AU Magazine Issue 79

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DEC | JAN 2011/2012 golden discs

MUSIC & REVIEWS

CURRENT AFFAIRS

GIGS & EVENTS

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

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S M U 2 1 B 0 L 2 A r H o S I F R I - featuring -

On The Steps Of St. Paul’s Where next for the Occupy movement? Guided By Voices Drink and thrive the indie legends return On A Roll AU meets the girls putting Belfast on the roller derby map

AU’s Albums of the Year 2011

Brian Eno Saluting a true musical genius

From Anna Calvi to Yuck – our favourite 40

A TO Z OF WINTER | SWEDE | SADDAM HUSSEIN | STREET ART | THE SMASHING PUMPKINS | SPITTING IMAGE | 2:54 | CHRISTMAS ALBUMS | CRAIG FINN


my inspiration Amy Winehouse

I’m only flesh and blood but I can be everything that you demand Donny Hathaway

CD out now

I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know

Photography by Alex Lake

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“I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” Words and Music by Al Kooper © 1968 Unichappell Music Ltd. All rights administered by Warner/Chappell Music Ltd. London W6 8BS. Reproduced by Permission. Title subject to availability while stocks last at participating stores/online.


MAGAZINE ISSUE 79 | CONTENTS EDITORIAL It happens every year. Every single year. We get to December and my brain says ‘Woah there Nelly, it can’t be the end of the year already, we just got started’. I don’t know why my brain calls me Nelly, but that’s beside the point. 2011 has flown in at a remarkable rate, and it has been a big year for AU. We kicked things off by putting the magazine through our biggest redesign ever. We changed the paper, style, layout and everything. It turned out to be one of the best moves we ever made, and people almost unanimously preferred the new look and feel. We were chuffed. Then we looked at the website, and felt that it needed to be brought into line with the magazine. Next thing you know it’s undergoing a complete overhaul too, and we now feel the website is the best it has ever been. Then, to top an already huge year off, we ended it by teaming up with the Oh Yeah Music Centre to present the first ever Northern Ireland Music Awards. It was an amazing event, and one of the best things we have ever been involved. If next year is even one tenth as big as that, then 2012 is going to another good one. Bring it on. Jonny

UPFRONT News and views from the world of AU

REVIEWS The AU Verdict

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 Website assistant – James Wallace Design Tim Farrell (www.timothyfarrell.co.uk) Illustration Rebecca Hendin, Shauna McGowan, Mark Reihill Photography Ramsey Cardy, Eilish McCormick, Loreana Rushe Contributors Kiran Acharya, Keith Anderson, Josh Baines, Jonathan Bradley, Niall Byrne, Brian Coney, Jordan Cullen, Dave Donnelly, Neill Dougan, John Freeman, Lee Gorman, Daniel Harrison, James Hendicott, Merlin Jobst, Andrew Johnston, Adam Lacey, Andrew Lemon, Stevie Lennox, Ian Maleney, Peter McCaughan, Karl McDonald, Iain McDowell, Aoife McElwain, Aoife McKeown, Lauren Murphy, Joe Nawaz, Shannon O’Neill, Steven Rainey, Mike Ravenscroft, Katherine Rodgers, Eamonn Seoige, Dean Van Nguyen

STUPID THINGS SAID THIS MONTH Though to be fair I do have a high quality hood. I suppose I’m quite quick with my thumbs. I can’t talk, I’m on Come Dine With Me. Done. Look at me being efficient and shit. We’d be officer class because we can count to ten. I think a world war would definitely sort things out. Not nuclear back to bayonets. I was going to get more candy canes, because I feel like it needs more candy canes. It’s just a question of being dead on. He needs to redesign his life.

04 Going Out or Staying In

48 Album Reviews

Page 8 – Hot Topic: Roller Derby Page 10 – The Xmas Factor Page 12 – Street Art Page 13 – Unknown Pleasures Page 14 – The Limelight Page 15 – Season’s Eatings Page 16 – A Song A Day For A Year Page 18 – Jon Ronson Page 19 – Games / Band Maths Page 20 – Cut O’ Ye Page 21 – Teethgrinder Page 22 – Weird Wide Web Page 24 – Incoming: 2:54 / Seekae / ∆ / Our Krypton Son

Page 53 – Young Blood Page 54 – Live Reviews Page 55 – Movie and Game Reviews

REWIND AU rolls back the years Page 56 – Flashback: The Death of Saddam Hussein Page 57 – Classic TV Show: Spitting Image

FEATURES AU goes in-depth

MS For 2012

U IRISH ALB 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 info@iheartau.com a line. We’ll sort you out. To advertise in AU Magazine contact the sales team Tel: 028 9032 4888 or via email: andrew@iheartau.com The opinions expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of the editor or the publisher. Copyright remains with the author / photographer / designer. Send demos / mail / material to: AU Magazine, 2nd Floor, 21 Ormeau Avenue, Belfast, BT2 8HD For more info contact: info@iheartau.com For all general and editorial enquiries call: 028 9032 4455 AU Magazine graciously acknowledges funding support from the Arts Council Of Northern Ireland

34 Irish Albums For 2012 Page 26 – Guided By Voices Page 28 – AU’s Albums of the Year 2011 Page 40 – On The Steps Of St. Paul’s Page 44 – A to Z Of Winter

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58 Respect Your Shelf: Brian Eno Page 60 – In Pics: Pinback / Slacker Page 62 – The Last Word: Craig Finn of The Hold Steady


Black Power Mixtape (1967-1975)

The Documentary

While he may always be ‘that other bloke out of Lethal Weapon’ for some, the actor Danny Glover is also a passionate political activist who often puts his money where his mouth is. The astonishing Black Power Mixtape, released by his Louverture Films company, is centred around a treasure trove of 16mm footage shot by Swedish film makers looking for the ‘real America’ during the oft-reported but much distorted Black Power era. Recently discovered miraculously intact in the bowels of a Swedish TV station, the reels of Black Power Mixtape take us on an exhilarating whistlestop tour of the pivotal dates and people of the struggle. Singer Harry Belafonte and Abiodun Oyewole of The Last Poets are in the mix alongside Black Panther luminaries such as Stokely Carmichael and Angela Davis. Contemporary perspectives come from Erykah Badu, Questlove of The Roots and Glover himself. The result is an incendiary, eloquent and entertaining documentary. The revolution finally gets to be televised. JN

STAYING IN

Black Power Mixtape is out now.

Call Of Duty: Black Ops Zombies THE APP

In a strange turn of events, this undead twist on Horde mode, originally bundled with World At War, should become almost as popular as its parent game. And now it’s shambled its way onto mobile devices, where it works much better than you might expect. While the graphics might pale in comparison with its big screen counterpart, the central gameplay – shoot zombies, board up windows, don’t die – remains the same. Likely to make trains and buses more full of groaning and drooling than they already are. RT Call Of Duty: Black Ops Zombies is available now for iPhone and iPad.

THE BOOK

Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath Ozzy Osbourne can’t fart without someone making a documentary about it, but how much do we know about the actual genius behind Black Sabbath, guitarist Tony Iommi? Finally, the ‘riffmaster general’ has penned his autobiography, in which he spills the beans on 42 years, 19 albums, 27 world tours, 10 lead singers and two fingertips sliced off in an industrial accident. The man who wrote ‘Paranoid’, ‘War Pigs’, ‘Iron Man’, ‘Children Of The Grave’, ‘Heaven And Hell’ and, er, ‘Zero The Hero’ (this writer’s personal fave, from ’83’s oft-dismissed Born Again LP) is worth 352 pages of any self-respecting music fan’s time. AJ Out now, published by Simon & Schuster.

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The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a long-awaited return to form for the series and a final hurrah for Nintendo’s flagging Wii console. The result is an adventure that’s perfect for the Christmas holidays: close to 30 hours’ worth of swordplay, plundering dungeons and epic boss fights. Equally inspired by mythology, Japanese comic art and videogames past, it’s about as joyful an experience as anyone could hope for. Outstanding. RT

THE BOXSET

THE GAME

THE TV SHOW

Frozen Planet Proving once again that the BBC make the best documentaries in the world, Frozen Planet is one of those programmes which stops you in your tracks, halts your breath and causes you to marvel at how wonderfully rich and complex a world surrounds us. It’s an extraordinary series which is as beautiful to regard as it is to contemplate afterwards, narrated by David Attenborough with his usual casual air. If he does hang up his hiking boots after this marvellous insight into life and death in the polar regions, he should be proud of such an innovative legacy. RT

The Legend Of Zelda: The Skyward Sword is out now for Nintendo Wii.

Frozen Planet: The Complete Series is released on DVD and Blu-Ray on December 8.

This Is England ‘88

Le Freak by Nile Rodgers

Shane Meadows returns to darken our screens with another instalment of the excellent This Is England series. The emotional hangover lingers as Woody and Lol struggle to hold it together after the horrifying events of the previous series, while the youthful romance of Shaun and Smell’s relationship has all but evaporated. It’s refreshing to see that the cast has remained largely unchanged from the initial movie, including Stephen Graham continuing his excellent run as Combo. As ever, expect a great soundtrack, heavy storylines, and not a lot of Christmas cheer. AS

Nile Rodgers’ life reads like a twisted, drug-fuelled version of a Boys’ Own tale. From growing up in New York with his junkie mum and stepdad, to dropping acid with Timothy Leary and jamming with Hendrix as a teenager, playing in The Muppets’ band, finding stardom with Chic and going on to produce the biggest stars in the world (and Sheena Easton), the disco legend’s autobiography lurches headlong from one jaw-dropping anecdote to another. All that, and the book doesn’t even cover the cancer battle which has dominated the last year of his life. Rollicking stuff. CJ

THE BOOK (II)

This Is England ’88 is showing on Channel 4 on December 13, 14 and 15.

Le Freak is out now, published by Sphere.

Rev. One of the most sharp and insightful sitcoms of recent years, Rev. is built around a standout turn from Tom Hollander as the doubtful, put-upon priest floundering to keep his faith in an inner city parish. Funny and poignant in equal doses, this very human series manages to poke fun at the silly fringes of religion without lambasting the sincerity and kindness of its followers. It’s a wonderful balancing act which frequently pulls the rug from under the viewer, and asks difficult philosophical questions where other comedies would insert a bum joke. It’s a world away from the chocolate box farce of The Vicar Of Dibley, and all the better for it. RT

THE CHRISTMAS SPECIAL

The Rev. Christmas Special is on BBC2, Dec 20. Series 1 is out now on DVD.

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Out To Lunch Belfast’s most eclectic festival returns to shoo away the January blues with a wild and wonderful programme of music, comedy, film, drama and spoken word. Where else can you chow down on a complimentary curry whilst watching the likes of tattooed roots revivalist CW Stoneking, Hitler ‘tache-sporting humorist Richard Herring (pictured), Orange Prize-winning wordsmith Lionel Shriver, a Stephen Rea-narrated staging of Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman, filmic paean to the record shop Sound It Out, off-kilter hip hop star Ghostpoet, Britpop rent-a-gob Luke Haines, Pink Floyd bassist-turned-author and stand-up Guy Pratt, maverick (read: nuts) broadcaster Andy Kershaw, gonzo documentarian Jon Ronson and Catchphrase host and pal of Mr Chips, Belfast’s own Roy Walker? Perhaps only in Lauren Laverne’s acid trip.

GOING OUT

FESTIVAL

MOVIE

With more than 50 performances across four weeks – many taking place at lunchtime, hence the moniker – it’s some undertaking for the humble punter. But with most tickets hovering around the six-quid mark, Ulster’s aficionados of all things artsy are encouraged to fill their boots – and their bellies. AJ Out To Lunch events run at the Black Box and Spring & Airbrake, Belfast from January 4-29.

COMEDY

GIG

The Iron Lady

Dara O’Briain

Explosions In The Sky

Panto season comes to cinemas, as Hollywood icon Meryl Streep dons the coiffed wig, white pearl necklace and starchy blue suit of the woman they love to hate: milk-snatching, Falklands-invading, hunger strike-prolonging former British Prime Minister Margaret “Crime is crime is crime” Thatcher. Old Maggie’s family have decried The Iron Lady as “some left-wing fantasy”, but that won’t stop audiences booing, hissing and chucking stuff. Put it this way: I wouldn’t like to be the person who cleans the screens at the Falls Road Omniplex. AJ

He may be a fully-fledged TV star, lending his easy charm and deft wit to light entertainment and panel shows, but you could argue that Dara O’Briain’s talent is wasted under the TV lights. He’s less a wisecracking gag-merchant than he is a storyteller, and through January and into February, he will have plenty of time to hone those stories, with a gruelling list of Irish dates in store. Many of them have sold out, but not all as we went to press, so act fast. CJ

Explosions In The Sky are widely regarded as one of the forefathers of instrumental post-rock music, and rightly so. It would be hard to single out any one of their impressive albums as a favourite, such is their quality, and in the New Year they will embark on a deserved lap of victory when they play Belfast as part of their 10th anniversary tour. Fusing the best bits of Mogwai and Sigur Rós, it promises to be very special indeed. AL

Dara O’Briain plays 15 nights at Vicar Street in Dublin, four at Cork Opera House and two at the INEC in Killarney during January and February. Check www.daraobriain.com for details.

Explosions In The Sky play the Mandela Hall, Belfast on January 22.

The Iron Lady is in cinemas from January 6.

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FAREWELL

GIG

PARTY

Farewell, Animal Disco

The Japanese Popstars

Richter Collective’s Christmas Party

One of AU’s favourite club nights in the city has sadly decided to call it a day. The premise of a band taking to the compact Auntie Annie’s stage at midnight, together with drinks promos and DJs until the wee hours, proved to be a simple but effective one, as Animal Disco has become a regular haunt for indie kids throughout the city. Featuring a live performance from electro-punks Not Squares and a DJ set from none other than Two Door Cinema Club, it should be the place to be this New Year’s Eve. AL

It has been a rollercoaster year for the Popstars. They have taken their mammoth live show across most corners of the globe, playing to huge crowds and gaining a reputation as one of the best live acts in dance music. So it’s nice that they’re spending the end of said crazy year by playing a few DJ sets at home. They also released their second album, Controlling Your Allegiance, which contained two of the greatest bangers of the year in ‘Destroy’ and ‘Let Go’. For a taste of what their DJ sets are like, check out their Essential Mix from June. Facemelters indeed. AS

The Richter Collective is a record label of alarming consistency. Home to some of our favourite Irish acts, their Christmas party should surely be on every Dublin gig-goer’s radar. Bands on the label are always formidable live, and with BATS, Squarehead, Logikparty, Jogging and Hands Up Who Wants To Die playing on the night, there can’t be many better ways to get into the party spirit this festive season. AL

Animal Disco says goodbye at Auntie Annie’s, Belfast on December 31.

The Japanese Popstars are DJing at Sandino’s, Derry on December 22 and at Shine, Belfast on December 31 with Alex Metric.

The party takes place at the Button Factory, Dublin on December 16.

GIG

GIG

GIG

VerseChorusVerse, Robyn G Shiels & Malojian

Lisa Hannigan

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy

After calling it a day with And So I Watch You From Afar, Tony Wright is now starting to tour as his new project, VerseChorusVerse. Swapping Telecasters and amps for an acoustic guitar and his voice, Wright will play Portrush with fellow singer-songwriters Robyn G Shiels and Malojian. With Shiels preparing to release a new album and Malojian (formerly half of Cat Malojian) a stalwart of the live music scene, this seasonal gig should be one to warm the cockles. AL

Lisa Hannigan’s star continues to rise, with the release of her very well received second album, Passenger. While her brand of folk seems to be very much a fashionable sound these days, Hannigan is far from a blow-in to the folk revival, from her time in Damien Rice’s band to her endearing debut album, Sea Sew. Support on selected dates of her December tour comes from The Ambience Affair, who released their impressive debut album Burials in October. AS

In something of a lean month for big-name visitors to these shores, it’s perhaps fitting that January is rounded off with a visit from an old friend. Will Oldham is at that stage of his career where he’s on a roll of churning out records at the rate of around one a year, unfettered by undue media attention, and each one lapped up by an appreciative fanbase. Gather round the proverbial campfire for a night of spooked-out folk and grizzled Americana. CJ

The three acts play the Atlantic Bar, Portrush on December 30.

Lisa Hannigan plays Belfast, Letterkenny, Limerick, and three venues in Dublin in late December. Check www.lisahannigan.ie for details.

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Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy plays Vicar Street, Dublin on January 31 and Opera House, Cork on February 1.


ON

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ROL A N O

A ROL

Words by James Hendicott Photography by Ramsey Cardy


What the hell is roller derby? AU checks out the attitude-laden alternative sport’s Belfast debut. Words by James Hendicott Photography by Ramsey Cardy

Sport is often a clean-cut, disappointingly attitude-free undertaking, but not tonight. Roller derby’s skating queens are ice-cool, heavily madeup skating juggernauts, powering round a track in a speedy, fishnets-and-tattoos blur. When AU arrives in the Valley Leisure Centre outside Belfast, the place is already rammed, blasting Stiff Little Fingers’ ‘Alternative Ulster’ on a loop as if to welcome us, and chock-full with manic skaters wearing their knickers on the outside. Perfectly lit pitches and one-track lives, this is not. The Belfast Roller Derby League formed 18 months ago, after the skater calling herself Hannahbolic Steroids took the advice of friends in Birmingham, and took on the burden of formation herself. A quick mail to a few friends had a first practice session in place, and training, featuring regular ‘fresh meat’, has been growing ever since. Tonight, there are 28 skaters who have reached a level necessary to compete publicly. Like many recently formed teams, the Belfast girls grew in numbers as Drew Barrymore’s film Whip It gained popularity. The film sees the actress playing an indie-alternative small-town Texan girl escaping the world of pageants to find her own identity in an extremely (and unrealistically) aggressive form of roller derby carnage. ‘Sigourney Cleaver’ – whose offtrack costume includes a large (fake) blooded knife – is one Barrymoreinspired recruit, joining “only a couple of days” after seeing the movie. Others like ‘J-Mag’ were recruited through an undercurrent of word of mouth and the flyering of Belfast’s more alternative corners. The basic principles of roller derby are fairly simple, though the heavier technicalities extend to a half-inch-thick rule book. Each team fields five players, eight of whom (four from each team) circle the track as ‘blockers’, led by the strategy-calling pivot. Behind them, and starting just a touch later, the speedy ‘jammers’ – one from each team – power towards the pack, and attempt to skip, twist and bash their way through to the front. The blockers’ job is a dual one: they’re responsible for both blocking the opposition jammer, and helping their own to pass through the rolling bodies unscathed. For each opposition blocker that the jammer passes after their first run through, or for lapping the opposition jammer, they pick up a point. Each ‘jam’ lasts two minutes (though it can be ended early by the lead jammer), while a ‘bout’ – or contest – has a one hour limit, but crams in as many jams as possible. In practice, the jammers are slightly more important than the blockers (both of whom rotate from a 14-girl team), though a good blocker can prevent a jammer from cashing in at all, and so also be worth a whole lot of points. Explaining the blocker’s strategy, J-Mag argues, “the concentration is mainly on the other team’s jammer. Helping your own jammer is secondary.” It might sound complex, but Hannahbolic enthusiastically touts the skill requirement as “none” – none of the girls come from skating backgrounds. However, the training can be intense. “Everyone comes at it from different levels,” Cleaver explains. “You’ll have some people who are really quite athletic when they join, but there are people who’ve never done a team sport in their lives. We’ll teach people everything they need to know.” On the other hand, the physical demands are not to be sniffed at, with training becoming increasingly intensive. “It’s very physical,” Hannah explains.

“We train three times a week, and it was four times over the summer. You need to be working out on the days you’re not skating, too, so that training sessions are just for the skill element. It’s a struggle, and we wouldn’t make anyone do more than they’re comfortable with, but we’re a competitive league, so if people want to get first picks they need to put in the work.” As for the physical side of the bouts themselves, Hannah explains, “There are several members of our team, and other teams as well, that could put you on the floor pretty easily, but roller derby’s moved on from that. It’s more beneficial to get in someone’s lap and feel where they’re going to go, and block them. There are big hits, but it’s more tactical than just slamming people.” Physical, yes, but roller derby is also accessible for newcomers, particularly now. The sport is so new to Northern Ireland that none of the girls have more than 18 months’ experience, yet an all-Ireland team recently went to represent the country in ‘Blood and Thunder’, the American-based Roller Derby World Cup, and things are a little further on in Dublin and Cork. The members of the Belfast team are either ineligible or not quite experienced enough to make the side this time around. As an amateur sport with a DIY ethos – “There’s a real community spirit, we’ve been places and stayed with other teams, and we’ll offer the same if they come here” – derby has a fierce identity, not least in its dress code. “The make-up and costumes help me compartmentalise the nerves,” Hannah argues, while Cleaver sees it as “a bit like playing superheroes. That’s why you see all the pants on the outside.” It all looks great on the track. Tonight’s bout is an ‘intra-league’ contest, consisting entirely of members of Belfast’s own team, but no less intense for it. A crowd of around 250 watch the girls shoulder-charge, skip around each other and fly past in a blur of intimidating make-up over the course of two halves, a punk, rock and metal soundtrack offering appropriate backing music. The most striking thing is perhaps the speed of the jammers, who, once they escape the bustling pack, invariably fly around the circuit in seconds to line up another run through. As Belfast Roller Derby play ‘flat track’ (i.e. not banked) roller derby, the trips and falls tend to end in slides out towards the crowd, while point-scoring varies wildly between bouts, with particularly speedy skaters like ‘Puscifer’ racking up the scores lap after lap, while intelligent blocking leaves others stranded in dense packs. While the opening jams feel a little like the girls testing the water, the full tactical range of the game really starts to come out towards the end of the opening half. With the league divided into black and white team colours for tonight, they demonstrate the full physical and tactical intensity of the sport in a night that offers a triumphant example of a concept that’s new to almost all of us. Just the level of sin bins, and the new tactical options that are opened up by the intelligent “no harm, no foul” refereeing is a mustsee, offering extreme ‘power jam’ options. The long-term aim, as Cleaver tells it, is “basically to grow. It would be great to get an all-Ireland tournament. In the short term, we just want to get to the point where we can play a lot of other teams.” There are a growing number of options, with the sport quickly taking off across numerous continents. The London RollerGirls, for example, have already reached a level that allows them to compete in the American championship. With a number of breathtakingly fast jammers and physical, swift blockers, Belfast’s first public outing looks very much like a first step onto a global scene. www.belfastrollerderby.net

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The Xmas Factor A Christmas album seems to be the indie accessory du jour. But why?

EMMY THE GREAT & TIM WHEELER

SMITH & BURROWS

While Christmas brings an abundance of merriment and bonhomie, it can be a dark period for music fans. Wall-to-wall Slade, Wizzard and Mariah sodding Carey assault the airwaves, with the only brief respite brought by the messianic ‘Fairytale Of New York’. But, fear not, three saviours have arrived this year. A trio of double acts, Smith & Burrows, Emmy The Great and Tim Wheeler and She & Him have all released festive-themed albums – Christmas of 2011 may actually be merciful to our ears. AU spoke to Tom Smith and Tim Wheeler about their respective albums and why on earth they would want to make a Christmas record. Words by John Freeman

drunkenly, in the pub – about doing something together,” says Smith. “Very early on we knew we didn’t want this to be an album of jingle bells-type songs or Christmassy hits. It was more serious I guess. We started off doing ‘Wonderful Life’ by Black which is a song Andy and I had done on stage with his old band a couple of times and seemed like a good starting point. That worked really well; I loved the way it felt and the textures. It had a very traditional nature in its presentation. It sounded very wintry.”

“Like you, The Pogues’ is my favourite Christmas song,” reveals Tom Smith, when we catch up with the Editors frontman to discuss the Smith & Burrows project. “It’s the pub, the rosy alcoholic glow on everyone, your friends and family coming together and reflecting on what’s gone and then that typical naïvety that next year will be better. That’s what it is about for us and that’s what we are trying to do on the record.”

The resultant album is a mix of original compositions and covers and is a bittersweet collection of songs. The title track is a version of a song by Birmingham cult band Delta. “It seemed to sum up what we were doing,” Tom tells us. “On the one hand making a Christmas album is ridiculous but also we were making it during the summer months in a friend’s attic. We stepped over his children and said ‘hi’ to his wife everyday and walked upstairs to spend eight hours in his baking hot attic. So, ‘Funny Looking Angels’ seemed to sum up what we had been doing for the last year.”

The ‘us’ is a collaboration with ex-Razorlight drummer, and now I Am Arrows bod, Andy Burrows. “We’ve been friends for quite a while now and we’ve talked a lot of times – mostly

If the Smith & Burrows’ album is a grandly sombre affair, Emmy The Great and Tim Wheeler have created a much more upbeat feel to their interpretation of Christmas. It would seem the Ash

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Wonderful Christmastime While the thought of record full of Christmas songs is enough to test even the most festive, there have been a number of truly fantastic Yuletide albums. AU presents our favourite five. Various Artists – A Christmas Gift To You (1963) The Phil Spector-produced spectacular would be many pundits’ choice for THE best ever Chrimbo album, coupling his peerless ‘wall of sound’ technique to a bevy of supreme vocal talent, including Darlene Love, The Ronettes and The Crystals. Initially the album flopped, partly due to being released on the very day JFK was shot. Oops. Low – Christmas (1999) Technically an eight-track EP, the Minnesotan slowcore legends released Christmas as a gift to their fans. After a slug of sleigh bells on the opening ‘Just Like Christmas’ a wall of downbeat glory prevails throughout. Not cheery, but utterly marvellous. Sufjan Stevens – Songs For Christmas (2006) In typically prodigious style, Stevens’ Yuletide offering was a box-set of five EPs recorded over a five-year period. A devout Christian, Sufjan’s mix of carols, original songs and covers is steeped in love and faith. The Chieftains – The Bells Of Dublin (1991) The trad band’s epic album encompassed traditional Christmas songs and vintage carols and included a stellar cast of guests including Elvis Costello, Nancy Griffiths and Marianne Faithfull. James Brown – Funky Christmas (1995) This compilation album picks the jewels from the Godfather’s previous festive offerings and captures the man in his prime, revelling in a dirty brew of funk, soul and old-school gospel. Essential listening for those in need of a post-Christmas dinner boogie.

SHE & HIM singer is a sucker for all festive tunes; “I always love Christmas music – it is something to blast for a short period,” he discloses. The genesis of the album was founded when Wheeler found himself stranded with Emmy LeeMoss in Sussex. “Last Christmas we were snowed in and I was trying to get back to Northern Ireland and Emmy was trying to get to Hong Kong to see her family. We’d run out of DVDs to watch so we started writing songs and because it was Christmas, we were in the spirit and started writing those type of tunes,” Tim says. “It was done in the spirit of fun and not taking itself too seriously, but, also, we were actually really enjoying it and I think that came across. We don’t treat the subject too reverently or get too sentimental.”

ours. The only time we get into that territory is on ‘Mrs Christmas’ which is about Santa Claus’ wife and her being pissed off every Christmas because she spends it by herself.” That’s a good point; AU had never considered the plight of Santa’s missus. With the She & Him album showcasing Zooey Deschanel’s vocal talents once more on a cheeselaced jingle-thon, it would appear that the indie music world has all bases covered this Christmas. For Tim Wheeler, the experience is unique. “It is unlike any album release I have been involved in. You only really expect it to sell for a few weeks and then come December 25th only complete weirdoes are going to buy it.” Amen to that.

Wheeler is looking forward to hearing the Smith & Burrows album, “I believe it is more solemn than

NEWS SHORTS

They Bang The Drums

Two of Belfast’s finest tub-thumpers have gone head-to-head in a drum tuition fight to the DEATH. Well, sort of. LaFaro’s Alan Lynn and Cashier No.9’s Phil Duffy are both offering their services as drum tutors

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in between making sweet, sweet music with their own fine bands. Check www.drumacademy.co.uk for information on Phil’s school, and email beatitdrums@hotmail.co.uk to hear more about Alan’s.


Street Spirit among the ulster museum’s ancient relics and modern history artefacts are two new exhibitions of street art. au investigates.

FRIZ

Early December saw the launch of the Ulster Museum’s latest exhibition, focusing on an artistic avenue often overlooked by mainstream galleries. Running right through until March 4, a Street Art show will be on display, aiming to not only highlight the importance of the genre, but to put Belfast on the map as a mecca for budding artists.

Kim Mawhinney, head of art at National Museums NI, couldn’t be more excited. “There are actually two exhibitions,” She explains. “The first is the Street Art Exhibition of Contemporary Prints, which is travelling from the Victoria and Albert Museum [in London]. This includes work by people such as Banksy and Shepard Fairey. Alongside that is another exhibition showcasing the best of local street art, called Tags Not Labels – a play on the tags which street artists use, and the fact that we generally use labelling in the museum”. One of the four local artists exhibiting work is Belfast-based artist Marian Noone, also known as Friz. Having studied classical animation and illustration in college, Friz tells me she has spent the past three-and-a-half years in Belfast getting into street art. “Street art is a term used quite loosely.” she explains. “It is not a term I would always use to describe myself, but it is a great way to give people an idea of what it is you do. It can mean different

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things to different people. Personally, I am an artist who just happens to paint on walls and canvas, as well as digital work. To others, the term might have connotations of illegality – the likes of Banksy would sometimes verge into legally grey areas. There are also people who might not consider it art at all.” Considering the impressive talent in this oeuvre, it is depressing that some might question the validity of such work. However, with the mainstream popularity of artists such as the aforementioned visual prankster, Kim is confident that getting people through the door won’t be a problem. “I think there will be a lot of interest in these two exhibitions. The prints and V&A are very intricate and well designed, and some are quite controversial. Street art culture will appeal to a certain age group, but there will be something for everyone.” There is something contradictory about the idea of street art in a gallery or museum setting. However,


UNKNOWN PLEASURES Niall Byrne digs deep to uncover the freshest new music

“Street art can mean different things to different people.”

this rare opportunity is exciting, and Friz is ecstatic to be part of the show. “I’ve displayed in galleries before, but not on this scale – the Ulster Museum is definitely on the top end of the spectrum when it comes to Belfast gallery spaces, so this is a great chance to get a piece in there. There are also photographs cataloguing the street art that has gone up around Belfast over the past year, a good insight into what is going on in the local scene. It’s a great collection of so many different styles, from a lot people from different backgrounds.” Kim is similarly excited, stating that it is also a unique opportunity for the museum itself. “We’re recognising that street art now is an international phenomenon and a genre within the

art world, and it is important to reach out to younger audiences, who see this very much as their culture. We also have images of street art around Belfast, with a map up as so people can walk to some of these places from the museum. Hopefully it will give people a chance to look at some of the great street art around the city, such as on the Lagan Towpath.” Peter McCaughan Street Art and Tags Not Labels run at the Ulster Museum, Belfast until March 4. www.thisisfriz.com tagsnotlabels.tumblr.com www.nmni.com

Blog Buzz – Doldrums You can blame Pitchfork for lots of things these days, but endless hype of Lana Del Rey and Odd Future aside, their just-retired alternative platform Altered Zones consisting of niche experimental-leaning music bloggers has been a big plus. Case in point: Doldrums, the brainchild of Canadian Airick Woodhead (real name Eric Asher), first came to my attention through the site which led me to an official Portishead remix. Woodhead’s ADHD arranging style on debut EP Empire Sound features chicken squawks, modem connection sounds, upside-yourhead trippy rhythms, and an amazing tune called ‘I’m Homesick Sittin’ Up Here In My Satellite’ is built on gargantuan percussive beats, whistles and brass samples and ends up being a delirious, head-spinning collage of a pop song. Freak the fuck out. - bit.ly/doldrumsep EP - Daughter Some heartbreaking, slowburning stuff from London folk singer Elena Tonra aka Daughter. The Wild Youth EP contains four tracks of beautiful, eddying reverb vocals and piano, ambient noise and gentle guitar. When Tonra asks “Did she make your heart beat faster than I could?” on lead track Love, you will melt. One of my discoveries of the year. - ohdaughter.bandcamp.com Mix - Small Black The second artist in as many months to release a post-album mixtape that was better than the actual album (see also: Memory Tapes), Brooklyn

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chillwave-riding buzz band Small Black turned out a 33 minute mixtape featuring Heems from Das Racist gurgling spatial synthesisers, Nicki Minaj samples, and druggedup arrangements. Small Black have got their head in the stars for this one and it suits them. - small-black.com Blog of the month – Bitzl R An Irish-based Tumblr music blog with an international outlook, Alan Reilly’s Bitzl R blog is a great resource artists of the future as they appear. The blog’s focus takes in hazy electronica, ambient detours, clicking digital rhythms, artful music videos, alternative folk, nostalgic indie-rock, future R&B and lo-fi electro pop. So a bit of everything, then. Recent finds include Parisians Du Nord, Italian duo M+A, Canadians Born Gold, the multinational ice cold R&B electronica of The Whendays and Finnish trio Regina. Bitzl R is a glut of unknown pleasures waiting to be devoured. - bitzlr.com 10” - Au Palais Like Doldrums, Au Palais also hail from Toronto, Canada, and like hometown heroes Austra, their canvas is electro-pop but the brother/sister duo of Au Palais let their feelings ooze through the songs rather than go for the gothic dark angle. Now based in London, debut single Tender Mercy is released on white 10” vinyl through The Sounds Of Sweet Nothing. - aupalais.bandcamp.com www.nialler9.com


light up, light up as the limelight changes hands, we ask what it means for a belfast institution

To reminisce about The Limelight, you don’t need to go far. Entering one of Belfast’s most established music venues, you’re greeted with nothing but reminders plastered across the walls – signed photos from the likes of Oasis, Manic Street Preachers, Joe Strummer and even Dinosaur Jr. The Limelight ‘wall of fame’ documents what has been over 20 years of showcasing not only some of the biggest, most exciting bands of the time, but also local talent like Ash, Snow Patrol and And So I Watch You From Afar. Another chapter in The Limelight’s story is soon to be written by Dublinbased MCD Productions, who have purchased the Ormeau Avenue site in conjunction with local music promoting house Shine Productions. MCD, owned by promoter Denis Desmond, run the yearly Oxegen festival in Co. Kildare, as well as owning venues such as the Olympia, the Ambassador and the Academy in the Irish capital. The Limelight and the Dome bar (now Katy Daly’s) were first opened by local promoter Eamonn McCann in 1990, and then purchased by CDC

Leisure in 2007. At the height of the recession, CDC Leisure were put into administration, citing “a reduction in turnover in bars in general” and “a decrease in the profit level provided by outside music events” – leading to the MCD/Shine move this year. Shine’s head promoter Alan Simms is excited about the prospect of “putting the Shine mark” on the historic venue. “We aren’t interested in reinventing the wheel,” he tells AU. “The Limelight has been around since the early Nineties. We are just interested in bringing something a bit different, but it won’t change the core values of the venue. We’ll be keeping on the three main nights. “I want to dispel rumours that we’ll be bringing in dress codes, or making it a ‘dance music only venue’. We respect the history and have a lot of admiration for what CDC and Dave [Neely] did with the place. It’s been a consistent element of the Belfast music scene and we don’t want to change that.” Alan Simms, a DJ by trade, formed Shine in 1995. Based as a weekly night in Queen’s University Student’s Union, Shine went on to set up an underground music label, running the Belsonic festival and in 2005 opened the Stiff Kitten bar and club. “When we started the Stiff Kitten we wanted to bring something special. We wanted to

provide the underground scene in Northern Ireland with something different. A venue that didn’t have dirty toilets, somewhere that the door staff were dead on – it was an important part of the ethos. We’ve always wanted to do something new. We could have started something from scratch, a new build, but we want to build on The Limelight’s rich history, though with our own touch.” Belfast event organiser and music fan Adam Turkington believes it’s a great opportunity. “The Limelight was the only venue to see upcoming live music in the early Nineties,” he says. “I saw Oasis, Elastica, Suede and loads more there. It’s still my favourite place to see a band but in recent years there’s been less and less live stuff on with even the local nights becoming a rarity of late. As it turns out, it’s the promoter who’s been booking most of the stuff I want to see that is now going to be programming The Limelight, so I’m hopeful that this will be good for music fans. “We’ve got a rich tapestry of small promoters, small venues and festivals now that make the scene in Belfast much more than it ever could have been 20 years ago. Back then, one big promoter did everything and aggressively challenged even the smallest of competitors. Hopefully the big boys now see that when it comes to Belfast entertainment, this breadth is complementary to their business and not a threat.” Keith Anderson

NEWS SHORTS

Worlds Collide In one of the more bizarre hook-ups you could imagine, alt.metal titans Mastodon and kooky Canadian Feist

have arranged to cover each other’s songs for Record Store Day – and we have Jools Holland to thank. They met which performing on his show recently, swapped numbers and decided to work together. “The

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idea is for Mastodon to cover a Feist song and throw some hair and dirt on it,” the metallers told MTV Canada. “[Then Feist will] take a Mastodon song and pretty it up a little bit.” Cool, we think.


SEASON’S EATINGS Give swedes a chance this winter by turning them into comforting mini-pies. The swede (or turnip as it’s often called) is a wonderful root vegetable to have in your winter kitchen, as it loves to bulk up stews and acts as a great alternative to mashed potato. Swede has a distinctly sweet flavour and a wonderful texture, and like most root vegetables, it loves to be

roasted – it feels most at home when mingling with things like bacon, nutmeg and beef. Here’s a wonderful recipe for very easy swede and bacon pies. If you don’t have individual pie ramekins, use the same method but make one giant pie in a regular-sized pie dish.

Mini Swede Pies Serves 4 people

Words and photo by Aoife McElwain

Olive oil 4 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and quartered 6 slices of back bacon, fat removed and cut into large cubes 1 onion, diced 1 sprig of rosemary, leaves picked and chopped

1 large swede, peeled and cut into cubes 2 carrots, peeled and cut into cubes 400ml of good-quality chicken stock 50 ml of milk Tablespoon of butter Salt and pepper

Start by getting all of your ingredients peeled, chopped and ready to go. Put your peeled and quartered spuds in a saucepan of boiling water and boil for 15 to 20 minutes, until very tender. Meanwhile, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium to high heat. Fry the bacon for five to eight minutes, until starting to brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. In the same pan, fry the onion for three minutes in the leftover bacon fat. You shouldn’t need any more olive oil. Add the chopped rosemary, the cubed swede and the cubed carrot, and mix well. Now add the stock to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes.

of salt and mash. Set aside. Check on your simmering swedes after 10 minutes. If they are still a bit al dente, simmer for another five minutes, without the lid. This will let the stock thicken up a bit. When the vegetables are nice and tender, add the bacon back to the pan and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

Your spuds will probably be ready now. Drain and return them to the pan, off the heat. Add the milk and butter and a pinch

Now divide the swede mix into the four individual pie ramekins (or put the lot in the big pie dish). Spoon over the mash so each pie is covered and use a fork to make nice little patterns on it. Top with a few dollops of butter and put under the grill for 5 minutes, or until the mash has gone golden and crispy. Serve piping hot! For more swedespiration, see bit.ly/swedeideas

THERE’S THIS LITTLE PLACE...

La Cucina 5 University Court, Castletroy, Co. Limerick

T: +353 (0) 6133 3980 W: facebook.com/lacucina

Ever found yourself driving down the N7, starved and with no idea where to go? Since I found La Cucina in Castletroy, Co Limerick, I’ve found myself making excuses to get the N7 to Cork and Galway too, just so I can stop in this amazing little pace. La Cucina is run by owners Lorraine and Bruno, whose love of all things Italian comes through in the food served in their casual spot just at the edge of Castletroy town. So what’s so great about an Italian café/casual dining spot in Castletroy,

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then? The lunch and dinner they serve is simple but delicious, and the coffee and cakes are excellent. It’s all reasonably priced, with a glass of wine plus a plate of pasta for €10 being one of their most popular deals. They also like to marry Italian dishes with Irish flavours, and use local high-quality Irish produce whenever they can. If you’re within an hour of Castletroy, send them a message on Twitter via @italianfoodie and they’ll let you know if they have a table for you.


song machine Belfast musician Marty Byrne has spent the last year writing a new song every single day. AU meets him.

It requires what the late, lamented Roy Castle would have called dedication, not to mention a little inspired mania. Belfast musician Marty Byrne may not be the first intrepid soul to take on the mad, musical challenge of A Song a Day for a Year, but he’s possibly one of the nicest and definitely the only one who was inspired to do it by previously giving up drinking for a year (which he famously blogged). With the finishing line of December 30 in sight, the affable, ever-enterprising 32-yearold takes a rare spare moment from his Olympian exertions to answer a few of our questions. Why Marty, why?! I have always flirted with the idea of having multiple personalities through music and A Song A Day For A Year gave me an outlet to be creative and explore all this. I guess the preparation also came from the Sober For A Year blog I put up in 2009/2010: where I spent a year being sober and writing about it, while raising a bit of money for charity.

How do you plan your average day around the song-writing? Get up. At some point eat food. At some point write a song. It’s been hard to have a stable routine for the project as this year I’ve also tried to keep up with the other two or three music projects and bands I’m in as well as composing for film and software developers. Every day really has been different which is, on the whole, a great thing and has made for an exciting year. Though a day off here and there wouldn’t go amiss… Have you stuck to one song a day? Tempted to stockpile? Personally, I have stuck to one song a day throughout the year, though I know other people doing this project haven’t, writing four songs in one day to use for later in the week and so on. I could’ve cheated easily and no one would have been the wiser. Ah well, at least I can die a happy man knowing that I didn’t cheat. When approaching such a huge volume of writing, is there a danger of repeating yourself? I think it’s easy enough to change one detail about an idea, or melody or riff to make it unique, but often people don’t want to do that. I like sampling and using beats and loops from various places, but I like to mess with them and place them in another context. I’ve made a point of keeping a good ear on what chord progressions I’ve used, what melodies or lyrics I’ve used etc. So as far as I can tell, I’ve been pretty good at not repeating myself. It’d be interesting if anyone could prove me wrong though. Maybe I’ve written the same song 300 times and haven’t noticed… Any personal favourites amongst them? The collaboration with Duke Special was great

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fun. Also working with Tony Wright (aka VerseChorusVerse) was very cool. Back in February, The Story Of Laika, Parts 1-7 – a week of songs about the Russian space dog! Any of the songs I’ve written with Adam McCausland. Working with Robyn G. Shiels, Ursula Burns, guys from Seven Summits, Geoff and Camel Hatt, Rachel Austin and the week of songs recorded in London, back in August – to name a few! Have you ever had a ‘dry panic’ day? I’ve had the odd moment saying to myself, ‘No but really, Martin, what are you going to record today?’ throughout the year. But I don’t believe in writer’s block. As with a lot of things in life, some people make excuses and some people get on with it. What have you learned from the experience? I think I could write a book on all the things I’ve learned this year, in terms of technology, production, mixing, engineering, songwriting, time management, people management, my own psychology, keeping sane, paying bills and so on. I don’t know who I was before and I don’t know who I am going to be tomorrow… What next for you, Marty? A few days off, then A Song A Week for 2012! New music with my bands Hexxed and Fragile Human Organs. Maybe even some work that actually pays… Now there’d be a novel idea… Joe Nawaz www.songadayforayear.com


© Nomad. Courtesy of Nomad and Pictures on Walls.

TRADITIONAL PUB GRUB SERVED ALL DAY, THE BEST MUSIC SERVED ALL NIGHT, THE FINEST ALES & WHISKEYS — ALL THE TIME.

Ulster Museum

N EXHIBITIO

Enter the challenging, thought-provoking and exciting world of street art. See some of the world’s greatest artists... Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Sickboy, D*Face, Jamie Hewlett and more...alongside the works of home-grown talent.

A touring exhibition organised by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

nmni.com


Give Me Some Truth jon ronson’s tales from the fringes of humanity pin him down for a chat. “I went there to get my fix of Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen. Film showed me the world beyond Wales, a place of endless possibilities. A schoolmate, Bill Davies, introduced me to Tom Waits and like a lot of kids I was a huge fan of Monty Python. I started busking and a couple of years later, ended up playing keyboards in the Frank Sidebottom band. They were great times. At that stage I was studying journalism in London, but soon chucked college and moved to Manchester to join the band proper.” As one door closed, another soon opened. “My big break was landing a presenting gig in KFM Radio Stockport. I ended up working a late night show with Craig Cash, one of the creators and main characters in Early Doors and The Royle Family. We were, along with Caroline Ahern, sacked on the same day! I was absolutely devastated, but it taught me to never again let one person hold control over my life.”

Jon Ronson isn’t your archetypal non-fiction writer. His self-deprecating style harks back to the glory days of gonzo journalism, an era when pioneering authors gave readers a unique window into their fascinating journeys of discovery. To date, his best-selling works include Them: Adventures With Extremists, The Men Who Stare At Goats and The Psychopath Test. He’s also produced over 20 documentaries, numerous radio programmes and a celebrated column in The Guardian. Each story is a pursuit, a voyage into the worlds of conspiracy theorists, new age experimentalists, right-wing fanatics and even the mental health industry. Ronson grew up in Cardiff during the joyless reign of Thatcher’s Conservatives. Britain was in the grip of recession and social unrest and Ronson sought stimulation in the eclecticism of contemporary culture. “Chapter’s cinema was one of my only outlets, my cultural salvation!” he says when we

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Ronson’s disappointment was tempered somewhat by the prospect of a stable career in journalism. “I landed my first proper writing gig with Time Out. My fascination with people on the fringes, the quirks of life, was well advanced at that stage. I became ensnared by the absurdity of life!” Whilst the subjects of his writing are often dubious characters, Ronson doesn’t ridicule them, preferring to give people the facts and let them decide. “Take Them: Adventures With Extremists as an example. Even though it details the lives of some questionable individuals, I chose not to shoot fish in a barrel. When that happens, you’re basically saying ‘I’m better than them’. I’m very aware of my own failings and don’t feel in a position to judge others. Even the shadiest individuals have some positive characteristics. It’s still a very sceptical book about right-wing individuals, their misguided ideals and conspiracy theories. The difference, I suppose, between it and the work of polemicists is I prefer to simply lay out the facts and let the reader decide for themselves.” Where to next for Ronson? Do the machinations of religion still hold an interest? “I was born into a Jewish family, but I’m a non-believer. However, I’m not very vocal regarding my stance on religious matters. In fact, I don’t think I’ll ever write on that subject again. It was a real insight to spend time with notorious individuals like David Icke, Thom Robb and Ian Paisley, but I’ve done that now. The subjects are dropping off my list and I’m slightly worried I’ll have no topics by the time I’m 50!” Eamonn Seoige Jon Ronson brings his Words & Ideas show to Belfast’s Black Box as part of the annual Out To Lunch Arts Festival on January 15.


Games: Taking Stock Ross Thompson looks back at a great year in gaming, and ponders what comes next.

MASS EFFECT 3 There’s no doubt that 2011 was a tremendous year for videogames. In recent months alone fans have been treated to a cascade of high profile releases which once again affirm that the medium can rival both cinema and television in the entertainment stakes. The back end of the year was dominated by three-quels, with the latest instalments of Battlefield, Gears Of War and Modern Warfare stomping brutishly over any titles unfortunate enough to have been dumped onto the market in their path. One thing these contenders have in common, other than the fact they have been fashioned with the highest of production values, is that they lack oomph. Yes, oomph. Playing them is like gorging on salty, vinegary snacks: they might make your buds tingle but you long for something a bit more substantial, something that doesn’t make you feel as if you’ve tasted it several crisps before. Rethinks and shakeups are definitely required. While we’re on the subject of churning out identikit games, a word or two on services such as Xbox Marketplace and Playstation Network. Sure, these virtual shopping malls are a brilliant conduit for funnelling content right to your desktop but these have been increasingly exploited by unscrupulous publishers intent on squeezing more coin out of gamers after they’ve made a purchase.

Downloadable content is the ideal way to stretch out a game’s lifecycle and to keep players happy until the inevitable sequel, but it’s hard not to feel a pinch cheated whenever these extra levels, characters and outfits appear on day of release. It’s transaction with the emphasis on action: an ongoing sales pitch which makes suckers out of decent gamers being pressganged into forking out for the kind of bonuses they used to call ‘unlockables’. More grievous is the proliferation of patches necessary to fix janky games that shouldn’t have been shipped in the first place. Load up a new release and you should expect to hear the familiar doink! alerting you to the need to install an update. By far the worst offender of this sneakiness was Dead Island, the much vaunted zombie-themed RPG which was plagued by so many game-breaking, fun-thwarting bugs that quality control must have been asleep at their post. It certainly wasn’t the only half-fledged title guilty of this crime but it was by far the guiltiest. It isn’t all doom and gloom though. Those basking in the glow of their accumulated gamerscore might remember being scared senseless by Dead Space 2, whose intuitive understanding of pacing and rhythm to date remains unequalled, or Portal 2, which has more nuance and humour than most sitcoms put

together. Elsewhere, crime thriller L.A. Noire moved the goalposts in terms of what videogames should do and how they should do it yet sank development house Team Bondi in the process. Sadly, they weren’t the only ones to go under: Bizarre Creations, the studio behind Geometry Wars and Project Gotham, fell foul of the same financial sword. But let’s look to the future. Next year, to be exact, and immediately there is the promise of a springtime release for Mass Effect 3, the closing chapter in Bioware’s tremendous space opera. We also have a new dose of Halo and Bioshock Infinite to look forward to. The latter might be set in a city hovering in the clouds but its dark themes will undoubtedly be more hellish than heavenly. Retro fans and men stuck in their pubescent fantasies will love the longgestating Tomb Raider reboot and there are two new consoles, Sony’s handheld PS Vita and Nintendo’s Wii U, on the cusp of the horizon. The sneaking suspicion is that there is still so much life in the current generation of platforms that adding another might be premature but, as many developers have learnt to their cost, the gaming market is an unpredictable mistress. Ross Thompson

41% - THAT voice 29% - A carefully cultivated PR campaign 16% - Breathless blogging 9% - Film noir 5% - Collagen

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Cut O’ Ye! AU singles out Dublin’s most stylish for pictures and probing

Name: Christine Age: 20 Occupation: Student Favourite place to shop: River Island

Names: Dee and Amelia Ages: 24 and 22 Occupations: Students Favourite places to shop: Omdiva (Dee) & Zara (Amelia)

Name: Maggie Age: 28 Occupation: Artist Favourite place to shop: All Saints

Name: Siomha Age: 25 Occupation: Student Favourite places to shop: Topshop

Name: Zane Age: 23 Occupation: Artist Favourite place to shop: Tribe

Name: Sean Age: 18 Occupation: Student Favourite place to shop: Brown Thomas

Photos and interviews by Eilish McCormick

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THE

TEETHGRINDER

SECRET FIGHTING WITH WIRE SISTERS + Freeze The Atlantic

Dave Donnelly sets the world to rights. This month: gross ignorance.

SPRING & AIRBRAKE WEDNESDAY 25TH JANUARY 2012

THE LIMELIGHT

WEDNESDAY 15TH FEBRUARY 2012

BAND OF

SKULLS

Readers of last month’s issue may have spotted a story in Weird Wide Web about a network of parents in the States who’d begun to arrange parties for their kids to share chicken poxinfected lollipops in order to catch the virus young. One enterprising parent would even send 50 of the delicious (potentially fatal) treats by mail – like anthrax, but in five fun flavours! It seems the more rapidly science progresses, the more determined the ignorant become to actively resist it. We see it everywhere, from creationists to global warming deniers. On an individual basis those people are harmless, but when the ignorant turn their hands to medicine – and particularly when children are involved – the poor level of scientific literacy starts to get really dangerous. Naturally, when we talk about gross ignorance, we talk about the USA – a recent congressional movement to reclassify pizza as a vegetable is only the most recent example. Both Bush and Obama administrations have tried to pass bills requiring schools to serve healthier lunches to combat obesity, only for representatives from both parties to block the bill, requesting frozen pizza be branded a vegetable on account of its tomato sauce content. The tomato is, of course, a fruit.

It gets worse. Republic presidential candidate Michele Bachmann interrupted her campaign to tell TV news of a constituent who had sustained ‘mental retardation’ from the HPV vaccine – a charge that somehow manages to be offensive, insanely fucking stupid and life-threatening all in the same breath. There’s no evidence that any vaccine – HPV, MMR, whatever – causes any mental or behavioural disorders, or that they ever could, yet parents still deny their children life-saving vaccines to avoid these imaginary side-effects. Then there’s the case of Billie Bainbridge, the four-year-old English girl whose battle with brain stem cancer inspired Peter Kay, Badly Drawn Boy and Radiohead, among others, to put on a benefit to raise £200,000 for her to join an experimental drugs trial in the US. Noble though their intentions may have been, any medical trial that requires a six-figure fee is no medical trial at all, and the consequence of their charity was to legitimise a quack doctor peddling false hope. I could talk about American ignorance all day long (and, really, I could) but the truth is we’re no better ourselves. Science will save all of our lives eventually and it’s about time we gave it the respect it deserves.

the

jayhawks THE LIMELIGHT

SATURDAY 25TH FEBRUARY 2012

MOJO FURY

INME

Plus Richmond Fontaine (Duo)

SPRING & AIRBRAKE WEDNESDAY 14TH MARCH 2012

** BBC SOUND OF 2012 **

LOSTALONE

SPRING & AIRBRAKE SATURDAY 17TH MARCH 2012

THE LIMELIGHT

MONDAY 23RD APRIL 2012

THE LIMELIGHT BELFAST

SPRING & AIRBRAKE / THE LIMELIGHT / KATY DALY’S

Tickets available at Katy Daly’s bar - limelightbelfast.com - ticketmaster.ie - Ph 0844 277 4455


Words by Neill Dougan

Big In Japan Many famous Hollywood actors would have you believe that they are possessed of a certain amount of integrity and would never lower themselves to selling out to the man by, for example, starring in a cheesy advertisement. Sheer nonsense, of course – every single famous thespian alive (without exception) would sell their granny for a buck. Back in the day, stars could be cunning about this, and would only do ads in a magical foreign land called ‘Japan’ (wherever that is) where they could get away with it, as few of their core audience would ever see the finished product. Sadly for these dollar-hungry big-shots, thanks to the internet they can no longer pull the wool over our eyes. Join us as we point and laugh at these screen stars making fools of themselves in the Far East. V. STRANGE

THE PITTS

WHATCHOO TALKIN’ BOUT, WILLIS?

Here’s one-time Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger starring in an off-the-wall ad for a Japanese energy drink. As a non-Japanese speaker, AU is sadly ignorant of what Arnie’s yelling about, but we particularly like the way he and his co-star are each trapped on a huge, flying letter ‘V’. This is only surpassed by the manner in which they lock hands and become some sort of corporate-logo super-being. All told, a highly surreal 15 seconds.

Think ‘Brad Pitt’, and what terms come to mind? ‘Edgy’, perhaps. ‘Smouldering and sexy’, certainly. ‘Great in Fight Club’, definitely. ‘Toyota’? Erm, probably not. Yet here is the edgy, smouldering, sexy star of Fight Club trying in vain to convince us that he drives one of the Japanese-made mid-range vehicles. To the strains of Ricky bloody Martin, too. Talk about adding insult to injury.

Bruce Willis is the star of multiple Die Hard movies, Pulp Fiction and The Sixth Sense. For these things and more he has earned our respect and admiration. Why, then, would he throw it back in our faces with this gratuitously wacky commercial for Japanese petrol company Eneos? We don’t care how many fat Elvis impersonators, orange jump suits or futuristic ray-guns-cum-petrol-pumps are involved. We still feel let down.

- TINYURL.COM/ARNIEV

- TINYURL.COM/BRADTOYOTA

- TINYURL.COM/BRUCEENEOS

WEIRD WIDE WEB

Words by Dave Donnelly

JOURNEY OF MANKIND

I LIKE THIS ALOT

PROCATINATOR

We all know that human life originated in subSaharan Africa, but this interactive map shows how we as species went from a small tribe of advanced primates to dominating every (well, most) corner of the earth. It only covers up to the last 10,000 years, but nonetheless it’s a fascinating testament to humankind’s endless capacity for adventure. And not a Spanish-Italian explorer in sight.

Being a grammar Nazi is a full-time job, and like any other job, sometimes you have to choose your job over your friends. This handy guide from the Hyerbole And A Half blog is for everybody whose compulsive need to correct other people’s grammar has resulted in people actively avoiding written communication with them. Meet the Alot, the friendly grammar beast!

Not a lot of people know this, but since about 2008 the internet has been powered almost entirely by cute little kittens and if they ever decide to hop off their tiny bicycles then God help us all. Luckily, that won’t happen anytime soon, so feel free to spend all day on Procatinor. ‘Loading a cat and buffering a song’ says it all, really. Say goodbye to productivity forever.

- BRADSHAWFOUNDATION.COM/JOURNEY

- BIT.LY/ALOTISBETTERTHANYOU

- PROCATINATOR.COM

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STORY OF THE VIDEO

"aaagh! my eyes!"

The Japanese Popstars

The column that thinks ‘Mistletoe & Wine’ by Cliff Richard is the best Christmas song ever. Words by Neill Dougan

Title: ‘Shells Of Silver (Feat. James Vincent McMorrow)’ Director: Cagoule Productions

One of the highlights from The Japanese Popstars’ second album Controlling Your Allegiance finds the Derry trio at their most subtle. The gentle electro-folk of the track (with vocals by fellow Irishman James Vincent McMorrow) is beautifully complemented by the eerie video created by Edinburgh directors Lewis Gourlay and Abby Warrilow, aka Cagoule Productions. Lewis answered our questions. What brief were you given to begin with? It was really open. There wasn’t anything prescriptive; it was along the lines of ‘We want a cool video’. It’s a mixed blessing because you think, ‘Great, we can do what we like!’, but also you have no clue if your idea will strike a chord with the band and the label. Luckily in this case it did. How did you decide on the final treatment? We listened to the track a lot and just tuned into the feelings it creates. It’s quite solemn in a lot of ways. We liked the idea of city scenes with not a soul in them and eerie, early mornings when seagulls

rule the streets. We wrote in the choreographed scenes to play to our strengths (Abby being a choreographer and director) and we thought it was a good way of bringing in dance without it being overtly ‘dancey’. We wanted the movement to be quite subtle, well-placed and counterpoint the harshness of the cityscapes. Where was the video filmed? Why did you choose that location? We were keen for it not to be recognisable as any particular city. We wanted an Eastern European feel and were interested in socialist housing blocks. We filmed for three days in Krakow to gather imagery of those sorts of buildings and urban landscapes. We filmed the dance scenarios in our home town of Edinburgh, which although is a beautiful city in the centre, has its fair share of grim housing estates. A lot of people have recognised Poland, nobody has yet pointed out Edinburgh.

The Disney On Ice producers were stunned to discover that the drinks on sale at the concession stand had been spiked with ecstasy.

Little Billy may only have been five, but when he accidentally walked in on his parents’ role-playing session he somehow knew he’d be telling a psychiatrist about it in years to come.

There’s a very bleak feel to the visuals. Why did you decide on that? Actually, we weren’t setting out to make a bleak film, we wanted to find subtle beauty and movement in the photography, so although the subject matter is bleak, such as burnt out buildings, we were thinking, ‘Wow, look at the texture and patterns on the wall’, or ‘Look how the light is bouncing off that surface.” Watch the video online at bit.ly/shellsofsilver www.cagouleproductions.blogspot.com www.thejapanesepopstars.co.uk

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With the Occupy Wall Street protesters refusing to go quietly, the US government took drastic new measures.


∆ (Alt-J)

Seekae

Our Krypton Son

Members: Joe Newman (vocals, guitar), Gwilym Sainsbury (bass, guitar), Thom Green (drums), Gus Unger-Hamilton (keyboards, vocals) Formation: Leeds, 2009 For Fans Of: Metronomy, Radiohead, Dutch Uncles Check Out: The single ‘Bloodflood / Tessalate’ is out on now via Loud And Quiet. Website: www.facebook.com/altJ.band

Members: Alex Cameron, George Nicholas, John Hassell (all multi-instrumentalists). Formation: Sydney, 2006. Check Out: +Dome, out now on Rice Is Nice/Popfrenzy . For fans of: Mount Kimbie, Fennesz, Autechre. Website: www.seekae.com

Real Name: Chris McConaghy Based In: Derry For Fans Of: Ben Folds Five, Rams’ Pocket Radio, The Kinks. Check Out: Single ‘Catalonian Love Song’ out now on Smalltown America Website: http://on.fb.me/ourkryptonson

For a band that spend all their time experimenting with MPCs and microKorgs, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Australian trio Seekae might lose sight of what matters – the songs. But such assumptions would be foolish. They may not be plying their trade on guitars and drums, but Seekae still know what makes a good song. “Sometimes it’s more about what you don’t do rather than what you do,” says Alex Cameron. “We take our time to make sure everything works. It can be difficult, but most tracks speak for themselves.”

The lead single on Our Krypton Son’s forthcoming debut, ‘Catalonian Love Song’ is an artful slice of quirk-pop, replete with intuitive songwriting, delicate and nuanced instrumentation and a melody capable of lassoing and capturing even the most resistant heart. Its creator, Chris McConaghy, has come a long way from the days kicking it with maniac rockers Red Organ Serpent Sound.

Leeds-based Δ chanced upon their name when bassist Gwil Sainsbury stumbled upon a shortcut on his MacBook. The Greek delta sign is obtained by pressing the ‘Alt’ and ‘J’ keys, but only works on Apple machines. “We are not really pro-Mac or anything like that,” vocalist Joe Newman tells AU. “But it has been quite funny as we have had fans commenting on YouTube that Windows users are getting really pissed off with us.” Odd name aside, the quartet have released a first single (the dazzling double A-side ‘Bloodflood / Tessalate’) and with a handful of demos lurking on the interweb, their taut, spiky guitar sound coupled to jittering drum patterns have already bagged them support slots with the likes of Metronomy and Real Estate. “It was a hobby that we did and now we are doing it as a job,” Gwil reveals. “That’s what the dream is all about.” They seem like nice chaps too. “We don’t have any stories at all,” Gwil admits. “We are like old men; we are quite boring. The only story we had was when Thom had a migraine at a festival and he threw up in a Portaloo.” According to Joe “that’s as good it gets.” Thankfully, during 2012, their music will be the compelling tale for Δ. John Freeman

With their second full-length just released, the band is able to reflect on a year of intense live performing – and finishing a tour with Mount Kimbie. “Mount Kimbie are an awesome live act, they really blew us away when we first saw them play,” says Alex. “Having them back after the Sydney show was a laugh – the flight in the morning was not.” The genre that Seekae find themselves in is a particularly bloated one – but no less popular because of it. “You see a lot of laptop gigs happening in smaller clubs every weekend,” says Alex. “Electronic music, in our experience, seems to be the thing that punters are actually turning up for at the moment.” With bands like Seekae beginning to emerge, is it any wonder? Andrew Lemon

THE EMERGING ACTS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT

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Recorded with Sam Williams (Supergrass, Plan B, The Noisettes, Tricky, Kula Shaker and The Go! Team), the eponymously-titled album proper will find Chris luring us down all manner of exotic avenues. “There are a couple of big ballads in a similar vein [to the single] but the rest of it veers off in different directions. There are pop songs on there, a bit of rockabilly and folk. There’s some banjo, trumpet, harpsichord, accordion...” This willingness to mix it up is inspired in part by the example of his musical heroes – “people like Costello, Waits and Bowie seem to have this constant desire to change and be a bit fearless.” And whilst Our Krypton Son’s musical vision is expansive, the man’s ambitions remain modest. “I’d like to be able bring out a few albums, collaborate with some interesting individuals, create some noise. If I could eke out even a paltry living though, I’d be more than happy with that.” Francis Jones


2:54 Members: For Fans Of: Check Out: Website:

Bristolian accents, are as warm and personable as their songs are glacial and inscrutable. Suggesting that AU grab a hot whiskey to warm the early evening cockles, they talk in tones of gentle surprise about how quickly and seamlessly events have segued into one another. Collette Thurlow (vocals, guitar), Hannah Thurlow (guitar). Siouxsie and the Banshees, Slint, MBV Scarlet EP, out now on Friction. www.twofiftyfour.com

It’s an appropriately windswept and chilly evening as AU goes to meet 2:54, a band with more than a little of those qualities in their music. They’re supporting Wild Beasts later tonight at Stiff Kitten in Belfast – just another matter-of-fact evening in a text book annus mirabilis for sisters Colette and Hannah Thurlow, who comprise the creative nucleus of the band. In between touring with The Big Pink, The Maccabees and the ‘Beasts, they’ve found time to headline a number of their own gigs around the UK and have recently put out their first EP, Scarlet, generating considerable hyperbole from all the usual looked-to quarters. The EP is indeed a swirling and evocative collection – a mesmeric melange of Curve-aceous grooves and Slint-lock guitars – that deserves much of the acclaim heaped on it. 2:54 are fresh off a plane from New York and tipped straight into the Stiff Kitten bar, while Pablo the tour manager heroically tries to locate their gear amidst the Wild Beasts set-up in time for sound check. They apologise for being about to enter into their “second Friday of the day” following a gig the night before (or was it the night before the night before?) in Manhattan. “I can’t remember whether it was a Wednesday or Thursday evening now to be honest,” says lyricist and big sister Collette, clearly just keeping her head above the breakers of chronological displacement. It’s a sense of temporal discombobulation that chimes perfectly with the breakneck pace of events over the past twelve months of their lives. The sisters Thurlow, with gentle

“Yeah, it’s just sort of happened,” chorus the extremely sanguine sisters who started playing together for fun after both moved to London. It transpires that their name comes from their favourite Melvins’ track ‘A History Of Bad Men’. “Although I’ve just realised that that probably sends out a particular message,” laughs Colette. Tonight marks something of a homecoming for 2:54, vis á vis Ballymena of all places. “We were both born in County Antrim,” they reveal, in a twist local enough to make Frank Mitchell twitch. “Mum is from Northern Ireland and dad is from Dublin, so we spent a lot of our summers over here. This is our first time performing in Ireland though, which is great! We’ve got quite a few younger relatives coming to see the show.” Sure enough, this is borne out by the disproportionate number of Broughshane accents to be heard in the crowd later that night. If 2011 was the year it all “just sort of happened” for 2:54, 2012 promises to be more of the same, only better. “We’re working on finishing the album, in between performing now and we’re hoping to get that out early-ish next year,” says Hannah. “We’ve played some great gigs with some great bands and learned so much from acts like The Maccabees and Wild Beasts.” “We’re starting to get a sense our own audience now though,” adds Colette. “It’s all been amazing so far and we’re really pleased with how everything seems to be panning out. But I guess we don’t sit around thinking too much about that – we just sort of get on with things.” And so it‘s with a healthy dash of Ulster stoicism that 2:54 embrace the task of being an exciting new band with a rosy future. Joe Nawaz

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In life, sometimes the mistakes are the best bits. When Bob Pollard and a bunch of his drinking buddies in Dayton, Ohio, decided that they didn’t need a recording studio, and preferred their own home recorded tapes, full of mistakes and fooling around, they inadvertently kick-started a revolution. One thing they didn’t make a mistake about, though, was creating incendiary, kick-ass rock and roll. AU chats to Guided by Voices’ Mitch Mitchell about beautiful mistakes, doing it yourself, and drinking beer. Words by Steven Rainey Guided by Voices are an institution: 16 studio albums (with two more on the way), at least 17 members, their own slang (‘Monument Club’ is the gathering of Pollard-ites in Dayton, where strangers are tolerated, if they know the rules), and one of the most prolific songwriters of the modern age. For a band that was formed as something fun to do, they can be daunting to the casual listener. Originally existing between 1983 and 2004, their disbandment was met with dismay from the legion of fans they’d amassed, a bunch of fervent die-hards who would follow their favourite band around the country, get drunk at every show, and celebrate the majesty of rock and roll every night. For a guy who could seemingly churn out songs in his sleep, what was the problem? Why stop?

things their way. Coming to the conclusion that no-one cared about them anyway, they started making records for themselves, recording at home on primitive four-track tape recorders. With a fluid band membership, people would drop in at someone’s house, a few beers would get drunk, and the tape would start rolling. Pollard, already a prolific songwriter, would bring his creations to whoever was about, and they’d get stuck in. And thus, GBV inadvertently became standard bearers for the lo-fi movement. “We recorded a lot of records just for our own amusement. We never sent the records out to anybody, we’d keep boxes of them in our basement. We made ‘em, just to make ‘em. People started getting into it, and the band started going somewhere. Well, it was a pleasant surprise.”

News of a 2010 reunion (in Vegas, no less!) caused the faithful to pick up their bottles of Bud Light (the GBV drink of choice), and salute Saint Bob. When it was revealed that the classic line-up of Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Kevin Fennell, Greg Demos and Mitch Mitchell would be back for the first time since 1996, the fans went wild. Now, with not one, but two albums ready to go, it’s a good time to be a fan of GBV. When asked how he feels about the excitement surrounding the classic line-up reunion, guitarist Mitch Mitchell says, with genuine

One of these records, Propeller, released in a limited run of 500 hand-made copies in 1992, found its way into the hands of various indie taste-makers, leading to intrigued write-ups in cool publications like Spin. Pollard was in his mid-30s, and was suddenly an indie rock and roll star. Albums like Bee Thousand (1994) and Alien Lanes (1995) were crammed full of brilliant lyrics, twists and turns, hard rocking riffs, and hilariously involving mistakes, guitars going out of tune, or being unplugged, and friends snoring through the recordings. “The funny thing about

somewhat inevitably – has resulted in new music being produced. A lot of new music. “I was driving a truck, and I got a phone call from Bob saying there’s interest in a reunion gig,” explains Mitchell regarding the band’s comeback. Long-term label Matador was celebrating its 21st birthday, and GBV seemed a natural choice for the celebrations. It might not be glamorous, but the band essentially only got back together for the money. However, the new output more than justifies any crass sense of ‘doing it for the cash’. “We were going to do the show in Vegas, and then a little tour around that. I was like, ‘When do we leave?’. I was totally excited and thrilled that it would happen. I thought we were done, and that was it. “The feel that I get from this record is that it picks up from where Alien Lanes leaves off. It could very easily have been the next record after that. Kinda like lost radio transmissions that finally were found again. They were out there for years, and they’ve finally picked them up again.” Two albums are on the way, and they feature a return to the rough and ready, scattershot style of writing and recording that has made Guided by Voices a band to cherish. To be a fan of this band is to be part of a worldwide club where the patron saint compels

“We liked the rawness of recording in garages and basements. It just sounded better.” humility, “It’s a lot of fun, and I’m really lucky and happy to be part of something like that. It still to this day seems odd when I hear people saying things like that. I appreciate it very much that people would think that highly of it, and it really means a lot, because I feel the same way about it.” The sight of Mitchell, the chain-smoking, whirlwind hurling guitar player is one of the iconic images of the band’s early days. Formed after Pollard and Mitchell were kicked out of a local heavy metal band because of their love of Devo, the nascent GBV fused a love of Sixties power pop to a jangling, chiming R.E.M.-esque sound, making an underwhelming EP (Forever Since Breakfast, 1986) in a ‘real’ studio, just like you’re supposed to do. “When you go more than one take, you lose a little bit of the life and fun with every take,” explains Mitchell of the band’s studio experience. “The very first GBV record was done in a big giant multi-track studio in Kentucky, and it was our first venture into recording. I just think that having all that hitech equipment sucked the life out of the songs. It makes them seem all glossy and slick, and we liked the rawness of recording in garages and basements. It just sounded better.” Following this experience, the band resolved to do

that is that people ridiculed us for that because they thought it sounded cheap. ‘It sounds shit, you can’t hear the guitar, or whatever, you should have done it in a big studio’. So at first, people were kinda down on that thing, they didn’t see it the way we saw it. They didn’t really understand the idea of the DIY thing, or the rawness of the tone.” The band eventually signed to Matador, leaving behind most of the original line-up, and moving into ‘real’ studios, but never quite abandoning their carefree, unforced approach to classic music. Along the way, a legion of fans came along for the ride, recognising something primal in GBV’s beer-sodden take on rock and roll. “In the early days we would start drinking at 11 in the morning, and we don’t go on ‘til 11 at night. And by then, we’re hammered! Most shows, I don’t remember, I’m just hammered. We’re functioning drunks. The biggest point in our favour is that we can function well when drunk – we’ve spent our lives perfecting that. It’s a lost art, I believe!” After disbanding in 2004, Pollard focused on his solo career, releasing a plethora of albums that recalled GBV, without ever really sounding like them. The 2011 reunion brings back together the line-up that recorded Propeller, and – perhaps

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you to forget about your worries, open up another beer, and try to do your best high kick, regardless of whether your aging back can handle it or not. “GBV fans are some of the most awesome people we’ve ever met. I don’t know too many bands that have the quality of fan that we have. I hesitate to use the word fan, I think of them as friends. I’ve met a lot of really wonderful people over the years with this band. There’s a connection between band and our friends. We are just like you, we’re really not that much more different. Maybe we can drink more than you.” Guided By Voices’ new album Let’s Go Eat the Factory is out on January 2 via Fire Records. www.gbv.com NB: As we went to press, it was announced that GBV had cancelled their reunion tour due to “personal reasons”. Reports of a break-up, however, are apparently untrue, and the band’s second album of 2012 will be released as planned.


With the increasingly nebulous way we consume music nowadays, it’s maybe no surprise that the end-of-year lists we’ve read so far have thrown up precious little consensus. In canvassing our staff and freelancers for this poll, we found that two albums in particular battled it out for the #1 spot right to the bitter end, but elsewhere our contributors voted for a bewilderingly huge spread of albums. 252 in total, and when you consider that we asked for top 10s only (points attributed from 10 for a #1 down to 1 for a #10), that’s testament to the breadth of music we have loved in 2011. So here it is – AU’s top 40 albums of the year. It’s a mix of old stalwarts, exciting new talent and everything in between. And if you think we’ve lost our minds, tell us about it by email, Twitter and Facebook.


40. Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi (Domino) 39. Beirut – The Rip Tide (Pompeii) 38. Cashier No.9 – To The Death Of Fun (Bella Union) 37. Frank Turner – England Keep My Bones (Xtra Mile) 36. Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts (Matador) 35. Gillian Welch – The Harrow & The Harvest (Acony) 34. Tyler, the Creator – Goblin (XL) 33. Danny Brown – XXX (Fool’s Gold) 32. Earth – Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light Pt.1 (Southern Lord) 31. Josh T. Pearson – Last Of The Country Gentlemen (Mute)

20.

30. Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will (Rock Action) 29. Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx – We’re New Here (XL) 28. Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972 (Kranky) 27. Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch The Throne (Roc-A-Fella) 26. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues (Bella Union) 25. LaFaro – Easy Meat (Smalltown America) 24. John Maus – We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves (Upset The Rhythm) 23. Rival Schools – Pedals (Atlantic) 22. TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light (4AD) 21. The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient (Secretly Canadian)

Battles Gloss Drop (Warp)

Battles lost a major personality when Tyondai Braxton left after their widely-praised debut Mirrored. But the remaining trio surprised fans with Gloss Drop, an album with even more character, fizz and invention. ‘Ice Cream’ is a bright cheerful anthem and the best songs are Battles’ most distinguished, from the clockwork of ‘Futura’ to ‘My Machines’, with vocals by Gary Numan. Kiran Acharya

19.

Toro Y Moi Underneath The Pine (Carpark)

Multi-instrumentalist producer Chazwick Bundick – the man behind the pseudonym – had a lot to live up to following his part in the chillwave boom of the late 2000s. But, true to his prolific nature, Underneath The Pine was everything it needed to be and more, with layers upon layers of throbbing, memorable beats and basslines, underpinned with a lush ambience. Stevie Lennox

18.

Big Deal Lights Out (Mute)

Emerging in September, the debut album from Big Deal proved to be a lo-fi delight. While many column inches were devoted to the age gap between Alice Costelloe and Kacey Underwood, coupled with the vaguely Nabokovian subject matter, the record’s true strength comes from the duo’s ability to portray the fragility of youth without descending into clichéd accounts of teenage angst. Using only intertwining guitars and vocals, the sincere tales of young love prove more beguiling with each listen. Jonathan Bradley

17.

Arctic Monkeys Suck It And See (Domino)

If the rock-soused Humbug was Arctic Monkeys making a concerted effort to shirk the ‘cheeky chappy’ label, Suck It And See was the sound of them settling into a new chapter. And what a glorious racket it was; from the majestic ‘She’s Thunderstorms’ all the way through the swoonsome ‘Piledriver Waltz’, the Sheffield band have never sounded so creative, succinct or comfortable in their own skin. Lauren Murphy

16.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart Belong (Slumberland)

On their first record, TPOBPAH had already perfected their style – tape-swapping 1980s – influenced, heartwarming guitar pop. With Belong, they presented their songs in a new way, ditching the fuzz and embracing major label production values. The new clarity made their John Hughes nostalgia and boy-meets-girl naivety seem surprisingly current and, with the space to breathe, their knack for stacking hooks on hooks led to a huge pop record along unorthodox lines. Karl McDonald

15.

Holy Ghost! Holy Ghost! (DFA)

With LCD Soundsystem having passed into the disco-punk ether, it was really left up to Holy Ghost! to continue the lineage of DFA dance records after super efforts from Shit Robot and The Juan MacLean in previous years. The duo took their time and delivered a house party-friendly debut album of New York disco, funk and Eighties dance grooves with a considerable knack for singalong pop melodies. Niall Byrne

14.

Girls Father, Son, Holy Ghost

If a band wants to move beyond being thought of as retro, they will have to write songs just as adventurous, as smart, as varied and as loveable as the staples people have ingrained in their memories. On their second attempt, Girls achieved that and a whole lot more besides. A new classic made from the fragments of old ones. Ian Maleney

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13.

Foo Fighters Wasting Light (RCA)

The Foos’ seventh studio album was extra rad because it was recorded entirely on analog tape. Along with this, the songs kinda ruled too; while ‘Rope’ was a welcome return to form, ‘White Limo’ was a love-letter to their early days. First video threatened to kill the radio, then CD did the same to the tape. Thankfully, Dave Grohl and co had something to say about it. Shannon O’Neill

12.

Radiohead King Of Limbs (Self-released/XL)

From small acorns big oaks grow. Having matured from indie also-rans to musical pioneers, Radiohead now inhabit a universe of their own making where labels and record shops no longer matter. Fittingly, their music is just as thran. Like the tree in the title, the band’s latest release branches off in all directions, from the stuttering groove of ‘Feral’ to the icy choral dendrites of ‘Codex. Against the odds, these disparate, murky elements form one cohesive whole. Quite beautiful. Ross Thompson

11.

The Weeknd House of Balloons (Self-released)

A free online release, House Of Balloons seemingly surfaced out of nothing, with just some sleazy black and white images and an oddly misspelled artist name accompanying the music. While 21-year-old Canadian Abel Tesfaye emerged as the man behind The Weeknd, this sense of inscrutability is still prevalent when listening to the album. It’s nine vicarious tracks of lurid sex and cocaine-fuelled emotion that scrapes R&B’s darkest corners. Dean Van Nguyen


10.

Wild Beasts Smother (Domino)

The Kendal boys have always done passion. However, whilst breakthrough Two Dancers concerned itself with couplings of a physical nature, their third album found the quartet move their focus beyond the mere flesh. Sparse instrumentation and hypnotic grooves create the perfect environment for meditations upon profound longing. Quiet and contemplative, Smother is an album to make your very soul ache. Francis Jones

09.

tUnE-yArDs w h o k i l l (4AD)

The boldly stylized w h o k i l l was the second full-length release by tUnEyArDs aka New England’s Merrill Garbus. A wonderful mesh of every genre under the sun, it was a densely polyrhythmic, unashamedly feministic tour de force tackling issues such as police brutality, image and power. M.I.A? Who? Brian Coney

08.

SBTRKT SBTRKT (Young Turks)

Aaron Jerome’s debut album emerged in June as a supremely accessible blend of all things funky, housey, dubsteppy and bassy. And with a series of blistering live shows this year, SBTRKT moved out from behind the mask and got people’s attention. This debut LP is a glorious curation of quality electronic music blended with the impeccable vocals of the likes of Sampha and Roses Gabor and the best part is, it’s likely only a taste of what lies ahead. Adam Lacey

07.

Yuck Yuck (Mercury)

A glorious throwback to vintage freakscene alt-rock, Yuck mixed distorted, Mascis-inspired riffs (‘Holing Out’) with infectious vocal hooks (‘Get Away’), lilting indie anthems (‘Georgia’) and languid balladry (‘Stutter’). It may have been shamelessly derivative but it was also endlessly replayable: none more so than the guitar-shredding heroics of epic closing track ‘Rubber’. Daniel Harrison

06.

The Horrors Skying (XL)

Shape-shifting Essex-boys The Horrors continued their steep artistic curve with their (as of now) career-defining masterwork Skying. Whilst ‘09’s fêted Primary Colours was heavily indebted to psyche rhythms and Krautrock, Skying shifted focus, effortlessly channelling the spirit of Eighties new wave and synth-pop. Combining expansive songwriting with increased technical nous, The Horrors hit the creative sweet-spot with track-aftertrack of epic, life-affirming music. Eamonn Seoige

05.

Bon Iver Bon Iver (4AD)

Having ensured his place as everyone’s favourite folkie, and having dipped his toes for the first time into the big, bad world of commercial hip hop – culminating with Justin joining Kanye West on stage at Coachella, and looking for all the world like someone’s crazy uncle who had just wandered blithely onstage while trying to find the toilets – it doesn’t look like Justin Vernon is going to stop until his career has spanned every music genre ever invented. Unsurprisingly, Bon Iver is a glorious musical hodge-podge, where the edges of folk, funk, electro and gospel inextricably converge and bleed into each other with enviable ease – from the glacial stateliness of ‘Perth’, to the pretty, saxinfused country-pop of ‘Towers’, to the Styrofoam synths of the notorious ‘Beth/Rest’. Luckily, as the musical landscape whirls around him, Justin’s voice – that high, keening, heart-breaking wail – remains a blessed constant. Katherine Rodgers

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04.

Metronomy The English Riviera (Because Music)

2011 saw the continuing trend of the ‘de-criminalisation’ of certain musical styles, and Devon’s Metronomy made full use of this on their third album, unleashing 11 tasteful art-funk nuggets of pure English pop. With slinky basslines and crisp drums anchoring most of the music, it was up to the sleek keyboards and arch vocals of Joseph Mount to provide the hooks, songs like ‘The Look’ and ‘She Wants’ sounding like future hits in some alternate galaxy, where soft-focus Eighties videos were still in vogue, and Bryan Ferry’s age was lower than his waistline. Choosing to represent their curiously English worldview through the medium of smooth funk, Metronomy proved that every musical style is now fair game, and that we’re all prepared to absorb something good, regardless of what style it’s in. Steven Rainey


03.

And So I Watch You From Afar

02.

Gangs (Richter Collective)

This year ASIWYFA became the best-known Irish rock band this side of Snow Patrol, touring relentlessly in support of second album Gangs. After graduating from Smalltown America to Dublin’s Richter Collective, they kicked off a journey packed with high points. DJ Zane Lowe was left speechless after playing ‘Search:Party:Animal’ on Radio 1, and they finished the year with a US release on Sargent House, home to fellow alt-rock heroes Hella and Russian Circles. The strength of Gangs is in its energy: eight explosive instrumentals including ‘7 Billion People all Alive at Once’, which captures the same joy as ‘Don’t Waste Time Doing Things You Hate’ from their debut. Their award for Best Live Act at this year’s Northern Ireland Music Awards was tempered by the departure of founding guitarist Tony Wright, but the band begin 2012 with new guitarist Niall Kennedy installed alongside their trademark confidence and grace. Kiran Acharya

M83 Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (Naïve)

You thought M83 had peaked with the sunburst nostalgia of Saturdays = Youth? He was only getting into his stride. Anthony Gonzalez continues to be obsessed with the fact he grew up in the 1980s – a combination of real and imagined nostalgia – but his sixth album’s specific appeal lay in its wild-eyed ambition. In an age where proper albums are becoming less and less important, Gonzalez set out to make an old-fashioned double-album inspired by another epic about growing up – The Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness. The amazing thing is, he pulled it off. Wisely limiting himself to a total of 73 minutes (he could have fit it on one CD if he’d wanted to), Gonzalez produced a perfectly sequenced album of ebb and flow – joyous pop (‘Midnight City’), towering synth (‘Echoes Of Mine’), swooning ballads (‘Wait’), bracing noise (‘This Bright Flash’). A masterpiece of concept and execution. Chris Jones

01.

PJ Harvey Let England Shake (Island)

In magnificent year for music, one album towered above all others. When PJ Harvey’s eighth album won the Mercury Prize in September, it must have been the easiest choice ever for the judging panel. Let England Shake was Polly Jean’s thesis about war and the crumbling of a shambolic empire. As a piece of art, the album’s impact would elevate a magnificent set of songs above the constraints of a single artistic genre. Although Harvey focused on the Great War for a large proportion of her inspiration, Let England Shake resonated throughout 2011. With a wave of revolutionary uprising enveloping numerous Middle Eastern countries and continuing military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, the year was littered with the brutal loss of lives. Whether it was a soldier being killed by a landmine, or a protester slain by sovereign forces, the central tenet of Let England Shake remains depressingly valid today; that the visceral reality of war is an indiscriminate loss of life – usually young lives – and that the victim’s blood seeps into the mud or sand or dust of the very land they seek to protect or claim. Be it the shock of the lyric “arms and legs were in the trees” on the whites-of-the-eyes reportage of ‘The Words That Maketh Murder’ or the heart-wrenching description of the battle shores of Gallipoli as “a bank of red earth, dripping down death” on the peerless ‘All And Everyone’, Harvey’s poems were violent, unflinching and deeply humane. For all the weight of subject matter, Let England Shake was, perhaps incredibly, not a difficult listen. The music was pure and exuded light and air, aided beautifully by Harvey’s long-time collaborators John Parrish and Mick Harvey. Twenty years into a magnificent career, PJ Harvey delivered her masterpiece – Let England Shake was an immense achievement. John Freeman

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Illustration by Rebecca Hendin

AU’ s AL BUM OF T HE YEAR 2011 PJ HARVEY - L ET ENGL AND SHAKE


S M U 2 1 B 0 L 2 A r H o S I F R I With the New Year comes a chance to look forward as well as back, and while it’s been fun to compile lists and take stock, it’s just as exciting to anticipate what looks set to be a great 2012 in Irish music. We have spoken to 14 artists who will be releasing full-length albums in the next 12 months – some you’ll know well, others less so, but they are all making exciting music. It’s enough to whet the appetite of even the most musically sated among us… Words by Chris Jones

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IRISH ALBUMS For 2012

Two Door Cinema Club After a crazy couple of years in which they went from fresh-faced Bangor newcomers to one of the biggest bands in the world, it’s time for Two Door to embark on chapter two… Have you been playing new songs live? How have they been going down? Sam Halliday: We are playing three new songs live. Up until October we only had three new songs… They seem to be going down as well as the older songs now. So many people know them now too ‘thanks’ to YouTube and things like that. It’s nice. I think it’s always a risk playing new songs and I’m always checking people aren’t just going to the bar or for a smoke during them.

LILI FORBERG

Are you using live drums this time? SH: A little… Live sounds is maybe a better way to put it. Some of the songs from the debut are as old as the band – how different does the new stuff sound? SH: It’s hard to say at the minute. I think as a whole the record will be more diverse. There are so many bands that have influenced us over the past few years that we never would have been listening to when we were at school. There are still a few new songs though that sound close to the first record. We still love the stuff we play live so I guess it’s not a crazy thing to expect. What effect has the madness of the last 18 months had on the music – and the lyrics? SH: So much! We have much more to write about. We have seen so many new things and been around so many amazing bands. We couldn’t wait to start writing properly again and let some of the ideas we have been holding onto out.

Solar Bears

Robyn G Shiels

Following the success of 2010’s She Was Coloured In on fêted electronic label Planet Mu, the cosmic duo have become a sought-after live act, giving their cinematic compositions heft and volume. Now the Wicklow/Dublin pair are prepping album two.

A Lifetime Of Midnights got great reviews across the board back in 2005 and finally, finally, Kilrea’s finest is ready to follow it up. The long-completed The Blood Of The Innocents will see the light of day this year, featuring the haunting ‘Hello Death’ (from the Cherrybomb soundtrack) and plenty more missives from the depths of one man’s soul.

You have a body of work behind you now – does that affect your approach to the second album? John Kowalski: Yes and no. We are still striving for something new and incorporating different methods and influences. The main thing is making tracks we are proud of. Both of us have been through a lot in the past two years so that has been the biggest catalyst. What impact has developing the live show had on the music? JK: Playing live makes you aware of attention and adrenaline. Arrangements become tighter and the songs themselves have become more dead-eyed and harder. You famously have ravenous appetites for new music. Are there any trends that have particularly inspired you? JK: It’s more to do with individual voices than a group or movement. I thought the Thundercat record was supremely beautiful. We still search for old soundtracks from the Sixties and Seventies. They have incredible, beautiful samples throughout, plus you are channelling a time… energy… moment… vibe… groove. Do you feel a sense of community among electronic musicians in Ireland? JK: People really look out for each other here which is good to witness. It’s reassuring and helps you remain driven. New bands and artists are coming through every month. Next year is going to be interesting, to say the least.

The Blood Of The Innocents has been in the can a long time. How come? RGS: We recorded it 2008 thinking it would be easy enough to get bought up on a bigger label because we thought it a pretty special album of songs. Works out that’s not how it works out! Basically the recession had just started rearing its ugly head and everyone started to tighten their purse strings, record labels especially. How frustrating has it been to sit on a completed album? RGS: It was quite frustrating. We ran a few copies to folk in the ‘industry’ and they all thought it ‘of the decent’ but still couldn’t get it from A to B. I honestly think I’m jinxed with things like that though. It happens a lot. I should write a song about it! For people who know you by your acoustic shows and the most recent EP, do you think there are any surprises in there? RGS: The album was done even before the EP so had a different line-up and the songs were either a tad darker than usual (and that’s saying something) or had a bit more punch to them. Some of it’s fairly rockin’ now that I think of it! I’m fortunate enough to have good friends who helped out on the album. It was myself, Ben McAuley (guitar/weaver of magick in the studio), Fyfe Ewing (ex-Therapy? drummer), James Smith and Danny Todd (Cashier No.9) and Clare Hutchinson on piano. Good times were had recording the album – now onto the next one.

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IRISH ALBUMS For 2012

James Vincent McMorrow 2011 was the year in which James Vincent McMorrow went from well-kept secret to globally renowned talent. His soulful falsetto and rustic folk songs have captivated audiences the world over and drawn comparisons to Bon Iver and Iron and Wine. Now he has to follow it up… How would you sum up the last year of your life? JVM: Fairly relentless, fairly incredible. I’m finding it hard to figure out where the year has gone. It flew by – seems like last week I was getting on a plane for the US to start doing press before the album came out. How does the writing and recording process compare to last time? JVM: On a most simplistic level, playing night after night to audiences has given me an understanding of songwriting that I didn’t have before – how a

song works in a live space, or how it doesn’t as the case may be. Also with the recording I guess I have more means at my disposal now, which is great, but I still want to keep it as low-key as possible. I don’t buy into the notion of using big studios and big producers just because you can; it’s wherever you feel most comfortable creating. You’ve collaborated with The Japanese Popstars and you’re a fan of a lot of leftfield electronica and modern R&B. Have those tastes permeated your own music? JVM: I think they have, although not as much as I would have liked on the first record. I didn’t have the ability to explore some other sounds and textures that I might have otherwise. I recently found all these CDs I had of my early demos, and they all had elements of electronic music in them – a lot of grooves, a lot of energy. Those are things I want to instil in my songwriting again. I’m not saying the new album is going to be an R&B or electronic record necessarily, but I’m throwing myself down every musical avenue I can. Nothing is off the table. You’ve toured heavily over the last couple of years. Any particular highlights? PB: Personally, playing the Whisky A Go-Go on the anniversary of John Lennon’s death and Jim Morrison’s birthday was the greatest ever. We completely slayed it, packed house, amazing set, just a completely raging show. I tell you, taking a shit in the same bog as Led Zeppelin and The Doors is a mystical experience...

Gama Bomb Hailing from Newry and Dublin, Gama Bomb are Ireland’s thrash metal standard bearers, managing to combine day jobs with touring around the world. 2012 sees the release of their fourth album. Last time you were the first signed band ever to give an album away for free. How did that work out?

Philly Byrne: It was the best thing that ever happened to us! Giving away Tales From The Grave In Space meant that, when we released it physically, it outsold our previous album’s physical sales in very short order. And we’ve played our first ever South and Central American shows this year – places where our records have never been physically distributed, but where promoters book us and kids wait at the airport for us, wearing our t-shirts. That’s the future of music and I’m glad we were there to give it a little push in the right direction.

What have you been writing about for the new songs? PB: Unlike our last album there’s no unifying theme to the new songs. Early on, I had this idea that it would be like a thrash metal Modern Life Is Rubbish where the songs would be about our lives and what it’s like to be Irish right now. Now we’ve gone totally off the chart: there’s a song about theoretical physics and another about the annoying people at metal shows. If there’s a method to our madness we’ve not found it yet. What can fans expect from the new album? PB: Fans can expect more of the same, with a side of classness. We’re working on a really inventive digital way to get it out there, too. We’re not done with making history yet.

A year ago, Derry indie-pop heroes Wonder Villains were still at school. Now they have their A-levels, an Oh Yeah Contenders award and a UK tour with General Fiasco under their belts, and it’s all systems go. 2012 could be their year.

Have you had any words of advice from people who have been in your position before? EC: The main piece of advice that people have given us is to have as much fun as possible. And we’ve been trying our absolute best to, haha! For example, on tour we had a big show in London and people were coming to see us so we were all a bit nervous. But as we were walking on stage, our manager tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘Go mental’ so we did and it was a great show.

You just left school six months ago and now you’re working up to an album – how excited are you? Eimear Coyle: Super excited! We started recording while we were still at school, on the weekends and nipping out after class to finish some songs. It’s been a crazy six months, we got to do all the stuff we used to joke about in school – like releasing a single and going on tour. I can’t wait to see what the next six months will bring!

What can we expect from the album? EC: It’s just going to be our favourite songs that we have written since we started the band. Some songs we have been playing from the very start, and some are brand-new. It’s about everything that has happened to us in that time. Like TV shows we loved and getting glasses and dying our hair and now living in a house together!

The Wonder Villains

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Duke Special Although Peter Wilson has been operating a little under the radar of late, he has been busier than ever, with music inspired by a Bertolt Brecht play, Kurt Weill musical, a Paul Auster novel, and early photography. In 2012, however, he returns to the pop fray with the ‘proper’ follow-up to 2008’s I Never Thought This Day Would Come, recorded in Berlin and Lewes, East Sussex. Did you always intend to spend time on other, more leftfield projects after I Never Thought This Day Would Come? Peter Wilson: When I agreed to write the music and perform in Brecht’s Mother Courage for The National Theatre, London in 2009, I knew that it would demand a significant amount of time and focus away from the normal writing, recording, touring cycle. I was ready to embrace this as I knew

it would throw me in directions I would never be able to go if I continued in the ‘normal’ way. So, it was a deliberate decision to go somewhere and do something in collaboration with another art form. I don’t really see all these things as side projects but rather all part of a creative journey. Is it difficult to get back into the mindset of writing the more commercial, ‘traditional’ Duke Special songs? PW: I think the main difference in writing for these other projects was their very specific subject matter. In saying that, I found my own experiences, emotions and the way I view the world tended to come through in the songs anyway. No matter what the song is about, I am still thinking about the strength of the lyric and if the melody is interesting and memorable. What can we expect from this new album? PW: Whereas the last few recordings have been about a very particular concept or theme, the record I am currently writing will be a bit freer and more personal in its origins.

BATS

We Are Losers

Dublin’s math-metal scientists plan to fly to Portugal to record The Sleep Of Reason, the follow-up to 2009’s incredible Red In Tooth And Claw. Prepare to have your ears assaulted and your grey matter exercised.

After the demise of Super Extra Bonus Party, guitarist Gavin Elsted wasted no time in starting a new project. Soon, We Are Losers were a fully fledged scuzz-pop band playing UK festivals and making their debut album.

Up to now, science has played a big part in your lyrics. What have you been writing about for this album? Rupert Morris: Science is still the primary focus of BATS. In particular, its conflict with superstition, pseudoscience and irrational thought in general, which I feel is the single most dangerous obstacle humankind has to overcome if it is to flourish and not doom itself to extinction. The title track is the focus point of this concept and takes on religion full-force. Then in contrast, the joy and wonder of actual reality as revealed by science is celebrated, especially in ‘Luminiferous Aether’ and ‘Terrible Lizards’.

What can you tell us about the making of the album and what to expect? Gavin Elsted: Very little apart from the fact that we made a decision very early on not to rush ourselves on this record - we’re still quite a young band so we are trying to find a unifying sound and write some really good pop songs based on that. It’s fun!

How would you describe The Sleep Of Reason? RM: I would describe the album as being almost cautionary. Like a warning. Doomy but also optimistic. There’s some pretty dark shit out there, but (to take a leaf out of Carl Sagan’s book) we have a candle. That candle is called science. That candle is called reason. And when reason sleeps, the monsters prevail. How does the sound compare to Red In Tooth And Claw? RM: It’s quite different, I think. It certainly sounds more mature. More definite and refined. Parts are lighter for sure, but other parts are darker. Oh, and it’s definitely longer. I think it’s gonna be our Wrath Of Khan.

You recorded and released two albums with Super Extra Bonus Party – what were you able to learn and take with you from those experiences? GE: To be as relaxed as possible while making an album – a pressure-filled session would probably yield some fairly harsh, frayed songs and that’s not what we’re about at all. We will more than likely produce the record ourselves but we know some great engineers who will help us get exactly what we want so having that trust there is also important. And lots of FIFA while someone else is in doing their parts. What does 2012 have in store for We Are Losers? GE: All going to plan, a single early in the year followed by some more Irish shows and hopefully a few more trips over to the UK but we’ll have to see how it goes!

Also on The radar… Look out for new music from:

Space Dimension Controller / Moths / The Cast Of Cheers / Simon Bird / Villagers / Therapy? / Fight Like Apes / Fighting With Wire / Adebisi Shank / Little Green Cars Katie Kim / VerseChorusVerse / David Kitt / Logikparty / Angkorwat / The Jane Bradfords / Legion Of Two / Jogging / Jetplane Landing / Before Machines / Bouts Sunken Foal / Owensie / Tom McShane / Croupier / Heathers / Funeral Suits / The Natural History Museum / Delorentos / Si Schroeder / Farriers / A Plastic Rose 37 AU76


IRISH ALBUMS For 2012

Axis Of The north coast punk trio have been honing their craft with occasional singles and a hell of a lot of gigging. Now a welloiled rawk machine with an album ready to go, even a crashed (borrowed) tour van isn’t going to stop them… How would you describe the album in a sentence? Ewen Friers: A representation of what Axis Of is right now, heavy but happy. We hope it’s something a little different.

You recently had some terribly bad luck with tour vans. Has that set you back? EF: In typical Axis Of fashion we’re determined not to let it slow us down, so we’ll be booking tours without a van and studio time without money. These things work themselves out if you’re persistent. For us it’s essential nothing slows what we’re trying to do so we’ll make it work somehow. Admirable, maybe, more likely just plain stupid! What are you most looking forward to about 2012? EF: Getting back to some of the amazing places we’ve toured in 2011 as well as all the new places we hope to see. All with a brand new release for everyone to hear. Can’t wait.

Are there any surprises for long-time fans? EF: Lots of surprises, top secret for now.

General Fiasco

Hunter-Gatherer

General Fiasco have done a lot of growing up in the last couple of years, and you can hear it in the music. Now on new label Dirty Hit, with a new member (ex-Panama Kings guitarist Stuart Bell) and a more mature sound, they have nevertheless retained the pop fizz that has got them this far. It’s exciting times for the Bellaghy lads.

In 2010, the mysterious Hunter-Gatherer garnered serious acclaim for his debut album on Dublin label Osaka – I Dreamed I Was A Footstep In The Trail Of A Murderer was 70 queasy minutes of dark electronica. Since then there has been a steady drip of free music (check his Bandcamp) but the ‘proper’ followup, Narrative Of Descent, will be released in 2012.

How much have things changed for the band since you recorded Buildings? Owen Strathern: I guess a lot has changed; we have a fourth member and the music we are making has moved somewhere else. Since we finished Buildings we knew we had to make a different record, for ourselves as much as for anybody else. It took a while but we found something that worked and we are really glad to be making this new record and getting it out there.

How does your approach to a new album compare to I Dreamed I Was A Footstep In The Trail Of A Murderer? H-G: Different room. Clarity of purpose. In many ways, however, the approach is the same. But the music is better. It has to be. No point otherwise.

Is the Waves EP a good representation of the album? OS: Yeah, it’s a pretty good guide. The album will have more variation in regards to pace but that EP captures the overall feel of the record. What has Stuart Bell brought to the band? OS: Lots of things. He approaches writing songs from a different angle and has had a different musical background. He knows his way around a lot of instruments which has helped spread the sound. He has a different guitar style from Enda and the two work well together. Do you feel you have a point to prove? OS: Yeah I do, I think everyone does. We are more focused on making something that is really good rather than trying to make our band appeal to more people. I’m very happy with the work we have done over the last year.

What has been inspiring you to make music this year? H-G: Time. Fear. Paranoia. Closing my eyes. Portishead / Perfume Genius / Thom Yorke / Swans / Fever Ray. Lodge Kerrigan. George Shaw (the painter from Coventry, my favourite living artist, who – I just discovered – was nominated for this year’s Turner Prize). You also play with Patrick Kelleher. Does that ever feed into the work you do as Hunter-Gatherer? H-G: Not particularly. That’s a separate activity. In the band, I just want to do a good job and try to do justice to the great music that Patrick makes. When I make music, it’s a solitary thing. Performance doesn’t even feature anymore. Unless The Knife come knocking, I’ll probably stick to the compositional side of things. I’m also looking to work with filmmakers. What can we expect from the new record? H-G: Unease. Substance. Darkness. Something better. A new beginning in another place.

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Glance COMEDY AT A

with Jake O’ Kane or Colin Murphy & Guests

EVERY TUESDAY 8pm • £8/7

EVERY FRIDAY

Desert Hearts Desert Hearts are responsible for one of THE great underappreciated albums in 2006’s battered and bruising Hotsy Totsy Nagasaki. With General Fiasco’s Stuart Bell and Stephen Leacock joining Charlie Mooney and bassist Roisin Stewart, the band are ready for the next phase in an intriguing story. It will soon be six years since Hotsy Totsy Nagasaki. Why such a long delay? Charlie Mooney: It feels natural to me. There were five years between Let’s Get Worse and Hotsy Totsy Nagasaki, so clearly it’s not a labour to the band. How would you describe the new album? CM: We always let the individual songs arrange themselves into being. Plus extra guitar solos. How much have you enjoyed getting back on the live scene of late? CM: Every gig is different and special to us, but right now we just want to break in the new songs. We take our time to let the songs become themselves. There seems to be a lot more music happening around Belfast and that is good.

The Ultimate 70’s Glam Rock Night with BALLROOM BLITZ or STARDUST

glamarama CHRISTMAS Spectacular

9pm • £6 (8pm DEC)

SAT 17 DEC 8.30pm • £10

james

SUN 18 DEC

Huish

7.30pm • £13.50

& the michael buble band

MON 26 DEC

ken haddock’s

boxing night SUPPER CLUB 8pm • FREE

Strictly No Ballroom

SAT 31 DEC 8pm • £16

THUR 5 JAN

BEFORE MACHINES DUTCH SCHULTZ ABANDCALLEDBOY EVENT HORSES

Kings of Lyon

GUNS 2 ROSES Enemies Of all the many instrumental rock bands in Ireland, Enemies are the most obvious descendents of The Redneck Manifesto. Eschewing aggression in favour of hypnotic patterns and an adherence to melody, their fanbase spans continents, and a Japanese release for their second album has already been secured. How are you approaching the making of the second album? Lewis Jackson: This time around, we have made sure to give ourselves as much time as possible. Our songs take a long time to write and we want to make sure that there is no rushing to finish tracks. We’ve Been Talking [2010] was nearly finished before we even decided to make it. This time it was a conscious decision to make an album so we get the privilege to be more critical about the material. What can we expect to hear on it? LJ: Our main aim is to try and veer away from making another instrumental rock album. So you can expect to hear four lads attempting to sing a few notes and failing. Ireland has so many quality instrumental rock bands – is that inspiring or does it make it difficult to carve a niche? LJ: I think the genre is vast, and even with the amount of instrumental acts in the country, not all of them are doing the same thing. We have been lucky in that Enemies have always been well received in Ireland and it’s never been a struggle to create a fan base.

Y FACTOR

9pm • £4

SAT 14 JAN 8.30pm • £11

SAT 21 JAN 8.30pm • £11

THUR 26 JAN 8.30pm • £12

MAURICE JAY’S

pleasuredome WITH DJ STUART ROBINSON

SAT 4 FEB 8.30pm • £8

james huish & the michael buble band

NICK LOWE booKiNG iNfo

TICkETS: EMpIRE BAR, All TICkETMASTER OUTlETS, TICkETMASTER.IE & 24 HR BOOkINg 0844 277 4455

BOTANIC AVENUE BElFAST T: 028 9024 9276

ThebelfAsTempire.com

SUN 12 FEB

8pm • £13.50

THUR 16 FEB 8.30pm • £26.50


On The Steps At St Paul’s Words by Kiran Acharya | Photography by Phil Sharp


St Paul’s Cathedral has become the heart of the UK’s Occupy movement. Activists have faced public scepticism and the first real eviction attempt, but what will the New Year bring? “At its extremes money becomes theoretical, impalpable. Wealth is, of course, merely a gauge of one’s distance from poverty. It is how much you are not poor.”– Robert McLiam Wilson, Ripley Bogle

THE TRUTH. For Amy, the conspiratorial aspect undermines any serious intent. “It’s a farce,” she said. “It’s been a farce since day two. This is not a protest any more. Whatever they’re trying to say, they’ve already said it.”

The future of the Occupy London camp at St Paul’s Cathedral has been under question since poor relations with the Church of England forced the resignations of dean Graeme Knowles and canon Giles Fraser. Things have stabilised on that front, but back in October the London Evening Standard ran with the headline SIEGE OF ST PAUL’S TO END IN COURT. The first edition of camp’s newspaper The Occupied Times launched the same day. Its headline? HERE TO STAY. Westminster council have passed a by-law banning any camps in the immediate vicinity of the Houses of Parliament. This means the decade-old camp in Parliament Square – a mile and a half from St Paul’s – will be gone by March 2012. But Occupy London activists Adam and Lee say they’ll be camping at Christmas despite knowing about the forced eviction of the travellers’ camp at Dale Farm, and student demonstrators facing police armed with rubber bullets. “The Church doesn’t want any violence,” said Adam. “The London authorities said we’ve got until New Year but they didn’t say what was going to happen. What they’ll get is peaceful resistance. There’s no need to shoot us.” Lee sings and plays guitar around the camp. “I don’t think they’d go that far, not in front of the church. We’ve fallen on our feet: I don’t think people realise the potential that being outside here has.” My first walks around the camp prompted a strange feeling, like something already remembered. I couldn’t shake The Matrix. At the start of the film Morpheus tries to convince Neo that the world is an artificial construct reinforced by people’s belief in it. “You’re here because you know something,” says Morpheus. “You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad...” Morpheus makes an improbable leap from the roof of one building to another. Neo jumps but loses his conviction, falling hundreds of storeys to the ground below. The first occupiers at St Paul’s established themselves in a rush of idealism which gave way to the reality of sleeping with your cheek next to the concrete. But the camp has grown, and remained peacefully alongside Remembrance Day services on November 11. Occupy London was criticised for having vague objectives, but like camps in more than 1,000 cities, St Paul’s is more a method than a manifesto. The advantages of ambiguity are fading, however, as more newsmakers take an interest, influencing public perception. Tales of drunkenness and disorganisation are overstated, though one part of the camp was christened ‘Conspiracy Corner’ by a visiting photographer named Amy. She had come to take photos for her Nan in Birmingham, who “wanted to know what was going on in the world”. Amy had seen a guy in a V For Vendetta mask, and asked him why he was taking part. “He didn’t know,” she said. “He was wearing it because everyone else was.” We looked at a large scrap of cardboard with messages to do with the July 7 London bombings. They arrived too late to carry out the bombings, it said. RESEARCH

On day two the camp issued a 10-point initial statement saying: “The current system is unsustainable. It is undemocratic and unjust. We need alternatives; this is where we work towards them.” Not everyone agrees with Occupy’s aims but it has drawn spectators. “I reckon they’ll stay because they’ve attracted so many people,” said Jodie Griffin, a project manager living in London. There are more than 200 tents with around 400 campers, served by a kitchen with eight staff and a tea room which goes through a hundred litres of milk a day. The catering relies on donations and refuses alcohol. The camp’s horizontal decision-making process is inspired by Occupy Wall Street, with working groups and a general assembly every evening to discuss how to proceed. In London campers have been reluctant to speak to mainstream media because they have seen biased stories in the papers. Occupy’s first brace of demands to the City of London Corporation went relatively unreported. Distrust extends to anyone carrying a press card, even curious dilettantes like me who wander around unattached to any one channel. The really savvy campers – the adbustin’, culture jammin’ hardcore – understand that even the best interviewers are subject an editorial process informed by the corporate and political biases of their bosses. The Tent City University is the main hub for information. You’ll see political textbooks and flyers for the November 5 march on Parliament which aimed at housing reform: no to 80% market rents, no to planned evictions. The university attracts curious students. Charlotte Anderton studies at a central London university. “One day costs about 80 quid,” she said. “But the teachers are just showing us slideshows, so I feel when I go into uni that I could just have gone on to the Internet. I don’t go to uni and come away thinking that I’ve learned loads.” Meanwhile, the latest figures show that UK university applications are down by more than 25,000. A look at the bookshelves shows work by Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Oscar Wilde. One book jumped out even though it was in German: Five Years of My Life by Murat Kurnaz, who had been held for five years at Guantanamo Bay. I had met Kurnaz more than three years earlier when he launched the book in Belfast. His imprisonment had taught him to assume the worst. “Politicians are talking one thing and doing something else,” he said. “I have seen it, I am sure about it.” It was an odd day to be speaking with an innocent uncharged Guantanamo detainee in Belfast. Gordon Brown was visiting for the US-NI Investment Conference. George Bush beamed a triumphant video message to the gala dinner at Hillsborough Castle saying ‘Northern Ireland is open for business’. All the visiting executives meant we could see armed PSNI officers from inside Deane’s Deli, where Kurnaz spoke. “The guards were trained to believe we were the most dangerous people in the world,” he said. “But you don’t need someone to protect you if you don’t have enemies. If you haven’t done anything bad, people won’t hate you.”

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“What the authorities will get is peaceful resistance. There’s no need to shoot us.”

Listen, the next revolution is gonna be a revolution of ideas. – Bill Hicks

Jonah Matranga In San Francisco the Far frontman and solo artist has linked his own church choir to city’s Occupy camp. We meet him on his first visit to St Paul’s. “It’s funny, I arrived here and got off the tube, I was walking round looking up at St Paul’s thinking ‘I hope I don’t see just four lonely people with bongo drums on the corner’. It was this wonderful feeling to get here and see: yes, here we are. “This is just a gathering point. This is going to church! This is people getting together and testifying and doing their thing. But the whole point of church was never to get together and feel good about going to church, the point of church is getting together and having conversations and leaving church to go out into the community and do cool shit. “So that to me is what this is: a congregation. A global congregation getting together and talking, then heading out and proselytizing not about any particular set of beliefs but about some core values that we all could really use a lesson in.” Find the full interview and an exclusive video of ‘Mother Mary’ at www.iheartau.com

By the steps of St Paul’s there’s a statue of Queen Anne, who ruled when the Cathedral was completed in 1710. Four ladies-in-waiting sit at her feet, representing her dominion over England, France, North America and Ireland. This is where Occupy London asserts the sovereignty of its assembly, where speakers speak and musicians play. By mid-November the clocks had changed and the cold had come. The camp celebrated its one-month birthday on November 15, six months since the first occupation in Madrid. I sat on the steps listening to a Turkish waltz on guitar and fiddle. A girl named Amber felt conversational. “We need to make steps forward,” she said. “I’m all for consensus and democracy but it takes a really long time. And the longer we take, the more the public loses interest.” Spurred by her enthusiasm I volunteered to take minutes for the meeting: two hours of writing, nose cold and buttocks numb. Messages arrived from New York as the Zuccotti Park eviction took place; police used gas, cut down trees. The assembly was delayed by a discussion about process after the facilitator announced an agenda item: a meeting the next day, to discuss process. Later, three groups addressed three questions: What has the camp achieved, where do we want to be in six months, and what concrete things can we do? The findings were varied. The camp had established itself and got the issue of cuts on to the agenda. Six-month ambitions ranged from occupying more spaces to establishing a political party. Concrete objectives included preparing for the cold, visiting other camps,

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helping at understaffed hospitals and schools. There were shout-outs for the evening film and an appeal for players in the camp’s rugby union team. Another guy wanted the November 30 public sector strikes to feed in to a nationwide general strike, described as the ‘ultimate power’. There was an announcement of the authorities’ ‘intent to serve notice of eviction’, but nobody knew when it would come. I still have the notebook with the minutes: 20 pages with writing like the flat line of a heart rate monitor. Two nights later it was warmer and crowded. The first eviction notices had appeared. But as darkness fell only two or three policemen milled through the crowd on the steps. The moon was like a coin half-dropped in a slot, hanging over hundreds with cameras flashing at a new central banner saying ‘You can’t evict an idea’. At the base a woman lay very still in a white dress covered in blood, as if murdered by financial greed. Speakers brought messages from America. A notice from the camp’s lawyers ‘strongly advised’ they continue campaigning peacefully. The question is one of land ownership: what’s owned by the Church and not the Corporation? Apparently the legal documentation was turned to ash during the Great Fire of London. A cheer went up with the announcement that in the meantime the camp would waste as much of the Corporation’s time and money as possible. One of the speakers was Father Alan Green, who has written editorials supporting the camp. I’d last seen him in September when the English Defence League planned to tramp past the East London Mosque on the Whitechapel Road. EDL leader Stephen Lennon showed up disguised as a rabbi – a rabbi! – and was arrested for breaching bail. Point


“We’ve fallen on our feet: I don’t think people realise the potential that being outside here has.” being that after successfully opposing the EDL, Father Green led a procession of hundreds down the road. But for nine or 12 minutes everyone who walked was technically criminalised when the police read the crowd their rights en masse, under section 13 of the Public Order Act. Occupy London is the result of the same impulse that wanted to ‘turn Trafalgar Square into Tahrir Square’ in March. That night it didn’t work. Police kettled hundreds of demonstrators after some yahoo thumped the Olympic clock. Credibility was compromised by anarchists wearing black motorcycle helmets, tossing metal grids and waving plastic spikes at police and civilians alike. Occupy London is free of any violent undertow but if in the beginning the camp was like The Matrix, the potential for widespread disruption following the public sector strikes makes it feel more like Fight Club. Brad Pitt leads a gang into a fancy hotel where police and captains of commerce dine. “The people you’re after are the people you depend on,” he says to the police chief cowering in the bathroom. “We cook your meals, we haul your trash, we connect your calls, we drive your ambulances. We guard you while you sleep. Do not fuck with us.” Occupy’s run-up might yet be more impressive than its jump, but resilience could make it a major component in a wave of historic consequence. Clashing with police isn’t a hang-up but it’s a possibility. I listened as an activist argued forcefully but cordially with an officer: “You’d use physical violence against other human beings, just because someone told you to.” The policeman said he knew the site wouldn’t be cleared in the next couple of weeks. What about a year down the line? “Depends what the rationale was behind it,”

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the policeman said. “If there was a good reason behind it and I was told to do it, then yeah, I would.” As with the clearance of Parliament Square, the government is likely to build legal case that extends the ban on camps as far as St Paul’s Cathedral. After the public sector strikes on November 30 it’s reasonable to believe in the political possibility of a general strike. The trade unions and Occupy activists appear to be taking different paths to the same destination. The Conservatives have ridiculed the level of public support for strikes, claiming that 30% turnouts in union ballots is not enough to validate action. “Strikes should be banned unless at least 50% of union members vote for them,” said Conservative MP Richard Ottaway. The same thing might be said for election turnouts. In 2011 the Conservatives amassed only 36% of the vote. But the by-law applying to Parliament Square means that like China, London will begin clearing its streets of dissenters in time for the Olympics. This, combined with the criminalisation of squatting, suggests that when David Cameron looks at St Paul’s he sees not civilians but criminals. As I left the Cathedral I spotted a lady in a wheelchair over by the kitchen. Angie Dobson, with whom I’d marched in the spring. This was her fourth visit. “If these cuts go ahead my life just stops,” she said. “Not so much the cuts to hospital budgets, but to care and home help.” I asked for her odds on the camp thriving in 2012. “Couldn’t bet on it,” she said, coughing against the cold, pointing vaguely towards Westminster. “You just never know what people down there are thinking.”



A to Z of Winter Brrrr! Whap up the thermostat there, will you? Yep, the nights are closing in, there’s a nip in the air and winter is most definitely upon us. A season of contradictions, winter gives us moments of delicate beauty – a solitary snowflake drifting on the breeze; a rosy-cheeked child eating freshly roasted chestnuts; an old married couple walking arm-in-arm through the snow, laughing gently as they support each other – which are counter-balanced by the fact that it is bloody cold, bloody wet and ruddy, bloody miserable. Now, if you don’t mind, we’re off to fix ourselves a massive hot toddy. Words by Neill Dougan Illustration by Mark Reihill

A

is for Australia

Crazily, in the Southern hemisphere they experience summer during our winter. So, at the same time that we’re desperately trying to avoid freezing to death, over in Oz they’re lording it up on the beach, savouring cold beers and putting shrimps on barbies. And they’re better than us at sports. Bastards.

B

is for Kate Bush

Helium-voiced warbler Bush clearly had winter on her mind when writing latest album 50 Words For Snow. Of course there aren’t actually 50 words for snow, so the shameless charlatan simply made many of them up, coining terms like ‘splangdasha’, ‘anechoic’, ‘robber’s veil’ and ‘God’s frozen dandruff’. Actually that last one is AU’s, which goes to show anyone can do it.

C

D

In December, towns and villages across the land will be festooned with brightly-coloured lights and nativity scenes. All very pretty, but come January, when you’re trudging through the cold and wet as you return to work, the appeal tends to pall. Frankly you just want them to disappear and the streets to be left black, to match your mood. Or is that just us?

E

Better known as anti-freeze, this stuff’s great for clearing your car windscreen on those icy mornings. It’s also got a sugary taste but – cruelly – is highly toxic to humans. So only drink it if you’re really desperate (for example if you’ve only got blue WKD left in the fridge).

G

is FOR Grit

H

is for Hunting Season

The hunting season for deer, ducks, geese and pheasants runs from around October to February. So if you fancy heading out into the wilderness and murdering an innocent animal to make yourself feel like a big man, now’s the time to do it.

I

is for Impecuniosity

January is rubbish. Christmas is over, it’s freezing and you’ve just returned to school/college/work. So if you’re a bit depressed in the first month of the New Year, that’s perfectly understandable. But it could be worse. You could be totally broke as well, having blown all your cash on presents and partying. What’s that? Oh...

is for Ethylene Glycol

of thing in any way amusing. They’ll appreciate your honesty, possibly.

is for Fuel

Even the lightest dusting of snow can traditionally bring towns and cities across the land to a pathetic standstill, so thank goodness for grit (aka rock salt) which causes the pesky stuff to melt, leaving our roadways clear. This year, the Irish government spent €23million on grit and gritting equipment. It’s just a shame they didn’t do so last year, when there was actually some snow [ahem, no proper snow as we went to press –Ed.].

is for Decorations

F

During the yearly cold snap, staying warm is an obvious priority. So let’s give thanks to the huge fuel companies across the land that make their vital products available to all and sundry for such a reasonable price. You really are a bunch of saints, guys (now that’s sarcasm).

is for Chinese New Year

The most important celebration in the Oriental calendar, encompassing a full 15 days of festivities, marked by family dinners, lanterns, firecrackers and the burning of incense. Sort of like a traditional British or Irish Christmas but without the alcoholfuelled family bust-ups.

J

is for Jumpers

AU has noticed a recent trend of horrible Christmas/ winter jumpers being sported out and about in a sort of jocular, ‘Look at me, amn’t I hilarious?’. fashion. Should you spot anyone behaving in this manner, we recommend that you quietly approach and inform them that, like ironic moustaches, only people with no actual sense of humour find this sort

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K

is for Kids

Sledding, snowball fights and the building of snowmen: all these are sources of innocent joy to children. Should you find yourself embroiled in a snowball fight with a group of neighbourhood kiddies, try and ignore the temptation to pelt them full in the face with maximum strength. This is generally considered unacceptable, as AU has learned, 120 hours of community service later.

L

is for Long Evenings

Oh, the interminable darkness of winter. It’s pitch black when you get up, then you get a few hours of half-hearted grey that pass for daylight, before the sun sets again. You may quite enjoy this state of affairs, for example if you’re a vampire or are allergic to sunlight. Otherwise you may find it quite irksome.

M

is for Migration

Birds fly south to warmer climes for the winter months. Humans largely stay put. And yet birds are considered the stupid ones. Go figure.

N

is for New Year’s Eve

You could go out on New Year’s Eve. That’s if you fancy queuing up in the cold to gain access to an over-priced club or pub that’s uncomfortably full of punters, all displaying a desperate determination to have a good time, despite the certain knowledge that New Year’s Eve is The Worst Night Out Of The Year. Alternatively, you could stay in with a nice bottle of red and watch Jools Holland’s Hootenanny on BBC Two. Guess which one we’ll be doing.

o

is for Old Man Winter

Old Man Winter – and the similarly mythical character Jack Frost – are said to cause the snow, ice, rain, sleet, slush and cold that make winter


Z

S such a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Needless to say, if they were real people they’d have been lynched long ago, and rightly so.

P

is for Picturesque

Yes, people moan quite a lot about the cold and wet of winter (well, this person does anyway). But few things are as magical as opening the curtains on a January morn to find your drab, nondescript street transformed into a bewitching snowy wonderland. It’s almost enough to make you actually want to go outside. We said ‘almost’.

Q

R

S

is for Resolutions

is for Sports

Most winter sports – such as snowboarding, skiing and tobogganing – involve propelling yourself down

T

is for Thermal Underwear

You can’t beat a pair of long johns to keep out the chill. They look a bit daft, sure, but – concealed as they are under your outer clothing – that’s surely a secondary concern. Unless you’re out on the pull, in which case we can only say that you have made a most unwise choice of undergarment indeed.

It’s all very well saying ‘Come January I’m off the smokes’, or ‘This year I’m going to exercise four times a week’, but surely January – already the most depressing month of the year, as we’ve established – is the very worst time to try and enact significant life changes. AU’s advice? Simply carry on as normal until March or April, when you’ve had a chance to put winter behind you. Better still, leave it till next January. One more year of indolent indulgence is likely to do you no harm [NB: not professional medical advice].

a steep incline at as great a velocity as possible, and are the preserve of lunatics. A notable exception is curling, which to all intents and purposes is a cross between lawn bowls and a particularly frantic bout of floor-mopping, on ice. Wow, exciting.

is for Quality Street

You know it’s winter when tins of Quality Street (along with their close cousin, Cadbury’s Roses) start appearing in workplaces and homes across the land. While there’s no harm in a few sweets, one should ideally avoid demolishing half the tin in one sitting. Nothing stings like the bitter remorse of the chocolate lover who has over-indulged and now sits, ashamed, dozens of brightly-coloured wrappers in a pile before him, a gaudy reminder of his gluttony. Trust us, we know of what we speak.

T

U

is for Under the Weather

Viruses, colds and influenzas love this season. Should you find yourself suffering a dose, don’t panic: a few days in bed with large amounts of Lucozade, chicken soup and Lemsip will see you right. Unless it’s bird flu. In which case, do panic. Panic quite a lot.

V

is for Vacation

Skiing holidays were once the preserve of the affluent few. Nowadays every Tom, Dick and Harry seems to regularly head off to hit the slopes in mainland Europe and beyond. Really, it’s devalued the whole concept of the winter vacation, to the extent that truly classy individuals (such as AU) choose instead to sit at home watching Die Hard for the twentieth time. Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!

W

is for Winter by The Fall

In ‘Winter (Hostel Maxi)’, from The Fall’s 1982 classic Hex Enduction Hour, frontman Mark E Smith had some pertinent words on the subject of winter. “Entrances uncovered / Street signs you never saw,” declared the gnomic Smith. “All entrances delivered / Courtesy winter.” A sentiment upon which we can surely all agree. If only we could understand it.

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X

is for Xmas

Christmas: a time for family, friends, celebration and song. A time to give and receive presents, to eat, drink and make merry. Oh, and of course it’s also a celebration of the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. But it’s mostly about the presents.

Y

is for Yodelling

Should you find yourself in the Alps this winter, you might be lucky enough to hear the traditional melodic call of alpine shepherds. Yodelling was also employed by funkmeister general Sly Stone in the song ‘Spaced Cowboy ‘, from 1971’s classic There’s A Riot Goin’ On. Of course in Sly’s case the yodelling was communicating not so much his love of the Alps, but rather the fact that he was completely off his face on drugs.

Z

is for Zzzzz

Many mammals hibernate through the winter, entering a deep sleep that lasts for months. AU has tried repeatedly to match these impressive somnial efforts, but each year – after perhaps only 60 or 70 hours in bed – we’re awoken by friends, family members, concerned neighbours and the occasional mental health professional. Can’t they just leave us be?


BoxingNight/NewYear’sEve Two floors, one party. Doors: 9pm Admission: £10 With FAUX DJs and Jonny Tiernan

Doors: 9pm Admission: £10 With DJs Jonny Tiernan and Dave Frecknall

Free admission to the Public Bar and Back Bar at both events.

Enjoy EntErtainmEnt in LavEry’s EvEry night of thE wEEk, visit us onLinE for fuLL Listings and information:

NYEBoxing_AUAD.indd 1

4/12/11 19:06:18

Now she’s squealing all the way home with a £50 fine!

www.belfastcity.gov.uk/£50fine


• pg 48 Record Reviews | pg 53 Young Blood | PG 54 LIVE REVIEWS | pg 55 MOVIE & GAME REVIEWS •

Illustration by Mark Reihill

The Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream & Gish ISLAND

One of the highlights of No Nirvana, a music special recently excavated from the musty BBC archives, is an early sighting of The Smashing Pumpkins bruising in slow motion through their bonged-out track ‘Rhinoceros’. Sporting the kind of knitwear and hairdos once found on the cover of a Jackie annual, the band alternate between shoe-gazing and hiding behind their enviable locks. The song itself is almost not there at all, at times as quiet as the silent actress whose surname inspired the title of their debut album Gish. Until, that is, they petulantly step on their distortion pedals and crank it up a notch. It’s the classic quiet, quiet, LOUD approach favoured by innumerable outfits from the early Nineties but The Smashing Pumpkins were not just joining the same old dots. Finding the squall line between Black Sabbath and My Bloody Valentine, Billy Corgan et al combined propulsive riffs with gonzo psychedelia, thereby making them a more enticing prospect than many of the droning drones moping around at the time. These lovingly compiled and packaged reissues catch the Pumpkins in their pomp and at the peak of their creative powers, before in-feuding, drugs and the colossal weight of Corgan’s self-tooting ego caused them to, well, smash apart. Twenty years on, Gish remains just as exciting a listen as it was upon release. As indebted to Hendrix and Cream as it

is to, gulp, Rush, the album’s sound, produced by none other than Butch Vig, is less muddy than the rest of the era’s output, and places more value on melody than discord. In short, despite consistently being erroneously pigeonholed in the grunge box, the band consistently went against the grain of everything which that subgenre represented. James Iha’s serpentine solos, spilling like mercury all over tracks like ‘Siva’ and ‘Tristessa’, were dismissed as indulgent and pandering to the base needs of air guitarists. Similarly, Jimmy Chamberlin’s drumming, which introduces opener ‘I Am One’ in the same way that a Molotov cocktail introduces a riot, was disregarded as showing off. You know, the way drummers are prone to do. Unperturbed, the band only became more adventurous. Few other groups have made such an ambitious leap to their follow-up record as The Smashing Pumpkins did with Siamese Dream. It was a fantastic work from snout to tail, from the call to arms of ‘Cherub Rock’ to the altogether lovely farewell and goodnight ‘Luna’, a hark back to previous decades when bands made cohesive albums rather than three hit singles and a lot of puff. If the problems of addiction, depression and romantic disentanglement that were plaguing the band had any effect it was that they became yet more creative. ‘Today’ may have become a slacker anthem but it was quieter moments such as ‘Disarm’ and ‘Spaceboy’, written for Corgan’s disabled half-brother, which resonate. Unsurprisingly, The Smashing Pumpkins were the target of considerable scorn, most of which

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emanated from fellow musicians who sniffed at Corgan’s lyrics, which were just as likely to be about milk duds and fairy dust as they were about the atomic bomb, and suggested that he was sucking up to the mainstream. This, of course, was nothing more than sour grapes. As evidenced by the wealth of bonus material which accompanies these re-releases, the group were effortlessly prolific. Curiously, it’s the Gish disc of extras which fares better. The B-sides, Peel sessions and demos are more fully formed than the fuzzy faff-a-ramas which eventually coalesced into Siamese Dream. Particularly worthwhile is the reworking of ‘Starla’, an opus which gradually transforms from wistful nonsense into white noise over the course of 11 minutes. Equally enjoyable are the DVDs of concert footage which depict the same questionable dress sense as seen in No Nirvana and, more importantly, the same great songs. Ross Thompson GISH

SIAMESE DREAM

KEY TRACKS: ‘SIVA’, ‘STARLA’ (GISH), ‘CHERUB ROCK’, ‘FRAIL AND BEDAZZLED’ (SIAMESE DREAM). FOR FANS OF: BLACK SABBATH, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, QUEEN.


The Cure Bestival Live 2011 SUNDAY BEST

That The Cure are one of the most important pop bands of the late 20th century and beyond is of no doubt; the 13 studio albums they’ve recorded easily stand up as one of the strongest back catalogues in popular music. This recent live recording from Rob Da Bank’s Bestival weekend captures the band in full-on ‘best of’ mode. Whilst this might have been an incredible gig if you were there, it raises a few key problems with regards to The Cure’s continuing relevance. Some of these songs are over 25 years old, and they still sound exactly the same as they did when the first came out; the same tinny, weedy keyboards cutting through the mix, the same flanged guitars unleashing those quintessentially Eighties tones, and the same arrangements that were on the records. No-one really expected a radical re-invention of the songs, but the band are displaying a musical growth rate of 0%, having changed not one iota in their 32 year recording career. Buy this, use it to delve into the back catalogue (including the unjustly underrated 4:13 Dream), and then sacrifice something to the dark gods in the hope that Smith and co. pull the finger out and at least start acknowledging the passing of time. The Cure have always delivered their best work in the face of adversity, and Lord knows they have everything to prove now. Steven Rainey

Beth Jeans Houghton And The Hooves Of Destiny “Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose” MUTE

KEY TRACKS: ‘FASCINATION STREET’, ‘JUST LIKE HEAVEN’. FOR FANS OF: THE EIGHTIES.

Seekae +Dome RICE IS NICE/POPFRENZY

Sydney-based electronic trio Seekae’s second album pursues the noble cause of delivering a record that rewards multiple listens and also tries to blend their eclectic catalogue of influences into a cohesive album. That’s trickier than it sounds when your influences range from hip-hop to post-rock. It’s a testament to their ambition then that +Dome is a thoroughly pleasant wash of skittering electronica and IDM beats. ‘Two’ could be lifted straight off a Mount Kimbie EP, while at the other end of the spectrum ‘You’ll’ is a crooning spaced-out ballad. It’s not all stellar; ‘Gnor’ that never really goes anywhere, whilst ‘Yodal’ is a slightly cringeworthy experimentation into squelching hip-hop. Generally, though the band have delivered a rewarding and solid listen. Andrew Lemon

KEY TRACKS: ‘GO’, ‘BLOOD BANK’, ‘TWO’. FOR FANS OF: MOUNT KIMBIE, AUTECHRE, RADIOHEAD.

Three years after a bewitching support slot for Bon Iver highlighted her prodigious talent, Beth Jeans Houghton has finally arrived. A bafflingly-titled debut album showcases her selfdubbed ‘marching to war’ sound and is a smashand-grab of ideas and expressionism. Indeed, Houghton’s songs are punctuated with neat sidesteps and intriguing vignettes. The sumptuous ‘Dodecahedron’ begins as a confessional ballad before igniting into a quasi-gospel shanty, while

Wiley Evolve Or Be Extinct BIG DADA

He’s had his dalliance with the pop charts (2008’s ‘Wearing My Rolex’) but these days grime godfather Wiley seems happy to leave the hitmaking to MCs more than 10 years his junior. Part of that involves marching entirely to the beat of his own drum – this summer he released the very solid 100% Publishing on Big Dada, another smoother effort himself for free, and yet another collaborative mixtape on top of that. Six months later, he’s back with his ninth full-length. Such firepower is noted on this album’s closing manifesto, ‘This Is Just An Album’, as is his healthy relationship with a label apparently happy to let him do largely what he wants. That inevitably entails a loose approach

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the glorious lead single ‘Liliputt’ highlights Beth’s stellar soprano amid a galloping rush of fiddles and brass. Old songs sit neatly with the new; debut single ‘Night Swimmer’ (her ode to an exboyfriend’s nocturnal sweats) is an otherworldly lullaby while ‘Atlas’ is spiky indie-pop with BJH reflecting that “red wine and whiskey are no good for me”. “Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose” is a triumph of Houghton’s fierce desire to retain control of all facets of her artistic output, and the work of a genuinely unique talent. John Freeman

KEY TRACKS: ‘DODECAHEDRON’, ‘ATLAS’, ‘NIGHT SWIMMER’. FOR FANS OF: TORI AMOS, EMMY THE GREAT, JESCA HOOP. to quality control. The back half is let down by repetitive self-aggrandisement, uninspired vocal performances and poor attempts at character acting (‘Can I Get A Taxi Please’ and ‘Customs’), but in the first half, the MC breathes charismatic fire over a series of incendiary beats, mostly produced by the man himself. The throbbing electro-hop of ‘Boom Blast’, meanwhile, is a welcome return to the dancefloor. There’s a comparison to be made here with scattershot guitar bands like The Fall and Guided By Voices – as long as you don’t mind dodging the flawed experiments and half-arsed filler, a new Wiley album will always harbour a few gems. This one is no different. Chris Jones

KEY TRACKS: ‘BOOM BLAST’, ‘EVOLVE OR BE EXTINCT’, THE DOOR TO ZION’. FOR FANS OF: EARLY DIZZEE RASCAL, SKEPTA, JME.


Pusha T Fear Of God 2: Let Us Pray DECON

This solo debut from Clipse fifty-percenter Pusha T is riddled with contradictions. The title references his dread at ending up, like so many of his musical contemporaries, behind bars. Yet, simultaneously, he revels in his image as a “hustler” and “selfrighteous drug dealer” who “still wants to sell kilos”. As Tyler, The Creator would put it, he’s a “fucking walking paradox”. Cameos from the likes of Kanye, Diddy and Pharrell give proceedings a high-profile sheen, but the world view, hard and unsparing as it is, remains Pusha T’s alone. His attitude on the likes of ‘What Dreams Are Made Of’ is best summed-up by the prison acronym G.A.B.O.S. (Game Ain’t Based On Sympathy). Whilst the un-flashy rhymes have a bitter edge, the tunes themselves are fiendishly moreish. With Diddy riding shotgun, the pavement-tough rhythms of ‘Changing Of The Guards’ set the tone. However, it is the Tyler hook-up, ‘Trouble On My Mind’, which is the stand-out, its brutal hook recalling The W-era Wu Tang Clan. Elsewhere, the Kevin Cossom-guesting ‘Feeling Myself’ is a slice of uber-slick urban R&B, as bright and glossy as Times Square, whilst the closing ‘Alone In Vegas’ shows there is vulnerability lurking beneath the bravado. Francis Jones

KEY TRACKS: ‘TROUBLE ON MY MIND’, ‘WHAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF’, ‘SO OBVIOUS’. FOR FANS OF: NAS, RICK ROSS, KANYE WEST.

The Big Pink Future This 4AD

Diagrams Black Light FULL TIME HOBBY

Having already released a debut EP under the Diagrams pseudonym this year, Sam Genders – formerly of folktronica pioneers Tunng – has already shown himself as a prolific songwriter and arranger. Featuring slightly reworked versions of ‘Antelope’ and ‘Night All Night’ from his eponymous debut, and seven new songs which present an altogether more upbeat side of

him than his earlier work, there is an increased electronic presence. The album’s title hints at its ambiguous lyrical content, often sending a mixed message (“I may not know you/But I may know you too well”). Diagrams has diversified his sound while maintaining the quirks that define him, and has delivered with his first full length LP. Stevie Lennox

KEY TRACKS: ‘PENINSULA’, ‘ANTELOPE’. FOR FANS OF: SUFJAN STEVENS, BROADCAST, WOODPIGEON.

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Their debut A Brief History Of Love ensured The Big Pink were one of ‘09’s most touted acts. Its combination of melody and noisy layers received widespread acclaim, piling pressure on Milo and Robbie to nail the traditionally tricky followup release. Taking inspiration from hip-hop and electro they produced a suite of beats and samples, from which the album’s entire playlist was crafted. Commercial and upbeat, Future This favours inoffensive, towering anthems over creative expansion. ‘Hit The Ground (Superman)’ borrows from Laurie Anderson’s similarly-titled classic and has festival torch-song written all over it, whilst lead single ‘Stay Gold’ blasts forth with relentless positivity, yet ultimately falls flat. Dressed with lush beats and textured production, Future This is overly-reliant on predictable, soaring melodies, as in ‘1313’ and ‘Rubbernecking’. Elsewhere, the sombre title track and lush, moody ‘Give It Up’ inject some overdue diversity. Big singles, big sound, yet ultimately bland and uninspiring. Eamonn Seoige

KEY TRACKS: ‘GIVE IT UP’, ‘HIT THE GROUND (SUPERMAN)’, ‘STAY GOLD’. FOR FANS OF: THE VERVE, DELPHIC, CHAPEL CLUB.


The Lemonheads Hotel Sessions HALL OF RECORDS

Laughing All The Way To The Cleaners: The Best Of The Lemonheads RHINO

Evan Dando has had his problems, and – as they have so many times before – the problems obscure his music. In an ideal world, Dando would be remembered as the sweet face of grunge, a boy with golden locks and a voice of pure honey, who gave us three wonderful albums of sweetly melancholic acoustic tinged rock, whilst his peers howled about their depression. Instead, he’s remembered as a guy who lost it all to drugs, someone who’s been lost at sea for so long that they’re probably not coming back. If he’s remembered at all, that is. Two simultaneous releases attempt to re-dress this problem. Hotel Sessions is a collection of acoustic strum-alongs, originally recorded in a hotel room in Australia in 1992 for his tour manager. Whilst this attempts to be some kind of great ‘lost’ album, all it succeeds in doing is reminding us why Dando is considered ‘lost’ in the first place. On the other hand, Laughing All The Way To The Cleaners is an incredible career-spanning anthology, gathering together songs from every incarnation of the band, from when Dando was just the drummer, to the moment they became superstars and beyond. Along the way, choice covers flesh the story out, showcasing Dando as someone who simply loves music who and needs to share it with people. Steven Rainey HOTEL SESSIONS:

dubstep beats and acoustic guitar combine to create something that feels colourful, deep and entirely new. While it may seem strange at first, Watered Lawn’s layers peel back on repeat listening, revealing a beautiful, pop heart at its core. Ian Maleney

KEY TRACKS: ‘LAMENT FOR MORNING’, ‘CAST OUT FOR DAYS’, ‘I JUST SAW’. FOR FANS OF: BATHS, MOUNT KIMBIE, DIRTY PROJECTORS.

RKC British Plastic THE SYCAMORE CLUB

RKC is the solo project of former Babyshambles drummer, Adam Ficek, and if Pete Doherty’s spinoff band were a step down from The Libertines, it should follow that RKC are yet another rung down the slack-indie ladder. But that’s not fair on Ficek, as this is a far more eclectic and imaginative album than RKC’s lineage suggests. ‘I Can’t Say’ is a tuneful whirl of bleeps and buzzes and, although ‘Cockroach’ is just frantically odd, ‘Here Comes The Summer’ is a lo-fi pop gem. There are definite shadows cast by Ficek’s musical past, but British Plastic makes a conscious effort to take a more adventurous direction and the result is fun and entertaining, if a tad lightweight. Mike Ravenscroft

KEY TRACKS: ‘I CAN’T SAY’, ‘HERE COMES THE SUMMER’. FOR FANS OF: BABYSHAMBLES, THE BETA BAND, BLUR.

Lasers Juno IRREGULAR

KEY TRACKS: ‘BIG GAY HEART’, ‘INTO MY ARMS’. FOR FANS OF: SENTRIDOH, GUIDED BY VOICES. LAUGHING ALL THE WAY TO THE CLEANERS:

KEY TRACKS: ‘RUDDERLESS’, ‘THE OUTDOOR TYPE’. FOR FANS OF: AMERICAN MUSIC CLUB, MICHAEL NESMITH, GRAM PARSONS.

Raleigh Moncrief Watered Lawn

At the very start of Juno, we’re misled into thinking the debut album from Barcelonan electronica upstarts Lasers might be an ambient, mildly trippy affair. The opening track is a soaring, blissful arc tinged with dreamy strings and glitches, but halfway through second track, ‘Space Dust’, some clumsy, muffled Noah Lennox –esque vocals crash in to spoil the vibe. And it won’t be for the first time, either. There are some lovely moments here, however, such as the soothing, chilled-out ‘Awake’, and the record has an endearingly euphoric feel. However, at times it’s too lengthy and upbeat to lose itself in the cosmic haze haplessly suggested by the track titles and works better in its downtempo moments. Aoife Mc Keown

ANTICON

You may not have heard of Raleigh Moncrief before but you have almost certainly heard his music. The Sacramento-based producer has worked with a host of top indie acts in the past, from producing the Dirty Projectors’ landmark Bitte Orca LP as well as touring as part of Marnie Stern’s band. Watered Lawn is Moncrief’s first step on the solo path and, while the album sounds nothing like the above mentioned artists, it does bring some elements of his prior work back to the table. Convoluted composition, intense sub-bass, synth workouts, post-

KEY TRACKS: ‘JUNO’, ‘AWAKE’, ‘TECH NOIR’. FOR FANS OF: ERRORS, PANDA BEAR.

VVV Across The Sea

further develop his sound – one that’s heavily informed by two-step and UK garage. The way the skittering, skipping percussion of tracks like ‘Traverse’ and ‘Aisle Seat’ mix with soulful, fluid samples is reminiscent of FaltyDL’s productions, but there’s plenty of other avenues explored: ‘Retreated’ calls to mind the dramatic technicolour synths of Girl Unit; ‘Among The Whispers’ and ‘Jade Mountain’ mix Burial-esque vocal snatches with twilight atmospherics, while closing track ‘All That We’ve Been Through’ nods to Chicago house. Solid stuff. Daniel Harrison

KEY TRACKS: ‘AMONG THE WHISPERS’, ‘UNDER CONTROL’, ‘JADE MOUNTAIN’. FOR FANS OF: SULLY, FALTYDL, BURIAL.

Morning Claws Pet Storms, Ancient Clouds EP SELF-RELEASED

“We have pretty big boots to fill,” Paul McIver trills on the buoyant ‘Fizzle’, and d’y’know what? He’s not far wrong. Belfast has been a veritable conveyorbelt for electronic indie acts in recent times, and high-calibre ones at that. The second release from five-piece Morning Claws is a munificent six-track EP, largely consisting of joyously utopian synth-pop sounds. The instantaneous ‘Fight For Your Friends’ does feel slightly incongruent, with its curious blend of hazy-yet-at-times-piercing guitar, a stark but by no means unpleasant contrast to what follows; ‘A Great Distance’ has a gentle, aqueous feel and ‘Violet To Green’ climaxes with engaging male/ female vocal harmonies. The standout, however, is ‘Goodbye Moodkill’, a gorgeously mellifluous number lined with bittersweet lyrics, and one can only hope this collection reveals just the tip of a sugar-coated iceberg. Iain McDowell

KEY TRACKS: ‘A GREAT DISTANCE’, ‘GOODBYE MOODKILL’. FOR FANS OF: BEACH HOUSE, MERCURY REV, OPPENHEIMER.

A Classic Education Call It Blazing LEFSE

As psych-pop six-piece A Classic Education’s first full-length album, Call It Blazing, chirps modestly into life, its authenticity is almost palpable. The effervescent blend of Sixties pop and modern surfinspired indie boasts a uniqueness rarely found within the genre, and feels relaxed and perfectly natural. Elements of James Mercer’s work with The Shins can be heard in Jonathan Clancy’s wonderfully understated vocals, whilst components like the delightfully sweet violin around the closing phrases of ‘Gone To Sea’ and the snare that patters through the dreamy garage gem ‘Billy’s Gang Dream’ complement the jangly, Americana-tinted feel of the album immaculately. Merlin Jobst

FORTIFIED AUDIO

Austin, Texas-based producer VVV has made a name for himself over the last couple of years with some impressive untitled dubs, as well as 2010’s Projects EP. Across The Sea is his full-length debut and sees him

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KEY TRACKS: ‘PLACE A BET ON YOU’, ‘BILLY’S GANG DREAM’, ‘CAN YOU FEEL THE BACKWASH’. FOR FANS OF: THE SHINS, BORN GOLD, MODEST MOUSE.


A.A. Bondy Believers TURNSTILE/FAT POSSUM

Colourfully-named troubadour Auguste Arthur Bondy has form as the singer of defunct rockers Verbena, and latterly as a solo artist of renown. His third album may find its home in the folk/alt. country section of your local record store (or it would, if you still had one), but there’s something much more interesting going on here. Sure, there’s plenty of old-fashioned songcraft (witness the languid lament of ‘Surfer King’ and quietly majestic closer ‘Scenes From A Circus’). But there’s also a subtle sense of adventure, with several songs coloured by a delicately applied experimental touch, suggesting time well spent with Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Note the jarring minor-key melodies and motorik beat of ‘The Heart Is Willing’, or how ‘Rte 28/Believers’ becomes a completely different song halfway through. The hazy reverie of ‘Down In The Fire (Lost Sea)’, meanwhile, recalls Deserter’s Songs-era Mercury Rev, before dissolving into an uneasy drone. Slow and downbeat, Believers is nonetheless a warm, inviting record – just the thing for these cold winter nights. Neil Dougan

KEY TRACKS: ‘DOWN IN THE FIRE (LOST SEA)’, ‘SURFER KING’, ‘RTE 28/BELIEVERS’. FOR FANS OF: WILCO, MERCURY REV, OCTOBERMAN.

Craig Finn Clear Heart Full Eyes FULL-TIME HOBBY

The Springsteen connection has dogged The Hold Steady since their mid-Noughties inception. It could be a lot worse, of course, but such pigeonholing leaves little room for growth. To that end, the band’s frontman Craig Finn took it upon himself to use a four-month break to record a solo collection of songs that were ‘quieter’ and ‘more narrative’ than his band’s usual fare. In truth, these tunes aren’t that different, particularly given that their acoustic skeletons have been fleshed out by a host of other musicians. True, there’s a little less beefy rock and a lot more slide guitar – used swoonsomely on ‘Not Much Left of Us’ – than you’d normally find Finn’s stuffed-up vocals crooning over, and welcome elements of rowdy country music on ‘New Friend Jesus’ and ‘Terrified Eyes’. Overall, though, Clear Eyes Full Heart is an album that keeps things moving, but is never memorable enough to stop you in your tracks. Lauren Murphy

KEY TRACKS: ‘WHEN NO ONE’S WATCHING’, ‘NOT MUCH LEFT OF US’. FOR FANS OF: JESSE MALIN, TOM PETTY.

Gorillaz The Singles Collection 2001-2011 BIG DADA

When Blur began to implode many moons ago, it wasn’t obvious where Damon Albarn might go next, with Graham Coxon securing the ‘alt’ nomination, Dave Rowntree going into politics and Alex James becoming a ‘foodie’ Observer columnist who made his own cheese. But floppy fringed, tracksuit-topand-beads wearing oik Albarn has proven himself to be a dab hand at, well, everything since he was a fresh-faced indie kid. Gorillaz are Damon’s most successful venture, outshining his African music dabbling, opera work, film scoring and supergroup fun with The Good, The Bad and The Queen. Albarn and

sidekick Jamie Hewlett created an animated, zeitgeisty, satirical band, roped in a jumble of top collaborators and proceeded to sell millions of records and become the coolest cats around. On this all-too-familiar collection, the tunes from ‘Tomorrow Comes Today’ to ‘On Melancholy Hill’ still sound fresh and Albarn’s ear for a melody is still a joy. A deluxe package boasts DVD extras such as live performances, documentary footage and videos, but if you’re looking for neat little disc bursting with a decade’s worth of excellent tuneage from Albarn et al, you could do a lot worse than this embarrassment of riches. Adam Lacey

KEY TRACKS: ‘TOMORROW COMES TODAY’, ‘DARE’. FOR FANS OF: BLUR, DE LA SOUL, HAPPY MONDAYS, EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING REALLY.

Ani DiFranco ¿Which Side Are You On?

Rodrigo Y Gabriela And C.U.B.A. Area 52

RIGHTEOUS BABE

RUBYWORKS

She may have grown her hair long, removed her dreadlocks and had a consistent level of output over the last 20 years, but for many uninitiated with her back catalogue, Ani DiFranco will always be ‘that feminist bisexual hippy’. To others, the New Yorker is an erudite songwriter, although her 17th studio album suggests that her lyrical discontent has been tempered in recent years. Songs like ‘Zoo’ and ‘If Yr Not’ certainly provide food for thought, but it’s the music that takes centre stage here. Surrounding herself with musicians – both regular band members and guests, including Pete Seeger – that understand every nuance of her style, DiFranco conjures up a number of quirky tunes that gently fizz (‘Unworry’), pop in a burst of jazz-inflected grooves (‘Splinter’) and warmly rock (‘Albacore’). It’s far from DiFranco’s best, but it’s an easy listen that should keep her faithful happy. Lauren Murphy

KEY TRACKS: ‘UNWORRY’, ‘ALBACORE’. FOR FANS OF: LIZ PHAIR, AIMEE MANN.

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From their earlier days making their name in the bars and clubs of Dublin, there’s no denying Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo Y Gabriela have earned every last bit of their spectacular rise to success. On their latest studio album — their fifth to date — they’ve shrewdly shacked up with C.U.B.A., a thirteenpiece orchestra comprising of some of Havana’s best young players. The result is exemplary: whilst the particularly inspiring ‘Juan Loco’ and ‘11.11’ expose the duo’s illustrious guitar mastery best, the unmistakable Latino throb of opener ‘Santo Domingo’ betrays real positive exuberance and standout track ‘Logos’ is a deeply nostalgic elegy in which Gabriela’s percussive wizardry really shines through. In all, yet another breathtaking reinvention from two of the most naturally gifted axe-slingers around. Brian Coney

KEY TRACKS: ‘LOGOS’, ‘HANUMAN’, ‘JUAN LOCO’. FOR FANS OF: PACO DE LUCIA, SILVIO RODRIGUEZ, LATENIGHT ANALOGUE CEEFAX MUZAK.


Young Blood Your indispensable guide to new releases from up-and-coming acts Words by Brian Coney

Best Boy Grip Barbara EP At last promising him the exposure he fully deserves, Barbara is Derry musician Eoin O’Callaghan’s first real mission statement as a singer-songwriter. Over the course of four short tracks, it packs countless outstanding melodies and ingenious turns of phrase to summon a refreshingly distinctive sound evoking the likes of The Beatles circa Sgt. Pepper’s… and Pinback. Jaunty, motivated and fearlessly original, the name Best Boy Grip is on everyone’s lips and with good reason.

The Crayon Set The Crayon Set EP A four-track taster EP for a debut album practically set for release, The Crayon Set is an eponymous eyeopener from a Dublin music collective absolutely sweltering in the heat of indie-pop tweedom. Calling to mind Belle And Sebastian’s more brassled anthems, dainty opener ‘I Wanted You’ is a highlight, whilst ‘No. 1 Fan’, with its luscious layered vocals, evokes both Teenage Fanclub and blogosphere heroes Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. Indeed, exposing a melee of musicians proficient at everything from Wurlitzer to cavaquinho, The Crayon Set contains real promise for a band that should properly ‘arrive’ in the coming months.

Katharine Philippa Fallen EP Despite a somewhat dated ‘poisoned chalice’ angle and a disappointing title track, Fallen is, by and large, a fiercely encouraging EP from Belfast singer-songwriter Katharine Philippa. Helped on by her distinctive, delicately soulful twang, the likes of ‘Wake Up O Sleeper’ and ‘Think Of You’ stand as acoustic musings treading a genuinely charming balance between melancholy and optimism. Indeed, given some compositional maturation, Philippa is almost certain to go far.

INPROFILE: ACT: REAL NAME: FROM: FOR FANS OF: WEBSITE:

Best Boy Grip Eoin O’Callaghan Derry Ben Folds, The Beatles, Pinback. www.eoinocallaghan.com

Like it or not, there are few bigger buzzes around in Northern Irish music these days than the vibrant and forward-thinking sounds of Derry-based singer-songwriter Eoin O’Callaghan aka Best Boy Grip. Striking when the proverbial iron is hot, AU shoots the breeze with the man himself to discuss where he’s at, how he got here and where he wants to go. You’ve been getting some much-deserved exposure recently – how did Best Boy Grip come about? Well, Best Boy Grip came about when I realised that my real name wasn’t very internet searchfriendly. There are more ways to spell Eoin than shades of green. The name itself stems from the

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cinema world, but it predates the film business. I just tell people that the ‘best boy grip’ holds the ladder for the lighting guy... no disrespect intended! Are you of the opinion this recognition has been a long time coming and what are your hopes for the future? I have been working at the craft of songwriting for about 16 years. I had always hoped that when I chose to release my songs to the world that they would be well received. I honestly feel like I’ve done an apprenticeship and now I’m happy to let the world hear what I have developed. Most of the material that is available now was written in the last six months. I have a huge backlog of other material and picking four tracks for an EP proved very difficult for me. I’m still not convinced I chose correctly. I have many more songs that I can’t wait for people to hear, so another EP will be along soon. Which artists do you think have had an impact upon your music and how you approach songwriting? I think it’s fair to say that I’ve been influenced by all the great songwriters, whether it’s the storytelling, conversational aspect of Ben Folds’ songwriting or the melodic, sometimes quirky aspect of Beatles songs. Melody is key for me. A great song can be written with just a simple chord structure if the melody is good. I have matured in recent years with fatherhood helping in that process. I now don’t feel afraid or self-conscious to write about what I want to. If it triggers an emotion then I’m very happy.


LIVE REVIEWS

EDWYN COLLINS

Other Voices St James’ Church, Dingle Other Voices producer Phil King must be a massive romantic at heart. The 10th series of his RTE music show and festival in far-flung Dingle, County Kerry, has seen a stream of exceptional artists – not least Bjork, The National, Amy Winehouse and Snow Patrol – parade through the 80-capacity St James’ Church, leaving behind stunned audiences and unforgettable recordings. Dingle itself invariable features heavily, too. Acoustic shows warm tiny rustic corners, and punters spend their days tracking down Funghie the dolphin in Dingle harbour, tucking into sea salt ice cream, or making merry in pubs that double up as hardware stores, clothes shops or bike-hire centres. Every so often, they’re joined by a world-class artist having a quick slurp of the black stuff. The weekend is crammed with highlights, but if a single act stands tall, it has to be Sunday’s set from Wild Beasts. Sticking entirely to material from recent third album Smother, the Cumbrians are an

utterly hypnotising live proposition. Bouncing their tight dual vocals around the church’s glimmering innards, Hayden Thorpe’s initially overpowered lyrics find their feet fast, and the Beasts’ dreamy brand of emotive art-rock glows evocatively in the likes of ‘Bed Of Nails’ and ‘Albatross’. It’s reverentially exceptional, hitting huge, emphatic wall-of-sound highs. Rising electronic star SBTRKT is another act who steps up to the plate, with ‘Wildfire’ – Little Dragon’s gorgeous vocals mixed cleverly into the backing track – the highlight of a starkly animated set. There might be a heavy element of knobtwiddling, but Sampha’s drums and soulful vocals have hips swaying in the pews. Spiritualized are the day’s only slight misfire, focusing on a finicky selection of newbies that struggle to connect over the course of an extended set, though moments like the classic, psychedelic ‘So Long Pretty Things’ still shine. On the Saturday, Edwyn Collins emphatically demonstrates that his recent neurological problems have done nothing to detract from his vocals. Big hitters like ‘Rip It Up’ and ‘A Girl Like You’

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feature his jazzy stylings backed up brilliantly by two outstanding young guitarists, with Edwyn struggling from the stage to a huge standing ovation and hearts fluttering back to his Orange Juice days. Frank Turner is in an unusually downbeat mood, bypassing his usual protest anthems to deliver touching personal efforts like ‘Wessex Boy’, a heartfelt ode to his hometown, and ‘Peggy Sings The Blues’, inspired by his grandmother’s tequila and poker nights. St James’ just seems to bring out that thoughtful side. A charming addition to this year’s festival is the ‘Music Trail’, a chance for the selection of smaller acts down in Dingle to entertain rammed pubs throughout the afternoons, before the countless attendees who turn up ticketless settle in pubs to watch the church show’s local stream. Cork’s Toy Soldier stand out with a lively set of hook-ridden synth-pop, while We Cut Corners and Ham Sandwich both deliver fireplace romance, too, with Christmassy sing-alongs that are as charming as the settings. The locations, the shows and a loved-up vibe: Dingle’s heralded annual highlight really is more magical than we could possibly have hoped for. James Hendicott


SUPER 8

DVD:

Director/Writer: J.J. Abrams Starring: Elle Fanning, Amanda Michalka and Kyle Chandler If imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery then Steven Spielberg must feel pretty flattered by this open love letter from director J.J. Abrams. The media wunderkind has made no bones about the fact that this charming sci-fi fable is indebted to the early movies of the bearded, be-capped one, but hey, you might as well borrow from the best. That said, while this soft-hued tale of preteens discovering extraterrestrial goings-on in a somnambulant Midwestern town instantly recalls The Goonies and E.T., Abrams has a few tricks of his own to prove he is not merely painting by numbers. An exhilarating train crash sequence and an alien assault on an overturned bus, itself a knowing wink to Jaws, vie for the year’s best action set-pieces whilst the Scooby gang are much less precocious and much more likeable and well-drawn than one might expect. The twee ending smacks of box-ticking but for the most part Super 8 is an unabashed, nostalgic treat for anyone who snaffled Kia-Ora and Wham bars in a sticky 1980s cinema. Ross Thompson Super 8 is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray.

CONSOLE YOURSELF! The AU round-up of gaming releases As the year draws to a close and Marcus Fenix slips off his war boots and plays the pipes of peace, all is quiet in the game world as the release schedules are cleared to make way for the all-conquering Modern Warfare 3 (Activision, Multiformat). The brash but short campaign plays second fiddle to an impressively customisable multiplayer. As before, death matches are fierce, frenetic affairs where old hands do not suffer noobs gladly. COD novices should be prepared for some grinding. Elsewhere, remakes are the soup du jour. Goldeneye: 007 Reloaded (Activision, Multi), a port of the Wii overhaul of the N64 classic, resembles the original as closely as Daniel Craig resembles George Lazenby. As first-person shooters go, it’s a tame yet consistently interesting affair. That may sound like damning with faint praise but whereas similar releases favour bombast over substance, this Bond at least does things with some subtlety. Further, Bungie mark the tenth anniversary of Halo with an upscaling of Combat Evolved (Microsoft, Xbox 360), which balances fuel-injected gunplay with a cracking story. It’s testament to the game’s quality that it plays just as well a decade later. Finally on the redo menu is an extended cut of House Of The Dead: Overkill (Sega, PS3), which, bizarrely, also began life on the Wii. The idea of youngsters expecting Sonic being confronted with squelchy gore, mild misogyny and more profanity than you’d find in Samuel L. Jackson’s bedside diary raises a wry smile.

GOLDENEYE: 007 RELOADED The mountain lion’s share of gaming hours this month have been plunged into Skyrim (Bethesda, Multi), the kind of RPG which absorbs you into a living, breathing world where anything seems possible. From joining secret cults to slaying dragons to simply mincing around the kingdom taking in the beautiful hi-res imagery, the latest chapter in the Elder Scrolls storyline is about as expansive and engrossing as they come. It’s not so much a videogame as a way of life. In a similarly genius vein is Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (Ubisoft, Multi), which brings the brain-bending narrative in a wholly satisfying fashion. The series is given a new lease of life in a virtual Constantinople, contained somewhere within the

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deep recesses of Desmond Miles’ brain, which is just as rank with corruption as Rome. Most beguiling is the manner in which assassins Ezio and Altair find their nexus. Where the story goes after this is anybody’s guess. Also receiving a much deserved mention is Rayman Origins (Ubisoft, Multi), an absolutely gorgeous platformer which rivals even Mario in the creativity stakes. It looks like an exquisitely detailed French cartoon comes to life and plays equally well, where each successive level is shot through with a bizarre sense of humour reminiscent of, say, Earthworm Jim or Oddworld. Tremendous. Ross Thompson


FLASHBACK the death of saddam hussein, december 30, 2006 In the post-Cold War climate, Iraq became public enemy number one in the eyes of the west. Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait sparked the first Gulf War in 1990, a conflict that arguably used a humanitarian smokescreen to cover up the strategic and fiscal imperatives that drove this resource war. On the 28th of February 1991, President George Bush declared the liberation of Kuwait. The hope was that the people of Iraq would rise up against Saddam the Tyrant, the various feuding factions of the Iraqi military overthrowing the president. However, without support from the US, as well as the reluctance of the surrounding nations to get involved for fear of sparking another war, any minor uprisings were quelled, and Saddam Hussein remained in control of the country, albeit in an economically weakened position. The events of September 2011 gave the world a new bogeyman to fear, but Hussein was rarely far from the agenda. Toppling the Hussein regime had been official US foreign policy since the late Nineties, but the inception of the so-called War on Terror galvanised the Bush administration into pursuing war with Iraq. The legality of this war has been hugely debated, but regardless of its legitimacy, for 21 days, a joint UN strike force engaged with Iraqi forces, eventually concluding with the capture of Baghdad on May 1, 2003. Several months later, on December 19, Hussein was captured, hiding inside a hole on a farm near Tikrit. After being incarcerated by US forces, he was turned over to the interim Iraqi government to stand trial for crimes against humanity. Two years later, he was found guilty, and hanged.

5 YEARS AGO

Change can be a painful thing, and ushering in a new era can be a difficult birth. In the post-September 11 climate, the world was in a heightened state of anxiety, with paranoia over terrorist threat levels, out-of-control dictators, and an end to our way of existence becoming just a part of everyday life. With fear being an ingrained part of the presiding culture, the December 2003 capture of Saddam Hussein, the old enemy, couldn’t have come at a better time. Two years later, he was dead, hanged in a camp outside Baghdad, denied the ‘dignified’ death of execution by firing squad. With videos of his corpse circulating the world on New Year’s Day, it seemed that 2007 was already off to a macabre start, vengeance high on the global agenda. 56 AU76

With the Middle East still being seen as a powder keg of tensions, the death of Saddam Hussein stands as a grim chapter in the foreign policy of the UN. The 21st century has seen a lifting of the veil when it comes to opinion of government policy thanks to increased media coverage, and the impact of the internet. Far from being a simple question of an evil tyrant, the lines of good and bad being drawn in black and white, the conflict in the Persian Gulf has been open to a number of different interpretations. With the world dealing with the realistic possibility of terrorist attacks on a global scale, the US invasion of Iraq was viewed by many to be an illegal war, little more than a distraction from events happening elsewhere in the world, and a knee-jerk reaction to the attack on the World Trade Centre by al-Qaeda. To see the sorry last moments of this man, recorded on a mobile phone camera as he is executed, whilst enduring the insults of his captors, many found this to be a grubby and unfortunate conclusion to this whole affair, a war supposedly carried out for the good of all mankind ending in something resembling a mob execution. Steven Rainey


Classic TV Show spitting image (itv, 1984-1996)

Satire: the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticise people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues. So says the Oxford English Dictionary. Up until its demise almost 15 years ago, one TV programme took satire to a totally different level. That programme was Spitting Image. Today’s politicians have got it easy. They have spin-doctors and PR gurus and, until recently, were made to look honourable and decent by not being Silvio Berlusconi. Okay, a politician may get a tricky question from a news presenter or a hard time on Question Time, but the depressing truth is that most people probably recognise only very few of our leading politicians. How different things were 20 years ago. Back then, everyone could name many prominent politicians. There was the cross-dressing sadist that was Margaret Thatcher, the leather-clad skinhead Norman Tebbit, the vampire Edwina Currie, a slug called Kenneth Baker, a grey John Major and

a spitting, drooling Roy Hattersley – all created by the deranged genius of the Spitting Image TV series. For many of us, the politicians almost became their demonic foam puppets as their reputations were mercilessly shot to pieces by the power of their grotesque caricature. The vision of an entirely grey Major, pushing peas around his dinner plate, became a stronger image than the reality. Spitting Image was the creation of two Cambridge graduates Peter Fluck and Roger Law. Both were friends of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, and Law would frequently illustrate Cook’s Private Eye magazine. During the mid-70s the Fluck and Law began to make clay models of politicians and, in 1981, were commissioned by London Weekend Television to make a pilot TV programme. Initially, Spitting Image started out as a politicallybased series of sketches, but when Fluck and Law quickly expanded the range of puppets to include celebrities and sports people, the ratings soared. Noone was off limits. Pope John Paul II was portrayed as a wise-cracking hipster, the Queen was a hassled housewife, while an entire subplot was developed for Ronald Reagan, entitled ‘The President’s Brain Is Missing’. Closer to home, Ian Paisley was just, well, himself. Currently, British television-based satire seems to be in a difficult place. Post-Strictly Come Dancing, Rory Bremner looks set to explore his acting career

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while the comfy Have I Got News For You? has become part of the furniture. In its heyday Spitting Image was a mainstream success, and didn’t merely preach to the converted – many people inadvertently shaped their views of leading politicians around a monstrous latex puppet. This gave Fluck and Law extraordinary power. At its peak, the show was attracting over 12 million viewers – pretty awesome for a 10pm, Sunday evening slot. The range of characters was extraordinary and a fabulous team of impersonators, including Bremner himself, Harry Enfield and John Sessions supplied the voices. But the true clout of Spitting Image was rooted in satire and its ability to exaggerate a characteristic and reveal a central truth. John Major lost the 1997 General Election due to the subsuming allure of New Labour, but – just maybe – the grey man was such a figure of fun anyway that he never stood a chance. Imagine how Spitting Image might have annihilated today’s motley set of politicians. David Cameron may have oozed actual slime, while Tony Blair could have been a giant Cheshire cat-smile on top of a tiny body. Lord knows how Fluck and Law would have dealt with George W Bush (a chimpanzee?), Simon Cowell or even Osama Bin Laden. If you listen carefully, you can hear a faint sound – it’s their collective sigh of relief. John Freeman


The Genius Of Brian Eno Words by Steven Rainey Illustration by Shauna McGowan

Without a doubt, Brian Eno is the single most important person in the world of 20th and 21st century popular music. Whether it be arguing the role of the ‘non-musician’ in rock (and by doing so, pre-dating and intellectually legitimising punk), or pioneering ambience in music (and thus giving the recorded sound a full palette to paint from), Eno has perpetually broken the mould. Before him, things were done differently, and it’s a sure bet that the way records are made now is largely thanks to him. His name has been a touchstone for lofty artistic ambition, and second tier indie bands have frequently attempted to draft him in to ‘Eno’ their sound (with mixed results), but he’s also always had the common touch, able to combine high art ideals with the low art world of pop music, creating populist art you can dance to. The Roxy Music Years Roxy Music – Roxy Music (1972) If Roxy are the quintessential art school band, then Eno is the quintessentially art school member of the band. Bryan Ferry may have had the croon that made the girls swoon, but Eno had the chops that got them to the top of the pops. Ahem. Roxy’s early music is rooted in a 1950s rock and roll tradition, occasionally dipping its toe into the waters of Weimar Berlin cabaret, but Eno is the one largely responsible for

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dragging them kicking and screaming into outer space. Glam rock was futuristic, but even Bowie couldn’t touch Eno’s use of synth textures as lead instrument, squiggles of noise blasting through the stratospheric guitar of Phil Manzanera and the otherworldly sax of Andy MacKay. For Your Pleasure might have the edge, but for the sheer shock of the new, Roxy Music is untouchable. A glimpse into a future that still seems far off. Best Bit: On opening track ‘Re-make/Re-model’, each member indulges in the rock and roll cliché of getting a bar to do their solo. When it’s Eno’s turn,


he unleashes a blast of tuneless noise, inventing the future in one five-second blast of sound. La Triviata: On the inside over of For Your Pleasure, it appears as though three of the five members of Roxy Music are left-handed. Curiously, Eno and Ferry are the two right handed members.

The Pop Iconoclast Years Brian Eno – Before and After Science (1977) After leaving Roxy, Eno pursued an idiosyncratic solo career, making ‘pop’ albums that initially didn’t stray too far from his former band’s space age sound. By 1975’s Another Green World, a more abstract sensibility had entered the picture, with Eno’s art school background coming to the fore. Amongst the pop songs were fascinating little tone poems that hinted at a new approach, a different style of music more in thrall to the American avant-garde than the glossy pop of Bowie and Roxy. However, it was Before And After Science that proved to be his strongest missile directed right at the heart of pop. Under the spell of Talking Heads, Eno unleashed an album of songs that firmly established the art in ‘art funk’. Propulsive basslines, heavily treated guitars and nonsense lyrics all combined to make an album that soothed the head, as well as stimulating the feet. It was his last ‘pop’ album for a long time, but after unleashing something this perfect, it’s difficult to imagine how he would have topped it. Best Bit: On ‘No One Receiving’, Eno announces his arrival with a startling funk groove, bass as deep as the Atlantic trench. The hipster elite took note, and we’re still exploring this sound today. La Triviata: The track title ‘Kings Lead Hat’ is an anagram of ‘Talking Heads.’

The Berlin Years David Bowie – “Heroes” (1977) Perhaps Bowie’s most consistently rewarding stylistic re-invention, his ‘Berlin Period’ saw the former alien and disco funk superstar crack open the shiny world of pop, and let a lot of Teutonic darkness seep in. Of the three albums Bowie and Eno collaborated upon, “Heroes” is their most unassailable portrait of the future, a textbook of the lyrical themes and production techniques that would come to dominate popular music for the next two decades, and beyond. Taking the organic minimalism of Low and fusing it to a chilly electronic sensibility, “Heroes” finds Bowie at his most strident on the title track, and at his most clinically distant on the magisterial ‘Moss Garden’, a sumptuous instrumental fusing traditional Japanese instrumentation with glacial synth work. The results are simply perfect, lacking the occasional clumsiness of Low, whilst avoiding the sense of creative stagnation that permeated

Lodger. Adverts at the time screamed, “There’s old wave, new wave, and there’s David Bowie”, but even he would have to admit the debt he owes to the vision of Eno. Best Bit: After the brooding European darkness of ‘Neuköln’, the mood abruptly shifts to the beautiful, shimmering melodies of ‘The Secret Life of Arabia’, and Bowie sounds like he is absolutely unstoppable. La Triviata: Low, the first instalment of the famous ‘Berlin Trilogy’ was largely recorded in France, and none of the albums was actually produced by Eno.

The Ambient Years Brian Eno – Ambient 1: Music for Airports (1978) This is like the year zero for 20th century music. Eno had explored the notion of ambience before, after famously being stuck in a hospital bed and unable to turn up an album of Gregorian chanting given to him by Judy Nylon. With the music barely at the threshold of hearing, Eno was placed in a position to view how the music interacted with the sounds around it, the real world becoming a crucial part of the music he was hearing. But Music For Airports is the Big Bang in terms of ‘ambient music’ as a concept in its own right. In a world where pop music flirts with big concepts, this album is a big deal, a blueprint for how sound interacts with music, and how the two are inseparable. Any notion of Eno as the bloke with the mad hair from Roxy Music was completely dispelled by this album, with Eno forevermore being acknowledged as a studio boffin, dreaming up new concepts for how we engage with the world through music. Best Bit: The whole point of Music For Airports is that there isn’t a ‘best bit’. Stick it on and see for yourself. La Triviata: Once again showing his impeccable taste in collaborators, the first piece on the album is cowritten and performed by former Soft Machine drummer and vocalist Robert Wyatt, a man who would introduce his own ambient constructs over the following years.

The Collaborator Years Talking Heads – Remain in Light (1980) Eno’s fascination with Talking Heads led him to collaborate with the band, and this partnership reached unapproachable heights on the band’s fourth album, Remain In Light. Polyrhythmic, subaqueous funk, the album has layers of texture which shift and coalesce around each other, creating new melodies and rhythms as they go. Eno’s genius lay in his ability to push the band to the creative peak required to make such a record, as well as his gift of processing sound. Even

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at their most far-out, Talking Heads still sound like a pop band, making a pop record, albeit one that sounds like nothing before. This proved to be Eno’s last collaboration with the band, his close working relationship with David Byrne leaving the rest of the band feeling intimidated, and forcing Eno out of the picture. Talking Heads made other good records, but they will ultimately be remembered for the pioneering three albums they did with Eno. Best Bit: ‘Once in a Lifetime’ is one of those rare songs that seems incapable of losing its power, no matter how many times you hear it, irrespective of the circumstances. La Triviata: The final track on Remain In Light, ‘The Overload’ is an attempt to imagine what Joy Division sounded like, without having listened to them.

Guided By Choices: The AU Defence The work that Brian Eno did in the 1970s left an impact on popular culture that is still felt today. Would U2 have enlisted the help of Eno to create masterpieces like The Joshua Tree (1987) or Achtung Baby (1991) without having heard Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy? Unlikely. Would Coldplay have got Eno in to ‘art’ up their sound without having heard his work with Talking Heads? Probably not. His influence on how to make records essentially freed up bands and producers to explore a revolutionary new sound world. His writings and records exploring ambience and technology have consistently managed to bring a ‘common man’ touch to high theory, and whilst he’s unable to shake the ‘boffin’ stereotype, there’s a reason many people in the world know who Brian Eno is, and not Steve Reich or Philip Glass. With regards to his own records, Eno was quick to explore digital recording, some of his later albums lacking the warmth that characterises his 1970s work. The Eighties and Nineties saw Eno largely abandon his vocal music, instead concentrating on further ambient experiments, such as the incredible Harold Budd collaboration, The Pearl (1984), or making his own highly eccentric, yet accessible forays into electronic music like Nerve Net (1992). Whilst most of these albums are intermittently interesting, few of them have the cohesive feel of his Seventies work. However, he still manages to be consistently ahead of the game, unafraid of new developments in music, and managing to bring them into line with his own vision. His new home on Warp Records seems a natural fit, the label inspired in no small way by the music Eno made, and continues to make.


Pinback The Button Factory, Dublin Photos by Luke Joyce Declan, Niall & Owen

Sully & John

Joe & Kenny

Eamonn

Declan & Jordie

Richie & Adam

Pinback

Roisin & Orla

Hector & Anna

Orla, Colin, Al & Richie

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Team Fresh MCs & Bee Mick See at Slacker Mister Tom’s, Belfast

Photos by Ramsey Cardy

Kate, Ashleigh & Orlaith

Conor

Bee Mick Seee

Rheda & Cara

Raymona, Rebecca & Cheryl

Team Fresh MCs

Connor, Emma & Emily

Aaron & Robert

Queen’s University Surf Club

Phily Taggart

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Michael, Leah & Jade


THE LAST WORD with craig finn from the hold steady When was the last time you cried? Friday night. I watched the movie Beginners and it had some really touching moments. I cry easily at movies. What was your last argument about? Sports; I always seem to get in arguments with New York Yankee fans. When was the last time you time you had a fistfight? Probably six years old. I’m not a fighter. When was the last time you were embarrassed? If I am hungover, I always feel embarrassed for the whole day, even if I can’t remember doing anything bad. Alcohol unlocks embarrassment for me. What was the last thing you downloaded? Hüsker Dü’s Metal Circus EP, in advance of this Bob Mould tribute we just participated in. It was really fun. When was the last time you were scared? A few weeks ago I was in a car with someone who was a really unusual driver. I was terrified. When was the last time you set something on fire? I think it was a grill, while we were recording in Nashville. What was the last injury you sustained? The last serious injury was a fairly badly bruised head from getting mugged in Brooklyn a few years back.

When was the last time you bought a band t-shirt at a gig? Ten years ago at least, I can’t even remember. What was the last good record you bought? Deer Tick’s Divine Providence and Ryan Adams’ Ashes And Fire. When was the last time you offended someone? Probably last night; it’s usually when I can’t remember meeting someone before.

When was the last time one of your heroes disappointed you? Pretty much any time a pro baseball player opens his mouth about politics. When was the last time you felt guilty? Walking by homeless people in my neighbourhood on Thanksgiving Day. What was the last piece of good advice you were given? “No one cares what you think.”

FAMOUS LAST WORDS “I should have drunk more Champagne.” English economist John-Maynard Keynes (5 June 1883 – 21 April 1946) “Not like this. Don’t leave me like this.” Layne Staley (August 22, 1967 – April 5, 2002), lead singer of Alice in Chains. Staley was calling after friend and former bandmate Mike Starr, who angrily stormed out of his apartment following an argument. Staley is believed to have passed away a day later, on April 5, 2002, of a drug overdose. His body wasn’t found by police until two weeks after his death.

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When was the last time you broke the law? Drinking on the street is probably my most likely offence any month. Jaywalking as well, I guess... If the world was about to end; what would your last words be? “Stay positive!” Craig Finn’s debut solo album Clear Heart Full Eyes is out on January 23 via Full Time Hobby steadycraig.tumblr.com

THIS ISSUE WAS POWERED BY The end being in sight, fucking off to London, lists, The Smashing Pumpkins, Tim and Leanne getting engaged, watching Star Wars for the first time, out-of-date Tennent’s, football-based Schadenfreude, Masterchef: The Professionals.


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