bouncers at the gig. “Kurt saw a bouncer beating up a kid so he went to intervene... a scuffle broke out and the bouncer came round behind [Cobain] and punched him in the side of his stomach a couple of times. I think the guy has since been sacked. Kurt was complaining of the pain the next day.” Altogether more troubling were the allegations that Cobain was suffering from more than mere stomach pains – he’d already felt moved to respond to insinuations in a recent Rolling Stone article regarding his drug use: “All drugs are a waste of time. They destroy your memory and your self-respect and everything that goes along with your selfesteem.” Nonetheless, the morning after the Belfast show Cobain collapsed at breakfast, at the Europa Hotel. Given that the show was only their second of the tour – they’d played the Point in Dublin the
‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ [His first words to the crowd were, ‘I love Tori Amos’]. Also, at the end of the set, when they’re smashing up all the kit – something I’d really been looking forward to – Dave Grohl was playing the drumbeat from ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’. After, we hung about the stage door after the show and got autographs from Kurt, Dave Grohl and Courtney Love – didn’t get Kris Novoselic’s. Years later, I asked Dave Grohl about the gig and he told me that, when he was a teenager, he almost moved to Northern Ireland. His mum was a teacher and apparently she got offered a job that would have meant the family moving over here.”
previous night – there were a number of journalists in Belfast scheduled to conduct interviews with the Nirvana frontman. When they were told that he was “unavailable”, they went in search of a different story; namely, why was he unavailable? There were scenes of farce as the band’s UK publicist Anton Brookes tried to usher reporters out of the Europa lobby, hoping to stop them see Cobain being stretchered out. He wasn’t successful. “I just saw Kurt in an ambulance,” one reporter announced. Cobain had often spoken of his chronic stomach problems – the official line to the press following his hospitalisation in Belfast was that it was a flare-up of this longstanding condition caused by a failure to take his methadone pills. Lately, however, there had been dark mutterings of heroin abuse, increasingly so since his marriage to Courtney. Later in the year, Vanity Fair would publish an infamous story claiming Love was so dependent that she continued using heroin during her pregnancy. Not surprisingly, the Belfast collapse was rumoured to be a heroin OD. Journalists at the time were unable to get conclusive evidence. Medical staff who attended Cobain refused to give out details - it was alleged they’d been pressured into signing nondisclosure forms. The storm clouds were closing in. However, despite their mounting troubles, it seemed that the band were, at this time, still able to eke some enjoyment out of the Nirvana experience. “That was one of the best shows we’ve ever had. The reception was amazing,” Cobain told an MTV interviewer a few days after the Belfast show. His bandmates seemed equally enthused, Kris Novoselic citing his particular enjoyment of a sightseeing tour the group had taken. “We were in West Belfast,” he recalled. “That was wild”.
THE INFLUENCE “Ash literally formed the month before the show. Previously I’d been in this fivepiece metal band, Vietnam. At least, we were trying very hard to be a metal band, but failing really embarrassingly. It was because of Nirvana that me and Mark decided to become a three-piece, to really strip things down. I’d never had that much confidence in my voice before, but hearing Kurt Cobain, I thought, ‘Fuck it. It doesn’t have to be perfect’. Nirvana also influenced us to simplify our sound, to have that mix of noise and strong melodies. The songwriting was so good it really inspired
me, and the sheer energy of their music made us want to be a fast-paced band.” THE LEGACY “There’s something about the legacy when someone dies young, it’s easy to mythologise them. But the music of Nirvana stands up to the myth. They had that strong appeal to teenagers both before and after Kurt’s death, those feelings of alienation. He’ll remain an icon. And they were great because they had this nerdy aspect, but were so aggressive too. They’re a classic teenage band and the music will stand up forever.”
THE GIG “The ticket was a 15th birthday present from my parents – I turned 15 the day after the gig. I went down on the bus and actually Jamie King [FWW bassist] was also on it. He was only 13. During The Breeders’ set, Kurt Cobain was at the right hand side of the stage, sticking his head out between the speakers and giving the fingers. Then, when Nirvana came out, this massive moshpit erupted. We were just bouncing up and down when, out of nowhere, this huge rocker came flying out of nowhere and hit me on the neck. I heard this crunching noise and freaked out. I crowdsurfed over to the far side of the stage and got out of the way. I spent the rest of the gig right at the side of the stage, just staring. I didn’t want to venture back into the crowd because they were going bananas. I couldn’t tell you what Nirvana played, my eyes were locked on the stage. I was mesmerised.” THE INFLUENCE “Someone gave me a copy of Bleach and that kicked me off. Then came Nevermind. That flipped me completely. When I heard it, I was like, ‘Holy shit, this is amazing’. I’d wanted a cool rock band to listen to, somebody unpretentious and with killer songs and strong melodies. Nirvana was the band for me. Later, that translated to my band. I wanted to write similarly catchy songs, but with that raw, visceral quality.” THE LEGACY “Essentially, the legacy of Nirvana is their amazing songwriting. Those songs are timeless. With Nevermind they delivered the ultimate kick to the balls, amazing playing and songs. They also undermined that idea that songs had to tell a story, that the lyrics had to be clear. Kurt Cobain screamed and spat his lyrics out. That was so much more interesting than whatever bullshit Axl Rose was hollering about women. Kurt was a guy who just couldn’t hack it. He didn’t try and hide it, he was completely honest about his dislike for the industry. His story is a great example to wannabe rock stars – pity many choose not to listen.”
Bloated, big bag of bloatation - Drunk Bound-and-hagged - Staying home on Friday or Saturday night Cob nobbler - Loser Dish - Desirable guy Fuzz - Heavy wool sweaters Harsh realm - Bummer Kickers - Heavy boots Lamestain - Uncool person Plats - Platform shoes Rock on - A happy goodbye Score - Great Swingin’ on the flippity-flop - Hanging out Tom-tom club - Uncool outsiders Wack slacks - Old ripped jeans *if you believed the New York Times
Such opportunities, not least the thrill of performing to some of the biggest audiences of their career, were a happy by-product of their recent accomplishments. To outsiders, it seemed like the world was opening its arms to Nirvana. Unfortunately, Cobain didn’t want to accept the embrace, a clinch he already found suffocating. At the end of the MTV interview, the trio were asked if they had the time to enjoy their success. Their answers, though plainly loaded with sarcasm, are revealing. Cobain: “...it’s nothing, but misery and heartache”. Novoselic: “Only pain, suffering and death”. Dave Grohl: “I wish I’d blown my head off and gone straight to hell”. It was Nevermind, the band’s second album, which both made them and sowed the seeds of their destruction. Not since the first advent of punk in the late-Seventies had the musical world witnessed an impact event of such magnitude. Nevermind shifted the tectonic plates of rock, hastening the demise of the poodle-haired dinosaurs who’d dominated since the Eighties. It didn’t so much open the door for a new generation, as kick it clean off its hinges. Fired by the success of single ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, which was on constant rotation on MTV, the album was, by the end of 1991, selling somewhere in the region of 400,000 units a week. In the process it displaced old idols, Michael Jackson’s Dangerous unceremoniously booted off the top of the Billboard album chart to make way for the raggedy upstarts. An undoubted commercial success, Nevermind had an even greater cultural impact. Soon grunge was being co-opted by the mainstream, as major labels hoovered-up Seattle based bands, or, bands that cynically based their sound on Seattle. Fashion designers began hawking the thrift-store chic look, models parading down the catwalks of Milan and London in the trademark lumberjack shirts and Doc Martens. There were editorials in the daily
newspapers, journalists trying to make sense of this new phenomenon. A band spokesman was barely exaggerating when he said, “They’re the most copy-worthy band in the world right now. I mean, how many times did Kurt supposedly die in a car crash last year? Some people claim he started the LA riots. It’s all bullshit.” The New York Times was even suckered into running an article on ‘Grunge Speak’ (see sidebar, left). Purporting to inform its readers how to speak the scene lingo, what the ‘cob nobblers’ at the renowned publication didn’t realise was that it was a hoax perpetrated by Sub Pop’s then receptionist Megan Jasper – apparently Jasper had been irritated by the demands of one of the its reporters. In short, Nevermind was a game-changer. As John Parales – somewhat more informed than certain other colleagues at the New York Times – opined, “Suddenly, all bets are off. No one has the inside track on which of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of ornery, obstreperous, unkempt bands might next appeal to the mall-walking millions.” Appealing to the “mall-walking millions” didn’t particularly appeal to Kurt Cobain. He didn’t want to win the unthinking minds of the masses. Indeed, Nevermind was initially to be titled Sheep, a wry dig at the sort of people he expected to purchase the album. In his journal, Cobain scrawled the following, ‘Sheep: Because you want to, Not because everyone else is’. Retitled Nevermind, the record marked the final stage in Nirvana’s emergence from the underground into the bright lights of the big time. Cobain wilted in the glare. As the NME’s Keith Cameron so memorably put it, in six months Nirvana had gone from “nobodies to superstars to fuck-ups”. International acclaim and popularity was not something Cobain, the shy, but supremely gifted boy from Aberdeen, Washington
Tori Amos (‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ intro) Aneurysm Drain You Stay Away Sliver School In Bloom Breed About A Girl Scoff Polly
Lithium Blew Been A Son On A Plain Swap Meet Negative Creep Come As You Are Love Buzz [Shocking Blue cover] Smells Like Teen Spirit Territorial Pissings
[population in 2010 census recorded as just 16,896] had envisaged for his band. With Nevermind, he thought he was making a punk record. Even the cover art – an infant swimming underwater towards a dollar-bill on a fishhook – was designed to provoke. When record label Geffen objected to the fact that the baby’s penis was visible, Cobain refused to back down. His only compromise, a sticker which would cover the infant’s genitals, albeit one that stated, “If you’re offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile.” Not surprisingly, the record company relented. Butch Vig was chosen as producer on the strength of his work with noiserock renegades Killdozer. Andy Wallace, co-producer of Slayer’s Seasons In The Abyss, was brought in to mix the record and make the songs as heavy-sounding as possible. However, whilst Nevermind is heavy and abrasive, it’s also indisputably pop, with countless melodic pearls to be found amidst the grit. Later, the band would express their dismay at the record’s production. In Come As You Are, Michael Azerrad’s biography of the band, Cobain even went so far as to state that he was, “embarrassed by it now. It’s closer to a Mötley Crüe record than it is a punk rock record.” Nonetheless, it was those intuitive melodies, as much as Cobain’s charisma and zeitgeist-defining sentiments which proved seductive.
The record’s lyrics seemed to get to the anxious core of Generation X, a group the author John Ulrich described as, “Young people... who face an uncertain, ill-defined and perhaps hostile future.” He could have been describing Nirvana postNevermind. The band’s behaviour was becoming ever more erratic, be it Cobain appearing on MTV’s Headbangers Ball in drag, or his bandmates sharing a kiss at the close of the band’s kit-decimating performance on Saturday Night Live. Other times they didn’t perform at all; several shows were cancelled in the summer of 1992 and the band outright refused to sign up for a fullscale American tour. However, Cobain recovered sufficiently from his Belfast collapse for the band to make one of their most celebrated appearances at that year’s Reading Festival, the frontman – openly mocking the rumours about his ill-health – pushed onstage in a wheelchair by journalist, and early champion of the band, Everett True. Such unpredictability added to the appeal, but, in hindsight, the wayward behaviour was symptomatic of a band whose talent far outstripped their ability to deal with the pressures of fame. They would struggle on. 1993 saw the release of In Utero, their third and final studio album, a record that was in places bleaker, more intense and, for some, more darkly brilliant than its predecessor. Sadly, the focus now was as much on Cobain’s personal flaws as his musical gifts. With a catalogue of overdoses and suicide threats already behind him, the end, when it came, was grimly predictable. In death, he would become the poster boy for the disaffected, his image unfairly immortalised as the “miserable, selfdestructive death-rocker” his suicide note revealed he feared he’d become. On the 20th anniversary of Nevermind, perhaps it’s time to look beyond the popular image of ‘Kurt Cobain, messiah and martyr’ and remember Kurt Cobain the musician. The music he made in his short life – not least Nevermind – was important; it changed lives, just as it changed the music industry. To paraphrase John Farley, Nevermind wasn’t so much the moment Nirvana went mainstream, rather it was the album that forced the mainstream to go Nirvana. The Nevermind 20th anniversary reissue is out on September 23 via Universal Music.
Chuck Palahniuk Infernal Love The notion of a novel narrated by a 13-year-old girl condemned to hell might seem in poor taste, the kind of assault on common decency which is often associated with the author of Choke, Rant and, of course, Fight Club. But Chuck Palahniuk is no shock jock and to charge him with literary effrontery is to miss the point of his novels, which often function as moral and cultural thermometers of our times. Damned, the prolific writer’s latest, details how children are affected by a world fixated on surface image and unrealistic expectations. It’s funny and sweet yet just as barbed, but then you can’t have roses without thorns... Words by Ross Thompson Illustration by Rebecca Hendin Chuck Palahniuk has so often described hellish visions of America that it was only a matter of time that he would choose to describe hell itself. And this is no Looney Tunes underworld where hydrant red demons poke tridents into the pudgy bottoms of cartoon characters. Fittingly, the bowels of hell are constructed from unpleasant fluids and bodily detritus, with a landscape of dandruff deserts and noxious puke lakes. Surprisingly, the inspiration for this grotesque vista was fairly mundane. “When you go on a book tour they put you in these very fancy hotels,” Chuck says, his voice gentler and softer than you might expect. “They have ‘The Author’s Suite’ where there is always a stream of celebrities and authors on book tours. There are always books left behind from those who have occupied there previously, and you know from the dates exactly who has slept in the bed leading up to the night that you are there. I find it so fascinating that I am sleeping in this bed that Jane Fonda slept in the night before. I find myself scouring the room for stray hairs and scabs and pulling back the sheet to check the mattress for stains and evidence of these famous people. That idea of all these fingernail clippings, dried skin and my obsession with forensic evidence became my basis for hell.” Plonked into this Brueghel-meets-Gil Grissom world is Madison, your typically gawky, half-fledged teen with milk bottle glasses, fat that wouldn’t even be seen on a puppy and uncooperative hair. Curiously, Chuck says it wasn’t too much of a stretch to find her voice. “Someday, and forgive me for even going there, when your folks are gone you will start to remember what you were like before puberty, when you were a kid, this androgynous thing, performing for your parents and longing for their approval. Writing as Madison was a fun reverse kind of therapy, trying to remember what I was like before I was one gender or the other.”
Madison is a caviller and a questioner whose devil-may-care spunkiness is reminiscent of that of the eponymous heroine in Jane Eyre, who begins that novel in her own private hell: confined within a prison of curtains, withdrawing into books and the wild moors of her imagination. This self-prescribed seclusion mirrors the relationship the reader has with a novel, particularly those written by Chuck himself, who describes the art as “a solitary pastime which you do away from other people. The reader is already someone in isolation and contemplation so I often pick my characters as people in isolation who are trying to rejoin a community.” He most often favours the first person narrative, an approach he modestly attributes to Tom Spanbauer, legendary American novelist and proponent of “dangerous writing”. Palahniuk continues, “You internalise that voice. At first it might be a challenge but the longer you stay with it the more you become accustomed to it. The language in Pygmy, for example, is so occluded and dense that I was able to write far more upsetting and confrontational things but in an indirect way. I could get people to look at things that they would never read all the way through by making the language so strange and clouded. My editor was really offended by the scene where the father is sedated to the point that he loses his bladder control and his children argue about whose turn it is to change his diaper. He thought that was just too humiliating, but I insisted that there was a similar humiliation of the mother.” The issue of obscenity and the verboten continues to cloud Chuck’s output, as he admits himself: “It takes a certain amount of courage to open up those books in your off time.” He appears to have complete creative freedom in his work, brazenly breezing through taboos, sacred cows and bêtes noires without being restrained by editorial red pen. “I don’t feel as if I have gone far enough unless there is something I really regret,” Chuck says, half-jokingly. “When I finish the book I
Cult Appeal Few writers are more in tune with their readership than Chuck Palahniuk. The author, now with a dozen novels behind him, regularly heads out on book tours where audience interaction is paramount and where the prizes are signed, dated inflatable objects. Further, he gives freely of his time to The Cult (chuckpalahniuk.net), his ‘official website’ which is moderated entirely by fans, for whom he provides virtual workshops, essays and feedback on their work. The site is a genuine community where members share ideas, links and insights. Definitely worth a visit or three. don’t want to spend my life thinking, ‘Dammit, why didn’t I do that?’ Over time I will change and in the future I will wish that I had done all these braver, more extreme things. I should just do them upfront. There has always been a little bit of a dance, going back to Fight Club, where I will put in some things that are going too far that I know that the editor will object to, and I can argue about things that I am not very attached to so I can get through the things I am attached to. So, there is always that give and take.” It must grow tiring, however, when critics harp on about how outré Chuck’s writing is, how its
collection about “critics who want to create and incubate a piece of art and to bring it fully formed into the world. But they have spent their entire careers finding fault with things that they can’t create anything and end up destroying themselves.” Their individual stories were partly inspired by equally embarrassing and tragic real-life accounts relayed to Chuck by fans and friends. “It’s only because I will go there in my writing that people feel safe telling me those aspects of their lives,” Chuck says. “It’s only going to get worse.” The novel’s most striking aspect is the way in which it charts the many inventive ways for human beings
seminal gossip columns, which was written “while my mother was being treated for cancer and in the hospital at her bedside while she was sedated”, or Knock-Knock, written exclusively for reading on tour, a short story about his late father which does not so much open old wounds as rend them asunder. “Unless a story feels devastating to me then it’s a waste of time. Tom Spanbauer teaches all his students that the only things that are worth writing about are those unresolved aspects of your life that are horrible and frightening. The therapy you
“You should never be writing to get money or get famous – you’re writing to get well” undiluted scenes of – and here, of course, I’m harping too – body horror are tough to stomach and hard to like. “Well, there are two mitigating aspects to ‘they don’t like it’. One, they’re not going to forget it. That evening when Chuck read the ‘Guts’ story will be a landmark in their life. Two, as time passes people change and the person who doesn’t like the story today is not going to be the same person a few years from now. Eventually people at a different point in their life will pick up the book and get past that part. People might change but the novel is always there.” Ah, yes, ‘Guts’, the infamous story which for good or bad has become Chuck’s calling card. The funny thing is that this shaggy dog tale about sex injuries which led to mass fainting at public readings is not the darkest thing in Haunted, a portmanteau
to die. Self-cannibalism or falling into a boiling hot spring, to name two of the most memorable. “I find an element of pathos in the idea that people survive long enough to recognise their mistake and their carelessness. It’s heartbreaking that they are alive yet cannot communicate the awareness that they are dying.” It is this element of pathos that readers often miss in Chuck’s work. They are so taken by the superficial scatology and biological terminology that they miss the heart beating beneath. What makes his novels truly harrowing but ultimately transcendent is his willingness to talk about human frailty and the very things which threaten to break our hearts and ruin our bodies: doubt, fear, disease, the aging process and all the other everyday horsemen. Take TellAll, a scathing assault on celebrity filtered through golden age Hollywood and Walter Winchell’s
receive will be the thing that keeps you coming back to the project. You should never be writing to get money or get famous – you’re writing to get well.” Palahniuk fans will be happy to know that he is already at work on two follow-ups to Damned, which see Madison sent to purgatory and heaven, and promise to be equally devastating. “My editor was concerned because when everyone reads The Divine Comedy they love The Inferno but hate Paradise. It’s boring because Dante meets Beatrice and is happy and nobody wants to read that. I had to promise my editor that the second and third books after Damned would be far more upsetting. Heaven is actually going to be a lot more confronting and difficult than hell ever was.” Damned will be published in October by Random House
Red Roof presents
Peter Doherty Rescheduled show - original tickets still vaild
Fri 16th Sept Mandela Hall, Belfast Tickets from Ticketmaster outlets and Queenâ€™s Student Union
Think of world-class surfing and what comes to mind? Huge waves off the coast of California or Hawaii? The Pacific coast of Australia, maybe? Well, you can go to all these places, but you don’t have to. In the last decade Ireland has begun to establish itself as one of the finest surfing destinations in the world – it may be a bit chillier than the more glamorous hotspots, but the surf is no less challenging. In an exclusive piece for AU, Belfast-born big wave surfer Al Mennie explains the appeal – and why Irish surfing is at the top of its game. Photography by Gary McCall and Conn Osborne There I was, standing in a jam-packed auditorium in California at the Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards in April 2008. The atmosphere was electric with all the biggest names in surfing frothing at the mouth to see footage of the biggest waves ridden from around the globe. My friends Andrew Cotton from Devon and South African Duncan Scott were with me. We had been invited to attend after riding the record breaking swell of 14.4m on December 1, 2007, off Mullaghmore Head, County Sligo. This was not the first time we had ridden waves off our coast that were worthy of recognition in the event, but it was certainly the biggest entries we had posted to date. The Billabong XXL contest is a big wave event, were both photographers and surfers record huge waves being ridden and prizes are awarded to the biggest and hairiest rides. I suppose you could call it the Oscars of big wave surfing. A short, intense video reel was played showing the highlights from the past year and our section, filmed by Ozzie Justin Avery, certainly looked like it deserved to be there.
When the film reel finished, former world champion surfer, Mark Occhilupo of Australia, took to the stage as MC for the evening. “I just want to say congratulations to Alastair, Andrew and Duncan for bringing Irish surfing to the world stage,” he began. “It truly is amazing how big wave surfing is now not confined to the waters off Hawaii and California.” Fifty yards away, one of surfing’s greatest icons had publicly addressed us, and we were all stunned. This event has been dominated by the more traditional shores of Hawaii and California for years. In recent times South Africans had stamped their presence on it, Basque rider Axi Muniain and surfers from Tasmania were smashing the door down too. There is no doubt that with us involved the big wave map was being redrawn once again. So how did we get to this point? What amazes me is the fact that these huge waves have been breaking off our coasts for years yet for some reason, 99% of surfers still thought if you
Photo: Al Mennie at Castlerock. By Conn Osborne
benjamin sanchis at mullaghmore, co. sligo. by gary mccall wanted to ride big waves you had to go to the Pacific because that is where the photos and videos all came from. A very small crew of us realised the potential of this island to rival any of the famous big wave spots around the globe and set about tackling the huge untamed beasts of over 60ft which smash into our coasts every winter and which, until this century, went un-ridden. A quiet revolution was beginning to gather momentum. “My first memories of big wave surfing in Ireland are cold, empty and eerie, with no-one around, not even surfers. That’s what made it so scary, and not just the size of the waves.” These are the memories of Andrew Cotton during our mid-winter solo missions at various spots up and down the coast in 2004. We spent so much time surfing big waves on our own, scoping out new spots, with no back-up other than two mates keeping an eye on us from a cliff somewhere. This isn’t Hawaii, with safety crews and lifeguards waiting in boats to pluck surfers from danger. This solitude made us totally self-reliant and completely dependent upon each other. The bond
we have is unique and based on experiences of complete stoke [excitement –Ed.] and also complete disaster. The moments of stoke in big waves can be anything from either of us riding a huge wave, to plucking each other to safety on a jetski before a huge wave smashes our buddy, to dealing with something going wrong quickly. Likewise, there are lots of moments of disaster. For us those have included losing a jetski in 30ft surf, having a helmet broken in a wipeout and having a knee brace ripped off an already torn anterior cruciate ligament under a 60ft wave. Most of these things are enough to put most sane people off going back in the sea ever again. Though, imagine a North West 200 racer coming off his bike at 170mph and surviving; I don’t think it would stop him getting back on the bike once he was recovered. Or a jockey thrown from his horse and injured – it’s not likely to scare him into quitting after recovery. The key to us not giving up after something significant happens to us has been to accept that stoke and disaster scenarios arise in every session
and by accepting them we have been able to prepare for them. For example, Andrew Cotton knew that when he fell and got his knee mangled that despite being held down and smashed by two huge, cold waves, waves as big as five-storey office blocks, I was coming for him. He knew that somewhere I was trying to get to him, and I did. Actions speak louder than words in this extreme end of surfing. We have been through the mill so many times that we now have complete trust and faith in the people we surf with and know that no matter what happens, one of us will get the other out when things like that happen. I knew that when I fell on a 40-footer, in the worst place possible, and took a hit that cracked my helmet, blurred my vision and temporarily deafened me that someone was in there looking for me and before long they would pull me out. This isn’t about throwing a board on the roof so everyone can see we are surfers, driving down to White Rocks beach near Portrush and jumping in two-foot waves on a Saturday afternoon in July for an hour. My point is that what we do in big wave surfing is so far from that stereotypical image of
Al’s most memorable moments… Riding a giant wave on December 1, 2007 at Mullaghmore Head, almost losing my balance half way down it as the wave sucked so much water from the reef but being able to ride it out to the channel. That ride gave me a high for about three months!
Seeing Cotty [Andrew Cotton] in pain as I pulled him onto the ski after a huge wipeout at Mullaghmore, having injured his leg & hip. Seeing Cotty riding a giant wave at Prowlers just after knee surgery and six
months out of water. Warrior! Watching Duncan go straight to the bottom of a giant wave at Mullaghmore before being obliterated. 10 minutes later, he was on another giant wave.
Paddling over a 40-footer at Mullaghmore Head in 2008 on my own to see an even bigger one coming, hunt me down and detonate right on top of me.
the blin, portballintrae. by gary mccall
tom doidge-harrison at aileen’s, co. clare. by gary mccall surfing that it is almost like a different sport. We enter a gladiator-style arena where loyalty and trust in each other matters more than anything I can liken to ordinary surfing. Even today, 10 years down the line, we still have huge wave sessions on our own at times with little or no back-up or jetski support so we have to trust each other 100% or we feel unprepared. How is this completely different to ordinary surfing, you may be wondering. Let me explain. I don’t know any ordinary surfer who worries about survival and certainly no-one that trains for it. Not only do we train by surfing every day, most of us cross train using weights, bikes, swimming, paddling and underwater training so that we can improve confidence in huge seas but also survive. We train on jetskis to rescue each other in situations unimaginable to a non-surfer. We use 3D models Al’s top five big wave facts… These waves are happening in the depths of winter, not in summer as the stereotype may suggest. When paddling in big waves, some of us wear a thin life vest under our wetsuits. When being towed into giant waves by a jetski, we wear another heavy-duty impact vest over the top. Our surfboards are specially designed for us and our conditions in this country. I have a superstition that I am the only one allowed to pull my zip up on my wetsuit or it’s bad luck. If we are tow surfing, Cotty always surfs the first wave and I drive the first one before swapping roles. For some reason, if we do it the other way round, it never works.
dunluce castle, co. antrim. by gary mccall
of the ocean floor to determine where to surf and calculate the types of swells needed for particular areas of the coast to produce huge waves. This isn’t me grandstanding: these are just the vast differences between what is required to go and surf at a local beach on any given day and the level of preparation involved in surfing on giant days. My friend Eric Akiskalian is a big wave surfer from California. Eric has been trying to get over here to surf a giant swell with us for as long as I’ve known him. He owns a website called towsurfer.com which often runs news features and articles on current big wave surfing around the globe. He has covered lots of stories on us over the years. “At first, when we started seeing the footage from Ireland everyone was rather surprised and shocked but now we expect giant swells and results to come from that part of the world each and every year.” It used to be that surfers on this island thought we had to go to California and Hawaii, but now we are getting emails from people like Eric and other big names in the sport contacting us and wanting to come here to surf our giant waves. Famous surfers from Hawaii, California, South Africa and Brazil have all been here to sample our cold playground. It is a true testament to what we have here that the guys we used to see in the mags and videos when we were kids are now contacting us about our waves. The days of lonely, solo big wave sessions are now becoming less frequent here in Ireland. Lots of guys are getting involved and it is changing the feel of big wave surfing. However, some of us are still exploring the coastline and finding more and more big wave spots to rival anything we have already discovered. A session at the recently discovered ‘Prowlers’ off the west coast hit international headlines last November and lots of
other big wave locations have been earmarked to produce similar waves in the right conditions. In Northern Ireland, we aren’t as fortunate, with our sheltered position in the north Atlantic wedged between Donegal and Scotland, so we see big waves less frequently. However, 30ft-plus sessions have gone down at some remote locations off the north coast. This year, conditions allowed us two sessions at the Giant’s Causeway. There is no beach; the waves break right off the end of the Causeway over the hexagonal rocks and peel off into the small bay between the Causeway and the Giant’s Granny who rises up on the headland to the west. International, small wave surfing events have taken place in Ireland at both European and World Level. There has also been a big wave event, similar to the Billabong XXL, but on an Irish level called The Mananan Big Wave Contest. But until 2011, there had never been an actual big wave contest, held on a single day in the right conditions. An invited list of competitors took to the surf off Mullaghmore Head in February this year. This was the first of its kind and no doubt it will not be the last time international big wave events will happen here. However, organisers are plagued with our fickle weather systems, making it highly dependent upon local knowledge to be able to make these events happen. The same small crew of guys chasing big waves in this part of the world is still at the forefront. Regardless of big multinationals coming in to cash in on what we have here, all of us will still continue to surf these waves and push Irish surfing further into world recognition. www.almennie.com
A to Z
Metal Few musical genres have traditionally been as divisive as metal (or ‘heavy metal’ as it used to be known, until people realised the word ‘heavy’ was somewhat superfluous). For aficionados, metal is a style of music that can be progressive, aggressive, cathartic, characterised by considerable instrumental virtuosity, and – most of all – great bloody loud fun. More than this, it’s often a way of life. To its detractors, however, metal often seems faintly ridiculous, somewhat adolescent and (more often than not) overbearingly masculine. And yet, metal never dies. Musical trends may come and go, but metal is always there, like the changing of the seasons, only louder, angrier and more heavily tattooed. Words by Neill Dougan Illustration by Mark Reihill
Is For Awesome Band Names
Metal has a long tradition of bands with particularly fantastic, inventive and often gruesome monikers. As an impressionable child we thought Megadeth sounded pretty cool, but of course we hadn’t yet heard of Acid Bath, Disembowelment, Cannibal Corpse, Electric Wizard (brilliant!) and Eyehategod. Beats ‘Mumford & Sons’ any day, that’s for sure.
Is For Black Sabbath
The Godfathers of Heavy Metal. Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi and co reacted to the prevailing mood of flower power and peace ‘n’ love to form a heavy blues rock band characterised by ominous, gloomy riffs and dark lyrical subject matter that prefigured the likes of doom metal, black metal and stoner rock by decades. That they did this while their lead singer was permanently whacked out of it makes their achievement all the more notable. Still no excusing The Osbournes, though.
Is For Crossover
There have been several attempts to fuse metal with other genres, most notably the rap-metal movement. Sadly, for the most part, this experiment was the musical equivalent of crashing two vehicles headlong into one another at high speed and expecting the resulting mangled wreckage to resemble a Ferrari. Suffice to say, rap-metal is not a Ferrari. It’s not even a Mini Metro.
Is For The Devil
Metal has a proud tradition of being accused of promoting Satan worship by the more alarmist sections of society. Can’t think why, what with that ‘devil’s horns’ hand signal the fans are always throwing (yeah, that’s really edgy and impressive, by the way). Not forgetting the large number of openly Satan-worshipping death metal bands. They may have something to do with it.
Is For Earache
Influential UK label that introduced the world to grindcore and extreme metal acts such as Napalm Death, Bolt Thrower and Carcass. And all this despite founder Digby Pearson having the least heavy metal name ever.
Is For Festivals
You don’t see many metallers at Electric Picnic or Glastonbury, and this is because they have their own festivals such as Download, Monsters of Rock, Damnation and Sonisphere, where they can mosh and headbang to their hearts’ content, and where the food stalls sell spit-roasted Belle & Sebastian fans instead of burgers.
Is For Genres
Perhaps more than any other type of music, metal has a remarkable number of offshoots, subgenres and derivatives. Indeed, there’s likely no metal fan alive who could possibly like all types of metal, so divergent are they. Drone, death, sludge, power, thrash, stoner and many, many more – truly the metal family tree has many branches, most of them scary. Not glam metal, though. That’s not scary at all.
Is For Headbanging
At any metal gig one can easily spot fans thrashing their heads violently back and forth to the music in time-honoured fashion. Especially effective if the headbanger is sporting long hair, as is traditional. Truly, you haven’t lived until you’ve been whipped in the face non-stop by the sweat-drenched locks of an over-excited Alice In Chains fan for 90 minutes.
Is For Iron Maiden
Hugely influential London band who led the ‘New Wave of British Heavy Metal’ in the early Eighties. Improbably scored a number one hit in the UK in 1990 with the excellently-titled ‘Bring Your Daughter... To The Slaughter’. Fact: AU was terrified by Iron Maiden album covers as a young child. And also as an adult.
Is For Jokes
Metal is often portrayed as grim and humourless. However there’s a vein of sly (and not-so-sly) humour running through the oeuvre of many heavy
bands. A good example would be Massachusetts charmers Anal Cunt, whose comedic 1994 album Everyone Must Be Killed features 58 songs in as many minutes (with titles like ‘Grindcore Is Very Terrifying’) and includes a ludicrous cover of EMF’s ‘Unbelievable’. Still, at least they took the naming of their band seriously, eh?
is for Kerrang! Long-running metal magazine, which gave nationwide coverage to many metal bands who may have otherwise toiled in relative obscurity. Some great moments over the years – AU remembers an excellent, glowing review of Therapy?’s Troublegum, for example. Then it started putting faux-metal boybands like Lostprophets and Thirty Seconds To Mars on the cover. And all that was once good died.
Is For Lyrics
In the more extreme forms of metal, lyrics are often completely unintelligible. This is for the best, as they are mostly quite unpleasant indeed.
Is For Metallica
When the layman is asked to think of a metal band, he’s probably picturing this one. Maybe it’s because they actually have the word ‘metal’ in their name, but more likely it’s because they were, for a time, the Grandaddys of the commercial metal world, achieving worldwide smashes with ...And Justice For All and the so-called ‘Black’ album, and only becoming utter toss relatively recently.
Is For Nu-Metal
Your humble correspondent must confess to finding nu-metal unbearable. A briefly popular sub-genre encompassing such paragons of musical virtue as Korn, Linkin Park and (ugh) Limp Bizkit, it was characterised by tacked-on hip-hop influences (“Hey, throw some scratching on that track!”), clumsy down-tuned riffage and an approach to
lyric-writing that would make Noel Gallagher blush. And it had Fred Durst, officially the Worst Person Ever.
Is For Ozzy Osbourne
Once the Dark Lord of Metal, a bat-munching, drug-gobbling Rock God in whose mighty presence we could only tremble. Now a shambling wreck who releases mawkish duets with his bratty daughter. Truly, time makes fools of us all. Especially Ozzy Osbourne.
Is For Pretend Metal
Let’s get one thing straight. Kiss are not metal. Guns N’ Roses are not metal. Poison and Motley Crüe are NOT METAL. Pantera and Sepultura are metal. Do you see the difference, you fools?
Is For Queens Of The Stone Age
Burly gingerman Josh Homme had already earned his stripes with stoner heroes Kyuss before he formed his next band, and QOTSA’s list of collaborators – including members of Danzig, Monster Magnet, A Perfect Circle and even Judas Priest’s Rob Halford – is certainly quite metalfriendly. However they lose metal points for being actually quite melodic and not emphasising their love of Satan nearly enough.
Is For Roadrunner
Pioneering Dutch record label that did much to bring death metal acts such as Obituary and Sepultura to public notice. So next time you’re in the car humming away merrily to ‘Fuck Your God’ by Deicide, you have Roadrunner to thank.
Is For Solos
If you like guitar solos, the chances are you will like metal. Especially if you like fiddly, intricate, rapidfire, show-off guitar solos. They tend to feature quite, er, heavily.
Is For Tradition
A lot of so-called ‘traditional’ (or ‘classic’) heavy metal bands – like Judas Priest, Diamond Head, and W.A.S.P. – now sound quite timid in comparison to their modern-day cousins. Some of them even had actual tunes. How quaint!
Is For Upheaval
The world of metal often appears to be characterised by near-constant friction and band member turnover. Black Sabbath went through 22 different members, while fellow Brummies Napalm Death have had 23 brave men pass through their ranks. Almost makes membership of The Fall look like a secure career option.
Is For Vocals
Perhaps the most divisive element of modern metal is the vocal stylings of many lead singers. Ranging from a guttural growl to an aggressive rasp to a furious howl of rage, the modern metal vocal is pleasing to fans of the genre while leaving non-converts confused and upset. Still it’s fun to try and emulate. Altogether now: “SPLLLLEAAAAAAAUUUGGGGGHHH!”
Is For Women
There aren’t so many female metal bands of note, and perhaps this is due to traditional metal values, which tended to be somewhat sexist. Often a woman’s only involvement was to be depicted naked on an album cover, perhaps writhing in ecstasy atop a large snake or dragon. Those were the days, eh?
Is For X-Rated
One of the more unusual metal subgenres has to be ‘Pornogrind’, which combines the visceral musical nastiness of death metal and grindcore with sexually
Y suggestive lyrics. So next time you’re romancing your better half, forget about listening to Prince or Barry White. Stick on a pornogrind band like The Meat Shits. Guaranteed result.
Is For Yngwie Malmsteen
Virtuoso guitarist and multi-instrumentalist with the unpronounceable name, who pioneered the ‘shredding’ guitar technique (that’s ‘playing really fast’ to you and me), and whose work spans ‘traditional’ heavy metal, speed metal, power metal and hard rock. Hang on... hard rock? What are you, Yngwie, some kind of wimp?
Is For Zep
The mighty Led Zeppelin need no introduction. Although hardly metal themselves, the powerhouse riffs of Jimmy Page, the thunderous drums of John Bonham and the banshee howl of Robert Plant did as much as Sabbath to throw open the gates to the coming noisy hordes. And, like many metal bands that followed them, their lyrics were a bit daft. Having been exposed to a lot of loud angry music in the preparation of this article, AU is currently lying in a darkened room sipping camomile tea and listening to The Pastels.
• pg 48 Record Reviews | pg 53 Young Blood | PG 54 Live Reviews | pg 55 MOVIE & GAME REVIEWS •
Illustration by Mark Reihill
Beirut The Rip Tide
Ever dreamt of playing chess with Zach Condon? Well, forget about it. Judging by his musical flights of fancy, you should never make the mistake of guessing what the Santa Fe man will do next. After conquering the genre of gypsy with an authentic debut in Gulag Orkestar, Condon immersed himself in the world of French chanson with 2007’s The Flying Cup Club. After that came a double EP that flipped from Mexican influences to murmurings in electronica. Unpredictable? That’s an understatement. Condon has done an about-turn for his third fulllength album, too, but not in the way you might expect. Instead of aurally renovating another
obscure form of world music, The Rip Tide sees the precocious musician draw from his own musical well, rather than pilfering from others’. That sense of stability could be down to his new-found domestic steadiness after years of touring and travelling (the 25-year-old got married last year), but most likely, it’s simply a matter of settling comfortably into the niche he has hitherto created for himself with his adventurous, globe-traipsing output. The result is a record that is arguably more even in tone, and certainly the most accessible (some might say ‘mainstream’) record he has crafted to date, but that doesn’t mean that it’s drab or conventional. ‘Goshen’ is a surprisingly sparse piano ballad, a beautiful number that exposes Condon’s gorgeous croon like never before. ‘Santa Fe’ blends his New Mexican roots with the ubiquitous French horn and playful electronic undertones, the title track is a tremulous number that grasps fistfuls of brass and percussion as it gleefully progresses, and the parps and cymbal crashes of ‘Payne’s Bay’ are positively poppy.
And sure, there are certain parallels to be drawn with one J. Vernon, Esq. when you learn that much of The Rip Tide was written in a remote cabin in upstate New York with just his pet beagle for company. These are no lovelorn songs of heartbreak, though, although the sense of wholehearted romance emanating from these nine tracks is undeniable. You get the impression that much of The Rip Tide was something of an exercise in restraint for Condon, but by focusing his flights of fancy, he has found a comfortable middle ground. And knowing his impulsive persona as a songwriter, it will inevitably be used as a launchpad for his next eccentric experiment. We can’t wait. Lauren Murphy
KEY TRACKS: ‘GOSHEN’, ‘SANTA FE’, ‘THE RIP TIDE’. FOR FANS OF: DEVOTCHKA, FLEET FOXES, ANDREW BIRD.
Fionn Regan 100 Acres Of Sycamore HEAVENLY
Few people have had to fight the ‘This Generation’s Bob Dylan’ tag harder over the past decade than Fionn Regan. While 100 Acres of Sycamore does a better job of side-stepping those stubborn comparisons than the unflattering imitation of its predecessor, it does land him squarely in the shadow of fellow Lost Highway victim, Ryan Adams. Many of the songs on show here, like ‘Sow Mare Bitch Vixen’ and most obviously ‘Vodka Sorrow’, find Regan ploughing a furrow distinctly familiar to anyone who took the time to listen to mid-decade Adams. The former’s likeness is no bad thing, with Regan charmingly describing the many moods of a complicated woman over down-tuned Nick Drakestyle guitar picking. The latter is like Adams at his most self-indulgent; a six-minute piano jam, half of which consists of Regan half-tunelessly chanting the title over a two-chord modulation. The best tracks here are amongst the best that Regan has written to date, with the title track and ‘North Star Lover’ standing well out from the pack. 100 Acres Of Sycamore is a positive and welcome step for Regan, focusing once again on his innate ability to tell age-old stories in an interesting manner. However, he remains in the shadow of his would-be peers, seemingly struggling under the weight of a tradition he is intent on furthering. With a little more confidence in his own musical voice, this album will be come to be seen as a solid step on the road to the full blossoming of his own identity. Ian Maleney
KEY TRACKS: ‘100 ACRES OF SYCAMORE’, ‘SOW MARE BITCH VIXEN’, ‘NORTH STAR LOVER. FOR FANS OF: RYAN ADAMS, JOSH ROUSE, WILCO.
Girls Father, Son, Holy Ghost FANTASYTRASHCAN/TURNSTILE
On the back of the narcotic experimentation of 2009’s debut Album, San Francisco’s Girls toured like bastards and became a band. Adding a drummer and a guitarist, the pumped-up quartet have both refined their musicianship and extended their range on this massively assured follow-up. If opener ‘Honey Bunny’ is a smiley slab of alt. rock and ‘Saying I Love You’ a sweet country lullaby, lead single ‘Vomit’ explodes into pyrotechnical mayhem. But it is the subdued hymn of ‘Just a Song’ that perfectly illustrates the confidence surging through Chris Owens’ songwriting. Though it may disappoint those who reveled in Girls’ early chaos, Father, Son, Holy Ghost sounds like the perfect allAmerican album for 2011. John Freeman
KEY TRACKS: ‘VOMIT’, ‘JUST A SONG’, ‘DIE’. FOR FANS OF: THE WAR ON DRUGS, KURT VILE, WILCO.
The Drums Portamento MOSHI MOSHI/ISLAND
If ever a record was long-awaited, this followup to The Drums’ frightfully well-received eponymous debut is the motherlode. With their kicky rhythms and Anglophile melodies, the band – hailing from Brooklyn via Florida – embody indie loveliness Brit-style. Wearing their influences on their oh-so-cool sleeves – The Smiths on ‘What You Were’, New Order on ‘Days’ with even a sniff of The Stone Roses on
‘I Don’t Know How To Love’ – the album is full of standout tracks whipping through the air like a fresh breeze. A complicated line-up narrative – the departure of guitarist Adam Kessler causing drummer Connor Hanwick to switch to guitar – doesn’t detract from a band with a definite and lovely skill, and it’s etched into every one of their perfectly-formed tunes. Kirstie May
KEY TRACKS: ‘WHAT YOU WERE’, ‘SEARCHING FOR HEAVEN’, ‘IN THE COLD’. FOR FANS OF: THE SMITHS, JOY DIVISION, THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN.
Penguin Prison Penguin Prison
Ganglians Still Living
New York’s Penguin Prison, aka Chris Glover, is the latest in a long line of funky electro-pop pretenders to spring forth from the Big Apple. Heavily indebted to the creative spirit of both Prince and some of his home town’s most revered names (David Byrne, James Murphy), Penguin Prison is a fun-filled ride, rammed full of infectious floor-fillers. Glover was originally inspired to pursue his disco direction after laying down ‘Golden Train’, one of the record’s key cuts. Its polished production combines minimalist electronica with a slick vocal performance that strongly evokes early Michael Jackson. The single ‘Fair Warning’ is rooted in Eighties synth-pop, while the feel-good ‘Multi-Millionaire’ displays all the swagger of one Prince Rogers Nelson. Maybe it’s not the world’s most original creation, but it’s certainly an enjoyable one. Eamonn Seoige
While the Fleet Foxes hype machine seems to have stalled considerably, that lot were never the only contenders for hirsute, harmonising, freakfolk scenesters. Ganglians, from Sacramento in California, dropped an EP and album in 2009 within weeks of each other on uber-hip imprint Woodsist and staked an immediate claim for lo-fi psychedelia heroes of the year. Yes, double album Still Living is an ambitious, sprawling beast that takes in everything from the usual Beach Boys/Animal Collective/psych-prog basket that everyone must be sick to their back teeth of by now. But tracks like the Eighties-drenched trundle of ‘Things To Know’ and the atmospheric twanging of ‘Bradley’, bolstered by Ryan Grubbs’s earnest croon and a dollop of scuzz make this a fitting LP for the dying summer. Adam Lacey
KEY TRACKS: ‘GOLDEN TRAIN’, ‘FAIR WARNING’, ‘MULTIMILLIONAIRE’. FOR FANS OF: PRINCE, HOLY GHOST!, TALKING HEADS.
KEY TRACKS: ‘BRADLEY’, ‘THINGS TO KNOW’. FOR FANS OF: FLEET FOXES, EAT SKULL, WOODS, BEACH BOYS.
Active Child You Are All I See VAGRANT
Pat Grossi’s remarkable talent was evident on last year’s Curtis Lane EP, and his debut fulllength more than makes good on that promise. Although Grossi’s music draws from all over the place – retro synth fetishists like M83, contemporary R&B, post-dubstep beats and bass, Bjork’s experimental pop and even the likes of Vangelis – he’s managed to create something unique, courtesy of his skyscraping falsetto and the blend of sci-fi synthesiser and coruscating harp. On track after track, Grossi conjures a breathtakingly beautiful sound anchored by his ear for rhythm and a strong emotional undertow. And that’s where the album is a true progression from the EP; ‘Hanging On’ and ‘Way Too Fast’ are devastating break-up songs – the former despairing, the latter angry – while the closing ‘Johnny Belinda’ is darker still, a gothic lament that rides on a swelling, backing vocalsand-synth bassline. And that’s without even mentioning the magnificent single ‘Playing House’, a collaboration with How To Dress Well. A captivating debut. Chris Jones
KEY TRACKS: ‘HANGING ON’, ‘WAY TOO FAST’, ‘PLAYING HOUSE’. FOR FANS OF: M83, BJORK, HOW TO DRESS WELL.
Richmond Fontaine The High Country DECOR
Dum Dum Girls Only In Dreams SUB POP
Considering their sound is one that lulls listeners into reveries of gauzy rock ‘n’ roll, Only In Dreams seems like the perfect title for an album by a band like Dum Dum Girls. The Los Angeles quartet’s second full-length heralds several changes within their camp since they first stirred with the brilliant I Will Be, too. For starters, this is much more of a group effort than its primarily solo predecessor, with leader Dee Dee relinquishing her independent status in favour of co-writing and playing credits with her bandmates. You can hear the difference on songs like ‘Bedroom Eyes’, its snappy girl group melodies flourishing into full-bodied harmonies, or on the vibrant surf-rock-and-handclaps combo of ‘Just A Creep’. At the same time, this
is no huge departure in sound for the quartet. The majority of these tracks draw from the same well of influences as their previous material, with elements of early Blondie, The Pretenders and The Shangri-Las as audible as ever. Yet another of those aforementioned changes has caused a shift in Dee Dee’s lyrical inspiration: many of these tracks were written after her mother’s death, which gives lines like “I wish it wasn’t true, but all that I can do is hold your hand” extra gravitas on the measured, hypnotic sway of the closing track. As an album, it sounds more like a concerted effort to improve than any sort of definitive statement, but it’s no less enjoyable, all the same. Lauren Murphy
The 10th album from Richmond Fontaine is not only a work of spellbinding musicianship but also of consummate storytelling. The band’s frontman, Willy Vlautin is a published novelist and it is he who creates the album’s absorbing narrative. Set in a logging town, this is a midnight-black tale of love thwarted, loneliness that breaks the spirit, drug-induced mania, startling violence and, ultimately, murder. The interconnecting tracks and spoken-word sections artfully thread the story together. Each character is given their say and their sound, with every compelling episode set to equally captivating music – be it tender Americana, or guttural punk rock. Vlautin is joined by The Damnations’ Deborah Kelley in giving voice to the album’s line-up of lovers, losers, villains and grotesques. As both a work of music and gothic love story, The High Country hangs together seamlessly. So, take our advice and go down to the woods today. You’re sure of a big surprise. Francis Jones
KEY TRACKS: ‘JUST A CREEP’, ‘CAUGHT IN ONE’, ‘HOLD YOUR HAND’. FOR FANS OF: BLONDIE, THE SHANGRI-LAS, THE RAVEONETTES.
KEY TRACKS: ‘LET ME DREAM OF THE HIGH COUNTRY’, ‘THE MECHANIC’S LIFE’, ‘TREES’, ‘ON A SPREE’. FOR FANS OF: THE DECEMBERISTS, THE HANDSOME FAMILY, NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS.
Four Tet Fabriclive 59
effort clearly born both out of personal pain and the marvellous rapport these two musicians have with each other. Elliot Ferguson
The material included in Kieran Hebden’s Fabriclive 59 mix might come as a surprise to fans of the relatively gentle brand of electronic music Four Tet perfected on albums such as Rounds. A crate-diver’s fantasy smorgasbord of UK garage is the main flavour on offer here, with a robust side-dollop of techno and a couple of original cuts. While such genre-splicing has train-wreck potential, the mix switches gears between both styles of music using a clever trick. Craftily deployed recordings from Fabric itself simulate movement from one room of the club to another, and the illusion is not only convincing but rather exhilarating. When the music transitions between the lean garage of Genius’s ‘Waiting’ and the gathering 4/4 storm of STL’s ‘Dark Energy’ at the exact midway point of the mix, it all makes perfect sense – a tricky concept in theory, pulled off with aplomb in practice. Many will undoubtedly approach Fabriclive 59 keen to hear the original Four Tet productions. Well, both are glassy, whirling electronica reminiscent of his last album There Is Love In You, but neither is as engaging as his sole remix. This lush take on an old garage track called ‘First Born’ by an outfit called Crazy Bald Heads – which features earlier in the mix - sounds far more fresh, and is perhaps the better indicator of where the talented producer is going next. In the meantime, he has created the summer’s most vibrant mix. Darragh McCausland
KEY TRACKS: ‘CRAZY BALD HEADS - ‘FIRST BORN (FOUR TET MIX)’, FOUR TET - ‘PYRAMID’. FOR FANS OF: BURIAL, FLOATING POINTS.
Big Deal Lights Out MUTE
So often, the simplest things are often the best. And so it is that Big Deal – aka Kasey Underwood and Alice Costelloe – have created one of the most spectacular albums of the year with little more than just their voices and two guitars. Awash with heartache and feedback, Lights Out is a tender testament to the fragile and ephemeral nature of love. Underwood and Costelloe tease each other with their delicate harmonies, the merging of their voices sounding as if it’s the only thing preventing them from falling apart. ‘Swoon’ is a stripped-back ode to the vulnerability of being in love, while ‘Homework’ and the superb ‘Talk’ both play on Costelloe’s youth. The result is a superb, saddened and nostalgic look back at the follies of youth – and the open wounds that can last, as memories, long after life and time have destroyed it. There’s a very American vibe here, too – Underwood is originally from California, which serves as a foil to Costelloe’s Britishness, creating a mesmerising, laidback vibe to underlie the sorrow that permeates these tunes and these lyrics. A truly phenomenal debut
KEY TRACKS: ‘TALK’, ‘HOMEWORK’, ‘PI’. FOR FANS OF: BEACH HOUSE, MAZZY STAR, THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN.
Microlip Silver Lining
Perhaps, but the awful Donkey was unpardonable. Their third album is an improvement on its predecessor, although it fails to recapture the sense of fizzy, silly fun that made their debut so irresistible. Bobby Gillespie’s turn on the synthy reggae of ‘Hit Me Like A Rock’ is a definite low point but when they relinquish the plastic, tacky synthpop in favour of guitars (‘Ruby Eyes’, ‘La Liberación’), it sounds like progress. True, their lyrics are still as ridiculous as ever, but that’s part of their strange charm. Perhaps Lovefoxxx puts it best on the likeable ‘Fuck Everything’: “I’ve got a PhD in ADD / I’ve got a broken car and a pencil case”. Err, quite. Lauren Murphy
Silver Lining is the self-released debut from Portadown’s Microlip and, while you have to respect any band who show the determination to release an album under their own steam, it’s hard to imagine there being a follow-up to this sloppy mish-mash of uninspired soft rock. The title track bobs along with a happy disco beat but it gets hard to find highlights amongst the clichés after that. ‘Man Of Steel’ is a cringe-inducing paean to a father figure, and ‘You’re Not The One’ is a woeful Van Halen impersonation which really exposes the lack of imagination Microlip have. No doubt the band are a great success on the pub circuit, but half-decent indie covers are probably what they should stick to. Mike Ravenscroft
KEY TRACKS: ‘MAN OF STEEL’, ‘YOU’RE NOT THE ONE’, ‘CROCODILE TEARS’. FOR FANS OF: THE SCRIPT, THE FEELING, BRYAN ADAMS.
Buckminster Fuzeboard Funny Noises
KEY TRACKS: ‘RUBY EYES’, ‘LA LIBERACIÓN’, ‘FUCK EVERYTHING’. FOR FANS OF: NEW YOUNG PONY CLUB, THE KILLS.
The Hot Sprockets Honeyskippin’ CHERRYPOPPER
There was a time when we thought The Hot Sprockets were taking the piss. Frontman Wayne Soper is a Dub, but he sings like a Confederate Texan, slurring and yelping his way through lyrics that hint at finally discovering the great technological advance that is the railroad and a link to the next gun-totin’ town. It’s a disconnect that requires quite a leap of faith, especially given that Soper’s vocals are the stand-out asset here. Get past the misplaced accent, though, and you’ll find a winding, varied country-blues album that can rock out, swoon and yelp to glorious effect. Honeyskippin’ is every bit as nonchalantly brilliant as it is bizarre. James Hendicott
Dave Fuller has been making records as Buckminster Fuzeboard for 13 years. This, his second long-player, shows how his skills as a producer have grown since his first release. Echo-laden fragments of sound slip in and out of focus as filtered beats, warm crackles and slowly mutating percussive grooves hop along in a dub-wise manner. Occasionally, flecks of cut-up vocals float through the ambience, adding a haunting edge to music that doesn’t always push the listener in obvious, emotional directions. Downtempo music of this sort doesn’t conform to pop-led industry trends; instead it can be enjoyed as sonic wallpaper, whispering instead of shouting for your attention. Barry Cullen
KEY TRACKS: ‘BRIGHT-OUT’, ‘CONCENTRATION SYNAPSES’, ‘THE READER’. FOR FANS OF: CRAQUE, POLE, SCANNER.
CSS La Liberación V2
Where did it all go wrong for CSS? Actually, we can answer that one ourselves: it was right about the time that the Brazilians began thinking of themselves as serious musicians, instead of a party band that had simply been in the right place at the right time. Harsh?
KEY TRACKS: ‘MIDNIGHT TRAIN’, ‘SLEEP SHAKE’, ‘I’M LEAVIN’. FOR FANS OF: COUNTRY GIRL-ERA PRIMAL SCREAM, BIG BILL BROONZY, THE DILLARDS.
Tropics Parodia Flare PLANET MU
Like Sir Alex Ferguson, Planet Mu is clearly unafraid of giving youngsters a chance. Chris ‘Tropics’ Ward is only in his early 20s, but on this evidence – playing, singing and producing everything on this, his fulllength debut – he’s ready for the big leagues. Parodia Flare is a lush, dreamy melange of vintage synth sounds, hazy vocals and crisp beats. In other words, we’re in ‘chillwave’ territory – but that’s no bad thing with material this strong. Highlights include the title track’s shimmering slow-mo funk and the gorgeous ‘Wear Out’, which evokes Super Furry Animals’ more downbeat moments. Best of all, however, is closing wig-out ‘On The Move’, a mini-masterpiece of looselimbed, jazz-tinged psychedelia. Kaleidoscopic, expansive and thoroughly engaging, Parodia Flare marks out Tropics as one to watch. Neill Dougan
KEY TRACKS: ‘ON THE MOVE’, ‘WEAR OUT’, ‘PARODIA FLARE’. FOR FANS OF: WASHED OUT, BATHS, TORO Y MOI.
Sully Carrier KEYSOUND
Rinse.FM’s rise from inner-city pirate signals to international renown and acclaim is heartening; in an age where most of us have access to broadband, and thus the ability to stockpile records and create expansive, eclectic, assured music libraries in minutes, the fact that a small radio station has had a marked and continued, impact on a nation’s music scene is something to be cherished. Keysound Recordings, run by Rinse’s Dusk & Blackdown, seems like a natural home for Sully’s confident, comfortable genre-hopping. Records like Carrier, or the recent Machinedrum LP Room(s) (Planet Mu, 2011), revel in combining the sounds heard across the aforementioned radio station’s outputs; Sully is as adept at Wiley-style oriental urbanism – or sino-grime, as some writers defined it – as he is crafting gently melancholic, bleachedout Burial sound-alikes, or at marrying the rough swing of UK funky to Joker-tastic depths of soundswelling synth stabs. That nothing on Carrier is startlingly original isn’t a bad thing – pitchshifted, de- and re-contextualized R&B vocals are surely the bass music equivalent of T-Pain’s autotuned warble by now but, my word, they can still be oddly affecting. And, if we’re being honest, it’d be nice if music crossed out the ‘crackly piano + vinyl hiss + background static and crackle = emotion and feeling’ equation from its notebook, but, cor, it really can still get to you – its charm and lack of fear win you over. Oh, and its short enough to be eminently replayable too. A highly polished debut. Josh Baines
KEY TRACKS: ‘LET YOU’, ‘2 HEARTS’, ‘SCRAM’. FOR FANS OF: JOKER, ROYAL-T, ROSKA.
Squarehead Yeah, Nothing RICHTER COLLECTIVE
Sometimes pop music is enough. It’s not exactly high concept, but much of the charm of Yeah, Nothing lies in the fact that it consists of 12 different shots at what could pass for a debut single. The touchstones range from Fifties hop music on ‘Tasty Fruit’ to pop-punk’s moment of emotional maturity on ‘Get Light’ but the modus operandi remains the same: if it’s not a hook, it has no place here, whether verse, chorus or guitar solo. The weirder moments, like the dead-eyed riffery of ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’, guard against the dangers of disposability, but as your parents always said, you only need to swallow bubblegum once for it to stay in your system for years. Karl McDonald
KEY TRACKS: ‘MIDNIGHT ENCHILADA’, ‘SAVE YOURSELF’, ‘I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND’. FOR FANS OF: THE NERVES, WEEZER, THE RAMONES.
The Rapture In The Grace Of Your Love DFA
The first thing to notice about The Rapture’s third album proper is how familiar it all sounds. This comes as a surprise, because a few things have changed in Rapture land since 2006’s Pieces Of The People We Love. Frontman Luke Jenner left and came back, Matt Safer left and didn’t come back, and the band returned to DFA Records, a spiritual home that now finds them as elder statesmen following the retirement of James Murphy’s LCD Soundsystem. Not only that, French producer Philippe Zdar (Cassius, Phoenix, Two Door Cinema Club) is on board for the first time. Despite all the upheaval, though, In The Grace Of Our Love is far from being a game-changer.
Comply Or Die Depths SELF RELEASED
Sludge/hardcore lads Comply Or Die have been threatening to break out for some time now, supporting the likes of Rise Against on their way through a storming debut and various singles and splits. Suffice it to say, second album Depths sees the band’s blistering promise realised – a broadside in the truest sense of the word. Most interesting about the record is its pacing, with rolling, frenzied outbursts like ‘Shanghaied’ and the joyous ‘Tetsuo’ balanced by heaving, 10-minute plus cornerstones like the quietly seething ‘Vermin’, or slow-building closer ‘DMT’. Stocky, heavy production adds weight to more fleeting and chaotic tunes, while rendering sludge epics absolutely colossal. A killer album from a band that’s been waiting for this moment all along. Mike McGrath-Bryan
KEY TRACKS: ‘SHANGAIED’, ‘TETSUO’, ‘DMT’. FOR FANS OF: MELVINS, THERAPY?
The euphoric, piano-house flavoured ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ is the definite standout – brilliantly crafted and soulfully sung by a vocalist, Jenner, who has more than his fair share of detractors – but it’s also the only real dance track in a cool, calm and collected set. Further highlights come in the form of the imposing opener ‘Sail Away’, the breezy summer jam ‘Never Gonna Die Again’ and the brave, but hugely successful, soul pastiche ‘It Takes Time To Be A Man’ – easily the band’s best album closer so far. But while the rest of the record is all well-crafted and effortlessly cool, jolts of inspiration are few and far between. Chris Jones
KEY TRACKS: ‘HOW DEEP IS YOUR LOVE’, NEVER GONNA DIE AGAIN’, ‘SAIL AWAY’. FOR FANS OF: PHOENIX, CUT COPY, FRIENDLY FIRES.
Fruit Bats Tripper SUB POP
Album number five from Fruit Bats finds Eric D. Johnson in a reflective mood. Inspired by daydreams of roadtrips with a travelling vagabond he once met on a train journey, the idea for Tripper gestated for more than a decade in Johnson’s head before he committed it to tape. The result is an album built firmly on Fruit Bats’ established acoustic sound, whilst also expanding the arsenal to employ low-key synths to lend a psychedelic, spacey edge to tracks such as ‘Heart Like An Orange’. The album is not without a hiccup or two, like ‘The Banishment Song’, which drags on for six minutes without really going anywhere, and it may not contain the epic quality its background story suggests, but Tripper is still an enjoyable listen. Patrick Conboy
KEY TRACKS: ‘TONY THE TRIPPER’, ‘YOU’RE TOO WEIRD’, ‘HEART LIKE AN ORANGE’. FOR FANS OF: BLITZEN TRAPPER, THE CAVE SINGERS.
Young Blood Your indispensable guide to new releases from up-and-coming acts Empty Lungs Identity Lost This Belfast trio’s debut triple-tracker will be catnip for anyone who worships at the altar of Hot Water Music, Jawbreaker and their Eighties and Nineties US punk brethren. And anyone who enjoys listening to a man shouting in a broad Belfast accent. It’s all remarkably accomplished for a first release, but then Kev Jones and Ryan Holmes have paid their dues in various bands over the last five to 10 years – and it shows. ‘Identity Lost’ switches from slicing, bouncy verses to a thrilling shoutalong chorus, while ‘Hope And Apathy’ is a heart-swelling ode to the power of music (with a ripping guitar solo!) and ‘Operation Condor’ an evisceration of American foreign policy – of the 1980s. Cutting edge they ain’t, but this is an impressive opening salvo. Chris Jones
Jerome’s Law Knives At Concrete EP Just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be room for another po-faced indie rock outfit, along comes Dublin quintet Jerome’s Law – a band so shoegazingly shoegazy it’d be a wonder if they ever took their eyes off their trainers. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind – Knives at Concrete is a remarkably solid EP, showcasing their particular brand of fuzzed-up miserabilism at its doomy best. Menacing opener ‘Throwing Stones’s oscillating, spooling guitars and simmering bass wouldn’t sound out of place on Radiohead’s Amnesiac, while ‘Safe’ proves that the band can crack a smile once in a while – frontman Padraig’s reedy wail even manages to get a bit funky, Lord forbid. Katherine Rodgers
and energy at our first practice. We started gigging in May and have already played around Ireland a bit.
ACT: FROM: FOR FANS OF: WEBSITE:
Are there any particular bands that you think are key to your sound or approach? There is a long list! I suppose bands like Hot Water Music, Jawbreaker, Against Me!, Strike Anywhere, Propagandhi, Alkaline Trio, The Clash, Dillinger Four, Hüsker Dü, The Replacements... the list goes on. We take influence from a lot of different places although all of the above bands are inspirational not only because of their music but their approach to hard work and touring..
Empty Lungs Belfast Hot Water Music, Jawbreaker, Hüsker Dü. Empty Lungs on Facebook
The Vals Look To The One (feat. Henry McCullough)
With a wealth of punk rock experience under their belts, Empty Lungs are a new three-piece playing loud, angry punk rock, with no little melody and heart. Already an impressive live act, they release their debut single on September 20. AU had a chat with frontman Kev Jones.
Belfast country rockers The Vals rope in the revered Henry McCullough (he of Wings and Paul McCartney fame) for some enjoyably unfashionable rock – ‘Look To The One’ is a slice of soul-tinged nostalgia so retro it practically oozes sepia; natty guitar solos, woody organ and all. ‘Look To The One’ might not exactly be reinventing the wheel, but in an age that glorifies the disposable, it’s nice to know that there’s someone still dealing in stoic, old-fashioned pop. And when you’ve got rock ‘n roll as good as this is, who needs revolution? Katherine Rodgers
Tell us a bit about the background of the band. We formed in December 2010 after my old band The Lobotomies pretty much called it a day after 5 years of touring and boozing. I had been eager to start a band like this for ages but struggled to find the time. I’d known Holmesy [Ryan Holmes, bass] for years, he’d served his time in a few punk bands. I knew he was into a lot of same stuff I was and he was game for starting something new. We had a few ideas for drummers, but nothing solid until Matty [Killen] came along. He was a bit less experienced than us but he blew me away with his drumming
You have quite a retro sound - are you concerned about being labelled as ‘dated’? I see where you’re coming from – there is a lot of Nineties US punk in our sound – but I dunno if I’d consider us to be retro! I like to think we’re not a one trick pony. I hope our style continues to progress and we can incorporate new elements into our music and avoid being labelled as dated. Do we still need loud, angry punk bands? Fuck yes! Punk rock is a blessing and a curse. It’s one of the most genuine, heartfelt forms of expression but it can also be a contrived, closedminded ghetto. I think (I hope!) the good still outweighs the bad though. There’s always gonna be a need for angry, honest music and whether it’s punk, folk or hip-hop it doesn’t matter. The world needs protest music – last time I checked, there is still a lot worth protesting about...
Belsonic: Elbow, Villagers, Foy Vance Custom House Square, Belfast
Foy Vance draws the short straw this evening. If it isn’t tough enough going first on the bill and playing to a smattering of listeners, he has to do so in the tipping rain. He has the air of a man who has been here before. We are in Northern Ireland, after all. To give Foy his dues he puts on his game face and plays a well-chosen selection of songs to the delight of his listeners. As if part of some cruel cosmic joke, as soon as he exits the stage the clouds clear as in the intro to The Simpsons and the downpour stops pouring down. Conditions are ideal for Villagers to take the stage, and before they do so one would be forgiven for thinking that their brand of impassioned, disquieting songs would dissipate into the evening air like wisps of cobweb. These fears, as it turns out, are unfounded, as Conor O’Brien, who is in possession of a fine, haunting voice which hovers somewhere between those of Elliott Smith and Paul Simon, makes a captivating frontman. Set standouts ‘Pieces’ and ‘The Pact’ have a quivering intensity, and the band build the former’s old-school, doo-wop waltz to just short of smashing up their instruments. We are treated to fresh material, which indicates that the songwriting is being bent in some interesting new directions, but for an outfit with only one album behind them, Villagers pack quite the punch. PHOTO BY ALAN MOORE
Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All Academy, Dublin The Academy tonight is more jammed with hormones than a value brand chicken breast. Yarp, teens abound downstairs – one of the girls AU sees is no older than 13 – and there’s a serious fever in the air. The place (and kids) are so steaming, even the ceiling is sweating. Upstairs, it’s seniors and journos (overlapping, obviously) but the view of the readyto-mosh fiends downstairs is excellent, as everyone prepares for the arrival of shock-peddling LA brats Odd Future. Syd tha Kyd whoops it up on the laptop as a support act of sorts, and when the rest of the crew bounce out, she essentially does the same thing. This is not a ‘check out my equipment’ navelgaze fest – the little shits are just here to rock. And rock they do, as Syd’s laptop grinds out a set that kicks off with Mellowhype’s ‘64’ and proceeds to plough through a solo Tyler/OFWGKTA mix of ‘Transylvania’, ‘She’, ‘Tron Cat’, ‘Sandwitches’ and much more, with the sound quality dipping and booming sporadically. But who cares about sound, as the stage diving begins straight from the off – each OF head taking turns, even Tyler with his busted-up foot. At one
stage, high up on a balcony, and with hundreds of Irish teens baying at him to jump, he refuses – to a chorus of boos. Are our lot really crazier than the OF crew? Judging by that circle-pit near the back, it’s possible. And with that pit, the moshing, stage-diving and general lunacy going on, this quickly becomes one the most exciting gigs of the year. Yes there’s chaos aplenty, and the bemused bouncers appear to eventually just let the kids go wild, but there’s no denying Mike G, Hodgy et al can rap as well as throw a mean, shirtless pose. They all seem to take turns to chill out side-stage or clamber up a balcony to get in souvenir snaps but they have serious skills. There’s no point to all the shenanigans if they don’t deliver and as storming versions of ‘Yonkers’, ‘French’ and ‘Seven’ prove, they’ve got talent to burn. Runners get chucked about, a pair of pants lands onstage, there are drinks swilled and spilled and all the while, Top Shop-clad yoofs are going berserk. After AU caught a strange set at this year’s Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona, it’s clear Odd Future are more comfortable in a smaller club setting, where they can really get amongst the crowd. Eventually, closing with a powerhouse ‘Radicals’, OFWGKTA bid Dublin farewell. This is as close to a raw, late Seventies punk gig as you’ll probably get. Golf wang. Adam Lacey
Many would argue that Elbow are masters of the live performance. Their songs are little symphonies which sound best when bouncing off thousands of listeners in a massive field. Or, in this case, in a city square, which against expectations has transformed into one of the best venues in Belfast. Elbow’s rise to the top is all the more impressive for the fact that they have never taken the path of least resistance. They open with ‘The Birds’, first track on Build A Rocket Boys!, which meanders for three or so minutes before the Kid A tweets and twonks kick in. ‘Lippy Kids’ and ‘Station Approach’ follow this same pattern, and each one would be perfect to close a set let alone being thrown into the middle with reckless abandon. In comparison, ‘Grounds For Divorce’ rocks like a beast, but the emphasis is on slow, rousing anthems such as ‘The Loneliness Of A Tower Crane Driver’. A fitting choice, given that Samson and Goliath loom nearby. One small criticism: the set is poorly structured, as a loose, seemingly improvised middle section involving solo piano numbers and far too much faffing about loses momentum. However, Guy Garvey, who exudes bonhomie and the swagger of a man thoroughly enjoying himself, pulls the band together again for the inevitable finale: ‘One Day Like This’ sets the place on fire. Ross Thompson
Star Wars Box Set BLU-RAY: A long time ago in a galaxy not too far from here, a little known sci-fi movie broke box office records and effectively created the blockbuster template. It’s not just nostalgia which make Star Wars and its immediate sequels mini-masterpieces. They had likeable, rough around the edges characters; a familiar, easily digestible storyline; and effects which truly were special. In this happier, pre-CGI era, the restrained budget forced the team at ILM to use miniatures and models, lending A New Hope and its two sequels real depth and texture. Sadly, 20 years later George Lucas went at most fans’ childhood with a digital wrecking ball, adding wholly unnecessary flourishes, reinstating scenes excised for good reason and making Greedo shoot first. Worse, he was responsible for the much maligned three prequels, beginning with The Phantom Menace and its underlying anti-Semitism, nonsense about ‘midichlorians’ and oddly sacrilegious suggestion that Anakin Skywalker was immaculately conceived. Consequently, this new Star Wars box-set, where all six films make their debut on blu-ray, is a mixture of mercies. Episodes I-III can’t hold a lightsaber to the originals, but they are boosted by a welter of supplementary commentaries, documentaries and interviews. Everything bar an apology. Ross Thompson
CONSOLE YOURSELF! The AU round-up of gaming releases Summer is traditionally a fallow period for the videogames industry, and this paucity of quality titles has once again been epitomised by the swamp of movie tie-ins such as Harry Potter (EA, Multiformat) and Captain America: Super Soldier (Sega, Multi). The former is a weak, Mudblood jigsaw of genres which feels rushed, lacking in (ahem) magic and hardly a fitting send-off to the franchise. The latter, in comparison, is the kind of enjoyable though undemanding romp Sega developers can make in their sleep. Much more fun can be had with the ‘Summer Of Arcade’ campaign on XBLA, a selection box of downloadable titles which offer a boatload more fun than their full-price competitors. Particularly worthy of note are Bastion, an old school RPG with a wistful voiceover and less Final Fantasy stats grinding, or the brilliantly named Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, which combines Super Metroid power-ups with a stunning art style like Limbo with oodles more colour. Elsewhere, the iPhone and Kinect technologies meld together for a full body workout in Fruit Ninja, and Toy Soldiers: Cold War is the latest in the tower defence series but with added Rambo references. Overall, it’s a terrific collection, one which proves that there is just as much talent working in the independent, low budget sectors as in the major leagues. Kudos to Microsoft for promoting it so ardently.
BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY In truth, this is the season for looking to the future, and the crystal ball and tea leaves come in the form of the numerous gaming expos taking place across the world. At Gamescom and PAX, which have just finished up in Cologne and Seattle respectively, fans, journalists and insiders were treated to preview footage of Batman: Arkham City (Warner Bros., Multi), which stars Catwoman and Robin as playable character alongside fan favourites TwoFace, Hugo Strange, Harley Quinn and Mr. Freeze. Its predecessor Arkham Asylum has rightly become one of the most vaunted games of this console generation, yet this is said to be five times larger and stuffed to the gills with secrets, challenges and side missions. It was also revealed that Mass Effect 3 (EA, Multi) has voice commands thanks to the Kinect unit and that we’re going to be gifted with a
Borderlands 2 (2K, Multi) at some indistinct point in the future. Details so far are sketchy, but the very thought of a return trip to Pandora is exciting nonetheless. Those who fancy attending a trade fair closer to home can attend GAMEfest at the Birmingham NEC (September 16 – 18), which promises sneak peeks at Skyrim (Bethesda, Multi), the followup to the acclaimed time sponge RPG Oblivion, Sonic Generations (Sega, Multi), the forthcoming celebration of the hyperactive hedgehog’s 20th birthday, and Rise Of Nightmares (Sega, Xbox 360), a deliberately trash throwback to shooters like House Of The Dead. Be excited: the months of gaming famine are over and the harvest is about to begin. Ross Thompson
FLASHBACK Senseless Violence The Death Of Tupac Shakur, September 13, 1996
15 YEARS AGO
At approximately 11.15 pm on September 6, 1996, a white Cadillac pulled up next to a BMW containing Tupac Shakur. The rapper, who had just been to a Mike Tyson boxing match, was cruising through Las Vegas on his way to a nightclub. He never got there. The occupants of the Cadillac fired a volley of bullets into the car; Shakur was hit four times. One week later, he died from the injuries he had sustained. Tupac was 25 years old. If the world had lost one of its most successful rap stars, it was a tawdry end to a life jammed with a twisted mix of brutality and musical brilliance. Shakur had spent time in jail for sexual assault – in fact he became the first artist in history to have a number one album on the Billboard chart while in prison (1995’s Me Against The World) – but, in November 1994, was on the receiving end when he was robbed and shot five times at Quad Recordings
Studios in Manhattan. His life became dominated by recrimination and revenge. The LA-based Shakur accused first Sean Combs and then Biggie Smalls of the attack, as the EastWest Coast hip-hop rivalry escalated into mindnumbing violence. Indeed, on the night of his death, only an hour before the fatal shooting, Shakur had attacked a member of the Southside Crips, an LA gang with connections to Smalls. Tupac’s murder still remains unsolved. Biggie Smalls was murdered in almost identical circumstances six months later, an act which was made worse when Sean ‘Or Puff Daddy At That Point’ Combs was inspired to record the risible ‘I’ll Be Missing You’. Fifteen years on, it all seems pathetically tit-for-tat. Shakur’s death provided ammunition (ahem) for two unconnected theories. Firstly, it demonstrated that gangsta rap was for real, with its main proponents ‘dying the dream’. These were seriously hard men, and not just sad little playground bullies with gleaming firearms. When AU interviewed veteran rapper Ice Cube last year, he was insightful and wise until we broached the subject of the east versus west coast feud – after which he became almost childlike in his pettiness. Secondly, Tupac Shakur provided fresh evidence that being dead doesn’t actually harm your music
career prospects. With a post-jail recording frenzy providing a wealth of new material, Tupac has gone on to release more albums posthumously than he did when he was alive. All of his post-death albums have gone platinum, proving that an untimely end is only a minor obstacle when it comes to shifting units. Triteness aside, the real tragedy of Tupac’s death was the loss of an extremely talented artist. A voracious reader (his house was once described as a “sea of books”), he studied acting, poetry and ballet (no sniggering) at the Baltimore School of Arts. After moving to California when he was 17, Shakur hooked up with rap group Digital Underground and began to make music. Tupac was a brilliant rapper and his early work drew on both the social inequalities he saw around him and the politics of the Black Panther movement, of which both his parents were members. His most successful album, 1996’s All Eyez On Me, contains some of his greatest songs (check out the thrilling menace of ‘Ambitionz Az A Ridah’), and conveyed an intense web of contradictions. Just like the man himself. Legend has it that Tupac’s ashes were mixed with marijuana and smoked by his band Outlawz. At least some folk benefitted from Tupac Shakur’s senseless demise. John Freeman
CLASSIC MOVIE David Lynch’s Grand Redemption: Blue Velvet (1986)
A red curtain, mournful strings, and idyllic America, in all its unreal beauty. The opening of David Lynch’s 1986 masterpiece, Blue Velvet, gives away nothing about what is to come, a spellbinding tale in which nothing is what it seems. After a series of ‘interesting’ films (and one spectacular space-flop) the director was about to unleash what would eventually become his signature film. As time slips away, and minds begin to unravel, AU takes a look back at David Lynch’s most perfect film. By 1986, David Lynch was in danger of squandering the hotshot reputation he’d worked hard to create. His first film, Eraserhead (1977) had established him as a master of weirdness, a baffling story which may or may not have been about a man’s suicide in the face of fatherhood. The black-and-white vistas portrayed in the film perfectly matched Henry Spencer’s descent into death (or life), whilst the plot was all there to be unravelled, a maze of terrifying imagery and nonsensical dialogue. The followup, The Elephant Man (1980), honed his auteur’s touch, presenting Lynch as a man capable of telling a powerful and moving story, whilst avoiding anything even remotely resembling cliché.
But his attempt to tackle Frank Herbert’s scifi epic Dune (1984) came close to completely destroying the reputation of this maverick director, just as he was ready to unleash his greatest work. A combination of poor scripting, confusing editing, and arbitrary studio cuts in an attempt to do another Star Wars resulted in a car crash of a movie, lurching from scene to scene without ever really knowing what it was trying to do. The film was a titanic flop, derided by critics and avoided by movie-goers. Lynch’s future seemed certain to end up in obscurity, perhaps the subject of the odd ‘Whatever happened to...’ type article. However, providence intervened, and Lynch found himself in a position to craft a much more personal film, a piece of work so intimate and unique that it has almost come to be recognised as a genre in itself. Blue Velvet loosely tells the story of Jeffery Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan), a college kid who returns home to Lumberton for the summer to a town seemingly trapped in some kind of timewarp, halfway between the Fifties and the Eighties. After stumbling upon a severed ear in a field, Jeffery decides to play detective, becoming embroiled with seedy characters, psychopaths, and tragedy. The strength of the film isn’t so much the plot (which is undeniably strong), but rather in the careful touch which goes into every scene, a meticulous eye for detail which makes every scene seem more than believable, as if we’re peering directly into someone’s life, no matter how strange the events portrayed are. Even background characters seem
fully fleshed out, acting and behaving in a manner which suggests they’ve been hiding in the shadows all your life. The town possesses a quaint 1950s feel, which Lynch then peels back, layer by layer, revealing all manner of unspeakable darkness lurking beneath. The film completely restored Lynch’s reputation, establishing Lynch as the master of modern suspense, as well as giving cinema a new exciting voice capable of articulating genuine surrealism. After this, anything weird or unsettling would likely be described as ‘Lynchian’. The director followed it with Wild At Heart (1990), a road movie which happily dealt in the over-the-top violence the director had avoided in Blue Velvet, and then his iconic TV series, Twin Peaks (1990), which successfully translated Lynch’s suburban surrealism to the small screen. But nothing satisfies quite like Blue Velvet, and it’s multitude of haunting moments. From Jeffery hiding in the wardrobe of femmefatale Isabella Rossellini whilst she alternately soothes and aggravates Frank (Dennis Hopper in one of his most incendiary performances) to Dean Stockwell singing Roy Orbison’s ‘In Dreams’ to an assorted rogues gallery of thugs and misfits, Blue Velvet never truly leaves the mind. After David Lynch proved that the completely normal was perhaps the strangest thing of all, nothing would ever quite be the same again. Steven Rainey
THE BEACH BOYS
It is almost 50 years since arguably America’s greatest band started to compose a catalogue of songs that would change how popular music was perceived. Self-confessed pop kid John Freeman looks back at how the genius of Brian Wilson and friends catalysed a period of unsurpassed sonic experimentation. Words by John Freeman Illustration by Shauna McGowan There is a theory – okay, it is this scribe’s theory – that if you trace your musical tastes back to your early life, the songs you loved as a small child form the roots of the music you cherish today. It may have been the intricacies of classical composition, or the beat-driven rhythms of dance music. For this writer, all routes lead back to simple song structures and gleaming pop melodies. I’m a ‘pop kid’ at heart – and it is all because of The Beach Boys.
or, more latterly, Vancouver’s Shimmering Stars. But The Beach Boys were not merely wide-eyed surf kids. As a teenager, I discovered their 1966 masterpiece Pet Sounds. My love affair was complete – the album created a platform for pop music to be intelligent, multi-dimensional and deeply affecting. I thought that ‘Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)’, with its lub-dup heartbeat, was one of the most beautiful songs I’d ever heard. I still do.
on Brian Wilson. By April 1967, struggling with mental illness and drug addiction Wilson heard a tape of ‘A Day In The Life’ and it seemed to be the final straw. Wilson stopped working on the infamous Smile album project, with his co-writer/producer Van Dyke Parks later reflecting that “Brian had a nervous collapse. What broke his heart was Sgt. Pepper’s.” Imagine Win Butler listening to The King Of Limbs and giving up on the next Arcade Fire album.
My summer holidays incorporated deathly-slow car journeys with a father intent on taking the nonmotorway, scenic route. We’d listen to music and seemed to have a choice of only three cassettes; ABBA, E.L.O. or The Beach Boys. The latter was a cheesy compilation of their early hits and I loved it. As the now-familiar songs rang out – be it ‘Surfin’ USA’, ‘Little Deuce Coupe’, ‘I Get Around’ or ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ – I was immediately transported to California and a heady mix of sun, surf and fast cars. I adored the effortlessness of the melodies even if I didn’t appreciate that I was actually listening to some of the most magical – and perfect – pop songs ever written.
And Pet Sounds had been coming. By 1964, stressed and suffering from anxiety attacks, Brian Wilson was spending more and more time locked away in the recording studio. He began to experiment with a variety of different instruments and unlocked the potential of multi-tracking and overdubbing to develop the scope of his sonic palette. The 1965 album Today! hinted at a more expansive sound, but what followed would change the popular music world forever.
Smile would become almost mythical – a shelved, unfinished masterpiece. Collaborating with Parks, Wilson had been attempting to create a continuous suite of highly innovative songs, connected by miniinstrumentals and spoken-word sections. However, a combination of record company resistance to the initial demos coupled to Wilson’s health issues, meant Smile was not released at the time. The Beach Boys were on a downward spiral from then on. Legal wranglings, court battles, dodgy albums and sibling squabbles would become the norm.
The Beach Boys formed in 1961 in California, and were initially composed of three brothers, Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love and a friend Al Jardine. Initially calling themselves The Pendletones, the quintet were shocked to find, on unpacking a box of the first single (‘Surfin’’), that their record company had changed their name to The Beach Boys in an attempt to link the band to the burgeoning surf-rock scene on the West Coast. During their early years The Beach Boys’ output was prodigious and the band became a global success. Brian Wilson, the primary songwriter, took the rockand-roll sound of acts like Chuck Berry and added the angelic close vocal harmonies that lifted his simple tunes to breathtakingly gorgeous levels. This early incarnation of The Beach Boys still resonates today, be it through the use of harmonies by Fleet Foxes, or the contagious surf-rock of bands like The Drums
In fact Pet Sounds was made in reaction to Brian Wilson hearing The Beatles’ Rubber Soul. Fuelled with inspiration, Wilson apparently announced to his wife, “Marilyn, I’m gonna make the greatest album!” He was true to his word. Pet Sounds is a bona fide all-time classic; deeply experimental in its use of layered instrumentation, intricate harmonies and lush production, The Beach Boys’ 11th album pushed back the boundaries for how pop bands could produce music. By this point Wilson was also heavy LSD user, and the songs themselves were bathed in a youthful sadness. ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’, the peerless ‘God Only Knows’ and even the updating of a West Indian folk song, ‘Sloop John B’, are all gloriously world-weary compared with their earlier surf-and-girls tunes. The Beatles loved Pet Sounds, and ‘responded’ by recording Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as the two groups assumed a creative arms race to deliver consecutive albums of unbridled quality. Sadly, Sgt. Pepper’s would have a destructive effect
In 2004, Brian Wilson finally released a re-recorded version of Smile. Perhaps predictably, the critics collectively wet themselves but, almost 30 years after my introduction to The Beach Boys on those interminable car journeys, I was disappointed with what I heard. Smile seemed just too deranged and disjointed, like listening to carnival music while high on acid. Unanchored from the era it was intended for, the really sad aspect about Smile is that we will never know the artistic impact it would have had in the late Sixties. Brian Wilson still performs Smile and The Beach Boys back catalogue as a solo artist and the 69-yearold is savvy enough to surround himself with some shit-hot musicians to hide his waning talent. But at its brightest, Wilson’s star created shining pop music that still shapes they way we hear our favourite songs of today. Brian Wilson plays at Dublin’s Grand Canal Theatre on September 7.
A Timeless Influence Even though their creative peak was over 40 years ago, the impact of The Beach Boys’ music still resonates with our bands today. AU asked several Irish musicians what it is they love about Brian Wilson and co. Danny Todd, Cashier No.9: “I first heard The Beach Boys on holiday driving around the north Antrim coast, counting the ‘Rhondas’ in ‘Help Me Rhonda’. Now, on a perfect night in, you’ll find me blubbering into a bottle of wine listening to the Pet Sounds box-set outtakes. John, Paul, George and Ringo? Give me Brian, Carl, Dennis, Mike and Al any day.”
James Vincent McMorrow: “There was a period in my life where all I listened to were The Beach Boys, where I slept with a copy of Pet Sounds beneath my pillow, spent weeks on end trying to figure out how Brian Wilson made ‘God Only Knows’ sound like it sounds, and not comprehending even a bar of it. Along with The Beatles they were essentially the blueprint for modern pop music and for modern recording techniques.”
John Kowalski, Solar Bears: “Pet Sounds is a monumental piece of music. What I love about them is the fact they created an irresistible image of America, all smiles and waves and sun glare. In my opinion ‘God Only Knows’ is scientifically perfect.”
Richie Egan, aka Jape: “When I was younger and had exhausted my Beatles fanaticism I was delighted and surprised to find that their arch rivals The Beach Boys back catalogue was just as varied, and even bigger, than theirs. There’s a lot to find if you go looking for The Beach Boys, and there’s no better place to start than [the underrated 1968 album] Friends.”
Whelan’s Record Fair Upstairs in Whelan’s, Dublin Dublin’s record nerds headed to that paragon of the city’s music scene, Whelan’s of Wexford Street, to do some prime crate-digging. No frills, just a perfect Saturday afternoon getting those fingers nice and dusty. And as you can see, there were some gems to be found among the piles of vinyl...
Photos by Loreana Rushe Lauren
Sean & Jack
Kieran & Aideen
Liam & Fergal
Darren & Brian
Tennant’s Vital Day Two Ward Park, Bangor The triumphant return of Tennant’s Vital, this time hosted in Bangor’s Ward Park, came to it’s Wednesday night climax with a formidable line-up of the biggest names in Indie, Emo and Hip-Hop. D12 and OFWGKTA gave energetic performances for the gathering crowd before Jimmy Eat World’s slot in The Middle (see what we did there?) of the day provided sing-a-long moments so unifying that the rain made no dent in the crowd’s enthusiasm. Kaiser Chiefs returned to N.I with enough hooks to make an angler chuffed, as Ricky Wilson pranced around the stage with the bags of charisma we’ve come to expect from the art-poppers. Headliner Eminem (who AU likes to imagine had a pre-gig splash in pickie pool) ascended onto to the stage through flames before launching into a barrage of hits. Flames. What more could you ask for?
Colin, Kelly, Andrea & David
Words and Photos by Suzie McCracken Rebecca & Sarah Louise
Zara & Kim
Naomi, Tori, Rebecca & Amy
Patrick, Richard & John
Aaron & Robert
Robbie & Kareen
James & Finlay
Kerry, Rhiannon & Beth
THE LAST WORD With: Ghostpoet When was the last time you offended someone? I offended my dog yesterday – I brought him the wrong kind of dog food. When was the last time one of your heroes disappointed you? I don’t really believe in heroes – just people I admire, and they never disappoint. What was the last meal you had? A horrible vegetable lasagne from a high street chain I will never go back to!
When was the last time you threw up? Haha, a uni night out a long time ago! What was the last good record you bought? Africa HiTech’s latest. I don’t really buy records anymore What was the last good book you bought? Slow by Carl Honoré When was the last time you were scared? I don’t get scared because Chuck Norris is my muse.
When was the last time you felt guilty? When I last played Grand Theft Auto.
What was the last bad job you had? I worked in customer service for a car company a few years back.
What was the last piece of good advice you were given? Pick yourself up.
What was the last injury you sustained? I broke a bone in my leg many years ago.
When was the last time you cried? It was many moons ago, I can’t quite remember.
When was the last time you broke the law? I don’t break the law.
When was the last time you were embarrassed? Again, a long time ago. Music and performing live have helped my confidence – I don’t embarrass easily anymore
If the world was about to end, what would your last words be? “I really should have had that double cheeseburger.”
When was the last time you time you had a fistfight? On Fight Night Champion the other night on the PS3.
Ghostpoet plays Whelan’s in Dublin on September 26. www.ghostpoet.co.uk
FAMOUS LAST WORDS
THIS ISSUE WAS POWERED BY
“I’ll be in Hell before you start breakfast! Let her rip!”
Epic weddings, fucking off to the cricket, Glasgowbury, massive ollies, stalking Warpaint, going buck-mad in the Mournes, personal branding, patched-up jeans, retro sportswear, girls, boys, Carl Sagan.
Train robber Tom ‘Black Jack’ Ketchum (October 31, 1863 – April 26, 1901), just before he was to be executed by hanging. Appropriately enough, the rope was too long, and he was decapitated. “We made a death pact, and I have to accomplish my part of the deal. Please bury me next to my baby. Please bury me with my leather jacket, jeans and motorcycle boots. Goodbye. With love, Sid.” The suicide note of Sid Vicious (May 10, 1957 – February 2, 1979), Sex Pistols bassist.
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Published on Sep 7, 2011
Published on Sep 7, 2011
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