APRI L 2008
I RELAN D’S N EW MUSIC PAYLOAD
goldfrapp Alison’s Starting To Happen
Ham Sandwich Adele Los Campesinos! Stiff Little Fingers
Back From The Brink
Face to Face in NYC music is my radar:
mario rosenstock holidays by mistake:
martin mcdonagh queen carly sings
Cadence Weapon The Kooks Lightspeed Champion La Rocca
the jimmy cake And The Really Difﬁcult Third Album
and the best reviews in
albums, books, games & dvds
M ICHAEL STI PE OF REM PHOTOG RAPH ED BY PEROU
08 0 2 H C R A M H T 7 NDAY 1 O M H T 3 1 Y A THURSD
CHRIST CHURCH CATHEDRAL CHOIR CONCERT - FRIDAY 14TH MARCH CHRIST CHURCH CATHEDRAL, 7.00PM
COMEDY CIRCUS - FRIDAY 14TH MARCH TRIPOD, 8.00PM
KÍLA IN CONCERT - MONDAY 17TH MARCH THE OLYMPIA THEATRE, 7.30PM
MARY BLACK: CELEBRATING 25 YEARS - MONDAY 17TH MARCH THE NATIONAL CONCERT HALL, 8.00PM
issue 01 might well contain...
music is my radar
The most comprehensive review section on the island. Albums: can The Kooks deliver the goods second time around? Are MGMT the future of rock ‘n’ roll? DVD: the autopsy report on Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip; Family Guy goes Star Wars. TV: the geek shall inherit the earth. Books: must-reads for the month ahead. All this and more, including the latest gaming treats for our console nation.
Ever wanted to go all Tony Montana on an annoying flatmate? Our correspondent rewrites the rules on cohabitation.
stiff little fingers The troubled streets of Belfast in 1979 may not have been the most tourist-friendly, but they spawned the raucous and raw punk powerhouse that was SLF. Frontman Jake Burns remembers his roots.
lightspeed champion “I’ve only ever encountered racism from black people,” explains Lightspeed Champion, nu-rave punkster turned hip folkster.
The Meteor Award-winning Kells collective have deliberately adopted the DIY approach to fame, fortune and Late Late Show appearances.
Fake being a local in Copenhagen. Your guide to the finest venues, the perfect Danish hangover cure and where to find that Modeselector 12” remix.
Hip-hop’s newest star on the hometown influences that inspired his superb second album, Afterparty Babies.
Just when you thought you had it all.
holidays by mistake
Jeff Weiss catches up with the lovable Welsh seven-piece in the celebrity city, Los Angeles.
Slaving away on a hot keyboard for your musical pleasure.
the jimmy cake
Britain’s 19-year-old soul sensation takes State through finding her voice, coping with the hype machine and getting her own way.
Niall Byrne on the independent events that are shaping a new electronic era across Ireland.
Back with their first album in five years, Dublin’s finest 18-legged instrumental musical collective talk concept albums, innocent nuns and escaping from “folkitude”.
Mario Rosenstock, the voice of Gift Grub, talks us through his musical loves, from The Beatles to BellX1.
REM’s internal combustion engine almost went bang before the elder statesmen rediscovered their fury. Stipe, Buck and Mills talk about the passion to Kara Manning in New York City.
Alison and Will on the sonic trip that took them from disco-balls to pastoral idylls.
Featuring Cashier No. 9, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Sarabeth Tucek, Stereophonics, The Chalets, Martin McDonagh, Dexter, Kíla, plus Poison star in 100 Albums To Avoid Before You Die.
la rocca The quartet return from LA with new hats, new facial hair and a stompingly anthemic debut album.
Editors: John Walshe, Phil Udell (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Art Director: Simon Roche Publisher: Roger Woolman Web Editor/Staff Writer: Niall Byrne (email@example.com) Advertising Manager: Susan Maher (firstname.lastname@example.org) Operations Manager: Arleen O’Meara Contributors: Dan Hegarty, Tanya Sweeney, John Joe Worrall, Maia Dunphy, Ciara Cunnane, Dave Donnelly, Jennifer Gannon, Martin Elneff, Ciara O’Brien, Shane Galvin, Martin McIver, David O Mahony, Durell Connor, Ciarán Ryan, Tony Jessen, Jenna Wolf, David McLaughlin, Jeff Weiss, Pete Ruotolo, Kara Manning, Sinead Gleeson. Photographers: Richard Gilligan, Lili Forberg, Marcelo Biglia, James Goulden. State is published monthly by State Magazine Ltd, 4th Floor, Equity House, 16-17 Upper Ormond Quay, Dublin 7. Tel: (01) 888 0660 Email: email@example.com Website: firstname.lastname@example.org Printed by Future Print Distributed in Ireland by EM News Distribution, Clonshaugh, Dublin 5, and RMG Chart Entertainment Ltd, 2 Carriglea, Naas Road, Dublin 12, and in Northern Ireland, by EM News Distribution (NI) Ltd. ISSN 2009-0897. All materials (c) State Magazine 2008. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any part of the magazine without the written permission of the publishers is strictly prohibited. Although State magazine has endeavoured to ensure that all information is correct, prices and details may be subject to change. The opinions expressed are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily reﬂect the views of State Magazine Ltd.
Kara Manning Kara Manning is a New Yorkbased playwright and music journalist, who has written for Rolling Stone, MTV News, Metro.Pop and Jazziz. She misses her vinyl copy of REM’s Murmur, which was cruelly stolen when she was DJing in a Hell’s Kitchen club about 10 years ago. Rock, paper or scissors? Paper
Richard Gilligan Dublin born Richard Gilligan has been addicted to skateboarding ever since he saw Back To The Future. The skateboarding in time led to an interest in photography, which soon snowballed into another obsession. He loves toast and is also slightly obsessed with smells, really bad rap music and cinnamon. Rock, paper or scissors? Paper
It’s a quarter to midnight, the day before the ﬁrst issue of State goes to press and we’ve to try to explain just what it is that makes this crazy machine tick, the reasons why a group of seemingly sensible men and women decided to jack in the day-jobs and stop working for The Man, in order to put together this bright and shiny new magazine you’re holding, having parted with some hard-earned shekels for the privilege. It all started on a damp summer’s day at the Oxegen Festival in 2006, when music photographer extraordinaire and tattooed accountant Roger Woolman, approached two writers in the media area and asked if they’d time for a cuppa, as there was something he wanted to run by them. That something was State, then an un-named amorphous entity that knew what it didn’t want to be, more than what it would grow into. Almost two years of feasibility tests, conference calls and bangers ‘n mash lunches in the midlands later and State has ﬁnally arrived. From the very beginning, the emphasis was on quality throughout. We’ve sifted through reams of reviews and poured over an encyclopaedia’s worth of interviews to unearth the ﬁnest writers in the land. Some you already know, like Sinead Gleeson, Tanya Sweeney and 2FM’s Dan Hegarty, while others are a breath of uncontaminated air, including Ciara Cunnane, Dave Donnelly and Jennifer Gannon. And there’s Niall Byrne, our web editor and staff writer, whose all-encompassing knowledge of all things musical is both weird and wonderful to behold. What they have in common, however, is a ﬁery grá for music and an ability to write about it passionately and succinctly. We’ve also trawled the blogosphere to locate the ﬁnest international writing talent, and over the coming months, you’ll get to hear from State’s voices in Tokyo, Sydney, New York and beyond, while in this issue, Kara Manning (Rolling Stone, MTV News) gets under the collective skin of REM, and Jeff Weiss (LA Times, Stylus) hits Hollywood with Welsh indie-popsters Los Campesinos! Visually, too, State is a cut above, featuring the cream of Irish and international photographic talent. We’ve commissioned the most original photographers we know to create iconic images that match the quality of the writing. Our art director, Simon Roche, has managed to utilise these raw materials to fashion the freshest and most imaginative magazine to hit Irish shelves in years. Of course, life is about much more than music alone: there’s also DVDs, books, video games and TV. We have one of the biggest, most comprehensive review sections in the country, where our talented team of reviewers provide the deﬁnitive voice on the latest releases. So sit back, leaf through, enjoy and let us know what you think (state.ie).
Result: Draw ~ John Walshe and Phil Udell State Editors
Ease Yourself In
they might be giants:
You would think dividing your time between two bands would be strenuous enough but Danny Todd has still found time to produce winsome folk-pop gems in his spare time away from his other two outﬁts, Corrigan and Alloy Mental. With the former delving into country-rock and the latter banging out clattering live electro-punk, neither offer any indication of what to expect from Cashier no. 9.
The result is an eminent collection of high-grade acoustic-led tracks, which fall neither into a singer-songwriter setup nor band-leader boredom. Belfast-born Todd is keen to point out that it’s no elaborate set-up: “Just a battered old acoustic guitar, notepad and pen. Then I’ll play with it a bit in Cubase, sampling acoustic sounds like pots and pans, toothbrushes sawing wood, it’s all in there somewhere.”
50 words on…
The rest of the band is made up of James Smith (guitar), Stuart Magowan (bass) and Steven Quin (drums). No physical releases to speak of just yet but Todd promises an album by the end of the year, “I’m just trying to ﬁnd a good label that won’t be going bust in the next year or two.” Listen: ‘Jump The Queue’ Click: www.myspace.com/cashierno9
come in your time’s up: still searching for that elusive snare sound
Dexter Quite a coup for Channel 6, scoring the rights to the hammy but darkly comic Dexter, which follows the misadventures and murders of Dexter Morgan (Six Feet Under’s Michael C. Hall), a blood pattern analyst for the Miami PD, doubling as a serial-killer whose victims have escaped the judicial system.
Having burst onto the UK indie scene in 1993 in a ﬂurry of activity – 12 singles and three albums in four years – Cornershop have been a little more relaxed of late. The commercial and critical success of ‘Brimful Of Asha’ and parent album When I Was Born For The 7th Time failed to spur them into capitalisation mode, with just 2002’s Handcream For A Generation, their Clinton side project and a couple of excellent singles to show for it. Apparently working on a ﬁlm about the London independent music industry since 2003, their myspace site is carrying one new track – only an instrumental mind, let’s not go crazy – and a new album is promised ‘sometime in 2008’.
Incoming the departed:
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Oh Godspeed where art thou? Recent reports suggesting Godspeed’s existence had become untenable due to an “existential freakout” on the band members’ part concerning the war in Iraq were misconstrued and have been debunked, though let us not forget the Canadians were held for questioning as suspect terrorists on American soil in 2003, so anything’s possible. Still, the fact remains that the band have been on “indeﬁnite hiatus” since 2003. So what have the nine-strong instrumental troupe been up to? Guitarist/keyboardist Efrim Menuck has been producing, most recently on British Sea Power’s Do You Like Rock Music?, as well as immersing himself in Thee Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra and TraLa-La Band’s ﬁfth LP 13 Blues For Thirteen Moons (out on March 10th) along with fellow Godspeed members Thierry Amar (bass) and Sophie Trudeau (violin). Mauro Pezzente has retired from music for now
following a stint in Montreal’s Crowface while drummer Aidan Girl continues to make electronic music under the guise 1-Speed Bike. Celloist Norsola Johnson lent her talents to Amon Tobin’s album of ﬁeld-recording techniques Foley Room last year and percussionist Bruce Cawdron produces music as part of the duo Esmerine. Dave Bryant runs a Montreal studio called ‘The Pines’. Roger Tellier-Craig has a new band called Pas Chic Chic. The co-founder of Godspeed’s label Constellation let it be known recently that the group meet up once a year to decide whether to work together once more, but so far no unanimous decision. Godspeed’s enduring legacy may prove to be Hotel2Tango, an analog-only recording studio in Montreal, which was started by Efrim & Thierry, amongst others. The same building also houses the Constellation label and operates as a hub for its many Montreal-based bands.
Soap And Wafﬂe
Much as she is on record, plucky West Londoner Estelle Swaray is a law unto herself in conversation, treading what can only be described as a ﬁne line between realness and jaded detachment. As we catch up on a recent lightning quick visit to Dublin, it transpires that the 27-year-old, already an industry veteran despite being tipped as the Next Big Thing for 2008, is a curious blend of womanly swagger and laissez-faire nonchalance; a side effect perhaps, of working with heavyweights like Kanye West, Mark Ronson and Will.i.am on her recent dancehall inspired hip-hop album, Shine. Truth be told, Estelle’s forthright chatter is a not altogether unpleasant shock to the senses. “I’m not gonna pretend about anything,” she proclaims. “I’m not gonna give you ‘baby-sweetheart-darling’ stuff because if I have an issue, it’s gonna make it right onto the record. I tried to do the whole acting thing, the whole overdoing a performance and making it dramatic and it’s just not me.” For all her achievements, one recent milestone still sticks out for Swaray– the ﬁrst time she heard her music playing in the background of Eastenders. With that, the brashly hip exterior melts way to reveal a girlish enthusiasm. “Ooh I like my soaps,” she grins. “It’s funny ‘cos with (the single) ‘1980’ you can keep hearing it play in the Queen Vic. The ﬁrst time I heard the song, that was the best. My phone lights up a thousand times when it happens.”
Incoming they might be giants:
The London-Irish playwright has caused quite a stir with his ﬁrst feature ﬁlm, the comedy-drama In Bruges, starring Hollywood heavyweights Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as two Irish gangsters hiding out in in Flanders’ famous city. McDonagh’s star is most certainly in the ascent. Having left school at 16 to focus on his writing, it wasn’t until he tried his luck as a playwright that success beckoned, via The Beauty Queen Of Linnane, whose in-yer-face theatre style went on to win a host of accolades, including four Tony Awards. McDonagh’s Galway Trilogy (Beauty Queen..., A Skull In Connemara, The Lonesome West) and Aran Islands Trilogy (The Cripple Of Inishmaan, The Lieutenant Of Inishmore, The Banshees Of Inisheer), inspired by his childhood summers in Galway, established the young playwright
as one of the best in the business – at the age of 27, he was the ﬁrst playwright since Shakespeare to have four plays running simultaneously in London’s West End - while his celluloid debut, Six Shooter, picked up the Oscar for Best Short Film in 2006. In Bruges was inspired by McDonagh’s ﬁrst visit to the beautiful Belgian city, when, following two days of medieval architecture and history, he apparently wanted to get drunk and leave. This darkly comic love-hate affair is at the heart of the ﬁlm, which opened The Sundance Festival in January and the Dublin Film Festival last month. Name-checking Tarantino, Scorsese, David Lynch and Terence Malick as inﬂuences on his work, State feels that the punk playwright turned director is equally inspired by his musical loves of Nirvana, The Sex Pistols and The Pogues.
100 albums to avoid before you die Poison: Open Up And Say Ahh! (capitol) The year was 1988 and over in Seattle, a band called Nirvana were releasing their debut single. The critics swooned. In the real world, however, no-one gave a damn, because Poison were back with their second, charmingly titled album. In hindsight, though – hindsight in this case
coming charging over the horizon within about 30 seconds – it was clear why the world needed Cobain & Co. Whereas Poison’s tiny-budgeted debut was not without its moments, Open Up... saw an increase in money, ego and (if the lyrics are anything to go by) copious amounts of shagging, but a decline in boring stuff like writing decent songs. It was dreadful, and yet it didn’t stop Poison enjoying brief mainstream success, prompted
largely by the interminable ‘Every Rose Has It’s Thorn’, written by Brett Michaels in a laundrette after a failed affair with an LA stripper. Strangely though, ‘Nothin’ But A Good Time’ sounded oddly sweet when sung by the kids of The Greensborough Street Choir on the Xbox 360 ad. Don’t download: ‘Love On The Rocks’. If you hate this, don’t listen to: Warrant, Twisted Sister, late Kiss, Tigertailz.
Incoming my roots are showing: phil udell
Christmas 1981 and there was a revolution going on. Punk had blown itself out, new wave was waving goodbye and new tribes were on the move - the festive number one was Human League’s ‘Don’t You Want Me’. Not round the Udell house, though, where the prized gift of the year was Queen’s Greatest Hits. By the end of the 90s it had become the biggest selling British album ever. For a teenager whose ﬁrst musical epiphany had been Status Quo, it was a revelation – 18 tracks that fulﬁlled the hormonal desire for rock, yet seemed to inhabit a whole different world. I devoured that album, pored over the sleeve notes (although all I could tell you now is that Freddie Mercury wrote ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ in Munich hotel bubble bath) and fell in love. Best of all, however, was the discovery that the Greatest Hits was only the beginning: there was a whole eight-year history to unearth. In the days before digital, the combination of ﬁnding the albums and the funds meant this was a slow process but gradually it came together – on vinyl, on tape and on copied TDK 90 cassettes (our version of peer-to-peer ﬁle sharing). It was a wonderful journey, as record by record, Queen revealed their genius – the perfection of A Night At The Opera, the sheer scope of Live Killers, the rawness of News Of The World. Moving forward from their Greatest Hits was not so rewarding. Hot Space was a brave but ﬂawed attempt at change, the peerless ‘Under Pressure’ aside. The Works was probably a reaction to that failure, a commercial hit but a mere rehash of past glories. After that, I lost interest, moving on to new musical relationships, although the news of Freddie’s sad demise brought a genuine tear to my eye. This wasn’t the end, of course. The albums kept coming, followed by the compilations, West End musicals, TV commercials and the inevitable come-back, this time with Paul Rogers at the helm. You can’t help the feeling that this has been one of the most mismanaged legacies in music. Please though, don’t judge Queen on Ben Elton or Brian May playing guitar on top of Buckingham Palace. Go back to the good stuff, listen to the records and you’ll ﬁnd a band who genuinely did attempt to rewrite the book. And after all, we’ll always have Munich...
THE NEW ALBUM INCLUDES TIME TO PRETEND & KIDS
CD / LP / DOWNLOAD AVAILABLE MARCH 7TH www.whoismgmt.com 9
Incoming from our foreign correspondent: Jenna Wolf in
Boston Music writers can often be regarded in a manner akin to a circus performer walking the tightrope with thousands of eyeballs on them, looking for them to make one wrong step. And in this, there will be plenty of missteps: writer and tight-rope walker alike. Music writers, like circus performers, are a unique lot. Day in, day out, we troll the deepest caverns of the underground music scene, hoping to discover the next big thing...before anyone else. The routine is always the same: ﬁnd previously unheard tracks, receive demos, peak interest in similar music devotees who trust your judgement, and ultimately aid in your attempt to create some kind of buzz. And then comes the inevitable invite to said band’s next gig. Usually, these outings end up the same: a group of quasi-musicians grossly misinterpreting the whole event and declaring the small church they’ve barely ﬁlled with kids “party central”, a pack of edgy teenagers with asymmetrical hair ‘dos necking like it’s the new cinema, and of course, noise-induced hearing loss. Thus was the case when I was invited to review a gig from synth-driven, electro keytar party group Peachcake, who planned on playing a small gig in Boston this winter - just one stop on a surprisingly lengthy stint on the road. While trying to convince the lead singer to do a bit of press with me before the whole event, the conversation came to grinding halt as soon as he mentioned an alternate approach to the standard interview, which involved a photo snap of myself and his apparent socalled ability to send me messages through deep visual concentration. Severely creeped-out by any mention of telepathy, I was prepared for an absolutely diabolical attempt at musicianship. There turned out to be nothing sweet about Peachcake when a gaggle of bizarre toys and creepy dolls inﬁltrated the stage, before lead singer Stefan ushered in light sabres and a ridiculously immature, trite plea to run for US president in 2008. What’s more, a crowd of fresh-faced teens,
whose expectations were in line with a battle of the bands in the aforementioned vein, seemed as if they wanted someone – anyone – to usher them right back out of any event that involved a group called Peachcake. On a stage. On a tour. After a gig like this, the only greater guilt would be if I’d actually stuffed my gills all night with peach cake: not that mass musical slaughter with a record deal, but the actual baked product. Most often in these cases, everyone thinks the same thing. You were most likely never going to be a part of something special in the making and the three-dollar bill was never going to produce the next Minor Threat or
50 words on…
The Meteors For once, they nearly got it right. The show was a lot slicker and the realisation that you need special one-offs (Sinead / ROL, Cake Sale) to make these things work helped. Still, some bizarre choices and the uneasy combination of pop and rock meant that it still needs work.
Peachcake left out in the rain
Sonic Youth. It simply reafﬁrmed the belief that the DIY aesthetic of the post-punk movement makes it possible for anyone in the 21st century to cut a record--and it isn’t perverse or avant garde. It’s probably crap. And after you’ve gotten over the fact that you were once again duped by that insatiable desire to ﬁnd the newest sounds in rock n’ roll (and perhaps worked off the added calories of your Peachcake overindulgence), you are already once again walking that tight-rope. mumbling “Next Band, please?” pulpandcircumstance.blogspot.com
my inspiration One Night Only
Time may change me but I canâ€™t trace time David Bowie Changes
Photography by Colin Lane Words and music by David Bowie, (c) 1971 Reproduced by kind permission of Tintoretto Music / RZO Music Ltd / EMI Music Publishing Ltd. London W8 5SW/ Chrysalis Music Ltd.
Incoming they might be giants:
Snake & Jet’s Amazing Bullit Band
An unusual but effective hybrid of surf garage and synth-pop, Copenhagen’s Snake & Jet display a boundless enthusiasm and a penchant for upbeat dance party music. Consisting of two tall, fashionable skinny boys named Thor and Thomas, they combine drums, samples, organs, synths and howling guitar with catchy slogan-based lyrics, with support from a host of hollering backing vocalists to add extra spice. With a strong afﬁnity to Danish design circles, their ﬁve homemade EPs were released by the band and their friends through their own art gallery and book shop, Telefon Til Chefen 50 words on…
(TTC or translated, “Telephone to the boss”), as well as a unique video project entitled 13 Bullits, where each song from their debut X-Ray Spirit (released in the rest of Europe and the US on March 25 on Crunchy Frog) received an individual video treatment. Snake & Jet are a refreshing prospect and X-Ray Spirit, which contains tracks from previous recordings with new dubs, remixed and remastered, suggests a bright and danceable future for the two Danes outside their homeland. Get shakin’. Listen: ‘Xray’ (X-Ray Spirit, Crunchy Frog) Click: www.snakeandjet.dk
insane in the membrane: great hip-hop lyrics of our age
No. 1: NWA Solo albums, concert ﬁlms, the Kíla empire continues to diversify. Finally getting the industry acknowledgment they’ve long deserved, Kíla return to live action this month to prove that Irish music around Paddy’s Day doesn’t have to make you want to hang your head in shame. See www.kila.ie for tour dates.
“You ain’t swift, moving like a tortoise, full of rigor mortis” – ‘Express Yourself’ “Here’s a murder rap to keep yo dancin’, with a crime record like Charles Manson” – ‘Straight Outta Compton’ “They got a wacky wack record put o’ wacky wack crews . Yo what about the lyrics? That shit’s wacky wack too” – ‘Compton’s In The House’
simon højbo hansen (snake & jet)
THE ONLY ONES
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Incoming they might be giants:
Even the most cursory glance at the CV of Carly Sings will tell you to expect the unexpected. Born in Wicklow but educated in France, she not only alternates between Dublin and Paris, but sings in both English and French. Debut album The Glove Thief has a similarly far reaching outlook, combining a sophisticated European feel with a plethora of uplifting styles and sounds. “I could have done a Damien Rice and released my bedroom demos,” she says, the day after ﬁnishing the record, “but I didn’t want to that. I wanted to do something different”. With a mixture of Parisian musicians and Dublin electronica whizz Steve Shannon backing her up, The Glove Thief is a world away from the staid acoustic ramblings that make up most solo repertoires and, like Carly herself, is a vivacious, engaging addition to the Irish scene. Listen: Apple Tree (The Glove Thief ) Click: www.myspace.com/carlysings See: Sugar Club, Dublin (March 16th), Whelans, Dublin (March 19th)
The Chalets In hindsight, perhaps the demise of The Chalets was clear enough. The long-term period of apparent inactivity following the success of 2005’s debut Check In may have been seen as standard Difﬁcult Second Album syndrome, yet appears to have been more down to musical indifference. All of which is made more disappointing by what they have left behind, however ﬂeeting. Taking their name from a chalet sharing experience at 2001’s All Tomorrow’s Parties, the initial feeling of style over substance was rectiﬁed by the ‘Theme From The Chalets’ and ‘Nightrock’ singles. Check In followed in 2005 and proved that The Chalets had unequivocally got it right. They’d developed into a formidable live act too,
honed by constant touring, including a European jaunt with Kaiser Chiefs. With the backing of small but inﬂuential London Irish indie label, Setanta, the record made waves far beyond these shores. Live shows began to stretch to Japan and the US, where several of the album’s tracks appeared on TV shows, such as the inﬂuential Grey’s Anatomy. Back home, they wrote the music for TG4’s award-winning drama Aifric. And then nothing. Side project Warlords Of Pez became more of a going concern but from The Chalets there was a perturbing silence. When they did ﬁnally appear for a low key arts festival gig in Drogheda in May last year, all seemed well. Seven new songs were on display, the likes of
‘Cloudburst’ and ‘No Brainer’ proving that their pop suss was undiminished and that album number two, whenever it appeared, would continue the good work. But now it won’t. They leave behind one fantastic album and the nagging feeling that the Irish music industry has just lost one of its brightest talents.
Incoming average white band: not awful, just ordinary
For a band like Stereophonics to have ﬁve UK number one albums in a row is an absolute travesty, a damning indictment of popular culture in the 21st Century. It’s not as if Kelly Jones’ mob are the worst band to emanate from Britain (or even from Wales) in the last dozen years, far from it. They are, however, the most ordinary. The ﬁrst act to be signed to Richard Branson’s V2 label in 1996, Stereophonics’ debut, Word Gets Around, was released the following year. It entered the UK album charts at number 6, amidst a golden era for British guitar bands, with Radiohead’s OK Computer, The Verve’s Urban Hymns, The Charlatan’s Tellin’ Stories and Blur’s eponymous ﬁfth album, all featuring in end of year Best Of lists. Unfortunately, that’s the only time the Welsh outﬁt deserve to be mentioned in the same company as that illustrious quartet. For the last 11 years, Stereophonics have subjected the listening public to the kind of inoffensive, bland, bog-standard rawk that you would expect to hear from any bar-band worth their salt. There’s nothing wrong with pub-rock when it’s done properly, a la The Hold Steady, but when it’s delivered with the kind of insipid, catch-all ordinariness of ‘Local Boy in the Photograph’ or ‘Superman’, it’s a one-way ticket to Dullsville. The fact that their ﬁnest three minutes, ‘Handbags & Gladrags’, is a Rod Stewart cover says it all, with Jones’ throaty rasp aping the irascible Scot without adding anything to the original. Live, they are competent but little more. How they managed to play to over 200,000 people during the two days of their ‘Day At The Races’ gigs in 2001 is a mystery, and alongside Bryan Adams, who at least puts on a decent live show, they have to rank among the weakest Slane headliners ever, when they played Sir Henry’s back garden in 2002. They even managed to sack their most interesting member, drummer Stuart Cable, in 2003. Their output since Cable’s departure could be packaged and sold as a cure for insomnia, 2005’s upbeat ‘Dakota’ aside, with last year’s Pull The Pin ploughing the same yawn-inducing furrow as its predecessors, despite vocalist/lyricist Kelly Jones’ attempts to tread some politically charged ground on songs like ‘It Means Nothing’ and ‘Soldiers Make Good Targets’. To our shame as record-buyers and music lovers, they remain the biggest little bar band in the world and show precious little sign of going away.
CD & Ltd Edition 10” out now
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STEPHEN MALKMUS & THE JICKS
All The Rage
Falling Off The Lavender Bridge
Real Emotional Trash
LP & CD out now
2xLP & CD out now
SONS & DAUGHTERS
LP & CD out now
LP & CD out now
LP & CD - out 14th March
LP & CD - out 11th April
Dropping The Writ
Midnight Boom www.thekills.tv
Incoming dan hegarty
Revolutions Per Minute “The music industry is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long
plastic hallway where pimps and thieves run free, and good men die like dogs. There is also a negative side.” I’m not generally one for quotes, but this beauty from Hunter S. Thompson always makes me laugh. The music business is all of the things that Thompson says, and many more! It’s an industry that I love and hate with equal measure. By its very nature, it’s unforgiving, unpredictable, and one that few ever manage to leave unscathed. At the moment, it’s the record companies that are being the most vocal about their fears: illegal downloading, falling CD sales, major artists not reaching their projected sales targets etc. In fairness, it’s not just the record labels that are concerned: the whole industry is ﬁlled with nervous excitement about what the future holds. No one really knows what’s going to happen exactly, but
surely that’s the way it should be? So many things have changed since the 1960s, but you can’t help but feel technology-wise, music is undergoing a revolution of sorts once again. It’s hard to compare today’s music’s infrastructure with decades past: it would be like asking a disgruntled rock star did they get the same satisfaction from throwing a ﬂatscreen LCD TV out a hotel room window as one of those old fashioned box TVs. Creatively, the last few years have been very hit and miss. The brilliance of acts like MIA, Arcade Fire and God Is An Astronaut, has been counter-balanced by lame crap like Kaiser Chiefs and countless TV “Idols” that are about as palatable as a mouthful of toenails. My attitude has always been pretty simple when it comes to listening to music - I love sitting down with a load of new tunes and discovering something that I absolutely adore. I don’t care about how I listen: CD, i-Tunes, myspace, or vinyl. What’s happened is that we’ve been given
they might be giants:
so many extra ways to hear music, and in turn artists have so much more freedom in their choices of how, where and in what way they want their music to be given to their fans. For so many years, I used to live in fear that bands that I was into would get dropped by their labels and end up breaking up. I remember being gutted hearing that Rollerskate Skinny, Kerbdog and JJ72 had broken up, all of whom fell foul of an industry that (as the Hunter S. quotes states) can be ‘oh so cruel’. It’s great that there isn’t the same level of reliance on the traditional avenues of getting music ‘out there’ anymore. Acts like Arctic Monkeys and Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip have shown that the high seas of the Internet aren’t simply a safe passage for music mutiny and piracy, but one where a new generation of artists and fans can get acquainted in a perfectly legitimate way. In these simple paragraphs, I may have ﬁnally made my peace with the music business (for now)!
50 words on…
Sarabeth Tucek has friends in many places, both high and otherwise. At the top, albeit ﬂeeting, end sits longtime musical hero Bob Dylan, who invited her to open for him at a show last year, even if it was to the mixed reaction of the fanatical Bobcats. In truth, her downbeat Americana was much more suited to the likes of Smog and Brian Jonestown Massacre, both previous collaborators. Her association with the latter led to an appearance in the ﬁlm Dig!, her second movie role after an early stint in Flatliners. Her self-titled debut (produced by Kings Of Leon and Ryan Adams cohort Ethan Jones) appeared late last year, helping convert her solo material into a record that sits comfortably in the great alternative American mould. Listen: Nobody Cares (Sarabeth Tucek, Echo) Click: www.myspace.com/sarabethtucek See: Whelans, Dublin, March 6th
Patrick Watson Winning last year’s Polaris Music Prize (Canada’s answer to the Mercury) for their superb sophomore LP, Montreal fourpiece Patrick Watson (also the singer’s name) saw off Arcade Fire in the process. Watson possesses a voice that’s equal parts Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright. Check out ‘The Great Escape’ at www.myspace.com/patrickwatson.
Incoming tanya sweeney
The Label Debate
Adrian Crowley Whelan’s March Residency, March 12, 19, 26 Every Wednesday for the month of March, you’ll ﬁnd Adrian testing out the new Whelan’s upstairs room. Each week, he’ll be joined a special guest, including Mumblin’ Deaf Ro, Seraﬁna, Carly Sings and Clarence Black.
If you’re a recording artist, you’d be forgiven for thinking that signing to a major music label is only marginally preferable to eking out a living in the Seventh Circle of Hell. Sitting pretty on a major label roster isn’t quite the exalted position it once was. If they’re not trying to drop you, they’re simply not interested in the creative, sonic minutiae of your latest opus. So why is it that some established acts are still migrating towards this supposed black spot in the music industry? One such band are Southampton indie kids The Delays, who have recently found Fiction Records, a subsidiary of Universal, a perfect ﬁt. “If anything, I’m excited about it, because we’re in a position we’ve not been in before,” enthuses bassist Colin Fox. “I think Fiction just have many aspects to the company, and the ability to get out the album. They’re a better ﬁt for our sort of band.” In 2006, and after two critically acclaimed albums that saw the quartet garner comparisons to The Flaming Lips and Cocteau Twins, they left behind esteemed indie label Rough Trade – and the cachet associated with being on their shimmering roster - by mutual consent. “At Rough Trade, we felt like the black sheep of the family,” admits Colin. “We would go into head ofﬁce and see posters of Belle & Sebastian and The Strokes, but there were none of us around, which now that I think of it probably sounds wildly egotistical! Rough Trade are good at getting new things out there, but we think Fiction choose their punches.” However, there are still those artists who are getting out of the major label system while they still have a say. Jason Stollsteimer of Detroit garage outﬁt Von Bondies, who scaled vertiginous heights with the single ‘C’Mon C’Mon’, is currently working on a new untitled album and touring without the support of Warner, who released their breakthrough album Pawn Shoppe Heart in 2004. Ironically, Jason found that at the time, executives on the label weren’t even keeping him abreast of their many musical accomplishments. “When the single was Number 1 in
Disconauts Roisin Dubh, Galway, March 14 Based around the four-deck mixing skills of local DJs Padraic O’Connor and Keith O’Hanlon, the Disconauts live experience is a carnival of clubbing culture, combined with expert musicianship.
The Futureheads: Smoking the majors
Belgium or somewhere, we weren’t there and we knew nothing about it,” he recalls. “It was like making a painting, then dying, and people saying, ‘you’re dead now, but it’s been hanging in the Louvre’. “[With the new album] I know what to expect, and I know this record won’t do as well as the one before but I’m totally ﬁne with that. I don’t want to sing the same 10 songs for the rest of my life.” Another band giving the proverbial southpaw to the majors’ ailing reputation are Sunderland’s The Futureheads, themselves experiencing a new lease of life with their own record label after release from their 679/Warner contract. “The last record (News & Tributes) didn’t do so well commercially, so with this new record, This Is Not The World, we just wanted to make a very positive album,” says Ross Millard, guitarist. “We’d been pinned down as something, so we had to make a record that confounds those expectations. We’ve gone through the mill in the last 12 months, so we were all about making a record that’s about having a good time Morale in the camp hit an all-time low and before the release of News & Tributes in 2006, the possibility of a split was mooted. “It’s hard to think about it now, but (the label) 679 didn’t have much faith in it even before it came out,” recalls Ross. “They didn’t visit the studio until the last day. When your record label is meant to be behind you and they show a bit of apathy, you get the creeps. After six months of touring, when everything’s broken down, you’re ready for the divorce papers!”
Edan Tivoli Theatre, Dublin, March 15 Savoy, Cork, March 16 The last time this hip-hop maestro was in Ireland, he blew the roof off Crawdaddy with the best hip-hop show of 2006. This should be even better. Eels Mandela Hall, Belfast, March 19 Continually operating on the fringes of the music scene despite the odd unlikely hit record, Mark Everett/E/Eels are celebrating a most unusual career through the twin compilations Meet The Eels and Useless Trinkets.
Fight Like Apes Dolans Warehouse, Limerick, March 22 Fight Like Apes are one of the most exciting bands in Ireland at the moment. Their live reputation is second to none and deservedly so. Baby Dee Whelans, March 22 Baby Dee: performance artist, songwriter, classically trained harpist, circus sideshow veteran and transgender street-legend. Should be quite a show. One For The Future BudRising Spring Festival April 9-13, Dublin Venues include The Olympia, The Button Factory, The Village, Whelan’s, Sugar Club and Spy, as well as a couple of surprise locations. Conﬁrmed acts at time of going to press include Hard Fi, Hadouken and The Ting Tings.
Music is my Radar The voice of Gift Grub on the music that soothes his soul As told to Phil Udell ~ Photography by Richard Gilligan
The number one when I was born was ‘The Wonder Of You’ by Elvis. The Beatles had just broken up. I remember very early on the effect that ‘A Day In The Life’ had on me: it seemed to have a story to it. My parents loved The Carpenters too and to this day, her [Karen Carpenter’s] voice still haunts me: it’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever heard in music.
The ﬁrst song I sung in class was ‘Alone Again Naturally’ by Gilbert O’Sullivan. I was brought up in Waterford, where he’s from, so we had a lot of his records. It’s a great song but quite heavy for a child to be singing.
Punk never really had an effect on me. I lived outside of town so I was quite protected but I’d go into school and a few of the lads would be talking about it. It was only when I hit 13 and the new wave stuff was about that I got into it. That music was really mysterious and aloof, perfect for adolescents. You want to be superior to everybody else. Punk was more of a six-month happening in England.
The 80s was a great period for music. I think it was a great period of experimentation. It was very creative in terms of making different sounds, especially through all the synths and stuff. I don’t know why, but for me the 90s seemed to just rehash the same old sounds. The very late 80s were really bad for me in terms of listening to music. 1979 to 1984 were great but after that it started going really shit, Tiffany and Curiosity Killed The Cat. Bastards. They’re on my list: hunt them down, hunt them down. Ben VolpelierePierrot – I hate him so much, I can even remember his name.
Being in a band never occurred to me. I was always more into sports and later on, drama. It’s another obvious form of being on stage, but I never went down that road. But music informs a lot of my comedy. One of the ways of being funny about people is to see what kind of music their characters like. It says an awful lot if they like Phil Collins or Sting and that’s funny in itself. In relation to a character like Ronan Keating, we’ve always seen him not so much as a musician, more an opportunist, always looking to get into another market.
Parodying certain songs is fantastic. It has to be either a very modern song or something classic that was a huge hit in people’s youth, but maybe only one-hit-wonders. The artists are generally either very supportive or completely against it. We wanted to do something with ‘I’ll Do Anything’ from Oliver! but Lionel Bart told us not to touch his music in any way. When we contacted Tim Rice about ‘Any Dream Will Do’, he loved it. Chris De Burgh told us to go fuck ourselves.
Having a number one single was an experience [a parody of Will Young’s ‘Leave Right Now’]. It was a limited release in that we only printed 18,000 and every single one sold in three days. I sang it once or twice on television and that was it, I went on holiday. I stuck on 2FM on the way to the airport and Larry Gogan was doing the chart rundown. He said, “number two, Britney Spears and number one is… Marian Rosenstock’. My moment of glory was gone. It’s easy to do comedy records badly. Our Roy Keane one had a really interesting effect on people. It was spilt between making them laugh and making them cry. ‘Leave Right Now’ is a lovely song in the ﬁrst place, it hits on that absolutely perfect structure like ‘Back For Good’.
Working in a radio station, you see how samey musicians can get. The singer/songwriter, the scruffy 19-year-old, they all just tick a box. In my opinion, not many of them come up with great tunes.
For some reason, I love Duke Special: he’s got an honesty about him. I don’t think he’s fake. He’s a great musician. I think BellX1 are a quality band. For her quirkiness, I love Vivienne Long, for just being strange.
I love Dylan because he doesn’t seem to age. His longevity, his music, his devotion to his music – it all makes him unique. He has a great love for song and poetry.
Words by Sinead Gleeson Photography by Graham Giles
graham giles/camera press
Alison Goldfrapp is exhausted. It’s the end of a non-stop week of press around Europe, that could justify diva antics, but instead she’s pleasant and just a smidge grumpy , but then she and Will Gregory have waited for an hour for State after a delayed ﬂight. Thankfully Seventh Tree, their fourth album, makes for good airport hell music. Languid and folksy, it’s a very distant relative of Black Cherry, sharing more common ground with the airy soundtrack quality of debut, Felt Mountain. It’s an album they took their time with, according to Will. “All albums take about a year but this one took longer because we took time to experiment,” he notes. “We allowed ourselves to go up blind alleys and take amazing detours that just weren’t relevant for the record. We wanted it to be different, so we knew we needed some space to explore our ideas. Once we got going in the right direction, it was just full steam ahead.” Full steam ahead indeed, but if that’s suggestive of pace, the resulting 10 tracks couldn’t be further from that. Seventh Tree is a languorous, lazy record, one that slowly unfurls and reveals something new on each listen. Before making it, they were both very clear that they wanted to take a different musical arc. “Going off in a new direction was very important”, says Will, “and we wanted to try and make an album where no tracks would sound tired very quickly. We didn’t want any fast-forward, ﬁller tracks. So we spent a lot of time going down different pathways, and we actually threw a lot of stuff away. We opted for a minimal approach and used the demon we wanted to exorcise - the guitar. It’s good to keep yourself invigorated by challenging yourself to try new things.” Anyone expecting them to continue along the disco stomp trajectory of Supernature will be surprised, but not disappointed. If
its predecessor absorbed elements of the 1970s, it was Marc Bolan’s glam rock. Seventh Tree is still rooted in that decade, but strays towards softer, more psychedelic inﬂuences. Much has also been made of its ‘Englishness’, mainly because of its ‘English Heritage’ feel: all forests, pastoral moods and - given the video for ‘A&E’ - a hint of The Wicker Man. “We’ve recorded all our records in the country,” says Alison, “all apart from Black Cherry. I think it’s important to feel comfortable in your environment, but I don’t think place necessarily informs what you do musically. Where you go in your head is where the music happens. We just happened to choose Somerset because Will lives there and there’s something really nice about being in a different environment to a professional studio. They’re just not nice places. They don’t suit us because of the way we work. We tend to write and record everything simultaneously so it’s not practical to record in a studio.” And you’re on the clock.... “Yes, you’re on the clock... and there are no windows,” she adds. If Supernature was about sexuality, Seventh Tree is all sensuality, rippling with themes of nature and fertility. State points out that the album really reminds us of Minnie Ripperton. “Yeah, she’s someone we’re very fond of...” Alison trawls off. “We’ve always liked simplicity”, Will offers, “but sometimes we’ve used sounds to support the songs, and we felt it would be great to just focus on the song itself - the chords, the melody. ‘A&E’ is a bit like that... it exists independently of its backing. It would be nice to think that you could do it a few different ways and it would still be the same song. So quite often, it was about not trying to
do too much, not making a musical statement but doing enough to let the melody do all the work. And there’s an atmosphere that Alison brings to the vocals that stands out on this album even more than the other records.” No matter what genre or tempo Goldfrapp tackle, it always comes back to Alison’s voice. She has an unbelievable range, just as at ease with siren-like soprano as breathy baritone, and has unsurprisingly drawn comparisons to Kate Bush. Always diverse in pitch, her vocals are growing old very gracefully and allowing for more experimentation. “It’s always fun to play around with my voice, it’s an instrument after all,” she confesses. “I tried to see what different tones or textures I could get with it, or how I could bend a word. This album is all about the high notes - I tried to sing as high as I could go without exploding; to try and get an optimistic and
slightly wistful sound that blended with the guitar. You think your voice will get deeper with age, but mine is going the other way around.” “It is getting deeper!” Will interrupts. Alison laughs. “Well, I’ve always been very lucky in that I have quite a diverse range. On the ﬁrst album, it’s quite deep in places.”
The band might bear Alison’s surname, but watching them interact as we chat and listening to Will do a lot of the talking, there is a respectful equality, something that extends to their music. “It’s pretty much a democracy: it’s hard for it not to be with two people”, says Will.
graham giles/camera press
“People would look at me in horror when they saw I was only 5-foot-2 and wasn’t walking around with a whip in my hand. There’s a huge obsession now with age and having to look a certain way or that you should be doing certain things because of your age. It’s all very boring.”
Alison expands on how they work together: “To establish a track, the two of us have to be in the same room together, knuckling down to it, but once things have been established, I might go off and do some vocals at home. There’s no formula to how we begin something. Quite often we’ll just start by working around a melody and go from there, or else we’ll jam around a lyrical idea, but it’s always as a unit.” This puts the kibosh on one of the biggest stereotypes about the band, that Alison is the pretty face, while Will makes all the music. One foreign journalist once told them that they were like the Pet Shop Boys - not just because of their synth love - and quoted the song “I’ve got the brains/You’ve got the looks/Let’s make lots of money” to them. Alison, was understandably horriﬁed. “In the past, there has been this misconception that Will is this anonymous guy behind the desk and I’m the frontwoman, which has pissed me off,” Alison frowns. “That’s not the start of it, though” says Will. “At the beginning, we were both doing everything, doing what the other person does, swapping roles...” Alison continues, “It pisses me off because it’s a gender stereotype. It’s ignorant when people assume that there are these traditional roles of who does what in a band, but Goldfrapp is very much about contributions from both of us.” A huge focus of attention has inevitably fallen on Alison, partly due to the visual element of their live shows and cover art. From peacock feathers to horse tail hot pants, Alison approaches Goldfrapp the band as performance. An art school graduate, one end-of-year piece involved her milking a cow while yodelling. She likes to blend the burlesque with the surreal, but confesses that the theatricality has trained a huge spotlight on her that’s hard to get away from off-stage. A track on the Seventh Tree called ‘Some People’, talks about people who “ask my age” and despite the husky delivery, it’s a barbed line. Women in music have always been judged in a way that men never have to deal with, and it’s something Alison feels strongly about. “It’s not just women in music, it’s women in general,” she argues. “Over the last three years, I’ve become very aware of, and more uncomfortable, with it. The line in the song came about after I went to a party and a guy, who was being quite ﬂirty with
me, asked me my age. I couldn’t ﬁgure out if he wanted to know if I was too old to ask back to his hotel, or if I was too old to be doing what I’m doing musically. And I thought ‘Why is he fucking asking me how old I am?’ I was incredibly aware of my image - I’d just ﬁnished a tour which was a constant round of dressing-up and performing - in a way that started to piss me off.” But is it liberating to be able to go on stage and play those parts? “Yes, but I had invented this image for myself but then didn’t like the expectation that came with it,” she admits. “I felt I had to look a certain way all the time, and when I didn’t, I felt like a huge disappointment. People would look at me in horror when they saw I was only 5-foot-2 and wasn’t walking around with a whip in my hand. There’s a huge obsession now with age and having to look a certain way or that you should be doing certain things because of your age. It’s all very boring.” Listening to the album, the huge range of old synths still lingers, from Mellotrons to Moogs, which gives it a woozy warmth, but what stands out the most is something that’s been fairly absent from previous work: guitars. “One of the things we hadn’t used before was guitars, and not as much as we have on this album, so it’s a bit of a watershed”, explains Will. “It’s just one instrument but it provides so many things... momentum, harmony, versatility and it’s very minimal too. But you have to be careful that it doesn’t stray too far into blues or campﬁre or Rickie Lee Jones territory. We wanted to use guitar because we like a lot of things it can do, but didn’t want it to sound pretty, tinkly or cliched. So we invited nine guitarists to contribute and it really worked out, especially as neither of us play guitar.” Before parting ways, State asks them about another album track ‘Cologne Cerrone Houdini’. All John Barry strings and huge orchestration, it wouldn’t be out of place on a Bond ﬁlm soundtrack. Previously, they contributed to Pawel Pawlikowski’s ﬁlm, My Summer of Love. “God, it’s hard enough making an album!”, laughs Will, “but we have talked about doing other projects.” Alison confesses that they’d love to write an opera or some sort of stage production. “I’d love to do something with a choir, actually. Something choral.” Given Goldfrapp’s chameleon qualities, we wouldn’t put it past them.
The New Album Out March 14th
The Jimmy Cake
The Jimmy Riddle Words by John Walshe ~ Photography by Lili Forberg
You’d imagine it would be hard to lose something that has 18 legs, a combined weight of over 80 stones and more instruments than the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, but Dublin’s ﬁnest avant- garde instrumental music collective The Jimmy Cake have been conspicuous by their absence for half a decade. Sure there was the odd live appearance, like Electric Picnic ‘07, but no national tour since 2002 and the lack of anything resembling a new album was beginning to put a bit of a My Bloody Valentine sheen on the entire scenario. Fret no more, however, as the greatest musical menagerie in the universe are back with their ﬁnest collection of songs to date, in the shape of the elegant, elegiac Sceptre & Crown, alongside a brand new website (www.thejimmycake.org). Bruised and bloodied after a truly epic creative process, they remain delightfully unbowed, refreshingly unpretentious and deliciously irreverent. These are people who have spent so long in each other’s company that it’s not just brothers John (drums) and Vinny (guitar) Dermody who ﬁnish each other’s sentences, but Dara ‘Dip’ Higgins (bassist) and Paul Smyth (piano, keyboards) too. The most obvious emotion surrounding the four is relief, that after ﬁve years of toil and turmoil, The Jimmies are back with the hauntingly evocative Sceptre & Crown, their ﬁrst release proper since 2003’s Superlady EP. “It was just taking so long that it became a real albatross around our necks,” Vinny sighs. “But that’s gone and we can feel free about working on new material. It’s one of the reasons why we haven’t been gigging either, because we were getting very selfconscious about having the same material for so long because we haven’t had the creative energy to put into new stuff. Whether we can still do that or not we’re about to ﬁnd out.” The reasons for the album taking so long are manifold,
but are primarily down to a combination of logistics and cold hard cash, as John explains: “It was as much about nine people being available, because we all have full-time jobs and other responsibilities. If we were a ﬁve-piece band with half as many ideas and another 15 grand, we could have released something ages ago.” The initial work on Sceptre & Crown began in a rehearsal room in Dublin city centre, where the nine decamped to write their third album proper (following 2001’s Brains and 2002’s Dublin Dead, Everybody Gone). “We went into this rehearsal space, thinking that we were going to write a particular album. As soon as we got in the space, we realised that wasn’t going to happen, for a few reasons,” recalls Paul.” First of all, every time John hit a snare drum, it was as if someone had ﬁred a shotgun. So, everything started to sound quieter.” Indeed, there was a faction in the band who felt that the entire album should be smaller and more intimate than the bombast that had gone before. It’s wasn’t the general view, however, leading to “gentle Machiavellian machinations,” laughs Vinny. “Everyone was trying to pull the album back from the brink of folkitude.” Over the course of this album’s creation, there were a number of line-up changes within the ranks: some people left, others joined, some of the new people left again. Band members moved house, got married, had babies. Life went on. “We now have a couple of people in the band who know nothing but these tracks,” explains Vinny. “The only process they’ve been part of is the grinding, attritious nightmare that was the last couple of years, trying to get this record out. So for their
The Jimmy Cake
“It’s a pretty grown up record that we’ve made, very pretty, very considered and very layered, which is great, but I think we need to get our balls back,”
sake, we’re very anxious to get writing again and to start playing again, before they quit.” It must have been very difﬁcult for the newbies, joining an established band with so many strong personalities, at such a tough time. “They came slap-bang into the middle of a very drawn-out process which involved quite a bit of bickering, which to us is perfectly fucking normal, but to someone coming in from the outside, it could look like, ‘Jesus, these fuckers aren’t going to last two weeks’,” laughs John. “Mostly it’s pretty good fun being in this band but those couple of years were troublesome, all work and no play.” Vinny grins: “We’re exaggerating for comic effect. It wasn’t
that bad.” Admitting that they “ended up with a very different album from the one we started recording” (Dip), they also have a vast amount of material left over, which they’re going to revisit over the coming months, albeit” in a completely different style,” Vinny explains. “We’ve decided the next record is going to be clarinet and accordion free, possibly with three synths, and no piano.” “It’s a pretty grown up record that we’ve made, very pretty, very considered and very layered, which is great, but I think we need to get our balls back,” is how John puts it. Paul is even more deﬁnite: “We need to drag this record down the back of a lane and beat the crap out of it.” It’s the “tight, enclosed, claustrophobic” nature of its genesis
and the bloated time-line involved in its gestation that they need to batter into shape rather than the music, however. Sceptre & Crown is by turns mouth-dryingly gorgeous and teeth-rattlingly powerful, resonating long after the ﬁnal track has disappeared. They’re justiﬁably proud of it, with Paul noting how “the production values jumped up by a thousand percent”, Vinny enthusing that “the songwriting’s far stronger” and Dip opining that their musicianship is better than ever. Indeed, when the four try to describe the album, it heralds the funniest moment of the day. Dip: “I think this album has a theme, and is almost a concept album.” John (grinning): “No it is not. Just because it sits well, that’s not a concept record: that’s just a nicely arranged fucking record.” Vinny (guffawing): “It’s like the journey of an innocent nun into a wardrobe of skeletons.” Paul drags the conversation back from the brink of hysteria: “It’s a very unfashionable record, to its credit, I think.” “The way we worked, we removed ourselves from any sense of zeitgeist or contemporary, popular opinions,” agrees Vinny.
The ﬁrst thing you will notice about Sceptre & Crown, even before you stick it into your CD player, is its stunning artwork, courtesy of Atsushi Kaga, a Japanese artist who’s based in Dublin, where he graduated from NCAD in 2005. “My wife is a painter and she was involved in a couple of group shows, where I came across the work of Atsushi Kaga,” notes Paul Smyth (piano, keyboards). “He’s on the verge of becoming an international art star. I think his work is fantastic and the rest of the lads agreed. We picked an image, said please and gave him some money.” The artwork for the CD and the website (www. thejimmycake.org), features a deliciously cartoonish bunny holding a ghoulish red cigar-smoking skull. “It’s totally iconic,” enthuses Vinny Dermody (guitar). “That’s what drew us towards it. It stands out. Throw it on the ground amongst 15 CDs and it’s the ﬁrst one you’re going to see.”
The Jimmy Cake
“The album does not reﬂect anything but the mania of the people who were in that dark room, making it.” But The Jimmy Cake were never concerned with being ﬂavour of the month or jumping on anyone’s band-wagon: they’ve always had enough ideas (and bodies) to create their own. “We were never particularly ﬂoating on the crest of a wave of fashionability,” muses Vinny, “but people still compared us to certain bands.” “Which they will not be able to do this time,” interjects Dip. “Unless Godspeed You Black Emperor! release a Genesis covers album in a couple of years, I think we might escape that this time.” Surely the fact that there are nine individuals, all with their own ideas, is both a blessing and a curse. How do they ever manage to ﬁnd consensus in the ranks? “There is a basic compromise that has to be there,” explains Vinny.” You have to understand that you’re not going to get your vision: all you can do is chip away at the collective vision and get the bits that you want in. You’ve got to be clever about it because if anyone gets Bolshie about it, everyone will say ‘no’. You can’t insist on anything: it has to be by degrees and by compromise.” “I think this album is the sound of that compromise,” agrees Dip.” It started off being one thing, morphed into something else, then changed again during the recording process. “ “I think everyone has an understanding that whatever anyone brings into the room, what comes out of the room eventually will be a completely different animal but it will be all the better for it,” notes Paul. Or as John puts it: “Anyone coming in with a serious and clear vision of what has to be done is going to end up very fucked off if they’re expecting it to come out the other side exactly the way they saw it.” Long-time fans of the band will probably be surprised to hear that Sceptre & Crown almost ended up featuring a singer for the ﬁrst time ever on a Jimmy Cake track. These would have been no ordinary vocals, however, but the unique tonsil talents of Tindersticks’ Stuart Staples. “He was well into it, and was scribbling bits of lyrics down for it,” recalls Paul. “He was going to record it at his studio in France and I was even going to go over at one point for a weekend to work on it. But time crept on and I hadn’t heard anything, so I phoned him and he sounded like he was standing in the middle of a construction site: he was having a 24-track studio installed. He then found himself in the middle of writing what will be the next Tindersticks album. They were two great excuses for not doing it.” Staples, however, is very interested in working with The Jimmy Cake on future collaborations. Indeed, he’s not the only singer they considered, as Vinny explains. “We decided to pick some of the best vocalists locally available to us and write stuff for them. We had all these amazing ideas but we had no fucking money, so you can’t realise some of that stuff.” Recording an entire album of vocal collaborations is not something they would rule out in the future. For now, however, they’re proud of Sceptre & Crown, relieved that it’s ﬁnally hitting the shelves and looking forward to what Dip describes as “starting again”. “In many ways, this is almost a quasi-year zero: we’ve been off the radar for that long,” John agrees. “The relief of being able to hold the album in our hands is great,” smiles Paul. “After that, who cares what happens?” Photo shoot location courtesy of The Bald Barista, Aungier St, Dublin 2
Whelan’s (Upstairs) Foggy Notions & Drift Collective presents Tuesday March 4th
wav tickets [lo-call 1890 200 078 tickets.ie / ticketmaster.ie, road records / city discs
Were online at
Baby Dee (Drag City) Features: Matt Sweeney, Alex Nielson, Ben Reynolds, John Contreras
Foggy Notions & !Kaboogie Present The Vaults (behind Connolly Station) Friday March 28 10pm
& Special Guests Ugly Megan & Storkboy Choons
Whelan’s (Upstairs) Thursday April 3rd
KODE 9 / Various Productions / Richie !Kaboogie & Don Rosco
Rings (Paw Tracks)
| 09/04/2008 Sounds & Pictures w/Milosh & Donal Dineen Whelans(Upstairs) | 26/04/2008 Why? (Anticon/Tomlab) Whelans(Upstairs) 10 pm |/////////// /////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// | 26/04/2008 Phosphorescent (Dead Oceans) Whelans(Upstairs) 7pm | 30/04/2008 Dirty Projectors & Yacht Whelans | 08/05/2008 Deerhunter Whelans | /////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// | 09/05/2008 Health Whelans(Upstairs) | 11/05/2008 Man Man Whelans(Upstairs) | 24/05/2008 No Kids & MT. Eerie Whelans(Upstairs) |/////////////////////
UH HUH HER
sun mar 2nd the village tickets: 22.50
(aka Sabastian Meissner) + jimmy behan tue april 29th whelans tickets: 14
wed april 9th whelans tickets: 17.50
fri mar 28th the village tickets: 21.50
+ danava + gentlemans pistols sun april 13th whelans tickets: 15
Casiotone For The Painfully Alone
Sunday March 9th
Adrian Crowley (March Residency) 5th w/ Boa Morte & Mumblin Deaf Ro 12th w/ Clarence Black (Members of Boa Morte) 19th w/ The Declining Winter 26th w/ Seraﬁna (Static Caravan)
Mary Hampton / Birdengine / Thirty Pounds of Bone / The R.G. Morrison
Whelan’s Saturday March 22th
sat may 10th whelans tickets: 20
THE DUKE SPIRIT
sun mar 30th the village tickets: 17.50
An evening with Ween. 3 hour show no support sat may 17th the village tickets: 27.50
mon april 21st upstairs @ whelans tickets: 15
MAR-MAY 08 DUBLIN
M 1708 BOOK TICKETS
WAV TICKETS [LO-CALL 1890 200 078 TICKETS.IE / TICKETMASTER.IE, ROAD RECORDS / CITY DISCS [DUBLIN] [ALL TICKETS INCLUDE BOOKING FEE]
Soul Porter Words by Niall Byrne ~ Photography by Marcelo Biglia
As with Ella Fitzgerald, as with Billie Holiday, as with Dusty Springﬁeld, as with Etta James, as with Lauryn Hill, Adele Adkins possesses a soulful voice which makes hairs stand on end with its melodious honesty. It’s a characteristic that revered singers share: the ability to make you understand their joys and troubles (but mostly troubles, admittedly). In Adele’s case, the situation is no different. On her debut album 19, her tribulations largely concern a topic familiar to most late-teen females: the ex-boyfriend. Her timbre is mournful, mature, brash, and boisterous. It possesses all the attributes of a classical soul voice, yet Adele considers herself an autodidact, though she admits she had some help along the way. When State greets her, she’s applying make-up in the mirror without a stylist in sight. She is jaunty, immediately likeable and extremely conﬁdent, with a mischievous cackle that beﬁts her singing voice. Adele is an only child, born in Tottenham, North London but later moving south to Brixton. She harboured early aspirations of being a heart surgeon: “My grandpa died when I was 10 and I think in a childish way, I wanted to ﬁx people, make people’s hearts better”. From there, she developed ambitions of being a tour manager, a fashion journalist, a photographer and even to get involved in A&R. Singing was the only thing she pursued with any vigour, her listening habits including a diet of Spice Girls, Destiny’s Child and a live Jill Scott album. She later “accidentally” bought albums from Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald in a two-for-a-ﬁver deal, admitting she had no idea who they were: “I liked their hair on the front cover”. With her early inﬂuences cemented, she started playing guitar and singing when she was 14. It was then she heard about the Brit School in Selhurst, Kent: a free independent, state funded
vocational school specialising in performing arts and technology. The school has been knocking out famous graduates of late, such as Amy Winehouse, Luke Pritchard of The Kooks and Kate Nash, but is keen to stress that it’s no stage school or fame academy. When State asks Adele about her time there, she says it didn’t shape her music as such but helped her nurture her style of songwriting. “When I started, I wasn’t writing my own songs, but I was impersonating the singers I had been listening to up to that point. I hadn’t found my own voice. My voice just kind of appeared,” she confesses. And what an appearance it was. A sultry yet sorrowful instrument, it’s no surprise that the comparisons to Amy Winehouse were plentiful, especially as they both attended the Brit School. She does count Winehouse as an inﬂuence, yet not an inspiration, perhaps alluding to lessons learned from the recent public tabloid-fuelled meltdown of the troubled singer. She’s happy with the comparisons, however. “I’d rather be compared to Kate Nash or Amy Winehouse than someone like Joss Stone”, she says bitingly. The ﬁrst song she wrote was ‘Hometown Glory’, an ode to London, the city she loves so much. “I like it in the city when the air is so thick and opaque / I love to see everybody in short skirts, shorts and shades / I like it in the city when two worlds collide / You get the people and the government/ Everybody taking different sides”. She was only 16 when she wrote the song. A wonderfully emotive piano-led tune, it was released as her ﬁrst single in October 2007 on Jamie T’s label, Pacemaker, fulﬁlling a promise she made to him before signing to XL recordings. Even before she had any releases, Adele garnered enough
“It’s amazing and it’s lovely to get support from people in the industry, but it’s just people’s opinion. I don’t feel any pressure. I haven’t actually sold any records yet! If I sell a million records, I’ll be way up on my high horse. I’ll be a right little diva!”
attention on the London live circuit for a producer to book her to appear on Jools Holland’s BBC Later show. She has been watching the show since she was 4 with her mum so they were both ecstatic that it was to be her debut TV appearance. “It was really hard work doing that, but in a good way,” she admits. “Paul McCartney was on it and it was really difﬁcult singing in front of him.”. The plaudits have been growing exponentially since then. Firstly, Adele was the inaugural winner of the Brits Critics Choice Award in December: a new award bestowed upon an emerging British talent yet to release a debut album. The 19-year-old topped a list of new bands and artists tipped for success in 2008 picked by 1,000 music-industry associates and critics. Subsequently, she was top of the pile for the BBC’s annual Sound of 2008 poll. All before the album was even released. She’s not fazed by the expectations placed upon her, though. “It’s amazing and it’s lovely to get support from people in the industry, but it’s just people’s opinion. I don’t feel any pressure. I haven’t actually sold any records yet! If I sell a million records, I’ll be way up on my high horse. I’ll be a right little diva!” she laughs. Her debut album, 19, is an assured release which may just bring such acclaim. It begins with the sparse guitar-picked ‘Daydreamer’, led by Adele’s whopping voice. It’s the song she played solo on Jools Holland about her bisexual friend of the opposite sex and her infatuation with him around the time of her 18th birthday. Inevitably, it didn’t end with unicorns and rainbows. ‘Best For Last’ arrives in a similar vein, replacing the guitar with a double bass, lending the tune a jazzy feel. Then the song explodes into an understated polychromatic wonderland, with gospeltinged backing vocals and hammered piano for the duration of the chorus. It’s a beautiful song but make no mistake, Adele is the star here. Recent single ‘Chasing Pavements’ builds on that foundation, with sweeping string arrangements, while that voice is melancholic and reaching, perfectly accentuating the doomed
nature of the relationship with the boy she is singing about. Much of the album is sombre, yet it’s far from depressing. This is arguably thanks to the simplicity of the arrangements, which is down to the way Adele writes the songs, showing them to her mum and then playing them live the same way. Most of the album was recorded with the highly sought-after producer Jim Abiss, whose previous credits include the phenomenal ﬁrst Arctic Monkeys album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, as well as Ladytron’s Witching Hour and both Kasabian albums. The even more in-demand Mark Ronson also got to turn knobs on one track, ‘Cold Shoulder’. His trademark retro style is all over the song. “I wrote that song on a Wurlitzer,” Adele explains. “XL said it should stay, ‘just you and the Wurlitzer’. I decided it was a fast song so it needs a beat.” She sought Ronson out after hearing his album Here Comes the Fuzz, a sort of hip-hop mixtape featuring Sean Paul, Q-Tip, Nate Dogg, Tweet and Mos Def. They hit it off immmediately and the track was born. This precociousness perfectly illustrates how Adele has no problem ﬁghting her corner or taking care of herself in a maledominated music industry. “All the girls complain about this [referring to Lily Allen and Kate Nash], I haven’t experienced any problems at all. I’m quite mouthy so if I don’t get my own way, I can be a stubborn little girl,” she grins. It’s this obstinate attitude that will serve her well in the future, as she has ﬁrm ambitions in mind. “I want the album to do well here [Ireland], America, Japan, Europe. I want people to come and see me live because that’s where I started.” Adele’s already thinking about the next album, for which she intends to ﬂy the coop to live and write in Brooklyn. She’s not planning on sitting still, however, as she reveals her aspirations to write for other artists and maybe one day, get involved in A&R. “I’ve got loads of pop songs that I’d love [acts] like Pussycat Dolls to sing because I couldn’t get away with that! I want ﬁve girls dancing in their bikinis, which I would never do!”
A primer on the Irish electronic scene Words by Niall Byrne ~ Photographs by James Goulden
Bass Dual Carriageway
Friday, midnight: while waiting to order at the bar, State is suddenly aware that pint glasses are vibrating across the basement of Trafﬁc on Abbey Street in the counter top like wind-up toys moving hilariously to their doom. The bass frequencies are so loud that vision is blurry and the labels on the bottles stocked behind the bar are obfuscated and hallucinatory. There’s about a hundred people gathered in the small dark basement venue, feeling the repercussions of those low, low frequencies. Meanwhile, upstairs in the same building, a mainstream club-night playing radiofriendly dance and pop music is occupied by dolled-up ladies and standard issue Ben-Sherman shirt-clad gents. The two distinct tribes converge in the smoking area outside where the fella doused in aftershave is probably wondering what the ‘scruffy fuck’ with the dreads is doing on his turf. Welcome to !Kaboogie, an alternative music night which currently takes place in
Dublin city centre. With the tagline “bass that will make your granny cry”, !Kaboogie put on regular gigs featuring bass-heavy music like breakcore, dubstep, grime, reggae, drum ‘n’ bass and electronica, which have become the best off-the-radar nights Dublin has to offer, bringing over a range of headline international acts such as Aaron Spectre, Benga, Alec Empire, The Bug and Drop the Lime, to play alongside the best of Irish electronic talent like Herv, Prince Kong, T-Woc, Lakker, Ed Devane and Major Grave. !Kaboogie’s aim is to encourage and nurture the talent in the local scene, while throwing damn good parties in the process. The atmosphere is always friendly and welcoming, and always about the tunes. They also encourage visual artists to enhance the night, such as the Pussy Krew – three Polish blokes living in Ireland, who
regularly do live visuals armed with an old vision mixer acquired from the former West Germany, DVD mixers, two laptops, two open VCRs and a suitcase brimming with 400 battered VHS tapes. The crowd are deﬁnitely non-discriminatory, a !Kaboogie promoter tells State: “We organised the recent Scotch Egg gig with GZ, a punk promoter. We like the idea of mixing it up, Band/DJ/Band/DJ. It was a really good buzz, and cool to see !Kaboogie regulars getting into the punk stuff and vice versa.”
No-doubt !Kaboogie and other Dublin collectives such as the Alphabet Set, Bodytonic and Reach are helping to foster upcoming electronic musicians, while other promoters such as Electric Underground in Cork, Backtobasskicks in Galway and Diston
in Belfast are representing this thriving alternative scene throughout the country. The scene is now so healthy that it features prominently at summer festivals. The Alphabet Set tent at Mantua Festival in Roscommon is due its third year and is one of the main draws of the festival, which had an attendance of 3,000 people last year, a huge jump from 2006’s 500 capacity crowd. Sai Festival, which takes place in early August in Drumshambo, Co. Leitrim, run by the Leechrum collective, ran its third year of festival shindiggery last year. DEAF (Dublin Electronic Arts Festival) takes place at the end of October with the aim of promoting “an ethic of genuine inclusiveness in their approach to showcasing electronic art to new audiences”. DEAF celebrated its sixth birthday last year with an all-Asian affair, while 2005’s event featured an all-Irish programme, a huge statement of conﬁdence in the quality of the work offered by Irish-based artists. An interesting facet of the electronic scene, which has its roots in the history of illegal raves, is a willingness for promoters to think outside the box when organising gigs: “We had a gig last year with the Leechrum folks in Taylor’s Hall in the city centre. There were about three or four times more people there than we expected, and there ended up being a real festival buzz, despite the reality of it being a cold winter night in Dublin. There were no bouncers, everyone brought their own drink, and no-one asking ‘have you no homes to go to?’ at only 2:30am!” Both !Kaboogie and Alphabet Set cite Seomra Spraoi, an autonomous social centre based in Dublin (but currently homeless) as an important and encouraging collective for such events. Mick Alphabet Set explains, “We got sick of the whole bar, venue, soundsystem thing. Around that time, Seomra Spraoi were getting a new venue. Along with Raidio na Life, we did two ﬂoors of Seomra Spraoi with electronica upstairs and more DJ-orientated stuff downstairs. It went off like a bomb; absolutely rammed; so of course, the cops showed up. That was one of my favourite gigs to play in Dublin. There were no bouncers, we just worked together with the people from Seomra Spraoi.” This sense of community has extended to promoters jointly-organising shows, playing each others’ events and
helping to source gigs around the country. Alphabet Set and the net-label wing of Diston, Acroplane, have recently released a free online compilation of Irish artists, entitled Disambiguation, while members of !Kaboogie, Alphabet Set and Bassbin run a regular dubstep night called Wobble, also in Trafﬁc.
One thing that a scene like this needs in order to make its mark on the Irish musical landscape is deﬁning releases. D1 recordings (and organisers of DEAF) have been releasing Irish electronic music since 1994, including seminal releases from Eamonn Doyle and Donnacha Costello. !Kaboogie’s upcoming plans include a series of vinyl releases, pairing international names with Irish artists on the ﬂip-side. Alphabet Set had a great year in 2007 with the release of Sarsparilla’s Karahee and the Choice Music Prize nominated self-titled debut LP from Super Extra Bonus Party, an inventive mix of electronic, indie and hip-hop which has the potential to capture audiences outside the realm of electronica. Another artist who breaks out of the mould is Herv, who has also released one of Ireland’s better electronic albums in the shape of 2006’s Customer, informed by Gameboy sounds, classical elements and innovative phrases that loop and morph into something wholly unique. Though his music is largely laptop-based, live he’s a joy to watch, contorting his body to each break and beat in his music, and when the genre you play is breakcore, that’s a smorgasbord of breaks and beats to gesture to. Dubstep is still a ﬂedgling genre worldwide but it already has an Irish gem in its ranks with Barry Lynn aka Boxcutter. Barry released Oneiric (2006) and Glyphic (2007), exhilarating grime-y, bass-heavy albums ﬂourished with sampled ﬂutes and catchy dub sounds, on the pioneering London label Planet Mu and received attention of Radio One’s Annie Mac, who played his tunes regularly, garnering welcome attention throughout Europe. Other notable Irish electronic albums include Chequer Board’s Gothica, Ambulance’s Curse of Vale Do Lobo, Decal’s Brightest Star and Somadrone’s Of Pattern and Purpose. There is no shortage of upcoming artists with the potential to expand Irish electronica’s boundaries,
14th March Reach presents Disrupt, T-Woc Trafﬁc, Abbey St, Dublin 28th March Foggy Notions & !Kaboogie present Kode 9, Various Productions, Richie !Kaboogie, Don Rosco The Vaults, Connolly Station, Dublin 3rd May Sibin Bass Festival !Kaboogie presents Benga,FFF,Ruffneck Discotek crew Rush, Co. Dublin 6th June Reach presents N-Type, Scuba, Abblebim, T-Woc, Don Rosco, Randall, Equinox, Droid & Slug, Barry Delta The Vaults, Connolly Station August 1st - 3rd Mantua Festival Co. Roscommon
such as Nouveau Noise, Ikeaboy, Deep Burial, The Vinny Club, Colz, Fringe and Major Grave. Of course, there is always a chance some kid is making a deﬁning album on a laptop in their bedroom with some cracked music software in some monotonous dreary town. !Kaboogie are optimistic about the future: “I think its a really good time for electronic music here. It seems like every week, we come across original, interesting stuff. There are heaps of productive heads out there. DJs, producers, bands and visual artists are really getting it together these days.”
Carry On Campesinos!
Words by Jeff Weiss
If you’re over 21, the music of Welsh septet, Los Campesinos! will make you feel old. If you’re younger, they’ll probably be your new favorite band. For the purposes of this interview State is over 21 and right now, asking them what they studied in university is making us feel ancient. That said, they’re practically impossible to dislike: all of them in their early 20s, and all witty, talented and unpretentious. The type you one day hoped you’d grow up to be: funny, verbose, internationally known by the time you ﬁnished school. But this is how it goes in this jangled internet age. Six months ago, Los Campesinos were turning student union nights out at West Cardiff University. Now, the seven of them are lounging on sofas, picking at plates of pita and hummus in the backstage dressing room of the Echo nightclub, in Echo Park, an indie rock epicentre of rapidly gentrifying eastside Los Angeles. “We could’ve quit school early but we realised that being in a pop band isn’t going to last forever. We wanted to have something to fall back on if it goes wrong. We’re realists,” Gareth Campesinos!, the band’s soft-spoken frontman nods with an earnestness that instantly clears any doubt about whether or not the band’s modest success has gone to anyone’s head—an easy proposition in theory but much harder to implement when you’re the darling of every swooning Sarah Records type on the Internet, rocking shows from Toronto to Tokyo, with a Dave ‘Broken Social Scene’ Newfeld-produced debut LP having dropped in February on the ultra-hip Wichita label. The band have been barnstorming across North America for the past week and today’s their ﬁrst in the City of Angels. Thanks to a last-minute decision by Carol King and James Taylor to hold a graying yuppie celebration of career mediocrity at the famed Troubadour, where Los Campesinos! had originally been booked, the nightclub has put the band up at a posh Hollywood hotel as a consolation prize. A twisted crook of fate that’s deposited them from small-world Wales into the bug-eyed vortex of spook central: down the street from the Scientology Celebrity Centre, a handful of blocks from the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Mann’s Chinese Theatre, where cheesy costumed superheroes and movie star imitators stalk the concrete, mugging for dizzied tourists. “Nothing here feels like reality,” Aleksandra Campesinos!, the band’s other main vocalist, says with a bit of astonishment in her voice. “We walked by Mann’s Chinese and there was a guy who was supposed to look like Michael Jackson but instead he looked like Freddy Krueger. It was kind of scary.” But this warped reality is binary; the band also still seems a little shell-shocked at how easy it’s all been. Their ﬁrst gig wasn’t even two years ago, but from moment one, this rag-tag lot, who were recruited piecemeal from Cardiff’s close-knit musical community, have been a sensation. Soon after debuting, a rough demo was cut and uploaded to Myspace and Drowned in Sound.
By August, they were opening for Broken Social Scene. Three months later, a record deal was in place and their career had been shot into the strato…er, blogosphere. “We’re aware of the fact that we haven’t had to toil for it. We didn’t have a manager when we started and the idea of getting signed hadn’t even crossed our minds,” Gareth says, shrugging his shoulders. “Too many bands start with the intention of getting rich and famous and it’s sad to see people constantly seeking new and better managers and booking agents. That’s the wrong way to do it. We turned down record deals before we even had a manager.” When the noise got too loud, Los Campesinos! wisely selected the same management as fellow Cardiff legends, Super Furry Animals, a collective who they’d quite like to model their career on. Of course, the pre-internet Super Furries were allowed a quiet gestation, unlike Los Campesinos, whose brief existence has been met with deafening hype, one that makes it initially tempting to unleash your inner cynic. Granted, if you listen with a jaded ear, it’s easy to point out the possibility that Los Campesinos! may have merely stumbled onto the secret formula to winning music critics’ hearts—a touch of Arcade Fire, a pinch of Architecture in Helsinki, a dash of Pavement, mixed with wry wit and a sharp sense of irony. Heat. Serve. But when you see the band live, you can’t deny their ability to distill the ephemeral, drunken glow of youth, that aura of invincibility, that fated narrative of you against the world, ﬂying and fading in a clean dramatic arc. It could come off as childish melodrama, but it doesn’t. Los Campesinos!’ precociousness is tempered by a keen self-awareness. Most importantly, they’re fun. This is nervous, jittery punk-rock fury, softened by melting, gorgeous harmonies and an array of children’s instruments: glockenspiels, xylophones, melodicas, and a little violin thrown in for good measure. Their ﬁrst LP, Hold on There, Youngster, successfully taps into a similar vein. It’s the sort of record that could only have been written by someone on the verge of adulthood, adolescent memories still vivid and sober-eyed. Gareth, who writes all the band’s lyrics, charmingly bleats about old K Records t-shirts, live journal entries, giving your life to literature (just don’t read Jane Eyre) and blotting out life with a pair of headphones. By the time this article runs, the band will have already released their ﬁrst record, won even more converts and will be well on their way to fame, fortune, and the Fleetwood Mac-style turmoil that’s bound to occur when you have this many cute girls in one band. But at this split second, Los Campesinos! have it all ﬁgured out.
Homies Where the Heart Is
Words: Niall Byrne
If you’ve ever bemoaned your own lack of ambition or cursed your inability to succeed, a quick glance at Rollie Pemberton’s Curriculum Vitae may push the jealousy button up a notch. A self-professed writer, rapper, producer and remixer, Rollie has achieved more in his short 21 years of life than many of his peers ever will... 2008 is the year he promises to set himself further apart from the rap-pack with the release of his second album Afterparty Babies, under the alias of Cadence Weapon. Rollie describes it as a concept record, with the central theme of creating “a social identity for the modern hipster youth”. Not a gangsta record then. Rollie hails from Edmonton, Canada, which he describes as “a weird place, full of creativity and hope”, blighted by spasmodic weather patterns not unlike Ireland. Rollie is fond of his birthplace and its people, and much of Afterparty Babies concerns his experiences in his home-town. The name Pemberton carries weight in the city, thanks to Rollie’s father Teddy, a local radio DJ who gained notoriety for being the ﬁrst to bring hip-hop, funk and black electro music to Edmonton. Growing up, Rollie buried his head in video games and didn’t take part in usual childhood rituals such as riding a bike (he only acquired that skill last year). His interest in music, however, ﬂared after stealing copies of Nas’ Illmatic and Brand Nubian’s One For All from his dad’s record collection, and he started to rap at age 13. As he continued to work on his rap skills, Rollie travelled to the US to enrol in a journalism course in all-black college in Virginia, yet he found himself unable to relate to fellow-students. “I felt I was quite stiﬂed there,” he confesses. “There weren’t a lot of people who were into the kind of music I was into. I would be jamming Aphex Twin in my dorm and people would be like, what the fuck is this?” He began to write reviews of rap albums for a little website called Pitchfork, which taught him a signiﬁcant lesson:”I heard so many shitty rap albums, I learned how not to make an album!”. With that admonition in the bag and with inspiration to create something different, he moved back to Edmonton after a year to focus on music. “I felt like I was wasting my time not putting out a record,” he notes. “I ﬁgured I got to put out this record before anybody else does, or somebody does some shit exactly like it. Then, I’ve lost my shot, y’know? ”
Rollie’s self-produced mixtape Cadence Weapon Is The Black Hand was released in January 2005 and featured on one of the ﬁrst popular music blogs, Fluxblog, leading to a record deal with Upper Class Recordings in North America and Big Dada in Europe. Rollie’s debut Breaking Kayfabe received a 2006 Polaris Music Prize nomination for its attention- grabbing electro-fused hip-hop style.
With the release of Afterparty Babies, Rollie has left behind the “aggressive, slower, dissonant tones” of Kayfabe for more danceorientated bounce tracks. When broached on this distinction, he cites Basement Jaxx and dance music in general as a major inﬂuence. “I was getting more into DJing myself, listening to dance music, kind of realising that all music is inter-connected, everything is 4/4: you can mix everything together,” he explains. “It was a real awakening for me musically. I’d never really thought about music in such an intimate way. Just the idea of seeing a couple of thousand people freaking out because of one song is unbelievable. I ﬁnd it extremely fascinating and it’s something I’d like to work on.”
Lyrically, the new album differentiates itself from Kayfabe by encasing the songs with stories of the people of Edmonton; friends, girlfriends, hairdressers, tattoo-artists and under-age youth cliques. Drawing on case studies of friends he hung out with during the summer of 2006, Rollie was inspired by the story-telling nature of Bob Dylan records and the dynamics of the individual, exempliﬁed in album opener ‘Do I Miss My Friends?’, a folk-hop lament Rollie admits is “a song about being gone all the time, feeling like I’m losing my interpersonal relationships and wondering if it’s such a big deal anyway.” Original ideas for the album concerned housing and urban sprawl and that notion was the kernel for ‘Real Estate’, which is also a metaphor for music industry success set to a bumping sample-heavy instrumental: “Just bought a house / Can’t deal with the space / Just bought a beat / Can’t deal with the bass.” Rollie paints a vibrant picture of life for Edmonton’s minors, like the Youth Crew, an enthusiastic gang of sprightly risk-takers. “The Youth Crew speciﬁcally is what me and my friend Jan used to call this group of kids who were slightly younger than us, getting into the scene, showing up at shows,” he smiles. “If I was DJing and it was looking kind of slow, Jan would get a call letting her know ‘The Youth Crew’s coming’ and I’m like... great! That means there’s going to be 30 kids sneaking into this bar or who have fake IDs and are going to come and make this party turn out!” The recurring theme of inter-personal relationships is cemented by the album cover, with Rollie front and centre on a stool, while behind him are a multitude of his acquaintances, including his current and ex-girlfriend, fellow rappers and “characters” like his touring DJ, Weasel, in pimped-out garb. The picture was taken in the basement of a bar called The Black Dog, which Rollie reveals burned down recently, leaving the photograph as the last remnant of the basement, just as Afterparty Babies serves as a lasting document of Rollie and his Edmonton allies.
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Blog Standard The tracks and artists being noticed online this month by Niall Byrne
Pip, Jape, Kila, Adrian Crowley, Delorentos, and James Yorkston. http://www.sineadgleeson.com/blog/2007/11/06/musical-rooms-full-index/
Lolomix series A series of mixes divided by theme by Loreana Rushe, featuring on Asleep on a Compost Heap blog: well worth your time and your ears. There are six mixes so far, taking in the subjects of love, a space voyage, songs with trumpets, airports, forests and all things nautical. Expect songs from Jens Lekman, Deerhunter, The Olivia Tremor Control, The Knife and Can.
blog of the month Sidi Touré Takeaway Show The ﬁlm-makers responsible for The Takeaway Show generally follow the stars of indie around the streets of Paris and other cities, capturing footage of unique live street performances. It’s never short of being refreshing and insightful. For this episode, however, the net is cast wider as the crew travel to Bamako, Mali, where we ﬁnd African blues-folk musician Sidi Touré on the fringe of the Sahara, expressing frustration with his experiences of the western music industry and playing a captivating set of songs on the streets of his desert neighbourhood. Absolutely breathtaking.
Dalston Oxfam Shop http://dalstonoxfamshop.blogspot.com/ Once a week high quality digital recordings of cassette tapes purchased at the Dalston Oxfam Shop in East London.
Radiohead re-imagined Proof that Thom and Co.’s songs make killer hip-hop instrumentals, this unofﬁcially released remix album from California’s Amplive (of Zion I) is a fantastic collection of In Rainbows-sampling tunes. After some initial legal wrangling with the ‘head’s publisher, Warner/Chappell, Rainydayz Remixes is ﬁnally available as a free download to all and sundry. It features guest vocals from MCs such as Chali2Na (formerly of Jurassic 5), Del The Funkee Homosapien, Too $hort & MC Zumbi..
Mumblin’ Deaf Ro ar an raidió Creator of one of the best Irish albums of 2007, Ronan Hession drops into the Dublin City FM 103.2FM studio for a chat with Aoife Mc of The Indie Hour to talk about said album, The Herring And The Brine. Ro is an eloquent speaker: self-deprecating, totally engaged in craft and song-writing, and likeable to boot. Listen to the interview and songs from the album in the MP3 podcast.
Musical Rooms If you’ve ever wondered about a musician’s habitat, this is the series for you. Our own Sinéad Gleeson asks artists to describe the spaces they make their music in and how it affects the recording process. Contributors thus far include Dans le Sac Vs Scroobius
A novel blog, which has produced innumerable nostalgic gems since it started, Dalston Oxfam Shop is based on the idea that there is gold in the cassette tapes found on the shelves in charity shops. Recent cassette tapes for download include Urban 88, a compilation of late 80s urban dance tracks with James Brown, Walter Beasley and The Groove Train, as well as Kinky Trax 2, a 1993 New York House cassette, of which most of the songs are cheesy and deeply unpleasant. Part of the appeal is listening to archaic music from movements long forgotten, while the worry is that you may end up liking a South African compilation (complete with interludes of strange advertisements and radio commentary), made speciﬁcally for taxi drivers to play to their passengers in 1988. As with any music blog worth its salt, a trawl through the archives will turn up something for everyone.
Kells Angels Words by Phil Udell ~ Photography by Richard Gilligan
Some bands form at school, some at university, while others get together through a chance meeting in a pub. The Meteor Award-winning Ham Sandwich, however, decided that music was their destiny at a cruciﬁxion party one Easter night in Kells. It ﬁgures. Of all of the bands doing the rounds in Ireland at the moment, they have perhaps the most unique sense of style and purpose. That bizarre social gathering wasn’t quite the start of the story though. All ﬁve members came across each other at various points in their native Kells, from Johnny Moore and Podge McNamee’s childhood bonding over stolen toys to Niamh Farrell’s arrival from Scotland, Darcy’s school days and a workplace meeting with Ollie Murphy. If this combination of personalities wasn’t enough, putting them together in a small County Meath town was another thing altogether, especially Podge. “It brought out a bit of a perversion in me,” he enthuses. “Most people in Kells are really shy. It’s such a small town where everybody knows everybody else’s business, so there’s a lot of shame in being noticed. I thought, screw that. I felt that I could express myself, I enjoyed people talking about me. It’s crazy that people care what you do. I never gave a crap.” It was inevitable, perhaps, that Podge should end up in a band, even if he himself wasn’t quite sure of the route he wanted to take. “It was kind of strange. I used to annoy Johnny about being in a group,” he muses. “ I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I just wanted to be in one for some reason. I showed up at our ﬁrst rehearsals with a guitar I didn’t really know how to play and they asked me to try singing. It seemed to work. I was a kind of a Bez ﬁgure who learned how to sing.” It was when Podge and Niamh started to sing together that the character of Ham Sandwich began to develop, imbuing their songs of love and loss with extra drama. “There’s an underlying tension in a lot of our songs,” agrees Niamh, “almost like we’re
singing to each other. Even when we’re singing the lyrics together, there’s that relationship going on. I think people like that.” “I can’t think of an awful lot of strong male/female vocal bands,” says Podge, “who are well known anyway. There’s the Magic Numbers but that’s just harmonies really. It gives us a slight uniqueness, especially in Ireland. We’re not ashamed of it. There’s no ego involved: it’s whatever works best for the song.” Johnny picks up on the idea: “The album itself is built on the whole theme of heartbreak and there are lots of different things going on. When you listen through it, it makes sense where it’s going. It’s never, ‘you sing this line, you sing this line etc’. The male and female vocal makes sense in our songs because in a relationship, both sides feel the same thing: they’re just not saying it.”
It’s early February and the three have joined State in advance of the release of their debut album Carry The Meek. Anticipation for the record is high, buoyed by a Meteor Award and reams of positive press, but it’s actually the result of a far longer process that has seen the band develop their craft gradually, all under the banner of their own record label, Route 109. This, as Niamh explains, was always a conscious decision. “At the back of your mind, when you start a band, you probably think it would be great to get a record deal,” she muses, “but as you see all your friends around you getting picked up and fucked around by labels, you grow to realise that it’s not the best idea. Doing it yourself is harder but it’s worth it in the long run. You own everything yourself.” “Everyone we knew who was in a band from back home who got signed, got burned,” agrees Johnny. “We started to ask
ourselves what the beneﬁt was. It’s like a bank loan, except that at the end of it, the bank treats you really mean and fucks you around. Five people can get a good bit of capital together. If we’d been signed, we’d have been dropped by now. Any band needs to develop. You can’t expect to be able to do stuff immediately. When things go wrong, at least you know why they’ve gone wrong. I know so many people who were kept in the dark and when they do get dropped, someone tells them what happened. If they’d known, they could have done something.” If this part of their approach was very now, the other strand was decidedly traditional – releasing a series of singles, ﬁve in fact, before Carry The Meek had even surfaced. Part of the reason may have been pure ﬁnancial logic, but for Niamh it made sense on other levels. “Every single was a deﬁnite progression for us,” she explains. “You could see more and more people buying them, more and more people getting interested as we went down the line. They were coming to the gigs and collecting the records that they’d missed when they hadn’t heard of us. It was much better than releasing one single and then going straight in and making an album. It would go straight into the bargain bin.” “It was like giving ourselves little exams in how we were doing,” smiles Johnny. “You learn something with ﬁrst one, something more with the second one and by the ﬁfth, you know what it’ll take to put out the album. Everybody knows what they
have to do. It’s like we served a little internship with our own label.”
The development of Ham Sandwich has been quite remarkable, transforming them from quirky outsiders to one of the names to drop by those in the know. Yet this is no case of hype over substance, as the likes of ‘Words’ and ‘Click..Click..Boom!’ have established their credentials as a barbed pop band ‘par excellence’. It’s gone hand-in-hand with the development of their own, deﬁnite style. “We’ve stuck with our designer Laura from the beginning,” stresses Niamh, “because if you chop and change your artwork, you may as well change your name. From the very start, we had a certain style that we wanted to stick with, the photos and the doodles. It gives people a sense of association with us in their mind: they look at a CD and know it’s Ham Sandwich. Podge is equally adamant. “From my experience of buying albums and singles, the artwork is incredibly important,” he enthuses. “I completely hound the shit out of Laura: I’m surprised she still gets on with me. Nothing gets by unless I OK it.” Despite the dark and sometimes off-the-wall nature of their public image, the mainstream media has been queuing up to make use of Ham Sandwich’s time, particularly TV. Not that some of the offers have impressed Johnny.
COLIN FARRELL BRENDAN GLEESON RALPH FIENNES
(it’s in Belgium) www.inbruges.co.uk
Would you care to join our bunch? Friday March 7th is Daffodil Day, the main fundraising event of the Irish Cancer Society. The Irish Cancer Society needs your help selling daffodils to raise funds for its free nationwide nursing care services. Please consider giving a few hours of your valuable time.
To volunteer or to make a donation, please call 1850 60 60 60 or visit www.cancer.ie
“We were offered a famous Irish talent show and we turned it down on principle,” he reveals. “Some shows you have to do and they’re great to do, but to do something where you’re supposed to be held up as something to be admired and the show itself is about to treat people like shit, it wasn’t the situation we wanted to put ourselves in. I don’t think it’s right for a band who’ve earned it to go on TV and tell those people that they’ll get a dream out of it.”
A far more successful, yet unavoidably bizarre, experience was their visit to The Late Late Show. These particular ﬁsh felt a touch out of water that night. “I wasn’t nervous,” professes Podge, “but I did feel slightly uncomfortable and I think that reﬂected in my performance.” Niamh is more forthright. “You looked out into the crowd and it was all older people. We sat there, thinking ‘how the hell are they going to take us?’ They had Dickie Rock’s son on doing the showband thing, which all the people would know. At ﬁrst, you’re like ‘bollocks’. It’s scary going in. You’ve watched it for years and you wonder what it’ll be like. You assume that everybody would be highly strung and give out to you all the time. When you go out there, though, everybody’s so nice to you.” “Afterwards you go into a pub in Kells and you get pints for free,” laughs Johnny. “It’s like a milestone for bands in Ireland. Once you’ve done that, it proves that you’ve achieved an awful lot of what you want to do.” “It gives you cut-throat experience,” says Podge. “You can go
back and see what you did wrong. So by the time we did Podge & Rodge, we were completely comfortable.” What’s perhaps most surprising is that the Ham Sandwich experience seemed equally at home with Pat Kenny as it did with the foul-mouthed puppet brothers from Ballydung, despite the pretty vast differences in their audiences. Niamh, for one, sees no problem. “You have to give everybody a chance. It’s a really bad idea to try and isolate your audience to your own age group, try and get in on a scene and stay there,” she notes. “You have to do these things because there are a lot of different people who like your music.” Johnny sees it the same way: “If you’re in a band and don’t want as many people as possible to hear your music, that’s ridiculous. We’ve come from that Irish background of trying to spread the music, entertain people and tell stories. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t tell those stories to other generations. Your music should be presented so it’s accessible to everybody.” Two weeks later and the evidence that desire is working is clear. In a single day, their debut album is released, they play an in-store at HMV in Dublin and later that evening, pick up the Meteor Award for Hope of 2008, voted for by 2FM listeners. Their surprise and delight is evident, in contrast to the response of some other winners. They head off to the ofﬁcial party, get refused entry because they have the wrong coloured wristbands and end up entering an indie club at Whelan’s to a heroes’ welcome. The mainstream may be beckoning but Ham Sandwich aren’t quite ready to give up their independence just yet.
Stiff Little Fingers
From the mean streets of 1970s Belfast to releasing the ﬁrst independant album to impact on the UK charts: the heyday of SLF
When Belfast Punk’d The World Words by Phil Udell
Jake Burns, son of a Hank Wangford fan and aspiring guitarist, the sense of musical despair was only heightened by his Belfast location. “People were afraid to come to Northern Ireland, apart from Rory Gallagher who came every year, but generally British bands were obviously either frightened to come across, ignorant or couldn’t get the insurance,” he recalls. “Realistically, it wasn’t the nicest place to go to: they had security gates around the city centre that were locked around eight o’clock in the evening which made the city centre a ghost town. “Our connection was either what we read in the mainstream music press or whatever we heard on John Peel. That was pretty much it. The huge difference was that if you lived in Manchester or wherever, there was a good chance that these bands you heard about would come and play in your town. In common with a lot of those places, though, there was the feeling that if we wanted this to happen, we would have to do it ourselves.” Doing it themselves at ﬁrst meant Highway Star, the school band Burns formed with friends Henry Cluney, Ali McMordie and Brian Falloon, when they
discovered that working out the chords to ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ wasn’t hugely difﬁcult. However, like many others, they found themselves subject to the changes emanating from London and New York. “I’d been bored with what we were listening to for a while: we all had,” Burns notes. “Myself and Henry were moving away from all the heavy metal bands into Dr Feelgood and Eddie & The Hot Rods. Even bands that weren’t particularly pretentious were still bloody tedious by that stage. They seemed to have run out of ideas and they weren’t doing anything that excited me. I really had reached the point of ‘why did a song have to take ten minutes?’ Then we heard stuff on Peel and
If there were no… Stiff Little Fingers there’d be no… Green Day As noted in the ‘High Fidelity’ movie, the SLF inﬂuence on Green Day’s early sound was massive. Bad Religion and Rancid too have both paid their respects. The Smiths Not a direct inﬂuence but as the ﬁrst album release on the ﬂedgling Rough Trade, the commercial success of Inﬂammable Material provided a vital springboard for the company. We won’t hold them responsible for Shelleyan Orphan though. Stuart Pearce Nothing for Mr Pearce Snr to be concerned about. Unlike most footballers, Pearce has denounced awful music taste in favour of an undying love of punk in general and SLF in particular. Appeared on last year’s ‘Still Burning’ DVD. virginia turbett
The musical wasteland that was the mid-seventies was a desolate place for many, but for a teenage
Stiff Little Fingers
it was ‘blink-and-you-miss-it’.” Cluney was the ﬁrst to embrace the birth of punk. “We all had long hair, but one day he pitched up at my folks’ house, having cut his hair, changed his clothes and clutching three singles that he made us listen to,” Burns smiles. “We bought up everything we could lay our hands on. While I thought it was exciting and it was fun, I didn’t see it anything beyond that. It was blessed relief from ten-minute guitar solos but I didn’t really see where it was going to go, any long term future. It wasn’t like the ﬁrst time you heard Bob Dylan or Bob Marley.” Hearing The Clash for the ﬁrst time changed all that, however. “That was the link that pulled it all together,” he admits. “As much as anyone could understand what Joe was singing about, he was writing about his life and the lives of people around him. Instead of all the classic ﬁlth and the fury, at least this guy was furious for some good reason. That triggered the change and made us take it seriously. We thought that if they had something to complain about growing up in West London, they’d want to try living in Belfast for a while.” Highway Star – a Deep Purple reference – were gone and Stiff Little Fingers – named after a Vibrators track – were born. At least, unlike others, The Clash did try and play live in Belfast – although the rather un-punk problems of insurance led to the gig being pulled at the last minute. “With typical Belfast heavy handedness, the security forces turned up and there was some sort of mini riot,” remembers Burns. “We stomped down to the Europa Hotel, where they were staying, and Joe and Paul did come out as far as the security gates to talk to people. It was a nice gesture but a lot of good it did; we wanted to see them play.” It was the beginning of something: a realisation on all sides that they weren’t the only ones out there, that there was a punk ‘scene’ bubbling below Belfast’s less-than-shiny surface, where Rudi and The Outcasts were also starting to happen. “Up until The Clash thing, I really thought that the four of us and these guys were the only people who gave a damn about punk rock,” Burns explains. “Then we came round the corner and there was a riot going on. Everybody probably felt the same until that night.”
Stiff Little Fingers
The ﬂedgling Stiff Little Fingers were still ﬁnding their way, however, staging covert gigs at the Glenmachen Hotel on the edge of town and struggling to ﬁnd their lyrical voice. “When I heard The Clash, we wrote ‘State Of Emergency’, probably the ﬁrst song that dealt with where we were from and what we were living through,” Burns remembers. “By the same token, I was working as an accounts clerk in an engineering factory and because of that I wrote ‘Breakout’, which was basically our version of ‘Career Opportunities’.” Perhaps the biggest stepping stone in the young SLF’s career, however, was meeting Gordon Ogilvie, an English journalist working for the Daily Express. Tipped off to the band by friend and
fellow journo Colin McClelland, his ﬁrst meeting with Burns was to move SLF in a signiﬁcant new direction. “He heard something in it. When we talked, he realised that we were as keen to reﬂect our surroundings as he was. That was when he handed me the lyrics to ‘Suspect Device’,” Burns recalls, describing it as a “life deﬁning moment”. “As soon as I saw those words, I knew where we were going. It was as if Gordon turned a key in a lock and the door ﬂew open. On the back of that, I immediately wrote ‘Wasted Life’.” This new, honest approach to writing about their experience was not without its problems: “Never did we assume that we’d have any trouble with the paramilitaries: we never thought we’d come on their radar. We were more concerned about people in the audience. There was this misconception that we were being masterminded by this svengali
ﬁgure. Then there was the attitude that The Undertones took, which was ‘I have to deal with this shit every day, I don’t want to go out to be entertained and have to listen to it as well’. We were always conscious of that, plus the chances were that you were singing to someone in the audience who had suffered some personal loss or injury through this.”
With Ogilvie and McClelland taking charge of their management affairs, the next logical step was to make a record, with ‘Suspect Device’ the obvious choice. “Looking back, there’s no way we were ready but it was punk rock and you struck when the iron was hot and got on with it,” Burns grins. “When you listen back to that ﬁrst single now, it’s incredibly naive, it’s incredibly badly played and hardly produced at all, but that’s the charm of the thing. We recorded it in Downtown Radio’s jingle studio: Gordon and Colin put up the money and we ﬁred it off to record companies all over the place and no-one was interested.” One person who was interested, however, was John Peel, whose patronage was soon reﬂected by increased coverage in the UK press. Although SLF weren’t the only punk band in Belfast, it was another Peel-endorsed Northern Irish outﬁt who were starting to make headway. “We never really had a relationship with The Undertones to be honest,” admits Burns. “Derry was 80 miles up the road and we never came across one another. The main source of the friction was that they thought singing about The Troubles was the wrong thing to do. That’s a perfectly valid point of view and I understood it at the time. I had friends who would say to me,’ do you have to keep writing songs about here, for fuck’s sake?’” From the very beginning, though, SLF weren’t without their humorous side: “We didn’t want to be labelled as a dour political band and start dealing in clichés. ‘Barbed Wire Love’ was designed to take the piss out of ourselves before anyone else did it.” While Burns had always had his suspicions that punk was too onedimensional to make a real impact, he and the band pushed on to record their debut album Inﬂammable Material, virtually live and in 10 days. “It was certainly an exciting
record but maybe we were too close to be objective about it,” admits Burns. “I think we’ve made better sounding records since then but whether we ever made a better one is a moot point. Had we gone into a big studio with a producer who knew what he was doing, we may have ended up with a better sounding record but it wouldn’t have been so exciting.” The album was to be the ﬁrst full length release on Rough Trade, although the decision to go with the independent wasn’t a tough one. “To be honest, we had no other offers: there’s no point trying to guild the lily,” Burns smiles. “When we did get the chance to move to a major, we snapped at it straight away, mainly from a security point of view. But when we ﬁrst moved to Rough Trade, they were still packing singles into boxes in the back of a shop, much like we had been doing in Gordon’s ﬂat in Belfast. It didn’t feel like we’d signed to a big record label. It was deﬁnitely the right place at the right time. I look back on those days with affection, though: they were incredibly honest. Once we’d paid for the record, we split everything 50-50.” Various factors, not least the departure of drummer Falloon, delayed the release of the album until 1979, by when the ﬁrst wave of punk had effectively blown itself out. In reﬂection of the changes afoot, the band headed
Stiff Little Fingers
out on their ﬁrst major UK tour with the Tom Robinson Band. “His audience were probably a bit more middle class than the one we would have attracted on our own,” notes Burns. “We were always going to pull a working class audience, but once we were put in front of the more college style crowd that Tom was attracting, they realised that we were a bit more than a ‘1-2-3-4, there’s no money on the dole, God I’m so bored’ punk rock band and that there was an intelligence to what we were doing. That opened up an audience to us that we wouldn’t have had access to if we’d gone out on a package tour with Sham 69.” For all Burns’ doubts, Inﬂammable Material became a big deal, drawing praise across the board and charting at number 14 in the UK, the ﬁrst independent album to seriously dent the charts. Back home too, Stiff Little Fingers were making an impact, their heroes’ return to Belfast encapsulated in making the front cover of The Belfast Telegraph and a hometown show at the Ulster Hall. “OK, we didn’t ﬁll it the ﬁrst time round but eventually we did,” laughs Burns. “It was nice because we were kind of expecting to get hammered in Belfast, which we did in certain quarters. There was stuff from people in other bands but they admitted later on they were jealous because we’d achieved something. You expect that and if the roles had been
Ali McMordie, Jake Burns and Henry Cluney at the Brixton Anti Nazi League Carnival, 2 February 1979.
reversed and if I’d been to see Rudi headline the Ulster Hall, I’d have been a bit green around the gills. That’s all been resolved as we’ve got older.” For a snapshot of a moment in time, Inﬂammable Material was perfect but Burns knew instantly that it could never be repeated. “I’m probably the harshest critic of the second album [Nobody’s Heroes, Chrysalis, 1980] because we didn’t move far enough, fast enough,” he states. “Things were changing and there’s no way we could have reinvented ourselves as a ska band or turn into Joy Division, but I felt we had to become more professional and get a harder edge to what we were doing, which might sound strange, but I wanted to keep the anger but sound like those other bands I’d been comparing us to.” Their debut, however, remains one of the classic punk albums. “When we started out, Gordon asked me what I wanted from the band. In those days, all I wanted was for John Peel to play one of our records and say, ‘and that was Stiff Little Fingers, of course’. The next thing was for the album to be a hit, which it was. Then he said, ‘now what do you want to do?’ And that was it... we had to keep looking forward...”
Just when you thought you had it all
…Irish Oscar Moment cleaning system; $100,000 worth of antique recording and listening devices, as well as some anti-static record sleeves. The collection, valued at over $50 million, was expected to fetch in excess of $30 million. However, the winning offer came in at just $2150 above the $3 million starting price and, more bizarrely, came from a purchaser from Galway. The subsequent frenzy of interest into the mystery philanthropist proved to be short-lived, as it turned out he was 23 and his only previous entry into the world of wheeler dealing had been to sell two Radiohead tickets. Needless to say, the stringent eBay credit checks weren’t called for and, if you have a few bob spare, the collection should be back on the market soon.
Watching a ﬁst-waving, obscenely happy Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova accepting their statuette from John Travolta will remain long in the State memory as one of the most bizarre and simultaneously uplifting television moments ever. The Frames frontman’s pure Dublinese ‘Tanks’ was brilliant, while the cúpla focail as Gaeilge deserved kudos freisin. “This is mad,” understated a clearly moved Hansard. “We made this ﬁlm two years ago. We shot on two Handycams. It took us three weeks to make. We made it for a hundred grand. We never thought we would come into a room like this and be in front of you people. It’s been an amazing thing.” Indeed it has. When ‘Falling Slowly’ (from the ﬁlm Once) triumphed ahead of the Disney slush-fest Enchanted, it really felt like one for the little man, a shot in the arm for all the independent movie producers and directors, as well as the musicians, songwriters and artists who spend their lives beavering away for very little reward. Hansard’s rallying cry to “make art” was similarly heartfelt. Hopefully, Once’s win will give more ﬁlmmakers the courage to do just that.
… Record Collection Weighing in at three million records and 300,000 CDs, the music collection that recently appeared on for sale on eBay claimed to span “the complete history of the music that helped shape and deﬁne ﬁve generations, from Thomas Edison to American Idol”, although the accompanying photograph chose to highlight Willie Nelson, The Kooks and an obscure Madonna remix album. Put that all together though and the result was a tidy six million plus songs to keep you going. The winning bidder also stood to obtain the rights to six publishing companies, eight record companies and the world famous Spin-Clean record
The 33≥/∂ series of books are required reading for dedicated music junkies, where an author chooses an album to explore and writes about it in comprehensive detail. Usually, albums in the series are classics or considered signiﬁcant to a genre. What happens though, when Carl Wilson (Pitchfork writer and editor at The Globe and Mail in Toronto) examines Celine Dion’s Let’s Talk About Love, hardly a music nerd’s wet dream? While many consider Dion’s music vomit-inducing pap, millions of others adore her. The book is a selfdescribed “study of cultural passions and antipathies” which walks the boundary between taste and judgement in a bid to discover why Celine is so polarising. Will Wilson ﬁnd his inner Celine Dion fan? Or will a thorough examination of her life, loves and music produce other inner truths? You’ll have to read the Canadian journalist’s account of his immersion to ﬁnd out, but regardless of the result, we promise the book is a fascinating cultural and social analysis of music preferences and taste.
michael caulfield (oscars)
…Pop Culture Book
welcome to the cusp
the new album from giveamanakick 0ut April 18th w w w. m y s p a c e . c o m / g i v e a m a n a k i c k
Cypress ave Cork Whelans Dublin Roisin Dubh Galway Dolans Limerick
April April April April
18th 19th 24th 25th55
Lightspeed You Black Emperor Words by John Walshe Photography by Lili Forberg
You could be forgiven for expecting Falling Off The Lavender Bridge, the debut album from Lightspeed Champion (aka Dev from noisenik experimental terrorists Test Icicles), to be a prog-ish mosh-fest. You’d be very wrong indeed. But then nothing about this 21-yearold multi-instrumentalist is conventional. In person, Dev – Devonte Hynes to his mum – is as excitable as a young child, switching between subjects at breakneck pace, equally at home discussing racism in Britain and video game characters or comics (the band’s name allegedly comes from his self-penned comic strips). Musically, too, he ﬂitters around like a butterﬂy: he has a fully ﬂedged hip-hop album in the bag and is already planning the follow-up to Lavender Bridge. “I have songwriting phases and the albums I release capture that particular phase,” he enthuses. “The versions of these songs that I play live are different from the album: they’re heavier, more like a classic rock band style.” The country inﬂuences on his debut are writ large, however, with the pedal-steel and string-driven sound more akin to Badly Drawn Boy or Elvis Costello than the screeching riffs we may have expected. “When I was younger, I’d have Gram Parsons playing in the house,” he recalls, before admitting that his musical love affairs took him to “a really uncool point. When I was 12, I was a really big Dixie Chicks fan”. Unfortunately, Dev has never heard of the horrible hybrid that is country ‘n’ Irish, but when State explains its inherent ugliness to him, he promises to look it up – expect the Big Dev and the Mainliners album in 2009. For the moment, however, he’s happy to tour Lavender Bridge, a wonderfully accessible smorgasbord of melancholic whimsy, with a pointed sense of humour bubbling under a thin crust of sweepingly anthemic folk-pop. “Most of it [the album] is about my ex-girlfriend,” he confesses. “We were together when I wrote the album but we were breaking up: we were friends afterwards but we’re not friends now.” The wonderfully fragile ‘Everyone I Know Is Listening To Crunk’ was written an hour after the split, so it’s fair to say that Dev isn’t afraid of excorcising (or at least exercising) his demons through his art. That said, it’s not all po-faced soul-searching, with enough knowing humour for a Stephen Fry novel. “I can’t ever do anything completely seriously,” he admits. “Even ‘Everyone I Know Is Listening To Crunk’, which was a really intense moment, is ridiculous.” Indeed it is, as he tries to entice his ex around with the promise of the new season of The OC. “Ah, the amazingly out-of-date OC reference,” he guffaws. Indeed, Dev’s not afraid of namechecking all types of pop culture in his songs: the epic ‘Midnight Surprise’ references classic video game The Legend Of Zelda.
The album has a more serious side, though, with Dev describing his ﬁrst-hand experiences of racism in London (‘Devil Tricks For A Bitch’, ‘Tell Me What It’s Worth’): “The interesting thing about racism and me is that I’ve only ever encountered racism from black people,” he explains.” The last time I suffered racial abuse from someone who’s white, I was probably seven. Black people seem to have a big problem with me, especially in the area where I live.” Any idea why? “Probably because I’m not dressing in tracksuits. It’s funny, because if only they knew, I’m really big into hip-hop: I wrote the Tupac entry on Wikipedia,” he smiles ruefully. “But there were periods when I wouldn’t leave the house for a month because I couldn’t deal with seeing rude-boys or anyone like that. “I guess in school in Britain, unless you choose to, you don’t learn about slavery, about Malcolm X, about racism in the 70s,” he continues. “Racism exists in London but it’s never been a huge problem. It’s almost like they’ve had it too easy, because if they did ever have to ﬁght for certain things, the last thing they’d think of is picking on another black person.In America, there is so much racism still active that the last thing they’ll consider doing is picking on a black person walking down the street.” Unfortunately, the problem is so bad that Dev’s planning to move. He’s considering uprooting to New York, a far cry from London or the country-tinged surrounds of Omaha, Nebraska, where he recorded Lavender Bridge with resident Saddle Creek producer Mike Mogis, in the home studio which Mogis co-owns with that label’s most famous son, Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst, who he describes as misunderstood: “People have this perception of a moody, serious, slightly crazy dude, and he’s the guy in a group of friends who is always making a joke or doing something silly: he’s not as guarded as he should be.” Oberst’s bandmate Nate Walcott played most of the piano on Lavender Bridge, and other musical guests include The Faint’s sticksmith Clark Baechle, stunning vocalist Emmy the Great, as well as various members of Cursive and Tilly and the Wall: “I didn’t really ask anyone to do it, people just offered their services. It would just be a case of late one night deciding to do group vocals.” Most of 2008 is going to be spent on the road promoting the result, which Dev is looking forward to and dreading in equal measure. He’s delighted that his songs are going to reach a wider audience, while feeling slightly uncomfortable at being the focal point on stage instead the relative anonymity of just playing guitar: “I’m never going to get used to that. I get really nervous and I say stupid stuff on stage.” Disarmingly honest, refreshingly scatterbrained, by year’s end he could be a household name.
Angry. Ripping Up Rulebooks. Repoliticising. Banging Heads.
Breaking Up. Not Breaking Up. Reinterpreting the Dream.
Words by Kara Manning ~ Photography by Chris Floyd
It’s been a curious 12 months since REM’s Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe, along with original drummer-turnedfarmer Bill Berry, stood in the cavernous, chandeliered ballroom of New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel next 59
watching Eddie Vedder eloquently induct them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As the band tumbled on-stage - Buck clutching a glass of red wine, Nudie-suited Mills thanking his mother and Stipe emotionally asking that everyone who had helped them over the last 27 years stand for an ovation – came the disconcerting and surreal realisation that REM were ofﬁcially part of a museum. And perhaps in danger of becoming rock and roll relics. “The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is both an honour but it’s also a warning sign,” admits Mills recently, sitting in a dullyfurnished hotel suite at the Tribeca Grand Hotel on a cold, bright winter afternoon in Manhattan. “It’s a big yellow triangle saying, okay, you can get complacent.” Buck concurs, adding that the 2006 induction of the Athensborn REM into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame was another pinnacle of celebration and a point of concern. “There was deﬁnitely this feeling …” says Buck, trailing off thoughtfully and then continuing. “You get the lifetime achievement stuff and, you know, you want to be one of the few people who gets into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and then makes a great record. [Bob] Dylan did it. And Neil [Young].” But could REM do it? For a band that quietly redeﬁned ‘alternative’ in the 80s and deftly churned out taut, inspiring and illuminating albums through the years that followed -- ricocheting from the darkly beautiful blur of Murmur and Reckoning to the commercial zenith of Out of Time -- it would seem an attainable goal. Hotly touted young groups like Band of Horses and The Whigs trail in the roots rock footsteps of the Athens elders and few American bands garner as much European adulation as REM. But as Buck, Mills and Stipe readily admit, over the last decade, the pressure to come up with another great album has been daunting. Not that they haven’t tried. Since 1997, when Berry left the band to retreat into civilian life, the remaining members have fought to establish themselves as an equally persuasive trio, releasing three studio albums, Up, Reveal and Around the Sun. While those albums wouldn’t be considered complete failures, they weren’t big sellers either – Around the Sun only sold 1.5 million copies worldwide, while the other two just cracked the two million mark, a disheartening number when compared to the ten million plus international sales for 1991’s Out of Time. More signiﬁcantly, the post-Berry albums didn’t inspire much enthusiasm from the band’s fans or critics, who worried about the languid, experimental and unfocused nature of REM’s new sound, which paled in comparison to the spare, crisp edges of their earlier work. The band’s own disappointment with 2005’s Around the Sun, which has yet to go gold in the US, was a crucial turning point, forcing Buck, Mills and Stipe to question their methods for making albums and according to Buck, raised the spectre of the band’s possible demise. “We were going down a path I wasn’t so enamoured of,” he says of the band’s post-mortem conversations that followed Around the Sun. “I think everyone was dissatisﬁed with the way it was going: me more than anyone. Mike and Michael are very spontaneous in their lives, but creatively in the last few years, they’ve been more rigid, ‘I want to spend more time [in the studio], we’ve got to worry, we’ve got to remix [the album] ﬁve times.’ The
idea that the longer we work and the more un-fun it is, the better the records are just isn’t working.” Buck, who also plays with The Minus 5 and Robyn Hitchcock’s band The Venus 3, relished the simplicity of his side projects - just guitars, bass and drums, without set lists, complicated set-ups or demanding recording processes. “Live on stage, REM is kind of like that,” he continues, “And I kept saying [to Mike and Michael], that’s who we are, that’s who we want to capture in the studio. We’re a great band and it’s not coming across on the records.” While Mills is more forgiving of the band’s last studio album, he believes that REM made some strategic errors. “With Around the Sun, we sort of lost our focus because we tried to do too much. We did a greatest hits [album] and we did a tour in the middle of doing a record. Not smart – but we didn’t know that at the time.” “I made it really clear to everyone – not in a blaming way – that I’m not going to work like this again,” says Buck, leaning forward in his armchair. “I’m not going to book eight months in a studio and hope we come up with a record. We need to have the songs written before we go in and ﬁnish and record them together, perform them together. But everyone agreed with me that [Around the Sun] was the end of a process that just didn’t work.” “I think throwing away the rulebook was something that we all recognised had to happen,” Stipe murmurs, sitting quietly in his own room. “Kind of starting from scratch. And that’s totally what we did.” Rulebooks were duly binned.
From the time REM stood in that ornate New York ballroom in March 2007 as Hall of Fame inductees, accelerate four months later and over 5,000 kilometres to Dublin in late June and early July. Buck, Mills and Stipe - joined by REM touring guitarist Scott McCaughey and drummer Bill Rieﬂin - are gazing up at another gilded ceiling, but this time it’s within the faded Olympia Theatre on Dame Street. No signs of museum relics or self-satisﬁed legends here. Instead, a projection on the back wall of the stage declares “This Is Not A Show” and REM, like nervous young upstarts, are in the midst of scaring themselves senseless in front of a sold-out crowd, playing ﬁve “working rehearsals” over six days for fans. Not shows, but full-on, far-from-slick rehearsals, complete with foul-ups, fuck-ups, false starts, Mills and Buck bickering and a casual, makeup-less Stipe, cracking jokes and reading his lyrics from a black laptop. The reason? To shake things up and more importantly, to test drive more than a dozen new, still-developing songs possibly slated for their fourteenth studio album, Accelerate. The band were headed to Grouse Lodge Studios in Westmeath with producer Garret “Jacknife” Lee the following week – and knew the songs needed work. Most of all, they had to make the penultimate decision of what tracks from their Vancouver sessions at The Armoury would likely make a ﬁnal cut or which, in Mills’ words, they could “throw overboard.” Why Dublin and not, say, New York or Seattle for this maverick and potentially vulnerable test drive? “Passion,” declares Mills, without hesitation. “This is what Europeans have that Americans don’t have in the same degree. Especially the Irish. When they buy into something, they buy into it heart and soul. And if you’re playing to your fans in Ireland, you’re playing to
chris floyd/camera press
“If 15 years ago, we’d been told that a major US city would be wiped off the map and the US government or people would do nothing about it, we would have said that you’re out of your fucking mind.” people who are going to let you present everything you have and if they don’t like it, they’ll tell you.” Stipe, who wears a traditional Claddagh ring on his left hand, agrees. “There’s a safety and there’s complete ballsiness to performing new songs in front of an Irish audience. There’s a very direct heart-to-heart communication between my band and the songs we write and our Irish fans. I also know that if they hear shit, they’ll call it as shit. No question. So it took a degree of courage. We could have gone other places where people would not have cried ‘shit’,” he says with a smile. “The ﬁrst night was so terrifying, I have no idea what happened,” confesses Buck. “But everything that came out of doing the Dublin shows had to do with being more concise. We weren’t turning reggae songs into punk rock songs, but [ﬁnding] small
things, tempo variations, editing, realising something didn’t need a second chorus.”
It wasn’t only the intimate gesture of working rehearsals that signalled a turn for REM, but the brutal, excoriating new tracks. From the ferocious thrash of ‘Living Well’s The Best Revenge’ to the chaotic charge of ‘Horse to Water’ and the assault of title track ‘Accelerate’, this was a prickly, punk-arrogant REM onstage, awake and alive, with their most raucously resonant set of fresh material since Monster. Not a single song on the 11-track Accelerate, which clocks in at an astonishing 34 minutes, goes on “way too long” (Stipe), not even the sole ballad, the mournful ‘Until The Day Is Done’. Five of
chris floyd/camera press
the tracks are under three minutes. Compare Accelerate’s length to the Ramones’ masterpieces of aggravated brevity to Buck or Mills, and you’ll get appreciative nods of assent from both musicians. “Robyn Hitchcock is really bummed out,” says Buck with glee. “He’s been saying that his next record has to be under 40 minutes and I played him this one. He goes, ‘Oh my God, there’s a new benchmark we all have to work towards.’” The band broke their own benchmark when it came to recording and mixing the entire album – in Buck’s happy estimate, about six or seven weeks combined, in Vancouver, Ireland, Athens, Georgia and Miami. It was the answer to his frustrated dreams of the last decade. In fact, it was producer Lee who initially told Stipe and Mills that he wanted the new album to sound “thrilling” and helped the band catapult past their recording rut. “That’s what he wanted, that’s what we wanted and that’s what we got,” says Mills. After a decade of working with producer Pat McCarthy on the last three albums, REM’s impulse to go with a different man behind the mixing desk didn’t signal an acrimonious split. Far from it. In fact, it was McCarthy who suggested they reach out to Lee as the man to helm Accelerate. The two Irish producers grew up together in Dublin and even played in a band together as kids. But the ﬁnal decision to work with Lee was sealed by U2, who worked with the producer on their 2004 Grammy-winning album How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. Lee’s own two Grammy awards as producer for that project plus additional multi-platinum success with Bloc Party’s A Weekend in the City and Snow Patrol’s last two releases, Final Straw and Eyes Open, was a helpful selling point too. While Mills is slightly coy about whether REM bluntly asked for Bono and The Edge’s opinion on Lee, Buck is direct. “U2 has a kind of ﬁnishing school,” he says wryly. “It seems almost everyone in the music business [in Ireland] comes up through the U2 guys. It’s a really great learning environment and in the case of Jacknife, U2 recommended him. I realised I owned all of the records Jacknife produced without really knowing him, but I went back, played them all and said, ‘yeah, I like the sound of these records.’” Buck goes on: “It felt really good when we met him. He had this straightforward, no bullshit way of saying, ‘well, yeah, I don’t think [Around the Sun] was very good, it sounds like it wasn’t very fun to make and that results in the way it sounds. It’s not a fun record to listen to’.” Longtime REM touring and ancillary studio guitarist Scott McCaughey was on the sidelines of the search for a new producer, but sensed that Lee innately understood the direction that Buck, Mills and Stipe had decided to take with Accelerate. “I think part of the reason he was asked to do the record,” says McCaughey by email, in the midst of a February recording session with The Minus 5 and The Decemberists, “is that [Jacknife] was one hundred percent in agreement with the approach the band wanted and needed to take. It was pretty simple – let’s have fun, let’s not lose perspective, let’s make a ripping guitar record.” “I knew we could do it,” Buck concurs. “This is probably the record we should have made in 1981 when we were young, but we were kind of contrarians. It was the post-punk era and we were doing something else.” The 51-year old guitarist leans back thoughtfully, a shaggy-haired, sartorial contradiction in a tough black leather jacket and delicate, paisley-printed shirt. “The irony of this whole situation is that we spent less time in the studio, less time recording, remixing, no arguments, no rethinking and it’s by
far a record that is closer to what we envisioned than any of the things we spent a year ﬁddling with.” “Once the songs were written, we kind of threw them down, no ﬂufﬁng of the pillows,” explains Stipe, poetically, of the recording process. “It was over before I realised that we were even ﬁnished, which, in a way, felt really good. Because it didn’t allow us to do, what we call, ‘examine the cell structure’ where you focus and focus until you, of course, completely lose focus.”
One of the missions at the heart of REM’S decision to do the working rehearsals - scheduled just prior to their trip to the Westmeath studio - was deciding which tracks they’d shelve or save, depending on what they discovered at the Olympia Theatre. “I knew instantly whether something was working or not,” says Stipe. “That’s what those rehearsals were great for, I was like, okay, this is a bad arrangement or this [song] goes on way too long.” After the working rehearsals, once-favoured songs like ‘Staring Down The Barrel Of Middle Distance’ were dropped in favour of dark horse candidates, like ‘Mansized Wreath’. “I personally would have taken something else off the record,” says Mills of the dumped ‘Staring’, which he feels will reappear at some point. “We had disagreements over which ones should go away. But ‘Mansized Wreath’ was going to be a B-side until we did those shows in Dublin. All of the background vocals came in later but the song itself was just a quirky little thing. But then we played it live and people were holding up signs that said ‘put it on the record!’ And we said, ‘okay, if it’s that good’.” “We’d only played ‘Mansized Wreath’ as ﬁller,” recalls Stipe. “None of us even considered it of being worthy of being recorded and we played it just to ﬁll out some time. But people loved it: it changed dramatically over those ﬁve days and became something viable.” Stipe, who alternates on this January afternoon between soulful, direct gazes during conversation or averting his eyes completely and staring at his glass of lemonade, the table or his hands, says he knew what songs Buck and Mills would favour in the end. “I was adamant that ‘I’m Gonna DJ’ be on the record,” he says steadfastly to the table. But wasn’t that an older song? “Not that much older!” he laughs and looks up brightly. “It is one that people have heard either live or on the record [REM Live] that we released. I just felt that it kind of inspired the direction of this record, since it was the ﬁrst one that I’d written that felt like this sandblasting away of old ways of doing things. In my head, it kind of replaces ‘The End of the World As We Know It’ as the ﬁnal song that we perform live.” In fact, ‘I’m Gonna DJ’ – rather than that older apocalyptic tune - was used as an encore in the 90-minute rehearsal gigs, reﬂecting REM’s decision to radically carve up their usual set list, as exempliﬁed over the past few years by the band’s aumumn 2007 CD/DVD REM Live (which happened to be recorded at the Point Theatre in Dublin in 2005).
For the Olympia Theatre stand, Buck, Mills and Stipe resurrected their earliest tracks like Reckoning’s ‘Little America’, Murmur’s ‘Sitting Still’ and ‘1,000,000’, and even ‘Wolves, Lower’ from their debut 1982 EP Chronic Town, to accompany their
explosive and not dissimilar new material. Naturally, YouTube jubilation followed, as REM fans who had attended the Dublin gigs posted bootleg videos of the dusted-off live tracks, like ‘Carnival of Sorts’ and ‘Harborcoat’, accompanied by elated comments ballyhooing the return of the “old” REM. “I was touring with Robyn [Hitchcock] and we were getting REM fans coming,” explains Buck, who was astonished that most of those ardent fans not only had tickets for one of the Dublin rehearsals, but three or four of them. “I said, ‘well, what do you guys want?’ And they said, we don’t want to hear ‘Man in the Moon’ or ‘Losing My Religion’ or ‘Everybody Hurts.’ We want to hear stuff we never hear. So, of course, the irony is that we’re rehearsing the new songs, but every day, we’re spending two hours going over songs we haven’t played in 20 years.” Buck grins. “And they’re cool songs.”
Like those early rockers, there’s an urgent, hungry and aggressive spirit inﬁltrating the new songs that propels Accelerate forward, along with a healthy – and not unexpected - dose of contemporary political outrage. Although Buck, Mills and Stipe say that it’s a complete coincidence that Accelerate is dropping during a pivotal election year in the United States, the trio have never been shy about their left-leaning politics. From the violent opening salvo of ‘Living Well’s The Best Revenge’ - which Buck calls, along with ‘Horse to Water’, a lyrical “lynchpin” of Accelerate – it’s quite clear that REM have plenty to say about George W. Bush’s administration and the bleak affect of nearly eight years of a conservative, evangelical, wartime presidency. And while the overall sound of Accelerate might differ from 1987’s Document, Buck sees direct parallels between the new album and that of their ﬁfth release, which dropped during the denouement of the Ronald Reagan era and bristled with tracks like ‘Exhuming McCarthy’ and ‘It’s The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)’. “It was just this totally crazy, fucked up world,” says Buck, “I remember that era well and Document really captured that. And I think that what the world looks like right now is reﬂected lyrically [on Accelerate]. Musically, it feels like a really jangly, chaotic year.” Lyrically, it is Stipe who harnesses the band’s political angst and anger on Accelerate, though it could be argued that Mills’ roiling basslines and Buck’s explosive guitar work also speak volumes without words. And though after more than a quarter century, Buck and Mills know their frontman well, the 48-year old Stipe still has the crafty ability to surprise his band-mates. Mills says he was totally thrown by Stipe’s “brilliant” lyrics for what would eventually become ‘Houston’, about the ongoing aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the federal government’s mishandling of the catastrophe. “I didn’t expect it,” says Mills. “It’s beautiful and obviously about somebody displaced from Katrina. In Michael’s wonderfully subtle, non-linear way, he just said the things that needed to be said, but he sneaks them in on you. If you beat people over the head, they don’t like it. Michael says the things we want to say without being didactic. ” Accompanied by Buck’s acoustic guitar and a windswept, perversely sea shanty feel that dissolves into a chaotic, electric wall of noise, Stipe’s fury in ‘Houston’ is palpable
in his vocals and lyrics. The ﬁrst line, perhaps not so subtle, is, “If the storm doesn’t kill me, the government will.” “I’m still in complete disbelief at how cavalier this administration was with that situation and how blithely it’s been kind of tossed off as an inevitable, sad occurrence that has no resolution,” says Stipe, who travelled to New Orleans and the storm-ravaged area in the aftermath of the 2005 disaster. “If 15 years ago, we’d been told that a major US city would be wiped off the map and the US government or people would do nothing about it, we would have said that you’re out of your fucking mind.” While Mills believes that lyrics for tracks like ‘Horse to Water’, ‘Mr. Richards’, ‘Living Well’s The Best Revenge’ and ‘Until the Day Is Done’ can be construed as not just indictments of a bumbling US government, but also critical of apathetic or complacent Americans, Stipe is adamant that he doesn’t place blame on the general populace, nor does he want his lyrics to be misconstrued as ﬁnger-wagging, badgering or preaching a point of view. “I believe that if there are indictments to be thrown around, I would place the media front and centre,” Stipe says. “I think the role they’re supposed to play in a democracy as a free press, they have not. They have not stood up to that and certainly through the course of this administration, have done the exact opposite. The ﬁrst song, ‘Living Well’s The Best Revenge’ is an indictment of that media and it’s something that I’ve returned to over and over lyrically. But I don’t feel like I should be read as hectoring. I feel we are somewhat responsible, but we’re also in the position of being pummelled with useless information that is sold to us as news.”
Since it’s the day following actor Heath Ledger’s death and the voracious media is camped outside of Ledger’s Soho apartment in New York, blocks from where Stipe sits wearily in a hotel talking to journalists himself, the REM frontman is asked about the relentless Ledger coverage and the disturbing domination of celebrity reporting in news. But Stipe shuts down at the mention of Ledger or the coverage, deﬂecting the question with a brusque “I can’t really talk about it.” But when questioned about being the victim of inaccurate reporting himself, following an off-the cuff statement he made on Sirius Satellite Radio days earlier about evangelical Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee – a quote taken out of context by Reuters and other news services, making it seem that Stipe found the man “charming” with no reservations about his ultraconservatism – Stipe is eager to clear up the misquote. “I called Sirius and I said you’d better put the entire [transcript] up because I’m being raked over the coals for this,” says Stipe, obviously agitated. “It’s a great example of what we’re talking about and that is accepting at face value something that you read or hear without questioning it, like, ‘this doesn’t sound right’. Nobody goes much deeper than the very surface. I certainly don’t need to clarify my position on Huckabee as a person, but as an example of what I’m talking about in the larger scheme of things, it’s a pretty good one.” Stipe sighs, slips off his severe, black-framed eyeglasses and gently rubs his eyes. “I mean, it was in the Cairo News that I was basically supporting this homophobe. I’d also said on the radio that I found [Huckabee] to be very self-defecating. I said self-
View from Stage Right
My experience in working with bands who decide to play back-to-basics shows in venues that are small by their standards, is that while the idea is attractive to them in principle, in practice it does not work so well. When bands downsize from arena to small theatre scale, many of the things they are used to having around them become impractical; PA systems, lighting rigs, even catering set-ups, all have to revised, simpliﬁed to ﬁt the smaller space. Of course the audience too are suddenly up close and personal again, which can be a shock to many acts who have spent years playing across the yawning space of pit barrier/security cordon that goes with the bigger shows. Very few bands and very few technical teams are able to deal well with the limitations of the new smaller environment. In short, they like the idea but not the reality. With bands of the stature of REM, I can usually expect to be dealing with assistants, aides, more assistants, all of whom generate reams of spreadsheets detailing every possible eventuality: there was none of this. The PA would be the house PA, with minimal changes. The conversation on lighting was almost funny in its brevity: again, house system only, no additions. To put this in context, even the lowliest touring act will usually insist on something being changed or extras being rented in. There was a day of set-up for the crew, who hadn’t seen most of the band’s equipment since the last live shows, so everything needed to be literally dusted off and tested. The band themselves came in on the evening of the ﬁrst day and, with very little preamble, began to run through the new material. There were frequent stops, sometimes in midtune, to discuss changes, revisions, new ideas for parts. On a typical day, the band arrived ﬁrst, without Michael Stipe, and ran through the ideas for the day. Michael came in during the afternoon and added his vocals, all the time referring to and revising lyrics on a Mac Book, which was to remain set-up in the middle of the stage throughout
Behind REM’s Irish sojourn by Eamonn Ryan, Production Manager, Olympia Theatre
the day and during the shows themselves. Jacknife Lee, who produced the eventual record, had set up a small studio on stage left. He was monitoring everything as the band played, and I suppose these rough drafts were used quite a bit as sketch notes from which to draw the completed work later on. Lee was an interesting presence: he did not display any reticence in terms of pushing the band on that bit further musically. The most downright entertaining part of each day was watching the band decide on a pretty ad hoc basis what old songs they would play at each gig. They changed the set-list every single day, and played mostly different back catalogue songs each time. The older material they chose to play tended towards earlier album tracks, with nothing too obvious. Watching them huddled around the laptop on-stage, listening to i-Tunes and trying to work out old chords and arrangements, like a young covers band, was quite touching. Michael was funny as he tried to decipher ancient lyrics, which were never too clear to anyone at the best of times, least of all to himself, apparently. I know a lot of fans came very long distances, sometimes without tickets, to try to see these gigs. All of the band tended to just walk in the stage door each day and it was good to see them deal with the fans in a courteous, no bullshit manner. Quite a few people who had no tickets managed to get themselves guest-listed by collaring individual band members as they arrived for ‘work’. It was amusing as well to see how (for the ﬁrst few days at least) Michael Stipe could eat next door in Gruel unrecognised. It is fair to say the shows themselves are part of the REM legend at this stage. I think everyone who was lucky enough be there got to witness REM taking chances again, which has to be a good thing. More notably, the band were visibly enjoying themselves. They were having fun. And I can safely say the week spent working with them did not feel like work! For more of Eamonn’s insights into working with REM, see www.state.ie
defecating and then corrected myself but nobody reported that!” he laughs out loud. “I referred to the man as shitting himself.” Stipe won’t reveal on this day just which US presidential candidate he endorses, but does say that he’s following the election process “with a healthy dollop of fear and glee.” Why fear? “I think we could very easily wind up with a Republican administration next,” he responds gloomily. Not every song on Accelerate is coloured with a political brushstroke, however. Lead single, ‘Supernatural Superserious’, is a darkly frothy tumble of Buck’s blistering guitar chops, Rieﬂin’s galvanising drumming and Mills’ keening backing vocals, all neatly buoyed by Stipe’s boisterous delivery of declarations like “You don’t have to explain humiliation of your teenage station”. Stipe isn’t secretive about deciphering his lyrics anymore and laughs when cautiously asked to explain just what the track’s about. “I’d love to,” he says amiably. “It’s about a teenage séance gone horribly wrong. Then later, in adult life, it manifests itself as a sexual deviation. I just thought that was perfect subject matter for the ﬁrst single. Why not? And it involves Harry Houdini. It’s certainly not from my life or any real experience. I made up the entire story. But it’s a funny one and a good one.”
Buck is especially relieved and pleased about the speed and assurance with which Stipe churned out the lyrics for Accelerate, especially since the admittedly exasperated guitarist was pushing Stipe to alter his leisurely way of songwriting, a habit which apparently made the recording of Around the Sun a taxing endeavour. “I’d just made it really clear [to Michael],” explains Buck, “that
I’m not going to cut tracks and ‘then hope you come up with the vocals’ a year later. I said, ‘we’re only going to record songs that you’re going to sing with us, we’re booking studio time and you’ve got to be ready, Michael.’ Because if we go in there and there aren’t any ﬁnished vocals – which we’ve had a lot in the past – then we’re not going to record anything. I’ll just go home. And he came in, totally prepared, had the songs, and everything just took on a life.” Buck confesses that he was equally tough on Mills in the studio. “I was drunk one night, yelling at him, ‘Goddamn it, you’re the best bass player in the world, why don’t you play bass?Don’t freak out about it, play the goddamn bass! Because he’s amazing. I think he sometimes gets nervous about making a mistake because I’m super-quick in the studio. I’m not as good a musician, I’m just really quick,” Buck smiles. “The guys, I’m just really proud of them. They really stepped up to the plate.” Not surprisingly, like Stipe and Buck, Mills feels re-energised by what transpired during the Accelerate sessions. “I love Peter’s arpeggiated guitar playing because it gives me the space to be melodic and have fun in writing the basslines,” says the ruddyfaced, blond bassist. “Jacknife did this incredible technique in recording [the bass] in which we ran it through my Ampeg SVT [amp], which is a little bit clean, and then we also ran it through an Ampeg B15, which is a little bit dirty, actually very dirty. You put those combos together and it gives you a big fat bass sound which is really assertive and aggressive.” Scott McCaughey, who winsomely calls himself “The Other Guy” to deﬁne his 14 years with REM, was part of all of the sessions for Accelerate, aside from mixing. He says that he and Buck utilised a twin electric guitar attack and tried to cut as
The Dublin-born producer of Accelerate on recording with REM.
“I believe that if there are indictments to be thrown around, I would place the media front and centre. I think the role they’re supposed to play in a democracy as a free press, they have not.”
“live” as possible. “Peter and Mike would give me an idea of what to play,” says McCaughey, “and then I would come up with a part that seemed to meet with everyone’s approval. If Peter was playing a chordal part, he would push me to do something more melodic … or more insane.” Along with McCaughey, Rieﬂin is another “Other Guy” on Accelerate, ﬁrst joining REM for the Around the Sun tour, replacing Joey Waronker. Rieﬂin, who has also drummed with Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, is a long-time cohort of Buck and McCaughey in The Minus 5 and The Venus 3 and Buck says their ability to “lock in” with one another “makes it easier for everyone to be in the right place”. Despite Buck’s greying hair, Mills’ glumness about hitting 50 in December and Stipe’s heavy-duty, geriatric eyeglass, REM are swaggering like a band half their age. Upbeat and rejuvenated, they play London’s Royal Albert Hall on March 24 with Foals
U2 recommended you to REM - what was your reaction when you learned that the band wanted to work with you? Any concerns or doubts about being the producer to radically alter their path? Chuffed. No doubts. I worked the way I usually do and we got the result we wanted. I was honoured to be given the opportunity. We got on very well and they trusted me after the ﬁrst week. Mike and Peter told State that when you ﬁrst spoke to them (and Michael), that you said you wanted this new album to be “thrilling.” How did you help the band shake off the vestiges of how they had been recording to something that was, to crib from Daft Punk, “harder, better, faster and stronger”? I like to work quickly, make a decision and move on. The band were ready for change. We did things they hadn’t done in a long time, in terms of recording. They weren’t asked to play things over and over again. I wanted to minimise the use of keyboards and overdubs. This was what they wanted too. We had fun. Going residential was wonderful. We all ate meals at the same time. A great bonding experience and the Guinness is sublime at Grouse Lodge. We drove a tank. We enjoyed it. What was the challenge for you as a producer to shake up the foundations of a legendary band like REM? The challenge on every record is not to fuck it up. And it’s a bigger, badder idea to fuck up an REM record.
and The Duke Spirit, launch a North American tour in late May with Modest Mouse and The National and have slated a summer European tour beginning in July, which takes in Oxegen on July 12. There hasn’t been so much anticipatory buzz about an album from the Athens band since Berry’s departure nearly 11 years ago. But it’s not multi-platinum sales or rock star bravado that ultimately drives REM. In a 1983 Livewire television interview, a very young and affable Buck declared, “as long as you enjoy what you’re doing, you know, success doesn’t really matter one way or another.” A quarter of a century later, he’s still saying the same thing. “It’s not about fame,” explains Buck. “I’m as famous as I want to be and I have enough money too. What I really want to do is great work. The same thing I wanted when I was 18 or 20. I want to do something that I’m really proud of.” REM headline the Oxegen festival, 11 – 13 July
I assume you attended all of the working rehearsals in Dublin. What observations did you make during those shows that informed your work with them at your studio right after? We recorded the rehearsals. What a fantastic week that was. We were energised by the shows (or ‘not shows’) and went to the studio with more conﬁdence and a bounce in our step. It made us fearless. Mike and Peter both said there was more time spent on working on the dirtier or more brutal sound of the bass or guitar than in the actual recording of the songs themselves sometimes. What track (or two) do you recall that followed that pattern? We spent most of the time getting the tones right, all day in fact. Then when the band actually played, everything was perfect: one or two takes and we were done. Very fresh recordings. There is no point in capturing the perfect performance when the sound is shit. It’s frustrating for the artist. We did that every song and we dismantled the equipment for each song and started again. I’m sure that sounds like a pain in the arse but it made each song unique. They were patient with me, waited around for a bit and then bang! we were done. You said you wanted the ﬁnished product to be “thrilling”. What is thrilling for you about Accelerate? It’s ferociously beautiful. Fuelled by rage and melancholy. It’s self conﬁdent. Brisk. Has tons of spunk. Crisp, like a sunny winter morning. It has ‘Horse To Water’ on it. The upright bass on ‘Houston’. “I am not deceived by pomp and odius conceit…”. The lyrics. It’s a great fucking record.
Holidays By Mistake
Danish hot-pot comprising of a perfectly designed city, a sweet party life and achingly gorgeous people
Tourist ofﬁces will tell you all the usual guff about Copenhagen: where to get the operating a daily route from Dublin and boat tours from, the ones that go out to The Little Mermaid and past the new opera house. They’ll tell you about museum passes, the best time to visit Tivoli Gardens and a walking tour around ‘wonderful’ old Copenhagen. State has done all the above and they are all very well if your Ma is visiting (also we totally recommend some rollercoasters and a hot dog in Tivoli as a hangover cure) but what’s far more interesting is knowing how to get into the beating heart of the city and what it’s really like when it takes its pants off and slips under the sheets. First up, you don’t want to arrive and follow the usual strip (just stay in Temple Bar and save yourself a ﬂight). But there is so much going on in this city that you’re nearly always going to strike oil on some festival or other. And they love festivals here. Get There Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) are now
Words by Simon Roche
SAS (scandinavian.net) ﬂy direct, twice daily. Look Around Cph may be small, as cities go, but the fact that it’s split into different districts makes it a city of variety. The city area is based around the long shopping street of Strøget and it’s probably the worst thing about Copenhagen. 99% of shops are the same high street nonsense as everywhere in Europe. There are some great little cafés and shops on the side-streets – just one block away – so get off the main drag. One end of this main city street is the town hall square (Rådhuspladsen), essentially the city centre, and the other end is the gorgeous port area of Nyhavn. This is the place to sit out on the warm summer evenings. Unlike our Irish litigationobsessed culture, you can buy a can of beer from a newsagent and, hey, sit in the sun on the street and drink it!
Perhaps the city’s biggest attraction is the Tivoli Gardens and though it’s top of the tourist trail, it is a stunning place. Imagine a beautiful old-school Funderland, with no annoying little bastards, put in St Stephen’s Green with a few Spigeltents and you’re getting close. If you’re a couple visiting, then you owe it to your romantic side to visit. If you stay on a Saturday night till about 11pm, you’ll get the full ﬁreworks show too. Hanging in parks, especially in summer, is pretty ace too. There’s a really sweet grassy area that stretches for nearly a kilometre alongside the water at Islands Brugge (a 10 min walk/3 min cycle from Rådhuspladsen) and you can actually buy a disposable barbeque and a pack of raw meat from the hotdog van that is parked there in the summer. There’s even an area for swimming. While these areas have a variety of museums, you can ﬁnd out about these from any tourist info. place. We have to tell you about the sculpture museum at the Glyptotek, at the far side of Tivoli, which is free on Sundays and absolutely gorgeous, especially the winter garden. Both the areas of Vesterbro and Nørrebro are brilliant to walk around on weekdays or Saturday mornings, as they’re peppered with small clothes shops, cafés and record stores that high rents and capitalist greed usually run out of cities to make way for Another Fucking Shopping Centre. The end of Istegade furthest from the city (Vesterbro), as well as Elmegade and Blågårdsgade (Nørrebro) are worthy of special note. Eat Restaurants are all a little more expensive than Ireland, and food sometimes takes a while to come. You can be left hanging to order for a while too, but the grub is by and large pretty good and almost all cafés will bang out a solid gourmet burger. The street hotdog venders are all of a good standard and the fare is cheaper and better than any fast food joint. (Our favourites restaurants are: In the Atlas Bar - City; Lê Lê - Vesterbro; Kate’s Joint Nørrebro.)
Fake being a local around the world
Making time Get in the mood or simply be an armchair traveller
Get this album Trentemøller The Last Resort Gorgeous techno from local boy done good.
Drink They love a beer here, and as long as you forget the over-€5 prices, you’ll ﬁnd some ﬁne places. Do taste the local brews (Tuborg Classic is a ﬁrm favourite, but they have special Easter and Christmas beers that are deeeelicious too). You can seek out bodegas (what we’d call ‘old man’s bars’, which are cheaper and often great entertainment – you’ll know them when you see them) or the gamut from old theatre bars (Bobi Bar - City), casual and cosy cocktail bars (Oak Room - Nørrebro) or can’t go wrong friendly and vibey (Bang & Jensen - Vesterbro). Avoid the obvious drag, and you won’t go wrong experiencing this city’s brilliant barlife. Listen If you can time a visit around catching a band, you could do a lot worse. There are some great venues here and quite a lot of bands on European tours pass through, generally playing in smaller rooms than at home. One of the most popular venues for bands is Vega - a beautifully designed building, housing a small venue (800 people – Lille Vega), a main venue (1,400 people – Store Vega), a damn ﬁne club (Club Vega, naturally) and a free entrance late bar/club on street level (Ideal Bar). Despite its many faces, Vega retains the feel of a small place and the positions of the bars make it one of the most pleasant places to watch a gig. This year State have managed to shimmy into shows by Interpol, Bloc Party and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, as well as singing along to Bell X1 playing with Damien Rice, all in Store Vega. Editors were stunning in Lille Vega during the summer, and Whitest Boy Alive and Tapes n Tapes too. Other venues of note (with their Dublin equivalent) are Pumpehuset (Ambo), Loppen (Whelan’s) and for jazz and blues, Jazzhouse and Huset are tip top. While it’s difﬁcult to ﬁnd a website dealing with all the gigs coming up, the Vega site (vega.dk) and a ticket website (billetlugen.dk) will certainly cover most of them.
L-R. A policeman has a dilemma about closing down an unauthorised gig/party during the Trailer Park festival; Dansking in the streets; Islands Brygge in the sun. Yummy!
There is a healthy local music scene too and Danish bands do get a very loyal fan base amongst the locals. While most of the acts don’t travel well outside the country, they can make for a great show in the Danish capitol. Look out for Veto, Nephew, Carpark North, Kashmir, Tina Dico and the very beautiful techno of Trentemøller. If you wanna check out the smaller and unsigned bands, you should search out Lades Kælder, Rust or Stengade 30. They have concerts almost every night of the week and cheap (or cheaper) beer too. Party Party As the evening gets on, you’ll want to be getting jiggy with the nightlife and Cph is a ﬁne city for that. Aside from the bars and clubs, the almost constant music festivals are deﬁnitely worth looking up as they know how to throw a party and there’s always lots going on during Copenhagen Distortion (June) and Public Service (August). For some late night bar fun, try Apparatet in Nørrebro where you might ﬁnd yourself in the middle of a surprise concert (both Kashmir and Nephew have played in this small bar). If you happen to be in Vesterbro on the ﬁrst Wednesday of the month, check out Club Mini Vega in Idealbar: a singer/songwriter night with mainly Danish artists and no cover charge. And for the painfully cool, try the brand new Karriere in the Kødbyen (meatpacking district in Vesterbro). Everything has been designed by someone and still fresh in the State mind is the supreme night we had in the small bathroom of the place - complete with a mirrorball suited DJ and full of members of both sexes in each bathroom dancing to the best music in the club.
Watch this music video Carpark North ‘Human’ Simply beautiful - directed by Vesterbro resident Martin DeThurrah. Download this single Veto ‘You are a Knife’ or Kashmir ‘The Curse of Being a Girl’ Rent this ﬁlm Festen The ﬁrst (wly best) of the Dogme school of ﬁlms from Denmark. Read this book Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales Often heartbreaking stories written to both enchant kids and show them some of the problems of the world ouside. Avoid sanitised Disney versions. Drink this Gamle Dansk (Old Danish) Shots of this are slightly disgusting but are a very, very Danish thing to do if you can track a bottle down. Traditionally you have one with breakfast. Eat this Smørrebrød Essentially a small slice of bread with a combination of cold toppings (try prawns, cress, lettuce and horseradish sauce or liver paté and sliced beetroot). About as exciting as it sounds - well maybe a BIT more.
Additional reporting by Marina Friis Ghazaleh
Exiles On Main Street
Words by John Joe Worrall
The voyeuristic nature of being over 25 and watching teen dramas is not lost on La Rocca. “You have to try and not get involved with the stories,” warns bassist Simon Baillie. “Then you don’t get hooked.” It’s not life on the road that has led to such infatuations though, more the hunt for their own songs, which have been used in the One Tree Hills, OCs and Laguna Beaches of this world. “It’s weird, it does give you a buzz, like the ﬁrst time on radio,” continues Simon, younger brother of lead singer and La Rocca’s main creative force Bjørn. His tired looking sibling then tells of a One Tree Hill scene set in a record store where the band was actually mentioned: “some writer put it in the script and a character said to check us out. It’s bizarre but it can have an effect.” Sitting in a quiet Dublin hotel bar with a by-now cold coffee in front of him, the band’s custom-suited drummer Alan Redmond chimes in, “Yeah, because of our MySpace page as well, it’s kinda weird that we know if The OC was on in the Czech Republic the night before. You get 20 mails from Prague about how people liked ‘The Truth’.” The Truth is both the name of their debut album, released last year on Dangerbird Records in the US and this year in Ireland, as well as the title of the long player’s most accomplished tune. The band’s style – pop melodies, early-seventies Stones keyboards and pumping drums – has been honed in Los Angeles for the past few years. Think The Replacements gatecrashing a decent Supergrass recording session and you’ll get an idea of their tunes.
It was back in 2001 that La Rocca ﬁrst came together at Cardiff University, when Dublin-born journalism student Bjørn, and sociology-studying-general piss-taking Burnley keyboardist Nick Haworth met Redmond. With Simon arriving from Bristol University soon after to play bass, things began to move for the band named after a dank, downstairs bar in Bristol “with this massive hole you crawl through to get to the dance ﬂoor” as Haworth puts it. A year of playing the UK followed, before heading over to Dublin, where 18 months of toil brought a well-received EP with Wet Clay in 2004, as well as “Irish tours that lasted about ﬁve days”, according to Bjørn. Record company advice saw them circling the wagons for a trip to the 2005 SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. “I think even then it was turning into something different,” Bjørn says of the phenomenon that has become the Texas event. “It used to be a reputable place for acts to go: that was the whole idea of it. To a certain extent it still is, but now you’ve got major labels that use it to showcase signed bands. It’s becoming
something different.” It was in Austin that La Rocca inked a deal with an LA-based publishing company and took the decision to relocate Stateside. Redmond, who by his own admission has something of a ‘band manager head’, explains, “There was no point in going over for three weeks of the year. The intention was that we wanted to concentrate on America and we had to get out there and tour. It chose us rather than anything else.”
In an eventful few jaunts across the US, La Rocca ended up with a host of tour tales to tell. Like the time their tourbus broke down in the infamous Eminem-spawning hole that is Eight Mile in Detroit and promptly had its windows smashed in. Or the time when all their equipment got stolen in Philadelphia, when they gambled in “a big B&B for ﬁve days” on the Nevada border; and out of nowhere one of their ﬁrst singles – ‘Sing Song Sung’ – became a hit in Australia. All the while, though, they were building up a solid fan base, who they soon found out included super-producer Tony Hoffer, whose credits include Beck, Belle and Sebastian, The Kooks and Dave Gahan. Hoffer subsequently came on board to record The Truth and for two months, the band deconstructed songs that had been the cornerstone of a live set for the guts of three years. Hoffer was instrumental in this process, his vast experience recognising that not everything that sounds great on stage works in a studio setting. “You could be banging at a drum or keyboard and it sounds like shit, then it suddenly comes through the desk and he can make sense of it,” recalls Haworth, who looks a bit like Mani without the years of overindulgence. “Tony would say ‘okay I like that take, but this time we’re gonna take that guitar and record it up in the toilet’,” smiles Redmond. “There was a particular sound, apparently, which was much warmer, and a particular type of mic that suited. When you know what mic suits the sound of the toilet, there’s got to be something there.” The result is anthemic; with three minute blasts like ‘Sketches’ (which was recently a heavily-rotated Phantom favourite) sitting between loving laments like ‘Non Believer’ and ‘Goodnight’. In the nicest way possible, Bjørn’s voice sometimes dips into drunken singalong, which adds to the sense of warmth. The “sketches of a twentysomething life” that Bjørn sings about on this debut album will continue on a new record “towards the end of the year” says the lead singer, adding that next time out they wouldn’t mind George Martin to produce. “Fuck it,” he grins. “You may as well try.” 71
State reviews & previews
albums Can The Kooks deliver the goods or has Second Album Syndrome set in? The 80s dayglo majesty of Neon Neon. Daft Punk go live. Be Your Own Pet get awkward. The return of Moby, Bragg and Cave. The emergence of MGMT as a musical force to be reckoned with.
digital MIA mixes it up, while Road Records provide the nostalgia. Plus Argentinian punk and reggae, a muddy podcast and Nouveaunoise making a racket for State.
dvd Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip: maligned masterpiece or too clever by half? The last word on Anton Corbijn’s Ian Curtis biopic Control and the Family Guy team take on Star Wars.
tv Geeky is now hip, says State. David Attenborough gets cold blooded and RTE tries to make us laugh, as well as GAA, war, science and porn stars.
books Reviewed: Ronan O’Brien’s Confessions Of A Fallen Angel follows Charlie, a normal, suburban Dublinite cursed with precognitive dreams. Meanwhile, Tony Jessen previews best reads hitting the book-stands this month, from lobotomies to UFOs.
Pugwash’s Thomas Walsh has been quietly crafting classic pop melodies for almost a decade, but only now is he getting the credit he deserves. Taking his inﬂuences from some of the greats, 11 Modern Antiquities sees Walsh now joined by them, with two tracks, ‘My Genius’ and ‘At The Sea’, co-written with XTC’s Andy Partridge.
games Usually, video games derived from TV series are cheap cash-cows with little or no originality or longevity, but can Lost: Via Domus buck the trend?
Nokia 5310 XpressMusic 74
Nokia 5610 XpressMusic
One touch music keys. Expandable music storage of up to 3,000 songs with 4GB SD card. Over 18 hours of playback time. Nokia XpressMusic. Show us what happens when you press play and you could win a trip to NYC. See website for details.
illustration by nathalie nystad
After two years of ascent to the higher echelons of pop, The Kooks could have done so many things when they sat down to record their second album. Go stadium rock; chuck the acoustic guitars for Les Pauls; get into full-on country mode; or even make a low-key album of love songs. Instead, Luke Pritchard and the rest of his band have decided to try on all these coats to see which one ﬁts. While there are certainly some positives to this approach, the overall effect is a band dying to experiment but with barely the time or fully-formed ideas to do so. They don’t ﬁnd that elusive new sound and instead often trot back to familiar territory. But then again, when the results are this pleasant, it’s hard to argue with their logic. It’s a step up from 2006’s two million-selling Inside In/Inside Out, and they have stretched the imagination of producer Tony Hoffer a little bit more this time around as well. Recorded at Ray Davies’ Konk studios (hence the album title), tracks like ‘Gap’ and ‘One Last Time’ could easily have strayed into Coldplay-ville, but Hoffer’s
ability to dig out a decent chorus from those he works with means that the Brighton boys avoid pomposity and maintain their three-and-a-halfminute pop sensibilities. When they are under the inﬂuence, it’s from the right sources. The Dire Straits-aping ‘Do You Wanna’ has just enough of the dark side in it to appeal to daytime radio, yet still be a shagging anthem, as Pritchard enquires “Do you wanna make love to me? I know you wanna make love to me”. It rounds off a highly impressive opening third of the record, coming after the assured ‘See The Sun’, belting ﬁrst single ‘Always Where I Need To Be’ and the toe-tapping single-in-waiting ‘Mr Maker’. The latter, however, does suffer from a problem that recurs throughout Konk, as its upbeat country melody is matched with a fairly aimless narrative. Indeed, look through the sleevenotes and you won’t ﬁnd too many inspiring lyrics on offer. The closest we get to genuine introspection is ‘Sway’, which reeks of tired nights on the road. “Don’t become a reactionary to the ones you love”, sings Pritchard, obviously still trying to keep a connection with those left behind. By the end of the song, though, it’s hard to tell whether
he’s talking to a loved one or the audience, as he yearns for “that soul” from someone. Yet beyond that, it seems that what The Kooks haven’t found over the last two years is a decent set of problems to write about. Even ‘One Last Time’ has to go back to their schooldays to ﬁnd a lost love and a little bit of heartache. Essentially, The Kooks sound happy here, releasing a record that won’t necessarily win them legions of new fans but certainly won’t drive away the old ones. Konk is a solid record but it is let down by some poor decision making at the three quarter mark, with the inclusion of the frankly brutal ‘Shine On’. Every bit as generic-indie as the title suggests, it sounds like one of the better tracks from Be Here Now. Yup, it’s that poor. The excellent ‘Down To The Market’ and ‘Tick Of Time’ pick up some of the slack but the damage is already done. For all its good points, Konk is a record that will only take The Kooks so far and they will have to up their game next time around. For now though, festival headline slots and adoring masses await. Do you think they’re bothered about the next album yet? Thought not. ~ John Joe Worrall
Albums Moby Last Night
After creating the deﬁnitive ‘sonic wallpaper’ album, producing tracks for Britney Spears and sound-tracking more glossy adverts than you could shake a mixer at, where is there left for a platinum-selling, teashop-owning vegan to go? If you’re Moby, you party like it’s 1999. No doubt gripped by the tepid reception afforded to his organic, but largely forgettable, 2005 opus Hotel, Moby has seemingly decreed that a collection of dance-ﬂoor numbers that hark back to his mid-90s, Everything Is Wrong-era heyday is the way forward. Thrown into this bewildering ragout, for starters, is a smattering of smiley-faced rave, a dollop of Euro dance-pop anthems, a sprinkling of piano-driven house and then a discombobulating pinch of R&B. Billed ostensibly as a concept album that condenses the moments of an epic night out into 14 tracks, Last Night’s supposed narrative arc is often lost amid the mild, quiet shock of those obsolete bleeps, loops and samples. The stringdrenched ‘257.zero’ is probably the closest we’ll get to Moby’s familiar, skyscraping fare, while ‘I Love To Move In Here’ is a prime slab of New York disco-inﬂuenced pop. Elsewhere, the robust ‘Alice’ is driven by a calorie-laden bassline and, deeper into the record, the layered, hazy ‘Degenerates’ and technicolor ‘Mothers Of The Night’ bear the hallmarks of Moby’s cinematic bent. Oscillating between uplifting dance and ethereal, opulent balladry, Last Night is the sound of a man in the throes of an exquisite identity crisis. Interestingly, Moby has already offered a half-hearted disclaimer on his website ahead of the album’s release, offering bribes to reviewers willing to praise the record. This may sound like a man who feels he is about to unleash something of an uncompromising, indulgent dud to the waiting public, but make no mistake; this is an album brimming with intent and self-assurance. ~Tanya Sweeney
Autechre albums tend to reveal themselves over time. They need gestation and digestion before they truly, if ever, make sense. Quaristice is Autechre’s ninth long-player and, unlike their other records, a lot of these tracks stemmed from improvisational jams. Although the expected detailed, painstaking programming is present (as always), there are extensive periods where the music seems to lose itself in unfocused tangents. ‘Fol3’ is immersed in aimless swamps of digital noise, while ‘Steels’ feels like being in the middle of a video game shoot-’em-up, with its stuttering cavernous pulses. ‘bnc Castl’ is the perfect example of Autechre’s incredible programming skills but it also falls into the trap of becoming a tuneless sequence of short stale
noise stabs. It doesn’t help that the album takes a while to gain momentum. The ﬁrst real point of interest doesn’t arrive until track seven, when ‘Simmm’ displays a haunting melody, balanced with layers upon layers of processed rhythmic manipulation. With the album consisting of 20 tracks and lasting over 73 minutes, it’s disappointing that it takes until the last quarter for Quaristice to really ﬁnd its feet. ‘Theswere’ features a metallic synth line that’s mirrored by a beautiful string sound; ‘chenc9’ is cluttered with ominous tones and eerie chords, while the ﬁnal two tracks concentrate on wonderfully dark cinematic drones. It’s just a shame that the whole album couldn’t match the quality of the ﬁnal section. ~ Shane Galvin
Stand Travel Light
new world music
New York-based, Tallaght-born outﬁt Stand’s fourth studio album, Travel Light is a sleek, highly professional outing that recalls the heady days of mid-90s rock radio: before Del Amitri were consigned to the graveyard of TOTP2 and The Beautiful South got the credit they deserved. Put simply, Travel Light is as inoffensive as its name suggests, and as well-conceived as the sensible advice it promotes. Expect strong, well-drilled songwriting, lean arrangements and lush textures, enhanced by tight, inventive musicianship and an electronic presence driven by songwriters Carl Dowling (drums) and David Walsh (guitar, keys). Twin vocalists Neil Eurelle and Alan Doyle, the former taking on the greater share, are conﬁdent and self-assured. Eurelle recalls Gordon Lightfoot in his softer moments and Scott Weiland at a strain. Doyle is a little rougher, though no less evocative, a weighty Nick Cave-like baritone. Lyrically, Stand are anything but ﬁrm-footed, as in the case of the almost comically bad Bush-baiting centrepiece ‘Who Made You Jesus?’ Musically, it’s as strong as any other, calling to mind Aslan with a simple, repeated acoustic guitar motif and ethereal support vocals. Yet, if the minimum requirement for a successful anti-Bush anthem is that its lyrics are less clumsy than its protagonist’s speech, ‘Who Made You Jesus?’ fails miserably. Or perhaps we’ve just underestimated them. One spin of ultra-melodic singles ‘Days Gone By’ and ‘Dressed To Kill’ is all it takes to understand why the US college rock scene has embraced Stand, and why Ireland should think about following suit. ~ Dave Donnelly
One Night Only Started A Fire
Started A Fire is a frustrating album. There are some genuinely catchy moments here, and you can imagine tracks like ‘You and Me’ as anthemic festival favourites. The vocal melodies also hint at a wealth of talent, but the lack of imagination
in instrumentation, allied with a production style that airbrushes any musical hooks that may have been present out of the equation, results in a record that offers up a non-distinct, edgeless duvet of a sound. It’s like an echo of a good album; all that’s left is the faint impression of good songs, desperately in need of body, cutting edge and a relevant decade. If you put The Kooks, Grandaddy, and Psychedelic Furs all in a bag with the keyboard used on the Saint Elmo’s Fire soundtrack, and beat said bag with a big stick; the whimper that emerged at the end would sit nicely within this album’s track listing. Yet another repackaged 80s’-tastic outﬁt for the Naughties, One Night Only may yet still sneak through the back-door of success on others’ coat-tails, or who knows, they could ﬁnd their own sound and live up to the promise of all they could be. For now, though, One Night Only’s debut is a few charming chat-up lines, followed by an all-too-brief mattress tussle. Essentially they’re afraid of commitment, and will sneak out of your consciousness before you even wake up. ~ Martin McIver
Be Your Own Pet Get Awkward
Much of the plaudits and hype that surrounded BYOP’s eponymous debut was down to its brash, brassy brilliance. They were the anti-tedium league, the antithesis of the boring-boy brigade of nerdy knob-twiddlers with their wilfully angular sounds that populated the music press. Instead, BYOP gorged themselves on fuzz and feedback, bashing out sizzling, blister-bursting teenage pop hymns to fun-times, adventures and bicycle rides, all the while looking like some forgotten ﬁfties teen pulp poster. The Hot Rod Rumble Gang were coming to town to start a riot…. One year on and they’re picking up where they left off, with more cartoon japes on their sophomore offering Get Awkward. Like its predecessor, it clatters and rumbles at a furious pace, with a new batch of sassy, gum-snapping schoolyard tales of no-good boys and bad-ass girls. At its infectious best, Get Awkward throws up dizzying delights like the frenetic ‘Becky’, its tale of teenage homicide served up with bratty boy backing vocals, or the gloriously dumb ‘The Kelley Affair’, which conjures up images of hulahooping Russ Meyers vixens. Unfortunately, sustaining this quality over the course of 15 tracks proves too much for the gang, with most of the tunes becoming so derivative that they eventually descend into an amorphous yawn of strangled guitars and sub-standard pastiche pop, akin to the faux hard-girl shtick of Juliette & the Licks. The closest Get Awkward comes to introspection or a peek at the inner workings of Jemina Pearl is on opener ‘Super Soaked’ where she bemoans the plight of turning 20: how grim, and
Chief Super Furry Gruff Rhys teams up with Boom Bip for an 80s-tastic box of delights.
Neon Neon Stainless Steel While the name of Super Furries’ don Gruff Rhys’ new side project may put off some in these new rave-backlash times, look under the hot pink surface and Neon Neon is the ﬁnest supergroup to emerge since Gorrillaz. You might expect a bunch of sulky teens in slogan T-shirts at a Skins party, but Rhys, alongside LA producer Boom Bip (aka Bryan Dollon), transport you back to the decade that taste forgot. With help of Spank Rock, Har Mar Superstar, Magic Numbers and The Strokes’ Fab Moretti, this incongruous pair have managed to make postmodern, intelligent and unashamed pop music look easy. They set themselves the task of creating a synth-pop concept album inspired by motor industry legend John DeLorean. Through Rhys’ evocative lyrics and Hollon’s ’80s-savvy production, DeLorean’s cocaine addiction, bankruptcy and eventual immortality, via the iconic car roaring through the Back to the Future trilogy, are documented with panache. What could have been a cringe-worthy pastiche is instead a hugely enjoyable, infectious and multi-layered collection of lush candy-ﬂavoured ballads (‘I Lust U’, ‘Dream Cars’) and punchy, quick wire hip-hop (‘Trick or Treat’, ‘Luxury Pool’) bathed in a shimmering, rich pop gleam. For Rhys, Stainless Steel was a celebration of superﬁciality and all things plastic, while Hollon had the most fun he’s ever had making a record. Either way, they have blasted their more earnest contemporaries such as Van She and New Young Pony Club out of the water and should bring a smile to the face of even the most jaded ’80s cynic. ~ Ciara Cunnane
frankly, how very dull. In the rama-lama comic strip world of BYOP there’s no room for progression or musical evolution: sadly, it’s three chord business as usual. ~ Jennifer Gannon
Bauhaus Go Away White
30 years after they formed, the hugely inﬂuential gothic rock pioneers return with their ﬁfth and ﬁnal album. Considering a host of today’s rock glitterati, including Franz Ferdinand, The Rapture and Peaches, have acknowledged the Northampton legends as a major inﬂuence, it’s ﬁtting that Bauhaus release their ﬁrst album since 1983. With contemporaries like Gary Numan, Gang Of Four and Joy Division rising to a new-found reverence among younger fans in recent years, Go Away White is an opportunity for Bauhaus to bow out with one ﬁnal moment in the sun. Recorded in 18 days in 2006, with ﬁrst takes becoming ﬁnal cuts, many of the songs have a live feel, in particular the pastoral, paganistic jam, ‘Mirror Remains’. Previously appearing on a movie soundtrack, ‘The Dog’s A Vapour’ gets its debut proper here, and its eerie drama and wailing guitars (courtesy of Daniel Ash’s inspired use of Jimi Hendrix’s wah wah pedal - a gift from Peter Murphy) make it the album’s ﬁnest moment. Meanwhile, ‘Too Much 21st Century’ and ‘Adrenalin’ slip into parody territory.
Although Go Away White is a pleasant swan song, it can be rather pedestrian and lacks the potency of the band’s classic era material, in much the same way as modern Morrissey. Nothing here either breaks new ground or matches up to the likes of ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’, making it ultimately of interest to hardcore disciples only. Newer fans would be advised to spend their cash on Bauhaus 1979-1983 Vol 1 instead. ~ Ciara Cunnane
Plantlife Time Traveller
well-armed gang-banger in the blink of a chorus, while ‘What A World’ could almost single-handedly inspire you to organise a barbecue in March, just to have the pleasure of soundtracking it. Unfortunately, you can have too much of a good thing, and with 19 tracks, the dreaded ‘F’ word rears its head: ﬁller. Songs like ‘U Messed Up So We Took It Back’ don’t need to be here, and detract from what is a superbly crafted slice of escapism. Buy this album, trim it down to 16 songs, and automatically pimp up your stereo without having Xzibit come round and cello-tape a ﬁsh tank to it. ~ Martin McIver
Plantlife’s debut had a fair share of critical acclaim, touted by everyone from the Neptunes to the Chemical Brothers, and it seems this LA collective is really starting to hit its stride with their second offering, Time Traveller. Their sound lies ﬁrmly between the smoothest of soul and the funkiest hip-hop. The silky brass sections glide between sweet funky grooves, while the vocals have the punch of Prince circa Sign O’ The Times. In saying that, Plantlife pay homage to their inﬂuences with minty fresh breath, fusing legendary sounds with a uniquely positive perspective. One of the stand-outs, ‘Sun Shines Through Your Love’ is bona-ﬁde road-trip material, driveby music armed only with a sunny disposition and funky repost. This song alone could disarm a
Grand National A Drink and a Quick Decision recall records
Their name may conjure ghastly images of John McCririck and tension-ﬁlled bookie shops, but thankfully the legs-akimbo cover art is suggestive of a sound that wouldn’t go over well with the horsey set. In truth, much of this sophomore effort from London duo Rupert Lyddon and Lawrence ‘La’ Rudd, the follow-up to their overlooked Kicking the National Habit album from 2004, struggles to be something other than pedestrian in its outlook. There are moments – plenty of them – when the listener’s attention is held, but A Drink and a Quick Decision is often content to drift by on an
Ultra-hip Oxford quintet’s debut pushes boundaries but confounds fans.
With inﬂuences ranging from minimalist composer Steve Reich and tennis legend Andy Roddick to pop diva Gwen Stefani, it’s not surprising that Foals’ debut album deﬁes expectation and pushes the boundaries of indie. Franz Ferdinand’s manifesto was music for girls to dance to – four years later, following pleasant encounters with Bloc Party and Klaxons, Foals have upped the ante with technical, multi-faceted tracks whose aim is to get their fans’ asses shaking. The Oxford ﬁve piece courted controversy over leaving fan favourites ‘Hummer’, ‘Mathletics’ and ‘Astronauts And All’ off the album to create space for new tracks. However, it’s not entirely surprising that ‘Hummer’, in particular, was kept out of the party. The jangly, instantly catchy rhythm and singalong chorus which made that song such an indie club favourite are somewhat muted on Antidotes. While the songs still have a punchy, danceﬂoor-friendly melody, they are ﬁlled out with complex guitar lines and frenetic vocals. Think Battles or Dublin post rock heroes Redneck Manifesto and The Jimmy Cake with a vocalist that sounds like he’s lost in speed-freak delirium. Where it works, it’s glorious: ‘The French Open’, superb new single ‘Cassius’, ‘Balloons’, ‘Red Shoes Pugle’. Where it doesn’t (‘Two Steps, Twice’, ‘Tron’) the results can be at worst headache-inducing, at best, dreary. Coming in at three seconds short of the two-minute mark, the half-ﬁnished ‘Like Swimming’ is just plain pointless. Even if nothing on Antidotes matches the instant thrill of ‘Hummer’, Antidotes should provide the perfect poison for those tickled by Foals’ experimental, difﬁcult and arguably more forward-thinking side. ~ Ciara Cunnane
innocuous waft of familiar mid-tempo melodies and squelchy electronics. No track here could be called bad, but precious few are genuinely memorable. The antiquated dance ﬂoor beats and singalong chorus of opener ‘Reason To Hide in’ are redolent of Hot Chip, but lack that outﬁt’s playfulness and quicksilver invention. However, together with ﬁrst single ‘Animal Sounds’ and the nimble ‘New Space To Throw’, these are perfectly decent, hook-laden pop songs and are no hardship to spend time with. Things take a turn for the dreary in the last quarter as ‘Pieces Pieces’ and ‘Pack All The Things You Need’ arrive to cast a pall over the party. Both songs could have been sacriﬁced to the beneﬁt of the album. Album closer, ‘Part Of A Corner’, with its maudlin piano signature and clean guitar licks, is affecting, but the feeling at this point is that momentum has been lost. ~ David O Mahony
Temposhark The Invisible Line
paper & glue
For all the undoubted work and heaps of production that are poured into this debut album, it’s hard to imagine Temposhark lead singer Robert
Diament could sound any less bothered about his job. Throughout this record, Diament’s voice and songwriting – with the background work of Luke Busby – barely gets off the ground at all, leaving any trace of genuine gusto until the latter stages. It’ll be hard for anyone to listen to this album through and not think of early Noughties soundtrack favourites Frou Frou, who also suffered from a tendency to labour over pretty average tunes, while cracking out the odd gem. Sure enough, who should turn up at the midway stage on ‘Not That Big’ but Imogen Heap herself, adding her breathy stop-start vocals to an otherwise unremarkable collaboration. The problems start early on: album opener ‘Don’t Mess With Me’ is positively charmless. Diament may have only playful delusions of grandeur, but talk of being “invincible” and telling anyone interested in him to “get in contact with my people” strays the wrong side of cocky. His ‘male Roisin Murphy’ impression wears thin early on. Thankfully, early single ‘Joy’ sees business pick up just a little, but what follows is a midsection full of ﬂab. It’s only when Temposhark decide to tone things down a few notches and enjoy their tunes without over-complicating things that the record becomes enjoyable at last. ‘Invisible Ink’ and ‘Winter’s Coming’ are both slow but beautifully teased out and perhaps offer a
glimmer of what might come in the future. ~ John Joe Worrall
The Heavy Circles The Heavy Circles
It’s been 19 years since Edie Brickell released the frothy, daytime DJ favourite ‘What I Am’ and for this crime she has languished in the pop-dumpster for almost two decades. Now, with husband Paul Simon’s more questionable moments currently being in vogue thanks to Graceland tribute band Vampire Weekend, it seems to be the right time to stage a musical coup on a younger, perhaps more forgiving audience. Joining forces with her stepson, Harper and a myriad of famous, eclectic collaborators such as Sean Lennon, Ciabo Matto, Martha Wainwright and Joan Wasser, she’s released The Heavy Circles, is a strange, beguiling mix of dreamy modern folk and progressive pop. The delicate arrangements on songs like ‘Henri’ and ‘Maximo’ make the most of Brickell’s sultry bruised-lipped vocals and artsy avantgarde lyrics. Although with such an established bunch of artists involved, there are moments of over-familiarity, verging on parody - the luxuriant, shimmering orchestration on ‘Wait & Wait’ owes
4FWFOUI5SFF The new album OUT NOW Featuring the single A&E
Albums more than a hat-tip to Rufus Wainwright’s ‘Waiting For A Dream’. As with most collaborative efforts, there are disconcerting moments of displacement, namely on the embarrassing shudderfest, ‘Need A Friend’, with its white-funk basslines sounding like something the Friends characters would consider cutting edge. Also the worryingly Sheryl Crowe-ﬂavoured ‘Ready To Play’ veers too far into the dreaded AOR territory she is obviously trying to distance herself from. Bland mishaps aside, perhaps if this album is a success, Brickell can ﬁnally leave the pop-philosophising to Baby Spice. ~ Jennifer Gannon
Blood Red Shoes Box Of Secrets
It’s a shame the White Stripes have such a tight grip on the typical image of a boy-girl beat combo. As Brighton duo Blood Red Shoes (drummer Steve Ansell and guitarist Laura-Mary Carter) make abundantly clear, there’s far more to the drums-and-guitar format than mere angular blues rock. Like Meg n’ Jack, Blood Red Shoes have the knobs permanently turned to eleven. However, unlike their transatlantic forebears, Blood Red Shoes run an equal opportunities operation. They split vocal duties evenly, whether harmonising or trading off one another, adding a depth of character little heard amongst the current crop of British indie rockers. Though released on Mercury Records, Box of Secrets was recorded while host label V2 was still an independent operation, affording the group more artistic freedom than other major label debutantes would expect. As a result, Blood Red Shoes do their pop with a little more ambition and complexity. Ansell’s drumming stands alongside Arctic Monkey Matt Helders’ as the genre’s most demanding; Carter’s brazen, Zeppelin-inﬂuenced rifﬁng recalls the sludgy/sweet guitar-work of The Vines and JJ72, while their use of more adventurous structures (particularly during the tempo-shifting Nirvana-esque opener ‘Doesn’t Matter Much’) allows for some unpredictability. Yet the meat of Box of Secrets is straightforward dance-rock. Singles ‘You Bring Me Down’ and ‘Say Something, Say Anything’ compare favourably with Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys, while retaining a fresh and unique ﬂavour,
and it’s with those that Blood Red Shoes will attempt to convert pop audiences in the coming months. ~ Dave Donnelly
Katalyst What’s Happening
Albums by hip-hop producers can be awkward beasts. Lean too heavily on instrumental tracks and it can be difﬁcult to maintain the listener’s interest but include too many guest collaborations and the record can end up resembling a compilation. Sydney-based producer, Katalyst’s sophomore effort succeeds in getting this balance right. Even though Katalyst keeps it diverse throughout, incorporating reggae, soul, rock and jazz samples into his solid hip-hop stew, What’s Happening manages to avoid sounding like a mixtape. It’s this eclecticism which is the album’s trump card. ‘Loaded Gun’ marries acoustic melancholy to trip-hop-esque beats, while ‘Killing Ya Self’ pairs J-Live with menacing psychedelic organs and sustained guitar chords. Huge brass sounds abound, sometimes as if soundtracking a future Bond movie (‘What Are We Talking About?’), or blasting out the funk (‘Say What You Feel’). Thankfully, What’s Happening is also full of proper thumping beats, not the tinny clicky excuse that often passes for hip-hop these days. For the most part, Katalyst has chosen his accompanying vocalists well. Stephanie McKay contributes a sterling performance on ‘Say What You Feel’. ‘Over and Over’ drafts in Mat McHugh, resulting in a beautiful string-laden dub lament, reminiscent of Horace Andy’s collaborations with Massive Attack. Unfortunately, ‘Step Up’ with RU CL is the album’s low point, with the MC resorting to empty cliché-ridden muck. Overall, however, What’s Happening is an enjoyable, if hardly ground-breaking listen that manages to combine politically conscious lyrics and spoken word samples with a party attitude. ~ Shane Galvin
American Music Club The Golden Age
The mere mention of either American Music Club or Mark Eitzel is often enough to evoke a sort of misty-eyed reaction in anyone who had even a casual ear cocked to the indie/slowcore scene of the 90s, and rightly so. Proliﬁc yet uncompromising in their output, both AMC and Eitzel are that curious blend of the masterful, experimental and wholly comforting. After ﬂirting with jazz-pop, electronica and even traditional Greek music in his solo output during the band’s nine-year hiatus, Eitzel has now settled down and provided an organic and meditative, but wholly accessible masterpiece. Kitten-soft song ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ is so mealy and robust that it becomes a quiet tempest
of a track. Elsewhere, the melancholy etched into tracks like ‘The Stars’ and ‘On My Way’ is nicely undercut and bruised by softly buzzing guitars. Overall, it’s a warm, woody and heartening experience, with the exception perhaps of the Mariachi-ﬂavoured waltz,’ I Know That’s Not Really You’. It certainly snaps the listener out of a reverie, even though as a stand-alone track, it’s actually fairly palatable. Given the overall assuredness and mastery of The Golden Age, it’s hard to believe that this is an outﬁt ravaged, re-jigged and rebuilt several times over because of acrimony and uncertainty. American Music Club have long been the lumbering gentle giant of the indie sphere; if you’ve not already been seduced by their tender suckerpunch, get ready to ﬁnally understand what the fuss has been about. ~ Tanya Sweeney
A Silver Mt. Zion 13 Blues For Thirteen Moons
Pretension sirens sound from the off, with the ﬁrst 12 untitled tracks accumulatively lasting 20 seconds, each nothing more than a short burst of looped screeching. Welcome to the none-morearch world of Canadian Constellation darlings A Silver Mt. Zion (Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band, to give them their full title). Thankfully, the abstruse whims end there, as ﬁrst track proper, ‘1,000,000 Died To Make This Sound’ coasts along on a glorious collision of weeping violins, cello, drums, gnarled guitars and wailed, impassioned vocals. Its 15 minutes incrementally tense and explosive, before running out of puff after 10, crawling to a close with the repeated mantra of the title and the ﬁnal pulses of the band’s beating heart. It’s an impressive, enveloping billow that banishes any lasting distaste from those opening 12 ‘tracks’. From there, it becomes a much more slouchy affair, yet no less apocalyptic. The title track is the sort of doomy, funereal dirge that makes Arcade Fire look like a bar band. Each musician within the bulging septet butts heads and vies for space to breathe, taking their turns at shaking the life out of a dead old blues motif, before stepping back to let creative talisman Efrim Menuck summon some characteristic howls and incantations. When it’s good, it’s undeniably brilliant but the opposite is all too often true too, and it’s far too insular to merit many repeat plays. For fan-boys and fan-girls only, but then you probably already knew that. ~ David McLaughlin
Black Francis Svn Fngrs
Once he was Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV. Then he became, in no particular order, Charles Thompson, Frank Black and Black Francis.
Albums It comes as no small disappointment to ﬁnd that, whatever his name is, his musical output fails to be as unpredictable as his moniker. Written in part as a tribute to the overly dextrous Irish hero Cuchullain (who supposedly had seven ﬁngers and toes), Svn Fngrs comes fairly sharpish on the heels of Blueﬁnger, an album written about ill-fated Dutch visionary Herman Brood, which was released last September. Before this Black Francis release – his ﬁrst under that name since Pixies’ 1991 opus Trompe Le Monde - came a compilation album last June, entitled, Frank Black ‘93-‘03 (oh, do keep up). Clearly, this is a guy who has nary a problem with momentum. However, even the most rudimentary listen of Svn Fngers suggests that Black/Frank/ Whatever should choose his musical punches in a more measured manner. Notable by its absence, alas, is the wily, caustic anthemic bent, that effortless ability to thrill, impress and inspire, that made The Pixies such a class act. Opener ‘The Seus’, the sonic equivalent of David Byrne on the mother of all benders, almost bumbles into view, while ‘I Sent Away’ is a sort of reduced calorie version of the majestically shambolic garage riffery as purveyed by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. If you keep telling yourself enough times, ‘Garbage Man’ evokes a barely
perceptible shade of his erstwhile, famed outﬁt. According to the man himself, the whole seven-track album was written, recorded and mixed within six days. A rough and ready album is often a wondrous thing to behold, but next time B/F/W should perhaps focus less on the rough and more on the ready. ~ Tanya Sweeney
Ain Close to Cotton
Neither a great statement of intent nor a crushing disappointment, this mini-album from Co. Kildare hopeful Ain is nonetheless one of the most addictive 20 minutes of acoustic guitar ramblings from an Irish singer-songwriter in quite a while. Not that you could guess he’s a Lilywhite, as everything from the dark opening of ‘VSU.’ to the slide guitar-fest of ‘Spill Our Hands’ sound like they’re coming from a man born to play Delta blues. His tale of a “dead-eyed mistress” on the former is typical of the non-committal, folk-blues lyrics that dominate the record. Altogether, it’s a sound so delicate that you could think Ain was singing someone to sleep, were it not for the undercurrent of menace that
lies behind his voice. Close To Cotton is virtually just him and guitar throughout, with only a few hints of folksy piano on ‘Sold Heaven’; and while that singular pace works here, it could certainly grate if stretched any further. The sweetness of ‘Sunday’ is probably the highlight: a gentle, hypnotic guitar line guides along one of the few times he looks on the bright side of life. You can see the Elliot Smith comparisons coming from a mile off, but truth be told, Ain has a long way to go before he could be mentioned in the same breath. For one, getting into a different key every now and then would be welcome. However, when he can produce moments as gorgeous as the ﬁnal title track, there has to be great things to come. ~ John Joe Worrall
The Jimmy Cake Spectre & Crown
Finally, the arduous wait for the new Jimmy Cake album is at its end. Much has changed in Irish music in the ﬁve years which preceded the release of this, their third album, including the Jimmys themselves. Their website lists ﬁve fallen players from the band, lost amongst the antagonising period of recording a follow-up. It’s
~ Niall Byrne
Todos Tus Muertos
Paper Planes (Homeland Security Remixes)
Collating the numerous reﬁxes and remixes of Kala’s penultimate track, this EP is well worth the punt. Two versions here are extended to allow guest raps from a double tag team of London-based African Boy and Rye Rye, while Bun B and Rich Boy join Diplo to offer an American spin on the original. There are remixes from Scottie B and DJ Eli also, but James Murphy/Tim Goldsworthy’s DFA mix is the highlight, turning the track into a funky disco banger.
If you are looking for an inroad into global punk and reggae, this Nacional Records compilation is exactly what you need. It traces the history of this seminal Argentinian band, with songs taken from seven albums, spanning the years 1985 to 2006. The band are closely associated with global music icon Manu Chao, who features on a couple of tracks. The digital version offers bonus live songs.
Todos Tus Muertos. No band can dress like this and
Available on iTunes, eMusic
not be amazing
DJ/Rupture Mudd Up!
admire to produce an exclusive downloadable MP3 mix. The honour for our ﬁrst episode falls to Dublin electronic duo Nouveaunoise. Their mix, entitled Fuaim Nua, is a short and sweet 16 minutes of organic electronica recorded live for State with a host of equipment: “We used three push button samplers with real-time effects, loaded with our own recorded sounds, usually an acoustic instrument but fucked beyond recognition. We used our reel-to-reel tape with synths recorded on it and had that cued up. A toy synth and an old Roland, we used CoolEdit as another sampler and live vocals through a mic through one of the samplers.” Phew. Come get it, we got it.
Available on iTunes, eMusic, Amazon MP3
Road Relish compilation Roughage
A forgotten relic from a few years back, Roughage was supposed to be released on CD but recently surfaced online instead. It compiles songs from the 14 Road Relish split singles from 1999 to 2004, which were initially released on 7” vinyl. It serves as an aural history of alternative, independent Irish musicians, including tracks from Waiting Room, The Tycho Brahe, The Chalets, Joan of Arse, Jimmy Behan, Connect Four Orchestra, Americhord, ‘Oscar Winner’ Glen Hansard, Decal, David Kitt, Large Mound and The Redneck Manifesto. Available on iTunes, eMusic, Amazon MP3
Radio Show Podcast
Best known for his beats and bass heavy mix CDs, Jace Clayton also has a weekly radio show on WFMU in New Jersey City. With a focus on global music, a typical hour features international dubstep, UK grime, underground bhangra hits, exclusive 12” white label plays and tunes from the Maghreb and Latin America. You won’t hear these songs played anywhere else. http://wfmu.org/playlists/DR
State Mix Series #01 Nouveaunoise
The kick-off podcast in a regular State series, where we ask artists and DJs we respect and
Albums not just personnel re-shufﬂing that has occurred, however, as the album’s dynamics are noticeably more restrained than before, a result of the recording process and external forces on the band members themselves: family, age, marriage, babies, otherwise known as ‘Life, the Universe and Everything’. The Jimmy Cake don’t purport to have a deﬁnitive answer to Douglas Adams’ question but the assurance in Spectre & Crown suggests a plateau of knowledge reached that requires little dispute. The album’s muted tones and rich, rich instrumentation take a determined leap forward from 2002’s full-length Dublin Gone, Everybody Dead despite the numerous factors stacked up against them during its gestation period. The production is immaculately precise yet organic, the music epic yet controlled; brimming with piano, accordion, clarinet, trumpet, bass and saxophone. Of the nine songs, ﬁve clock in at over six minutes, with another pair not far behind. You’ll hardly notice, though, as the songs build buoyantly until a natural resolution is reached, but never on a forced path. The album ebbs and ﬂows wonderfully through distinct passages of melody and cadence, most notably ‘Haunted Candle’ and ‘Jetta’s Palace’, both of which are Herculean and orchestral, containing familiar Jimmy Cake climaxing crescendoes. The pronounced ﬁnale is ushered in with the multi-layered looping delay of nine minute ‘Hugs for Buddy’ segueing into the ephemeral ‘Last Breath’, leaving an indelible chronicle of nine musicians contributing to a singular and necessary vision. ~ Niall Byrne
La Rocca The Truth
You’d be forgiven if you were under the impression that La Rocca had split and gone their separate ways a few years back. The reality for the Irish four-piece is something much more impressive. It’s more than ﬁve years since La Rocca’s anthem ‘Waiting In The Wings’ was all over the Irish airwaves, and it’s a testament to the strength of their songwriting that it doesn’t make the cut of 11 for The Truth. Since then, the quartet have taken up residency in LA, and blossomed into a force that should not be overlooked. Upbeat tunes like ‘Sketches (20 Something Life)’ are mixed relatively seamlessly with the balladry of the album’s title track and ‘Some You Give Away’. Producer Tony Hoffer’s (Belle & Sebastian, Beck, The Thrills) work can’t be discounted: as catchy as these songs are, in the wrong hands The Truth could have been difﬁcult to digest. Even with the few gripes you could have with it, The Truth is a hard album not to like. Bjorn Baillie’s vocals bring a nostalgic quality to songs that you’d swear you knew for years. This is in every sense a calling card from a band that will undoubtedly make a greater im-
pact with their albums that follow. For now, we’ve been given a good debut that will serve them very well. ~ Dan Hegarty
Cadence Weapon Afterparty Babies
Some things you won’t ﬁnd on a Cadence Weapon album: samples of popular music records – slowed down, speeded up and faithfully reproduced; shout-outs to his brothers in the pen; a host of guest stars phoning in their contributions; Chris Martin. Some things you will ﬁnd: a thoughtful, intelligent rapper who tells stories about his environment rather than glamorising it; original, inspiring beats drawn from electro, dance and house; a refreshing antidote to the languor that has spread through hip-hop like a virus. Afterparty Babies is a concept album of sorts, trawling through a world of underground clubs, hometown crews and, key to it all, the deepseated bonds and friendship that Canadian MC Rollie Pemberton (aka Weapon) has formed on his travels. It’s so far removed from the bitches and bling world of mainstream hip-hop that the temptation is there to deﬁne it as a different genre altogether. Pemberton certainly strives to accentuate the differences, kicking off with the barbershop a capella of ‘Do I Miss My Friends?’ before slamming straight into the techno-tinged ‘In Search Of Youth Crew’. It sets the mark for what is frequently an astonishing record, one that manages to combine a considerate lyrical approach with an upbeat, genuine party feel. A hip hop record you can actually dance to instead of doing some ridiculous bobbing motion – surely a product of Pemberton’s time spent as a club DJ – After Party Babies is radical, creative and a damn good record. ~ Phil Udell
Chris T-T Capital
xtra mile recordings
Though perhaps best known for his controversial 2003 single ‘Eminem Is Gay,’ Londoner Chris T-T has made a name for himself in recent years by turning his observational wit and acid tongue toward targets closer to home. Capital is the last in a trilogy on Chris’ native city, and the ﬁrst since the terrorist attacks which ground it to a halt in 2005. How disappointing, then, that T-T fails to rise to the challenge of his weighty subject matter. Chris’ vocals have never been anything but earthy - his suburban London brogue has been compared to The Streets’ Mike Skinner - but some of Capital’s punchy power pop arrangements expose his lack of singing ability. Lead single ‘A-Z’ calls to mind the pro-intellect angst of Pulp’s ‘Mis-Shapes,’ but despite the varied, pulsating pop arrangement, Chris T-T lacks the
element of unpredictability that makes Jarvis Cocker such an exciting singer. Indeed, Capital’s best moments occur when T-T embraces his limitations. Funky environmentalist yarn ‘Black Music’ could teach Hot Chip a thing or two about ironic detachment, while Smiths-y number ‘Let’s Do Some Damage’ and folksy, Brendan Benson-like single ‘This Gun Is Not A Gun’ play to his traditional strengths, emphasising his simpler, more personal lyrics. Elsewhere, however, his lyrics are as underwhelming as his vocal pitch, in the easy theocrat-bashing dance number ‘None Of Them Give A Fuck About The Future’ and the lazy paranoia of the otherwise excellent closer, ‘4am (The Day The Earth Stood Still Pt. 2)’, making for a lacklustre ﬁnish to a fantastic series. ~ Dave Donnelly
Willie Nelson Moment Of Forever
There is no review that could be written nor indeed no album that could be recorded which could take away from the fact that Willie Nelson is one of the last survivors from a generation of American greats who are sadly leaving this world, one by one. And the only thing that is truly relevant here is whether Nelson’s latest work adds or detracts from his already great canon. Like his fellow highwayman, the late and great Johnny Cash, Nelson’s trials, trails and tribulations and his great contributions to the American songbook have earned him a stature which few can match. Moment Of Forever is another adventure for Nelson, who has been experimenting of late. Despite producer Kenny Chesney aping former Nelson collaborator Daniel Lanois on the opening track, Nelson doesn’t quite reinvent himself as Cash did in his later years. However, his superb reading of Randy Newman’s ‘Lousiana’, a song originally written about a 1927 hurricane (“President came down in his airplane, with his little fat man with a note pad in his hand”), is worth close to the price of purchase alone. There’s also a lot to be had in the Kris Kristofferson title track and another superb reading in Dylan’s ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’. Of course, there’s also some lumpy and much too funky material, (it does, after all, include a Dave
Sophomore effort from UK’s rising female hip-hop star, complete with stunning line-up of guests.
home school records
Shine, Estelle’s second outing, arrives with a considerable amount of fanfare. And not just because of her undeniable talent: it also acts as the debut release for John Legend’s HomeSchool label. Shine comes four years after her debut The 18th Day, which these days is an eternity. Bigger names have paid the price for taking this amount of time, but you can’t see Estelle suffering the same fate. The guest list reads like a who’s who of R&B and hip-hop: Lilly Allen, John Legend, Will.I.Am, Wyclef, and Kayne West. As impressive as these may be, this album is driven primarily by its lyrics and rhythms rather than its guest vocalists, as well as by an extremely slick production job. There’s a nod to reggae, funk and disco throughout, which will make it an instant favourite for some and a mirror-balled hell for others. Whatever your view, however, tracks like ‘Come Over’ are the kind of gems that daytime radio and TV will lap up with abandon. Estelle’s vocals on ‘So Much Out The Way’ are part Lauren Hill, part MIA, which is quite a mixture, but one that works well. While compliments will be in abundance, there is the question of whether Estelle’s sparkle will fade like so many that have come before her. There’s only one way to ﬁnd out. ~ Dan Hegarty
Mathew’s song) but little that will disuade those (State included) who believe Nelson’s image should be permanently carved into Mount Rushmore. ~ Durell Connor
Fuck Buttons Street Horrrsing
After the raft of high praise and giddy expectancy garnered from the intensity of this Bristolian duo’s ear-melting live show and the coquettish tease of last year’s ‘Bright Tomorrow’ single, comes the make-or-break full length LP. Opener ‘Sweet Love For Planet Earth’ glides and twinkles its way onto centre stage like a gift unwrapping itself, the proverbial calm before one almighty shit-storm. Glistening keys build a hypnotic groove before being gradually overcome by percussive synth bass stabs and anguished, distorted screams ﬁve minutes in. As the washy racket bloats and blisters to fade around the nine minute mark, it’s a brass-balled starting delicacy. The minimalist, jungle jive of ‘Ribs Out’ acts as something of a bridge, offering the ears some respite, while creating an air of menace to set the heart racing. Yelping, squawking and tribal drums evoke a sense of The Jungle Book re-imagined as a nightmarish trip through a heart of darkness, but it’s a mere triﬂe when compared to the full-on aural battery thereafter. The sonic perversion is ratcheted up a notch or nine with the scratchy scree of ‘Okay, Let’s Talk About Magic’ and the claustrophobic, non-stop static feedback of ‘Race You To My Room – Spirit Rise’. Misguided nom de rock aside, Fuck Buttons’
Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power have crafted a blissful slab of deviant noise with Street Horrrsing that sees them fully justify the early eulogies. Experiencing this live in the ﬂesh won’t be for the faint of heart. ~ David McLaughlin
Dave Browne Windows To The Soul
Pugwash 11 Modern Antiquities
they’ve inhabited for the past decade. The point can’t be made any other way; 11 Modern Antiquities is a triumph. ~ Dan Hegarty
There’s a lot of attention given to what’s become known as the ‘difﬁcult second album’. In reality, things don’t get any easier with the third, or in Pugwash’s case, the fourth. Following 2005’s Jolity was a big undertaking, yet Thomas Walsh has made it sound like one that he relished. In fact, 11 Modern Antiquities is an album that has such an array of qualities that it’s easy to overlook some of them. The single ‘Take Me Away’ opens proceedings, featuring a bassline that almost steals the limelight all to itself. As you move deeper into the album, it evokes images of many of Pugwash’s heroes and inﬂuences, a number of whom are guests and co-writers (XTC’s Dave Gregory and Andy Partridge, Jason Falkner, and Michael Penn, to name but four). Many of the ideas aren’t what you’d class as groundbreaking, but it’s the manner in which they’re delivered that is truly remarkable. ‘It’s So Fine’ and ‘Landsdowne Valley’ draw your mind back to decades past, and would sit perfectly well with the best that those years had to offer. Forgive State for using the ‘O’ word, but if Noel Gallagher wrote songs like these, he might manage to drag Oasis from the creative doldrums that
Former Picture House frontman, Dave Browne was always possessed of a tuneful, emotive voice, which was arguably never given free rein to really express itself on his previous work. This, his ﬁrst solo album, sees Browne breaking down the barriers and letting rip with soulful abandon. He has cited The Blue Nile as inﬂuences on this debut, and their slow-burning elegance is writ large, particularly on cinematic, sweepingly grandiose opener, ‘Everybody Wants Love’, the brass-inﬂected jazzy ‘Daylight Alarm’ and the elegiac closer ‘It’s A Little Thing’. Browne ropes in Danish-born Ingrid Madsen to duet throughout the album (taking centre stage on ‘Weight On My Shoulders’), her breathy tonsil-tickling proving a more than adequate foil for his throaty rasp, particularly on the delicious coda to ‘Not Built To Last’. The instrumentation, meanwhile, mixes ornate orchestration with gentle piano balladry, sometimes in the same song (the tear-jerking ‘Daddy’). Windows To The Soul sounds like it was a labour of love to create, but it’s a mixed bag for the listener. While highlights are plentiful (‘Careful What You Dream Of’, ‘Walking For Water’, ‘Ugly Overweight Kissogram’), and there’s nothing capable of really grinding your gears, State’s main gripe is that the pace never really rises above
Stunning new wave pop anthems from Brooklyn TXT-SPKRS.
MGMT Oracular Spectacular
Brooklyn’s MGMT (that stands for Management, non-text speak folks) have a slightly suspect biography. Their website claims they are “celebrating the grand-re-opening of the third eye of the world”, so the student psychedelia radar last twigged by Kula Shaker was primed prior to listening. Luckily, the duo’s predisposition for paganism adds a coat of 21st century Flaming Lips mysticism to their music rather than swamping it with hippy bullshit. Some bands talk about their girlfriends, MGMT talk about prophecies and futuristic visions. It’s all good, especially when their music is as vibrant and upbeat as this. It helps that they have the ﬁrst standout newwave pop song of 2008 with ‘Time to Pretend’, which features a notable synth hook, an undercurrent of fanfare and lyrically has its sights pointed at rock stardom: “Let’s make some music / Make some money / Find some models for wives”. The production is sleek and bombastic, thanks to Dave Fridmann’s trademark widescreen sound. Singer Andrew Vanwyngarden’s vocals glide atop the music in reverb-heavy fashion, sounding distinctly retro, like a voice from the Summer of Love which MGMT are so keen on. ‘Electric Feel’ takes a diversion into effective disco-funk, while the electro-stomp of ‘Kids’, with its evocative chorus, varies their output once more. There are plenty of ideas and youthful exuberance on show here, which they pull off remarkably well. Let’s just hope they steer clear of parody, as they may yet fulﬁl their own musical prophecy. ~ Niall Byrne
second gear, with the result that it becomes a bit too samey over the ﬁnal furlongs. A real shame, considering that Browne is capable of writing pristine pop when the mood takes him. ~ John Walshe
Levon Helm Dirt Farmer
If Levon Helm had succumbed to the throat cancer that took hold 12 years ago, his passing would have been crushing and a huge loss to music, but his legacy at that time would have been fantastic. As a member, drummer and indeed recognisable voice of The Band (Helm was the non-Canadian), he was already assured of his place in history. Their backing of Dylan on his infamous electric tour, even before they went on to make a series of the best records of all time, followed by indisputably the best concert movie ever made in the Martin Scorsese-directed The Last Waltz is almost unparalleled. Four years ago (as he battled cancer) saw the beginning of Helm’s now infamous ‘Midnight Rambles’, where he was joined in Woodstock, New York, by some of the greatest musical talents of all (Emmylou, Allan Toussaint, Costello etc). Originally organised to help fund his medical bills, they soon became a catalyst for this, his return to the recording arena. With help from his daughter Amy (a member of Ollabelle), Helm uses traditional songs, which
he learnt from his parents, and covers (notably Steve Earle’s ‘The Mountain’) to recall his upbringing in the cotton ﬁelds of Arkansas. His voice is fantastic, grizzled but ghostly, and he is joined by a bunch of extraordinary musicians. If you are looking for direction, purchase The Band, Music From Big Pink, The Last Waltz, recent movie The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada (where he makes an appearance) and this, a damn ﬁne roots album by normal standards but a tear-welling miracle from above by his. Recently and righteously crowned with a Grammy, this is an extraordinary record by an extraordinary musician. ~ Durell Connor
Autamata Colours of Sound
The opening trio of songs are the album’s apex, taking in glacial electronic instrumental, ‘Effervescent’, the disco-funk of ‘What You All About?’ and ‘Cloud Seekers’, in which Cathy Davey’s voice is bolstered by distorted synth stabs and synchronous percussion. The remainder of the album lacks coherence and a few of the songs display deliberate offbeat instrumentation that is more bafﬂing than impressive. The breadth of styles apparent is detrimental, further compounded by indisposed, unconvincing lyrics. The effect is an overall impression of a producer’s album, vying to wow the listener with its scope. Ultimately, however, it may be the advertising music supervisors who beneﬁt the most from Colours of Sound. ~ Niall Byrne
Though you may not own any of the previous Autamata releases, chances are you’ve unknowningly heard their songs in ﬁlms, advertisements and TV shows dozens of times in the last six years. At the core of Autamata is producer, singer and multi-instrumentalist Ken McHugh, with a returning cast of vocalists including Carol Keogh and Cathy Davey. McHugh takes the vocal reins for seven of the 11 songs on this third album, which displays a dizzying array of styles, from the frantic Battlesesque rhythms of ‘Music’s All We Need’ and the Royskopp-like ‘A Drive through the Countryside’ to the chillout mode evident on ‘Inter-Railing’.
Adam Green Sixes And Sevens
With the Juno soundtrack creating new interest in The Moldy Peaches, American singer-songwriter and co-founder of the group, Adam Green couldn’t have chosen a better time to release his ﬁfth solo album. The 16-track collection is a bit of a rollercoaster ride. It’s the type of album that will win Green new fans, while keeping the old ones satisﬁed with his trademark lazy drawl, and witty lyrics. The melodic guitar and Green’s soothing voice lulls you into a false sense of security, before you
Albums sit up and take notice, wondering if you’ve heard the lyrics correctly. The tone is set from the very beginning, kicking off with’ Festival Song’, with the beautiful’ It’s a Fine’ as the chaser. ‘Drowning Head First’ should raise a few smiles and you can’t help feeling at times that, tongue ﬁrmly in cheek, Green is having fun with his listeners. The album is peppered with upbeat tracks like ‘Grandma Shirley & Papa’ that are instant favourites, while others take a few listens to work their charms ‘Cannot Get Sicker’ being a case in point. All in all, an excellent album that should whet the appetite of current Green aﬁcionados, and win a few new converts into the bargain. ~ Ciara O’Brien
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Dig, Lazarus Dig!
Any fears that Nick Cave had mellowed beyond redemption were laid to rest with last year’s raw and raucous Grinderman side-project. The energy of that welcome diversion has carried through to the Bad Seeds’ 14th studio album, as Cave once more comes up “out of the meat locker” (‘Moonland’), armed to the teeth with songs that vibrate, rattle and hum with blood, sweat, snot and spunk. It’s a blues-sodden trawl through Gavin Friday’s Night-town and Dr John’s gumbo, leaving behind a slimy trail of junkies, whores and late night radio DJs. Opening with the savage beauty of the title track, Cave’s Lazarus isn’t the passively grateful supporting actor from the Gospels. Instead, he’s a snarling, sneering dope ﬁend who “feasted on the lovely ladies like a lunatic and wrapped himself up in their soft, yellow hair – a 21st Century Dickens condensed into four minutes . There’s an urgency here that’s been missing from Cave’s work for a few years now, and the bloodrush continues through ‘Today’s Lesson’, Lou Reed’s New York ﬁltered through the Marquis de Sade, before the New Orleans sprawl of ‘Moonland’ drags us on a midnight boat-ride through the Louisiana swamps, whether we want to go or not... His literary bent is sated with ‘The Night Of The Lotus Eaters’ and ‘We Call Upon The Author’, the former all grimy gothic Americana, while the latter’s indignant rage recalls the righteous ranting of a southern-styled preacherman whose hotline to the almighty has suddenly gone dead – REM’s ‘End Of The World As We Know It’ rewritten by Travis Bickle. For a few years, the fear that the former Birthday Party leader would lapse into self-parody was becoming very real. Dig, Lazarus Dig! is the sound of creative rebirth. ~ John Walshe
Billy Bragg Mr Love & Justice
These have been lean times of late for Billy Bragg aﬁcionados. Since he reached his commercial
heyday in 1991, there have been only two proper new Bragg albums, Wilco collaborations and assorted compilations aside, and on his last outing English Half English the usual sharp ideas were slightly lost in a mess of uninspiring pub rock. In the six years since, there have been gigs, campaigns and books but precious little new music. Mr Love & Justice sees him reunited with the Blokes but thankfully discovering a lightness of touch to the band format. It’s a beautiful sounding record, not something often attributed to a Billy Bragg release, yet his vocals have achieved an almost soulful tone. Indeed, after all his recent examination of the nature of Englishness, this is Bragg’s most American sounding record. ‘The Beach Is Free’, ‘Sing Their Souls Back Home’ and ‘O Freedom’ are all instilled with a folksy, at times gospel feel. Yet his own roots are here too, especially the traditional music circles he has increasingly moved in. Lyrically, it is – as always – a collision of the personal and the political (and was ever an album better titled?), ranging from simple love songs to a damning condemnation of extraordinary rendition (the apprehension and extrajudicial transfer of a person from one state to another). In other words, business as usual for Billy Bragg and thank God for that. ~ Phil Udell
kids could hold a candle to. As ever, the margins are where it’s really at. On this record, VV and Hotel (Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince to their parents) have taken the lo-ﬁ blueprint of their ﬁrst two albums and expanded, hop, skip and jumping all over their collections and ﬁnally shaking off the spurious comparisons of old. Lead-off single and album opener ‘U.R.A. Fever’ is a case in point, with its handclaps, groovy, deadpan vocal trade-offs and huge, scything guitars (a recurrent feature). It’s all staccato disco bass and sultry, sneering put-downs. The hollering ‘Tape Song’ is another highlight and among their ﬁnest moments to date, built on little but a cheap drum machine, a cranky lick and VV’s ‘don’t mess’ refrains. Bluesy Peej-isms are present and correct here too (the boisterous ‘Hook And Line’ and mournful ‘Black Balloon’) but there’s a greater sense of playfulness now to break up the bleak. The soft, plinking Velvets-style croon of closer ‘Goodnight Bad Morning’ sends it home on a wave of sleepy-eyed optimism and conﬁrms The Kills as a band apart, simultaneously retrospective and forward-looking. Lest we forget. ~ David McLaughlin
Operator Please Yes Yes
The Kills Midnight Boom
While the Kills’ musical peers have all gone onto mainstream success and ubiquity, the AngloAmerican duo have become increasingly marginalised, refusing to play the industry game, standing ﬁrm with punk rock moxie and art-school aestheticism. Third album Midnight Boom might ultimately resign them to the forgotten 2002 hopefuls bin, but there’s much to be admired here that few of 2008’s January-ﬂavoured new
Still hardly out of their school uniforms, there is an unsurprising dash of high-octane teenage abandon to Operator Please’s punk-tinged indie pop debut album. The Aussie quintet whipped up something of an adolescent frenzy in their homeland since their inauguration as victors in their high school Battle of The Bands, and can still boast a sixteen-year-old in their ranks. Yet, there is a subtle maturity that shuns total bubblegum on Yes Yes Vindictive. Flirtations with classic and garage rock appear throughout, but it’s perhaps when they are more restrained that Operator Please hit the nail on the head. Sure, the brash bassline and quasi-surf rock guitar a la The Pixies on ‘Get What You Want’ may instil danceﬂoor sensibility to their canon, but the cheery piano-led pop of ‘Two For My Seconds’ or the tweeness of ‘Other Song’ show that Operator Please are not willing to play by the textbook. However, the inclusion of the feeble ‘Terminal Disease’ and ‘8/8’ are proof that they could yet do with some ageing. Relief comes in album highlight ‘Leave It Alone’, featuring sublime string arrangements from classically-trained violinist Taylor Henderson, with 19-year-old frontwoman Amandah Wilkinson on particularly ﬂying form. Wilkinson may possess a powerful yelp, but nevertheless it lacks the force of a Beth Ditto or a Karen O. If she can develop the same level of intensity as those two, and Operator Please can match it with their delivery, perhaps they’ll move up the class in time. ~ Ciarán Ryan
Reissues & Compilations
Stunning career-deﬁning live collection from French dance aristocrats.
Daft Punk Alive 2007
Recorded in Paris last June and coming a decade after their last live album, Daft Punk’s latest release is an immense experience. For those who didn’t catch Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo’s show at Oxegen last year, this is a chance to gain a glimpse of what you missed as they plunder through their back catalogue with stunning results. It’s hard to describe just how far above the usual live album fare this is – the reinventions of ‘Crescendolls’ and ‘Around the World’ are just the start of things, followed by the full-on rave reworking of ‘Harder Better Faster Stronger’, which is the kind of pure, raw, live power that any rock band would kill for. Meanwhile ‘Prime Time of Your Life’ escapes its clunky original version to become something far more in a live environment. The French duo’s penchant for experimentation is evident throughout: instead of simple recreation of their studio sound, this genuinely feels like they’re listening to what their hometown public wants to hear. Where supposed contemporaries might over-indulge some of the bigger tunes to become 10-minute centre-pieces, the strength of Daft Punk’s output during their decade-plus in the limelight means they can move swiftly through moments like ‘Da Funk’ and ‘One More Time’ and you won’t begrudge them for it. Its superior stuff all round and the band’s continued aversion to releasing a live DVD is all the more logical when listening to them hammer through the 27 tracks on offer. Diluting the tunes with images that can’t live up to the actual experience of being there would just be too much of a let-down, so why bother trying? ~ John Joe Worrall
The Cardigans Best Of
The Cardigans have always been much misunderstood, walking the tightrope between their knack of crafting ﬁne pop tunes and a desire to tackle the weightier end of the human condition. In the main, it’s a feat that they’ve achieved admirably, as this career overview proves. Right from their early days of combining the ﬂuffy indie of ‘Rise & Shine’ and ‘Sick & Tired’ with Black Sabbath covers, it’s always been a case of an iron ﬁst in a velvet glove. While it may have been ‘Lovefool’ that cemented the commercial status, its ubiquity has been its undoing and besides, there is stuff of much greater creative worth here that was less heralded. The Gran Turismo period that recast them as a frosty, aloof rock band may have helped push them further into the public consciousness, yet it was almost to break them and although ‘My Favourite Game’ and ‘Erase/Rewind’ are great records, on reﬂection they are perhaps lacking in the way of human spirit. Three years of soul searching and crisis meetings later, it was a warmer, more relaxed Cardigans that emerged. Long Gone Before Daylight was their best album by a mile, if not their best seller, and the second half of this compilation is the sound of band re-engaging with themselves, from the rootsy rock of ‘Live And Learn’, the clas-
sic ballad ‘Communication’ and the great ‘I Need Some Fine Wine And You, You Need To Be Nicer’, the latter track seeing Nina Persson’s ice queen persona making a brief, knowing re-appearance. Throw in some lesser known album tracks (with only their horriﬁc Tom Jones collaboration to spoil the party), and The Cardigans have moved through 14 years with grace and style. ~ Phil Udell
The Trifﬁds The Black Swan/Treeless Plain/ Beautiful Waste
Amongst the last few wishes of The Trifﬁds’ leading light David McComb before his death in 1999 was the restoration of their classic album The Black Swan to its original form. While it may have taken a decade to come to fruition, his dream is beautifully realised in the latest of the Australian band’s series of re-issues. Released in conjunction with the restored Treeless Plain long player, as well as a rich and surprising collection of rarities entitled Beautiful Waste And Other Songs, The Black Swan was never an easy listen to begin with, and the addition of a second disc will divide many. The phrase ‘their White Album’ has inevitably been used in several quarters and with good
reason, considering how it skips from genre to genre without a second thought for continuity. Indeed, fans wary of tampering with a sacred cow may ﬁnd far more joy on Beautiful Waste. From the fantastically upbeat ‘Jesus Calling’ through the menacing ‘Embedded’ and the simply beautiful ‘Raining Pleasure’, it brings together moments from an experimental period in the 80s when the London press hailed them as conquering heroes from the other side of the world. Legend has it that Treeless Plain’s original form was a result of a mere two and half hours on the mixing desk, and while that may be more myth than fact, this reworking has no doubt given it a sheen that makes it far more appetising. The thumping ‘Branded’ has had its edges smoothed over, likewise ‘Old Ghostrider’ and ‘Hanging Shed’, while ‘Rosevel’ is still one of the catchiest things they ever produced. ~ John Joe Worrall
Guru’s Jazzmatazz The Mixtape: Back to the Future
The Mixtape: Back To The Future is a compilation hosted by DJ Doo Wop in support of Guru’s Jazzmatazz Volume 4, released last year. Guru obviously has a hell of a reputation, having been one half of the legendary Gangstarr, responsible for classic hip-hop records such as Daily Operation and Moment Of Truth. He’s also well aware of
Reissues & Compilations his status, declaring that he’s a legend on several occasions. But like so many mixtapes, with over twenty collaborators here, consistency is a big problem. Amongst the extensive list of featured artists are Common, Mr Lif, Damian Marley, Lord Tariq and Caron Wheeler, who reprises the chorus of the Soul II Soul tune that she’s best remembered for (‘Back To Life’). Common’s track, a Solar remix of ‘State of Clarity’ from Volume 4, is a highlight, switching the beat to an uplifting horn-based delight, vastly improving on the original. Unfortunately, it’s cut short by Doo Wop announcing that if you want to hear all of the tune, you should ask your local DJ to play it. At the end of ‘B-Boy Kamikaze’, he lists ﬁve websites that you should check out and on ‘The Game Needs Me’, he mentions sites that have “forums, messageboards, pictures, videos”, as if that was an entirely new concept. In fact, there is nothing new here at all, which wouldn’t be a problem if the album was packed with quality tracks but there’s not enough of them here to justify this record’s existence. ~ Shane Galvin
Jerome Derradji presents The American Boogie Down
You can leave the sweaty-palmed vinyl-junkies in the record store basement to argue over which disco subgenre Jerome Derradji’s compilation falls into or which “cut” is more superior: they’ve traded in their dancing shoes for a beard to stroke long ago. The average listener can discern what makes a good disco tune easily enough – it should contain the vital ingredients that compel you to twirl around your front room at a dizzying pace and it has to possess a groove so mighty that it makes said twirling feel like the classiest moves in the world. The American Boogie Down is a spine-trembling slice of space-funk, soul and loose Latin beats, that combine to make a foxy feast, perfect for a Friday night pre-club mood setter. Derradji’s collection concentrates on the wealth of talent found in Middle America after the explosion of disco in the mid-70s. He culls undiscovered gems, rarities and forgotten classics that will manage to thrill both the uninitiated and serious fans of Rare Groove and Chicago House. With tracks as good as the scandalous sexfunk work-out of Devarne’s ‘Kiss You Everywhere’, idle threats of holding and squeezing trilled over an irresistible horn riff, it is difﬁcult not to succumb to its charms. Elsewhere the fabulous Parliament-inspired ‘Get Up Get Down And Let Your Body Pop’ by Greyship Davis should become a mandatory ﬂoor-ﬁller at any social gathering worth its salt. Rather than being the usual assemblage of hit and miss obscurities, The American Boogie Down is a quality mix which manages to be an enthralling and, more importantly, accessible trip into
the unknown, which stays true to the disco ethos of the all encompassing, unifying party. ~ Jennifer Gannon
Various Artists Disco Not Disco
There’s nothing more annoying than some old guy speaking ill of today’s music, claiming it’s only rehashed sounds from the past. After listening to the latest compilation from Strut Records Disco Not Disco, the old fart might have a point. Disco Not Disco explores the rarities of postpunk and leftﬁeld disco and the timing of this release makes perfect sense with the burgeoning 2008 mainstream scene. Album opener ‘Launderette’ by Vivien Goldman is simply beautiful and eases the listener into the record. ‘Mind Your Own Business’ from Delta 5 is a cracker of a tune and it surely doesn’t take a music expert to see how this could be at least one of the bands that inﬂuenced the likes of LCD Soundsystem, CSS and The Rapture. Other bands on the record include Konk from New York, 70s’ prog collective Isotope and Quando Quando. In songs like ‘My Spine Is The Bassline, by UK’s Shriekback, one can hear a possible inﬂuence to late 80s’ Manchester. While State feels sorry for people who don’t get off on new music and moan about the old days being better, it wouldn’t do the laptop music makers of today any harm to listen to this excellent pick of post-punk, electro and leftﬁeld disco classics. ~ Peter Ruotolo
Les Savy Fav Inches
A dozen years in business and Les Savy Fav have decided the world needs a little reminder that they’re still alive and kicking. Art punk, post-hardcore, New York balls-out rock, call it what you like, they have moments on this singles compilation that put their Wichita labelmates Bloc Party to shame. After 2007’s well-received Let’s Stay Friends album, their ﬁrst record in six
long years, this is another reminder that they have plenty to offer. ‘The Sweat Descends’ may be as anthemic as it gets here, but don’t be afraid, the almost violent guitar lines and delivery of manic frontman Tim Harrington are not as impenetrable as some may think. There are dark moments of course. ‘Hello Halo, Goodbye Glands’, for instance, is atmospheric in the extreme, while ‘Obsessed with Excess’ is just plain insane. Harrington has quite a reputation as a lyricist of note, and album opener ‘Meet Me in the Dollar Bin’ is typical of his downbeat euphoria: “Covered up with phony skins, this giving in has worn so thin”. Indeed, with the exception of the rather average ‘No Sleeves’ and the shambolic ‘Reformat’, there’s plenty to like here. Maybe Les Savy Fav are destined to be remembered for inﬂuencing others more than for their own talents, but there’s still time to alter that and recent dalliances with the mainstream like this re-release, some heavy YouTube marketing and appearances on Conan O’Brien, hint not of mid-life crisis sell-out, but rather a band ﬁnally accepted by a wider world. ~ John Joe Worrall
Mexican Institute of Sound Méjico Maxico
There is a well-founded theory that it is trickier to write a great joyous song than to pen a great sad one. Happy songs have the tendency towards the twee or annoying. Fortunately, Méjico Máxico, a re-issue of Mexican Institute of Sound’s 2006 debut, is an album of upbeat songs that manages to avoid those perilous traps. It’s an album of all-day sunshine, summer holiday ﬂings, beach volleyball, evening carnivals, cold beers and barbeques. And while there’s nothing wrong with any of these things, this record also feels like a collection of 30-second advertising jingles stretched out to warrant the existence of the tunes. Méjico Máxico evokes Esquivel and easy listening cocktail party music. And while the album doesn’t move much beyond that, it does manage to do that rather well. The brief ‘Buena Idea’ centres around an enchanting piano refrain, while ‘Canción De Amor Para Mi Futura Novia’ is buoyed up by a punchy electro break. ‘No Hay Masa Ya’ features an arresting rhythm, but the random synth swirls seem like pretty icing, there to decorate an essentially lacklustre track. And therein lies the central problem. There’s no soul beneath the feel-good horns and bouncy beats. There is no arc in these songs, no progression, little in unexpected twists and turns. Where someone like The Avalanches can explore similar musical territories and cause explosions, Mexican Institute of Sound merely produces ﬁzzle. Ultimately, this record is not unlike a holiday romance – enjoyable and mildly diverting, yet ﬂeeting and forgettable. ~ Shane Galvin
Critically adored but a commercial misﬁre of almost Heaven’s Gate proportions, does Studio 60 deserve another chance?
Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip: The Complete Series Creator: Aaron Sorkin. Starring: Matthew Perry, Amanda Peet, Bradley Whitford, Steven Weber. Running Time: 884 minutes. Extras: Pilot Episode Commentary by Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme/ In Depth: The Evolution Of Studio 60
When West Wing supremo Sorkin turned his hand to another TV drama, revolving around the trials and tribulations of running a late night comedy sketch show, most onlookers predicted a runaway success. Certainly CBS and NBC (the eventual broadcaster) felt it strong enough to spark a bidding war which resulted in a near-record licence fee to secure the rights. But it didn’t work out that way. The critics loved it, but the armchair viewers weren’t convinced. Was Studio 60 was just too knowing and smart-arsed for its own good? Were the characters just not likeable enough for us to care what happened to them? Or are
the great American viewing public willing to put up with outrageously fast dialogue from presidential aides but not from mere TV execs? Whatever the reason, from the very beginning, Studio 60 was plagued with ever-decreasing ratings, which saw its time-slot switched continuously. Whether this DVD release will see the return of Studio 60 to TV screens, a la Family Guy, is doubtful – it’d need to do some serious business for things to turn around that much – but what’s clear is that on second viewing, its commercial mauling seems hugely unfair, given the strength of the scripts, the cast and the skill with which it was put together. Sorkin brought along plenty of acting talent from The West Wing, including Timothy Busﬁeld (who played journalist Danny Concannon) and Bradley Whitford (the President’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Josh Lyman), who stars as Danny Tripp. Tripp
is a recovering drug addict and hot-shot producer, who, along with his best friend and colleague, writer Matt Albie (Matthew Perry, forever Chandler to most of us), are the prodigal sons returning to restore ratings to the eponymous sketch show of the title, having left the network in lessthan-friendly circumstances. Indeed, the duo are only brought back as a last resort, following a Good Night And Good Luck-style on-air rant from former head writer Wes Mendell (Taxi’s Judd Hirsch)about how the networks are sucking the life out of television (pilot episode): “This show used to be cutting-edge political and social satire, but it’s gotten lobotomised by a candy-assed broadcast network, hell-bent on doing nothing that might challenge their audience....There’s always been a struggle between art and commerce, and art is getting its ass kicked...Guys are being killed in a war that’s got theme music and a logo. That remote in your hand is a crack pipe.” It’s hair-raising stuff and impossible to turn away from. It would be hard for any show to live up to the power and drama of that pilot episode and the addiction rating does drop at times over the course of its 22 episodes. But thanks to the power of the writing, with Sorkin’s trademark quickﬁre delivery, and the pedigree of the cast, we start to care not just about how the ﬁctional show performs in the ratings, but about the cast of characters that make it happen, from the fortunes of newly hired president of NBS, Jordan McDeere (Amanda Peete) and her efforts to bring back intelligent broadcasting, to the on-again-off-again romance between the ultra-liberal Albie and the zealously Christian Harriet Hayes (Sarah Paulson), the show’s big female star. Indeed, the liberal/conservative dilemma is a recurring theme throughout the series, with the network executives wary of frightening off the Christian right, while the show’s other main topic is the importance of television as a social, cultural and political tool. Towards the end, however, it starts to descend into romantic comedy-drama, at which Sorkin proves less competent. At times it’s breathtakingly good, but there are moments of real frustration: ﬁle under ﬂawed masterpiece. For Fans Of: The Larry Sanders Show, The West Wing, Network. ~ John Walshe
DVD jokes, Simply Red and Dave Navarro. There is also a musical number involving dancing Stormtroopers and Dirty Dancing’s ‘Time Of My Life’, which is greatly impressive. For Fans of: Star Wars, Family Guy, Spaceballs ~ Niall Byrne
Superbad (2 Disc Extended Edition) Director: Greg Mottola. Starring: Michael Cera, Jonah Hill. Running Time: 114 minutes. Extras: Deleted and Extended Scenes/ Gag Reel/ Cop Car Confessions/ Commentary with ﬁlm-makers and cast/ Over two hours of extras.
Sam Riley as Ian Curtis in Control
Control Director: Anton Corbijn. Starring: Sam Riley, Samantha Morton. Running Time: 117 minutes. Extras: Director’s commentary/Extended performance scenes of ‘Transmission’, ‘Leaders Of Men’ and ‘Candidate’/ The Corbijndirected 1988 video for ‘Atmosphere’/ Deleted Scenes/ Trailer.
Photographer Anton Corbijn’s directorial debut is ostensibly a love letter to his favourite band, Joy Division, and the tortured soul of Ian Curtis in particular. The tragic story of how Curtis took his own life on May 18, 1980 is one that’s so well known, it could have lost all its emotional punch, but with the Dutch director’s deft touch, it remains as powerfully horrifying as if this was front page news. Shot in atmospheric black and white, Control perfectly recreates the gloom and grime of Manchester in the late 1970s and early 80s. The antithesis of ﬁlms like The Full Monty, this is a feel-bad ﬁlm, but one that’s so beautifully put together that it transcends the fans’ own biopic murk into which it could so easily have descended. While credit must go to Corbijn, plaudits have to be shared by the two leads. Sam Reilly’s debut is stunning, downbeat but pitch perfect, as he showcases Curtis’ ongoing battles with epilepsy, his struggle to resolve his feelings for his wife (Morton) and lover (Downfall’s Alexandra Maria Lara), while coping (not particularly well) with his rise to fame. Morton too is magniﬁcent, exuding every ounce of sympathy from her role, without ever resorting to cheap pathos. The soundtrack, as you would expect, is stunning, prompting State to dig out our dog-eared Unknown Pleasures and Closer, but it’s the basic humanity of the characters and the obvious love with which the subject matter is handled that lifts
Control to true celluloid heights. For Fans of: Joy Division, Dig!, New Order. ~ John Walshe
Family Guy Presents Blue Harvest Director: Dominic Polcino. Starring: Seth McFarlane, Alex Borstein, Seth Green. Running Time: 45 minutes. Extras: Audio commentary/ A conversation with George Lucas/ Animatic version/ Clip Show/ Teaser Episode
Family Guy creator McFarlane is afforded the opportunity to mark the 30th anniversary of Star Wars by producing a cartoon parody of Episode IV: A New Hope in celebration of the popular ﬁlm series. Characters from the show are re-cast in Star Wars roles; so we get Peter Grifﬁn as Han Solo, Lois as Leia, Chris as Luke Skywalker, Stewie as Darth Vader and Brian as Chewbacca. The most effective re-imagining is Obi Wan Kenobi as creepy, old pervert Herbert from the series, prompting endless paedophile gags based on the concept of ‘The Force’. George Lucas gave this blessing for the satirical ﬁlm, and John Williams’ original score is used throughout, lending a deﬁnitive air to proceedings. The vessels of Star Wars are faithfully and impressively recreated, sure to please budding Jedis everywhere. McFarlane allows his inner geek to run wild on the plot (Blue Harvest is a reference to the working title of A New Hope), which sticks closely to the blueprint of the original Death Star, sorry, Star Wars, allowing deviations to point out inane holes in the series. Along the way are the usual Family Guy pop-culture jokes, with references to Dr. Who, The Blues Brothers, Airplane, The Breakfast Club, internet buffering
State deﬁes any male who can still remember being a teenager to sit through Superbad without cringing at least once. Arrested Development’s Michael Cera (currently wowing all and sundry in Juno) perfectly recreates that supremely awkward and horrifyingly socially inept adolescent that we all wish we hadn’t been. The premise for the plot is not good: a group of nerdy teens trying to score booze and birds for an end-of-term party. And yet, it works. Sure it can be as crass and crude as American Pie, but it manages to supersede these limitations by containing far more heart and sensitivity than puerile penis gags. For Fans Of: Arrested Development, That Seventies Show, The 40 Year Old Virgin. ~ John Walshe
Flight Of The Conchords Complete First Season Starring: Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie, Rhys Darby, Kristen Schaal. Running Time: 360 mins. Extras: None
It’s a measure of quite how much HBO is out-ofstep with the mainstream US media that they would even think of commissioning a series like Flight Of The Conchords – a musical sit-com based around two New Zealanders struggling to make it in New York as a band without fans, gigs or money. No stars, no studio audience and a sense of humour colloquial to say the least: this is not your standard network fare. The dry humour makes no allowances for its American audience and is happy to spend as much time on New Zealand/ Australian rivalry as it is on issues closer to home. The songs, always a potential comedy slip-up, are uniformly fantastic, parodying genres across the board from hip-hop (‘Hip-Hopopotamus vs. The Rhymenoceros’) to the Pet Shop Boys, soul, folk and all points in-between. As comedy observation of the loneliness of the long distance male, it’s brilliant, yet it also functions as a spot-on critique of the music industry. Superb. For Fans of: This Is Spinal Tap, Kath & Kim, They Might Be Giants ~ Phil Udell
TV Le Geek, C’est Chic
It may be the Year of the Rat in China, but in TV town it’s the Year strung, with a penchant for role-play and of of the Geek. They’ve been back on the big screen in recent times thanks to the oneman nerd machine that is Judd Apatow (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad, to name but three), but now the geek has ﬁltered down to the small screen by the bucketload. Of course Ugly Betty was one of the ﬁrst to arrive from the US a couple of years ago, but recent imports such as Aliens in America (TV3), Reaper (Channel 4) and The Big Bang Theory (Channel 4, see ones to watch this month) are seeing the rise of the geek this season. Of course, with Ryan Tubridy on TV once a week, you might say they never went away on these shores. Possibly one of the greatest geeks on TV at the moment is American Dad’s lovable extra terrestrial, Roger: highly
dubious sexuality, Roger is unequivocally the best animated character since Homer. Imagine the love-child of ET and Danny La Rue and you get the idea. It never ceases to amaze me how many people have somehow missed this brilliant show from the creators of Family Guy, but if you haven’t seen it, you should. Catch it late nights on Channel 6 (which was the station I never thought I’d have any use for, but it is a veritable comfort blanket of repeat US shows, plus series which have yet to make it to the UK) and prepare to lose your heart and your sides to Roger. Of course, it’s not just comedy that has seen the return of the geeks. On RTE, the lovely Liz Bonnin (and her unnervingly ageless face - didn’t she look like that 12 years ago?) is busy making science
Words by Maia Dunphy
sexy in Science Friction. On BBC, David Attenborough came back with the ﬁnal chapter of his epic Life series - Life in Cold Blood. Could there be a bigger geek than Attenborough? Even at 81, he is more than content to lie on a damp jungle ﬂoor for hours, waiting for the world’s smallest frogs to appear. I desperately wish this wasn’t his swansong, as he is irreplaceable (put your hand down Derek Mooney) and manages to turn the rest of us into wildlife geeks like no one else can. Who would have thought this last series dealing with amphibians and reptiles could have been so captivating? He discovered a frog that waves. I know we shouldn’t anthropomorphise animals, but for the love of god - a waving frog. But I have no doubt that the man could lie on a nursing home rug discussing
TV Five to Watch
Ashes to Ashes Thursdays, 9pm, BBC1 Dig out your Rubik’s Cube and The Best of Ultravox: it’s mid-way through the brilliant follow up to Life on Mars, as we wait to see how it will all end for Gene and Alex. We’re hoping for ‘Fire up the Quattro love, you’ve pulled’. If you’ve missed the ﬁrst few episodes, wait for the DVD. Celebrity Bainisteoir Sunday March 23rd, 9pm, RTE 2 From the team who brought you Anonymous, this new series sees eight personalities, including model Glenda Gilson and larger than life (literally) solicitor Gerald Kean, take on the management of a Gaelic Games team. One for the culchies.
dust mites through a magnifying glass and people would still tune in. (Note to producers - possible idea for show when Attenborough retires.)
Elsewhere, spring has sprung and RTE’s disappointing start to the comedy new year (The Roaring Twenties and Katherine Lynch’s Working Girls - let us never speak of them again) is but a distant memory, and we have myriad new entertainment shows this month for your licence fees from the national broadcaster.
Honorary Irishman Des Bishop (although I think the only person who believes he’s an honorary Irishman is Des himself), is back with In the Name of the Fada (if only you could judge a show on a pun alone) on March 13. Meanwhile,
Celebrity Bainisteoir sees a host of Irish personalities go head-to-head managing various Gaelic Games teams on March 23 (see ones to watch) and Pamela Flood has ﬁnally managed to shake off her more talented sidekick Caroline Morahan to get her very own show Marry Me, which also hits our screens this month. Pamela will be helping viewers propose in original and presumably wacky ways. Geeks, form an orderly queue.
10 Days to War Nightly, 10.30pm, BBC2, March 10-19th 10 innovative short ﬁlms to mark the ﬁfth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, to be broadcast in the Newsnight slot, and subsequently on Youtube, BBC iPlayer and BBC4. Kenneth Branagh allegedly borrowed Colonel Tim Collins’ actual dog tags and fatigues for his role, so expect some serious acting, a healthy dose of retrospective Blairbashing, and recall the days when “weapons of mass destruction” were all anyone talked about. The Big Bang Theory Thursdays, 10pm Channel 4 Leonard and Sheldon know a lot about physics, but not much about chemistry. If there were a scientiﬁc formula for meeting women, they would be veritable Casanovas. But there isn’t, and they’re not. Men Behaving Badly meets Weird Science – worth a look. The Podge & Rodge Show Mondays & Tuesdays, 10.50pm, RTE 2 The bawdy bachelor brothers are on our screens until the beginning of April, and one of the guests rumoured to be appearing in March is legendary porn actor Ron Jeremy. If the lads can work out how short, fat, hairy Ron has slept with over 1,000 women, their lady-woes may just be over.
Books If We Should Fall From Grace With God
Words by Martin Elneff
Confessions of a Fallen Angel Ronan O’Brien sceptre
Imagine having recurring nightmares in which you foresee how your loved ones will die. And imagine knowing – from experience that it’s only a matter of time before these nightmares become reality. This is the unwanted gift that is given to our narrator, Charlie. His precognitive power ﬁrst appears after a near-death experience in his youth, and it is around this curse that his story is told. Charlie deserves our sympathy because of the shithole life he lives in Rathmorgan, a ﬁctitious Dublin suburb. He spends the greater part of his life serving drinks in Happy’s: “If Dublin was a big old house, then Rathmorgan would be the outhouse, and Happy’s would be the toilet bowl; a ﬁlthy, hoary old toilet with a rusty chain that doesn’t work and a build-up of human waste sloping over the brim.” Then suddenly, we ﬁnd ourselves envying Charlie. His lengthy passages on his devotion to his wife, Ashling, may be nauseating, but for some odd reason,
we take it in. His description of true love comes close to being a cliché, but he gets away with it. Perhaps that’s because we’re still feeling sorry for Charlie. It’s pretty clear where this is heading, and the more naïve Charlie’s description of love becomes, the more it hurts. Confessions of a Fallen Angel builds on an irony that can be traced back to Greek tragedy. Our protagonist spends his life trying to outmanoeuvre his own predictions, but destiny turns out to be a tough adversary. The novel unfolds at a reasonably swift pace. And it has to, considering O’Brien’s limbo between suspense and romance. He manages to maintain the balance, but at a price. At times, we feel that we are only scratching at the surface of the story, because it lacks the strength to carry its own weight. O’Brien paints a colourful portrait of the supporting cast, but it is a shame that we are not allowed to see into the depths of our protagonist. Charlie has plenty of good one-liners up his sleeve, but after spending a whole book
with him, we still don’t know who he is. Nonetheless, O’Brien keeps his reader captivated with inventive language and witty dialogue (for example, on death: “time means nothing here – it’s like a Dublin bus table”), as well as a good sense of pacing: once State started reading, we couldn’t let go of the book until the ﬁnal page. By the ﬁnal chapter, we don’t know whether to feel sorry or envious of Charlie. He (literally) opens the wrong door, and once again walks in on his own destiny. It calls to mind Kierkegaard, and his assertion that “the door to happiness opens outward – he who tries to push his way in thereby only closes it more”. In essence, that’s the core of the story. It’s about destiny, yes, but you can’t talk about destiny without talking about free will. Confessions of a Fallen Angel is a great read: colourful, funny, entertaining and recommendable. The most obvious reason for this is simply that Ronan O’Brien writes damn well.
A preview of the month’s more interesting releases.
Encounters: With The Strange and Unexplained by Matt Hoyle andrews mcmeel
In the summer of 2006, Australian Matt Hoyle took a road trip across the United States, where he photographed 60 witnesses of UFOs, swamp monsters and ghosts. This photo series comes with believe-it-or-not stories that are as fascinating as the pictures. Matt Hoyle has won several international photo awards and has been published in such magazines as Rolling Stone, New York Magazine and Esquire.
My Lobotomy: A Memoir by Howard Dully, Charles Fleming ebury press
Howard Dully was 12 years old in 1960 when he was given a lobotomy. He was one of the youngest patients of Dr Walter Freeman, a neurologist who invented the “ice pick lobotomy”, which he reportedly performed on over 2,500 patients. It’s not until the age of 56 that Dully spends two years trying to ﬁnd out the reason why!
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga atlantic books
Aravind Adiga is Time magazine’s Asia correspondent and The White Tiger
Words by Tony Jessen
is his debut novel. A compelling and darkly humorous journey into the heart of modern India, it tells the story of Balram Halwai, servant, philosopher, entrepreneur, murderer. Over the course of seven nights, Balram tells the story of how he came to be a success in life and what roads he had to take. Aravind Adiga is an up-and-coming talent worth watching out for.
Cooked: From the Streets to the Stove, from Cocaine to Foie Gras by Jeff Henderson william morrow
This is the story of how Jeff Henderson, one of San Diego’s most successful cocaine dealers, becomes an award winning chef. At the age of 25, after a proﬁtable life in drug dealing, Henderson is convicted and sentenced to 19 years in prison. Climbing from the prison kitchen, where he found his passion for food, Henderson eventually became one of the leading chefs in Las Vegas. An intense and gritty memoir.
looks at the depletion of fossil fuels and the decline of the industrial civilization. His latest novel makes an imaginative leap into that future, the end of oil, climate change and resource wars. Is this the world of the future?
Something to Tell You by Hanif Kureishi faber & faber
Hanif Kureishi came to popular acclaim after the release of his screenplay for My Beautiful Laundrette. Since then, he’s picked up The Whitbread Award for Best First Novel for The Buddha of Suburbia, a hilarious portrayal of an Asian family in Britain, which was turned into a successful BBC series. Something to Tell You, published in March, is the coming of age story of Jamal, a successful psychoanalyst who is haunted by his ﬁrst love and a brutal act of violence from which he can never escape. Very likely to be another great read from Kureishi.
World Made by Hand by James Howard Kunstler atlantic monthly press
James Howard Kunstler is more recognized for his non-ﬁction works, such as the best selling book The Long Emergency which
Words by John Walshe
Unlike most TV or movie tie-ins, Lost: Via Domus actually adds something to the franchise.
gether’; or Video Stars, where you watch a promo clip and then answer questions about the act or song in question – although the PS2’s limitations do come to the fore on the latter compared to next gen. consoles. All in all, Buzz Pop Quiz is a solidly entertaining variation on the successful formula, which proves just how little State knows about chart success.
Lost: Via Domus Xbox 360, PS3
State must be alone in not getting hooked into Lost, the mega-hit TV series from JJ Abrams (we much preferred his previous work on Alias), but that didn’t stop us getting to grips with the video game on the same theme. Lost: Via Domus puts you centre-stage as one of the survivors, when Oceanic Flight 815 crash-lands on an uncharted Paciﬁc island. You play an all-new character, Elliott Maslo, a former photojournalist who happens to be suffering from amnesia, a condition beloved of game developers and scriptwriters the world over. Indeed, the game developers hired a scriptwriter from ABC to ensure that they had all the major plot points covered, as well as using actual blueprints from the show to create the island environment. The game shares the same look and feel as the show, and is split up into seven ‘episodes’, each one ending with a cliffhanger. It also features heavy use of ﬂashbacks, which will be familiar to fans of the series. Instead of playing out as cut-scenes, however, the ﬂashbacks involve your attempts to recreate an old photograph perfectly, capturing the exact image based on torn photo fragments, in order to unlock part of your memory and progress through the game. Lost: Via Domus (in Latin, The Way Home) is an action adventure, but unlike most examples of the genre, most of the shooting you do here is with a camera. Aside from that, it’s a case of exploration, conversation and puzzle-solving, as you unlock new areas of the island. Along the way, you’ll ﬁnd yourself exploring caverns, wild boar hunting, ﬂeeing from the black smoke and map-making, while also keeping an eye on the
only other survivor who can help Eliott to jog his memory but who’s seemingly more concerned with ending his life. Sporting great graphics and decent voice acting (although most of the actors from the series don’t contribute their vocal talents), Lost: Via Domus is engaging. It was primarily designed with fans of the TV series in mind, so much so that a lot of its idiosyncrasies may be lost on those of us who remain unconverted, such as the ability to explore areas not seen in the series to date. That aside, though, it’s a highly playable adventure where, for a change, the emphasis is not placed on shooting your way to freedom.
Buzz Pop Quiz PS2
The latest instalment in the Buzz series of console quiz shows does exactly what its name suggests, with plenty of questions about chart-bothering acts, from Holly Valance to Green Day. The format will be familiar to anyone who’s spent time with Buzz’s previous incarnations (Movie Quiz, Sports Quiz etc) in that we have a series of rounds, hosted by the smart-mouthed Aussie quiz-master (voiced by Jason Donavan). Some of the individual rounds are throw-backs to previous games, including ‘Pass The Bomb’, where the last one holding the ticking device when the time runs out loses points, and ‘Pie Fight’, where correct answers allow you to ﬂing said foodstuff at your opponent and the last one standing wins a belly-full of points. New rounds include ‘Musical Squares’, where you get to choose your category from topics like ‘Famous Festivals’, ‘Boy Bands’ and ‘No Longer To-
A rhythm-based side-scroller, Patapon may not feature the best graphics ever seen on the PSP, but it is an addictive little bugger all the same and was single-handedly responsible for State’s lack of sleep in the week prior to launch. The game follows the fortunes of the Patapon tribe, who have fallen on hard times, and their quest to get to Earthend to gaze upon the mysterious object known simply as ‘It’. You, dear player, are welcomed as the ‘Almighty’, the grand leader who will guide them to glory. This, you achieve by pressing the buttons in time to a drum-beat, with different combos for advance, attack, defend etc, bringing some simple real time strategy into the equation. Papaton has a unique visual style and cute/irritating sound (depending on your frame of mind), but it’s the highly infectious gameplay and value for money that makes it a real winner.
Lost Odyssey Xbox 360
The fact that Lost Odyssey was created by the team behind Final Fantasy (the game, not the musician) should tell you all you need to know about it. Epic? Check: four discs’ worth of game to get through. RPG? Yes indeed. Turn-based combat system? Present and correct, sir. Breath-taking graphics? Yep. Slightly hammy voice acting? Of course. Hours of cut-scenes? Absolutely. Hironobu Sakaguchi and his team have created a new RPG masterpiece, which will be manna from heaven for fans of the genre. They haven’t altered the blueprint too much from other classic role-players (turn-based combat, spell-casting, levelling up etc), but it’s delivered in such a classy format that it’s hard not to be impressed. The opening battle sequence in particular is stunning, with incredible graphics and a suitably stirring soundtrack setting the tone for what is to follow, as our hero, Kaim Argonar proves an unlikely survivor when a meteor strike devastates the battleﬁeld. Kaim, it transpires, is immortal, having been the recipient/victim of a powerful spell cast by the mysterious Lord Gongora, part of the ruling council. Indeed, the game is more about character development than plot advancement, as you guide Kaim (and a party of similarly interesting folk) through a series of missions, all based around the quest for Magic Energy, the discovery
Games method of learning new skills and spells are both simple enough to master. Lost Odyssey takes it cue, as you would expect, from classic RPGs, so if you’re not a fan of chess-like combat and lengthy cut-scenes, forget about it. If you have the patience, however, this classy affair is something of a slow-burning epic.
FIFA Street 3 Xbox 360, PS3, DS
of which has prompted an industrial revolution throughout the land. While it looks beautiful and the sound is pretty much top notch (apart from some irritating voice acting), the gameplay can detract from Lost Odyssey’s overall effectiveness, as you spend an inordinate amount of time simply moving your party from place to place in order to advance to the next cut-scene, often re-treading old ground in the process. The combat mechanic is reasonably effective, while the addition of the Target Ring System (to inﬂict added damage on enemies) and the
If realism is what you’re after, stick to PES, as EA’s FIFA Street series is all about having fun with football, with the most outrageous tricks, ﬂicks and fancy footwork seen outside the backstreets of Rio. The third game in the series ‘stars’ more than 250 of the world’s best players, all rendered into highly stylised animated caricature, who fall into one of four categories: tricksters, enforcers, playmakers and ﬁnishers. These cartoon characters (including a hilarious Peter Crouch and Wayne Rooney) get to showcase their skills on a host of different pitches, from beaches to oil rigs. Pulling trick moves simply involves judicious use of the right stick: build up enough slick moves to ﬁll your Gamebreaker meter and you’ll
soon be performing the most extreme skill moves ever committed to video game. The new animated characters look brilliant and the soundtrack is superb, including MIA and The Go Team! FIFA Street 3 is great fun to play, but it’s not to be recommended for ultra-serious footie fans, who will ﬁnd themselves getting fed up with its over-the-top antics after a few hours.
Get Lost State has three copies of Lost: Via Domus to give away. To get your hands on this cracking adventure title, all you have to do is tell us the weirdest thing you’ve ever lost. Answers by email with your preferred console (subject: Lost Competition) to email@example.com.
Six of the Best Gaming highlights of the coming weeks.
Asterix At The Olympic Games
Wii, PS2, DS, PC The game of the upcoming live action feature ﬁlm of the same name, Asterix At The Olympic Games promises to blend live action elements from the ﬁlm with high quality CGI, as it follows Asterix, Obelix and the faithful Dogmatix (all playable characters), as they bid to stop Brutus, who has opened the gates between the worlds of the book, the ﬁlm and the game, while still ﬁnding time and energy to triumph at the Olympic Games themselves.
is not a playing mode: it’s the entire game, which focuses on two-man missions, two-man strategies and tactics.
Brothers In Arms: Hell’s Highway
PS2, Wii A new dungeon-crawling action RPG for the Wii and PS2, Baroque comes highly regarded by Japanese gamers, the biggest RPG fans in the world. It promises to be dark, addictive and totally immersive. Army of Two
Xbox 360, PS3 Promising the best two-man shooter action ever devised, EA’s Army Of Two has a politically charged plot, based on the impact and ethics of private military corporations. Co-op
Xbox 360, PS3, PC The squad-based shooter series returns, with stunning graphics and sound on the next gen. consoles. The latest title follows Matt Baker, Joe Hartsock and the rest of the 101st Airborne Division in Holland during Operation Market-Garden, as they ﬁght to open famous ‘Hell’s Highway’ in a daring bid for a quick end to the war. Turning Point: Fall of Liberty
Xbox 360, PS3, PC Winston Churchill was knocked down by a
taxi in New York in 1931, when he looked the wrong way crossing a busy street. Codemasters’ WWII-based action game takes a ‘what if...’ scenario: what if Churchill had died as a result of the accident? Without Winston’s inspirational speeches to rouse the Allied troops, Turning Point: Fall of Liberty suggests that the course of World War II would have taken a very different turn, with Britain succumbing to Nazi occupation, and the Axis Powers launching a full-scale invasion of America in 1953. This FPS looks stunning, as the US guerrilla forces take on the might of the Nazis. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas 2
Xbox 360, PS3, PC Developed by Ubisoft’s award-winning Montreal studio, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas 2 is the sixth incarnation of the best-selling tactical shooter series, once more pitting players against international terrorists with their sights set on Las Vegas. Highlights include more multiplayer action (with 13 new maps), a fully customisable experience, a vastly Improved co-op mode, seriously challenging AI, and 11 new weapons.
Your move motherfucker
Words & bile by John Joe Worrall ~ Illustration by Christian Kirkegaard
It’s funny how something as simple as a dirty plate can tip you over the edge. One minute you’re whistling the theme tune to Family Guy, the next you’re daubing yourself in red marker, tying a tea towel around your head and starting every sentence with “your move motherfucker”. Or maybe that’s just how I deal with bad housemates… Oh why must I toil the lonely wilderness of the renter? Well that’s obvious; I have no money to buy a house, no desire to live back at home and no inclination to get a 100% mortgage. Whenever I think of the latter, I always imagine a broker ﬁxing his stare on my 2,000-page contract, producing a pen made from boiled baby bones and asking me to “sign this my pretty, then you shall have your wish”. Personally, I can’t wait for a property crash; it’ll be nice to meet people of a similar age without the conversation turning to inheritance, with some gimps seemingly counting the days until their parents shufﬂe off this mortal coil. In the meantime, I rent, taking the risk with random strangers in a house that is barely taken care of by a landlord who always calls me Jim. That’s once I’ve trawled the web, looking for any home that’s within my pay range and doesn’t include the phrase ‘no time wasters’: hardly a place for a journalist then, is it? This hatred for the renting process – welled up during the four years I have handed over dead money to overlords, sorry, landlords – began with my ﬁrst ‘interview’. That’s the ten-minute snippet where you arrive in a home and either (a) realise you’d rather live on a bird sanctuary daubed white in blackbird shit, or (b) want to move in and, therefore, lie about how easy you are to live with. Considering that the latter tactic won me a place in several homes, it’s odd that it’s always a surprise to me when I’m the one offering a room and somebody lies to me. There was the Kafka fan who was a ‘clean freak’ and ‘loved to cook’. He now heats microwaveable ready meals every night and gives monosyllabic answers to questions about bills, while staring at Championship Manager… in his pants. Meanwhile, the snail that escaped our pathway, dragging hints of dust from our front door on his back, has done more to keep the house in good nick. What about the ‘easy-going Tipperary ﬁtness freak’ who picks his nose and eats the contents while talking to you, or the couple who ﬁght daily, resulting in the male playing the K-Pax soundtrack at top volume and telling me “I’ve broken up with her once and for all” for the fourteenth night on the trot? Meanwhile, she’s making
his dinner, using my wok, my olive oil and drinking my beer. “I’ll pay ya back” is one of the dirtiest phrases when sharing a house with the collection of fuckwits, child-men and raving lunatrons that I’ve ended up with in the past. Instead, they occasionally leave you half a bottle of wine that was going to go off anyway and believe this somehow means they’re contributing. You tiptoe past the cigarette butts left outside the back door. You ignore the clump of hair at the bottom of the shower. You empty the dishwasher, again. You try and end up in the home of that one-night stand instead of your dingy gaff, which is two nights of Guinness abuse away from becoming a fart academy. You learn to survive. Has the easy road from university squalor to highly paid jobs left a workforce that is too stupid to take care of itself and too rich not to leave home? It certainly would explain the mammy’s boy who left his room in a smelly heap for three months before his mother visited to clean it up. Daft? It’s a fuckin’ valley of lunatics out there. Do I sound anal? Come on, you know you’d live with me. One ten-minute interview where I lie about how easy-going I am and I’ll be in that boxroom of yours before you can say ‘is it alright if I have one of your beers?’ Your move motherfucker.
Bright New Sounds Download 20 new Irish acts for free. The 5 most downloaded Acts perform live at a free gig in Tripod, Dublin on April 3rd. For details check out Vodafone live! or brightnewsounds.ie Rehearsal time is over.
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Published on Nov 6, 2008
Published on Nov 6, 2008
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