MUSIC & REVIEWS
GIGS & EVENTS
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Gotye Australia is his. Next stop: the world. A Raw Deal? A look at the campaign to legalise commercial poker in Northern Ireland.
Nile Rodgers The Chic legend speaks frankly about his astonishing autobiography.
Michael Kiwanuka A TO Z OF animals | stew | delorean | the good man | therapy? | BROTHERS IN ARMS | FLEETWOOD MAC | DJANGO DJANGO | RESIDENT EVIL 6
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MAGAZINE ISSUE 80 | CONTENTS EDITORIAL As I’m typing this editorial we’re listening to a special edition of the Across The Line radio show. It’s celebrating ten years since the show relaunched with Donna Legge and David O’Reilly as presenters. They’re playing music from their first five years, which covers from about 2002 till 2007, and it’s one hell of a trip down memory lane. It makes you realise just how much great music this place has produced over the years, but it also makes you realise how many great bands have been and gone, but not left an album behind. Torgas Valley Reds, The Debonaires, Element and loads more all released great EPs, played amazing shows, won tons of fans and made big waves, only to burn out without managing to release a proper record. I always think this is a great shame, as when I gush about these acts to people there is no real legacy to refer them to. The songs are rarely hosted online, and you’re unlikely to find demos kicking around in any record shops. It would be great if some of the old acts released compendiums of their demos, or posthumous albums, so that the music could live on in more places than the hearts and heads of the few who were there at the time. Current bands take note too – get that album together and leave a legacy behind. Your kids will still like your stories of the glory days, but they’ll like being able to show off your album to their mates just a little bit more.. 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 Editorial interns – Brian Coney, Andrew Lemon Website assistant – James Wallace Design Tim Farrell (www.timothyfarrell.co.uk) Illustration Linda Coulter, Rebecca Hendin, Mark Reihill Photography Eilish McCormick, Meg Hyland, Luke Joyce, Aoife McElwain, Alan Moore, Loreana Rushe Contributors Kiran Acharya, Keith Anderson, Niall Byrne, Brian Coney, Jordan Cullen, Dave Donnelly, Neill Dougan, John Freeman, Lee Gorman, Daniel Harrison, James Hendicott, Andrew Johnston, Andrew Lemon, Ian Maleney, Darragh McCausland, Lauren Murphy, Joe Nawaz, Steven Rainey, Eamonn Seoige, Jeremy Shields, Dean Van Nguyen.
STUPID THINGS SAID THIS MONTH Does your tea have cardamom in it? I would only cycle a bike in optimal conditions. How did he die? Was it puppet-related? See sports people, they all listen to Bryan Adams. I do get stopped by Christians a lot, it must be my face. The chat’s turned spicy. I must start saving for a miniature pig. You’re the hipster Belfast version of Partridge. Will you say a little prayer that I boke before bedtime? Do some people fold loo roll into points to, you know, use it?
04 Staying In or Going Out
48 Album Reviews
Page 8 – Hot Topic: Legalise Poker In NI Page 10 – The Good Man Page 12 – The Twilight Sad Page 13 – Unknown Pleasures Page 14 – Red Bull Bedroom Jam / Band Maths Page 15 – Season’s Eatings Page 16 – Label Profile: Public Sector Page 18 – Brothers in Arms Page 19 – Games Page 20 – Cut O’ Ye Page 21 – Teethgrinder / My First Band: SMD Page 22 – Therapy? Page 23 – The Jane Bradfords / News Shorts Page 24 – Weird Wide Web Page 26 _ Incomings: Ital / Keaton Henson / Outfit / Django Django
Page 53 – Young Blood Page 54 – Live Reviews Page 55 – Movie and Game Reviews
REWIND AU rolls back the years Page 56 – Flashback: DeLorean Motor Company Page 57 – Classic Album: Fleetwood Mac - Rumours
FEATURES AU goes in-depth
I’ve discovered the joy of thermal underwear recently. I want to have a girlfriend so that I can visit brown sign stops.
If you’d like to stock AU in your business, or you live in an area where AU isn’t currently stocked, but you’d like to see it available, then drop email@example.com a line. We’ll sort you out. To advertise in AU Magazine contact the sales team Tel: 028 9032 4888 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org The opinions expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of the editor or the publisher. Copyright remains with the author / photographer / designer. Send demos / mail / material to: AU Magazine, 2nd Floor, 21 Ormeau Avenue, Belfast, BT2 8HD For more info contact: email@example.com For all general and editorial enquiries call: 028 9032 4455 AU Magazine graciously acknowledges funding support from the Arts Council Of Northern Ireland
30 Michael Kiwanuka
58 Respect Your Shelf: Mixtapes
Page 28 – Gotye Page 36 – Scottish Independence Page 40 – A to Z Of Animals Page 44 – Nile Rodgers
Page 60 – In Pics: Explosions In The Sky / Grandmaster Flash Page 62 – The Last Word: with Danny Todd from Cashier No.9
Game Of Thrones
With salty dialogue, eye-watering violence and copious scenes of an adult nature, HBO’s fantasy drama series isn’t for puritan tastes. However, once you get past some of the deliberately camp and sleazy content, this story of swordplay and skullduggery makes for superior entertainment. George R. R. Martin’s source material takes Tolkien’s template of a faraway kingdom, in this instance our very own Northern Ireland, and adds more cozening, bloodshed and political doubledealing. The expansive cast, notably a bedraggled Sean Bean, are by and large excellent but don’t get too attached: the scriptwriters are merciless with who they bump off. With this and Boardwalk Empire, HBO continue to set new standards for television. RT
STAYING IN Game Of Thrones Season 1 is released on DVD & Blu-Ray on March 5.
Queen’s Film Theatre THE APP
In 2004, it became the only cinema in Northern Ireland to have a licensed bar. Then it was the first to install a digital projector. Now, the tireless trailblazers at Belfast’s Queen’s Film Theatre have got in on the iDevice racket. QFT’s free app includes listings, online box office and news about special events, and for those who want to let all their friends know they’re going to see that obscure Romanian abortion drama or vintage French farce, there’s also a check-in function. AJ
The Queen’s Film Theatre app is available now for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
Eastbound & Down Season 3 THE SITCOM
Kenny fuckin’ Powers is back. After an eventful sojourn down Mexico way in season two, we left Kenny as he made his way back to South Carolina. This time around, the magnificently deluded former baseball star will deal with accidental fatherhood, while starring for what appears to be an ageing team in the coastal resort of Myrtle Beach. Mother-to-be April Buchanon and unhinged sidekick Stevie Janowski are back, as are guest stars Will Ferrell and Matthew McConaughey, and as this is expected to be the last series, Kenny will surely go out with a bang. CJ Season Three starts on February 19 on HBO in the US, with a UK/Ireland air date to follow.
What’s The Story?
Sony have high hopes for their latest handheld console, which they intend to mop up those gamers who have grown disenchanted with Nintendo’s poorly supported 3DS device. As with all Sony products, the Vita is a benchmark of ingenious product design, with its sleek curves, multiple buttons, double analog sticks, WiFi connectivity and sizeable touch screen. Of course, the real acid test will be how many good games are on the roster, one of Nintendo’s most unforgivable boo-boos, but the likes of new Uncharted, ModNation and WipEout titles look promising. RT
Normally, a 25-year-old taking a video camera and making a six-part series about what makes them tick would be as interesting a prospect as watching the paint on Gary Lightbody’s wall dry. But Scots funnyman Kevin Bridges isn’t your average 25-year-old. In Kevin Bridges: What’s The Story?, the grizzled-before-his-time comic introduces us to his parents, returns to his childhood hometown and performs a gig at his former school. Bridges also grills the likes of Frank Skinner, Jack Dee and Sarah Millican about their own back stories. AJ
The Playstation Vita is released on February 22.
OneMoreRobot ISSUE 9 - WINTER/SPRING ‘12
THe Nineties Hip-Hop Issue
Final Fantasy XIII-2
Kevin Bridges: What’s The Story? starts on BBC One on February 8.
WE CAN TAKE YOU HIGHER!
One More Robot
Not many games inspire a fervent cult following like the Final Fantasy series. The long-running franchise is universally revered for its intricate RPG mechanics and labyrinthine plot – developers Square Enix are champions at weaving a majestic story. This new chapter in the fable - which invokes your usual hi-jinks of crystals, moogles and collapsing quasi-futuristic kingdoms - has already been lavished with praise, most notably winning a legendary perfect score from Japanese magazine Famitsu. RT
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is released on PS3 and Xbox 360 on February 3.
Now with two-and-a-half years’ presence on Dublin’s newsstands, On The Robot takes a thoughtful look at pop culture in all its many facets. A DIY undertaking run by AU writer Dean Van Nguyen, it can count a few pedigree names among its contributors, some of whom can boast credits in Pitchfork, Village Voice and Spin. And as Van Nguyen’s first love is hip-hop, Issue Nine is dedicated to Nineties rap, with pieces on Tupac, video director Hype Williams, and “hip-hop’s official cartoonist”, André LeRoy Davis. It’s a meaty, satisfying read and no mistake. CJ Issue Nine is out now. More details at onemorerobotmagazine.blogspot.com
Sound It Out Sound It Out should strike a chord with anyone who fondly remembers rifling through the racks in Dr Robert, Heroes and Villains, Freebird, Comet or, er, that bootleg tape stall at Nutt’s Corner Market. Documenting the last surviving independent record shop in Teesside, north-east England, Jeanie Finlay’s film follows the hugely endearing array of oddballs and obsessives – mainly male, natch – who congregate in Tom Butchart’s backstreet haven. Watching grown men hoard heavy metal, hardcore dance or the fifth copy of the same Status Quo LP has never been so hilarious or heartbreaking. AJ
Sound It Out is out on February 13.
Lightbox While the likes of The Japanese Popstars and Space Dimension Controller are off touring the world, the next generation of Irish electronic producers are beginning to establish themselves. Kildare prodigy Mmoths releases his debut EP on March 3 (see page 23 for more on that), and a bunch of kindred spirits in atmospheric, head-nodding beats have organised what looks to be a must-see tour around Ireland. Portadown producer SertOne (pictured), who recently released a tribute EP to his hero and primary influence J Dilla, will be joined on the Lightbox Tour by Tenaka, Bantum, Monto, Reid and Simon Bird.
The main attraction will be the producers’ live sets, but there’s much more on offer. The ‘Lightbox’ name alludes to the fact that the acts will be transcending the ‘bloke behind a laptop’ archetype by using their most visually appealing instruments and toys, while they have enlisted Brendan Canty aka Feel Good Lost to provide visuals (check Jape’s ‘The Oldest Mind’ video for evidence of his talents). Each night will be complemented with a DJ set from guests including AU columnist and blogger Nialler9, and Jim Carroll of The Irish Times. All in all, a true celebration of DIY Irish talent. CJ The Lightbox tour calls in Cork, Dublin, Limerick and Galway, with Belfast and Waterford dates TBC. More details at www.fundit.ie/project/lightbox-tour
Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival
Radar: The Wonder Villains
Now in its 8th year, the Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival is notable for two reasons. First, it attracts songwriters of the calibre of Nick Lowe, Todd Snider and John “Hall and” Oates to show their wares in Belfast alongside Irish acts like Fionn Regan (pictured), Mick Flannery and Iain Archer. Second, there is a whole range of seminars, workshops and talks aimed at helping local talent reach those names’ lofty heights. It’s so good, in fact, that Nashville resident and ‘new country’ legend Nanci Griffith calls it her “annual vacation”. And if that isn’t a recommendation, we don’t know what is. CJ
Hot on the heels of scooping the Contenders award at the first-ever Northern Ireland Music Awards, Derry popsters The Wonder Villains launch their latest single, ‘Ferrari’, with their biggest headline gig to date at the Speakeasy in Belfast. Whether you’ve been following their development over the last couple of years or are new to their excellently effervescent shtick, this is a great opportunity to catch the young four-piece at the height of their game. And hey, it’s free! BC
A two-drummer band is hard to beat at the best of times, even more so when they kick ass as much as Kylesa do. From the swamps of Savannah, Georgia, their brand of sludge metal makes the genre sound fresher than it has done for a while, with their 2010 album Spiral Shadow adding extra hooks to the band’s established, chunky sound. It’s probably one of our favourite metal albums of the last few years. We’re expecting a heavier rhythm section than at the opening of the Beijing Olympics. AS
Various venues, February 22-26. www.belfastnashville.com
Speakeasy, Belfast on February 23.
The Button Factory, Dublin on February 22. Tickets are 16.
The Muppets Movie
Balam Acab and Andy Stott
Lucky, lucky Dubliners! New York noise-pop duo Sleigh Bells kick off their forthcoming ‘UK’ (and Ireland!) tour at The Academy in what’s currently their only confirmed Irish date, a mere six days after the release of their hotly-anticipated second album, Reign Of Terror. If Alexis Krauss and Derek E. Miller’s latest single ‘Comeback Kid’ is anything to go by – and we hope it is – this looks certain to be one the most tantalising gig prospects of early 2012. BC
Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and that big, hairy, brown monster who scared me when I was five are cinema screen-bound again. Cowritten by and co-starring Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother) and directed by James Bobin (Flight Of The Conchords), the definitively titled The Muppets sees Jim Henson’s puppet-like progeny taking on an unscrupulous oilman who wants to demolish their theatre. Forget the direct-to-DVD spin-offs, the fleeting cameos and the Orange ads; this is the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational comeback of the year. AJ
Fans of moody, dark dance music are in for a stonking night as Dublin’s Twisted Pepper plays host to Balam Acab and Andy Stott. Expect slurping, dysfunctional hip-hop from the talented American producer Balam Acab, and expect nothing less than shuddering, clanking madness from Stott, the Mancunian man of the moment who reanimated the maggoty corpse of dance music on last year’s two remarkable EPs We Stay Together and Passed Me By. DMcC
Academy, Dublin on February 27.
The Muppets is in cinemas from February 10.
Twisted Pepper, Dublin on February 11
Jay & Silent Bob Get Old
Pure Savage: Pocket Billiards, The Unprotected and BeeMickSee
Clerks and Mallrats stars Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes put Cop Out and rehab respectively behind them for a new live show based on Smith’s hugely successful, furiously funny ‘SModcast’. Chronicling Smith and Mewes’s journey from childhood chumminess to the Hollywood big time, Jay & Silent Bob Get Old could go anywhere: the movies, the meltdowns, the Playboy models, baiting Ben Affleck or maybe even that time Smith got thrown off a plane for being too fat. AJ
Vicar Street, Dublin on February 21 and 22.
It’s our 6th favourite card-giving time of year... Valentine’s Day! Anyway, sure it’s an excuse to do something on a Tuesday night. And we can’t think of a better way to spend the soppiest day of the year than in the company of Belfast ska-punks, and one of NI’s most raucous live bands, Pocket Billiards. You can be sure you won’t end up in the corner on your own, sobbing over the fact that the only card you got was the one your mum sent you. To the pit, ladies and gents! AS
The comedian’s comedian’s comedian, Stewart Lee returns to Belfast in March with his Carpet Remnant World show. Like Marmite in a suit, Lee scythes opinion. His work has been described as everything from “fascinating, funny stuff” (The Times) to “a deeply unpleasant slime-pit of bitterness” (Daily Mail). Never mind being close to the bone, Lee cuts right through it and starts beating his targets with it. Though as long as you’re not a Tory, a mainstream comic, a Top Gear presenter or Joe Pasquale, you’ll probably be okay. AJ
Voodoo, Belfast on February 14. Admission £4.
Waterfront, Belfast on March 2.
A Raw Deal? Northern Ireland is one of the few places in Europe where you can’t legally play poker in public. AU investigates the campaign to change all that. Words by Keith Anderson Illustration by Linda Coulter
Among certain circles in Bangor, Guy Ritchie has a lot to answer for. Never has an activity been so romanticised in film than the card game of poker. Casino Royale, Cool Hand Luke, The Sopranos and The Wire have all depicted characters meeting a grisly end due to the outcome of a poor hand, or bum steer. Closer to home, Ritchie set up the whole plot of 1998 cockney-gangster escapade, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels on the outcome of a fixed game of three card brag. If you’ve seen the film, it’s a hard scene to forget. As The Stooges’ ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ plays in the background, a choice selection of East London’s criminal underworld are sat at a grimy poker table in the ring of an equally dingy boxing club. The whole game is fixed and one poor schmuck ends up £500,000 worse off, with the threat of losing a finger for each day late on repayment. Bangor man Paul Feldstein, a representative of Legalise Poker In Northern Ireland, argues that this perception of poker couldn’t be further from the truth. Paul is on a mission to raise awareness of the current Northern Irish legislation on poker – which makes illegal any publicly organised game where money over a certain amount is exchanged – but also to dispel some popular poker myths as he goes. There’s a certain braggadocio which comes with playing poker. But it’s not all sunglasses, Stetson hats and ridiculous cartoon personas, the likes of which you would see on late-night Channel 5. And far from a green cloth card table in the centre of a boxing ring, the more likely setting for a game is a dining room table or, even more commonly, played out on an Acer laptop as Eastenders drones on in the background. Internet gambling and online poker in particular have exploded in recent years, due in part to the advancement in online banking, but also the growing popularity of televised Texas Hold ‘Em live events. Paul Feldstein, a literary agent by day, became a poker aficionado during the 1980s, when he lived in New York and started playing at home with
publishing sales reps. “I got invited to a tournament in a town 20 minutes away,” he recalls. “About 100 players, I came in third and won $800. I was instantly hooked.” Paul then moved to Northern Ireland and found a game being played in a bingo hall close to where he lived in Bangor. “That club sat in a quasi-legal area,” Paul explained. “Technically, the poker they were playing was not legal because of the stakes, which were more than the £4 legal limit. In all the years I played there, I didn’t know it wasn’t above board. We even had the police in several times, who looked around and said nothing. I actually assumed they were just doing their job.” Northern Ireland sits with Andorra, Turkey and the Vatican City as the only countries in Europe where no form of commercial poker is legal. This forces hundreds of Northern Irish players to travel to the Republic to take part in organised tournaments. Legalise Poker In Northern Ireland is hoping to put pressure on the Department of Social Development’s Minister, Nelson McCausland of the DUP, to change the law. They argue that regulating the game will benefit Northern Ireland in the long run. Paul explains that it doesn’t make sense to allow private games and online gambling, but not that played in a commercial setting. “You could play online, and max out all your credit cards tonight,” Paul argues. “You could go to someone’s house for a private game and throw your car keys in or write a cheque for your life savings. You could buy 200 scratch cards tomorrow. But you can’t spend 40 quid on an evening’s entertainment in an organised club.” Under the SDLP’s Alex Attwood, the DSD ran a consultation on gambling in 2011. The published report quoted a survey stating ‘67% of respondents had an unfavourable attitude towards gambling’. However, what the DSD failed to add to the report was that 75.3% of respondents admitted to taking part in some sort of gambling themselves. When contacted by AU for comment, Nelson McCausland declined to be interviewed, but a DSD spokesperson said the Minister was “taking time to consider the proposal”, though refused to confirm if a decision would be likely this year. Paul Feldstein is still confident his group can make a difference. “We want it to be treated in its own right, and not lumped in with other games with equal chance,” he says. “There have been a lot of studies and court cases and recent court cases have stated poker is a game of skill. I think it’s roughly 80% skill and 20% chance, because obviously luck
9 AU80 AU76
does play a small factor in it. To play poker you need maths skills to calculate odds, probabilities. A lot of people employ game theory, though don’t ask me to explain it in less than about 10 minutes. People use psychology, visual clues, reading of players, body language. All this goes in to determine how you play. And how you harness each of those things will determine how successful you are.” Legalise Poker In Northern Ireland gave evidence to the Social Development committee in late January. Glen McCabe, another keen gamer and managing director of a small computer firm, used his time to dispel some of the myths surrounding the game. Glen described poker as a “mind sport” in league with the likes of chess and bridge. He went into detail about how club games operate, with strict buy-ins and modest limits. The DUP’s Sammy Douglas, whose party leader Peter Robinson is known to enjoy a private game or two, described seeing ‘digging matches’, i.e. fights, in East Belfast after games played out on the street went awry. And as for the addiction factor, Mr Douglas added, “I’ve never met anyone addicted to poker.” Paul Feldstein is quick to separate poker from other forms of gambling. The DSD survey identified “2% of the population as having a gambling problem; over four times higher than that recorded in GB”. Paul explains, “You need to separate poker from the likes of sports betting, fruit machines and bingo. We’ve looked at a number of studies to look at the link between poker and potential problem gambling and it’s become clear to us that poker is one of the least dangerous types of gambling.” And the risks of not regulating? The group argues that private games like the ones played by the First Minister have no protection. Paul Feldstein: “It would discourage those home games because there would be availability of regulated play. The reason why people play home games and on the internet is because those are the only places they can compete, but there are no controls, no limits. If clubs with live poker were allowed then this would reduce the risk.” Legalise Poker In Northern Ireland feel they have a strong hand to play over the coming year, Paul makes comparisons between how he plays at the table and how the group are running their campaign, but he does leave AU with a final thought: “As for my best winning hand, I’ve never had a royal flush in my life.”
Behind The Scenes The Good Man Written & directed by Phil Harrison
In yet another example of the power of crowdsourcing, first-time movie director Phil Harrison was able to make his dream a reality by selling shares in his film The Good Man and managing to raise ÂŁ60,000. Aidan Gillen (Mayor Carcetti in The Wire, no less) was brought on board in the lead role and in January, filming began in Belfast before cast and crew flew to South Africa to complete the shoot. We headed along to act as extras in the Duke Of York bar (aw yeeeah) and to get some behindthe-scenes snaps. Photography by Gavin Sloan www.thegoodmanfilm.com
aidan gillen and director phil harrison
“We’re never going to write a happy song” James Graham of The Twilight Sad on musical progression, Soviet synthesisers, and his “stupid accent”…
Ditching an apparently faultless songwriting ethos that brought you much critical acclaim over two records – isn’t that a case of shooting yourself (or rather your band) in the foot? Not according to James Graham, frontman of endearingly miserable Scots The Twilight Sad. In fact, if anything, their uncompromising new album No One Can Ever Know is a shining testament to musical progression’s modus operandi: out with the old, in with the new. Heavy in Krautrock, post-punk and industrial influences, the dense ‘wall of noise’ aesthetic formulated by guitarist Andy MacFarlane has been set aside. Why the sudden shift? “With every album we definitely want to move on from the last one. As soon as we started, we always knew we wanted to keep on moving forward,” enthuses Graham, clearly excited about the band’s new approach. “To make a same-sounding record twice we would probably – no, definitely – call it a day six months down the line. What’s the point in replicating yourself?”
With its elusive themes and comforting desolation comparable to The Walkmen or Arab Strap covering Joy Division, the band’s third album is propelled by its dark corners and winding tangents. “I think these new songs lend themselves to a significantly sparser aesthetic,” muses Graham. “They deserved a lot of breathing space and it would have been a cop-out if we kept the production only to layer dense guitars all over it.” So, with the Spector-esque onslaughts taking a back seat, what musical influences informed the songwriting process? “For me, in terms of both lyrics and singing melodies, I took inspiration from bands I’ve always listened to,” says Graham, his thick Kilsyth twang betraying tangible passion. “I just try and aim for good songwriting. As for Andy, I think certain bands just came to the surface: Cabaret Voltaire, Wire, Bauhaus, etc. We never mimic our favourite artists but, on each record, we aim to wear our influences on our sleeve.” And that they do: whether you look the barren postpunk of PiL or the motorik-driven experimentation of Can, legendary precedents loom large over The Twilight’s latest effort. Whose idea was the analogue
synthesizers? “Andy had been toying with stuff in his house when writing the demos. He got a loan of some old Russian analogue synths – some of them didn’t even have English on them, so we had to look up the instructions on the internet. Naturally, these new sounds lend themselves to the songs rather than us simply messing about trying to find things to bulk them up. They just sounded good with the actual music we were writing at the time.” For all its restrained power, No One Can Ever Know is by no means a soporific release: The Twilight Sad have merely reined in the decibels in order to reveal the mesmerising processes colliding and dispersing beneath. “There are some things about the band we can never change – for example, you can’t really change my stupid accent and we’re never going to write a happy song. This is still a Twilight Sad record; if you put it on you can definitely recognise it’s us but, at the same time, it’s also a real step forward. We just hope everyone else thinks the same.” Brian Coney No One Can Ever Know is released on February 6 on FatCat Records www.thetwilightsad.com
UNKNOWN PLEASURES Niall Byrne digs deep to uncover the freshest new music
Blog Buzz – Roma While Skrillex’s digitised bass drops and electro noise (it’s called complextro – you can laugh) caters to the kids who crave ‘drops’ like fizzy sweets and Modeselektor represent for the older set filtering down German techno, trance and hardcore into their own unique style, there are those who exist between the two. Bordeaux producer Roma melds all sorts of dance styles together but mainly the digitisation of the former with the latter’s head-spinning euphoria. He says he’s inspired by American hip-hop but apart from the occasional rap-sourced sample, I can’t hear it. What I do hear is nuanced, big and bombastic productions which don’t ever sound dumb. soundcloud.com/romamusic Mix – Kuedo – Sinking In The Datatank mix I’m a sucker for mixes with a theme. Formerly half of nascent dubsteppers Vex’d, Jamie Teasdale aka Kuedo was asked to make what sounds like an unusual one at first, but it’s actually a common thing that many people would do while listening to music – read a book. So he delved into hypnotic “avantgarde electronics” and featured the likes of Oneohtrix Point Never, Actress, Vangelis, Steve Reich and Zombi (the Pittsburg space rockers, not the 4AD electronic producer ). The mix is also suitable for a bout of daydreaming so schedule 90 minutes of downtime and press play. bit.ly/bookmix
Blog of the month – Breaking More Waves Music blogs outside of North America are often ignored in favour of your Pitchforks and your Gorilla vs. Bears. It’s a pity because there are plenty of non-U.S. based music blogs that have been firing on all cylinders for years and continue to do so with little recognition. Since 2008, Portsmouthbased Breaking More Waves has been doing just that, but a blog is only as good as its recent posts and this one throws up a hearty selection. There’s one of the best new UK singersongwriters Gabrielle Aplin, the rich sound of Seasfire who were inspired by “Buckley, Bunnymen and Burial”, Welsh harpist Georgia Ruth and the Dizzee Rascal-endorsed Pepper. An unknown and crucially, good selection of new artists breaking these shores. breakingmorewaves.blogspot.com Blog Buzz – Colour Coding Remember that Aussie kid indieband Operator Please? Well they’re growing up and two of them, Chris Holland and Tim Commandeur, went off to form a Eighties-style synth-indie-pop project of their own. Their debut song ‘Perfect’ is full of keys and that oh-so-trendy use of whistling as the main melody. Easy, breezy and coming to a radio near you? colourcodingband.bandcamp.com www.nialler9.com
Red Bull Bedroom Jam launches across Ireland Does your band fancy spending a week recording with a top producer? But of course – read on.
It amazes us the amount of new bands that get in touch with AU each year, from all corners of Ireland. After Glasgowbury recently opened their submissions process to play at this year’s festival, they had received over 500 entries, in little over a month, from bands asking if they could play. Now obviously not all of these were from new bands, but you can be sure a high percentage of them were from young bands hungry for a chance to play at one of Ireland’s most esteemed festivals. The sheer numbers in this statistic tell you how difficult it can be to get noticed within your own community, never mind any further afield. A competition like Red Bull’s Bedroom Jam is therefore a great opportunity for these artists to launch themselves to another level. Bedroom Jam has been running for several years now, but this year
is the first time it has been organised specifically for Irish bands. All bands have to do is upload a video of theirs to www.redbullbedroomjam.ie and from February 27, the bi-weekly Bedroom Buzz Chart will map the progress of the most popular acts in terms of views and comments. The Buzz Chart also ties in with the usual social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, so activity on these can also help boost a band’s entry higher up the chart. From here, the six most popular bands will then be filmed, well, in their bedrooms as it happens. These performances will then be broadcast across the world through various websites, and the three best will be chosen to play at Glasgowbury and Donegal’s Sea Sessions festival in the summer. Finally, there will be a live final in the autumn,
where the eventual winner will then go on to spend a week in the Red Bull Studios with a top producer. There was a time when hard-working bands could rely on slots at various new-band nights and showcases to boost their profile, with guaranteed large audiences every week. Now that these have all but died away as the number of people going to gigs has dropped off a cliff, bands have to promote their music any and every way they can, and opportunities like this are not to be sniffed at. So if you’re one of the 500+ that asked to play at Glasgowbury this year, but didn’t quite make the cut, maybe this is another way to convince people that you’re worthy of that afternoon slot on the majestic Eagle’s Rock after all. Check out www.redbullbedroomjam.ie for more details.
Band Maths No. 13: Skrillex
72% The drop 10% An industrial vacuum cleaner 7% Glowsticks 5% Laughing at the purists 4.99% Emo 0.01% Aphex Twin
SEASON’S EATINGS It may have been an oddly mild winter so far, but who can resist a hearty, warming stew after a hard day? Not us. “You don’t make friends with salad,” Homer Simpson once sang at a picnic, and while Season’s Eatings is all for a bit of dressed leafage in the summer months, we must agree that the animated yellow legend’s words ring true this time of the year. Light food suits warm, bright weather, and in February, when the days are still short and the rain is horizontal and half ice, the stomach cries out for something warmer and more substantial, something that sticks to the ribs and heats you up from the inside. What better food to fill you up in this way than a stew? The stew is the ultimate one pot dish, a fundamental idea (meat, vegetables and liquid cooked together in a covered dish) that has evolved into
an entire encyclopaedia of hearty variations. It is a dish that is forgiving to the novice chef (there is nothing particular or finicky about a good stew), yet one that will always be received with gratitude. Who doesn’t like stews? Weirdoes, that’s who. To paraphrase Homer, you do make friends with stews. The following stew uses chorizo sausage which is a fantastic ingredient to have at hand in your store cupboard. It keeps well, doesn’t cost much, is extremely versatile, and, above all, has a punchy pork flavour that has rescued more of my ‘there’s only a spud and an egg left’ suppers than any other single ingredient. Coupled with the smoked paprika, it creates a supper with real depth.
Chorizo, bean & sage supper Serves 4
Words by Darragh McCausland Photo by Aoife McElwain
THERE’S THIS LITTLE PLACE...
Harry’s Bar & Restaurant Bridgend, Inishowen, Co. Donegal T: +353 (0) 74936 8544 W: harrys.ie
Many restaurants pride themselves on serving up grub assembled from local ingredients, but few do it quite as spectacularly as Harry’s in Inishowen do it. The restaurant (which also does a line in pub grub), fills almost its entire menu from ingredients sourced from the surrounding peninsula. What a great, simple idea; and so obvious with the sea on all sides of them and organic pork and beef farms nearby. Yet this sort of local produce sourcing is still not as common as it could be in Ireland. Restaurants who serve soggy Peruvian asparagus in the middle of winter, take note!
2 medium onions 2 tbsp olive oil 4 cloves of garlic 2 carrots 7/8 finely chopped sage leaves 2 tsp smoked paprika 1 tsp chilli powder/cayenne pepper/ tabasco sauce (choose your preferred heat!) 500g tomato passata or crushed
tomatoes 250ml water 350g chorizo (roughly the size of the curled sausage available in most supermarkets) cut into chunks 400g butter or haricot beans (while some prefer to prepare soak and boil the beans, the tinned variety are perfect for a zippy supper)
Peel the onions and chop them roughly, then put them in a heavybased casserole dish with the olive oil. Let them soften over a medium heat, while stirring them occasionally. Peel the garlic, chop it thinly and add it to the pan. Peel the carrots, cut them into large dice, then stir them and the chopped sage leaves into the onions and garlic and leave till the onions are soft and pale gold, stirring every once in a while to stop the mixture from catching.
a 35 minutes, remembering that a boiled stew is a spoiled stew. Check it every now and again and give it the odd stir. After 35 minutes, drain and rinse the tinned beans and add them to the stew. Simmer for another five minutes until the beans are heated through.
Stir in the paprika, chilli and tomatoes, then pour in the drained beans and water and bring to the boil. Add the chorizo sausage pieces into the stew and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Once the stew starts to boil, cover it, and allow it to simmer for
This stew can be served at this point, but if you want to make it even more intense you can put the casserole (opened) into a 200 degree oven for another 15 minutes or so. You might even sprinkle breadcrumbs on it for an appetizing crust. This stew tastes supremely good served in a bowl with a big lump of your favourite bread to mop the mess up.
Label Profile Public Sector Records
PAT DAM SMYTH
2010 Belfast, Northern Ireland & Portland, Oregon, USA Barrett Lahey, Stevie Scullion, Graham Smith. Pat Dam Smyth, Malojian, John McGurgan, Ciaran Lavery, Jerry & The Mippets.
Divide. So I thought, ‘Right, let’s put this out ourselves’.”
As its name suggests, the independently-minded Public Sector Records is dedicated to collective working. With its own Production Club and house band The Glue the shared ambition is to harness individual talent for the greater good of all the label’s acts. Here, those involved outline their vision for making Public Sector synonymous with musical excellence.
Is there an ethos behind Public Sector? BL: “Growing up, I was really into labels like Sub Pop. I’d take the bus into the nearest city just to be able to buy their latest release. You’d trust in the fact a record said Sub Pop. You’d buy it on the strength of that and, when you got home, that trust was validated. I miss that and, hopefully, when you see our stamp on a record, you’ll know what you’re getting – that it’s Public Sector means it’s quality.”
Founded: Based: Run By: Key Acts:
What was the catalyst for the setting-up of Public Sector? Barrett Lahey: “I feel that my hand was forced. Joe [McGurgan] and I had played on all these records, poured our heart and soul into them and then they were just left to flounder. The people whose records we worked on felt polarised, they felt that they weren’t being represented anywhere. For example, it was so difficult to get anyone to show any interest in [Pat Dam Smyth’s] The Great
Joe McGurgan: “We felt that we needed to create a home for this music.”
Tell me about the concept of Public Sector’s Production Club. BL: “It’s about having all these great studios and individuals working together, utilising everyone’s best qualities – be it Joe [McGurgan], Mikey [Mormecha of Mojo Fury], Neil Everett, Conor Scullion, Jan Lyttle, Mudd Wallace, or myself.” Is there a particular type of act that you’re keen to work with? BL: “I’m totally open to whatever comes our way, I don’t want to get stuck in a rut. We’ve definitely got a lot of work off the back of The Great Divide. People say, ‘I heard this album, that’s the sound I want’. They have all these songs, but don’t want to do the standard singer-songwriter thing – it’s a horrible fucking genre – instead, they want it to be a proper band record. That’s the sort of work we’re getting, creating full-on records.”
JMcG: “Also, having the same players [label band The Glue] involved on the different records means that we carry something of our sound from one project to the next, reinforcing the collective identity.” Stevie Scullion: “I was one of those people who came to [Barrett] having heard The Great Divide. What really blew me away was when he told me he’d recorded it in two weeks. I’d been stuck in the studio for six months by this stage and hadn’t got anything. After a few days of working on my material, Barrett proposed putting it out on Public Sector. That’s how I got involved.” And in practical terms how would a deal between the label and the acts work? BL: “We have several options. Pay us upfront, we’ll record the album for you and you retain the rights. Or, we can put the album out and have some form of ethical deal. That’s important, we’re not here to rob people, just to keep the label going, a co-op situation. Finally, if you want, you can just say ‘own me’, we will record your music for free – the full treatment – and try and make our money back via the intellectual property rights. Surely that’s better than sitting at home and the music going unheard?” JMcG: “We can put forward different options for different people, dependent on their situation. As long as the good music gets made and heard, that’s the important thing.” www.public-sector-records.com
M R. LOUNGE
Play For Today As Brothers In Arms opens in Belfast, AU speaks to playwright Sam Millar about the schism at the heart of the republican movement.
With Brothers In Arms, the latest play from acclaimed crime writer and former republican prisoner Sam Millar, the themes of division and unresolved tension within the republican movement are all too apparent. It is the first play in a planned Ulster Trilogy by Martin Lynch’s Green Shoots Productions, intended as a comment on the ‘state of the nation’, a decade-and-a-half into the Good Friday Agreement. With almost indecent timeliness, Brothers In Arms throws light on the shape and substance of divisions in the republican movement today. In July 2005 and January 2012, the Belfast Telegraph’s security correspondent Brian Rowan took two very different statements from two very different kinds of republican paramilitaries. The first was from the mythical ‘P O’Neill’ announcing the conclusion of the Provisional IRA’s armed campaign. The second one, just last month, was from Óglaigh na hÉireann, a dissident republican group claiming that they’d planted a bomb under the car of a visiting Scottish
soldier. It indicates, he says, a divergent path that defines the tension at the heart of republican politics today. The series of bomb scares that have recently plagued Derry invokes dreaded remembrance of the old Gerry Adams adage: “they haven’t gone away, you know.” Sam Millar, no stranger to stranger-than-fiction narratives himself having been instrumental in the 1993 Brinks Robbery in New York (as documented in his bestseller On The Brinks), was an early supporter of the agreement which began Sinn Fein’s journey to Stormont. Brothers In Arms looks at a family split right down the republican fault line. Set in the home of the Mullan brothers – one a dissident, the other a Sinn Fein MLA – on the day of their father’s funeral, the play explores the legacy of the Troubles for those who served in prison and their families. It’s a decidedly personal drama for a man who is loath to use the ‘D’ word in relation to ongoing anti-agreement polemic. “I have a lot of friends on both sides of the argument, some for and some against,” he says. “I would never use the term ‘dissident’. Labels are dangerous – it’s not too long ago that Gerry Kelly was being called a terrorist, for example.” Millar is sympathetic to some who feel genuine grievance at the perceived lack of progress in their communities, post-Good Friday. “I was originally in favour. As Lennon said, ‘Give Peace A Chance’, but there’s a growing disenchantment within republican grass roots. Support is gradually being eroded. Sinn Fein in power seem busier condemning other republicans rather than trying to talk to them.”
Millar is adamant, though, that there will never be a return to the full-on bloody conflict of old. “There’s no appetite for that any longer – but there will always be sparks, which honestly won’t go away until it’s talked about.” Even if Brothers In Arms fulfils the proclaimed remit of Green Shoots as “theatre that talks to the community and then allows the community to talk back”, Millar still thinks that it’s improbable that the newly respectable ‘folks on the hill’ will be seen in the audience. “I doubt that Gerry and Martin will be coming to see this – it’s far too close to the bone – but it’s important that the community sees it and it gives voice to the debate.” Brian Rowan describes the Good Friday Agreement as “a high politics and high peace that hasn’t quite found its way onto the ground yet.” Sam Millar agrees: “We need discussion and an acceptance that there is more than one view here. Otherwise there will continue to be sparks. You resolve things by dialogue, not by shying away.” The passion play at the heart of Brothers in Arms lays down that very challenge at an important crossroads in the future of Irish republicanism and offers as much potential hope for the future as the recent spate of dissident violence will allow. At its core is the prevailing sense that, through discourse and listening, some sense of resolution can be reached, both between warring tribes and within feuding families. Joe Nawaz Brothers In Arms runs until February 18 at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast, before going on tour around Northern Ireland. Check www.martinlynchproductions. com for details.
…AND You Will Know Us By The Trailer Of Dead Capcom announces new Resident Evil title. Videogame fans rejoice. Another instalment in the much-loved survival horror series had been long mooted but gaming giant Capcom answered prayers by dropping the full-length trailer after gently flirting with the idea via the viral website No Hope Left. Much more than your standard teaser, the short comprises three-anda-half riveting minutes of full throttle, gory bedlam. As with previous releases, Capcom are keeping crucial specifics regarding plot and gameplay close to their chests but this has only added fuel to the fire of speculation as Resi acolytes have been blogging excitedly about deciphering every second of the trailer. Most tantalising is the reveal that a central narrative strand involves the Commander-in-Chief (President Evil?) being zombified by a bioterrorist attack and becoming a braindead, incoherent golem – insert your own gag about George W. here. The keener student will take note of the bloody morsels being leaked from those press events and conventions at which lead members of the development team have been appearing. Executive producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi has confirmed that this is “the largest scale production Capcom have ever embarked on” and that it will involve multiple global locations and is unprecedented in both scale and length. Further, producer Yoshiaki Hirabayashi has promised a blend of bang-bang action and survival horror, which would place it neatly between the classic Resi releases of old and the genre-redefining fourth game. This makes sense as tough nut Chris Redfield and Leon Kennedy, who dresses as if auditioning for an ‘N*Sync tribute act, are returning, which suggests several branching storylines and alternating play styles.
Not everyone will appreciate the appeal of popping a zombie square in its decomposing face, but there are a good few million console fans who get giddy at the mere suggestion. That same chunk of the gaming community is currently in rapture at the recent announcement that development on Resident Evil 6 is well under way – in fact, the title is due for arrival this November. 19 AU80
Many complained that by veering into Gears Of War cover shooter territory, the franchise had abandoned its emphasis on terror and creeping dread. However, Kobayashi has confirmed that one of the guiding design tenets was “the fear that lies ahead”. In other words, we might have a return to a creaky mansion populated by actual zombies instead of Spanish villagers infected by skeletal parasites. One sinister scene in the trailer, in which undead shadows claw on the wall of an underground tunnel, recalls 28 Days Later, and other visceral moments indicate that Resi 6 could give Dead Space a run for its money in terms of eye-gouging drama. The Resi series has lumbered and groaned a long way since its initial blocky appearance on the Playstation, replete with campy voice acting and “Jill sandwiches”, but it appears that part six will take it right back to its roots. It’s testament to the impact of those three-and-a-half minutes that it has now become the most feverishly anticipated release of the year. Ross Thompson You can watch the trailer at www.iheartau.com
Cut O’ Ye! AU singles out Dublin’s most stylish for pictures and probing
Name: Julia Age: 21 Occupation: Student Favourite place to shop: Topshop
Names: Mouni Ages: 19 Occupations: Student Favourite places to shop: Topshop
Name: Emily Age: 21 Occupation: Student Favourite place to shop: Zara
Name: Siobhan Age: 22 Occupation: Student Favourite places to shop: River Island
Name: Ruairi Age: 32 Occupation: IT Favourite place to shop: George’s Arcade
Name: Clady Age: 20 Occupation: Student Favourite place to shop: Charity shops
Photos and interviews by Eilish McCormick
TEETHGRINDER Dave Donnelly sets the world to rights. This month: Dieting
my first band I’ve just finished re-watching the final series of HBO’s stunning Wild West drama Deadwood, which stars Ian McShane as semi-factual antihero Al Swearengen. One subplot involves Irish actor Jack Langrishe who, in his friend Swearengen’s service, treats the psychopathic gold tycoon George Hearst’s chronic back pain with a ‘miracle cure’ learned from a Turkish serviceman. Chiropractic in modern lingo. With the assurance that it had cured his pain of 15 years, and a bit of evangelical yelping for effect, Langrishe gives Hearst just enough relief to ensure his pain never fully subsides and thus diminishes his capacity for murder. Alas, not all actors use their powers to fight crime. Gwyneth Paltrow has just launched her latest ‘Goop’ home detox kit: an array of shakes, chemicals and supplements designed to help ditch any extra Christmas weight. While the dieting industry is, for the most part, parasitic and deliberately confusing, the majority at least promote eating as part of a healthy diet. Where cleansing ideology differs is that it makes a virtue of not eating, instead pushing expensive supplements and branded products. Gwyneth’s cleanse even makes note of the fact, proud that it allows users to at least eat one meal a day (!) from
an approved list. The rest is spent with two slightly sickening-looking shakes and digestive enzymes that the body produces naturally anyway. It’s easy to see the parallels with Langrishe. When you don’t eat enough, your energy levels drop as your body is forced to burn stored energy. Given most people work or have families, the quickest relief is to eat something high in sugar – this is why most people break diets. Short-term improvement followed by relapse. A self-sustaining cycle. You and I know dieting is simple, but not easy. Eat sensibly and exercise regularly so you’re not taking in more calories than you burn. Sure, salads might not be to your taste and healthy food can be expensive, but it’s better than spending £200 to starve yourself. On her website, Gwyneth touts the virtues of ‘holistic osteopathy’ (cracking bones to you and me), acupuncture (costumed re-enactment of Hellraiser) and every quack’s obsession – see Gillian McKeith – the immaculately clean colon. Clearly she’s fallen under the spell of the snake oil business – in that sense she could be considered as much a victim as her customers. In general though, you’d be far better off eating an Apple than following her ma’s quack schemes.
With Jas Shaw from Simian Mobile Disco Band Name: “Can’t remember!” Influences: Nirvana, The Cure, classic rock. Age: 12/13 For some weird reason, if you got a note from home you could skip doing sport at school if you could prove you were going to go and play an instrument. We got notes from home saying we were talking this pretty seriously – considering we were 12 – so I’d go round my mate’s house and make a racket. So while everyone else
a bit of a skive, but on another level you were taking responsibility for your own time and doing something. And we did a couple of gigs. Off the back of the amazingly produced [he says in jest] eight-track demos, we got one gig at school and one in a local venue as a shitty warm-up for an equally shitty band who we thought were brilliant. When we broke up, some people moved away and it just wasn’t
“A lot of our band practices were, like, four guitarists and a bass player” was out pointlessly running after a ball, I was equally pointlessly playing covers and really bad made-up songs. We didn’t have a drummer for quite a while, until we found someone who had a drum kit. We were like, ‘Right, you can be the drummer then’, and he was like, ‘Yeah… all right, fine’. He wasn’t really that bothered about being in a band. A lot of our band practices were, like, four guitarists and a bass player, and everyone arguing about who was going to sing because no-one wanted to because it made you sound girly. On one level it was
convenient any more. It sounds really dumb, but when you’re that age, if someone’s folks move that’s it, that’s the band fucked. You can’t get to their house, you just can’t do it. I’m pretty sure that Al, the bass player from Simian, was in that band, or at least one of the later versions of it. He was a guitarist as well – he shifted to bass out of sheer force of numbers, I think! I’m probably still in contact with a bunch of them, but we don’t do band practice any more… Simian Mobile Disco DJs play the Stiff Kitten, Belfast on February 11.
CRACKING UP It’s big, it’s clever and it’s called A Brief Crack Of Light. Andy Cairns on dubstep, Ulster and Therapy?’s 13th album
Endurance is the word. A Brief Crack of Light is Therapy?’s chunky and confident 13th studio album. Recorded in Newcastleupon-Tyne with New York Dolls producer Adam Sinclair, the record is full of spit and fire for life, as well as traditional Therapy? themes like madness, mania and melancholy memories. All that, and a bit of dubstep. A song named ‘The Buzzing’ is filled with wavering, stretched riffs and crazed screams, before a seasick bass breakdown in the middle. Frontman Andy Cairns says it’s his favourite track. “The three of us all like a lot of electronic records,” he explains. “But ‘The Buzzing’ was weird because the first bit we had was the dubstep bit. Everyone thought it was like Mala from the Digital Mystikz. I think there’s two ways you can be influenced by electronic music. You can get a sampler and keyboard and play along with a drum machine, but we sort of take the atmosphere of it and try to do it on good, oldfashioned rock instruments.”
The album follows the success of Crooked Timber, the 2009 album which was certified silver in Europe and marked a creative resurgence in the band’s 20year career. After live dates dedicated to performing 1994’s Troublegum, and finishing last year’s Belfast Music Week at the top of the bill at the Ulster Hall, A Brief Crack Of Light is proof positive that Therapy?’s future lies with fresh new material. Having led the band – completed by bassist Michael McKeegan and drummer Neil Cooper – for more than two decades, Cairns is uniquely positioned to appraise the changes in Northern Ireland and its music scene. While in the early days Therapy? found it difficult to find gigs or even support from their peers, Cairns now sees opportunities that simply didn’t exist at the turn of the Nineties. “It’s completely different from when we started,” he says. “Whenever we started actually playing shows in Belfast it was really, really difficult. Back in the day you were seen as a complete culchie even if you were from Ballyclare which was only 14 or 15 miles down the road.
found the best was the Warzone Collective, which was behind St Anne’s Cathedral. They used to put on a lot of hardcore and punk gigs and they had a really good attitude.” Cairns sees more promotion, more media coverage and more bands visiting Ulster than ever before, creating a platform for young musicians. On top of that, he sees a wealth of established talent. “You’ve got great bands like Axis Of and legendary songwriters like Robyn G Shiels,” he says. “The whole place is a lot more vibrant.” In the present day, though, Therapy? hope to consolidate their position by playing the new material – and the classics – to as many people as possible. The idea is to reconnect with their supporters while converting new fans to the cause. “The way that we look at things,” says Cairns, “the way that we’re slightly odd, the way that we don’t fit in... people have actually come around to our way of thinking.” Kiran Acharya A Brief Crack Of Light is out February 6 via Blast Records.
“We were obviously too young for that whole Stiff Little Fingers thing,” he continues. “There hadn’t been anything in Northern Ireland for quite a while. Whenever we started out there were tons of bands that just wouldn’t help each other out. The place we
Therapy? play Cyprus Avenue, Cork on March 9 and Vicar Street, Dublin on March 10. Read the full interview with Andy Cairns on www.iheartau.com
A Long Walk The Jane Bradfords on their new album 100 Miles Of Broken Pavement.
“When we started out and got airplay on Radio 1, we immediately had excitable and friendly A&R and pluggers getting in contact. Post recession, everything is different.” Deci Gallen, frontman and songwriter in The Jane Bradfords is a master of understatement. The Belfast based band have been making music for over five years now, something that can seem an eternity in the ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ world of music. With a second album ready to be released, he’s optimistic that having simply survived the changes in the music industry, he can actually just get on with making the music he wants to, for the reasons he wants to. “Labels seem more cautious and A&R appear much more poker-faced. For my part there’s not much I’d
do differently in terms of my approach, because music-wise I’m happy where I’ve ended up and where I can see my songwriting going.” The album builds upon the themes and success of their self titled debut, losing a lot of the electronic sheen that dominated the first one, in favour of a more organic sound, albeit one which is aimed towards the heavens. He might not be trying to win over any hotshot record company executives any more, but the sound of The Jane Bradfords is still geared towards filling stadiums, albeit ones full of people who like their indie with a side helping of melancholy. It seems the comparisons with the Arcade Fire and The National aren’t about to disappear any time soon.
“We’re all fans of both bands so we would certainly call them influences but there are some stronger influences that are less zeitgeist, so tend to get overlooked – The Magnetic Fields, Talking Heads, Echo and the Bunnymen, New Order and The Cure, for example. With this album I’ve had my vocals likened to The National’s Matt Berninger, and in the previous album it was Ian Curtis, but my singing has been a constant across both albums. I sing like this because it’s my comfortable range, not because I want to be like another vocalist.” Steven Rainey
The emergence of Mmoths (formerly known as Moths) was one of the stories of 2011 in Irish electronica. It took a matter of months between a 17-year-old Jack Colleran uploading a couple of tracks to Soundcloud, and him being asked to remix Interpol and then being flown to LA to meet the Street Quality Entertainment label. He signed on the same day as he got his Leaving Cert results. Mmoths’ debut 5-track EP, released in Ireland on March 9, features three new tracks and new versions of ‘Heart’ and ‘Summer’, with guests Keep Shelly In Athens and Superhumanoids respectively. Get down to the launch gig at Dublin’s Twisted Pepper on February 18. Kildare has a new golden boy. CJ
Music fans in Waterford have something to get excited about with the news that Galway’s Wingnut Records has spreads its wings and set up shop in the town. Run by the man known as Ray Wingnut, the Galway shop is innovatively sited within the Bell, Book and Candle bookshop, and the Waterford branch follows the same model, cosying up to Hard Times bookshop on Peter Street. Added to the fact that former Road Records staffer Gib Cassidy has set up his record shop Elastic Witch within the Twisted Pepper in Dublin and Plugd in Cork is in Triskel Arts Centre, a new and hopefully sustainable model for Irish independent record stores is taking shape. Give them your support. CJ
As hard working as they are hard rocking, Downpatrick’s The Answer are back with a new single from last year’s third album Revival. ‘Nowhere Freeway’ features vocals from Lynne Jackaman from Saint Jude, and it’s backed with ‘Battlecry’, a recently completed track dating from the Revival sessions. The band have just finished a jaunt around Europe supporting Whitesnake, and they’re heading out on tour again, this time headlining shows all over Europe, before flying to Japan and then doing a tour of UK and Ireland, where they play Whelan’s in Dublin (March 2), Mandela Hall in Belfast (March 3) and Cyprus Avenue in Cork (March 5). CJ
Here’s Looking at You(Tube) Odd-vertisements
Words by Neill Dougan
Regular readers of this column may recall that in last month’s issue we covered celebrities starring in weird Japanese adverts. Well, it turns out the Far East doesn’t have a monopoly on wacky commercials. Here, for your delectation, is a short selection of some truly strange promotional clips from down the years. Bear in mind while watching these that, improbable as it may seem, an advertising executive somewhere, presumably on too much coke, actually gave the green light to each of these. And prepare to be disturbed in three... two... one... BABY LOVE
This 1975 advertisement for Love’s Baby Soft Perfume has to be seen to be believed. If the grown woman licking a lollipop, making doe-eyes at the camera and basically pretending to be a young child isn’t unsettling enough, consider the tag line: “Because innocence is sexier than you think”. AU can only hope that the relevant child protection authorities were alerted immediately after this monstrosity was aired.
Thanks to the existence of anything-goes party town Amsterdam, people often associate the Dutch with a somewhat liberal attitude to all things sexual. But surely the good citizens of the Netherlands are more than just a load of sleazeloving pervs? Well, on this evidence, apparently not. This effort at selling UHT milk is mostly just very annoying, but watch out for the – ahem – surprise ending...
This 1980s commercial for classic chocolate-andtoy combo Kinder Surprise was probably meant to be entertaining to kids. To an adult, however, it’s plain discomfiting to encounter a frankly deformed Humpty Dumpty-like character with a rictus grin, who promptly begins speaking in tongues. To be honest, it doesn’t really make us want to buy chocolate so much as it makes us want to curl up in a ball and quietly weep.
WEIRD WIDE WEB
Words by Dave Donnelly
Ross Kemp, folded
The 50 funniest headlines of 2011
Conspiracy was in the air when famous Kerryman Michael Fasslanger (sorry, Fassbender) was denied an Oscar nomination for his dong-revealing role in Shame. Yet could there be a simpler explanation – is the highest-profile German export to Kerry since Roger Casement a shark? This comprehensive dossier of evidence suggests he is. And if he’s not a shark, how come he’s never denied it? We have a right to know.
Erstwhile Mitchell brother Ross Kemp is probably best known today as the credulous mob groupie from the Sky One series Ross Kemp on Gangs, though others may recognise him as YouTube’s most committed ASIWYFA hater. Either way, the man’s egg-shaped dome is a thing of beauty and mystique, doubly so when folded into different shapes and put on Tumblr like some kind of hardman origami project.
If you follow me on Twitter (@spatouttweets), you’ll discover that I’m fond of passing on funny and unfortunate headlines and generally praising sub-editors for the mischief-making gods they are. This round-up missed my favourite of 2011 – Yahoo’s epic “Dann ruptures testicle: Kean on sack” combo – but it is an otherwise fascinating collection of the web’s tragi-comic news stories. Warning: contains at least two meatball sub-related deaths.
STORY OF THE VIDEO
"aaagh! my eyes!"
The column that likes to go round people’s houses at night and wreck up the place. Words by Neill Dougan
Title: ‘Studio Backpack Rap’ Director: Reece
It’s fair to say that Speech Debelle’s shock Mercury Prize win in 2009 has become something of an albatross around her neck, but hopefully her second album Freedom Of Speech will change all that. It’s certainly blessed with an excellent first single and a clever, fun video to match, as Speech extols the virtues of bedroom producers, with their Macbooks, hard drives and MPCs stuffed into their backpacks. What was the concept behind the video to begin with, and whose was it? Originally we wanted to do a ode to Jay-Z and Kanye’s ‘Otis’ video, but using a modded Golf GTI with me and a bunch of topless male models and a little studio in the back of the car. But the production company said there were too many safety issues and we didn’t have Jay-Z’s budget. So I went back to the idea I had when I was writing the track of a split screen between the male and female characters in the song. I always saw it as studio coming out of the
bag but the director Reece came up with the 2D paper equipment which then turned to 3D once it was out of the backpack. Then he added different people to show that these people are one of many.
When aliens finally made contact, many people were disappointed. And disturbed.
How important was this video in re-introducing you as an artist, and how did you decide to go about it? It was the first video for this new album, so I wanted to show people that I was coming back having grown as an artist. The megaphone illustrates what I’m about, that I have a message to put across. Can you tell me a bit about the filming - where and when it took place and how it went? We shot at the Heygate estate [in south London] and also filmed at Crystal Palace and South Norwood. It was a two day shoot. The first day was just me, the director and the crew. The second day we brought in lots of friends including [producer] Kwes and we were lucky with the weather – it comes across as really bright and cheerful.
The discovery of Dennis Hopper’s old holiday snaps was illuminating.
How much do you enjoy performing in your own videos? I’m always nervous, it can sometime take me a little while to get into it, but once I do it flows and I really enjoy it. When the director says “that’s a wrap” it reminds me of watching behind the scenes videos on MTV or something and thinking, ‘Yeah, that’s gonna be me one day’. It’s a humbling reminder I’m doing what I dreamt of doing. Watch the video online at bit.ly/studiobackpackrap
Sure, USA ’94 was a long time ago. Nonetheless, the general feeling was that Alexei Lalas had let himself go.
Real Name: Daniel Martin McCormick Based In: Brooklyn, New York. For Fans Of: Theo Parrish, MiAmi, Boxcutter. Check Out: Debut album, Hive Mind, out February 13 on Planet Mu. Website: http://planet.mu/artists/ital
Based: London. For Fans Of: Perfume Genius, Jeff Buckley, Elliott Smith. Check Out: The album Dear… is available on February 27 via Oak Ten. Website: www.keatonhenson.com
Members: Thomas Gorton (vocals, synths), Nicholas Hunt (guitar), Christopher Hutchinson (bass), David Berger (drums), Andrew Hunt (vocals, synths, guitars). Formation: Liverpool, 2010. For Fans Of: Trophy Wife, New Order, Wild Beasts. Check Out: The single ‘Two Islands’ / ‘Vehicles’ is out on now via Double Denim. Website: www.everynightidressupasyou.com
From releasing electronic noise with Black Dice and as Sex Worker, to danceable synth-punk with Mi Ami, Daniel Martin-McCormick’s output has certainly been eclectic thus far. And with his first Ital album featuring samples from the likes of Lady Gaga and Whitney Houston, it would be tempting to think that McCormick may have gone one step too far. But as McCormick explains, his forthcoming album Hive Mind is actually his way of reining himself in. “I wanted to try my hand at making legit tracks, and actually making something that could be DJed and that occupied the same emotional terrain as the stuff I was listening to,” he says. Listening to Hive Mind, it quickly becomes apparent that the Washington-born producer is miles away from the pop icons he samples; repetitive rhythms, gloomy layers of synth – this is club music with a decidedly more sinister feel. And although raised in Washington D.C., the prolific producer is starting to develop an affinity with these shores: “I was riding down to LA yesterday, and one thing that we agreed on is that in the States, even if you only listen to 12”s and only hang with people who only listen to that kind of music, you’re still an outsider in a serious way. In the UK, people just naturally fall into this kind of stuff.” If Hive Mind is anything to go by, Ital will certainly be very easy to fall into. Andrew Lemon
Keaton Henson has thrown AU a curveball. Apparently the singer-songwriter is very shy and he refused all requests for face-to-face, phone or even email interviews. The only way he would interact with us was by drawing pictures to any questions we asked him. This would be utterly okay, if we didn’t have three other great artists to fit into these two pages. Preferring to spend many hours alone, the Londonbased Henson fills his time by writing, recording and drawing. He initially wrote songs for his best friend, who then made the reluctant singer post them online. Geography also fuelled the creative tension – Henson had to become an expert on Heathrow’s timetable as living under the airport’s flight path forced him to record songs in the slivers of silence. Mercifully, his music speaks volumes. His songs are exquisitely personal, with tracks such as ‘You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are’ and new single ‘Charon’ utterly naked in their honesty. With Henson’s captivating vocal sounding like a sombre Jeff Buckley, his debut album Dear... becomes an essential – and heartbreaking yet life-affirming – listen. However, AU didn’t want to pass up the opportunity of an interview conducted via the medium of ink-based artwork, so we did ask Keaton a few questions and were enchanted by the doodles we received. Check www.iheartau.com for the results. John Freeman
THE EMERGING ACTS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT
Liverpool-based quintet Outfit have been crafted out of the belly-fire of previous bands and shaped by the jarring beauty of Merseyside. Sounding like a tense, opaque version of a classic New Order tune mixed with the shifting beauty of the more experimental end of chillwave, last autumn’s debut single, ‘Two Islands’, was six minutes of dead-eyed intent. “We wanted to commit the more interesting elements of our personalities to our music, the parts that are harder to reach,” singer Thomas Gorton tells AU when we ask why Outfit came into existence. “There’s been a lot of soul-searching during the formation of this band, a lot of learning a new language that had lain dormant in other bands we’d played in.” After taking residence in a “huge” house on their city’s outskirts, Outfit found “solitude in the nearby rivers and hills” while creating a local reputation for hosting infamous gigs, parties and DJ sets. A debut album is “maybe a year away”, but the promise of a new EP entitled Another Night’s Dreams Reach Earth Again should satiate those in need of a more immediate Outfit fix. “The EP is paranoid, neurotic and tense,” Thomas reveals. “The more we get asked about it, the more paranoid we become. I think it might be a surprise to people.” In 2012, Outfit look set to delight as well as surprise. John Freeman
Django Django Members: Vinny Neff (vocals, guitar), Dave Maclean (drums), Jimmy Dixon (bass), Tommy Grace (keys). Formation: London, 2008. For Fans Of: Metronomy, Can, The Beta Band. Check Out: Debut album Django Django, out now on Because. Website: www.djangodjango.co.uk Masters of the quietly intense pop tune, Django Django’s songs are the sort that stealthily occupy your brain, have a root around, re-arrange a few nodules and casually evaporate into the night air as you wonder what just happened. Profound? Well, not really. Derryman Vinny Neff, lead singer of the London-based quartet, is the first to admit that the band’s foundation was a series of fortunate events. Neff, drummer Dave Maclean and keys/synth man Tommy Grace met at Edinburgh Art School in the mid-Noughties. Later, finding themselves living in London at the same time, the former pair recorded some demos before hooking up with their old pal and enlisting Leeds man Jimmy Dixon on bass to fill out their sound. First things first, though: art school? Doesn’t that conjure up images of poseurs, hipsters and general pretentious numpties? “It does,” laughs the amiable Neff. “I mean, we did meet there and there’s no getting away from that. But
it has its benefits; if you have a vision of something, you can actually develop it quite easily. Dave did the album artwork and the videos for [singles] ‘Wor’ and ‘Default’, for example. And I suppose you can lead people in on the back of the catchy songs, but then warp their perception of what it is. We like writing good, catchy songs, but we’ve all got our own interests in terms of reading different books, or whatever.” He has a point: Django Django embodies everything that’s great about modern pop-laced music. It’s loaded with hooks twice as catchy as the ebola virus, but has a dark, indecipherable underbelly that keeps you scratching your head and going back for more. For an album that was recorded almost entirely in Maclean’s bedroom – and later mixed by Dan Carey – it’s a remarkable-sounding collection of diverse songs and styles. French label Because Music (home to acts like Justice, Uffie and Manu Chao) thought so too, signing the band after “a lot of conversations”. Having already generated serious buzz in 2009 with the ‘Storm/Love’s Dart’ double A-side, the Parisbased label told them to simply keep doing what they were doing when it came to the album. “We went with them because they’ve got a range of stuff at different kinds of levels of commerciality, but they give every artist 100% support,” says Neff.
“We felt that instead of going into a label that has a sweep of bands who all sound the same, they would be more supportive of us. A big label might have said, ‘We’ve got a big-name producer and we want you to come and work with him’.” Another label may also have taken the lazy route by marketing the foursome as ‘the new Beta Band’. Comparisons with the folktronica outfit have dogged Django Django since their inception – a detail not helped by the fact that drummer Maclean is Beta Band DJ/keyboardist John Maclean’s brother. Yet while their early releases certainly drew parallels with the noodly scuffles of songs like ‘To You Alone’, Django Django suggests an urgency, sharpness and a reliance on driving rhythms that Steve Mason and co. were happy to overlook. “I remember when we released ‘Jumpforms’, a b-side to ‘Waveforms’ – it’s like this kind of weird acid house track that builds – we had loads of comments saying, ‘Oh, this is so Beta Band’. It’s like, ‘When did The Beta Band do an acid house track?!’,” laughs Neff good-naturedly. “When you start releasing stuff and moving out into the public domain more, you just have to accept what people go with. They either think that or they don’t. We’ve just gotta keep striving hard to stay ourselves.” Lauren Murphy
From Melbourne via Bruges, Wally de Backer aka Gotye is responsible for the YouTube hit of the year so far, as the video for his single ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ passes 55 million views on YouTube, with a UK and Ireland album release still to come. But how did this oddly monikered Aussie become such hot property? Words by Chris Jones
MTV might now be more keen to show us a spoilt brat’s 16th birthday party than an arresting video clip, but thanks to YouTube and social media, music videos still have the power to change lives. Just ask Wally de Backer. Long a favourite in his native Australia, the musician otherwise known as Gotye (pronounced like Jean-Paul Gaultier – go-tee-yay) has come to global recognition on the back of the unforgettable video for ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’, from his third album Making Mirrors. The video, which stars de Backer and guest vocalist Kimbra naked, covered in body paint and dramatically picking over the bones of a failed relationship, was uploaded to YouTube last July and – at the time of going to press – it had just surpassed 55 million views, with about a million currently being added every day. What’s more, an ingenious cover version by the obscure Canadian band Walk Off The Earth was fast approaching 40 million views within three weeks of appearing on YouTube. All this for a song by an artist who was relatively unknown outside Australia until just a few weeks ago. The viral success has been perfectly timed, as Making Mirrors is finally released in the UK and Ireland this month, with a European tour (sadly not stopping on our shores) to coincide with it. After spending the latter part of 2011 scooping up awards in Australia, it’s fair to assume that 2012 will be just as busy elsewhere in the world, and de Backer acknowledges that the ‘Somebody…’ video and its social media-propelled contagion have been “instrumental” in his success so far. But the song’s success was not without difficulty, and in fact it’s a wonder it ever got written. “It took a long time to get it over the line and I was thinking I might have to give it away,” de Backer admits from his home in Melbourne. The key moment in the song comes when female vocalist Kimbra appears halfway through, challenging de Backer’s version of events and berating him for “screwing her over”. “Finding Kimbra really helped finished the song off but there was a time where I thought I wouldn’t find the right female vocalist to bring the right level of edge or angst and make the turnaround in the middle of the song be a surprise moment and a real centrepiece of the tune. But when I heard the final mix after five months of going back and forth, I thought, ‘Yeah, there’s a spark in this song and it’ll catch some people’.” It’s done that alright. De Backer says that it “just gets away with being a pop song”, and he’s right – it’s acidic enough for the indie kids, and poppy enough for mainstream radio, and coupled with that video it’s become a monster hit – number one in four countries. Gotye is a genuine star in Australia – he launched Making Mirrors with two gigs at Sydney Opera House, and ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ spent eight weeks at number one. “I didn’t listen to it and go, ‘That’s it! That’s my first number one, my breakthrough song’,” de Backer admits. “I was surprised. It keeps getting curiouser and curiouser, and sometimes I feel like a bystander, observing things happening with my career and my music. Like, ‘Wow, who would have thought that would happen when I wrote that tune?’.” The fact that Belgium and Holland have been the first countries outside Australia and New Zealand to fall under Gotye’s charms is explained by his background. As his unusual name suggests, de Backer was born in Belgium, but moved to Australia aged two with his parents, who were driven both by “a sense of adventure” and, believe it or not, their concerns over nuclear proliferation in
Cold War Europe. Therefore, Belgium tends to claim him as one of their own. “Australia is my home and English feels like my one main language, but I’m lucky that I learnt Flemish at the same time when I was growing up, so I can still speak it pretty well. My relationship with Belgium is one of this slightly magical place on the other side of the world that I have a lot of childhood memories from, because I went back every year until I was 18. So I have this strong relationship but one that maybe still feels mysterious or ‘other’. I’m definitely part-Belgian, but I don’t feel like, ‘Ah, I’m home again’ when I’m there.” When we speak to Wally, he’s having a well-deserved January break at the height of the Australian summer – a chance to take a breather before the inevitable madness of 2012 takes hold. But it’s telling that he’s taking time out of that break to speak to journalists on the other side of the world – it’s a portent for what’s to come, and while he is nothing but a charming interviewee, you sense a touch of frustration that his creative juices are being stemmed. “There are times where I go, ‘I really just want to make records and be free to explore all the different directions I want to go’,” he admits. “I’d put out more records if I wasn’t as busy doing promo and following up on the release. But I guess it’s all a function of the fact it’s going really well, so I have nothing to complain about there.” And while de Backer might not especially relish the prospect of spending most of the next year jetting around the world to promote an album that has was released almost six months ago, it’s no less than Making Mirrors deserves. Its grown-up art-pop references the greats – Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Fleetwood Mac, classic Motown – but it’s far from a pale imitation of them. The sense of adventure that took de Backer’s parents to the other side of the world was obviously instilled in him too, and you can hear it in the music. Strip down a Gotye song to its base elements and it’s simply well-crafted pop music. But his songs are painstakingly constructed from obscure samples, odd instruments and field recordings. It’s a fascinating collision of classic songwriting and an insatiable appetite for new and interesting sounds. “I was just reading this great book by Simon Reynolds where he talked about the ‘incredibly accessible permanent now’,” he says. “The whole history of music is potentially accessible. There’s a multiplicity of options, and none of them are necessarily more authentic for me, so you feel inevitably compelled to keep it interesting for yourself by exploring as much as you can. On one level for me, it’s pure sound exploration – I just try to find sounds that I think are idiosyncratic or they warm the cockles of my heart for whatever whimsical reason that is. Whether it’s the Cotillion organ that I write the song ‘State Of The Art’ about – most of the sounds on that track are featured from there – or finding that fence in the Australian outback in winter and sampling that and turning it into a bassline [on ‘Eyes Wide Open’]. I like the story related to it, I like the experience, I like the fact that those sounds feel more personal to me than, say, sitting in my bedroom and buying virtual instruments from professional engineers.” If Gotye keeps channelling that sonic adventure into pop songs as irresistible as those found on Making Mirrors, continued success is all but guaranteed. Making Mirrors is out on February 13 via Communion/Island Records www.gotye.com
T h e S w e e t S o u n d O f S u c c e ss
M i c h a e l K i wa n u k a If you haven’t yet heard Michael Kiwanuka sing, you soon will do. Having just topped the BBC’s Sound Of 2012 list, his gorgeous folk-soul looks set to soundtrack our lives. AU catches up with the man who could well bring a classic sound to a new generation. Words by John Freeman
It’s Monday morning and Michael Kiwanuka is back at work after a weekend of celebration. Three days earlier, the singer-songwriter found out he’d won the prestigious BBC Sound Of 2012 list, and after marking his victory by having a “quiet drink with a few friends”, he is glad to be back in an East London rehearsal studio. The BBC gong has previously been won by a mixedbag of musicians. While Adele and 50 Cent went on to become bona fide global stars, both Little Boots and The Bravery are more notable for their lack of commercial success. While some cynical observers have sneeringly suggested that Kiwanuka’s old-school soul is more the Sound Of 1972, the man himself seems reassuringly level-headed about the award. “Obviously, I have been aware of the list in the years previously, but never paid full attention as to how good it could be and what a platform it could be for your music,” he tells AU. “I’d love more people to hear my music – that is the dream, of course.”
And does winning bring an added pressure of expectation? “Not so much, because I always set out to try and make good music and not necessarily sell millions of records.” But, for now, Kiwanuka is back at work. His rehearsal space has an adjoining posh café and AU has nobly consumed an enormous fried breakfast, as sustenance is the key to a good interview. At the studio’s reception desk we ask for Michael, mumbling his surname. We’ve been practising for days. We get it wrong. And, according to a busylooking whiteboard, Diana Vickers is rehearsing in a room above us, but, alas, we never get to hear her cutie-pie tones. Michael Kiwanuka’s ‘office’ is a cosy and compact. We recline on a leather couch, surrounded by the hotchpotch of instruments that make up the 24-year-old’s live set. There is a sitar, a Nord keyboard, a pair of bongos and a tired-looking Paul Butler – of indie rock outfit The Bees – who
is hunched over a Blackberry. The pair collaborated on Kiwanuka’s first two EPs (last year’s Tell Me A Tale and I’m Getting Ready) and developed the warm analogue sound that bathes Kiwanuka’s stellar voice. “Paul has been tremendously influential in the sound we are getting,” Kiwanuka reveals. “We had to find out how to get the best out of me in the studio and I had to find out how to get the best out of Paul. We discovered some common ground and that began in January of last year. In the sessions that followed, we realised the sound of the record we wanted to make. It grew from there – we did ‘Tell Me A Tale’ and pretty much continued in that vein.” Born to Ugandan parents, who had made a life in North London after fleeing the tyranny of Idi Amin’s regime, Michael Kiwanuka’s introduction to the world of music was delayed by mortal damage to the family’s record player. “We broke it when I was quite young so there was no real music in the house. But
my mum bought me a harmonica when I was about five. I like playing it, but never listened to records.” The idea of a ‘silent’ household is a curious one, although Michael reveals that “a singer and a voice” have always been favourites for the Kiwanukas. “My dad is into crooners like Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Sammy Davis Jr. and Nina Simone – Sinatra is favourite singer. My mum is into Neil Diamond and John Lennon as that music travelled across to Uganda. But I didn’t hear any of that until I was a teenager.” This lack of exposure may have benefited the young Michael. His childhood tastes were not dogmatised by any particular genre, thus shaping his philosophy. “Music is just music,” he states, matter-of-factly. “Maybe the lack of a record player was a lucky thing when I look back. If it sounded good, I liked it. I think that has helped. People find it strange that I listen to a lot of older music but at the time it wasn’t old to me.”
Another significant moment in Kiwanuka’s musical education was when he first heard the Otis Redding track ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay’, which he’d found on a promotional CD stuck to a music magazine. “I’d never heard soul music before,” he reveals, recalling his epiphany. “I liked the singing and the feeling of it. That particular Otis Redding track, which is a great song, was almost like a fly-on-the-wall experience of how music was recorded. It felt very intimate and I liked that.” Intimacy seems key to Kiwanuka’s musical DNA. When he did finally immerse himself, his ear took him hopping across genres like a buoyant bunny. He would listen to Nirvana, folk and Marvin Gaye and didn’t compartmentalise any one particular style. “I was always interested in intimate songs,” he says. “When I started buying CDs I had a Green Day album and kept listening to ‘Time Of Your Life’, an acoustic song. No one told me it was good. I just picked that independently. I wanted
to sing songs that felt like they had more feeling in them. Eventually, when I heard ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay’ it was ultimately the same thing. Okay, it was soul and Otis was a black guy on Stax, but to me there was no difference. It’s just music. So, the whole ‘you used to like rock, how come you like soul now?’ thing, I didn’t get. I just liked music.” True to his word, Michael Kiwanuka’s music is very intimate. The production is inviting, rich and ‘lived-in’. His blend of soul, folk and hints of African exotica allow his voice to take centre stage. Likened to a holy trinity of Redding, Al Green and Bill Withers, Kiwanuka charts his singing style back to hearing Otis on that freebie CD. “I liked how he pronounced the words and how it flowed. He would pull certain words back or he would not be completely on the beat, so he may be slightly behind or ahead, and it allowed a lot more emotion to come through. That influenced the style of how I sing, really. I tried to copy it.”
M i c h a e l K
K i w a n u k a
“I was always interested in intimate songs. When I started buying CDs, I had a Green Day album and kept listening to ‘Time Of Your Life’.” After several years spent as a session musician, Kiwanuka met Paul Butler and the resultant Isle Of Wight recording sessions honed the vibe. After releasing his initial EPs on the Mumford and Sonsaffiliated Communion label, Kiwanuka snagged a support slot with the all-conquering Adele. “It was a realisation of what can happen if your music reaches that many people,” Michael says when he reflects back on the tour. “Her set looked great, she got the sound she wanted on stage and she got to work with the musicians she wanted. It becomes a privilege to play music.” Adele seems like a pretty down-to-earth sort, despite her phenomenal success. She also allegedly likes a drink. We ask Michael for some gossip. “Well, there was one night when we all hung out on someone’s birthday. There was a lot of champagne, that’s as far as I will go.” He’s being a gentleman. We interrogate him as to whether Adele drank him under the table or not. “She’s lovely.” So, she did then? “She was very good. Yes, she is very nice. Ha ha.” Kiwanuka changes the subject – his album is about to be mixed and he’s hugely excited by the prospect of hearing the finished version. We enquire as to how it is shaping up. “Well, there are a lot of soul influences and a lot of instruments – as you can see from the sitars and keyboards. It is very rich in sound; there is a lot of groove stuff mixed with intimate folk. Basically, I have tried to show everyone what I am about as much as I could in one album.” In person, Michael is friendly and self-assured. Today he’s dressed in a preppy beige ensemble, and laughs at the grief he got on Twitter about a jumper he wore for his performance on Later... with Jools Holland (“half the tweets were about it”). A connection with his audience is critical to him, and his honesty and emotional transparency are sure to win over even the most reluctant crowd. “There is this one song I want to get ready, but I thought the first line was too intense. But all my favourite songwriters didn’t edit themselves. So, I am just going to go for it, as that what makes the song.” There is a real sense of excitement that buzzes around Michael Kiwanuka. He is humble, polite and grounded and eager to “get the year rolling”. Success seems within touching distance, as opportunities stack up. It’s hard to believe that his brand of soul would not succeed in America. “My sound is very influenced by their music,” he admits. “I’m hoping it does well there because it is a place that I want to spend a lot of time playing and making music.” But, like any artist who has attained even the modicum of success, Kiwanuka has come in for some criticism. Learned wags have complained that the BBC choice was ‘too safe’ and that his music is merely
Glance AT A
An AU guide to the music icons that have influenced Michael Kiwanuka. Otis Redding – The legendary soul singer, whose open-throated singing style became copied ad nauseam, died in a plane crash aged just 33. Kiwanuka had a life-changing moment on hearing Redding’s most famous song, ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay’. Bill Withers – The velvet-voiced Withers had his first hit at the veritable age of 32. It was called ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’. You will know the song. Kiwanuka cites Withers’ 1973 album Live At Carnegie Hall as one of his “favourite ever” records. Marvin Gaye – One of the greatest singers of all time, the Prince of Soul released classic albums (check out 1971’s What’s Going On) and unforgettable songs like ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’. Aged just 44, Gaye was shot dead by his father - a tragedy on a billion different levels. Kiwanuka had initially tried to impersonate Gaye’s singing style but “couldn’t reach Marvin’s high notes.” Terry Callier – the jazz/soul guitarist was a childhood friend of Curtis Mayfield, started out in doo-wop groups in Chicago before becoming hugely influenced by jazz saxophone god John Coltrane. Callier’s music would blur genres, so much so that his work was covered by psychedelic rock freaks H.P. Lovecraft. Callier is a man who knows no boundaries. Bob Dylan – Although we are quite sure that Kiwanuka was not influenced by Bobby D’s nasal, vacuum cleaner-sounding whine, the young Michael was bowled over by Dylan’s extraordinary lyricism and the intimate power of his Woody Guthrie-inspired folk songs. Kurt Cobain – Kiwanuka picked up on Nirvana as a teenager and became deeply enamored with Kurt Cobain’s raw, emotional clout. Another of Michael’s favourite albums is their 1996 release, From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah.
Live stand - up
We ask Michael whether he has any other bugbears in the way he has been portrayed in his early press. And while he may not have had the frothing frenzy of opinion that, say, Lana Del Rey has had to contend with, he does have one small annoyance. “The only thing that is slightly frustrating is there are a lot of Bill Withers questions,” he tells us. “Obviously I play one of his songs in my set, but he is not the only singer I like. But, even if I do get asked about Bill Withers, he is amazing, so I can’t really moan.” We sincerely hope that Michael doesn’t see us furtively scribbling over our question about a certain William Withers esquire. Like most musicians, Kiwanuka is already thinking about his next project. “It would be a continuation of
this, but a lot more guitar,” he reveals when asked about album number two. “Guitar was my first instrument before singing and I’ve been listening to a lot of chilled-out Hendrix. There will be bits of that.” So, having recently signed to the mighty Polydor label, and about to undertake a sold-out UK and Irish tour, it would seem that 2012 is shaping up nicely for Michael Kiwanuka. We ask how he would define a successful year. There is a pause as he considers his options. “A successful tour with good shows that people liked and with songs that bring something extra to the album. An album that translates worldwide, so plays to people in Australia, America and even Africa. It would be a bonus if it charted well and sold well, but we have no control over that.” Having spent an hour with the man, we predict that the sweet sound of Michael Kiwanuka will be a huge hit in 2012. Home Again is out on March 12 via Polydor Records. He plays at Belfast’s Stiff Kitten on Feb 10, Dublin’s Sugar Club on Feb 11 & at Cork’s Cypress Avenue on Feb 12.
8pm • £8/7
EVERY FRIDAY 9pm • £6
The Ultimate 70’s Glam Rock Night with BALLROOM BLITZ or STARDUST
SAT 4 FEB
8.30pm • £8
WITH DJ STUART ROBINSON
james huish & the michael buble band
8th Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival
SUN 18 DEC 7.30pm • £13.50
THUR 16 FEB
8th Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival
WED 22 FEB
8.30pm • £26.50
JOHN OATES TRIO PLUS THOM SOUTHERN
8pm • £20
8th Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival
THUR 23 FEB
BAPPLUS KENNEDY ERROL WALSH
8th Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival
a modern re-packaging of the old soul legends. For once, and only slightly, Kiwanuka visibly bristles. “When The Strokes came out that was the new hip thing but that was exactly the same as Velvet Underground and all those other bands. That means it is just music. Kids just think it sounds really good and buy it. And everyone bought old-style Converse shoes. My album is not old music, because it is me doing it. I do feel people should see that.”
9pm • £15
Wine, Women & Song THE HENRY GIRLS PLUS ALLIE BRADLEY
8th Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival
8th Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival
Nanci Griffith MATT MCGINN & RIA MAGUIRE IN THE ROUND
8th Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival
FRI 24 FEB 6pm • £10
FRI 24 FEB 9.30pm • £20
SAT 25 FEB 5pm • £20
Clint Black, Bob DiPiero 25 FEB & Bill Anderson In the Round 9pm • £20
CASHIER NO. 9 THE BON JOVI EXPERIENCE booKiNG iNfo
TICkETS: EMpIRE BAR, All TICkETMASTER oUTlETS, TICkETMASTER.IE & 24 HR BookINg 0844 277 4455
BoTANIC AVENUE BElFAST T: 028 9024 9276
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SPLIT DECISION How the Scottish independence debate could affect Northern Ireland An Australian man stands atop a hill, his face painted blue. Reaching his sword arm into the air, he opens his mouth and bellows, “FREEEDOM!” to the assembled throng, who go battle crazy in response. The man is Mel Gibson, and whilst he might not have intended to, he is at least partially responsible for kickstarting the drive for Scottish independence with his 1995 film Braveheart, a dream that could become a reality in the near future. But is this something the Scottish people actually want, and what will it mean for Northern Ireland, a country that has a sad history of putting its proverbial money where its mouth is when it comes to this thorny issue. Words by Steven Rainey Illustration by Rebecca Hendin With its broad strokes of English oppression, and Scottish underdog heroism, Braveheart was a huge hit in Scotland, with the ultimate beneficiary being the Scottish National Party, who saw their popularity swell to unprecedented heights in the following years. After a 1997 referendum, Tony Blair’s Labour government established a Scottish parliament, which had its first session in 1999, the year I first moved there from Northern Ireland. After decades of struggle, the Scottish nationalism had scored a massive blow against their ‘oppressors’, largely thanks to a historically inaccurate portrayal of a historical figure by an Australian. Such is the power of cinema. However, whilst the subsequent years have seen further successes for the nationalists, including having the executive re-branded as the ‘Scottish Government’, and SNP leader Alex Salmond being elected the first minister of Scotland, it’s doubtful as to whether anyone even seriously
“I think Scotland will go for ‘devo-max’ and that this could be the most unsettling outcome for the rest of the union,” says journalist and political commentator Malachi O’Doherty. “It will establish a marked contrast between the powers devolved to Scotland and those devolved to Wales and Northern Ireland, generating a very strong demand from other countries in the union for similar powers.” Devolution max is a potential outcome which could result for increased power to the Scottish government, leaving only defence, foreign policy and financial responsibility to Westminster. In a sense, this is the outcome that the UK government fears the most, as it’s the ‘safe’ option for those people in Scotland who support independence in theory, but are frightened to go the whole distance. If devo-max is put on the agenda, it is likely to split the unionist vote, as well as attracting more people to the notion of de-facto independence, without the political consequences.
Malachi O’Doherty thinks that priorities in Stormont are likely to change, regardless of the outcome. “I think there is a potential for Northern Ireland to feel weak and excluded inside the union with minimal powers and there will be a passion among local politicians to correct that. In the less likely scenario of Scotland getting full independence, Northern Ireland Unionists might feel a need to huddle closer to England and Wales for fear of generating an expectation that they will be the next to go. This could, paradoxically, be an easier situation for them to deal with.” So, even if Scotland remains a part of the UK, but with further devolved power, Unionists are likely to take their part in the union even more seriously, perhaps dominating their political agenda. For nationalists, whilst the question of Northern Irish independence won’t be on the agenda, there will be a drive to push for further devolution of government in
“Scotland gets independence and the Unionists will snuggle into the English armpit. Scotland gets devo-max and we will want it too,” Malachi O’Doherty considered the notion of Scotland becoming an independent nation. It just seemed like an idealistic notion that would never actually come to pass. The SNP proposed a referendum on the topic in 2010, a bill which faced opposition from the other major parties in the Scottish Parliament. However, UK prime minister David Cameron has got the ball rolling again by announcing interest in a UK-led referendum, something seen by nationalists as an attempt to control any possibility of independence. At the moment, it’s looking likely that Autumn 2014 will be the time that this difficult situation will finally be decided, whatever the outcome. But in Northern Ireland, a country that has much more deeply rooted divisions than Scotland, as well as its own take on the state of the union, what will the outcome mean? For irrespective of whether Scotland remains part of the union or not, the very fact that the question has been asked will have consequences for Northern Ireland. If Scotland’s day of reckoning is close at hand, there’s every possibility that it could kick-start a similar movement in Northern Ireland, with significant consequences.
For Northern Ireland, it will throw the position of our own government into harsh relief. Writing on the BBC website, Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport says, “Question marks about the future of the justice department notwithstanding, the current settlement at Stormont feels relatively stable. But it remains a complex compromise, far from immune from developments elsewhere or shifts in demography closer to home. More prosaically, even if the Scottish people don’t opt to break up the union, this debate could still impinge on Stormont’s priorities. Will local ministers be able to isolate their arguments about devolving local corporation tax from the tug of war between London and Edinburgh over the notion of fiscal autonomy?” In essence, the very question of Scottish independence will cause politicians in Northern Ireland to start asking very different questions than what they’re known for at the moment. After all, if Scotland can shout loud enough and be given the possibility of independence, then why can’t we? Is the notion that Scotland can have greater autonomy and legislative powers than Northern Ireland unconstitutional?
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Northern Ireland, as well as potentially strengthening links with the Irish Republic. After over 10 years of tenuous stability in Northern Ireland’s executive, this most divisive issue is likely to rear its head again. Once more, Northern Ireland will be forced to look at itself and work out if it is British or Irish. “Scotland gets independence and the Unionists will snuggle into the English armpit. Scotland gets devomax and we will want it too,” explains O’Doherty. Personally, I don’t think Scotland will vote to become an independent nation when the question is put to them. Even if the option of devo-max isn’t offered to them, the support for the union is too strong to lead to full independence. Having spent a large part of my life in Scotland, the question of what happens next is very close to my heart. Having witnessed the manifestation of Scottish nationalism first-hand, the notion of ‘freedom’ from the English is rarely too far beneath the surface, even otherwise mild mannered people becoming quick to anger when pressed on the subject. But – crucially – it always seemed that the anger, or passion, was the important thing, rather than the outcome. Put simply, for Scotland, the
The View From Scotland Whilst there are many potential consequences for Northern Ireland, the people of Scotland are facing a more definite situation, taking a good look at what the realities of independence could be. Michael MacLennan is a columnist and producer for www.stv.tv and the debate has stirred his notions of exactly what it is to be in favour of Scottish nationalism after a long period of simply paying lip-service to the idea. I’ve always felt Scottish. When I learned a little about politics in school I favoured independence – not because of any hatred for the English or any other countries within the UK, but merely because as a distinct nation it seemed to make sense that we made our own decisions within the broader framework of the EU. Any appetite for political debate was extinguished once I reached university, when I realised that – rather than employing reasoned debate – the main political battleground seemed to comprise stubborn morons who would never back down from their viewpoint even once they themselves realised that they might be on the wrong side of the argument. So any hunger for independence pretty disappeared, with me becoming about as inclined to assume a strong line on the issue as I was to watch all the movies of Rob Schneider in a row to finally decide which is his greatest work. But somehow over the past few years the fire has been reignited. There’s that whole Con-Dem coalition, meaning that the rule of Westminster feels less appropriate than it has in a long, long time. Each time David Cameron mulls over the purchase of an expensive yacht for the Queen, or ponders cutting benefits for the disabled, you can almost feel another few Scots in your immediate vicinity thinking ‘Ah, bugger it’ and pinning their colours to the independence mast. The momentum is all with the SNP, and with a couple of years until any independence vote it seems like the main weapon at their opposition’s disposal will be to use scare tactics. But by that point will we be worn out by those down south trying to dictate the terms of the vote, patronisingly telling us how lucky we are, etc? The best thing would be to have a strong pro-union leader for the vote very much based in Scotland (I’d plump for Charles Kennedy, were he willing to put his neck on the line.) If not, then I’d bet on things going Salmond’s way. For the rest of the UK, I don’t see how such celebrations could fail to influence pro-independence opinion in the other countries (including England). Either way, you can be pretty certain that anyone will be welcome to come across and join the party, at least while supplies of whisky remain strong.
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond road to independence is much more important than the destination. A large part of Scottish culture is drawn from notions of cultural oppression, and this anger is what drives the country on, propelling it to greater heights. To actually be given independence could be the poison that finally withers the flower of Scotland. Regardless of the crippling economic and political problems the new nation would face, Scotland will lose a vital part of itself in the trade-off. In Northern Ireland, it seems likely that there will be a different story. As dissident republicans are blamed for bombings in Derry, it’s a harsh reminder of just how far people in this country are prepared to go in their search for national identity. With Tom Elliott, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, declaring Alex Salmond to be a bigger threat to the union than the IRA, it seems as if a political powder keg is about to be relit. Speaking on the BBC’s Inside Politics programme about Scotland’s independence and the issue of devo-max and its implications for Northern Ireland, DUP First Minister Peter Robinson addressed the prospect of a change in the union by saying, “Unquestionably there will be massive repercussions for the whole of the United Kingdom should Scotland decide to leave the United Kingdom.” Speaking with specific reference to the issue of corporation tax in Northern Ireland, Robinson highlighted the ways in which the referendum question will work its way into the heart of the majority of issues our government face.
“We are coming out of a long period of conflict, we share a land mass with a country that has a much more attractive level of corporation tax. So from that point of view we have a separate case to argue. But if there is an overall issue about the powers that are devolved to the various institutions around the United Kingdom, then there is the issue that it gets mixed up in that and slowed down.” So, regardless of whether Scotland gains independence or simply settles for devo-max, it brings the very nature of the Northern Irish executive into question. Ultimately it all points to difficult questions being faced in the near future, both for Scotland and Northern Ireland. Wales and England will have their own problems to face, but it seems likely that devolution and independence will dominate our political and cultural landscape for a long time. In a country where you can have two different passports, and the place names vary depending on your background, cultural identity is – once again – a potentially explosive issue. I moved back to Northern Ireland in 2006, finally having tired of Scotland. The political and cultural landscape here was very different to what I had left in the Nineties, and there was a genuine air of positivity running through most things. This is at threat from the notion of Scottish independence. As the old hatreds stand a chance of being stirred up again with renewed vigour, perhaps the prospect of emigrating to a newly independent Scotland could be a realistic possibility.
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A to Z of Animals As the old Christian hymn has it: “All things bright and beautiful / All creatures great and small / All things wise and wonderful / The Lord God made them all.” Perhaps that’s true, although Charles Darwin might have a word or two to say about it. In any case, if God really did make all creatures, then the man upstairs certainly has quite an active imagination, for the animal kingdom is truly a weird and wonderful place, with beasts of every imaginable shape, size and colour roaming our planet. Best of all, since we’re at the top of the food chain, we get to eat as many of them as we please. Even if that means hunting them till they’re all dead. Hooray for humans! Words by Neill Dougan Illustration by Mark Reihill
is for Aardvark
Much like a human under the influence of cannabis, the aardvark (or the anteater if you will) is only really interested in food, and has been recorded eating as many as 50,000 insects in a night. That’s a proper case of the munchies right there.
is for Bear
Not only do bears come in various colours, sizes and degrees of ferocity. They’re also the ‘go-to’ animal of choice for indie bands in search of a name: Grizzly Bear, Panda Bear, Polar Bear, and er, Solar Bears have all taken the ursine approach to nomenclature. So too have Brooklyn electro-rockers Bear In Heaven, although as names go that one’s a bit daft. Everyone knows bears go to hell when they die.
is for Cat
Here’s a fun fact for you, kids. Why does the female cat make that hideous yowling noise during mating? Well, it’s simply because the male cat’s penis features over one hundred sharp, backwardpointing spines, ensuring that – upon withdrawal – he actually rips the walls of the female’s... well, you get the picture. Just think about that next time your precious little Felix hops purring onto your lap looking for a stroke. Vicious wee bastard.
is for Dog
Mark E Smith, oft-quoted (in this column) frontman of The Fall, is famously no fan of dogs, complaining in the song ‘Dog Is Life/Jerusalem’: “You don’t see rabbits being walked down the street / And you don’t see many cats on leads.” Yes, but those animals are boring, Mark. Say what you like about dogs (they’re stupid. They crap everywhere. They sniff the bums of other dogs. They think chasing a stick is amazing), but at least they’re a bit of fun.
is for Extinction
At an ever-increasing rate, various species are being wiped out of existence – and not just the silly looking ones either (we’re looking at you, the dodo!). A
number of factors may be behind this trend, but it’s mostly due to the influence of the most evil creature of them all: man! Although man himself will no doubt go extinct pretty soon. Fair enough.
is for Fox
Foxes have a reputation for cunning. This is largely based on their propensity for killing chickens, which to be honest is hardly the most taxing endeavour imaginable. A more accurate gauge of their supposed craftiness is surely the fact that they’re regularly seen squashed by the side of the road, having failed to even correctly implement the Green Cross Code. So not that cunning really.
is FOR Goldfish
A popular if somewhat pointless pet, the goldfish is a small member of the carp family that (despite its name) comes in a variety of colours and is said to possess a notoriously short memory of around three seconds. It is also said to possess a notoriously short memory of around three seconds. Arf!
is for Hippopotamus
The comical appearance of the hippo – rotund, lumbering, on the plump side – belies the fact that it’s actually one of the most aggressive creatures in the world and would crush your puny skull like a peanut, given half a chance. Brilliantly, the plural of hippopotamus is ‘hippopotami’. Really. We googled it.
is for Insect
If, like AU, you find ants, moths, flies and other bugs somewhat creepy, you’ll want to avoid the likes of the giant weta (a huge grasshopper-type beastie that can weigh over 70g), the goliath beetle (a massive beetle larger than the palm of your hand) and the giant isopod (a monstrous version of the woodlouse). Look up some pics of these bad boys if you dare. Prepare to shudder.
bejaysus out of many an innocent swimmer each year at the beach. If you’re particularly unlucky you’ll run into the box jellyfish, the sting of which can be fatal. And no amount of peeing on the sting will fix that.
is for Jellyfish
Weird, alien-looking floaty things that sting the
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is for Kangaroo
This famous marsupial is noted for its aggression and will start a fight with a rival at the drop of a hat, whether it be over a desirous female or even a drinking spot. Hang on, are we talking about kangaroos or just Australians in general?
is for Lion
Popular Sixties doo-wop hit ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ was appropriately titled, for the so-called ‘King of the Jungle’ is actually an indolent slob, happy to let the lionesses in his pride do all the work (hunting, raising cubs, etc) while he relaxes, looking all cool in the shade with his fancy mane, occasionally working up sufficient energy to procreate. How we envy him.
is for Mythical Animals
As if real animals weren’t strange enough, man has traditionally enjoyed inventing imaginary beasts such as dragons (big fire-breathing lizards), griffins (body of a lion, head and wings of an eagle) and minotaurs (head of a bull, body of a man). The reason for these tall tales? Why, to scare the crap out of our children, of course. That’s what really separates us from the animals.
is for Natterjack Toad
The amusingly-named natterjack toad is the only species of toad native to Ireland, fact fans. Toads get a bad rap. Just because they’re ugly as sin, a myth has developed that touching them gives you warts. That’s clearly a lie. What is true, however, is that if you’re caught touching a toad people might not want to hang around with you so much. So do your toad-touching in private, if you don’t mind.
is for Orang-utan
Orang-utans, a species of great ape, are one of the most intelligent primates and, if the Clint Eastwood film Every Which Way But Loose is anything to go by, enjoy cold beer, country music and bareknuckle boxing.
is for Penguin
The most hen-pecked of all animals, the male Emperor Penguin is left to guard his partner’s egg for months at a time, in sub-zero Arctic conditions, while the missus is off gallivanting. A boys’ night out is what he needs, and no mistake.
is for Quail
Now, AU can’t claim to know much about the humble quail. But we do know that they are delicious with rosemary jus and sage potatoes. Mmmm.
is for Rabbit
Rabbits are pretty cute, eh? With their big floppy ears and the adorable way they hop around, and.... Ugh! What on earth is wrong with its eyes! That is horrific! Myxomatosis, you say? Well. That’s quite something. Excuse me a moment while I vomit profusely, would you?
is for Sloth
The sloth, god bless him, is a famously lazy creature, moving only when it is absolutely necessary and sleeping for up to 18 hours a day. Much like the average university student, in other words.
is for Tasmanian Devil
The Looney Tunes character Taz was a vicious creature with a voracious appetite, and in this respect was a true-to-life representation of the Tasmanian devil which, like its cartoon counterpart, enjoys screeching loudly and is a ferocious eater. Tasmanian devils also sometimes defecate communally. You don’t see that bit in the cartoons, though.
is for Urchin
The hedgehog of the sea, the urchin is a globular creature covered by dozens of sharp spines to deter predators. What does he think, the humble sea urchin, as he shuffles along the ocean floor? We don’t know. But we reckon he thinks about how he can never get close to anyone. Y’know, cos he’d stab them. Poor fella.
is for Viper
Venomous snake found throughout the world (except Ireland – thanks St Patrick). Studies have shown that the viper can make decisions on how much poison to deliver through its hollow fangs, depending on the circumstances. So it’s best to pay it a compliment, eg “Aren’t you a handsome devil,” or similar, even as its rapier-like teeth pierce your flesh. Definitely don’t try and punch it or whatever.
is for Walrus
“I am the Eggman,” sang John Lennon on popular Beatles track ‘I Am The Walrus’, “They are the Eggmen / I am the Walrus / Goo goo g’joob.” He might also have added: “I am whacked out of it on
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loads of acid”. Although, to be honest, that much was already pretty obvious.
is for Xenopus Frog
Spare a thought for the poor xenopus frog, which is often used in laboratory experiments (indeed in Hebrew its name literally means ‘medical frog’). Yep, this is the hapless bugger you dissected in your biology class. Hope you’re proud of yourself.
is for Yak
Basically a hairy Tibetan cow, the yak is known as one of the smelliest animals, as – due to its long, thick coat – urine and faecal odour tends to, um, linger. So more of an ‘outdoor’ pet, really.
is for Zoo
“What’s wrong with a zoo?” sang hirsute Kentucky troubadour Will Oldham in his song of the same name, “What’s wrong with a zoo? / What’s wrong with a zoo?” Nothing, Will. There’s nothing wrong with a zoo. It’s just a place where animals sometimes live. Now, please, stop asking. It’s getting a bit annoying.
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Founder of Chic, producer of Bowie, Madonna and Diana Ross and now the author of one of the best autobiographies ever written by a musician: Nile Rodgers speaks to AU. Words by Chris Jones In his astonishing book and in conversation, Nile Rodgers is at pains to emphasise that he’s a normal guy, even going so far as to say, “I’m not famous”. But paradoxically, given that he has spent the last 40 years recording and playing with the biggest stars in popular music, perhaps he isn’t – at least not compared to some of the people he has worked with: Madonna, David Bowie, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson… But Rodgers is a man who is rightly proud of his accomplishments – and especially his many “hit records”, the slightly quaint term he is fond of using – from defining the hedonistic disco era with Chic and Sister Sledge, to becoming one of the most sought-after producers of the 1980s up to his recent creative renaissance, with Chic confirmed as one of the best festival bands in the world – just ask anyone who has seen them live in the last few years. However, Rodgers’ recently released autobiography is not just extraordinary for insights like the mattress on the floor in Madonna’s grotty New York apartment, or Motown telling Diana Ross that the Chic-penned ‘Upside Down’ was going to ruin her career (hint: it
didn’t). It’s the pre-success opening act that is the most eye-opening. Raised by a teenage mother and her beatnik, junkie husband, Rodgers had to grow up fast, and his adolescence was a whirl of sex, drugs, rock and roll and – occasionally – violence. But it also lay the seed for his forays into showbiz. At one point, Thelonious Monk drops by to buy his mother’s fur coat. He ends up partying with LSD guru Timothy Leary. He jams with Hendrix. It sounds too good to be true, but as Rodgers tells me on the phone from London, not one story in the book has been challenged by any of the protagonists. And though he has suffered a well-documented (not least by himself in his blog) battle with cancer, he sounds happy and healthy, and he’s a fascinating interviewee. As he says himself, “I like to talk”… Why did you decide to write your autobiography, and why now? A friend of mine is a literary agent, and I went to a party and he cornered me – he hadn’t seen me in 13 years. He said, ‘Let’s have lunch together, I really think you should write a book’. I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding. I’m not famous. In today’s world, no-one cares about a person like me. I bet the Kardashians all have book deals, but me…’. Anyway, eventually he talked me into writing a proposal. We had hired a ghost writer and he gave
me the ghost writer’s version of chapter one and my version of chapter one. And he said, ‘Which one of these guys do you think can tell your story better?’. I decided that it was something that I needed to do, and I called my mom and interviewed her, and her story was so fascinating. I just kept going after that. People were dying around me and I wanted to know their stories. It seems strange to me that you or anyone else would dismiss your story, given the life you’ve led. Well, in America everything is all about salacious gossip. As much as you may have enjoyed my book, take me out of it and put Gaga or Madonna or Clapton or anybody else in there, and the whole story would have ramped up another 50 notches. If Madonna’s little brother was being hung out of a window while her mother was being raped, it would be incredible. Superstars, we feel closer to them, because anything that happens to a superstar seems unbelievable. But I’m just Nile. I know at least one journalist in America who said, ‘I wish you talked about making records more’, because making records with stars is more interesting to
people. People don’t care about me, let alone my family, let alone my little brother who they don’t even know. But that’s what makes it the book it is. It’s fun to read about you working with Madonna, Diana Ross and the rest but someone else could have written that. Only you could have written the really personal stuff. Well I was quite nervous, and I still am. I don’t make a record until page 110! It’s not really that kind of book. ‘Am I going to learn about how you guys EQed your guitar?’. Well, not really! Once you settled down to writing the book, what did you enjoy the most about it? The most fun part was going and meeting with archivists and the people who had the medical records from all the institutions I was in when I was a child. That was incredible. And also, I got a chance to interview my stepfather in-depth before he died, which was fantastic. I am really hoping the book does well, because I so want to do volume two. Volume two is fascinating – I went to the veterans’ hospital and so I have such great stories of my stepfather in the hospital with all the junkies and all the drug addicts. I visited their families, and it’s fascinating stuff. So many of these people were really talented and a great deal of them became famous, but
NILE AT HALLOWEEN
NILE AND HIS MOTHER BEVERLY
“I was doing a book signing and people were asking, ‘How does your mother feel about it?’. So I got her on the phone to talk to the people in the store.”
NILE WITH CHARLIE SHEEN
when I was a kid they were just people round our house. So I have amazing stories about, you know, Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin – I’m a 13-year-old kid hanging out with these guys who were huge superstars. Were there any parts you found difficult to write about? There is a lot of tragedy in there. It wasn’t difficult, because my relationship with my mom is so fantastic, but obviously the toughest part was my mom telling me stuff that I didn’t know. A lot of that stuff, I didn’t even know until the writing of the book – that she’d been with a big drug dealer, that she’d been raped by this guy that was trying to kill us. I didn’t want to believe it, because he was nice as hell to me, and I had no idea of the complicated mind game he was playing with my mom – threatening to kill us. So she finally told me and I was completely shocked. She kept that secret her whole life. She never told my stepfather, she never told any of us. So my little brother was reading the book, going: ‘I was being dangled out of the window?!’. And she was happy for it to come out in the book? She didn’t ask for it to be kept between yourselves? Oh, no. My mom is great. As a matter of fact, the day that the book hit the stores I was doing a book signing and people were asking, ‘How does your mother feel about it?’. So I got her on the phone to talk to the people in the store. I had her tell one
of the stories that we left out of the book, and the reason we left it out is because it’s so powerful, it’s really her story. My mom has had three coathanger abortions, two of which almost killed her. I was almost one of them. She fell pregnant with me the very first time she had sex, and they tried to abort me but they didn’t know what they were doing. So I just said, ‘Mom, can you tell people what it was like when you had your first coathanger abortion?’. And she said, ‘Absolutely!’. She was telling this story and the whole place was cracking up. They were laughing at her candour. It’s a terrifying story, but my mom can tell it in such a way that you can understand the pressure these 13-year-old girls were under. The fear they had of their parents. The way society would ostracise you. But when you’re a kid, you do those things. Moving on to talk about your music, you talk a lot in the book about the ‘deep hidden meaning’ that Chic songs and your productions have to have… I tell a story about Bowie, and how I was confused because by the time we cut ‘China Girl’, I was clear that we were making an album [1983’s Let’s Dance] of really good, popular music. But I also knew that it was Bowie’s type of pop. It wasn’t like a Madonna record – it was high art that was going to be highly consumable. I didn’t know what the song was about but I needed to know [the ‘deep hidden meaning’] in order to be able to do what I had to do. I knew at that time that Bowie was sober, and I had to make
NILE WITH EDDIE MURPHY
up my own deep hidden meaning because I didn’t want to ask him if it was a song about drugs. In the black community, we call heroin ‘China’ or ‘China white’, and we call cocaine ‘girl’. So I figured ‘China Girl’ was about speedballing. But I never asked him about it because I didn’t know the rules of sobriety and AA and all that kind of stuff, and I didn’t want to make him feel uncomfortable. So to me, whatever Bowie’s meaning was, I was arranging a pop song about drugs, which is why I thought I could get away with the very corny hook. If the subject matter is very dark, you can do something light – especially with an artist of the calibre of David Bowie.
like? Holy cow!’. Now I want to play in Ireland all the time – we’ve been back a couple of times since and we’re coming again in this touring season. I can’t wait. The thing that was so great about Electric Picnic for us was that it symbolised what my whole career was like. I read something that one of the pop journalists had said, who had seen the show, he said something like – and I’m paraphrasing poorly – ‘We came that day to see whatever big star was playing and then we figured we’d mosey on over to the Chic show to hear ‘Le Freak’ and ‘Good Times’. They proceeded to play an hour-and-ahalf of number one records, and then at the end they played ‘Le Freak’ and ‘Good Times’!’.
And Chic records are loaded with DHM. You and I could talk for hours about Chic songs and their meanings, from ‘Le Freak’ starting as ‘fuck off’ to Diana Ross’s ‘I’m Coming Out’, to “Halston, Gucci, Fiorucci” [lyrics from Sister Sledge’s ‘He’s The Greatest Dancer’] – for girls that never even heard of fashion designers. I am not a traditional songwriter. I think that I’m more like a designer. I figure out the problem, and I write the song for the situation.
So Chic as a touring entity are as strong as ever? You’ve had your health problems of late, but things are back on track with Chic? Obviously I make my money from royalties, but artistically, it’s my release. That’s what I want to do – I love to play guitar and sing my own songs. It’s incredible to share this with people and that they get it. And now our audiences are getting really young. We played Manchester recently [at The Warehouse Project] and the average age had to be around 22 years old. There were hundreds of teenage kids there, as well as people who were my age or close to that.
You played Electric Picnic in 2009 and it’s become the stuff of legend for those of us who were there. What do you remember of that show? It was amazing! It was so great because it was the first time we played in Ireland, and it was like, ‘Are you kidding me? This is what gigging in Ireland is
Do you have a theory as to why the music continues to resonate like that? I don’t have any theories at all, I have no idea!
Because you can’t say the same for all your contemporaries. When I was a kid, I loved to listen to the music my parents listened to, and to me listening to bebop was the same as listening to pop music. I loved Charlie Parker the same way I liked The Rolling Stones and Hendrix. It was just music that I dug. And modern dance and pop music is cut from our DNA. It’s not that we’re so different. When we played [at Roskilde] with Green Day, it wasn’t that we were so drastically different that it didn’t make sense. It made a lot of sense. Every year I play with Sting and with Elton and all those guys, and it’s exactly the same to me as playing with Bernard [Edwards, his partner in Chic] and Tony [Thompson, Chic drummer] and all those guys – spiritually, it feels the same. I don’t feel like, ‘Oh man, I’m playing with Sting, I’ve got to change who I am’. No, I think, ‘I’m playing with Sting, let’s smoke’. Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny by Nile Rodgers is out now, published by Sphere. www.nilerodgers.com
• pg 48 Record Reviews | pg 53 Young Blood | PG 54 LIVE REVIEWS | pg 55 MOVIE & GAME REVIEWS •
Illustration by Mark Reihill
Therapy? A Brief Crack of Light BLAST
Since the global success of Troublegum in 1994, Therapy? have done more than anyone might reasonably expect of a working rock band. 12 studio albums, three different drummers, the 10-year retrospective in 2000, the double-disc live album We’re Here To The End in 2010. The conventional wisdom holds that Troublegum was the peak, Infernal Love the flop and with the exception of the silver-certified Crooked Timber, everything else a commendable effort to recapture past glory. It’s time to revise that opinion. A Brief Crack Of Light is monstrous, solid and unyielding. It’s the sound of three distinct personalities truly flourishing. The album begins with a triple bill showing why Therapy? have outlasted grunge, Britpop, and post-millennial rap, rock, indie and metal. As a bouncing, heavyweight opener ‘Living In The Shadow Of The Terrible Thing’ is immediate and
unassailable, a vintage lead single with buzzing guitars, distorted bass and a snare drum so tight it sounds bulletproof. ‘Plague Bell’ starts with a whirring riff, Michael McKeegan and Neil Cooper locking in behind a single chord that’s as reviving and satisfying as the first sip of tea. ‘Marlow’ takes off in a different direction altogether. Like ‘Magic Mountain’, the involving instrumental found on Crooked Timber, ‘Marlow’ is outstanding in its ability to prompt and sustain a mood and a groove, in this case a junkie euphoria which reaches a peak in a blossom-eyed la-la singalong. If released anonymously it’s the sort of song that would cause hype, excitement, rumours. It’s funny to speak of balance in relation to a band that have spent 20 years trammelling the dark side of the psyche, but A Brief Crack Of Light shows all Therapy?’s quirks and kinks to best effect. The album bubbles with an awareness of the literary and musical absurd. They have always alluded to Beckett and Beefheart, touchstones which find their greatest expression on the swinging ‘Why Turbulence’ and the dubby, spectral ‘Get Your Dead Hand Off My Shoulder’. A darker turn comes with ‘The Buzzing’, a spooky and abrasive take on the firefight of the conflicted mind. It also contains the biggest musical surprise: a wavering
and oppressive dubstep bass break underpinning Andy Cairns’ fractious plea not to ‘get lost in the system’. Here’s a band who understand that riffs can reinforce ideas, and that even in rock music, form can honour theme. Further surprises come with the transcendental rattle of ‘Ghost Trio’, while the vocodered refrain of slow closer ‘Ecclesiastes’ presents itself, strangely enough, as a tarnished alternative to Air’s ‘Kelly Watch The Stars’. A Brief Crack of Light is the album that inches Therapy? past their own high watermark, trumping expectations when it seemed like there were no further expectations to trump. They’ve sidestepped even the well-intentioned accolade of enduring as elder statesmen, and looking back, have never once sounded like an echo of themselves. Here they mix character with muscle and vivid streaks of weirdness to show they have nothing left to prove and everything yet to give. Kiran Acharya
KEY TRACKS: ‘MARLOW’, ‘WHY TURBULENCE’, ‘GHOST TRIO’. FOR FANS OF: FUGAZI, PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED, SKINDRED.
Gotye Making Mirrors COMMUNION/ISLAND
If this album’s lead single ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ isn’t completely ubiquitous by the time you read this, it soon will be. A stunning video has propelled it past 55 million views on YouTube, and it’s undoubtedly one of the most potent break-up songs you are ever likely to hear, but it’s far from Wally de Backer’s only trick. On his third album, the Belgian-born Australian tackles a full range of styles – dub reggae, smooth AOR, Detroit soul, fragile ballads, power-pop – and although there is the occasional jarring moment (the title track and ‘In Your Light’ will be too MOR for some, and ‘I Feel Better’s Motown homage veers dangerously close to pastiche), de Backer somehow manages to make it all hang together. His songwriting is sharp, the lyricism winningly off-kilter (a mention here for ‘State Of The Art’, an endearing ode to the Cotillion organ) and, most of all, his production chops are stellar. An accomplished pop songwriter he may be, but beneath the veneer beats the heart of a true maverick – one whose crate-digging, found-sound-finding passion for unusual sonics brings to mind the likes of Peter Gabriel, Sufjan Stevens and even countrymen The Avalanches. Three albums in he may be, but this is where the story really begins. Chris Jones
KEY TRACKS: ‘SOMEBODY THAT I USED TO KNOW’, ‘EASY WAY OUT’, ‘STATE OF THE ART’. FOR FANS OF: PETER GABRIEL, SUFJAN STEVENS, PAUL SIMON.
Django Django Django Django BECAUSE
They’ve been on our radar since releasing the superb ‘Storm’ back in 2009, but it’s taken Django Django until now to thrust their full-length debut into the ether. Their early releases suggested musicians in thrall to The Beta Band, but Django Django stretches beyond scuffed folktronica. Imbued with a thrilling sense of adventure, this is an album in the old-fashioned sense; one with distinct pieces that fit together to create a tonally cohesive collection, but crucially, not a homogenous one. The Londonbased quartet use layers of sound, harmonies, glitchy electronica, off-kilter rhythms and tremulous Rickenbacker riffs to keep things consistently engrossing, setting a mood somewhere between H.P. Lovecraft and Can. That dark propulsion permeates songs like ‘Love’s Dart’ and ‘Default’, but there’s light relief – if you could call it that – in the form of ‘Life’s A Beach’ and ‘Hand Of Man’. Undoubtedly one of the most eclectic and all-encompassing records you’re likely to hear this year. Lauren Murphy
KEY TRACKS: ‘DEFAULT’, ‘STORM’, ‘ZUMM ZUMM’. FOR FANS OF: CAN, METRONOMY, FRIENDLY FIRES.
Gonjasufi MU.ZZ.LE WARP
Gonjasufi’s gnarled debut album A Sufi And A Killer was one of 2010’s strangest and best. A remix album and a low-key EP later he’s back, with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it mini-album not half an hour in length. Brief it may be, but there’s plenty of angst in MU.ZZ.LE’s 25 minutes. Let’s be clear, he doesn’t sound like a happy chappy: “I’m guilty, in this life I’ve sinned,” he croaks
desperately in ‘Skin’. The female vocals on the funereal psych-rock of ‘Feedin’ Birds’ act as a neat counter-point to the shamanic singer’s ravaged moan, while elsewhere he essays slow-mo soul (‘Rubber Band’, ‘White Picket Fence’) and ultradownbeat hip-hop (‘Nikels And Dimes’). Some of these songs are mere fragments, but the brevity’s a blessing: this is heavy stuff. Neill Dougan
KEY TRACKS: ‘WHITE PICKET FENCE’, ‘FEEDIN’ BIRDS’, ‘NIKELS AND DIMES’. FOR FANS OF: GASLAMP KILLER, LEE ‘SCRATCH’ PERRY.
Milagres Glowing Mouth
The Twilight Sad No One Can Ever Know
Barely a month into the New Year and Brooklyn five-piece Milagres have already set the bar for debut albums in 2012. Both intoxicating and lucid in its swooning, panoramic grace, ‘Gone’ and opener ‘Halfway’ take Wild Beasts’ more restrained tales of longing and rid them of public school affectation, whilst ‘Lost In The Dark’ and ‘Moon On The Sea’s Gate’ unearth the band’s real prowess: a brooding aesthetic reminiscent of Department Of Eagles, Black Heart Procession and Wilco’s moodier lullabies. That said, propelling these New Yorkers more than anything are frontman Kyle Wilson’s lyrics; a powerful 11-track open letter to an anonymous other that imbues Glowing Mouth’s glorious noise with tragic meloncholy. Brian Coney
KEY TRACKS: ‘LOST IN THE DARK’, ‘GONE’, ‘MOON ON THE SEA’S GATE’. FOR FANS OF: WILD BEASTS, DEPARTMENT OF EAGLES, THE ANTLERS.
Heavily inspired (if not considerably indebted) to a recent rediscovery of Can, PiL and Cabaret Voltaire, No One Can Ever Know is an appreciably experimental tangent by Scotland’s The Twilight Sad. Seeping with cinematic width and many of Krautrock’s immediately distinctive hallmarks, the likes of ‘Dead City’ and ‘Kill It In The Morning’ are synth-drenched semi-anthems which locate James Graham’s thick Scottish pleas directly centre-stage. Better still, rather than the ‘wall of sound’ approach that defines much of the band’s earlier recordings, guitarist Andy MacFarlane’s jagged, Magazine/PiL-inspired playing reflects yet another progression for the three-piece. Not only an unexpectedly ambitious career peak, this is the soundtrack to drinking the night away and mulling it over the next day. Brian Coney
KEY TRACKS: ‘NIL’, ‘KILL IT IN THE MORNING’, ‘DEAD CITY’. FOR FANS OF: MIDLAKE, GRIZZLY BEAR, ARCADE FIRE.
Goldfrapp The Singles ASTRALWERKS
Where would our beloved electro-pop be without Goldfrapp? Over the past decade, the fearless innovation of duo Alison Goldfrapp and musical maestro Will Gregory helped revitalise the now buoyant genre. Those killer hooks and killer looks certainly blazed a trail for La Roux, Lady Gaga et al. From the haunting atmospherics of debut Felt Mountain to the poptastic anthems of Supernature, Goldfrapp’s signature synth-meets-soprano sound rarely disappointed. Self-explanatory, The Singles showcases cuts from Goldfrapp’s multiple incarnations and is a timely reminder of the enduring quality of their quality back catalogue. The irrepressible modern dance-floor classic ‘Ooh La La’ sets the tone and gets the party started with its heady combination of Alison’s breathy vocal set against Gregory’s driving synth riff. On an album rammed with highlights, the sensuous, discoinspired ‘Strict Machine’ is an obvious stand-out. A blend of addictive beats, powerful rhythm and smooth angelic vocal, it gets inside your head, takes over your body and simply refuses to leave. The cinematic sweep of pre-pop Felt Mountain is embodied by the magnificent ‘Utopia’ and epic, evocative, Berlin-meets-Bristol ambience of ‘Lovely Head’. And the list goes on and on... A worthy tribute to the underappreciated genius of Goldfrapp. Eamonn Seoige
KEY TRACKS: ‘UTOPIA’, ‘STRICT MACHINE’, ‘TRAIN’. FOR FANS OF: LA ROUX, HOT CHIP, LADYHAWKE.
Ilenkus Rule By Thieves SAVOUR YOUR SCENE
Cloud Nothings Attack On Memory WICHITA
Whilst their self-titled debut album may have painted Cloud Nothings as snotty Blink-182 fanboys with an ear for a good riff, Attack On Memory announces them as contenders in their own right. With underground heavyweight Steve Albini on board, Cloud Nothings’ second album is a remarkably impressive step forward in sound. Albini’s production clout lends these songs stadiumsized ambitions, whilst frontman Dylan Baldi brings
the catchy hooks and angst that made the debut so infectious. Each track is urgent, from the poppy layabout anthem ‘Stay Useless’ (“I need time to stop moving, I need time to stay useless”) to ‘Separation’, an instrumental thrash number that recalls Refused or Drive Like Jehu at their height. Cloud Nothings may just turn out to be a very important band for a whole new generation. Andrew Lemon
KEY TRACKS: ‘NO FUTURE/NO PAST’, ‘STAY USELESS’, ‘NO SENTIMENT’. FOR FANS OF: JAPANDROIDS, DRIVE LIKE JEHU, TITUS ANDRONICUS.
Galwegian five-piece Ilenkus went by the name FUBAR before reverting to a more traditional metal-sounding name last year. Rule By Thieves – available for name-your-price download from Bandcamp – is not quite Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition, but in terms of ambition and adventure it has the beating of just about any Irish metal record of recent times. With three vocalists and as many guitarists, the record initially sounds scattershot, but like any good progressive album, the disparate elements soon fall together with clarity. Mastodon are the obvious comparison, with doomy riffs abundant and Sam Ellis’ deep growl reminiscent of Brent Hinds’ guttural howl, but hints of strained hardcore and even Maynard James Keenan in the fluid, melodic passages typify a band eager to break the mould. Dave Donnelly
KEY TRACKS: ‘DR JEKYL,’ ‘THE JIG,’ ‘GREAT DIVIDE’. FOR FANS OF: MASTODON, TOOL, BARONESS.
Maverick Sabre Lonely Are The Brave MERCURY
It’s tempting to hail Maverick Sabre as something of a game-changer. His vocals are calming yet emotive, straddling the line between Otis Reddinginspired soul and playful, melodic rap. The issues are real too: there are odes to bad governance, moments of outstandingly insightful social observation, ‘let’s change the world’ messages of future optimism, and a steadfast rejection of angry rap clichés. Sabre’s downfall here, though, is in a lack of musical range. While ‘Shooting Stars’ and ‘I Need’ can expect to get serious radio play (and deservedly so), there’s a disappointing abundance of lulls weighing down an album that, at 58 minutes, could use some choice cuts. Soulful highs and insightful lyrics, though, hint at the birth of a true star. James Hendicott
KEY TRACKS: ‘I NEED’, ‘OPEN YOUR EYES’, ‘SHOOTING STARS’. FOR FANS OF: PROFESSOR GREEN, THE STREETS’ POPPIER MOMENTS.
Cast Troubled Times CIA
After a 10-year hiatus, Cast’s leader and driving force John Power has managed to reunite the band’s original lineup and producer, a combination which brought forth the Britpopbefore-Britpop classic All Change – Polydor’s biggest-selling album ever back in the Nineties. The essence of Cast’s success was the simple marriage of two guitars, bass and drum with the timeless pop melodies that rubbed off on John Power from his time spent with Lee Mavers and The La’s, a maverick pop genius if ever there was one. In places, the guitar-playing shimmers like the sun on the Mersey – check out opener ‘Bow Down’ and ‘Hold On Tight’ for proof. A mighty return to form and a must-have if you like your pop thoughtful, tense and energetic and guitars that strum like rope-burns. Jeremy Shields
unpredictability, is an extremely turgid and uninspiring affair. Tracks such as ‘Douche Beat’, ‘Datsun’ and most all of this record reflect their creator’s insipid attempts to pass off his halfcooked idling as something worthy of proper consideration. Electronica has given us many true innovators, but the ‘ground-breaking’ music of Mr.Oizo is just selfindulgent tosh. Pitched as a “gleefully claustrophic dance workout,” Stade 2 is what happens when unfocused noodling is misinterpreted as artistic eccentricity. In the words of Jerry Dammers: “It’s all a load of bollocks!” Eamonn Seoige
KEY TRACKS: ‘ORAL SAX’, ‘EDN’. FOR FANS OF: BOYS NOIZE, JUSTICE.
Walpurgis Family Dawn POPICAL ISLAND
Dublin’s Walpurgis Family do a perfectly beguiling line in DIY pop, and it’s not hard to be charmed by their melding of stripped-back electronica and woodwind. For all the cosiness suggested by the arrangements and Jeroen Saegeman’s summery vocals, however, there are some bitter lyrical themes, including domestic violence and the mentallychallenged, amidst the winsome nostalgia of ‘Let’s Go Camping’ and ‘Jurassic Park’. Recorded in kitchens and living rooms and utilising family members as musicians and backing singers, this album works hard on creating a warm, group collective atmosphere, and for the most part this carries. The lyrical depth prevents this album descending into twee, and should inject some natural glow into your wintry afternoon. Jordan Cullen
KEY TRACKS: ‘DOMESTIC VIOLENCE’, ‘SIMON SMILES’, ‘DARKNESS FALLS ONTO ELEANORE’S PARTY’. FOR FANS OF: ALFIE, LOOPER, THE DELGADOS.
Field Music Plumb MEMPHIS INDUSTRIES
KEY TRACKS: ‘BOW DOWN’, ‘HOLD ON TIGHT’, ‘BROTHER FIGHTING BROTHER’. FOR FANS OF: THE CORAL, CASHIER NO. 9, GRANDADDY.
Mr. Oizo Stade 2 ED BANGER
Quentin Dupieux, aka Mr. Oizo, returns with Stade 2, the latest in his long list of off-beat egotrips. The French film director/electronic artist specialises in creating strange soundscapes that favour formulaic peculiarity over true artistic merit. In fact, Stade 2, despite all its supposed
Two years ago when AU spoke to the Brewis brothers at length about their soon-to-be-released double album, they merrily frothed at just how much Prince had influenced their writing. If Field Music (Measure) was akin to the Purple One’s 1987 magnum opus Sign ‘O The Times, the brothers’ new album, Plumb, is a shorter, sharper followup – closer to a Lovesexy or a Parade. Like its predecessor, Plumb, is a smorgasbord of angular, fragmented psychedelia (‘Sorry Again, Mate’), bursts of sharp funk (‘A New Town’) and snappy synth-pop (‘Choosing Sides’). But the album’s strength also highlights its niggling Achilles’ heel. Virtually every track is impregnated with experimental structures and is underpinned by Peter Brewis’ skitter-scatter rhythms. Songs
crystallise and then, just as they seem set to steal hearts, coalesce into a new idea. At times it is maddening, but appears intrinsic to the brothers’ modus operandi. When, as on the swooninglygood ‘Who Pays The Bills?’, a song is permitted to evolve naturally, the result is a twisted, redhot pop gem, meaning Plumb is a joyous, and frustrating, proposition. John Freeman
KEY TRACKS: ‘A NEW TOWN’, ‘WHO’LL PAY THE BILLS?’, ‘FROM HIDE AND SEEK TO HEARTACHE’. FOR FANS OF: PRINCE, TALK TALK, FLEETWOOD MAC.
Leila U&I WARP
Taking a walk on the wilder side of filthy electro, Warp’s newest release is the kind of album to keep you on your toes. Leila’s synths are harsh, bubbling away and rising a-melodically through sheets of digital distortion. It’s not pretty but it’s certainly engaging. First track proper, the militant and glitching ‘Activate 1’, is perhaps the most instant and direct track here. Its bassline descends and everything else follows it down over and over again. It doesn’t offer any release, any moment of euphoria, it’s just noise with a beat for two-and-a-half minutes. And it works. Many of U&I’s standout moments come via Mt. Sims’ vocal contributions, adding a twisted human element to a world of synthetic noise. Disturbing and brilliant, just dive in. Ian Maleney
KEY TRACKS: ‘ACTIVATE 1’, ‘COLONY COLLAPSE DISORDER’, ‘(DISAPPOINTED CLOUD) ANYWAY’. FOR FANS OF: LIARS, APHEX TWIN, SQUAREPUSHER.
Ital Hive Mind PLANET MU
Whether it’s under his Sex Worker alias (really) or as one half of synth-groovers ‘Mi Ami’, and even (at times) as a member of Black Dice, Daniel Martin McCormick has always had an affinity for leftfield electronica, and on Hive Mind he brings his collection of ‘out there’ influences to create a record that is funky and sinister in equal measure. Steady opener ‘Doesn’t Matter If You Love Him’ is set to retro house synths with a Lady Gaga vocal sample repeated until it becomes a dark mantra; ‘Privacy Settings’ is an experimental house number with a sunny melody that belies its 10-minute playing time, and the hypnotic ‘First Wave’ is a sci-fi-esque closer on an album that sucks you in from start to finish. Here’s hoping McCormick stays the course with Ital. Andrew Lemon
KEY TRACKS: ‘DOESN’T MATTER (IF YOU LOVE HIM)’, ‘PRIVACY SETTINGS’, ‘FINAL WAVE’. FOR FANS OF: BLONDES, BOXCUTTER, THEO PARRISH.
Errors Have Some Faith In Magic ROCK ACTION
Where lo-fi punk crashes headlong into visceral electronica you’ll find Glasgow quartet Errors. Abum number three finds them as thrillingly wired as ever. Opener ‘Tusk’ exemplifies the taut energy contained in the ten tracks, the tumbling rhythms matched by clean synth lines, its melody executed as neatly as a Fred Astaire pirouette. Such brilliance is sustained for the remainder of the record. And, whilst songs like ‘Blank Media’ and ‘The Knock’ – with their trance-like chords and hazy vocals – might indicate a more subdued mood than on previous releases, the hybridised sound of ‘Pleasure Palaces’, with its vibrant electro house groove, spectral voice and flamboyant beats, proves they can still be thrillingly disorientating. Reminiscent of Animal Collective, ‘Earthscore’, creates a fuzzy bath of twinkling effects and fluttering rhythms, before the sedative drift of ‘Cloud Chamber’ and, finally, the multi-layered digital epiphany of ‘Holus-Bolus’. All told, with Have Some Faith In Magic, Errors have delivered the uniformly excellent album they’ve always threatened. Francis Jones
Perfume Genius Put Your Back N 2 It KEY TRACKS: ‘TUSK’, ‘MAGNA ENCARTA’, ‘PLEASURE PALACES’. FOR FANS OF: FOALS, HOLY FUCK, CARIBOU.
Shearwater Animal Joy SUB POP
2010’s Golden Archipelago marked the culmination of Shearwater’s trilogy of environmentally-themed albums. Fittingly, for a record that represents new beginnings – this is also the band’s Sub Pop debut – Animal Joy shatters the dreamlike spell of its predecessors and gives in to more rock-orientated impulses. This is no bad thing. Songs such as ‘Immaculate’ are pure and to the point, granitehewn punk riffs and Jonathan Meiberg’s gutsy vocal broaching no argument. ‘Insolence’ meanwhile is a slow-burning, beautiful thing; Meiberg brooding darkly as inventive guitar stokes the melodic flame.
Learning, the debut album from Seattle singersongwriter Mike Hadreas, was a remarkably moving scrapbook of ultra-lo-fi, home-recorded piano and voice sketches. This second outing is much more fully realised, blending subtly shifting ambient strata, precise guitar nudges and occasional percussion and effects around those aching vocals and keys. Surprisingly, the added density and improved production values haven’t banished the intimacy of Hadreas’ early
Delorentos Little Sparks DELORECORDS
If, on earlier records, Meiberg was looking out at the world around him, here the gaze is inverted, lyrics informed by cuttings from his personal scrapbook. Dredging especially deep, ‘You As You Were’ is a whack of nostalgia shaped out of giddy rhythms and cascading piano. There is an autumnal hue to ‘Run The Banner Down’ – its rhythm simple, guitar complimenting the slow-paced, folksy loveliness. It’s a temporary lull. ‘Push The River’ rages fulltorrent, brilliant rat-a-tat drums giving it a vibrant pulse. Pitting earthy guitar against synthetic shimmer, ‘Star of The Age’ neatly completes what is a constellation of dazzling tunes. Francis Jones
While Delorentos’ stumbling climb has often hit storms, Little Sparks looks set to claim the sometimes-unconvincing Dubs a spot at the top for themselves. It’s crammed with simple, catchy pop songs laden with emotion, recorded in a refreshingly straightforward, sparse style. Web favourite ‘Bullet In A Gun’ comes across even stronger on record, and is served up as part of a sensationally catchy early salvo. Lyrics, not hooks, really push the boundaries though: they’re thought-provoking, cunningly shimmying around agonising clichés. Sure, the quality drops off a little as the album progresses, but not before establishing Little Sparks as raw, confident, and an early contender for Irish album of the year. James Hendicott
KEY TRACKS: ‘YOU AS YOU WERE’, ‘OPEN YOUR HOUSES’, ‘STAR OF THE AGE’. FOR FANS OF: MIDLAKE, GRIZZLY BEAR, ARCADE FIRE.
KEY TRACKS: ‘DID WE EVER REALLY TRY?’, ‘BULLET IN A GUN’, ‘GIVE IT UP NOW’. FOR FANS OF: EMBRACE, THIRTEEN SENSES, DOVES.
work; if anything, the broader sonic scope draws the listener even deeper into these cathartic outpourings. His talent for wresting hope from the bleakest subject matter remains almost unparalleled; whether exploring post-traumatic guilt on ‘Normal Song’, the awkwardness of early gay sexual encounters on the title track or abuse on the heart-stopping ‘Dark Parts’, purging one’s demons has rarely sounded quite so empowering. Harrowing, shattering yet ultimately uplifting, Put Your Back N 2 It is a triumph. Lee Gorman
KEY TRACKS: ‘DARK PARTS’, ‘ALL WATERS’, ‘HOOD’. FOR FANS OF: ELLIOTT SMITH, BON IVER, BRIGHT EYES.
Blondes Blondes RVNG INTL
Experimental techno duo Blondes’ debut album is essentially a combination of three previously released 12” singles, a previously unreleased fourth, and an excellent remix disc with work from big names such as Andy Stott and John Roberts. The singles are tied together by a yin/yang duality concept where the B-side to ‘Lover’ is ‘Hater’ and so on. It’s hard to discern the lofty concept outside of the tracks’ titles so it’s a good job the music is so good, wave after wave of geometrically patterned compositions that owe their debt to Nineties trance and electronic Kraut rock in equal measure. ‘Lover’ is the album’s highlight, a lightstreaked slice of the sort of liquid Balearic trance the Chemical Brothers tried to bottle on ‘Star Guitar’. Darragh McCausland
KEY TRACKS: ‘LOVER’, ‘WINE’. FOR FANS OF: MANUEL GÖTTSCHING, JOHN TALABOT.
Young Blood Your indispensable guide to new releases from up-and-coming acts Figure Of 8 No One Cries For Me (feat. Sophie Galpin) Featuring remixes from established producers like Mighty Mouse, Worship and Deadbots, ‘No One Cries For Me’ is the debut single from Dermot McGowan, aka Figure of 8. Set for release on French label On The Fruit Records, the original mix is a coolly delicious slab of disco-tinged synth-pop, full of bobbing synths and veering guitar shapes. Just as enticing, Polar Sun’s dizzy dancefloor remix and Cyclist’s burgeoning restyling of the track expose not only the many talents of both the remixers and Figure of 8, but also a wonderfully lustrous vocal from Manchester-based Sophie Galpin (also of indie-folk band My First Tooth), who, like McGowan, surely has a very bright future indeed. BC - fo8.tumblr.com
Faws Antonym EP Antonym is the debut EP from anonymous Dublin electronic producer, Faws. And with such anonymity playing second fiddle to the sonic exploration on offer, it’s very much a case of letting the music do the talking. Traversing the downtempo synth of opening track ‘Take Notice’, minimalist dub excursions such as ‘Camille’ and the sparse glitch shenanigans of ‘Empty Bottles’ and ‘Paper Jam’, each track reveals a new side to Faws’ multifarious talents. Even better, with highlight ‘Worries’ even managing to squeeze in snippets of Tom Waits waxing lyrical about “nightclubs in heaven”, this five-track is a wonderfully consistent debut from a musician yet to make his or her true identity known. BC - faws.bandcamp.com
Music For Dead Birds The Pope’s Sister Seemingly reconstituted from American lo-fi’s finest in Sebadoh, Soul Coughing and Polvo, The Pope’s Sister is a highly imaginative gambit by Galway and Mayo “anti-folk” band Music For Dead Birds. Over 10 short tracks – each one as good as the next – Jimmy Monaghan and co meld Beta Bandesque charm with boldly erratic time signatures and disaffected fuzz to evoke a sound that wouldn’t be out of place on the soundtrack to Larry Clark’s classic coming-of-age movie, Kids. Simply put, given more exposure, there’s no excuse for this band remaining a little-known revelation. BC - musicfordeadbirds.com
INPROFILE: ACT: FROM: FOR FANS OF: WEBSITE:
Figure Of 8 Derry, now based in Belfast Glass Candy, Bicep, Desire. fo8.tumblr.com
Words by Chris Jones
In the middle part of the decade, Dermot McGowan played keys for Derry hellraisers Red Organ Serpent sound, who for a time looked like they were going to be the next major Northern Irish rock band. They fell apart but now McGowan is reborn as nu-disco producer Figure Of 8, whose sublime debut single (reviewed opposite) is out this month on French label On The Fruit. Can you tell me a bit about your background? How did you get from Red Organ Serpent Sound to here? That was a mad few years. It ended with a bang and a few broken men in 2007 but it was a good experience. We met a lot of good people along the way and working with producers like Paul Epworth inspired me to get into electronic music production.
What inspired you to make the kind of disco-tinged stuff you are doing now? DFA Records would have been a big influence. I love dance music and have done since Daft Punk but with LCD Soundsystem, The Juan Maclean and bands like that, I loved the fact that it was bands making dance music, or disco-punk as it was at the beginning. At the minute I’m influenced as much by Fleetwood Mac and Pink Floyd as people I’ve only discovered recently like Disclosure or TEED. How did this particular track come together? I’d been working on ideas for an album and this was one of the mellower ideas I had – I definitely had Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ in mind with the guitar synth I used. The main idea happened really quickly. I then contacted Rod Thomas (Bright Light Bright Light) who I had done a remix with before and worked on some original stuff to help write it. The music was quite mellow but I wanted a harsh theme, so settled on the idea of someone trapped in the sex trade, like the girls brought over from Eastern European countries with the promise of work and end up as sex workers, as happens in Belfast. I worked on this idea with Rod and we went back and forth on the lyrics until we were both happy. I wanted female vocals, he knew Sophie [Galpin] and I was blown away by the results. What plans do you have for 2012?? I have two more EPs planned before May, gigs in Belfast, London and Switzerland before summer, then I’ll be planning an Irish tour with some other big Irish names in late summer.
PHOTO BY MEG HYLAND
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah Tripod, Dublin The last time that Clap Your Hands Say Yeah played Tripod, they were surfing the crest of a wave that had been generated by their marvellous debut album, a record so good that it was hailed by some as the best of the decade. Five years later, things are a little different. Their two subsequent releases (Some Loud Thunder, which had just been released at the time, and last year’s Hysterical) have been dependable affairs, even highly enjoyable in parts – but they haven’t come close to making the same sort of dent in the average indie fan’s consciousness that their 2005 offering did. Nevertheless, the Brooklynites are still a band with pulling power, as tonight’s crowd – at capacity even after the gig has bumped up from smaller venue The Button Factory – attests to. It’s a struggle to push through the crowd to the merch stand, where evidence of various band members’ solo endeavours (including Alec Ounsworth’s Flashy Python project) and signed, hand-drawn sketches lie amongst the usual glut of t-shirts and
vinyl. They’re still a tight, great-sounding band; as their exuberant set in the dying embers of last year’s Electric Picnic demonstrated, they’re as sharp as ever and still hugely capable of writing top-notch indie-pop albums. As Alec Ounsworth takes the stage looking every inch the country gent in blazer, flat-cap and scarf, the quintet literally go back to the start with ‘Let The Cool Goddess Rust Away’, the first tune from their first full-length release. Early songs from their 80-minute set – the first of a 20-date European tour – are politely received, and a tremendous telling of eerie rocker ‘Satan Says Dance’ provides an early highlight. But even after three albums, it’s clear that that eponymous debut holds a firmer grasp on the crowd than its counterparts. ‘Is This Love?’ and ‘In This Home on Ice’ generate mass singalongs, although the quieter parts of several subsequent songs threaten to be drowned out by the omnipresent irritating chatter from the balcony’s presumably fair-weather faction. Ounsworth may lose the crowd during such moments, but attention is kept in check by Sean Greenhalgh’s super drumming displays. The
sticksman’s rhythmic signatures have become synonymous with CHYSY’s sound and are particularly valuable to tunes like Hysterical cut ‘Same Mistake’. Brilliantly euphoric builder ‘Details Of The War’ incites a mass clap-along before the quintet burst into ‘The Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth’ – the song that still gets the loudest cheer at any Clap Your Hands Say Yeah gig, even seven years after its release and the fact that Ounsworth’s often indecipherable drawl elicits a lot of gap-filling mumbles amongst the audiences. The ensuing ‘doo-doo-doo/doo-dehdoo-doo’ refrain continues after the last note has been played and brings a huge grin to keyboardist Robbie Guertin’s face. ‘Over And Over Again’ keeps things ticking over until final tune, ‘Upon This Tidal Wave Of Young Blood’, ensures that the main set ends on a high note. If Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are frustrated by their failure to surpass their past achievements, tonight’s setlist certainly suggests otherwise. And OK, while this certainly wasn’t treading ‘gig of the year’ territory, it was certainly bright and bouncy enough to clap your hands and say... yeah, that was pretty good. Lauren Murphy
Director: Alexander Payne Starring: George Clooney Cert: 15
Once dismissed as a womanising Guy Smiley made good, in recent years George Clooney has more than proved his worth as a daring, modest and intelligent actor who has valuable things to say about the state of things. He could have taken the easy route by slumming it in sub-par action snoozers. To his credit, he has instead chosen a less studiofriendly, bankable career built around films like The Descendants, a poignant comedy of sorts in which a sad-sack Hawaiian lawyer watches his entire life crumble around him after his wife is seriously injured in a boating accident. Whereas other Hollywood bores slather themselves in make-up or chase awards by uglying up with prosthetics, Clooney lets it all hang out, emotionally and physically. Greyhaired and beleaguered, he has never appeared so human. Alexander Payne’s long-awaited followup to Sideways is well observed, wryly funny and, come the closing credits, surprisingly stirring. Clooney’s sassy daughters and their dopey surf bum friend steal several scenes but it is the actor himself, who once nearly blew all his chances by donning a Batsuit, who excels in a nuanced, empathetic role. Wonderful stuff. Ross Thompson IN CINEMAS NOW.
CONSOLE YOURSELF! A look at the months ahead The first few months of the year are a notoriously somnambulant time for the gaming industry, with publishers reluctant to effectively abandon their flagship titles on a populace who are most likely financially strapped after Christmas. Consequently, we have to make do with the odd Call Of Duty map pack and DLC for Dead Island, last year’s shambolic survival horror. The disappointment of actually playing Techland’s glitch-riddled disaster still rankles. Praise Alduin then, for Skyrim (Bethesda, Multiformat), which continues to offer up endless hours of escapism. Whereas other money-hungry developers are content to knock off identikit first person shooters with the same running time as eating a sandwich, director Todd Howard and his team have meticulously crafted a universe where every nook and far-flung cranny is crammed with things to see and do. No other current game, with the exception of Zelda: The Skyward Sword (Nintendo, Wii), is quite so enchanting. It may sound silly but there is something magical about trudging across a mountain range, your face scuffed by the wind, the snowdrifts all but swallowing your boots, listening for the nearby call of dragons. Ditch your day job. Sell your loved ones. Don your armour. Jump in. Thankfully, it won’t be long before the games business shakes itself out of hibernation. Ready for some soulswallowing action is The Darkness II (2K, Multi),
THE DARKNESS II inspired by the Garth Ennis comic, which sees the violent return of Jackie Estacado, a mafia don who rules the underworld in both senses of the word, for he also happens to be possessed by a hellish force. Voiced by, of all people, Faith No More’s Mike Patton, the Darkness is a vicious little critter which taunts Jackie into slaying those who, cliché alert, bumped off his beloved girlfriend. When unleashed, it manifests as oily, toothy tentacles which can make wishbones of goons’ legs and pop their heads like daisies. If the brutal demo is anything to go by, The Darkness II will push the age rating to its elastic limit, and therein lies the worry. The original game was inspired at first yet its relentless sadism and potty mouth quickly became numbing. Hopefully, the tone is a shade more varied this time around. Fans of gaming history will go lady gaga for Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection (Konami, Multi), which
continues the trend of porting classic titles for the current generation of consoles. The three adventures of Solid Snake contained in this value for money bundle are classics of stealth, shooting and cigarette-smoking action. Elsewhere, there is SoulCalibur V (Namco Bandai, Multi), which won’t win any spelling bees but will wow players with its massive swords and hyperbolic beat-’emup shenanigans. Frankly, the most tantalising release is a long, long way away. Naughty Dog, the geniuses behind the Uncharted series, surprised the community by trailing The Last Of Us (PS3), a post-apocalyptic romp which will undoubtedly teach the makers of Dead Island a thing or two. It might not be released until next year but it’s already got tongues wagging and fingers itching. Ross Thompson
FLASHBACK The DeLorean Motor Company Goes Into Receivership, February 19, 1982
30 YEARS AGO Born out of turmoil, geared for the future, but forever anchored to the past, the DeLorean DMC-12 is one of the most iconic images of the Eighties, a sleek and sophisticated vehicle designed for a time when the future was still up for grabs. Despite its story being shrouded in deceit and failure, the car still retains its power and legacy, a coveted item untethered to the world it emerged from. 30 years after the company went into receivership, AU looks at the incredible life of John DeLorean, and the glimpse of the future he offered us all. In 1985, a young man named Marty McFly travelled back to the 1950s, interfered with his own timeline, and caused his own mother to get sweet on him. Of course there was only one way he could do such a thing: his customised DeLorean DMC12 time machine. Hitting 88mph, the DMC-12’s flux capacitor (not fitted as standard) would kick in, transporting the driver to their chosen time
zone (assuming they had enough plutonium). The DeLorean company had gone into receivership three years before the release of Robert Zemeckis’ Back To The Future, so why did they choose the already out-of-date DMC-12 for the honour of being the most famous time machine this side of a blue police box? Simply because it looked cool and futuristic, giving a design classic a new lease of life, and ensuring that there would always be interest in this most unique of cars. By the mid-1970s, sectarian violence in Northern Ireland was reaching terrifying new heights, with the country perpetually on the verge of erupting into chaos. The British government, as well as seeking a political solution to the problem, was also pursuing various social avenues, including tackling the unemployment problem in the country. After leaving his successful career as an engineer and designer for General Motors in 1973, John DeLorean’s dream of establishing a new company couldn’t have come at a better time, and amidst similar propositions from the Republic of Ireland and Puerto Rico, DeLorean accepted an offer from the British government to set up his manufacturing plant in Dunmurry, a suburb of Belfast. If DeLorean wanted to build the future, it seemed he felt that Belfast was the right place to do so. With a plant staffed by Protestant and Catholic workers, production on the DMC-12 began in 1981,
with allegations of inexperienced local workers leading to criticisms of the quality of the vehicles produced. The car itself was met with puzzlement upon its arrival, coming with a prohibitively large price-tag, as well as a number of curious design issues, most notably the occasionally impractical gull-wing doors which opened upwards instead of outwards. DeLorean himself soon fell foul of the FBI after the company ran into financial difficulties. With sales falling well below expectations, he was approached by FBI agents posing as investors, entangling DeLorean in the murky world of drug trafficking. As they detailed a scheme to him involving cocaine smuggling and money laundering, DeLorean (under the advice of his lawyer) continued stalling, claiming falsely that his money was controlled by the IRA. Eventually he was arrested, and whilst he was able to avoid prosecution by portraying himself as a victim of entrapment, coerced by over-zealous FBI agents to become involved in crime at the risk of the safety of his family, DeLorean’s reputation was ruined. He’d been involved in an attempt to help Northern Ireland escape its past by building a car of the future, but instead was declared bankrupt by the late Nineties, before dying in March 2005 from a stroke. But something in the design he ushered into the world has remained fascinating, a vehicle so out of its own time that its eventual fate as a time machine seems the only possible outcome. Steven Rainey
Classic ALBUM Fleetwood Mac Rumours (1977)
The story of Fleetwood Mac is part of Rock History 101: blues band becomes successful, loses its members one by one (except the ever-reliable rhythm section), ending up as an anonymous sounding Californian rock band. The chance addition of young couple Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks catapults them to success, before they all break up with each other, have affairs, become a living soap opera, and end up as one of the most successful rock bands of the 20th century. As such, Rumours is part of the establishment, a benchmark that will seemingly never go away, overshadowing all that comes in its wake; the kind of thing that punk was set up to eradicate, yet failed to do so in a spectacular fashion. Why is it that, 35 years after its release, people still keep coming back to this dinosaur of an album? From the opening chug of ‘Second Hand News’,
Rumours announces its greatness, a shimmering look into the abyss that will not be diminished by time. By the time ‘Dreams’ arrives, the velvet voice of Stevie Nicks envelopes you, causing you to momentarily forget that she’s singing about despair directly to her lost love, and when ‘Never Going Back Again’ arrives immediately after, you cannot escape, completely trapped on this journey into the heart of emotional darkness. For all its slickness, for all its laid-back Californian charm, and for all its familiarity, Rumours still cuts deep every time you hear it. Many break-up albums fail because they tap into too personal a vein of inspiration, alienating the casual listener who doesn’t know every minor detail of the failed relationship it’s supposed to be detailing, or because they succeed in reminding us of a crushing, pathetic thought: break-ups aren’t that unusual, and whilst our own personal pain might be seen as a titanic monument to suffering, many other people have gone through exactly the same thing before, and many more will do so after we die. We all like to think we’re something special, and some break-up albums remind us that we’re just another cog in the machine. Rumours is special. The human soap opera that we all know and love is on display, and one can spend an eternity trying to interpret every barbed lyric or stolen glance, without ever truly uncovering the complete truth. But at the same time, these
songs are so well produced, so crafted, that they can be heard again and again, never quite losing their appeal, and allowing the image of Stevie and Lindsey’s lost love to fade away, replaced by our own. Making a hit record is a difficult thing, but to make one about intense personal pain that can be heard every day for the rest of your life is nothing short of impossible, yet still they made it look easy. Punk’s call to arms at around the same time heralded a change in the landscape of popular music, a rallying call to the alienated and dispossessed that would give them a voice, and allow them to be heard for the first time. The Sex Pistols’ Never Mind The Bollocks is (rightly) seen as a landmark album, a snarling and raw articulation of rage and pain that has sold well over 1,000,000 copies worldwide. Today, some of the slightly anachronistic sentiments have not aged well, whilst the ‘No Future’ chant of punk obscured a retread of Fifties rock and roll, a musical regression that led to the unravelling of the movement as it was still in its infancy. Rumours, meanwhile, has sold over 40 million copies, and is still as sharp as a knife. Its songs are heard on radio stations all over the world every day, and have become part of our language for describing the end of a relationship. “I can still hear you saying you would never break the chain,” sang Fleetwood Mac, and 35 years later, we’re still saying it. And long will we continue to do so. Steven Rainey
er d a o l n w o D
The AU Buyer’s Guide: Modern Mixtapes Words by Dean Van Nguyen
Mixtapes have always been an important tool in the forging of hiphop history. They even predate the rap album, first appearing in The Bronx when several different subcultures were beginning to merge to form the basis of hip-hop. Back in the midSeventies, when New York’s turntable slingers like DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash were thrilling crowds at block parties by cutting, scratching and extending the drum breaks on the hottest funk and rock songs at the time, partygoers wanted to bring the experience home. The DJs began making some extra dollars by cutting tapes and selling them directly to their audience. Later, Queens native DJ Clue revolutionised the game forever. His tapes were less about highlighting his own turntable proficiency and more about handing a forum for young, talented MCs to show their skills by freestyling over a series of beats. Through this medium, Clue gave a significant amount of exposure to some to future stars like The LOX, Noreaga, Cam’ron, Fabolous, DMX and Mase, and the mixtape has remained prevalent for a variety of different reasons. Here are five of the best and most worthy tapes in recent memory. 58 AU80
Clipse We Got It For Cheap Vol. 2 (2005) As soon as rappers were deemed to be commercial entities, label wrangles and legal red tape have changed the trajectory of many an MC’s career. But few were victimised as harshly as Virginian double act Clipse. For four years, the two brothers were handcuffed by litigation, liquidation and other label chicanery, unable to release their second album Hell Hath No Fury, the follow up to their acclaimed debut Lord Willin’. Caught in label limbo, Pusha T and Malice withdrew to the world of mixtapes to vent their frustrations and remind the hip-hop world of their great talent. “All the label drama coming to an end / Clipse coming soon, tell a friend,” shouts Pusha early on. But despite being embroiled in one of the biggest label nightmares of all time, the duo – who are joined by fellow Re-Up Gang members Ab-Liva and Sandman – focus on their more traditional subject matter: cocaine slinging. Jacking some of the biggest beats of the time, Clipse dedicated a level of focus to every verse spit not always prevalent on mixtapes. Best Part: Amerie’s ‘1 Thing’ was the most bombastic, pleasure-filled pop jam of its day, and its unbending drum break was the perfect foil for each Re-Up Gang member to trade verses on. La Triviata: A representation of their label hell, despite only releasing three albums Clipse have been signed to no fewer than nine major record labels. DJ Drama & Lil Wayne – Dedication 2 (2006) When Lil Wayne declared himself the, “best rapper alive” on his 2005 album Tha Carter II, few took it as any more than the normal chest-beating that goes on in the alpha male world of hip-hop. But between the releases of Tha Carter II and 2008’s Tha Carter III, Wayne made a pretty convincing case for himself. A period of unmatched productivity saw the release of a slew of mixtapes, with Dedication 2 being Wayne’s single most outstanding release from the period. Clarifying his position early, (“I don’t think I’m better than anybody spiritually. I don’t think I’m better than anybody in any way or form or fashion. But as far as this rap thing, I think I am better than everybody,”) over the course of 77 minutes Wayne murders every beat put in front of him by the tape’s host DJ Drama. Opening with ‘Get Em’, which utilises the Diplomats ‘Get From Round Me’ beat, it’s clear Wayne is a special MC. The Diplomats version sounds turgid and uncomfortable when weighed against Weezy’s effortless flow. He even has the gall to shrug “that’s easy” at the track’s conclusion, demanding more complex instrumentals to gobble up. Best Bit: A New Orleans native, Wayne ensure the recent Hurricane Katrina catastrophe runs throughout the disc, with ‘Georgia…Bush’ the zenith of his post-disaster criticism. Perhaps the single most scathing song ever to be written about the Bush administration, Wayne eloquently voices his neighbours’ post-Katrina anguish and rage.
La Triviata: Wayne might have been writing music at eight years old and signed to a major label at 11, but he didn’t mature particularly fast. On November 11 1994, at just 12 years old, he accidentally shot himself in the chest while playing with a 9mm handgun. Eejit. Wale – The Mixtape About Nothing (2006) Mixtapes tend not to be thematically-focused works. MCs typically use the format to spit bottomless rhymes over various beats with little thought of tying their lyrics together with any sort of narrative or central subject matter. But in contrast, Wale’s breakthrough release The Mixtape About Nothing is an incredibly cohesive record. Taking American sitcom Seinfeld as a starting point, the DC rapper uses the show as a lens to view the music industry and his own his place within it. For example, ‘The Artistic Integrity’ borrows its title from Seinfeld character George Costanza, and the track opens with his famous rant before Wale goes on to discuss the demands studios make on rappers to stick to a commercial formula. Later, George and Jerry’s scheming underlines ‘The Perfect Plan’, an attack on hip-hop fans who indulge in illegal album downloads. Indeed, The Mixtape About Nothing is actually about a whole lot of something. Sadly, everything Wale has done since (including an attempt to resurrect the formula with 2010’s More About Nothing) has disappointed. Best Part: On ‘The Kramer’, Wale uses Seinfeld star Michael Richard’s infamous onstage meltdown and racist rant to spark a complex discussion of the place the N-word and other taboos have in hip-hop and other forms of music. La Triviata: When asked by Entertainment Weekly why he decided to make a Seinfeld-themed mixtape, Wale claimed to have seen every episode “like, 30 times.” Drake – So Far Gone (2009) Despite officially being unsigned, by the time Drake put out his third mixtape he was already Cash Money Records affiliate, running with their star Lil Wayne, famous friends like LeBron James and possibly (it’s remained unconfirmed) dating Rihanna. Greatness was so close that Aubrey Drake Graham could almost touch it, and as such, his final release before officially becoming a Cash Money signee, So Far Gone, deals with the excitement, pressures and expectation of impending stardom. Officially a mixtape – it was a free download via his blog and sees Drake rapping over a wide variety of beats from Kanye West and Santigold to Peter, Bjorn and John and Coldplay – it was still an incredibly clean and concise effort. There are no DJ drops, no lossy bitrates and no dead weight, just 18 quality tracks highlighting the unique brand of chilly instrumentation and haunting vocals that have formed the basis of Drake’s sound ever since. Best Part: ‘Say What’s Real’ was an early example that this young Canadian could spit. Rapping over
Kanye’s ‘Say You Will’, Drizzy’s single, near threeand-a-half minute verse is an elongated confession of the anxiety felt over his imminent success. La Triviata: Such was the quality of the So Far Gone mixtape that an EP compiling five of the album’s fully original tracks plus two new songs – also titled So Far Gone – was to become his first major label release, spawning two singles in ‘Best I Ever Had’ and ‘Successful’. The Weeknd – House of Balloons (2011) Throughout the Nineties and early Noughties, hip-hop was one of the most commercially successful music genres, with its stars enjoying record sales in the millions. So when the increasing popularity of digital piracy and a flailing economy led to a sharp decline in rappers’ ability to move units, hip-hop was also one of the biggest sufferers. Major labels are now more cautious of taking punts on yet-to-be-established artists and rappers have become increasingly reliant on mixtapes to build their reputation. In this new world, the whole expression ‘mixtape’ has been stretched. For example, emerging MCs like Big KRIT and Danny Brown have put out full-length releases of totally original material for free. But perhaps a more significant sign of the medium’s evolution is that the mixtape is no longer an exclusive tool for the hip-hop world. The Weeknd – real name: Abel Tesfaye – draws inspiration from everywhere from contemporary R&B and electronica to indie-pop. Following modern trends, his 2011 mixtape House Of Balloons (as well as its two follow-ups Thursday and Echoes Of Silence) sounds more like a free album than a traditional tape. So, despite being met with massive acclaim and endof-year list placings, Tesfaye has yet to make a single cent from sales. Best Bit: Both ‘The Party & The After Party’ and ‘Loft Music’ expertly sample dream-pop band Beach House, a perfect foil for The Weeknd’s hazy R&B style. La Triviata: Initially, the identity of The Weeknd was unknown, with many early reviews assuming it was the work of a group, rather than an individual. Guided by Choices: The AU Defence Continuing the recent surge of non-traditional mixtapes, 23-year-old New Jersey-based producer Clams Casino released Instrumentals last year, a vocal-free collection of beats from his impressive portfolio. While all but one track had previously been heard on releases by MCs like Lil B, Soulja Boy and Deezy D, the tape was not just a resumé highlighting Clams’ ability behind a mixing desk, but had genuine purpose. Such are the nuances of the young beatmaker’s atmospheric sound, his music doesn’t need a rapper over the top. Indeed, the mixtape proved so popular that it was remastered and given a full vinyl release on Type Records later in the year. Veering away from hip-hop somewhat, chillwavers Small Black released their own free tape in 2011. Moon Killer samples Drake, Dusty Springfield, Nas, Nicki Minaj and The Carpenters, among others, reimagining a wide variety of famous tracks as light synth arrangements, which are punctuated by singer Josh Kolenik’s soothing vocals and a couple of guest spots by MC and Das Racist member Heems.
EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY Mandela Hall, Belfast Photos by Luke Joyce Ethan, Collette & Claire
Explosions In The Sky
Conor, Julian & Terry
Charlie & Anto
Richard & Jason
Leah & Amanda
Marie, Cutch & Gary
John & Nicole
Catherine & Rosalind
Ryan, Fran & Nicola
Grandmaster flash The Village, Dublin
Photos by Alan Moore
Stephanie, Rachel, Aine & Michelle
Michelle & Ann
Maebh & Mary
Christo, Collie D & Rochey
Omar, Marek & Thomas
Aaron & Robert
Laura & James
Silva, Simon, Sara & Natalie
Robert, Niall & Emma
THE LAST WORD with Danny Todd from Cashier No.9
Photo by Lili Forberg
When was the last time you bought a band t-shirt at a gig? I’ve never really been into buying band t-shirts.
When was the last time you threw up? When someone cooked dinner for me.
When was the last time you set something on fire Some toast yesterday.
When was the last time one of your heroes disappointed you? Probably on a daily basis.
When was the last time you did something you regret? A long time ago.
If the world was about to end, what would your last words be? See you about.
When was the last time you felt guilty? The last time I was guilty.
What was the last good record you bought? Jean-Claude Vannier – L’Enfant Assassin Des Mouches
Cashier No.9 support Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds at the Odyssey, Belfast on February 16 & the O2, Dublin on February 17.
What was the last thing you downloaded? Little Dragon – Ritual Union
They play the Empire, Belfast on March 1, An Culturlann, Derry on March 2 and the Cellar Bar, Draperstown on March 3.
What was the last piece of good advice you were given? Cheer up. When was the last time you cried? Recently, the old lumpy throat pops up quite frequently, even during Coronation Street. What was your last argument about? Can’t remember, but obviously I was in the wrong. When was the last time you time you had a fistfight? I’ve never been in one. I have been kicked up and down a street though.
What was the last thing you Googled? ‘L’Enfant Assassin Des Mouches’
When was the last time you were scared? The drive home from Bestival this year… It was a long weekend. What was the last bad job you had? Taking an ice rink apart with a shovel and a wheelbarrow.
FAMOUS LAST WORDS “Hurry it up! I want to be in hell in time for dinner.” Edward H. Rulloff (1819-1871), a convicted serial killer and last person to be executed by hanging in the State of New York. “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.” George Bernard Shaw (July 26, 1856 – November 2, 1950)
THIS ISSUE WAS POWERED BY ATL nostalgia, fucking off to Berlin, packed lunches, more office moving, Pointless, too much vodka at Glider, Dirk Kuyt, The 2 Bears, This Is My Jam.
Published on Feb 7, 2012
Published on Feb 7, 2012
Featuring the Michael Kiwanuka, Nile Rodgers, Gotye, Legalising Poker, Scottish Independence, A To Z: Animals, DeLorean, Fleetwood Mac, Dja...