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DECEM BER 2008

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now

free!

State.ie

tapping a rich vein:

tilly and the wall I RELAN D’S MUSIC PAYLOAD

rsag Going Overground

berlin The Emerald Exile

Halfset Chicks Le Galaxie Snow Patrol

How I learned to stop worrying and love the pomp

circuit breakers:

Queer & Alternative incoming:

Beastie Boys Fiona Melady Lir Elton John

Max Tundra Hideaway House Jack L

and the best reviews in

albums, downloads, games & dvds 1

DU K E S P E C I A L P H O T O G R A P H E D F OR S TAT E B Y RO G E R WO OL M A N


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i s s u e 0 8 m i g h t w e l l co n ta i n . . .

Regulars 4

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incoming Levi Stubbs, you say goodbye. We say hello to Chairlift, Johnny Foreigner, Fiona Melady and Jazmine O’Sullivan. Dan Hegarty on Lir, Jeff Weiss on the fall of the music industry in LA. The tunes fuelling the State engine right now. Niall Byrne’s unveils his roots and Chris Russell’s nightmare. music is my radar Tattoo you – Paddy O’Donohoe, director of the International Dublin Tattoo Convention.

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circuit breakers Q&A: Dublin’s longest running gay club night is approaching its 10th anniversary.

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b lo g s ta n da r d Windowclicker.

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input Your dose of the good stuff. Albums: Snow Patrol, Keane, Razorlight and The Cure – the big guns return. DVD: Wim Wenders’ most important movie since Wings Of Desire. TV: broadcasters feel the credit crunch .Games: rewarding your mercenary behaviour.

80 a n g e r m a n a g e m e n t Our Art Director gets his tongue twisted in another language, but comes out fighting.

Irregulars 48

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DUKE SPECIAL From playing covers in swanky members’ lounges to duelling with Neil Hannon, via a pitstop in Austria with a bunch of pissed-up football fans, it’s been a long, strange journey into the spotlight for the Duke. RSAG Jeremy Hickey on his long overnight success, making the album he wanted to make and disagreeing with State’s opinion.

20 H I D E A W A Y H O U S E How the DIY counter-culture could be happening right next door. 26 T I L L Y A N D T H E W A L L Inside one of the craziest bands in the world, from tap-dancing to true democracy. 30 B E R L I N The Irish go East: Nina Hynes et al explain why the German capital is a real spiritual home to a host of Irish artists. 34 J A C K L The Kildare bard talks cover versions, political incorrectness and the power of song. 38 H A L F S E T It took Halfset three years to make one of the albums of 2008: they tell us why. 40 C H I C K S John Joe Worrall reunites the three Dublin schoolgirls who had the world at their feet and finds out why it went wrong. 46 M A X T U N D R A The king of electronic waxes confessional about online gaming, karaoke and Beyoncé.

Webulars o n state . ie t h i s m o n t h State reports on the bands you’ll be hearing about in the coming months from CMJ in New York. We talked London in ’08 with Nitin Sawhney, discussed Father Ted with Roots Manuva, life-changing accidents with My Ruin and posted brilliant downloadable mixes from Warp band Pivot and The Expert of Messiah J & The Expert fame. Lovely jubbly.

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Editors’ letter

People love analogies. Well, they love making analogies, not necessarily listening to them or reading them. There seems to be a particular predilection for equating everything to “making love to a beautiful woman”. Well, let us be the first to tell you that producing State every month is absolutely nothing like doing the dirty with either sex, beautiful or otherwise. It is, however, a whole lot of sweat and hard work. But mostly, it’s great fun. As music lovers, and that’s what we are, despite what you might think from the occasional review, there is nothing more satisfying than discovering something new and amazing, and having the forum to share your newfound discovery with like-minded souls is just the icing on this particularly sweet cake. Of course, sometimes it’s frustrating: when you’re waiting for the last album review before you can fire the pages through cyberspace to our Art Director in Copenhagen and it’s late on the

Friday evening of a bank holiday weekend and you want to go the pub, goddammit ‘cos you’re worth it, it can be a pain in the Swiss. Or when you’ve put a whole lot of work into researching an interview that’s cancelled for the umpteenth time at the last minute, you do tend to curse flaky musicians the world over. But for the most part, we wouldn’t swap it for the world, ‘cos with every issue, there are moments that make it worth all the frustration. Maybe it’s getting to chinwag for an hour or two with Duke Special, who we first encountered in a hotel residents’ bar in Galway, banging out requests on a baby grand piano – he does a mean Tom Waits, incidentally. Perhaps it’s debating the merits of a review with its subject, as was the case with RSAG. Or it could be something as simple as hearing the stunning debut album from Armoured Bear for the first time. To have other people not just understand what it is that we’re trying to achieve with State

State Editors

JOHN WALSHE editor

phil udell editor

} editorial@state.ie

Simon Roche art director

Roger Woolman publisher

Niall Byrne assistant editor & web editor

Aoife McDonnell operations manager advertising and marketing enquiries – ads@state.ie

heart

James Goulden James thinks that Jaffa Cakes will one day make him the world’s best photographer. Until then him and his missus will keep shooting bands for payment in biscuits. Favourite John Wayne film? Never seen a whole one but did you know he sells beef jerky on ebay? Rock, paper or scissors? Paper

~ John Walshe and Phil Udell

head

contributor vs contributor

but actively encourage it certainly helps, though. And so it proved at the inaugural Irish Web Awards, where our sister site, www.state.ie, was named Irish Music Website of the Year: an incredible night for the entire State team. We were truly delighted to be shortlisted for the awards, so to actually win was a tremendous honour. We’ve also been amazed by the reaction to our decision to go down the route of free distribution. We knew we were doing something exciting, but the feedback has been unbelievable. Basically, we’re thrilled skinny (and if you saw us, you’d know how big a feat that is) with the magazine (both physical and online) reaching more people than we hoped: the online version alone was read over 14,000 times over the last month. We wanted to expand what we do and it would seem that we’ve succeeded. Good times. We’re certainly enjoying the ride.

contributing writers dan hegarty, tanya sweeney, john joe worrall, maia dunphy, saoirse patterson, dave donnelly, jennifer gannon, ciara o’brien, shane galvin, martin mciver, david o mahony, durell connor, ciarán ryan, jenna wolf, david mclaughlin, jeff weiss, warren jones, kara manning, sinéad gleeson, johnnie craig, bobby ahern, cian traynor, louise healy, paul byrne, joe crosby, chris russell, tia clarke, sean feeny, elaine o’neil, shane culloty, pamela halton, miles stewart, kate rothwell, hilary a. white, darragh mccausland, aoife mcdonnell, michael dwyer, patricia danaher, niall crumlish, olivia mai, aiden fortune, alexandra donald, jack higgin, anna forbes, paula shields

eyes

photographers richard gilligan, lili forberg, marcelo biglia, scott ‘n’ goulden, zoran orlic, liam sweeney, loreana rushe, feargal ward

brenb, nathalie nysted, christian kirkegaard

organs

illustrators

hands

BRENB BRENB draws pictures and typography 24hrs a day from his studio at the back of the 25A bus. Favourite John Wayne film? ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’. In a cameo as a Roman Centurion at the crucifixtion he drawls “Truly, this man was the son of God.” Gets me every time! Rock, paper or scissors? Paper

State Magazine Ltd, 4th Floor, Equity House, 16-17 Upper Ormond Quay, Dublin 7.

State is published monthly by Tel: (01) 888 0660 / info@state.ie / www.state.ie issn 2009-0897 All materials © 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

result: DRAw. Pah! Artiiists.

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.

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Which 100 free tracks will you choose? Buy a Nokia 5220 or 5320 and get 100 tracks of your choice FREE. Choose from over 2.5 million tracks on the Nokia Music Store: www.music.nokia.ie Only available on Meteor

Nokia 5320 3


Incoming

Ease Yourself In

they might be giants

Chairlift Forget the frankly hideous moniker, State is hugely excited by the imminent Irish debut of this Brooklyn band. You know when a song grabs your whole metaphysical self and refuses to let you acknowledge anything else until it’s over and the only choice is to hit repeat? That’s how we felt when we first heard ‘Planet Health’, a celestial synth, bass and twinkle-heavy song which has echoes of The Knife. Chairlift go beyond that template on their other material, however, and with endorsements from MGMT and Yeasayer in the bag, expect to hear more about this threepiece when their debut Does You Inspire You is released. Listen: ‘Planet Health’ Click: http://www.myspace.com/chairlift See: Whelans, Dublin, November 22; Cypress Avenue, Cork, November 23.

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The Departed

100 albums to avoid before you die

Levi Stubbs

No. 8 L7: Bricks are Heavy

It was with great sadness that State learned of the recent death of Levi Stubbs (far right in picture), the lead vocalist of The Four Tops, arguably the most successful Motown group ever, selling more than 50 million records worldwide. Stubbs had been ill for some time, having being diagnosed with cancer as far back as 1995, and he died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 72. Stubbs crammed a hell of a lot into his time on the planet, however, forming The Four Tops (initially The Four Arms) with friends Abdul ‘Duke’ Fakir, Renaldo ‘Obie’ Benson and Lawrence Payton, in 1954, signing to Motown Records in 1963, enjoying decades of hits, including ‘I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)’, ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There’, ‘Still Water (Love)’, and ‘Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I’ve Got)’ and being inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame in 1990. He also provided the voice of carnivorous plant, Audrey II, in the 1986 film, Little Shop Of Horrors.

As with a lot of things, the blame for the elevation of LA’s L7 to mainstream status can be directly apportioned to the success of Nirvana. Pre-1991, they were another middling grunge band on the Sub Pop label. Once Nevermind turned the music world on its head, the four-piece were perfectly placed to take advantage. Snapped up to a major label, it helped that they had their own superb single in the shape of ‘Pretend We’re Dead’. All

of which made this turgid album that followed more disappointing. With nothing to match that lead track, the band became notable for their ‘controversial’ antics rather than their music. The appeal of both was to swiftly fade and they returned to their indie roots before finally disbanding in 2000. Don’t download: ‘Shitlist’, ‘Wargasm’ If you hate this don’t listen to: Tad, Lunachicks


Incoming

fueling the state engine from the present…

they might be giants

Jazmine O’Sullivan

Florence & The Machine W : You’ve Got The Love Original by The Source, now resurected brilliantly.

Passion Pit: Sleepyhead The sound of Boston today.

Armoured Bear: Imagination Music to make you feel warm and fuzzy on the inside.

Take That: Greatest Day Proving that their comeback was no flash in the pan.

Messiah J & The Expert: Jean Is Planning an Escape Doing hip-hop better than most of their international counterparts.

…& from the past Kelis: Millionaire (feat. Andre 3000) Still sounds as fresh as new socks five years later.

Live: Selling The Drama Old school REM meets Pearl Jam rock from American supergroup who couldn’t get arrested in Europe.

Hanoi Rocks: Boulevard Of Broken Dreams If the words “protégé of Missy Elliot” fill you with fear, then you may well have given Jazmine O’Sullivan a wide berth. That, however, would be to miss out on a young woman who has far more to offer than the standard clichéd take on modern soul music. As befits someone who was singing onstage at the Harlem Apollo at the age

of 11, O’Sullivan’s music is steeped in the classic as well as the unexpected: how many other R’n’B divas would take a reggae track to number one in the US? Listen: ‘Bust Your Windows’, Fearless Click: www.jazmineosullivan.com

wulffmorgenthaler: by Wulff & Morgenthaler

Should have been huge but weren’t, unbelievably still going.

Blue Oyster Cult: Don’t Fear The Reaper Optimistic, fatalistic, beautifully dark – extended guitar solo and all.

Gene Pitney: Only Love Can Break a Heart The most passioned heartbreak song ever. Bar none.

www.wulffmorgenthaler.com

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Incoming My Roots Are Showing: Niall Byrne

Beastie Boys One evening after school, I rifled through a grey plastic container of recorded cassette tapes belonging to my elder sister. As a music-hungry 13-year-old, I was looking for a copy of Nirvana’s Nevermind. My grubby young hands thumbed cassettes from Temple Of The Dog, The Breeders, Babes In Toyland, Rage Against The Machine and a myriad of forgotten grunge acts. One cassette’s contents, written in my sister’s neat handwriting, appealed more than the others, however, primarily because of titles like ‘Heart Attack Man’, ‘Tough Guy’, and ‘B-Boys Making With The Freak Freak’. That album was Ill Communication. The Beasties’ 1994 album was easily the most mind-blowing thing I’d heard up to that point. It starts with a dog whimpering before ‘Sure Shot’ hits in with its crackled flute sample, funky percussion and the distinctive timbres of MCA, Mike D and Adrock. The rest of the album’s 19 songs live up to that initial promise: high grade reference-heavy rap, short thrashy hardcore punk, infinitely quotable interludes, sheep samples, funk-based instrumentals, one of the best songs ever to combine punk riffs and scratching in ‘Sabotage’, Q-Tip and Tibetan monk chants. The remainder of my school years could basically be pinpointed by the Beasties’ back catalogue, as myself and my fellow fanatic Ciaran

walked to school rapping lines at each other, copied the ‘Intergalactic’ dance, and shared issues of the short-lived cult Beastie mag, Grand Royal. We even started a Beastie Boys fansite called Alright Hear This. I always loved the way the Beasties approached things, whether it was their consistently playful interviews, their fondness for alter-egos and wigs, or the care and attention given to their music videos. I love the way they recorded hours of live band material and then sampled

and cut up the fruits of their labour into hip-hop tracks for Hello Nasty. I love the drug-induced polychromatic sample mecca of Paul’s Boutique, the puerile but entertaining Licensed To Ill, the eclectic brilliance of Check Your Head, the instrumental albums, the pisstake country songs and the ephemeral punk tunes. They are three guys from New York who took me on a multi-faceted journey through music and continue to inspire me to listen. To paraphrase ‘Sure Shot’, I strap on those ear goggles and I’m ready to go.

they might be giants

now we know that…

Johnny Foreigner

State.ie won Best Music Website in the Irish Web Awards! Huzzah! Axl Rose is finally ready to release his 15-year-in-the-making-Guns album Chinese Democracy on November 21st. TV on the Radio, Mike Patton and Doseone of Subtle may be forming a supergroup! Bjork and Thom Yorke team up for a charity single to benefit the Icelandic environment. One of our editors was pleased to hear Take That are to play Croker in June 2009. The Led Zepp reunion marches on. Robert Plant to be replaced by someone more Robert Plant-like.

Formed in Birmingham in 2006, three-piece Johnny Foreigner have been making measured progress towards this year’s debut album through limited edition and split singles. The result is a band quite ready to live up to the attention that’s surely due to come their way. Described by one blogging source as “furious guitar botherers”, any band that a) has a tune

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called ‘Salt, Peppa and Spinderella’ (recently remixed by Bloc Party) and b) a drummer called Junior Elvis Washington Laidley is most definitely fine by us. Listen: ‘Sometimes, In The Bullring’, Waited Up Til It Was Light Click: www.myspace.com/johnnyforeigner See: Whelans, Dublin, November 12

MIA is pregnant. Damn. Pitchfork are releasing a book of the top 500 songs. Free hipster not included. Sheffield indie-popsters The Long Blondes split up because their guitarist had a stroke.


F o r F u r t h e r I n f o r m a t i o n C o n t a c t N O R E A S T: T ( 0 4 2 ) 9 3 3 9 8 5 8

E I N F O @ N O R E A S T. I E

W W W W. N O R E A S T. I E


Incoming my favourite worst nightmare: Chris Russell

The Lightyears on snow patrol It was in the great spirit of independence that my band embarked on its first ever international tour a couple of years ago, with little more than hunger for success and access to Google Maps. In place of a Nightliner, we had an ageing Vauxhall Omega, a car which we had bought off our guitarist’s dad that didn’t so much say “rock and roll freewheelers” as “Sunday afternoon at Furniture Village”. Into this vehicle we managed to squeeze an entire PA system, all our instruments and four grown men. This, believe me, was a miracle of spatial engineering. After 14 hours driving down through France, we eventually arrived at our chalet at around 2.30am. We were met there by ‘The Booking Agent’, a man who would never look you directly in the eye, probably for a very good reason. It was as if he’d shot your grandmother in her sleep and didn’t want you to find out. We enquired after the unmade beds which, apart from looking distinctly uncomfortable, were entirely devoid of sheets. “Didn’t you get the memo about bedding?” The Agent replied. Memo? Bedding? And it was with that that we found ourselves, on our first night of our inaugural European tour, struggling to achieve slumber under makeshift quilts fashioned from napkins and flannels. Which very much set the tone for the coming week. We were touring the clubs and bars of high-society ski resort Meribel, sometimes playing for up to four hours a day. This was our Hamburg. Our initiation into the daily grind of a touring band. Only instead of the Top Ten Club and the red-light district, we had “Cross-Dresser Night” at Le Pub. After about a week, the hefty gigging schedule began to take its toll on our drummer and he developed a stomach bug of epic proportions. He was up all night, literally sluicing from both ends. And when somebody is projectilevomiting next to your head for six straight hours, it’s really quite tricky to get any decent shut-eye.

The Lightyears doing what bands do on tour – namely waiting around, posing

The next morning he stumbled into the living room looking like the abandoned love-child of Quasimodo and Pete Doherty. Sadly, however, there was no opportunity for respite as we were scheduled to scale the mountains once more in search of Le Rond Point, the next venue on the tour. The weather up until this point had been clement, since April usually brings very little snowfall in the Alps. As a result, we were woefully unprepared for the enormous blizzard that was about to hit. Driving at 3mph along winding mountain roads through a violent snowstorm in a heavily-loaded car with virtually zero visibility is pretty bloody scary. Was this it? Would we be remembered as a modern-day Lynyrd Skynyrd, plucked from life in a cruel motoring accident at the height of our potential? Needless to say, we didn’t meet our demise on the mountain-side that day. But we came pretty close. And so now, if any prospective tour manager asks us to bring our own bedding or drops the phrase “Cross-Dresser Night” into conversation, we know to run a mile.

average white male

elton john There are many people out there only too willing to own up to being Elton John fans, to rush to his defence and proclaim what a great contemporary songwriter he is. Perhaps willing to firebomb State’s offices for not agreeing with them. To those people we simply have four words: ‘Candle In The Wind’. The greatest pile of schmaltz-ridden, sickly, sentimental crap produced in recent years. The 1997 version is the second greatest selling single in history but that’s no indicator of a good song; let’s face it, the people that bought it are the kind of people who probably only own one single and who would vote for Robbie William’s ‘Angels’ as the greatest song of all time. To be fair, there are moments of greatness in his back catalogue. ‘Tiny Dancer’, ‘Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters’ and ‘Someone Saved My Life Tonight’ are all incredible songs. However, it seems that Mr John lost more than his hair as the ’70s progressed. His songwriting became progressively more cheesy and saccharine until

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the ’90s when we were served the unmitigated drivel that is ‘Hakuna Matata’ or Lestat: The Musical. It’s been a long time since Elton delivered a song that is a classic of his oeuvre and he seems to be in that category of musicians who should have thrown the towel in a long time ago (ref: Stones, Rolling; Osbourne, Ozzy) leaving us free to remember them only at their best. He must be lauded for his charity work and

for his financial contributions to the cause of AIDS, but really it’s only fair for someone who spent £293,000 on flowers in a single year and whose 50th birthday costume cost more than £80,000. And lest we forget, it appears he is friends with Victoria Beckham and Elizabeth Hurley. One supposes that could be construed as charity work but by all accounts the friendship is genuine. It’s all a bit tabloid and flashy to be truly cool, Elton. He’s far too middle class, too materialistic and too much of a Hello magazine celebrity to really be considered a rock star anymore. And for someone who apparently has excellent taste in all things aesthetic and an unlimited budget, you’d think he would have bought more convincing hair plugs. Let’s leave it to someone who knows him best to deliver the final verdict. He’s a “fat, balding, talentless old queen who can’t sing”. Who said it? Elton himself.


md by livedemo

Incoming from our foreign correspondent: Jeff Weiss In

they might be giants

Los Angeles

Fiona Melady

Last month in Porter Ranch, a preternaturally placid bedroom community in the foothills of northwest Los Angeles, an unemployed financial advisor shot and killed his wife, his three sons and his mother-in-law, before turning the gun on himself. His official excuse: the rapidly imploding economy. Of course, that’s a convenient scapegoat. After all, fiscal ruin usually leads to a tightening of the belt, not devising ways to turn it into a noose. But around here, in the midst of these jangled, ashen times, such sickening twists of fate ring clarion. Maybe you’re wondering what this all has to do with the music world. Superficially, the answer is nothing; yet inevitably, certain folks in the business are likely considering sordid suicide pacts as I scrawl. After all, the industry that once headquartered itself in this sun-soaked cesspool isn’t merely grasping at straws to save its business (ringtones, re-issues, Rihanna… oh my!), it’s well beyond that: the ship wrecked, the passengers flailing at icebergs as frozen as the American credit markets. With CD sales plummeting weekly, and a glut of e-mails commencing with, “Today Will Be My Last Day At [Insert Record Label Here]”, these are dark days indeed. But you already knew that—and really, who gives a flying fuck if the fat cats that foisted $17.95 Chumbawamba records upon you are going the way of the Sabretooth. Unfortunately, the reverberations are seismic, with practically every record shop (both independent and non-indie alike) in this bumbling metropolis of 3 million-plus having shut its doors over the past 24 months, save for San Francisco-based behemoth Amoeba. As for the poor hacks trying to cover the industry, myself included, it’s been a ghastly stretch, with media companies at best bracing themselves for the perpetual ad-dollar decline. At worst, you have the LA Times, once one of the nation’s finest newspapers, forced to lay off roughly half its arts section, with the scalpel particularly incisive on the music department. Even the once thriving Silverlake scene seems moribund of late, with nary a breakout band having emerged in years, with the bars of the rapidly gentrifying enclave fast filling up with poseurs and the fedora clad-Fedayeen priced out of more posh parts of town. If there’s a ray of light to be found at all, the wise money would bet it all on The Smell, the seedy downtown hub that’s spawned buzz acts like No Age (pictured) , Mika Miko, HEALTH, and Abe Vigoda. Indeed, the venue’s emergence strikes with a peculiarly apt logic, because as anyone around here tangentially connected to the world of music could tell you: shit stinks.

Melady may have come first come to our attention playing keyboards with Turn, but her solo guise is a much more intriguing proposition. Produced by Halfset’s Stephen Shannon (always a mark of quality), her debut album is a collection of impressive songs, based around her piano and soulful voice, but with a few left turns thrown in for good measure. Listen: ‘How Far’, The Fear I Fear Click: www.myspace.com/fionamelady See: Backroom Sessions, Navan, November 21

come in your time’s up

Ms Dynamite In 2002, Ms Dynamite seemed to have the world at her feet. Her debut album had just won the Mercury Music Prize and she was being lauded on both sides of the Atlantic as a genuinely original voice. Come 2008 and her second album had bombed, she’d been arrested for landing one on a copper and her highest profile appearance was on a reality tv show crashing a very fast car. However, her UK garage mixtape ‘A Little Darker’ and recent 1XTRA radio slot suggests that she might be back in the game soon.

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Incoming dan hegarty

Riffs Of Nostalgia

my headphones what real folk are listening to

Jacob Funch musician

Hi, what’s playing in your headphones? “I’m listening to demos we just did.” Oh. What’s the name of your band? “I Got You On Tape.” Have you ever listened back to some of the music that you were into years ago, and wondered how you didn’t realise that it was shite at the time? Or get slightly mystified as to how it was ever considered good? Retrospect can often put a major dampener on what could have otherwise been a perfectly enjoyable bit of nostalgia. Times change, as do styles and tastes: this leaves some music sounding redundant, even ridiculous. Thankfully, there are always those times when you go back to an album or an artist, and you realise how special they actually were. Lir are one of those bands that slipped out of my mind over the years. It happens all the time, a band stops playing and releasing material, and you move onto something else. I’ve seen Lir play live more times than I’ve been to mass (and I went to mass a lot when I was a kid!). In fact, I think I spent more of my time going see them and their peers than I did in school or college at the time. As they gained notoriety, so did the variety of comparisons that were thrown their way. They were equal parts Led Zeppelin, Nick Drake, and Sly & The Family Stone. Initially I struggled to hear any of these, but as I became more familiar with their music, aspects of these three (and other comparisons) became apparent. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go off on one of those ‘they should have been huge… why didn’t they make it?’ tangents. The facts are they didn’t achieve the success that they should have, and that’s a real pity.

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For a band that aren’t essentially together full-time, Lir have a lot going at the moment. Last month saw the release of their long-overdue live album (simply titled Lir Live), a collection of tunes recorded over two nights in 2006. Some say that they never quite managed to capture what the band were about on their albums (Magico Magico and Nest), but I’m not sure about that. Either way, the live album should keep everyone happy, while in the process introducing them to many of the un-anointed. In addition to this, Shimmy Marcus (the bloke behind Headrush, Aidan Walsh: Master Of The Universe and countless others films and documentaries) is currently completing a documentary on the band. It has a working title of Good Cake, Bad Cake, and is due for completion in early 2009. So what does this mean for the band? Are they getting back together and recording a new album? Unfortunately not, but there is a considerable amount of unreleased material that they’re looking to release at some stage. While it’s not quite as appealing as a triumphant return, you’d have to say that it’s better that being kicked squarely in the balls! It’s very hard to say this without sounding like some sort of lament, but Lir were/are one of those bands whose talent outweighed their luck. If you’re familiar with the band, you might know what I’m talking about. If not, take a listen to them at myspace.com/lirtheband, and you’ll find it hard not to agree.

Sweet. What do you think of the demos? “I love ‘em!” What would never play on your headphones? “New Christian Gospel.” Been to any good concerts lately? “I heard this really cool Norwegian band, called 1349. Black metal.” Any great new bands we should know about? “I can really only think of my own band. Though there was this Danish band called Den Fri that supported us half a year ago. I really enjoyed them.” What was your first record? “First ever? I guess that was the ‘The Wall’ by Pink Floyd.” Where are you coming from and where are you going to? “I’m coming from a rehearsal space and going to a venue where we’re having a soundcheck/production rehearsal set up with all the visuals and stuff. We’re playing tomorrow night” Any life advice for State? “Just keep up the courage.” www.myspace.com/igotyouontape


Incoming they might be giants

showtime

Le Galaxie

Messiah J & The Expert Venues nationwide Nov 6 – 28 Not only have MJEX proved that it is possible to make consistently good hip-hop records, they are also a fine live experience. See them nationwide this month and get into the mood at www.muzu.tv/messiahjandtheexpert. Ham Sandwich Venues nationwide Nov 8 – 28 Having kicked off 2008 with an album and Meteor award on the same day, Ham Sandwich haven’t had a bad year all told. This series of dates coincide with new single ‘Broken Glass’ and include both a regular and an all ages show at Whelans on Nov 8. Expect to see the junior State team down the front.

mjax by roger woolman

The Jimmy Cake Vicar St, Dublin – Nov 21 Most ambitious live show to date for the Cake, expanding to a 15 piece band for the night – including brass and string section. The band plan to head back to a stripped down sound so make the most of them in this luscious state while you can.

Ever wondered what dancing on a collapsing supernova in a thunderous starfield sounded like? According to Le Galaxie themselves, they do. Formed after the demise of the much fancied 66E, Le Galaxie inhabit a similar place and time but take it one step further, suggesting a musical vision of the man vs machine future. Not that they’re adverse to showing their human side, the video for recent single ‘You Feel The Fire!’ saw them donning Aran jumpers, tweed caps and pints of Guinness to appear as their trad session alter egos. Genuinely one of a kind. Listen: ‘You Feel The Fire!’ Click: www.myspace.com/lemusicgalaxie, www.muzu.tv/legalaxie See: Andrews Lane Theatre, Dublin, Nov 7; The Village, Dublin Nov 16 & 29

Lykke Li Button Factory, Dublin – Nov 24 We told you that you’d love Lykke Li, didn’t we? Her show at the Sugar Club earlier this year provoked great excitement so expect this first date of her European Tour to do the same. Pendulum Nugent Hall, Belfast – Nov 24, RDS Dublin Nov 25 At an Oxegen festival full of highlights, these guys perhaps stood out above all. The idea of shouty metal mixed with drum n’ bass shouldn’t work but boy does it here.

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Music is my Radar

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PADDY O’DONOHOE The Director of the Dublin Tattoo Convention on his love for Siouxsie Sioux, why there isn’t a typical tattoo band and his boyhood encounter with REO Speedwagon

Photography by

As told to P H I L U D E L L ROGER WOOLMAN

The first band I really got into was Siouxsie and the Banshees. I shared a room with my big brother and one day he came home with a record player and their LP. He played it non-stop for weeks on end, as it was the only album he had and I just got into it from there. I loved the style of the band. He listened to more alternative music, so I got into it too and then totally into the whole alternative scene and then into tattoos. And here is where I stayed.

REO Speedwagon was my first ever gig. I was on my way home for lunch from school one day and I saw a truck being unloaded. I stopped and asked the roadies who was playing and could I see what was happening, so they took me in and I was blown away… the band came out for soundcheck and they let me stay. They told me to go back to school and come back later, so I did. When I went back, they gave me a laminated pass that had “KID” on it and told me to go home and ask my parents if I could I go. The show was great and after, they waited with me until my parents came to collect me and they then introduced themselves to them. It was a great night. I went to see them two months ago and met them again and they remembered me. I was only 12 when it happened.

Music is really important to tattoo conventions because different people like different music and we try to cater for them all... we have punk, rock, psychobilly and rockabilly and a few in between. It keeps people relaxed while getting tattooed, and the artists too. At the Tattoo Convention, the people that aren’t getting tattooed like to hang out at the bar and listen, plus it gives them something to talk about. I’ve seen bands such as Mad Sin, Bad Manners, Rev. Horton Heat, Devil Doll, Spellbound, Vince Ray.

I like too many different types of music to really pinpoint a favourite record, but up there in the top five would have to be ‘Friends In Time’ by The Golden Horde, ‘The Hurricane’ by Bob Dylan, ‘Chick Habit’ by April March, ‘A Sort Of Homecoming’ by U2, ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’ by The Waterboys. No particular order though. The Dublin Tattoo Convention 2008 takes place at D4 Hotel, Ballsbridge on November 7 – 9. For more details see www.dublintattooconvention.com

There isn’t really a typical ‘tattoo band’, there are so many bands that have tattoos but I don’t think they would like to called typical. I think if one was to look at bands now, it would be hard to find a band that wasn’t tattooed, from hip-hop to pop to rock to country...

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TRICKY

…at Oxegen, Friday, July 11

Rarely Seen Above Ground.

SUBTERRANEAN HOMEGROWN BLUES ~ Words by Photography by

PHIL UDELL DAVE BERRY

jeremy hickey is drinking wine and listening to seasick steve. not the most rock n’ roll of behaviour to admit‘ to next 15


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RSAG

~

“The industry is so clogged with the media, with bands and turmoil that I wanted to just bring it back to one person and my interpretation of where I was and where I am” ~

at the start of an interview, maybe, but then Hickey is not one to do things by the book. His current musical guise, Rarely Seen Above Ground (or RSAG to give it its more usual acronym) is a solo project like no other, based around Hickey as a drummer rather than guitarist. It is, he explains, something that has been a long time coming. “It all started with me being in bands for years, playing since I was 15 or 16,” he recalls. “I learned how to play various different instruments during that time by just watching the other people that I was playing with. The first demo I made on my own was in 1997, which I put all around the place. I was over in San Francisco and sent it to Grand Royale and various labels but they weren’t into it so I carried on travelling for a couple of years.” On returning to his native Kilkenny, he started playing in bands again but the idea of RSAG kept coming back to him. The question why he wanted to make music on his own causes him to make reference to his current listening choice, Seasick Steve again. “The reason that he’s one of the most talked about names at the moment is because he’s a solo artist. I believe that there’s something, right now, that can only be expressed by an artist on their own, especially from a writer’s point of view. I’ve been reading a collection of stories by Richard Yates and they’re really beautiful. They’re very down-to-earth stories that plod along like life in general but it was the words that he put down that make them so brilliant. I needed to do this (RSAG) on my own, I didn’t need anyone to tell me what they thought, even though I did have people to go to if I wanted to play stuff to someone. I do believe

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that this is an expression of myself. “The industry,” he continues, “is so clogged with the media, with bands and turmoil that I wanted to just bring it back to one person and my interpretation of where I was and where I am. For me, that was the only way I could see of this being the right way for me at this moment. The best reaction I’ve ever had to any music has been in this format.”

As we said at the start, Jeremy Hickey is not one to go down the obvious route. He approaches everything he does with a passion and a sense of purpose that is too often missing in music these days. Having decided that RSAG would always exist as just himself, his drum kit and backing tracks, he had to find a way of making it work live. “Initially, of course it was hard,” he admits. “I knew that I had this big, big sound but it was still only one person. That’s when the idea for the visuals came about. The whole Talking Heads thing was a big influence there, that idea of light and shade that Jonathan Demme brought to Stop Making Sense. Looking at that, I realised that the only way of doing this was to use visuals.” He confesses that a few of his earlier, more experimental ideas didn’t really work. “So I realised that we needed something more precise to represent exactly what I was doing musically, which was me in a studio writing and playing everything, then slightly cutting up things to make them more original.” Working together with cohort Paul Mahon, the pair


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decamped to Jeremy’s garage and came up with the current concept, footage of him playing every instrument that fits together to create a stunning virtual band backdrop to his live performance. RSAG was ready to go.

To talk to him in person, you get the impression that this means more to Hickey than just making music. He needs to do this. “I’ve been through a lot of bands and had friends who’ve been in bands who have had to give up because there was no money involved,” he says. “Once they met their girlfriends, had kids, settled down, it was all gone. That was fine, they were happy, but that wasn’t for me. Art in general is important and this is a natural progression for me. That’s not to say what I’m doing is hugely important or that I’m fucking great but art is a spiritual thing.” His mission has led him to record RSAG’s debut album, a double, entitled Organic Sampler. As we might have expected, it is a work of quite unique vision, combining influences so diverse that it genuinely sounds like nothing else out there. For such a leftfield record, it has received a surprisingly positive response across the board, including the pages of last month’s State. We had one or two points to make, though, and Hickey is relishing the opportunity to reply first hand. “You have to understand where I’m coming from like I understand where you’re coming from, from reading your reviews,” he explains. “You have your own opinion and way of life, way of looking at things, and that is the way it is. My way right

RSAG

now is all about doing something new, not just to keep me happy, but to be part of something. “I’m very, very proud of the album. It’s interesting that the things you said were a negative [mainly that the lo-fi production led to a missed opportunity] were the very things I was going for. I can’t say that you were wrong but it was the sound that I was going for, even if it was done over three years on cheap microphones. The early sessions were done solely in my house, in my spare bedroom. I was getting across the view from my blackened-out little room. There’s definitely an opinion that those tracks could have been recorded a lot better but I don’t believe that the passion and feeling would have been there if they’d been re-recorded. I could bore you for hours on the feelings that went into every one of those songs. I went into a studio in Dublin to record some songs for the second album and spent a lot of money but I scrapped them all. They weren’t how I wanted them to be, they weren’t raw enough. I’m just not into the idea of becoming a product, even though I probably will do.” Somehow, having your opinions questioned so forcibly makes perfect sense. It is, as Hickey keeps pointing out, quite simply the way he is. This is what RSAG does. Play Organic Sampler to anyone, no matter how well you know them, and we guarantee that you won’t be able to predict their reaction – love, hate or just confusion. It is a simply a gateway into the world of one very interesting young man. “I’m like a sponge or something,” he says, “I don’t know. That’s why it’s turned out to be some kind of crazy, bi-polar album.”

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X

Once every few weeks, an average suburban house turns into the unlikeliest all-ages music venue in the country. Welcome to Hideaway House

SEEK

AND YE SHALL FIND…

~ CIARA O’BRIEN SCOTT ’N’ GOULDEN

Words by Photography by

having a band play in your living room is probably the stuff of dreams for most music Getting back-stage doesn’t require a fans. But for one promoter and one highly unusual venue, that idle daydream has become a reality. Located on Deansgrange Road, Hideaway House looks like your average semi-d. But every couple of months, it’s transformed into a venue for all ages gigs, where bands can play to a small crowd of music fans, without all the hassle and preparation that comes with booking bigger venues. On those occasions, it’s not hard to find. A small group of stragglers are in the front garden, waiting for the gig to kick off, while a sign advertises it as Hideaway House. The owner is 21-year-old Dylan Haskins, a music fan who also operates independent music label Hideaway Records (Heathers, Hooray For Humans, Kidd Blunt) from the house. It’s all very organic. Dylan’s bedroom doubles as his office, and the kitchen is transformed into a merch. shop of sorts, selling CDs, vinyl, cassettes and even fanzines. There’s nothing too high-tech about the set-up, even down to the fact that when you pays your money at the door (usually around a fiver), you gets a cross marked on your hand. A felt tip marker is as high-tech as it gets.

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laminate in this venue: Hideaway House’s smoking audience members get to watch and listen from the back garden. In short, Hideaway House isn’t so much a business venture: it’s a labour of real musical love. There’s no bar, no security men, no posing or preening. There’s not even a dress code. The atmosphere is relaxed and easy going. It’s noisy, it’s jammed: it’s ingenious. OK, so the acoustics wouldn’t match some professional venues, and the lighting rigs aren’t fancy, but the place screams atmosphere, and gig-goers love it, regularly coming back for more.

Preparation before each gig is carefully thought out. “We clear everything out,” says Dylan. “We put cardboard down on the floors.” The only things that remain are the family photos adorning the walls – Dylan in his schooldays. Almost everything about Hideaway House’s set-up is fascinating – they even recycle: bags and bins are left around the house with notes to encourage music fans and musicians to separate their empties. That’s probably the best thing about Hideaway House, the lack of barriers


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HIDEAWAY HOUSE

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HIDEAWAY HOUSE

As well as organising the Hideaway House gigs, Dylan Haskins is the creator of a brand new documentary, Roll Up Your Sleeves – The DIY Counterculture

What came first, the Hideaway House gigs or the film? I was definitely doing this sort of stuff first. Even while I was making the film, it became almost secondary to what was going on in the house. We’d just leave the camera running in a corner. The initial idea for the documentary changed over time and was influenced by what we were doing ourselves. The film is about the ideas and Hideaway House is just an immediate example. Was it hard to get people like Ian McKaye from Fugazi on board? Everyone was so happy to do it. People have this idea that if someone’s well known, they’re hard to get to, but I just sent someone like Ian an email and he wrote back. His attitude was, ‘if you want to talk to me, I’ll do an interview with you’. Everybody was like that. If you’re part of that scene, they’ll easily oblige you.

(physical or metaphorical) between the acts and the audience. Indeed, it gives new meaning to the term ‘intimacy’. Getting this close to a band is a rarity. Touring bands are a regular feature of Hideaway House. Since it opened its doors, acts such as Kidd Blunt, Crayonsmith and Patrick Kelleher And His Cold Dead Hands have graced the stage in the small back room. One of the most recent musicians to play at Hideaway House, Calvin Johnston, decided to do things differently and held court in the back garden, fans sitting in a semi-circle at his feet. If you listened closely enough, you could hear the traffic passing in the background. Johnson is a regular at house shows. “A lot of venues have restrictions on who is allowed to attend their performances and I like mine to be accessible,” he

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Then you ended up driving an American punk band around Europe.... Again, that happened separately. I knew them from beforehand and they asked me to drive them on tour in my VW Golf – 52 days, 12,000 miles. As we’d be leaving a place, I’d film a quick interview with someone.

says. “I want to play in places that don’t restrict the audience in any way, by race, age or whatever. This works out well because anyone who wants to can show up.” Although Hideaway House is one of the more unusual venues, Dylan expects the ‘house venue’ scene to take off in Ireland: “It’s not very Irish yet,” he grins. “It will be though.”

Do Europe and the US differ in terms of their DIY scenes? Definitely. They all have their advantages and disadvantages. It’d be boring if everywhere was the same. In places like Germany and France, they’re so well organised, it’s incredible: they look after you so well. In the UK, the promoter might not give you food and you might have to sleep on a dirty floor but the show could be incredible. In Europe, the shows can be a bit polite. In the US, it can change from place to place. Where does Ireland fit in? A lot of the bands we have playing in the house say it’s one of the best shows on their tour. People’s attitude is what makes Ireland stand out, how people chat to the bands. That friendliness translates into the experience that bands have here. They always feel very welcome.


Where bands, festivals, venues and fans broadcast their Music TV on the web

WWW.MUZU.TV Check out State Magazine's Channel www.muzu.tv/state


Circuit Breakers Words by

S A O I R S E PAT T E R S O N LOREANA RUSHE

Photography by

ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS Q&A, or Queer & Alternative, is not just Dublin’s longest running gay indie night. It’s the capital’s longest running gay party. So what’s the secret of its longevity?

capital’s only consistent gay indie event and since the demise of legendary night Ham, it’s also achieved the feat of being the city’s current longest running gay party. Eight years is centuries in club terms, but Q&A’s promoters/DJs, Colm Bennett and Vinnie Donnelly, feel the secret to it remaining popular is, bizarrely, the fact that it’s on irregularly. Colm explains: “I think the fact that we’re only on three or four times a year is the key to its success, to be honest. If we were on every month, I’m not sure it would have the same cache. This year we haven’t been on since June, so the November event is going to be mobbed. Every one is an event for us and after we do one, we go back to our day jobs and then we build up our interest again.”

since its explosion from the back streets of new york into discotheques worldwide at the dawn of the ’70s, the musical formula. However, for Dublin soundtrack to gay nightlife has remained high octane dance-pop. Out-and-proud gay culture took its first steps to a disco beat, learned to run to the pulsating grooves of hi-NRG and vogued its way into the mainstream. Irish gay clubs, like their international counterparts, have built their success on this tried and tested

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revellers more inclined towards The Smiths and CSS than Cher, relief for the last eight years has come in the shape of much-loved party, Q&A (Queer and Alternative). Starting out on in down ’n’ dirty rock venue, Eamonn Doran’s in 2000, Q&A has progressed to become one of the biggest nights on the Irish gay scene. It’s the

The last Q&A over Dublin Pride Weekend was held in hip new venue, Andrew’s Lane Theatre, and the lads are heading back there for this month’s party. However, Q&A has had many a home over the years. Colm recalls: “From Doran’s, we moved to Peig’s [under the Earl of Kildare Hotel], then onto the Temple Bar Music Centre, which is now The Button Factory, where we stayed for three or four years, before that closed for renovations and then we ran a three-room party twice in The Vaults before ending up in ALT. “Doran’s was the funniest place to run a club though. They let drinkers from the bar upstairs into the club at 1.30am, so all the straight lads would come down, and the gay lads would say, ‘Oh! Where’d all these boys come from?’, and the straight lads would be going, ‘Where


Q&A, eh, Q&A of course. Simon, 18, Fashion Design student How important do you think Q&A is to the gay scene? I’d certainly miss Q&A if it wasn’t around, because when you hang out on the indie scene, there’s not a lot of gay men about. This is one of the only nights where I can meet people with similar interests as me who are also gay.

are all the birds tonight?’ It never actually came to a fight but there was a lovely fission of energy that came into the room at half one!”

They’ve come a long way from their rough and ready beginnings but Colm and Vinnie’s ethos remains the same – quality indie, pop and alternative music. It was their own frustration at having nowhere rock-orientated on the gay scene to go that lead to the club’s formation. Colm remembers: “Myself and Vinnie were in The George one Saturday, giving out again about the music, saying ‘Jesus it’s always dance in here’. So one of our mates said, ‘Well why don’t you do anything about it? Go and start a club or something!’ So we sobered up the next morning and did a business plan and everything, and went in to see Doran’s owner Dermot: he just looked at it and said, ‘You’re on Tuesday two weeks lads, every month’. So in five seconds that was it, brilliant!” The club is a comfortable mixture of gay, lesbian and straight and has a dedicated following. “Yeah, they’re very dedicated and they’re a loyal crew as well, when you think that it’s been five venue changes in eight years and when I was DJ’ing the last night I looked down and saw five people dancing that had been at the first ever Q&A eight years ago! Bizarre,” Colm says. “And then we get the kids as well, because I’ve talked to kids in college and it’s like a big thing for them to go to their first Q&A, you know. It’s awkward if you’re gay and you’re into that kind of music: where do you go? So they tend to go bananas and get all dressed up for it.”

Colm’s been in the thick of Irish gay clubbing for the last eight years: has he noticed any changes in the scene in that period? “The one major difference is it’s got a lot less shifty because of the internet. It’s really taken the pressure off,” he notes. “Pre-internet and Gaydar, the scene tended to be much more ‘cruisey’, because this might be your only opportunity to see a gay person that week, or if you were living out in the sticks, maybe that month – so it was very important that you score!” he laughs. The guys are looking forward to this month’s Q&A, and beyond. Colm says: “We try and do one new thing every night, like we had violins playing beside the cloakroom at the last Q&A, just a little quirky thing. We’re going to have something really cool for the next one, which is top secret at the moment. Every single thing adds to someone’s experience of it being an unusual place to go to. “But we’re already thinking about the tenth year, to be honest,” he adds. “We’re going to do something really special for one of those nights in the tenth year and have that as the birthday party.” Until then, it’s just about entertaining as many people as possible, although pregig shivers are still a factor. “It’s nerve wrecking, even at 10pm on the night, I’m saying, ‘No one’s going to come!’” Colm admits. “But we wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t popular and full, because that’s a buzz, and it’s great to play music for people and get down and dance with them as well, so you kind of have your own club to go to.” Q&A takes place in Andrew’s Lane Theatre, Dublin on

Niamh, 19, Event Management student How often do you go to Q&A? It’s my second night. I’m not gay: I just come with my gay friend for the good music. Would you come again? Yeah, it’s fun. It’s different to lot of the nightclubs in Dublin, which are very generic.

Rachel, 27, Photographer Do you come to Q&A much? I come pretty regularly. It’s the best gay place to go to because they play decent music and you get a decent variety of people, whereas normally you’re expected to dance to Britney Spears, which doesn’t work for me very well. Do you go to other nights on the gay scene? Yeah, but it’s very limited. You the same heads all the time and same music and it gets tedious really quickly. Here, there’s a different mix of people and all the lesbians crawl out from under their rocks. To meet women on the gay scene, Q&A is the place to go.

Logn McLain, 25, NCAD Graphic Design graduate How long have you been coming to Q&A? I’ve been coming since it started and I come so often because it’s one of the best clubs, there’s really good music and the crowd are great and you’re guaranteed a good night. How important do you think Q&A is to the scene? It’s an alternative outlet – even though it’s just mainstream rock – but it’s a completely different outlet for people who don’t like pop.

November 28.

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next 24


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Tilly And The Wall.

TA P YO U R F E E T SAY YEAH ~ Words by

WARREN JONES

An electric JAIMIE W fan, A R R E attached N to a thin wire cable, sweeps across the length of the second level atrium in New York’s Museum of Modern Art in lazy, everaltering arcs. The mesmerising and vaguely Photography by

upon hearing a tilly and the wall song, there are two possible scientiďŹ next cally-proven outcomes. next 25


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one: the listener will become shrouded in a red mist and begin snorting heavily, mumbling to his or herself about how the boisterous Americans flaunt exuberance and how unapologetic they are about it. The second outcome (and a lot more probable for the non-cynics amongst us) is to be swayed by their pretty little ditties and to allow yourself to sing and dance along uninhibited. For music is food for the soul and the energy to power your latest pair of Converse on the dance-floor and who better than Jamie and Derek Presnall, Neely Jenkins, Kianna Alarid and Nick White, who make up the Nebraskan indie-popsters (or “Pop suburban folk punk” as Jamie describes them to State) Tilly And The Wall to soundtrack those times. You may have heard their insanely catchy ‘Beat Control’ on alternative radio stations over the past six months. Those familiar with their earlier albums Wild Like Children (2004) and Bottom Of Barrels (2006) were surprised by the song’s carefree electro-pop leanings, which seem to have an obvious courtship of the mainstream, or at least an acknowledgement of the charts. Jamie explains. “Kianna [vocalist] wrote that song and she said she wanted it to be a fun song to dance to, a song where you don’t really think about anything else; just dancing and letting yourself go.” ‘Beat Control’ is that distinct kind of pop song with a simple pop arrangement and a catchy melody that begs to be let into your cranium. It’s also accompanied by a cosmic day-glo video which reinforces the call to lose your inhibitions and “let that beat control your body”. Dancing is at the core of Tilly And The Wall’s modus operandi, thanks to Jamie whose unique role in the band as tapdancer replaces any need for a drummer or percussionist. A conscious decision from the outset, it is one aspect that has helped them get press attention but has also been brought up as the chief proponent in the accusation that they thrive on that as gimmick. “People don’t like the fact that I tap-dance in the band and completely discount us for that reason alone,” Jamie admits. “I had to get over that very early on. I can’t worry about things like that. I’ve embraced it and acknowledge it’s an unusual thing for a band but if it’s a point of interest for our band and that helps us get press, then it’s all good.” Dismissing the tap aspect of the band as pure shtick becomes more difficult when you watch the videos online which document the recording of their new album O (actually self-titled but the title has been coined by fans thanks to the sleeve’s central oval shape). The videos show the effort that goes into recording group tap-dancing, including stomp teams and multi-layer taps. Jamie claims her inspirations for the tap parts were “musicals, traditional tapping and stomp team videos”. With the help of producer Mike Mogis, who has worked on albums from Bright Eyes, The Faint, Lightspeed Champion and She & Him, the band were able to achieve the tap sounds they wanted. “I would tell him I wanted the song to have traditional tapdancing or I wanted it to have a tribal beat and he would translate that in technical terms, like how he would mic it, whether we recorded in different rooms,“ notes Jamie. “Sometimes, he would mic an amp in a different room or put microphones inside the walls. He’d put mics inside of drums and then put the drums around me for a song. We recorded some of the stomping in an

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TILLY AND THE WALL

elementary school gymnasium with 10 people, so it sounded really open. We wanted it to sound like some kind of rally!”

The culmination of this hard work seems to have paid off, with the 32-minute O being the band’s most coherent and best work to date. From the riotous rock ‘n’ roll stomp (literally) of ‘Pot Kettle Black’ to the upbeat pop party of ‘Alligator Skin’ or the dance-led ‘Falling Without Knowing’, this is an album brimming with infectious music, accentuated by shouty group vocals and a rich array of eclectic arrangements. Indeed, it confirms that the band have become better songwriters, which is a task they share between the five of them, each bringing forward their songs to the group. “If anyone brings a song, we try and complete it and make it as good as it can be,” Jamie explains. “Then we record almost all of them. As we’re recording them, we’re figuring out how they work together. It’s hard. Every time we have to pick out songs for the record, it’s at least a month of fights in the band.” Despite this all-inclusive nature, Jamie claims no one songwriter dominates the process. “We just have to go back and forth, back and forth. Finally we vote, because there are five of us so there will always be at least three. We had to use the voting system a couple of years ago because we couldn’t agree. If you’re outvoted, you just have to accept it and be positive about it!” Jamie is extremely proud of the band’s achievements with O, citing experience as a big part of that rationale. “We’ve become better songwriters definitely and more competent musicians. I think we’ve grown into ourselves more. As a group, we know each other better, we’re more mature. There are five different voices on the record but it’s also our record.” As a songwriter, she was inspired by Cyndi Lauper, Sinead O’ Connor and Mary Lou Lordis and is particularly proud of the opening number ‘Tall Tall Grass’, one of her songs which she had been working on since their debut in 2004. She says it was “a good moment” when it finally made the cut for the album.

Despite being signed to Conor Oberst’s Team Love in the US and the influential indie label Moshi Moshi in Europe and spending half of any given year on tour, the quintet still have to hold down jobs in their hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, for the rest of the year. Singer Neely is a substitute teacher for Omaha public schools, guitarist Derek DJs twice a month and has just started to learn film-making, with his first foray into the craft being a music video for local Omaha band Son Ambulance. Jamie, meanwhile, is a substitute teacher at a centre called the Child Saving Institute, a non-profit organisation which takes care of children during the day that are up for adoption or in foster care and helps to facilitate the adoption process. “It’s important to have things that are yours outside the band,” she explains. “We’ve been a band so long that it’s nice to have something you don’t have to compromise on all the time. Working in a group is a completely different dynamic than having something that’s just your own. You can do whatever you want in that field.” Apart from working for a living, touring, song-writing, and


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keeping busy indoors from the extreme Nebraskan weather (“It’s really hot in summer and it gets 30 below zero in the winter so you learn to entertain yourself in Omaha”), Jamie and Derek were married recently and are currently trying to conceive. State wonders did the band play at the wedding? “When I tap-dance, I get all sweaty. It’s really physical so I was like ‘Noooooo’. Actually, Of Montreal played at our wedding! We got engaged on tour and we were opening up for them so when it happened they were like ‘We have to play the wedding!’ We thought that would be amazing! It was much better than us playing.”

The success of ‘Beat Control’ as a college radio single in the US and the reaction to O has also led the band to be picked up outside of normal channels. Firstly, they were asked to appear on seminal kids TV show, Sesame Street. “They actually approached us and we thought it was a huge honour and so we were all really excited,” recounts Jamie “They asked us to do ‘The Alphabet Song’ so we made our version of that song. We recorded it and then we green-screened it. They are still animating it but they’re going to animate it around us. We spent a day doing that. I’ve no idea what it’s going to look like but it was great.” State is curious as to whether they met Cookie Monster or any of the famous Jim Henson creations? “No! There was no cast there! That was the only thing I was

TILLY AND THE WALL

disappointed about. I wanted a picture with Big Bird or one of the monsters but there was none!“ The band were also approached by the makers of the new version of Beverly Hills 90210 and asked to play in an episode. Jamie gets quite animated about this appearance. “That was crazy. First of all, when I was growing up, I watched that show all the time. Neely and I were at school together so we would watch it every week with all our friends. We were in a different band at the time called Park Ave. and we would say ‘What if we could play the Peach Pit?’ - the place where all the bands played on the initial show. So when they asked us, I was so excited. They told us originally we were going to play The Peach Pit so I was freaking out. We ended up playing a party scene but we were stoked about it. We love that show.” The band’s growing fanbase of ‘Tilly’ kids and regular touring means they have been able to pass along the wisdom they learned from their already established Omaha peers like Bright Eyes, The Faint and Cursive to other bands from the local scene who are just starting out touring. “It’s a really supportive music community. A lot of them were touring before we were, so I can call any of them and ask ‘Should we do this?’, just get some advice. We’re really lucky,” she says. “We can draw enough people that we can take some bands out on tour from Omaha. We took out Capgun Coup, who are on Team Love. They’re younger and just released their first record and are new to touring. So we were like ‘Alright, we’re gonna show you the ropes: let’s go’.”

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Berlin has become a spiritual and creative home for a glut of Irish musicians, artists and DJs. State hears why

AIRBRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WAT E R S ~ Words & Photography by

it’s when you walk into the first bar you see and are met with a sensible looking kraut instead of a moustachioed gimp alcoholics, which, when compared to pointing you in the direction of a feely room that you turn around and wonder why all the fuss about Berlin? How come I haven’t seen anyone defecating from a swing top, why’s the bus driver not offered me drugs yet and where was Peaches when my plane landed at Schönefeld? You see, 95% of the time, Berlin functions like any other city. There are traffic-jams and taxi-strikes and Polish plumbers just like Dublin. Some people even say Berlin is just a fat version of our fair capital, and you know that’d nearly be true, if it weren’t for the liberalism, efficiency, cheapness and generally conducive atmosphere for creativity that permeates every last avantgarde inch of Berlin City. U2 discovered it in 1990. They got caught up in the industrial dance sounds being created there and wrote an album that nearly killed them. Since then, more Irish musicians have been making it their home. It’s easy to see why. You can make a living recycling glass bottles there. A sit-down meal with starter and a drink costs you less than a fiver. And chronic

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the Germans, includes most on this tipsy island, get their rent paid for them. “There’s something in the water,” says Nina Hynes of Nina Hynes And The Husbands. She’d know. She got pregnant on her first night in town. “It’s like being in a hot bath,” says Roy Carroll of electronic improv band Double Adaptor, and “It’s ridiculous, it’s so good,” says DJ Mano Le Tough, breaking the cycle of aqua analogies. They’ve all been living in Berlin for over a year now, and none of them plan a return home anytime soon. In spite of the fact that the average Berlin gig nets a band about €20, these artists would rather stay here, and duke it out amongst the other million starving creatives, than go back home to Ireland. “It’s that trip from the airport into Dublin City that’s the biggest pain in the ass,” says Keith O’ Brien, the other half of Double Adaptor, reminiscing on the joys of spending time on the N1. When it came to getting away, Double Adaptor were pushed more than pulled. You know

CONOR CREIGHTON


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BERLIN

~ “When oil runs out and food supplies dry up and we’re all forced to live off tarmac and rust, the Berliners will be the ones doing it in most style” ~

when bands complain about playing a gig where no one turned up, and what that really means is 20 people, not including their girlfriend, her friend and their six cousins came through the door? Well, Double Adaptor organised a gig at the Boom Boom Room and apart from the bartender, no-one else set foot inside the place all night. “In Berlin,” he says, “you’ll get people to come out and see you play on a new project, but then you need to take it out of Berlin.” So Double Adaptor play abroad. In three years, Keith reckons he’s made about €500 from gigs in Berlin, and half of that he banked in one night playing a show organised by the Irish embassy.

DJs do better. Mano makes minimal techno. Before Berlin, he was living in a house outside of Dundrum that was basically a squat with a rent book. ‘Hang Tough’, as it was called, ran parties that

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turned into sessions that went on for days and caused drug droughts throughout the city. Mano came to Berlin a year ago to get out of Dublin. He’s now opening for Santogold, running his own nights and has Laurent Garnier playing his songs. “You’re really looked after if you’re a DJ here,” he says, crossing his legs. He’s wearing a pair of hot bowling shoes. Yesterday, they were in an alley and cost €5 an hour. “Promoters take you out for dinner. You get a fridge full of drinks beside the decks and the pay’s much better compared to Ireland, where a lot of the time you play and don’t even know how much you’re getting paid.” The most famous club in the world is in Berlin. Panorama Bar opens on a Friday evening and closes sometime Sunday night. Richie Hawtin, Ricardo Villalobos and Sven Väth are regulars. Their lineup for a weekend is like a wet dream for promoters in any other city. Kids wake up early on Saturday and Sunday mornings, have breakfast, get dressed,

take pills, speed or GHB and go dancing till teatime. It’s wild. DJs play five-hour sets as a matter of course. In Irish clubs, a DJ is lucky if he gets half that time. They can’t build anything or take the crowd anywhere slowly. It has to be banging immediately: there’s no time for foreplay in an Irish nightclub. Mano’s plan for next year is to play Panorama Bar, and to learn some German. When one in four Berlin residents are non-Germans and the rest speak English better than RTE presenters, learning the language is about as much a priority as buying a baby elephant.

Nina Hynes doesn’t do clubs. As liberal as Berlin is, no three-month-old baby will get past the doorman at Panorama, and Caia, her daughter, never leaves her side. She still tours, but with a babysitter. Unlike Double Adaptor, who once had a policy of only leaving a bar when the barman did, or Mano who we interview


State

just before a four-day bender that includes a trip to Melt Festival where he’ll empty Franz Ferdinand’s rider, Nina is an image of clean living and sobriety. “My perception of Berlin has been altered, as it’s famous as a party city and I’ve never really gone out,” she says. Nina came to Berlin to meet more people and be a small fish in a big pond. Unlike Double Adaptor, she actually had some success back in Ireland. She was nominated for a Meteor and toured the States with David Gray. Still, she came to Berlin. “There’s no money here,” she says, “so it’s more creatively orientated. People don’t do things for money here.” If you spend an afternoon flitting around the packed terraces of Kreuzberg or Prenzlauerberg or Friedrichshain, you’ll see it’s true. No one works proper jobs in Berlin. Who could when the local cinema doesn’t put on movies until 12:30 on a school night? Living here is a little like dropping out. “It’s a total cop out,” says Kevin.

BERLIN

“That’s the idea. But I’m busier musically then I’ve ever been in my life.” Nina’s busy too. She’s recording an album of baby songs. She has the titles worked out: ‘Lets Go Sleepies Now’, ‘Mange, Mange, Mange’ and ‘Lave, Lave, Lave’. “Ireland is a great place to create: it’s just hard to live there,” Nina says, hopping onto a tram in old East Berlin. The tram is covered in graffiti and creaks along like an old man climbing a staircase, but it’s bang on time. It could be an analogy for Berlin. The city looks like it’s crumbling but for some reason, it works. Sometimes they’re sticklers and other times, they flaunt laws like Neapolitans. Like it’s illegal to jaywalk and it’s illegal to smoke in bars. You can watch a Berliner hovering all afternoon staring at the red-man on an empty street, and then find yourself in a nice bar where you can’t see the exit for cigarette smoke. It’s a town planned by teenagers, but with some health and

safety advice from their parents. Mad Max with harnesses and crash pads. “People in Berlin are actively living the life they dream about,” continues Nina, “They’re confident people because they’re living their dreams rather than dreaming about them.” Berlin is an artist’s playground and a hipster’s fantasy. But that element of cool that might turn people off, say, Brooklyn or Hackney, is non-existent in Berlin. Everyone’s in a band, and everyone’s a designer, and maybe they do mime or interpretative dance at the weekends too, so why act pretentious? Ambition is different here. The only competition is to see who can do it cheaper, more efficiently and better. When oil runs out and food supplies dry up and we’re all forced to live off tarmac and rust, the Berliners will be the ones doing it in most style. And if you don’t believe us, just go check out Berlin house swaps on Craig’s List and count the amount of Williamsburg kids trying to catch a piece of the Berlin action.

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THE TOWER OF SONG ~

Jack L.

Words by

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JOHN WALSHE


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there’s often a certain snobbishness in music circles about singers who don’t write their own material. But said elitism is completely at odds with the world’s greatest singers. The likes of Sinatra, Simone, Fitzgerald rarely, if ever, wrote their own songs and yet these legends interpreted the words of the greats and made them their own. Jack L has no such scruples about singing other people’s songs. First coming to attention with his versions of classic Jacques Brel chansons, followed by three albums of his own material, he has now released Burn On, an 18-track collection of Randy Newman-penned songs, and it’s bloody brilliant. “They’re great tunes,” he says simply. “You can’t really go wrong with them. To me, Randy Newman is an American Brel, in some respects, and that’s how I approached it. Both can be beautifully melancholic or completely bizarre, in their characters and context. They both cover the dark romanticism of things, although Newman is a little less romantic than Brel, a little more cutting. Whereas Brel seems to leave you with a happy ending or a positive affirmation, Randy Newman isn’t afraid of the darkness. These are songs that actually make you think, songs that introduce you to a new way of looking at things, songs that shock you.”

The album came about after Jack learned around 50 Newman songs for gig at a club opening in New York and subsequently decided to record his versions of Newman classics like ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’, ‘Baltimore’ and ‘In Germany Before The War’. According to the singer, cutting the songs down to the final 18 that made the album was a case of “killing your little darlings”, such was the quality of Newman’s material. “The songs work on different levels. Songs like ‘I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today’ have beautiful romantic melodies and then there’s the political ones, like ‘Great Nations Of Europe’ or ‘Political Science’: to be able to combine something so dark and so funny together, nobody really does that.” The latter is arguably the first time a song has come close to the political satire of Dr Strangelove, with its “sinister, black humour” about pushing the button that wipes whole cities from the map. “He seems to take on very extreme characters, which he maintains aren’t even his points of view: he’s just being that character,” Jack explains. “His line is that he expects the audience to be intelligent enough to understand that he’s just playing a character.” ‘Great Nations Of Europe’ is a particular standout,

JACK L

highlighting the atrocities carried out by Europe’s superpowers during the Colonial Age. “Neil Young has a couple of songs about the same kind of thing, but in general, the genocide of indigenous tribes all over the world hasn’t been covered in song,” enthuses Jack, who loves this particular ditty because it’s “not just informative, but has all this humour too”. Indeed, political correctness is not one of Newman’s strong points. “It throws sand in the eyes of the whole PC thing,” he agrees. “The world is gone a bit crazy as regards political correctness, with the policing of words and the policing of thoughts. Art is a forum to do whatever the fuck you want to do, be an asshole if you want. There needs to be a forum where you can do that and Newman is one of the guys who doesn’t seem to give a shit what anybody says, which is always very refreshing in a world where it seems more and more that we’re all like fucking battery hens.”

So, to come full circle, it doesn’t bother Jack L in the slightest that he’s perhaps better known as an interpreter of other people’s songs than a songwriter in his own right. “For me, the big thing is about lifting people out of the fucking budget or whatever the media is trying to bring people down with. I think it’s the job of musicians to put the romanticism and magic back in the world. There’s that phrase that ‘the media spreads darkness at the speed of light’,” he laughs. “I don’t care whether people know me from my own stuff or not. Obviously, it’s nice when they do, and since I was a teenager, writing bad poetry, I knew I was going to write tunes – it was something I wanted to do, and I already have another album nearly together. But if this album draws more people in, gives some people a bit of relief, or people get off on it, that’s the whole idea. If it broadens people’s minds in respect of what music can do and what music should be, great, because everything is so watered down now. The fucking marketing men are winning. “I think music is a lot more powerful and important than the fodder you hear on the radio every day would have you believe: it’s a very special thing and it’s not a simple thing. What the fuck is it doing? It moves people. If you can do songs that work on several different levels and provoke people to think, which is what Randy Newman songs do... These things are more important than ever before. The world is asleep and it’s being brainwashed. It’s comatose. Capitalism? Imperialism? All that stuff is great but there’ll have to be new ideas, better ideas. I think art is one of the things that can expand the consciousness.”

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Blog Standard The tracks and artists being noticed online this month by Niall Byrne

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BANJO OR FREAKOUT COVERS Alessio Natalizia, a London-based musician, has produced some fantastically lo-fi, eclectic and out-there remixes of Battles’ ‘Atlas’, Radiohead’s ‘All I Need’ and Sonic Youth’s ‘Kissability’. Best of all is the even-more-spooky-than-the-original cover of Burial’s ‘Archangel’. Curiously, no banjo involved. http://banjoorfreakout.blogspot.com/

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EMINEM SUFFERS A ‘RELAPSE’ The world’s most messed up rapper returns and it’s business as usual according to this short song called ‘The Relapse’. Mr Mathers’ affinity with troublesome behaviour has not waned: “Slice you up and cook you after you are murdered by strangulation.” .

http://url.ie/tmx

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RADIOHEAD RECKONER REMIXES Those old chancers are at it again. This time they are holding a remix competition for the song ‘Reckoner’ from In Rainbows. It’s open to the public but so far there have been some showcase remixes from Flying Lotus, Diplo, Cadence Weapon, James Holden and Nosaj Thing. Don’t let that stop you though. At time of writing, there are 1268 submitted for you to listen to.

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EMPIRE OF THE SUN This Aussie electro-pop outfit have created quite a stir, thanks to their calling card ‘Walking On The Dream’, which has recently been remixed by Neon Neon. Sample them right now before the album is out. http://url.ie/tn1

www.radioheadremix.com

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THE VERY BEST MIXTAPE Recent State They Might Be Giant Esau Mwamawaya has renamed himself alongside his producers Radioclit as The Very Best (must be down to the unpronounceable name). The group have a mixtape out, which is burning up the blogs thanks to its usage of Vampire Weekend, Architecture in Helsinki, Hans Zimmer (we shit you not), TTC, MIA, Cannibal Ox and Michael Jackson juxtaposed with Esau’s uplifting African voice over the top.

blog of the month 20 JAZZ FUNK GREATS

www.20jazzfunkgreats.co.uk/wordpress/

The UK’s most revered music blog has been there since the beginning*

http://url.ie/tmu

on videotape Ponytail: ‘Beg Waves’ Trippy and psychedelic geography-themed video for the Baltimore band’s gibberish anthem. http://url.ie/tmo

Flaming Lips on 90210 Preceding Tilly And The Wall by a good 18 years, The Lips played ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’ in a club scene on Beverly Hills 90210. “I’ve never been a big fan of alternative music but these guys rocked the house!” http://url.ie/tmk

Q-Tip: ‘Move’ Q-Tip is back with a solo album, after his record company shelved his previous two attempts, called The Renaissance this month. This taster finds him embodying the disco spirit of Michael Jackson circa 1980. http://url.ie/tmm

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At the forefront of highlighting leftfield, under the radar music of times past and present is this Brighton blog (named after a Throbbing Gristle album). As long as the song is under-appreciated, you’ll find it here. Concentrating mainly on old, forgotten music is 20 Jazz Funk Greats’ forte, with some mentions of younger whippersnappers along the way for good measure. They also run specialist club nights in Brighton. You’ll find songs drawn from cosmic disco, scuzz-rock, no-wave, experimental electronica, lo-fi folk or whatever, all chosen with absolute care and respect. You couldn’t get more obscure nor vital. Or in their own words, 20 Jazz Funk Greats is “The atmosphere created by H.P. Lovecraft drinking Absinth with Lester Bangs whilst listening to old Can and Cerrone records, with Satan’s claw in the groove rather than a record player needle.” (*2004)


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State

Halfset.

SEMI AT TAC H E D ~

Words by

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X

PHIL UDELL


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three years can be a long time in music. for halfset, it’s seen them develop from the nucleus of Jeff Martin and Stephen Shannon, who recorded debut album Dramanalog, into a four-piece band featuring Cillian McDonnell (drums) and Sinéad Nic Gearailt (Harp & Rhodes). Something of a new chapter, then? “It kind of does feel like phase two in a way,” admits Jeff, “but the guys have been in the band for so long that when I look back to what it was, going back wouldn’t even be an option. Halfset is the way it is.” One wonders, then, if the sample-based approach of their debut was more a question of necessity than design. “It’s what we were doing at the time,” he counters. “We never really plan things out. We’re lucky in that we do what we want to do. That first album was where our heads were at, at the time, but we wanted to make it more exciting live, it would have been a bit limp as it was.” Not for Halfset the approach of two blokes tapping away at their computers. “Oh it’s totally miserable,” says Jeff. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a good laptop show in my life. Instrumental music played that way is just awful. We did do a few shows as just the three of us but we felt it was a bit shy of the mark.”

Thus, Halfset grew into the entity that it is today, the sound of four very distinct musical individuals. “Our tastes do overlap a bit,” explains Cillian, “but it doesn’t necessarily seep into the music that we make. I would identify with Steve on a lot of the electronic stuff, the same way I could identify with Jeff on his stuff. Then there’s the minimalist, electronic music that I like which wouldn’t be anyone else’s bag.” Do they strive to meet in the middle? Apparently not. “I don’t think we’ve found common ground,” Jeff grins. “We’ve pulled and pushed in so many ways that it’s ended up as something completely different. ‘Salmon’ sounds so different to anything else, it has this completely bonkers arrangement, and that came from people standing their ground. It seems to be a stand-out tune on the record. Diplomatic would be the best way to describe the music making, democratic the decision process. There was no rush to make the album so there was no point in putting something out with songs on it that any of us couldn’t listen to. Everybody is very proud of this.” To say there was ‘no rush’ is interesting, with new record Another Way Of Being There taking three years to complete. Was there no deadline at all? “The deadline,” says Jeff, “was as soon as possible but not to the point of rushing anything. We worked bloody hard at this for three years. There was a sense of getting it done but there wasn’t a

HALFSET

label standing over us.” Without that outside influence, though, how do you know when you’ve finished? “You just know in your heart when it’s done,” he says. “It’s not a question of having to let go.” Even so, after three years there must have been some sort of comfort zone to break out of, to have to face the real world again. “It can be hard,” agrees Cillian, “but we still knew when it became a record rather than a bunch of songs. A huge amount of work had gone into each track: it was meticulous. You can’t put that amount of work in and not know when it’s finished.”

Aside from a couple of extra musicians (most notably Cougar’s D.H. Skogen), Another Way Of Being There is notably devoid of guests. Given all their connections, surely that would have been an option? According to Jeff, an option yes but not a viable one. “We like to do as much in-house as we can – own label, own production, all played by ourselves,” he avows. “It can be a bit gimmicky having people in as guests: it’s obvious for an instrumental band to bring in a semi-well-known singer, loads of people do it. We want to be able to reproduce everything live ourselves.” “Everything that’s on the album is there because we want it to be,” agrees Cillian. “When there are vocals, it’s Jeff because he’s the singer. There could have been 10 seconds of vocals or a whole album, they’re treated as another instrument. We could have got 10 different singers from Dublin bands but it was never about that.” What it is about is a stunning album of elegant music (accompanied by original films for each track) that avoids the pitfalls that often befalls artists of this type. “Right from the start, we knew that a lot of electronic music was elitist and if you didn’t get it, that was your problem,” says Jeff. “We always thought that was bullshit. Music should be enjoyable to listen to. Our stuff isn’t necessarily written to be accessible but it’s not meant to be obscure either.” “You can still be adventurous and original within those realms,” Cillian continues.” If you take a lot of classic electronic artists, say Autechre, they started off by making really beautiful music and then went down a path where it became more about experimentation. We’re about pushing boundaries but within the realms of melody. It’s never avant garde or awkward, it can be complicated and hard to play but stick it on the radio or in a movie and it will work.” “It’s not an exercise in geekiness,” Jeff sums up. “It’s about making something beautiful.”

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A decade ago, they were the most talked about band in the British Isles, with record companies bitch-slapping each other to get their signature. Yet their debut album was never released. This is the story of Chicks

A GIRL THING ~ Words by Illustration by

JOHN JOE WORRALL ISABEL REYES FEENEY

annie tierney claims she doesn’t remember it but on the day she met her husband-to-be, he was at the other end of her because it happens to be bloody true. “self defence mechanism”. Thank god the fella kept up the effort – the two were wed recently – but Tierney’s perceived standoffish-ness does have some reasoning behind it. Anyone above 25 in this country should remember Chicks. For a period, they were everywhere as various media outlets lapped up the story of three Loreto College school girls who picked up the guitar at 15 and had every record company in the British Isles after them a year later. “The press had an angle and they went with it,” says former member Lucy Clarke, sipping tea in the Central Hotel. 10 years ago, Clarke, Tierney and Isabel Reyes-Feeney, became something of a national talking point. Indeed, the story of Chicks is one that has a uniquely Irish resonance about it: in a nation this small, you can be thrust forward to national fame with the kind of shuddering speed not many will be able to deal with. Imagine what that might have been like for three school girls; and imagine the lovely surprise that with each dollop of praise for their brand of spiky punk came 10 times the vitriol. Typical Irish begrudgery, after all, is only a cliché

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As a result, walking down the street together between the ages of 16 and 20 was almost always a trial for the three best mates. “We couldn’t walk around town without people getting in your face about it. It was usually people our age or boys who were a little bit older who didn’t like that young girls had got a record contract after they’d been playing the guitar since year dot,” says Reyes-Feeney over the phone from Madrid, her home for the last seven years. “Even Gay Byrne was mean to us!” laughs Tierney, thinking back to their first appearance on The Late Late Show singing early anthem ‘Daria’. “After we finished, he kinda lifted his eyebrows and he made some comment like ‘I won’t say anything about that’. He didn’t come over and make amends after that, put it that way.” The next morning, Tierney, still in sixth year at the time, garnered more abuse on the bus into town: “I think I remember some girl telling me it was more embarrassing than watching Boyzone dancing.” Clarke takes up the story, “You became so used to people being smart arsed and saying ‘oh you’re that girl from Chicks aren’t ya’ in a really snidey way. Even in


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Stiff /// Little Fingers

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college, people would be in the middle of conversations with you and you’d feel great – ‘whoopee I’m socialising’ – and then they’d say ‘yeah I saw you on TV years ago’ with real venom about it.” Adds Tierney, “Some people got it and thought it was cool. We were doing it because we thought it was fuckin’ cool anyway. Some people just thought ‘they can’t play and they’re annoying’. That’s fair enough but people were very, very unnecessarily mean. We were 18, for god’s sake.”

It had all begun so humbly as well, Annie’s brother Mick (aka Mick Pyro, Republic of Loose frontman) convincing his 15-year-old sister that she should start an all-girl band. The three girls spent the next day deciding who would play what and the day after, arrived into school no longer as three mates but as a wholly different animal entitled simply, Chicks. “There used to be day-time gigs in Eamonn Doran’s on Saturdays,” says Clarke, “and we started going to gigs in Slatterys when we were 15 as well. We’d drop in demos to venues around the city

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CHICKS

and they just kept on booking us.” An early demo got them a manager and by the time it came to the summer between fifth and sixth year, they were being courted by every record company going, with Reyes-Feeney remembering that “once one A&R guy comes to a gig, you find that they all do”. Soon they had several well received EPs, support slots with the Manics and Sonic Youth, a tour with Ash, BBC Radio 1 attention, as well as a slot at the Reading Festival. Coming back to sixth year, they often found numerous column inches devoted to them in the weekend papers, including one picture of the three of them hanging around outside the school in their uniforms. Says Tierney: “I remember one of the senior people at the school bringing out that picture of us and she had circled everything that was wrong with the uniforms. One didn’t have the white socks up to her knees et cetera: you had to laugh.”

Writing more and more songs towards the end of their final year in school, with Mick often helping out re-jigging some of

(L-R) Lenny Waronker, co-head of DreamWorks, Isabel, Lucy, Annie and Tim Carr A&R for DreamWorks, pictured in 2001

their efforts, along with contributing some tunes as well, the clamour to get them signed was huge. Promises were made about tonnes of cash and all three were encouraged to quit school, but they waited until they’d thrown away the uniforms for good before signing with DreamWorks. The label offered creative freedom and also any producers they wanted. In the end, they settled on making their first record in Philadelphia with alt-darlings Royal Trux (Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema). In the process, they learned Texas Hold ‘Em; how 14% proof beer leads to fights and that their producers weren’t overly enamoured with their original songs. “They wanted to make everything and then cut it up: sometimes it worked and others it completely didn’t. They didn’t know what to make of us, maybe,” says Annie. “Sometimes you’d play them something we’d written and then they’d immediately say they didn’t want it to


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State

CHICKS

~ “We were in a band, doing what we wanted to do and having fun. We were three mates who didn’t care that everyone who was our age in Dublin hated us” ~

sound that way,” adds Lucy. What was left was an album their record company said at first was perfect. Then nothing. DreamWorks soon shedded a number of jobs and dark clouds began to gather. They were told they had to re-record “this and that”, only to be told every effort wasn’t quite right. This continued as the album stayed un-released and slowly but surely, the girls, now returned to Dublin, became frustrated. “I just remember a lot of hanging around. It was more unsettling for us as we didn’t know what we were supposed to do,” says Reyes-Feeney. “It was about a year of us waiting around and a year

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is forever at that age. You could tell DreamWorks weren’t really interested. I suppose that did lead to the end.” With the record in limbo and unable to sign a different deal due to their contract, the three went their own ways, going into various college courses. Says Isabel, “I hung around Dublin for a couple of months after that, but it was like a marriage that had broken down, I didn’t want to be reminded of everything every day. It was like I needed the divorce from Dublin and I headed for Madrid.”

All three have been in various bands since and made guest appearances with

Republic of Loose to boot. Then, at the tail end of 2007, that original debut came back into their possession, after which they pressed up a few thousand copies, to some acclaim. In fact, years on from the bitching and the hype, it’s actually a fine record. Despite a few reunion gigs last year, though, a full comeback is laughed out of the building by the three of them – day jobs, kids and marriages are what concern them these days. “It was great,” says Reyes-Feeney, “we just tried not to take it too seriously, we were in a band, doing what we wanted to do and having fun. We were three mates who didn’t care that everyone who was our age in Dublin hated us!”


NIGHTFLIGHT AT BUTTON FACTORY NOVEMBER 2008

saturday 1st november

saturday 22nd november

RADIOCLIT. TEENAGE BAD GIRL. HOT CLUB DE PARIS. KITSUNE MAISON GHISLAIN TOUR. POIRIER. + transmission djs

saturday 8th november

+ john lord fonda. (citizen records party)

saturday 29th november (8pm)

transmission indie/dance/noise every saturday at button factory advance tickets: www.tickets.ie

+ transmission djs

saturday 15th november

ninja tune, france

autokratz, hearts revolution, punks jump up, beni (riot in belgium)

BUTTON FACTORY FORMERLY MUSIC CENTRE CURVED STREET TEMPLE BAR DOORS 11PM ADVANCE TICKETS WWW.TICKETS.IE

Friday 7 November Benway, Louche Doug Cooney Friday 14 November Pablo Vs Jimmy B John Mahon Vs Jaycee Rubio Vs Funboi Dan Mac Vs Bren Black Friday 21 November Big Dish Go Birthday Marc Houle Live Big Dish Go DJs Friday 28 November Tobi Neumann Ian Bright


State

X

Max Tundra.

ELECTRONIC ARTS ~ Words by

44

NIALL BYRNE


State

state’s first encounter with a max tundra live gig was a bewildering and edifying experience. It had been four years since his brilliantly skewed electronic pop masterpiece, Mastered By Guy At The Exchange was released. Max (real name Ben Jacobs) was playing a few gigs to keep himself in pocket and his Dublin date towards the end of 2006 took place in Kennedys, Westland Row. With the performance, he managed to thoroughly recreate the oddity and creativity of his music while playing keyboards, wearing cute bear hats, singing in a high-pitched falsetto and playing covers of The Sound of Music’s ‘So Long, Farewell’ and The KLF’s ‘What Time Is Love?’ As we said, an odd but singularly electrifying set. Fast forward nearly two years and six months since that second album and Ben has finally released the new songs he debuted on that tour in the form of Parallax Error Beheads You and State has to ask, what took him so long? As he explains on the phone from his Hackney home, the truth is a simple combination of a slow work ethic and a minor addiction to frivolous online gaming. “Basically, with this album, I’ve had my very productive weeks and my very non productive weeks. When I sit down and work on music, the initial setting up of everything, I find quite a chore but then once I get into the swing of things, I stick the old headphones on and have a few late nights. I’ve got quite good at Scrabble because of Scrabulous on Facebook which thankfully has just been taken off. In the last few months of working on the record, it was definitely a good distraction for me. I was playing that and so I’ve become very good at wasting time on the internet.”

His time is clearly not all wasted as Parallax... once again showcases his ear for making pop music without all the usual tools and cornerstones. Much has been made of his recording techniques, for while Jacobs’ music is forward thinking and wilfully eclectic, his methodology, which utilises an antiquated Commodore Amiga 500 computer as the main sequencer, is less so. “The reason I never got round to using a laptop or even a PC or a Mac to make music is because I reckon there are loads and loads more people out there who are already using those software titles much more confidently than I am,” he explains. “The Amiga forces you to think in a certain way: you’ve got this quite complicated music in your head and you’re forced to channel it through this fairly redundant hardware and software and then try to get it to sound exactly as it does in your head.” If Parallax Error Beheads You is the soundtrack inside Ben Jacobs’ brain, then State would like to move in right away and

MAX TUNDRA

start using the bouncy castle please. The songs are kaleidoscopic and off-kilter, with constantly changing rhythms, and the whole record is so meticulously-layered, it’s not surprising it took him so long to finish it. “The thing about this record is, musically, it’s probably the most complex thing I’ve done of the three albums,” says Ben. “But similarly, the actual melodies, the singable parts, are pretty damn catchy. So if it was just on in Top Shop, you know someone will just come in and they’ll sing along with it and if they stop and stick the old headphones on, they’ll realise there’s all this sort of ridiculous stuff buried in the mix.” Much of what makes Max Tundra stand out are the brisklysung lyrics, extolling the virtues of everyday activities and things such as internet bidding, charity shop jumpers and essential amino acids, all shot through with a humility that has become a trademark. “I wanted them to be accessible, because it’s another way for people to sing along with, you know, these quite complex tunes,” he explains. “I think if my lyrics were really complex and weird, it would just scare everyone off!”.

Jacobs has an almost R&B standard falsetto auto-tuned croon, which can also be explained by a hobby he developed in the interim between albums two and three. “I’ve been going to karaoke every week! I have these friends that put on a karaoke night every Tuesday. That’s how I’ve been practising my performance and my pitch.” So there must have been some inspirational and vocally challenging singers to live up to? “Yeah, Mariah Carey or Destiny’s Child, just to sort of test the old range,” he laughs. “There’s that high note in ‘Vision Of Love’ by Mariah Carey which is always a bit tricky: the money notes. But yeah, most of Destiny’s Child is pretty straightforward. I mean, the thing with Destiny’s Child is that it’s quite sort of quick, so it’s more about the speed of the thing.” Imagining the diminutive Jacobs on-stage giving it socks to ‘Bills Bills Bills’ would be a sight, so it seems logical to ask him, if he could join any band who would it be? “Destiny’s Child, definitely,” he chuckles. “Probably in a sort of programming capacity, rather than a sort of sleek up front singing and dancing capacity. I could increase their market share to people who only listen to quirky alternative music. Actually, that’s a horrible answer. Hopefully, I could just teach Beyoncé some dance moves!”

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~ Words by Photography by

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JOHN WALSHE ROGER WOOLMAN


State

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Playing piano in paramilitary pubs. Duelling with Neil Hannon. Stage diving with pissed-up football fans. Finding his voice. Realising he wasn’t weird. Embracing failure. Enjoying success.

for a man with multi-platinum sales and awards under his belt, duke special is perhaps ireland’s unlikeliest pop star. sure, he stands out next 47


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in a crowd: the dreadlocks, eyeliner and ‘hobo chic’ dress sense see to that. True, the boy sure can sing, and is arguably the finest piano player on this island. So what is it that makes him seem anathema to chart shows and Top of the Pops? Maybe it’s the quiet, unassuming nature. Perhaps it’s his softspoken Northern brogue. Or is it the fact that he looks more like the frontman in a Scandinavian death metal/crusty combo than a sensitive balladeer? The truth is, it’s probably all of the above, and more. Duke Special is good at confounding expectations. “I don’t like being pigeonholed,” he tells State midway though our interview. The chances of that are extremely unlikely, we feel. Duke (Peter Wilson to his mammy) has just released his third album, I Never Thought This Day Would Come, preceded by lead single and current radio hit, ‘Sweet Sweet Kisses’. While unmistakably Duke Special, it’s a bold step forward from his previous outing, Songs From The Deep Forest, and his debut, Adventures In Gramophone. “I didn’t want to do Songs From The Deep Forest Part 2. I wanted to grow and develop as an artist,” he explains. To that end, he collaborated on the songwriting with a number of people, including his producer and longtime friend, Paul Pilot, a German punk drummer called Daniel Benjamin, Aqualung’s Ben Hales and a certain Bernard Butler. The singer really enjoyed the collaborative process of writing with other people, and it’s something he’d be keen to explore again. “I’ve always enjoyed singing, and I want to keep growing as a writer,” he admits. “Songs on a record are almost like sentences or phrases out of context, and when you can lift someone else’s sentence and make it your own in the context of your own conversation… As long as I can mean what I’m singing, I’m not precious about having to write everything. As long as it makes sense to me and it’s true for me to sing, I can cover it, which is why in the context of my live show, I often do one or two covers within the set. It adds to my vocabulary, almost.” He was particularly excited about working with Bernard Butler: “From hearing the McAlmont and Butler stuff a number of years ago, Bernard Butler was always someone I wanted to work with. I realised that he wrote with other people. Duffy had done some gigs with me in Ireland and she had written some of her album with him. She thought he’d really like what I do, so my manager contacted him and I think Duffy put in a word for me as well, and we ended up writing a song together. “He has a real strong vision of where he’s going. It was a real rush to work with someone like that. I wrote the lyrics to the song and we worked on the melody together. It was a real confidence booster to hold my own in that context, and hopefully, I’m going to do some more work with him.” Some of co-conspirators weren’t so deliberate, however. “In Chicago, there were a lot of interesting collaborators who we worked with... just local people. The guy who ran the studio was like an eccentric magnet for the most unlikely people you could ever meet,” grins Duke. Chicago was just one of three locations where the album was recorded (the others being London and Culleybacky in Northern Ireland, the latter “just ’cos it’s near where I live”). That wasn’t merely down to circumstances, however, but was a definite plan:

48

DUKE SPECIAL

“I just wanted to have an adventure with the record, to throw ourselves a few curve-balls, deliberately. It’s so easy to just go through the motions recording, and I wanted to be stimulated and inspired.” Many of the tracks, however, had their genesis in that “really great studio called Pogo, in Chicago, where there’s loads of really odd keyboard-based instruments. There’s a thing called an Optigan, which is an organ that you feed plastic records into: one of them, which we used in ‘Digging An Early Grave’, is a sample of a circus from Berlin in the 1930s; there’s the sounds of a Polynesian village, so we put that in. It’s like an old sampling machine, almost, from the ’70s. So we used that as the basis, and an old Rhythm King drum machine, so a number of the tracks were started deliberately with more synthetic sounds and old weird sounds.” Despite the fact the songs were created in three very different environments, however, I Never Thought… is a very cohesive piece of work. “I think this record has a more immediate, punchy sound,” he muses. “I think some of that is down to the fact that there’s more guitar on it. We deliberately kept the arrangements a bit sparser. Nick Terry, who mixed the record, worked on a lot of Bernard Butler stuff, which I didn’t know until after we’d booked him, as well as the first Libertines record and the Klaxons, so he was coming at it with much more energy, which I think really comes across.”

While the credits on the album take up considerable space on the sleeve, such was the amount of contributors, it’s clear from the off that Duke Special is the ringmaster of this particular circus. The songs, in true Duke style, have beautiful, soaring melodies, hiding a darker heart beating underneath in the shape of the lyrics, filled with “broken and beautiful” characters, “lonesome skeletons” and strangers, “howling through the night”. “I couldn’t stick at doing heartbreak,” he explains. “I’d have to lighten the mood. Similarly, I couldn’t stick at doing throwaway: I’d have to bring something more substantial in. I love the variety. On a real shallow level, I love mixing it up: I don’t like being pigeonholed. Also, I think it does reflect who I am, in my writing: it’s never so sunny, it has a dark underbelly, but it’s not without hope.” Does he write from the perspective of invented characters, then, or is he exorcising his own demons? “Both,” he avows. “A lot of the songs on the album are inspired by books that I read but I find that I end up communicating my own self through the characters that wake up in a field of snow or are breaking down on Union Street, or whatever it is. I use the characters as a vehicle for what I want to say: whether I intend to or not, it seems to be what comes out.” So does it end up as almost a form of therapy or musical exorcism? “Yeah, but knowing that other people are going to be listening to it as well, I always try to be entertaining with it. The last thing I’d want would be to be singing morose songs about my feelings all the time: I want it to be a circus as well.” State wondered if it ever strikes him as ironic when audiences smile and gleefully sing his heartbreaking lyrics back at him during gigs.


State

DUKE SPECIAL

~ “I remember going to Nashville, before I was Duke Special, and every other person I met was in the music industry. The penny suddenly dropped with me: this isn’t weird, loads of people are doing this. Whereas, coming from Belfast, it just seemed like you were being a fool, and being self-indulgent by continuing to pursue this crazy dream” ~ 49


State

DUKE SPECIAL

~ “I find failure very interesting. Often, we think that you progress, you grow and you stop being fucked up and you start being sorted. I’m realising that everybody’s in the same boat: that’s the growth, realising everybody has the same battles going on, the same insecurities. It’s about facing up to those, as opposed to pretending or thinking you’ve got it all sorted out” ~ “It is weird when people jauntily sing along with ‘Digging An Early Grave’, for example, but I like it,” he grins. “One that always makes me laugh is in ‘Brixton Leaves’, when I sing ‘Belfast’ and all the people from Northern Ireland go ‘Yo’ and the line is ‘Belfast, leave me alone’. The band always snigger during that one,” he smiles. “One memorable time, we were doing a headline show in Zurich or Geneva, and Northern Ireland were playing Liechtenstein the next night, so there were about 50 Northern Ireland supporters, all in full regalia, singing football chants before I came on. It was terrifying, in a way. They were all pretty hammered. They were shouting for Chip [Duke Special’s incredible, unique percussionist], so he stage-dived into the middle of them. But during ‘Brixton Leaves’, when I sang that line, there was a massive cheer.”

It’s a long way from piano bars in Belfast to headline shows across Europe, and it’s a sign of just how far Duke Special has come. Music was always part of his make-up, and was encouraged at home when he was growing up. “My grandmother taught piano. She died when I was two, but she taught my three sisters and my mum and her five siblings,” he recalls. “All of them learned the old school method, where she had a knitting needle and a wrong note brought a rap on the knuckles. But it was always there in the house. “Even now, my mum’s sister, who is in her 70s, was over visiting from America and I had to do my party piece at the gettogether. That’s where I overcame my stage nerves, being forced to play at family events: ‘go up and do your exam piece’. Me and my cousins had to go up and play: it was so embarrassing. It still happens: ‘do that song that’s on the radio at the minute’.” He remembers the moment when the 11-year-old Peter Wilson realised that he had a talent for performing, “before my voice broke”. “I saw a reaction and I suddenly realised, ‘I seem to be able to do this’. Then, I think it becomes your safety blanket going through school, when you can do something, whether it be sport or whatever, something you’re known for. It’s your way to cope going through school. But I never thought I could make a career of it because it didn’t seem that likely an option. I went for careers advice and they told me I could become a music teacher or a

50

classical pianist, so there weren’t a lot of options then. “Now, I think it’s perceived that there are a whole range of things within the music industry that you can do, but then it was glaringly omitted, certainly in Northern Ireland. There always seemed to be more happening in the South. We had this very archaic view as to what you could do with music?” Does he think it’s easier now for budding Northern Irish musicians? “I think it is,” he opines. “It’s maybe not so much a pipe dream that people can do it. Maybe that means there’s a lot more people trying to do it, so it’s difficult for different reasons now. But I think it’s not as outlandish a notion. “I remember going to Nashville, before I was Duke Special, and every other person I met was in the music industry,” he continues. “The penny suddenly dropped with me: this isn’t weird, loads of people are doing this. Whereas, coming from Belfast, it just seemed like you were being a fool, and being self-indulgent by continuing to pursue this crazy dream.” It must have been difficult, in that environment, to have the wherewithal, the belief and the persistence to keep going, particularly when, like Duke Special, you’re married with three young children. “I remember a lot of family members asking me, ‘When are you getting a real job?’ or ‘How long are you going to keep doing this for?’” he admits “It’s hard on the family, because you are away so much. And everything in popular myths about being a musician is completely at odds with having a family and being safe and secure: everything from morally to financially. That is the myth anyway, that neither belongs in each other’s camp.” He cites a fellow Northern singer, Brian Houston, who he used to play piano with, as his real inspiration: “That’s where I learned my apprenticeship as a performer. He was doing it, long before I completely believed that I could do it.” Is it true he used to play in working men’s clubs? “I played everywhere. I probably played paramilitary bars, student bars, members’ lounges, wherever would have me.” Playing covers? “Yeah, but I would make them my own,” he stresses. “I would only do songs that I liked. It was such a great thing to do – some nights I was doing six hours a night, solid playing, and my voice doesn’t seem to tire when I’m on the road now, which is great.”


State

At times, it must have been a bit soul-destroying, though, when he wanted to play his own songs and all people want to hear is ‘Candle In The Wind’? “I would make it my goal to win people over or to turn my angst into energy in the way I performed,” he says. “So I learned a lot of really useful things, how to play to someone else’s audience or an apathetic audience. It also gave me a huge vocabulary of songs and song-writing, learning everything from Sam Cooke to The Lemonheads, great songs. I wasn’t doing ‘American Pie’ or anything like that: I was just picking songs that I could sing and relate to. In some ways, it really helped a lot for me to do that.” State is sure it at least gave him a thicker neck. He laughs. “Totally. Heckling doesn’t concern me: I enjoy it now, ‘cos it feels like you’re alive. But there were times when I was playing in swanky members’ lounges where people couldn’t have cared less. At that stage, I would have driven to Wexford to do an hour’s show of my own stuff to 10 people for no money, and I got more satisfaction from doing that than earning a packet over the weekend. I always saw it as a means to an end. “There are people who just love to get out and play: they have a nine-to-five job and it’s an adventure and that’s totally legitimate. But there are people who are caught in that trap of doing covers all the time and then it’s soul-destroying: I feel for anybody who is trapped in that world.”

When Peter Wilson found his own voice, and decided not to be a piano player in someone else’s band, he essentially found Duke Special. The name came from his study of old music hall and vaudeville stage names, where ‘Duke’ was extremely popular. But did he always sing in his own, native Northern accent? “When I started, when I was about 18, I was in England, playing in a band and I was told, one of the first times we recorded, not to use my own accent and to soften the vowels, and it sounded terrible. When I came home, I listened to people Van Morrison singing ‘Be There My Vision’ on Hymns To The Silence and it was just brilliant. He’s singing about Ardglass and Downpatrick, where I grew up. It’s not something to be hidden or embarrassed about. It is what it is. This is where I’m from. So it was almost like I had to unlearn the covering of my accent.” It seems that Duke is extremely proud of his heritage, and why not. His good friend and fellow singer, Neil Hannon, famously penned a song, ‘Sunrise’ about living in Northern Ireland and The Troubles in particular. Is it ever something he’d write about? “I have in the past written a couple of songs tackling that,” he muses. “I find any kind of identity debates or thoughts, for me, always boil down to inner battles, to universal things, which are connections with love, with grace, with facing up to your own shit. I find any of those big political things boil down to some things which are much more universal than North/South, Protestant/Catholic or anything like that. For me, there are more basic things and that’s what interests me, those inner battles. “I find failure very interesting,” he continues. “Often, we think that you progress, you grow and you stop being fucked up and you start being sorted. I’m realising that everybody’s in the same boat: that’s the growth, realising everybody has the same battles going on, the same insecurities. It’s about facing up to those, as opposed to pretending or thinking you’ve got it all

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DUKE SPECIAL

Duke Special on the events that have marked his rise.

Winning a Meteor Award this year for Best Irish Male: “I never expected that, which accounts for my completely crap speech. I’ll not make that mistake again: even if I don’t think I have a chance, I’ll have something prepared. You enjoy those things while they’re there, but you hold them really lightly because there’s always the next big thing. It’s more important being satisfied with what you’re doing and having a body of work that you’re happy with than the awards, which are just fleeting.” (Duke pictured with his manager Phil Nelson) Being nominated for the Choice Prize twice and blowing people away at the live event: “I’d played a lot in Ireland but that was the first time that journalists and radio people sat up and took notice. That and playing at Other Voices were probably the two things in Ireland that brought things up a level. Up until then, it was definitely a gig-goer’s experience.” Touring with BellX1: “That taught me how a support band should be treated”. Playing five themed nights at The Empire in Belfast: “Each night was like the first night of a tour, so it was tough but I’m glad I did it.” Appearing on Later with Jools Holland: “Amy Winehouse was in one corner, The Raconteurs in another, Muse, John Legend, The Gypsy Kings: it was so humbling to be involved in it. As soon as we started playing, I think that was the moment where I felt, ‘something’s happening here. I’m actually making some progress’. But I would love to do it again to enjoy the moment a bit more, because the last time, I was crapping my pants.”

Singing with The Muppets in the final episode of Sesame Tree, the Northern Ireland edition of Sesame Street: “I met Bert and Ernie so I can die happy now.” Meeting Neil Hannon: “Fighting Neil Hannon was bigger,” he grins, referring to the faceoff between Special and “the cad Hannon”, which took place on October 14 in Vicar Street.


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DUKE SPECIAL

~ Everything in popular myths about being a musician is completely at odds with having a family and being safe and secure: everything from morally to financially. That is the myth anyway, that neither belongs in each other’s camp”

~

sorted out. I think a huge strength is in accepting failure as part of life, and embracing it, as opposed to running a mile from failure. I think there’s a lot to learn from that.”

It would seem, however, that failure, in a professional sense, is not on the radar for Duke Special. His live show, always a unique event, is becoming even more theatrical as he embraces the worlds of vaudeville and music hall even more: to this end, he’s worked with Pigeon & Plum’s Vaudeville Circus in Northern Ireland and would love to do a tour directed by Tim Burton, “where it’s still a concert but using elements of theatre”. “To me, music hall was common man’s opera,” he explains. “It was throwaway in some respects, because you’re playing to a drinking audience: there’s a kind of coarseness about it, but there’s this great artistry as well, and out of that grew silent movie stars like Charlie Chaplin and Laurel & Hardy.” The theatrics of the stage show also make it easier for him as a performer. “There are people who thrive on the banter and the stories,” he notes. “Glen Hansard is a great example of someone who has a great gift of speaking and story-telling. That would never be my strength, so I had to find a way to do this without dying on stage. So for me, it was as much of as crutch as anything. But I like the idea of using your weaknesses to your strength. “And I find it a really useful gauge, because it helps me not take myself too seriously. There’s that side of art that it should be for everyone. Music, only recently, started being recorded: before that, it was a live experience and I love that element where it’s just for the moment, for these people who are listening right now. But I love the way it’s more profound than that as well. Music is a fasttrack to the soul, for me. It’s a way of getting under the skin that nothing else can do.”

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Instrumental Break: Chip

Anybody who has been to a Duke Special gig will be familiar with Chip, his multi-talented percussionist, whose range of instruments includes something called a Stumpf Fiddle (a collection of bells, horns etc) and a cheese grater and whisk. Indeed, their last Irish tour saw the Duke Special merchandise stall with its own, branded whisks and cheese graters, which proved extremely popular with fans, but not so much with promoters. At one gig, someone hurled a whisk through the air, resulting in the promoter removing them from sale. “I don’t know how a whisk could be seen as a lethal weapon,” Duke laughs. “Unless you were scrambled to death, which would take quite a while.” For his next tour, however, he promises “many more items from the kitchen”. George Foreman eat your heart out.


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Input 63

S TAT E R E V I E W S & P R E V I E W S

ALBUMS Snow Patrol and a host of big names battle it out for your Christmas affections. Story Of Hair, Blitzen Trappen, Los Campesinos! and more have long term ideas. Dylan gets the official bootleg treatment for the eighth time, plus the best of Stereophonics and Boyzone?

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★★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★ ★★ ★

DIGITAL From hip-hop supergroups to electronic shoegazers and the online reissue of some classic Irish rock albums, Niall Byrne has the lowdown.

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TV How television can survive the credit crunch, the news of the world and what not to miss this month.

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DVD Wim Wenders releases his first film inspired by anger. The Red Balloon takes flight, Tommy Tiernan takes the stage, The Happening takes the biscuit and Family Guy takes the you know what.

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GAMES

Adebisi Shank take what should be the hardest medium of all – the instrumental – and make it even tougher. Mad, bad and dangerous to know, they might just be the most exciting Irish band to emerge this year.

adebisi shank by ben murphy

Far Cry 2 bears only a fleeting resemblance to the original game, but is one of the titles of the year on any console. Star Wars gets a kick up the franchise and PES 2009 gets back to basics.

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Albums

Snow Patrol

illustrationby bybrenb brenb illustration

A Hundred Million Suns

(fiction)

If you’ve heard ‘Take Back The City’, the lead single from Snow Patrol’s fifth album, you could be forgiven for fearing that the quartet had embraced their worldwide stadium rock status, a la Kings Of Leon, and gone all out for mid-Atlantic superstardom. Thankfully, Gary Lightbody and his mob are far too intelligent and musically adept to take the easy option. Instead, they’ve created what is arguably their most rounded and complete album to date. Sure, there are plenty of potential singles, and it does hint at the catch-all factor of 2006’s Eyes Open, but with enough of the kind of interesting musical diversions that made us fall in love with their first two efforts, Songs For Polar Bears and When It’s All Over We Still Have To Clean Up, in the first place, albeit in full, glorious technicolour instead of monochrome. When it comes to lyric-writing, Gary Lightbody really is the god of small things. From bedwarm hands on broken radiators to the cold side of the pillow, torn jumpers to old love letters, he ushers us into the minutiae of the modern relationship like few other songwriters can, immediately including the listener in the guts and garters of

these otherwise intensely personal songs. Sure they’re romantic, but it’s the kind of realistic kitchen sink romance you’d expect from a Mike Leigh film rather than any Hollywood rom-com: there’s passion between the sheets, for sure, but the floor’s full of smelly socks and dirty knickers and there’s damp climbing the walls. He’s capable of hitting the emotional nail square-on in just a couple of lines, cutting through the extraneous puppy fat into the stillbeating heart of the matter: “When your eyes meet mine, I lose simple skills/ Like to tell you all I want is now” (‘Set Down Your Glass’). Or how about ‘The Planets Bend Beneath Us’, surely a Christmas single in waiting, where “Your freezing speech bubbles seem to hold your words aloft” and “the shells crack under our feet like punctuation points”. ‘Lifeboats’ and ‘Set Down Your Glass’ are stunningly beautiful, simple and under-stated where their detractors would have expected anthemic and bombastic, while ‘The Golden Floor’ shuffles and scuffles into the room on a bed of crunchy hand-claps and samples and the stunning ‘Echoes’ never fails to surprise, with its off-kilter timing and sampled choral effects. It’s not all lo-fi melodrama, however. ‘Disaster Button’ rushes along with enough pace and energy

for a classroom of pre-teens, while the rollicking ‘Please Just Take The Photos From My Hands’ perfectly encapsulates the fear that’s often involved in digging into your own past. The epic, 16-minute closing ‘The Lightning Strike’ is almost worthy of a review on its own. Separated into three parts, this is Snow Patrol going all Pink Floyd on us. Part I, ‘What If The Storm Ends’ is all classical piano leanings and thunderously ominous drum-beats, building to a crescendo of horns before settling once more into calm, while Lightbody’s voice is all pent-up rage. Part II, ‘The Sunlight Through The Flags’, begins like a modern jazz improv, before Gary’s voice glides in like a summer breeze at Carlingford Lough, while the closing ‘Daybreak’ transforms from a gentle intro to an insistent rainstorm of chiming guitars and lyrics about how “drops of water hit the ground like god’s own tears”. Bad weather has never sounded so good. Snow Patrol could easily have traded on past glories, releasing Final Eyes Open Straw every couple of years and filling stadia the world over. Instead, they’ve successfully married their widescreen success with small-screen moments, turning in the best album of their career in the process. ~ John Walshe

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Albums Abe Vigoda Skeleton

(post present medium)

Not an album the by famous-for-being-mistakenas-deceased Hollywood actor but the third offering from these tropical punk merchants who have climbed out of the experimental/DIY scene surrounding The Smell club in LA. After repeat listenings to Skeleton there’s not a minute goes by, however, that we don’t wish it was from the rubber-face actor, perhaps offering us a quirky Rick Rubin-produced album of contemporary covers. The album in question, however, is – even on a clear sunny, hangover-free day – acerbic to the ears and seemingly tuneless and abrasive. Punk indeed. The interesting elements, especially within the guitar sound, never conspire to form a ‘tune’ and as the album progresses, the more wearisome this becomes. Skeleton is tropical in the way that there is a kind of tin drum, beachy sound buried in the background but just like certain ‘tropical flavoured’ juice drinks, the real goodness is buried very deep in questionable, badly produced mud (in this case in repetitive, off-key, tinny guitar sounds and awkward punkish drumming, as well as infrequent vocals lost in the mix). Song after song, it plods over the same territory, avoiding anything that may form into a melody, but determined to stick to a punk ethos of minimum chords, skill and production – despite being Abe Vigoda’s third album. Certainly, experimental music of all forms has paved the way for more commercial, and popular bands. Music like this, and scenes like The Smell, have an important place in this but this is definitely ‘on the journey’ music and, just like taking a bus across Thailand, the journey is scary and to be avoided if possible, but the destination may be the real treat. Far more enjoyable than this album is the website www.abevigoda.com, which thankfully is a permanent update on the actor’s oft-questioned well-being. ~ Simon Roche

Grampall Jookabox Ropechain

(asthmatic kitty)

Indianapolis’ David “Moose” Adamson’s music is an eclectic mix. Ropechain, his second album, is steeped in music of the past, yet flutters from electronic blues gospel (not the Moby kind) to psychedelic hip-hop to ancient Americana folk and artful indie-rock. He uses the space in-between to stretch the template with vocal chants, refrains and penetrating melodies. The album was recorded with sudden inspiration over an intense weekend in his home. It sounds like Adamson was occupied by a ghostly muse, such is the spectral quality of these 11 tracks. First song ‘Black Girls’ is an immediate, distorted bass-led introduction, with a spiralling vocal sample, before it segues into the tribal paean to odd behaviour, ‘Let’s Go Mad Together’,

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which musically charters the same territory as Fuck Buttons’ ‘Ribs Out’. The third track confirms the omnipresence of ghosts on the record with a short vocal interlude in which Adamson sings in a desolate helium voice: “Oh ghost, why did you all follow me home? / I can feel your purple body swell and fall”. Occasionally, Ropechain is let down by Adamson’s idiosyncratic delivery, which occurs most obviously on ‘The Girl Ain’t Preggers’ and ‘You Will Love My Boom’. For the sake of reference, the latter (and a couple of other tracks) remind us of the dizzying mysticism of Yeasayer and the eerie folk sounds of Animal Collective. There’s also a strange paean to Michael Jackson’s youth, which is quite emotive, and the closing song features samples recorded in an empty insane asylum. That Adamson manages to bring those disparate strands together so coherently is a testament to his ghostly vision. ~ Niall Byrne

The Sugababes Catfights And Spotlights

(island)

an unnecessary ‘hey we can really sing’ version of ‘About You Now’ – but, by and large, The Sugababes approach the end of their first decade in pretty good shape. ~ Anna Forbes

Razorlight Slipway Fires

(vertigo)

Time to don the skinny jeans again: Razorlight’s third album Slipway Fires has arrived. Excuse us for being impertinent, but Razorlight’s overhyped return is a little nauseating, probably due to over-exposure to ‘America’, the anthem of drunken idiots everywhere, and Johnny Borrell being his usual obnoxious self. Admittedly, a great deal of bias was firmly lodged in our minds before even pressing play. But State soldiered on, determined to give the album a fair listen. Opening track and current single ‘Wire To Wire’ does little to dispel any prejudice and makes for a boring start to a bland album. As usual, Borell is about as articulate as Kerry Katona on morning television. ‘Tabloid Lover’, a jaunty upbeat track, informs us JB has a “hot-bodied girlfriend” who helps him spend his cash, while on ‘60 Thompson’ the pungent insincerity is too much to take. On the plus side, ‘The House’, an affable piano-driven affair, thankfully brings the album to a neat end. The sad thing is that if you can ignore the inane lyrics, Slipway Fire isn’t an entirely unpleasant experience. Razorlight didn’t want to over-think or overproduce their third album, which was reportedly recorded in a matter of weeks. It’s just a shame they, and particularly Borrell, didn’t invest a little more time to create something more original than this uninspired, contrived collection. ~ Aoife McDonnell

As another bunch of unknowns desperately prance and mug their way to the promise of fleeting stardom (Leon Jackson, anyone?), it’s a fine time to reflect on the fact that The Sugababes have been releasing records for eight years now. Not only that, but they’ve not only managed a string of great singles but some decent albums too – all of the time dispensing with their most interesting members. Now down to Keisha, the blonde one and the new one, they could easily be expected to start a downward slide. Lead single ‘Girls’ is fine enough but, where they once took inspiration from electroclash bootlegs, now it’s a bloody Boots ad. Thankfully, they still manage to raise the bar elsewhere. Influences are a pleasant mix of old and new, from Motown soul to the sleek R’n’B of ‘Side Chick’. There’s nothing here quite as innovative as ‘Freak Like Me’ or ‘Overload’, but then again, neither is this some half-arsed Christmas cash-in. Nor have they sacrificed their character in return for an overbearing American sound, for which we can probably thank the lord that Timbaland’s planned involvement didn’t happen. Of course there are a few hiccups – some truly bonkers lyrics and

Volcano! Paperwork

(the leaf label)

Like Los Campesinos!, Volcano!’s giveaway is in the exclamation mark. While the Welsh indie outfit use their gratuitous piece of punctuation to indicate gleeful exuberance, it would seem this clamorous Chicago three-piece are more about the exclamation mark of old: the one that signifies a startled outburst of awe, shock or perhaps fear. Like its predecessor Beautiful Seizure, Paperwork is an exceptionally accomplished, sometimes dizzyingly complex piece of work, with more changes of rhythm, texture and melody than a cage-fight between Deerhoof and Battles; a sort of frenzied modern tentacle shot forth from Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica all those years ago. Lead singer Aaron Wirth has an exceptionally strong voice, reminiscent of Muse’s Matt Bellamy. You can hear his vocal chords straining and stretching like rubber around the twisted sonic cogs and wonky polyrhythms of one of the


Albums

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This wonderfully warm and fuzzy debut is perhaps the surprise of the year.

]

Armoured Bear Honeycomb Moons

(blind chicken music)

Perhaps the greatest thing about being a music fan is the constant surprise. Each year, without fail, at least one wonderful act emerges blinking into the light, fully formed and demanding your attention. Armoured Bear are such a band, although their honey-coated demands are whispered, with a please at the end, instead of screamed from the rooftops. Listening to Honeycomb Moons is like sinking into in the warmth and cosiness of a king-size duvet in front of a roaring open fire, while the wind howls and the rain pelts against the window outside. From start to finish, it’s possessed of a balmy fuzziness that’s impossible not to fall in love with. That said, it’s not to be recommended for fans of anything loud or fast: the pace barely raises itself above a gentle saunter and there’s nary a guitar strummed in anger throughout. Instead, it’s all dreamy harmonies, acoustic guitars and mildly soaring melodies, wrapped up with lyrics about consumerism, falling in love and small moments of magic: it even manages to use the word ‘Hallalujah’ without sounding twee. Our main criticism is that Honeycomb Moons could do with an occasional change of tempo to allay the nagging suspicion that this is just one very long single piece of music, with breaks thrown in merely to satisfy popular custom – ironically, our other gripe is the inclusion of the spoken word ‘Boy’, which upsets the tone too much. When you have tunes as blissfully gorgeous as the whimsical ‘Devil & Me’, the infectious ‘Sunburst’ or the tender ‘Imagination’, however, any qualms pale into insignificance: an album to submerge yourself in. ~ John Walshe

album’s stand-out tracks ‘Slow Jam’. Like Bellamy, Wirth has perhaps a tendency to work those pipes a little too much, just to show them off like. Because of this, the genuinely exciting instrumental musical journey at the heart of Paperwork can be overshadowed by overly dramatic vocal acrobatics. In other words, this album works best when the vocals fall back into the mix a bit, raising the tantalising ‘what if’ of a remix album. The voice thing might be just a matter of personal taste, though, and there is a lot here for fans of challenging post-punk to chew on. ~ Darragh McCausland

Rise Against Appeal To Reason

(interscope)

Everybody knows punk and politics go hand-inhand, and these recession-hit days are boom times for brainless anti-capitalist types like AntiFlag, but Chicago punk rockers Rise Against could never be accused of piggy-backing on their own beliefs: after all, vegan hardcore is hardly the new Beatlemania. Yet in spite of their progressive morals, Appeal To Reason is pop punk by numbers; as, dare we suggest, conservative a record as we’ll see released this year. The band’s list of influences doesn’t read very long: it begins in California with Bad Religion’s first record and finishes about four years later in DC, while frontman Tim

McIlrath seems to have spent most of the following decade waiting for The Goo Goo Dolls to blow up. McIlrath knows his way around a hook, but usually they’re buried beneath swathes of compressed guitars and drums. The record’s one genuine performer, bassist Joe Principe, is too often lost in the mix. Though their voices are eerily similar at times (our man has a greater range), McIlrath has little of John Rzeznik’s biting wit, and his lyrics generally revert to either impossibly vague meanderings about toil and perseverance (lead single ‘Re-Education (Through Labor)’, opener ‘Collapse (Post-Amerika)’) or mush like ‘Hero Of War’, a trite, agenda-ridden portrait of a very unlucky soldier indeed. The band’s few successes come when they let their guard down and explore more personal themes, such as lover’s lament ‘Whereabouts Unknown’ and the bouncy ‘The Dirt Whispered’- if only their social commentary could be this good! ~ Dave Donnelly

~ Johnnie Craig

Hayden In Field & Town

Ontario minstrel’s jollified, tuneful approach which takes him out of usual huddle of woolly folk depressives. If only his lyrical hatchings would land sunny side up once in a while: he has, apparently, more broken hearts than pencils and lost more girlfriends than he has socks. It just doesn’t sound like it, fortunately. The opening title track has a magnificently sprightly rhythm which could soundtrack whatever the Canadian equivalent of Morris dancing is; it’s a warm and wonderful song with a glorious, genre-mulching bassline. Hayden’s fragile, lilting voice is key to making the songs work; it lends more than a hint of early Stuart Murdoch to the glorious, trumpet-led ‘Worthy Of Your Esteem’, and glides easily through the driving jazziness of ‘The Van Song’. However, it’s worth the entry fee for two beautiful minutes in the company of elegiac piano lullaby ‘The Hardest Part’, the penultimate track on what isn’t the perfect album, but one that’s all the better for its imperfection.

Department Of Eagles (affairs of the heart)

The chronicles of Paul Hayden Desser’s work/ life balance stretch to a sixth album and there’s no sign of any musical weariness on his part. Far from being the archetypal, miserablist singersongwriter, there’s a crisp freshness about the

In Ear Park

(4ad)

Following the release of the spectacular Yellow House over two years ago and the bits n’pieces Friend EP last year, all has been relatively quiet in the Grizzly Bear camp. Step forward GB member Daniel Rossen and old college buddy Fred

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Albums

[

Frantic it may be, but this debut is also fun, with a capital ‘F’.

]

Story Of Hair Cheap Rate

(plugged in pig records)

Story Of Hair have been one of those bands that you know of but don’t really know for a while now, a name that you spot all over the place without actually being that aware of them. That situation should rapidly change, though, at least on the basis of this often impressive debut album. The order of the day is very much twisty indie guitars, back and forth boy/girl vocals and frantic drumming. It works, in small doses anyway. Story Of Hair’s great problem is that, over a whole album, they run the risk of starting to sound just a bit samey. It’s a pitfall that they do seem to address towards the end of the album, throwing in a couple of different styles to mix it up. The production of the ubiquitous Steve Shannon is sympathetic to their sound but not adverse to pushing them in new directions here and there, the odd synth line or interesting arrangement. At their best, Story Of Hair have the potential to be quite thrilling. ‘Big Melt’ drives along on almost Afrobeat guitars, the lovely ‘Done & Done’ rejoices in little trumpet flourishes and there are enough gleeful moments to suggest that mainstream radio play wouldn’t be out of the question. They just need to be careful that they don’t paint themselves into a musical corner, and that they start to expand it a bit more. As it stands though, a fine first effort. ~ Phil Udell

Nicolaus, with one of this year’s most beautifully crafted records. It would be unfair to classify Department Of Eagles as a mere side project; after all, the duo were together before Grizzly Bear formed, and while In Ear Park is in many ways a continuation of Yellow House, it very much stands on its own two feet. Its is jam-packed with exquisite melodies, ethereal tones, weird folk moments and the ability to surprise. For instance, ‘No One Does It’ is awash with almost Wilson-meets-Ink-Spots vocals, and then half-way through, the somewhat groovy backdrop is met by the chiming of a gorgeous guitar line. Elsewhere, the old-time recording style of ‘Teenagers’ cannot hide the fact that there are big and bruising epics underneath the soft, delicate skin of the 11 songs on show here. Grizzly Bear bandmates Chris Bear and Chris Taylor appear, although there is no contribution from Rossen’s fellow GB songwriter Ed Droste; yet, regardless of personnel, Rossen and Nicolaus’ creations are continually allowed room to reach their full potential, as evident on the woozily mighty ballad, ‘Floating On The Lehigh.’ There is wonder waiting around every corner of In Ear Park, and it has thrown down the gauntlet to Rossen’s other mob. Truly stunning stuff. ~ Ciaran Ryan

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals Cardinology

(lost highway)

If coherence was Ryan Adams’ mission on Cardinology, the Jacksonville-born songwriter

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has succeeded where he so often infuriated in the past. Partly due to his staggering output, and partly due to his inherent attraction to infuriate expectations (as anyone who’s seen his live shows will attest to) many of the records he has produced as a solo artist, as well on his albums with The Cardinals, have been as patchy as a teenager’s jeans in 1986. This record, however, stays on the straight and narrow and benefits greatly from it. That pedal steel guitar lines appear all of 14 seconds into this should give you a clue that this will be Adams at his most comfortable. We’re in alt. country town folks and he’s not coming back anytime soon. There is, however, some excellent stuff on offer from Adams, such as the scattershot polemic ‘Magick’ and all its dirty guitar, which, like many of the best tunes here, is over far too soon. The opening triumphant ‘Born Into A Light’, ‘Go Easy’ and ‘Fix It’ all swagger with confidence, while the bonus track included on the European version of the album, ‘Memory Lane’, is the kind of tender beauty often buried amongst the dross in his previous efforts. It’s not all top class, though, with some of the latter tracks being utterly forgettable, while the honkytonk quotient gets a little sickening on ‘Natural Ghost’. But when he’s talking about his new found sobriety on the gorgeous piano-led ‘Stop’ (“Honey there is a line that must be walked if you want to make it stop”), you get the feeling we may be entertaining a new and hopefully far less tedious chapter of Adams’ career. ~ John Joe Worrall

Deerhunter Microcastle

(4ad)

Microcastle is something of a surprise. On first listen, the downright straightforwardness of the first half of the record belies frontman Bradford Cox’s reputation for being awkward. He’s still a little weird, to be sure, but there’s a clear distinction between what Deerhunter sound like on their third album - a pop band – and the nervous oddities produced as Atlas Sound. It opens with a beautiful haze of guitars and synth that drifts along languidly, before changing gear and leading into ‘Agoraphobia’, the strongest song here, and with guitarist Lockett Pundt’s delicate croon, an obvious candidate for a second single. Built around simple little melodic turns, it remains gloriously uncomplicated for three and a half lazy minutes. This is a formula repeated often on Microcastle, as Cox’s new approach to songwriting: eschewing noise, he’s become “more interested in the micro-structure.” However, halfway through, the album changes pace abruptly, to songs composed of sluggish fragments, and the listener finds themselves focusing on the lyrics, detailing crucifixions and wasted lives: suddenly zooming in on the thoughts underpinning the record. It’s a strange effect, as though the band is pausing to examine some discomfort they’ve noticed. After the surreal emptiness and expanse of ‘Activa’, though, the thumping punk-pop of the compelling single ‘Nothing Ever Happened’ kicks in, the record takes off again, and apart from a slight drag in the closing tracks, doesn’t disappoint. Microcastle is an album that opens up in


Albums unexpected ways with each listen, and if there’s any justice, one which will win Deerhunter many new fans. ~ Shane Culloty

Indian Jewelry Sangles Redux

(skinny wolves)

Sangles Redux is a collection of Texan noiseniks, Indian Jewelry’s earlier work and boy did it blow State’s head off! Indian Jewelry come at us like a hip Texan psychedelica posse enveloped in the sound of The Velvet Underground and screaming with the jittering vitriol of punk. ‘Going South’ is our first eye opener. It’s a haunting tune with statuesque vocals, a la Mark.E. Smith, set against feedback- drenched jangling guitar lines and a hipster out-of-time beat, before we’re led into the saxophone meltdown: “We’re going south” chants Tex hypnotically, and State is inclined to follow. ‘The Same Mistake Man’ brings us into swirling psychedelia and pulsating electronica territory, while ‘Lost My Sight’ is an intense and uneasy squealing mess: machinery violently thrashes together as Tex intones some inaudible words. Terrifying stuff! Another highlight is ‘Chasing Rats Out’, which builds and layers the crisp drumbeat until it sounds like a zombie army is marching towards us. As we progress, Erika Thrasher lends her detached vocals to some of the closing tracks, making everything she touches seem effervescently cool: watch out Kim Gordon! There is something darkly alluring and fiercely enchanting about Indian Jewelry. Their unconventional approach to songwriting makes them genuinely refreshing. Sangles Redux buzzes right out of your speakers, direct to your cranium with electrically charged ideas: a band with a view to becoming monumental. Rock and roll as we should know it. ~ Tia Clarke

Keane Perfect Symmetry

(island)

Keane return with their post-rehab album and from the off, it’s chirpier than the mid-paced melodrama we’ve come to expect. Opener ‘Spiralling’ tugs at your ears insistently, daring even non-Keane aficionados not to be impressed. It’s perfectly polished pop fare, with a dollop of ‘80s production nous thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, it’s also the best thing on Perfect Symmetry. They seem to have foregone the piano tinkering of past glories, replacing it with an Aha-style synth sound, with only the title track and ‘Love Is The End’ approaching the lighters-in-the-air moments they’re famed for, choral epiphanies joining Tom Chaplin’s boy soprano warblings for added gravitas on the former. The big problem here isn’t the melodies, which

are perfectly acceptable (aside from the embarrassingly awful faux-calypso backing to ‘Pretend That You’re Alone’). It’s the fact that Chaplin’s lyrics read like bad adolescent poetry, nowhere moreso than on the otherwise catchy ‘The Lovers Are Losing’: “We cling to love like a skidding car clings to a corner”. In general, he seems to be longing for an escape from the rat-race of releasing multi-platinum albums, “the time of our comfort and plenty”, a sentiment sure to resonate with their primarily upper middle class fanbase. Keane have undoubtedly created another mega-selling album, as Perfect Symmetry is brimming over with the kind of infectious but vapid catch-all anthems beloved of radio programmers since Chris Martin first tickled their ivories. Its biggest failing is that it pretends it has real soul when in reality, it’s little more than Wet Wet Wet for stadiums. Music for the organic dinner party generation. ~ John Walshe

Kaiser Chiefs Off With Their Heads

(universal music)

Swiftly after the disappearance of Yours Truly, Angry Mob Kaiser Chiefs have returned with Off With Their Heads. Obviously the Chiefs are angry about something, but whatever it is, they’re not channeling it into their music. The album opens with the driving ‘Spanish Metal’, a track with five part harmonies which sounds like the band have taken a leaf out of Muse’s book, and then swiftly leads into recent single ‘Never Miss A Beat’, another stomper with a much bigger sound than we’re used to from this Leeds quintet. Unfortunately, the album descends into the Kaiser Chiefs’ usual “oh oh oh” vocals with ‘You Want History’. No lads, we just want a better melody. ‘Tomato In The Rain’ is as bland as the title suggests and ‘It Always Happens Like That’ is another predictable filler with dreadful lyrics. If these made it onto the album, it begs the question, how bad were the ones that didn’t? There are some other highlights, like the beautiful strings arranged by David Arnold on ‘Like It Too Much’ and the ’60s-influenced keyboard on ‘Can’t Say What I Mean’. ‘Half the Truth’ features an unlikely collaboration with rapper Sway which doesn’t work on paper but actually sounds pretty good on record. All in all, it’s a patchy album with moments of great songwriting, which are unfortunately

dragged down by half finished ideas and writeby-numbers melodies. Perhaps the Chiefs need to take a longer break between albums to create something truly great. ~ Alexandra Donald

The Vines Melodia

(cooking vinyl)

When everyone got excited about their debut album Highly Evolved in 2002, The Vines became the biggest Australian group in the world. Extensive touring led to comparisons with The Hives, The White Stripes and The Strokes, while frontman Craig Nicholls became known for his feral antics, which unfortunately led to the band’s hiatus due to Nicholls’ diagnosis with Aspergers Syndrome. Six years and two poorly received albums later, The Vines are back. State must admit that all preconceptions were dashed on the first listen to Melodia. The bands proclivity for light grunge guitar riffs is evident immediately on the opener ‘Get Out’. It’s a stomping anthem that showcases once more Nicholls’ screaming vocals and his knack for pop-sensible rock melodies. The heaviness is carried through to the dirty drum laden ‘Manger’ and then the record does a handbrake turn into the Oasis influenced ‘A.S III’, a slow, psychedelic acoustic ballad. Melodia continues on in this vein; wherever there is an all-out Nirvana-tinged rock tune, there is a laconic, lovelorn ballad to follow. Even though ‘Braindead’ is the standout track, exploding with thick bass and a killer chorus, ‘Orange Amber’ and ‘A Girl I Knew’ confirm the band’s soft spot for the surf pop of the ’60s, attempting the familiar harmonies of The Beatles and Beach Boys. It’s the slower tempo surf-songs that make this collection of 14 tracks (90% of which are two and a half minutes or under) an enjoyable aural experience. This mix of high power and tenderness signals a return to form for The Vines. Although there’s nothing original here, Melodia is an album to appreciate at its face value and may just get you excited about this band all over again. ~ Pamela Halton

Corrugated Tunnel I Am Corrugated

(invisible agent/seedyr)

Most artists falling under the painfully trendy and ever morphing title of ‘electro’ in 2008 are expected to present a dance-floor friendly combination of indie rock and quirky vocals, with a dash of synthesizers thrown in for good measure. Corrugated Tunnel, also known as the Corkbased Edwin James, however, has not given in to the mould set by his electro-counterparts with his second album, I Am Corrugated. The title and opening track bases itself around a sombre bass line, whereas ‘High Tides’ provides a more uplifting, if abruptly concluding

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Albums

[

]

A rabid return to form for Robert Smith & Co.

The Cure 4:13 Dream

(geffen)

The Cure’s thirteenth studio album has certainly been a long time coming. Not only has it been four years since their last record, but 4:13 Dream seems to have been in the pipeline for an age – preceded by a world tour and a string of singles. Yet it’s hard to get the sense that, outside of their inner fan circle, the world is particular excited by the prospect of another Cure record. Maybe that feeling has permeated into Robert Smith’s world, for this is as near to the sound of The Cure coming out fighting as you could imagine. Stripped back to a four piece (including a returning Porl Thompson), this is the rawest The Cure have sounded for years, even back to the days of ‘Killing An Arab’. It’s an approach that really suits them, resulting in a band that sound far more engaged and energised than we could have dared hope. What makes the record even more notable, however, is Smith’s return to form as a pop songwriter. The Sigur Ros style opening of ‘Underneath The Stars’ aside, 4:13 Dream is a record stuffed full of catchy tunes and memorable melodies. It’s as if The Cure’s most successful worlds have collided, exploding into a set of songs that just might be the best they’ve produced in years. ‘The Reasons Why’, ‘The Real Snow White’, ‘The Perfect Boy’ – any one of them (and more) are able to stand up alongside the band’s glory years. Completely unexpected it may be, but The Cure have returned as kings. ~ Phil Udell

listen. Both feature the slow string arrangements which permeate the entire album, and, combined with a certain amount of repetition, result in a soothing yet sometimes still intriguing sound. ‘Slope Type A/B’ doesn’t achieve much in its five slow minutes, however, and ‘Last One Standing’ sees the pace picked up, yet still nothing overtly interesting happens. ‘The Drifter’ is the only track on the album to feature vocals; the low tones of Deborah Kay ensuring that James’ downbeat blend of beeps, beats and strings is complemented rather than interrupted: a little interruption, however, might not have gone astray. It may not be of any use to an indie disco DJ, but the stylistic efforts of James have to be credited. That said, while I Am Corrugated might leave the listener in a tranquil mood, it won’t leave them with a great inclination to come back for more. One to be appreciated by those in the know, and left at that. ~ Kate Rothwell

someone you’ve never before met but had assumed to be an asshole. Reassured of its musical non-awfulness, State began to plead with the CD for the next crucial element (the vocals) to not let the team down. And as a largely instrumental record, it’s auspicious in that regard. Sadly though, a lack of vocals and variation means that the chunky riffs and hip-hop beats which initially excite, begin to grow tiresome over the prescribed 50 minutes. Where the likes of Ratatat make music which remains wholly enjoyable outside of the confines of a nightclub, Skew is doing a similar thing but with more repetition and less memorability: all too often, the sound of a voice is missing from the mix, with nothing in its place for us to hum and whistle. Citing influences as far flung as John Carpenter and The Killers, and somehow actually finding a strange place between the two, several of the tracks here are successful, blistering jams. But as a long-playing record, something is most certainly askew. ~ Bobby Aherne

Skew Skew

(it’s bananas)

‘Skew’ sounds like the name of some terrible ‘90s alt-rock band destined to linger forever in a charity shop bargain bin, and the cover of the New York producer’s eponymous debut does little to douse this impression. Fortunately, hearing the frontal, overdriven synth intro of inaugural track ‘Stadiums Are OK Too’ is the equivalent of receiving a warm handshake and a charming smile from

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~ Ciara O’Brien

Fiona Melady The Fear I Fear

The Fear I Fear is the result of this experience. On the face of it, it’s a good album. The sound changes from one track to the next: as soon as you think you know what to expect, Melady throws something completely different at you and there’s a depth to everything she does that shines through in her music. Standout track is the first single and title track, proving that Melady is extremely talented vocally. However, while the album gets off to a great start, it loses pace a bit in the centre. Some of the songs drag on a fraction too long and can lose the listener - not something that an artist can afford in a climate where instant gratification is everything. On the other hand, though, it’s refreshing to see something a little less formulaic than the usual pop fare. So hats off to Melady for delivering something different. Overall, The Fear I Fear is a good effort. Melady’s music will definitely shine, but maybe not as bright as you would have hoped with this album. Definitely one to watch for the future.

Adebisi Shank (1db)

The name Fiona Melady might not mean much to music fans now. She hasn’t properly stepped into the spotlight, despite her extensive experience on the music scene. The singer has worked with the likes of Paddy Casey and Gemma Hayes, something that shows through in her music, and also did a stint playing keyboards with Turn.

This Is The Album Of A Band (richter collective) Called Adebisi Shank Outside the mainstream, certainly, even their underground bedfellows are often confused by Adebisi Shank. Trading in brutal, instrumental mayhem, the three-piece take things to edge of reason, pause for a second and then press on. Following on from their ‘This Is The EP Of A Band


Albums Called Adebisi Shank’ EP, their debut album is akin to being battered around the head with a plank of wood – in a good way. The playing is fast and furious but crucially never loses its focus or structure and amongst the chaos lie eight real songs, albeit thrashed to fuck. At 23 minutes, the record realises that overstaying its welcome may have been a very real possibility and does what it needs to before making a swift exit. What it needs to do, however, is make a noise that has a resonance far beyond these shores, whether it be the US (where they recorded the album with Jawbox producer J.Robbins), Europe or even Japan, as well as having ties with the ever burgeoning domestic scene. The most encouraging thing about Adebisi Shank is how they refuse to let themselves be bound by any of the perceived rules – of what a three-piece can do, of what instrumental music should sound like and of what an independent Irish band can strive for. ~ Phil Udell

Duke Special I Never Thought This Day Would Come

(universal)

second album proper (the first, Adventures in Gramophone was a collection of EPs). I Never Thought This Day Would Come is soaked in those traditionalist values. It picks up where his previous releases left off, with the main reference points being vaudeville and pop-orchestral big-band arrangements. There can be no doubt though that Duke is now a more concise songwriter; his vocal melodies are now reined in tighter than before and the songs channel elements of another Northern boy, Van Morrison at times. ‘Sweet, Sweet Kisses’ is a perfect example of the album’s boisterousness. It’s a jaunty tune, all horns and drums with a fairytale feel. At times, the arrangements are a teensy bit cabaret, like the title track with its easy listening show-tune vibe and on ‘Diggin’ An Early Grave’, you can almost see the choreographed, costumed pirates dancing along, but Duke embraces those oldfashioned dramatics. Fundamentally, the album is brimming with accomplished and ambitious arrangements which owe a huge debt to the work of the RTE Concert Orchestra and a great supporting band. That’s not a sleight on Duke himself, who proves himself as an engaging ringmaster throughout. ~ Warren Jones

It was fitting that Duke paired himself up with Neil Hannon last year. Both artists are songsmiths, architects of their own unique place in the world of pop. Both Hannon and Duke owe a great debt to archaic yet timeless songcraft and it is those values that Duke holds dear on his

Digital

House of Cosy Cushions Animal Dream

(seadog records)

Cursed with a moniker so sickeningly twee that it

conjures up images of errant members of Belle & Sebastian and The Field Mice crocheting bonnets for poorly kittens on a rainy eve, the last thing you expect from House of Cosy Cushions is an album with a mournful, twisted heart of darkness, but that is what Richard Bolhuis’ band of wandering minstrels deliver. Animal Dream is an intensely dramatic affair, a collection of tales of soured romance, bitterness and longing that has a bombastic, almost theatrical quality about it: all spiralling strings, wailing vocals, pounding piano and the occasional genteel ballad. In the right places, on tracks such as the icy opener ‘Naked As Pain’ or the charming ‘I Sew My Heart Into Your Soul’, it can echo the delicate, maudlin beauty of Tindersticks or Stina Nordenstam. Unfortunately, the problem with all this profound passion and solemn emotion is that it can make the album brain-crushingly, embarrassingly po-faced and inoffensive to the point of dinner party background music blandness. When it’s not steering dangerously into the middle of the road, the album’s up-tempo numbers, such as the free-wheeling title track or the instrumental interlude ‘Jaunt’, veer off into a land last occupied by a myriad of faceless Irish bands of the ’90s. With its hand-claps, yelps and the bizarre inclusion of a trombone, which is not used as punctuation to a punch-line, it’s hard to see where they fit into the scheme of the more constrained, well structured power of Animal Dream. ~ Jennifer Gannon

~ Niall Byrne

The Mighty Underdogs

Starfucker

Droppin’ Science Fiction

Starfucker

The Mighty Underdogs are a hip-hop supergroup spearheaded by rappers Gift of Gab from Blackalicious and Lateef of Latyrx, along with producer Headnodic, with appearances from MF Doom, DJ Shadow, Mr Lif, Chali 2na and the brothers Damian and Julian Marley. Truth be told, the result is not as impressive as its regal cast, so you pick and choose with this one.

Hailing from Portland, these lo-fi poppers have a riotous live rep. across the pond. However, far from being the next idiot hipster dance party, this debut album proves there’s a meticulous edge to their sound which was lost in translation live. It has a relaxed sunny Sunday morning kind of vibe we cannot recommend more highly.

Available at eMusic and iTunes

Available at eMusic and iTunes

Reefer Reefer

Classic albums from Sunbear, Red Star Belgrade

Here’s a novel idea. We’ve mentioned Irish music blogger MP3Hugger’s previous compilation releases but he’s now started to digitally reissue forgotten and underappreciated albums, which have been long out of print, for just €3.50. Starting with Red Star Belgrade’s Where The Sun Doesn’t Shine and Sunbear’s self-titled debut. Get on the nostalgia buzz. www.indiecater.com

Taking a break from his day job with Islands, Nick Thorburn teamed up with hip-hop producer Daddy Kev and the pair sequestered themselves fittingly enough on an island, or more specifically the Hawaiian island of Maui. The setting has an indelible effect on the resulting album, which is full of sun-kissed Pacific touches like steel guitar, ukelele and a tropical ambience, as well as remixes by Flying Lotus and Dntel. Lovely stuff.

School of Seven Bells Half Asleep

Get acquainted with twins Alejandra and Claudia and their mate Benjamin who make up Brooklyn electronic shoegazers School of Seven Bells. This two track single is a precursor to their album Alpinisms, which is out later this month. Available at eMusic

Available at iTunes

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Albums

[

Welsh collective’s second album takes a ridiculously short eight months.

]

Los Campesinos! We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed

(wichita records)

In this day and age, it seems rushed for a band to only let eight months pass between albums. There was a time when this was normal; indeed, only eight months passed between The Beatles’ Rubber Soul and Revolver. Not that Los Campesinos!’ sophomore album, We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed is in the same league as either of those records. This is pretty much business as usual for Los Campesinos!: they haven’t suddenly hired 64-piece orchestras or made a Belgian Techno-influenced album. Within the 10 angsty, fun-packed songs, you still get huge dollops of shouty chanting alongside swelling violins and obligatory tinny indie guitars. It is less twee, less fluffy than their debut, Hold On Now Youngster. It may not exactly be ‘mature’ (if the first album was the musical equivalent of a sugar-buzzed eight-year-old, the new one is the sound of a cider-fuelled 16year-old) but it’s Gareth Campesinos’ spot-on lyrics which raise them beyond being just another indie band. So, you get gems like “It’s as if I walked into the room to see my ex-girlfriend, who by the way I’m still in love with, sucking the face off some pretty boy with my favourite band’s most popular song on in the background”. Whether Los Campesinos have it in them to make a classic is yet to be seen but, as highly enjoyable as this record is, next time they might want to take a little bit longer than eight months to create it. ~ Shane Galvin

Everlast

lc by jon bergman

Love, War And The Ghost Of Whitey Ford

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(pias)

It starts with a fanfare, and why not? It’s been too long since we’ve heard from the former House Of Pain frontman, and he deserves a bit of an entrance. And what a statement of intent it is: ‘Kill The Emperor’ has our hero spitting enough vengeance and vitriol for a studio full of budget analysts, proving that the fire in his belly hasn’t abated over the years, taking aim at The New York Times, CNN and “politicians who pretend to be the working man’s friend”. All the while the backdrop is grimy. Taking on Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ isn’t usually a wise move, but Everlast manages it, even throwing some ‘Jump Around’-ish wahwah into the equation, while the acoustic ‘Friend’ and ‘Stay’ are much simpler, but more effective as a result. The surprisingly poignant ‘Letters Home From The Garden Of Stone’ has him taking on the role of a soldier at the front, writing home to his loved ones, as the beat replicates the hum of chopper rotors. It doesn’t all work: ‘Stone In My Hand’ is a bit heavy-handed lyrically, while musically it’s a bit too hick-hop for most tastes; ‘Die In Your Hand’ has our hero taking on the likes of Kanye or Usher in the ‘I’m da man’ stakes, and losing; while ‘Dirty’ sits equally uncomfortably. When he tries to become Mr Loverman, the results are invariably clunky and Everlast is at his best when he’s raging against whatever machine

gets in the crosshairs of his ire. Thankfully, over the course of these 16 tracks there’s plenty to make him angry. ~ Miles Stewart

Blitzen Trapper Furr

and band. That’s not to say, however, that the band’s ventures into indie are disappointing: the underlying country influences remain apparent throughout, especially in songs like ‘God & Suicide’ and ‘War On Machines’. Where the album delivers its true reward, though, is in the good, honest folk tunes like the title track or the soulful country number, ‘Stolen Shoes & A Rifle’. Indeed, it feels as if the album has been leading up to this moment, where the band finally allow themselves to truly explore their most comfortable musical suit. Disregarding the album’s only real failure ‘Echo/Always On/Ez Con’, the unsettling and inconsistent attempt at some sort of musical triptych, this is an admirable record which incorporates beautifully the folk tradition of storytelling but also makes time for more generally appealing indie-infused tracks. ~ Jack Higgins

(sub pop)

Blitzen Trapper’s fourth album couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s a little bit country, a little bit rock n’ roll and offers a comprehensive journey through everything we’ve ever loved about American music. Now that our summer festival flings with the new wave of American indie kids have become but a hazy memory, it‘s time for something a little bit different. The all important opener ‘Sleepy Time In The Western World’ may draw (not entirely undeserved) comparisons to fellow Sub Poppers, The Shins but Furr soon transcends into altogether more comfortable folk realms, for both listener

Herman Dune Next Year In Zion

(city slang)

With Next Year In Zion, folksters Herman Dune have thrown their hats into the ring for the coveted accolade of most hideous album cover of the year (two spot-lit French hippies escape from fashion prison in the ’70s). While the music itself doesn’t live up to the cover’s hellish promises of twee aural torture, it doesn’t quite escape the slightly fluffy, tongue-in-cheek niche that Herman Dune have created for themselves over their career, either. Of course, that means fans of the


Albums

[

Slightly bonkers sophomore effort from NY experimental music collective.

]

Gang Gang Dance Saint Dymphna

(warp records)

On Saint Dymphna, as with their critically acclaimed debut, Gang Gang Dance aren’t afraid to get down and artsy, sounding a lot like The Knife and Tangerine Dream at a trippy pagan dance party. They’ve been busy: since 2005, they’ve opened for the likes of Animal Collective, Sonic Youth and Massive Attack, and participated in The Boredoms’ 88 drummers ‘88 Boadrum’ piece. Named after the patron saint of mental illness, Saint Dymphna’s tracks are pixels in a sprawling picture, one track flowing into the next in an organic ebb and flow. Rejecting what they see as stale rock traditions, the experimental Brooklyn collective use tribal drums, fuzzy synths, otherworldly vocals and fractured Asian rhythms to create a collage free from chorus and verse. Album opener ‘Bebey’ crackles as Lizzi Bougatsos’ punky Kate Bush morphs into blessed-out Middle Eastern house, culminating in ‘Blue Nile’s meandering Zen. ‘Princes’ adds MC Tinchy Stryder for a spot of random garage, before yielding to the seductive, disco-sexy ‘House Jam’, the album’s most mainstream track. Saint Dymphna flummoxes as it captivates. On one hand, their neo-tribal rhythms and Zen grooves are as multi-facetted as a cut gem. On the other, their dedication to form that’s formless occasionally leaves you squinting for signposts on an aural trip through punk via new age dance. Controlled chaos is the group’s ethos, and its ideal for freestlyin’: just don’t expect Gang Gang to hand you a musical GPS. ~ Deanna Ortiz

well-received 2006 recording Giant will find plenty to love here while others will find perfectly pleasant and sometimes irritating country and folk. Things start off gently and persuasively with the spare, clip-clopping ‘My Home Is Nowhere Without You’, a song which introduces a gratifying country thread that ties the record together. Indeed, most of the arrangements on Next Year In Zion are wrapped in a softer coat of the sort of Tex Mex trumpets and slide guitar at which Calexico excel. Ultimately, however, the music is forgettable for the most part, and a pretty frame for David-Ivar Herman Dune’s lyrics, which are the real clincher as to whether you will like this album or not. He’s a French Jens Lekman of sorts, spinning whimsical, gentle love stories featuring burritos, coconuts and sharks. If you haven’t yet reached for the sick bucket, then it might be for you. ~ Darragh McCausland

Squarepusher Just A Souvenir

(warp)

It had to happen. Tom Jenkinson has finally made the album that he has been suggesting throughout his career. Yes, Squarepusher has made his virtuosic jazz bass opus. Having been celebrated in recent years for his bass-playing skills by the likes of Andre 3000 of Outkast and BBC’s The Culture Show, it seems he’s finally made the jump to skill over appreciation. In the past, Jenkinson has excelled at making the most intricate and punishing examples of techno-infused drill and bass that was as

beautiful as it was impossible to dance to. Here, Jenkinson is returning to his original love of a bass guitar (he used to play bass in bands and considered his electronic music a side project). The album is heaving with a glut of bass fretwanking, complicated note patterns, distorted thrash-jazz that borders on the bizarre but rarely the brilliant. He has claimed that the album was inspired by a daydream “about watching a crazy, beautiful rock band play an ultra-gig” and Just A Souvenir is his effort to replicate that. Unfortunately, he has had no-one to keep him in check and he ends up playing the bass like a coked-up Howard Moon, cramming as many notes as possible into spaces that won’t allow it. It worked when he did the same with sampled drums but this does not. His choice of accompanying instruments on the first few tracks have the punch of MIDI files and even the cheeky vocoder-based, and actually funky ‘Coat Hanger’ grates after two minutes. Maybe, as the title suggests, this is merely a once-off throwaway release that he needed to get out of his system. We certainly hope so. ~ Niall Byrne

Those Dancing Days In Our Space Hero Suits

(wichita)

There was a time when we’d have fallen off a chair at the thought of five lovely Swedish teenage girls in a band playing around with pop sounds from before they were born, dipping toes into Phil Spector’s sounds and Northern Soul. It may be possible that this member of State has proudly

matured over the intervening years, though what’s much more likely is that this constant retreading of a golden age of ’60s’ pop has just tired us a little. There was an initial buzz of pleasure a few years ago when The Pipettes took the same approach and for a few singles, there were hips swaying to these old familiar pop beats. Now, however, this constant photocopying of a genre has smoothed out the edges and quirks and what we have from TTD on this album is much more of a copy of a style than an album of original Scando-pop. They do include some soft punk elements in the simple guitar and drums but the overall theme is the bubbly ’60s. Curly singer Linnea Jonsson is as distinctive and pretty as you’ll get in a front-woman. She has a strong, confident voice too, especially considering she’s only just out of the age bracket for a mini-pops album, though some songs really don’t use her voice well (‘Kids’). The music itself suffers, in the main, by quite heavily aping the ’60s sounds. There’s a feeling that stripping away some of these layers of imitation would reveal some meaty original pop songs lying just under the surface (‘Hitten’, ‘Home Sweet Home’ and ‘Run Run’). This style TTD play with is a double-edged sword. First, it gives a comfort in familiarity but ultimately, you realise that once you go back to, say, a bit of Marlena Shaw, the Swedes can’t hold a candle. But this here is pop, and young, uncynical pop and that shouldn’t be forgotten. 43 minutes of optimism. Budget? What budget? ~ Simon Roche

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Reissues & Compilations Another double-CD collection of gems from the studio floor.

Bob Dylan Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8

(columbia)

That this is the eighth multi-disc collection of official Dylan bootlegs says a whole lot about His Bobness’ creativity and his standards. Frankly, it’s incredible to think that some of these 27 tracks weren’t considered good enough to appear on an album proper. The folksy epic, ‘Red River Shore’, augmented by Augie Meyers’ stunning Tex-Mex accordion, is worth the price of admission alone, with Dylan’s muse up and flying (session musician Jim Dickinson claimed that in omitting this from Time Out Of Mind, they had left the best song off the record). With 27 tracks and extensive sleeve-notes from long-time Dylan aficionado Larry ‘Ratso’ Sloman, this is required listening for Dylan completists, with plenty of alternate takes and early demos (the piano version of ‘Dignity’ is simply stunning). But there’s plenty here for the casual fan to appreciate too. The second version of ‘Mississippi’, a song which finally surfaced on Love And Theft, is up there with Dylan’s finest work, the old-school R&B take on ‘Everything Is Broken’ rivals the final version for effectiveness and the galloping ‘Series Of Dreams’ would be a star in any other songwriter’s canon. ‘Can’t Escape From You’ has Bob doing his best Tom Waits impression, while ‘Miss The Mississippi’ is simply heartbreaking. Recorded between 1989 and 2006, mostly around the time of his stupendous Time Out Of Mind and Oh Mercy albums, these songs are, for the most part, smoky, swamp-filled country-blues, thanks often to Daniel Lanois’

~ John Walshe

Various Artists

Stereophonics

Late Night Tales by Matt Helders from Arctic Monkeys

Decade In The Sun – Best of

~ Saoirse Patterson

Boyzone (mercury)

Back Again... No Matter What

(polydor)

(azuli)

Arctic Monkeys’ sticksman Matt Helders rummages through his record collection for the latest in the Late Night Tales series to create a mixtape of his all-time favourite after dark tracks. Or so the PR blurb goes. Since DJ sets at daybreak became popular in 1970s’ discotheques, right through to the modern phenomenon of the ‘back to mine’ house party, the most suitable soundtrack for such soirees has been emotive and calm, with a euphoric edge. Previous Late Night… contributors Groove Armada and Fatboy Slim got the tone down pat. Matt, however, fails miserably – in every sense of the word. While there are some gems (Simian Mobile Disco’s ‘I Believe’, Minnie Riperton’s ‘Reasons’, Luniz’s ‘I Got Five On It’), the overall tone is subdued, and often anxious and tense. If the blurb is to be believed and Matt plays this stuff at his sessions, god love his poor guests! When he does attempt to inject some hopefulness, Matt gets it horribly wrong. His cover of Livin’ Joy’s classic ‘Dreamer’ is almost identical to the original, and anyway, its ecstatic vocal renders it a 1am tune, not a post-club one. The tagged on short story read by Alex Turner just sums up this compilation – random, directionless and a waste of time.

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trademark production nous, as well as his fabulous dobro playing. Some of it’s disposable, including ’32-20 Blues’ and most of the live recordings, but there’s plenty of sublime material here that’s on a par with the Minnesota Bard’s best work.

What’s in a drummer? Are they just a rhythmic vehicle for melody, or a band’s backbone, offering a cornerstone of stability when new roads are explored? In the case of Stereophonics, the argument is in strongly favour of the latter. Listening to this collection of greatest hits, you can clearly spot the point when Stereophonics’ mojo left them. It was somewhere between 2001’s Just Enough Education To Perform and You Gotta Go There To Come Back in 2003, when a breakdown in relations saw childhood friend and resident ‘interesting one’ Stuart Cable ejected from the band. Kelly and Richard Jones (no relation) trudged on, probably wondering what it would do to Stereophonics. Decade In The Sun is their answer. The tidy hooks - the band’s strongest weapon - and no-nonsense arena rock were replaced with tiredness and moments of compensatory pretence. Try this: listen to dull, derivative stinkers like ‘It Means Nothing’ from 2007’s Pull The Pin, and then the giddiness of follow-up track ‘A Thousand Trees’. Now do the same with the first two songs; the wanky ‘Dakota’ and the thumping ‘The Bartender And The Thief’. It’s like two different bands, and that’s because it is. Stuart Cable mightn’t have written these early glories, but you feel his departure was a case of the baby going out with the bathwater. Perhaps he was simply the kick in the hole that the Joneses (still no relation) are now in desperate need of. ~ Hilary A. White

Let’s not for one minute pretend that we don’t know why Boyzone have decided to stop whatever it is they’ve been doing and get back together. It’s the same reason that East 17, All Saints, Spice Girls, 5ive and the rest all wanted to give a go: the success of Take That and the notion that pop reunions are a licence to print money. They’re not and the reason Take That worked is not only that they were good in the first place, but that they came back even better. For Boyzone, life isn’t so kind. A commercial rollercoaster they may have been but gather their hits together in one place and it becomes clear that, quite often, the general public don’t know shit. They just buy lots of it. The reality of the situation was that Boyzone were little more than a machine for turning reasonably good (or, in the case of Cat Stevens, great) songs into bland and marketable records. At its best – and those bands mentioned above all managed it – pop is music in its purest form. Boyzone were, and now still are, so far off the mark that it’s not true. There are, god forbid, two new tracks here and they just confirm that these are nothing more than Westlife’s wheezy uncles. Pitiful. ~ Phil Udell


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TV C RUN C H TEL LY

Words by

MAIA DUNPHY

Pat Kenny looks for sponsorship ideas

the recession, but will be because the only people left who still watch it are the ones who queue up to participate, so presumably it will have eaten itself by the next series.

it looks like the credit crunch has well and truly hit the small screen. As if the writers’ strike If we thought about it for a second, affecting our favourite US shows earlier this year wasn’t bad enough, now the recession means we’re hearing tales of telly woe across the board – cutbacks, cutbacks and more cutbacks. We all knew these trying times would mean less eating out, no new cars and a farewell to all those weekend breaks we had become so used to, but at least we had our old friend the TV to sit in with: although admittedly, instead of a take-away and bottle of wine, it would now be a yellow pack meal and quarter bottle from Lidl. Well we were wrong; do not adjust your sets, prepare for your viewing entertainment to be royally interfered with.

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though, we’d know it makes sense. Every industry is cutting back on spending, so why should television be any different? Commissioners are less likely to take risks on big-budget or new shows, advertising is down, and every penny spent has to be accounted for in a way it never really was before. Over the next year, don’t expect to see too many new hour-long weekly dramas with big casts coming in from the US and UK, and get used to a few more years of yet more cheap and nasty renewable reality formats, with the exception of Big Brother, which will hopefully get the chop: this, however, will have nothing whatsoever to do with

And what of TV at home? With exciting new drama like Raw currently on Irish screens, will RTE have the cojones to keep taking chances with our license fees? Only time will tell. The first sign that purse-strings will have to be tightened at RTE is always the lack of sponsors for their flagship shows. Every year, the press love to spread the rumours that no sponsors can be found for their biggest shows, but it always works out. Not this year. Tubridy Tonight pulled a sponsor out of the bag at the eleventh hour in the shape of The Sunday Times (keep an eye out for the inevitable Tubridy Jazz CD free with the paper some time soon), but poor old Pat’s Late Late Show went to air with no sponsor, and to date still has none. (Which means less of Pat’s substantial salary is coming from a car manufacturer or big bank). But at the same time, we all understand that we can’t have one of our most popular broadcasters stooping too low. You can imagine the head honchos sitting around a boardroom table discussing the show’s options: “We couldn’t get Toyota. None of the banks are doing much at the moment, so we had to try another avenue. So far, only Odour Eaters and Nurofen have expressed any interest”. You just couldn’t have it. The Late Late Show in association with Preparation H – where do you draw the line? So Pat and his team have had to go to air sponsorless. One wonders if the viewer will notice any cutbacks at all? Probably not, until we sit down to enjoy that wonderfully nostalgic perennial family favourite, which is as big a part of Christmas viewing as Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, The Late Late Toy Show, and the prize for


TV Ones to Watch

everyone in the audience is a Wispa and a packet of Rennie. Then we know we’re all for the high jump.

The one interesting viewing statistic about the early days of recession, is that far more people sit down to watch the news. Folk who would have had all the soaps on back-to-back, now shun the double bill of Friends to watch the 9 o’clock news, or the Sky business report. It becomes a sort of masochistic pleasure, as people want to know what how bad things are going to get, and frankly, we all have a lot more in common to talk about as a result. Everyone becomes an armchair economist. Where usually you would only exchange pleasantries with the guy in the sandwich bar across the road at lunchtime, now he asks have you heard the ECB are lowering interest rates by half a percent and let’s hope they pass on the benefit quickly and would you like that toasted? Whilst getting a blow dry (that you can only afford because the salon has had to halve the price Monday thru Thursday), the stylist, who usually only comments on highlights and holidays, says she saw on the news that inflation is set to rise by an unprecedented 5% this year, and won’t we really feel the pinch if that happens and do you think you’ll get a chance to get away this year? But never fear, once the dust settles and everyone gets used to their newfound misery, we’ll all get back to watching more rubbish than ever, and for once “I’m staying in to watch telly” won’t be a sad excuse for not going out, because everyone will be doing it. And far more people than ever will be watching television: admittedly, it may be a lot of re-runs and reality shows, and ads will be less of the award-winning Nicole-Kidmanin-Paris stuff, and more of the cut-price supermarket stuff, and loud voice-overs shouting bargain deals about microwaves and sofas at you. And of course, countless reminders to pay your TV licence.

Spooks W BBC 1 Series 7 of the award winning spy drama is back this autumn. I have to admit to missing all six of the previous series, but am under strict instructions to give it a go, and have been assured that it can be picked up easily. The only thing I have to go on is that now infamous scene from a couple of series ago, when a police officer was murdered by having her face forced into a vat of boiling oil. Get in the popcorn. The Podge & Rodge Show RTE 2, Monday & Tuesday They’re back, but they’ve made a few changes. Lucy has left the Manor and instead of replacing her, the boys have decided to ‘road test’ some of Ireland’s top totty for the job. A different piece of eye candy (including Michelle Heaton and Amanda Brunker) will try and keep the lads in line every week. And presumably fail.

Are You An Egghead? BBC2, Monday The Eggheads are arguably the finest quiz team in Britain. During the last five series, this formidable bunch of geeks have taken on all challengers, and won. In this new series, the competition for the contestants - including three past Mastermind winners - is not to beat the Eggheads but to join the team; and only one place is available. Why you would want to would need a whole other series to look into. Desperate Housewives RTE 2, Tuesday The ladies of Wisteria Lane are back. One of them’s now dead, one of them’s now fat, and it’s five years into the future. Or something. We don’t care, it’s just something else to become addicted to in the absence of nice weather or having any money to do anything.

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DVD (who seems uneasy at times) spends his time shouting at high volume, disregarding subtlety and dynamics out of necessity. The second feature, collated from smaller venues throughout the tour, finds him more at ease, allowing his assumed mantle as Ireland’s most popular and insightful comedian to be held as evident. ~ Niall Byrne

For Fans of: Loose, Cracked, Irish comedians.

Family Guy Season 7 Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Alex Borstein, Seth Green. Running time: 390 mins Extras: Commentary, 100th Episode, Family Guy live

[

Wim Wenders creates his most powerful film since Wings Of Desire.

Land Of Plenty W

The Happening

Director: Wim Wenders. Starring: John Diehl, Michelle Williams. Running Time: 118 minutes. Extras: Interview with Wim Wenders, Making Of, Deleted Scenes, Trailer, Photo Gallery.

Director: M. Night Shyamalan Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo Running Time: 90 minutes. Extras: Featurettes / Deleted Scenes

Wenders’ first film “to come out of anger” is an incredibly powerful and moving portrayal of America, post 9/11. Lana (Williams) returns to her native USA following a childhood spent in Africa and Palestine, ostensibly to give a letter from her dead mother to her Uncle Paul, her only living relative. Said Uncle (Diehl) is a Vietnam veteran, haunted by dreams of war and plagued by a patriotic paranoia that forces him to see terrorist cells everywhere: his beat-up van is a hive of surveillance equipment as he roams the streets of LA on the lookout for potential security threats. When a homeless Pakistani man is shot on the street outside the mission where Lana is staying, it sets in motion a chain of events that forces both seemingly opposing characters together. The two leads are pitch-perfect, with Diehl’s powerhouse performance eking sympathy from a character who could easily have been devoid of any redemption. A vivid snapshot of the inequalities and absurdities of modern America, without ever being preachy, this is Wenders’ most watchable and important film since Wings Of Desire. ~ John Walshe

For Fans of: Babel, The Constant Gardener, Traffic.

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]

What a fall from repute. When Shyamalan gained notoriety for making superior supernatural movies back in 1999 with The Sixth Sense, he started on a self-created path as a promising and unique director. Since, however, his films have degraded in quality. Starring Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel in wooden roles, this is an allegory of a global pandemic started by mother earth against its environmentally devastating population. Mass panic and violent mass suicide ensue. Wahlberg and Co. actually run from an evil wind in a field at one point. This entire film is so ham-fisted it makes you want to dump toxic chemicals in the sea. ~ Niall Byrne

For Fans of: Signs, The Village, Zombie films.

Tommy Tiernan - Bovinity Director: Maurice Linnane Running Time: 96 minutes. Extras: None

Taken from a tour in which he performed to approximately 120,000 people, Bovinity doesn’t live up to the pinnacle of Loose, Tiernan’s insightful and notable 2005 DVD release. Presented in two distinct parts, it is the setting of the main feature which lets his considerable talent down. Performing to 4,000 people in The Marquee in Cork does not make for an intimate DVD sitting and Tommy

Now firmly back on track after a turbulent history, Season 7 of Family Guy finds the show going from strength to strength. To say that there are few surprises here is far from a criticism, more that they have maintained the high standard that they already set for themselves. Thus there are twists and turns aplenty, none of which make any sense but fit in to the show’s character perfectly. The humour manages to be basic, crude, subtle and sophisticated all at the same time – even proving itself one of the most satirical shows on US TV. As ever, the best lines come from the Machiavellian Stewie but like any great sitcom, Family Guy is a true ensemble piece. ~ Phil Udell

For Fans of: American Dad, The Daily Show.

Flight Of The Red Balloon Director: Hsiao Hsien Hou. Starring: Juliette Binoche, Simon Iteanu, Song Fang. Running Time: 110 minutes. Extras: The Red Balloon (1956 short film).

Part homage to the Palme D’Or winning 1956 short film, La Ballon Rouge, and part slice-oflife French fancy, Flight Of The Red Balloon manages to fall neatly between the twin stools of art-house and kitchen sink drama. Suzanne (Binoche), a voice actress at a marionette show, takes on an Asian au pair and film student (Song Fang) to look after her son, Simon. What follows is a beautifully shot (almost documentary style) but pointless exercise in film-making, where there are fantasy elements, courtesy of the red balloon of the title, which follows the boy around sporadically, but little in the way of drama or dialogue to make it hang together. Not enough happens to warrant two hours of your life. ~ John Walshe

For Fans of: Bad reality TV shows, naps.


Words by

Games

JOHN WALSHE

what made you the standard by which all other soccer games are judged, one can’t really have any complaints. The aforementioned Legend mode allows you to play as one player, trying to make a name for yourself in world football: training until you grab the boss’ eye, making the bench, getting your debut, scoring your first goal etc. It’s also tough, trying to influence each game from the perspective of just one player: if you’re a striker not getting enough of the ball, do you drop into midfield to pick it up and risk running out of energy early or stay high up the field, hoping your team-mates will eventually find you with a through-ball?

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, Wii

[

Guns, sand and diamonds: Far Cry 2 allows you to unleash your inner mercenary.

Far Cry 2 W Xbox 360, PS3, PC

(ubisoft)

Far Cry 2 bears very little resemblance to its predecessor – different characters (with nine very different mercenary-types to choose from), new setting (Africa instead of the Caribbean) and far less linear, it’s essentially Grand Theft Auto in Africa. When your character (you can choose from a host of nefarious thugs, including former US army officers and ex-IRA commanders) arrives in the un-named African State, on a mission to take out ‘The Jackal’, the gun-runner who’s been supplying arms to both sides of the conflict, things quickly take a turn for the worse. Contracting malaria on your first day, you pass out, waking up in a sweat-drenched bed, with said weapons dealer gloating over your disease-riddled body. Before you can whimper for help, however, you’re embroiled in a wealth of gunfire and explosions and without so much as a by-your-leave, you end up as another mercenary trying to eke out a living in the war-ravaged state, where paper money is worthless and diamonds are the only currency worth carrying – thankfully, your compass has a built-in diamond meter which flashes when you’re close to a hidden cache. You basically move around the massive playing area (over 50 square kilometres) in vehicle, which

]

involves an awful lot of driving on dirt-tracks to get to your mission site, where you generally have to scope out the terrain before shooting people, rescuing hostages, making friends (who will then help you on your merry way) blowing things up or any combination of the above. It’s also a serious multiplayer experience, with a cracking map editor that allows you to create your own playing environment, which works almost as well on consoles as it does on PC. Highly recommended.

(lucasarts)

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away... Darth Vader actually spared a young Jedi child, hiding him from the Emperor and raising him in the ways of the force, before sending him out into the galaxy to hunt down the last of his kind. What follows is a cracking action/combat title as you get to slice and dice enemies with your light sabre, while firing them half-way around the galaxy with your force powers. Great graphics, excellent gameplay and an engaging story (for fans, anyway) combine to make this the finest Star Wars game in aeons.

Siren Blood Curse PS3

(scee)

A cracking Japanese survival horror, Siren Blood Curse places you in the midst of the zombie-filled streets of Hanuda, where you have to use your wits, weapons and the gift of sight-jacking (taking on other’s viewpoints) to stay alive. Decent graphics and incredibly creepy sound, along with good gameplay variety and stylish TV-style presentation make up for the fact that it’s not near long enough.

Recommended R Type Tactics

(rising star games)

PSP Tactical, turn-based combat based (very roughly) around the classic side-scrolling shooter from the ’80s. Enjoyable but tough. Saints Row 2

PES 2009 Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, PSP, Wii, PC

(konami)

The daddy of footie games is back and aside from the new ‘Become A Legend’ mode, it’s pretty much back to basics: but when these basics are

(thq)

Xbox 360, PS3, PC Violent, vulgar and filled with enough OTT explosions for a Chuck Norris box-set, Saints Row 2 may not be the most original game to hit the shelves this year, but it’s one of the most fun.

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Anger Management

S P E A K I N G I N TO N G U ES SIMON ROCHE CHRISTIAN KIRKEGAARD

Words and Bile by Illustration by

As a nation who were forced to learn another language for 13 years of our schooling, the fact that 98% of us still couldn’t order a table for two in a Gaeltacht restaurant reveals that we are not a bunch of people disposed to more than one tongue. With this in mind, we should be in some way thankful that the language that forced our own original one out the door is also the most useful language to have when travelling. Imagine the Welsh had invaded? Or worse, if nobody had? Irish would be a language so utterly beyond use in this modern global village that not only would international industry, which has been such a blessing to us, have stayed well away but there’s every chance that with a harsh and raw language like that to use on the ladies (the fairer sex themselves were always better at languages), we may well have almost sterilised ourselves. The ladies of Ireland would have been on the first €1 flight to somewhere where the men spoke anything more charming then the ‘garbage truck emptying into a landfill’ tones of the Gaelic tongue. Even Iceland would have soaked up the ‘Emigration Of The Fairest’ and all that would be left on this green rock would be a helmet-fest of grunting oafs trying desperately to pick up some mid-Atlantic internet filth while drinking ourselves and our dying language into the grave. Test it yourselves. Try listening to the Nuacht one evening and try to imagine FOR ONE MINUTE using that language to get the clothes off someone you might fancy. It’s categorically impossible to do. Even our words for “you look great” are “go hálainn” – practically identical to the English ‘hauling’, which is trucking, for god’s sake! TRUCKING. YOU LOOK ‘TRUCKING’. Right there you can see the bra going back on and her scurrying for the exit, trying to hold her dress and both shoes in one hand while urgently opening your padlocked door with the other, leaving you with nothing but your saucy copy of Bean An Ti magazine and a few grubby old VHS cassettes of Sharon Ni Bheoláin, back in the day, reading the news ‘as Gaeilge’. But we have English, and that in-built wanderlust, so we

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gann an dta eo tu ans inic? go m

travel. Often, it’s a case of international students or lady foreigners holidaying on our cute island that end up on the receiving end of some drunken words from ‘one of the lads’ some evening and getting charmed by our poetic accent and general disposition (which covers up the fact that we are knicker-hunters like every other dude on the planet). These ladies may then take the charmers back to their homelands, where we gladly trade paying higher taxes for a country with more than three days of sun a year. And then we wing it for as long as possible – maybe a year or more – but eventually attempt to learn THEIR language. Whatever you say about Irish, at least there may be some of it in our genes. Now as a grown-up, when we REALLY DO have better things to do with our time, we get stuck in a school after work, being chastised by our teacher for missing the glottal stops, while the rest of the class, who can incidentally all speak at LEAST three languages each already, fire ahead learning conjunctions, whatever they are. And it looks like a school, and it smells like a school and you wonder how, when you think you’ve come so far in life, are you back writing some medieval language on a pissing blackboard and getting it WRONG and having to WRITE IT OUT AGAIN! But maybe, maybe some day you’ll get it. You’ll finally twig this foreign tongue and suddenly one day begin ‘conjuncting’ and what not and actually being understood in this foreign land, in their own language. And you’ll be so happy with yourself that you’ll just miss your foreign quare wan’s wry grin, who now knows you’ll never leave her. Without needing your honeyed Hiberno-English any more, you’re just one of them. After finally finding a country you could get laid in with an accent alone, you’re back to square one – lumbered with a gutteral ancient language invented before personality became part of the mating process. A verbal eunuch, in a land of plenty.


presents

12th-16th NOVEMBER

wexford street/camden street

www.heinekenmusic.ie

State Magazine Issue 8  

Duke Special, R.S.A.G, Tilly and the Wall, Halfset,Irish musicians in Berlin, Hideaway House, Chicks, Jack L, Max Tundra

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