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JANUARY 2009

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State.ie

I RELAN D’S MUSIC PAYLOAD

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C O V E R I L L U S T R AT E D F O R S TAT E B Y B R E N B


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I S S U E 0 9 M I G H T W E L L CO N TA I N . . .

Regulars

Irregulars

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INCOMING On the plus side: Passion Pit, The Brighton Port Authority, Annie Mac, Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring and Guns N’ Roses. On the negative: Miriam Makiba RIP, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Juliette Lewis and The Others.

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MUSIC IS MY RADAR Serial Thriller: best-selling writer Alex Barclay on why she’ll forgive a mingin’ melody if the lyrics are up to scratch.

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CIRCUIT BREAKERS Meet the squad who set out to rescue rock ‘n’ roll, one night at a time.

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B LO G S TA N DA R D Songs for streaming lovers.

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INPUT Your complete guide to what’s out there. Albums: Into the Kanye West; . DVD: Band Of Brothers goes Blu-Ray; the ’80s revisited. TV: the best and worst of festive fare . Games: the big guns revealed.

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ANGER MANAGEMENT Mince pie-eyed? Festive unfit? Welcome, one and all, to the season of badwill.

THE 50 BEST ALBUMS OF 2008 From Adebesi Shank to Wild Beasts, the definitive records of the year. Plus we join Glasvegas on the long road to becoming an overnight sensation and why Transylvania is the place to make a Christmas album. SEASICK STEVE The rise and rise of Seasick Steve: or how one grumpy old man with three strings and the truth became an international obsession.

20 L I T T L E J O Y Why a beaten up van is the perfect place for Strokes’ sticksmith Fab Moretti and his new friends. 24 Q - T I P From A Tribe Called Quest to his sterling solo output, to Annie Mac’s bedroom wall (see pg. 12) , few hip-hop artists remain as influential as Tip. 28 1 2 N I G H T S T O C H R I S T M A S Phil Udell talks to Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry to head our preview of the month’s urban festival, which includes State’s very own Yuletide celebration. 32 C O L D W A R K I D S Mama gave birth to the soul children: politics, unity and isolation. 36 O N E D A Y I N T E R N A T I O N A L How to create one of the finest albums of 2008 without anyone knowing your name. 38 T I M W H E E L E R John Joe Worrall travels to Nashville to hear the Ash frontman’s confession.

Webulars O N S TAT E . I E T H I S M O N T H Live reviews of MGMT, The Walkmen, Goldfrapp, Cut Copy, Fleet Foxes, Cass McCombs and Wolf Parade, Lykke Li tells us why she’s fed up, Autamata share their Austin City Limits Diary, a full report on the horror that was the MTV Music Video Awards plus all the usual, including news, gig announcements, mp3s and listings. Get on it.

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Editors’ letter

So, how was it for you? 2008, we mean. Every year we seem to reach December and while some proclaim it the best in living memory, others insist that the music that we love is going to hell in a handcart. We decided to ask those who know best, our team of amazing writers, and have come up with the definitive guide to the best albums of the year. What the results gave us was an insight into why State has turned into the kind of magazine it is. Inside these pages, you’ll find the nod given to punk, classic American rock, hip-hop, soul, singer-songwriters, folk, electronica and much more, including the magnificent darkness of our interviewees and cover stars Glasvegas. What you won’t find is many albums from the so-called major names, not because we cling to any notion of being cool or underground (Exhibit A: our mighty Abba cover) but perhaps because they weren’t really that good. From Metallica to Madonna, the superstars

came, yet we found solace instead in the likes of Lykke Li, Santogold, Cadence Weapon and Fleet Foxes, the act that came in overwhelmingly as our critics’ choice. Some did fly the flag for the old guard – Nick Cave, Sigur Rós, Portishead, David Holmes, Coldplay – but they were all the ones who either stepped out of their comfort zone or just upped their game. In the new climate, resting on your laurels is simply not an option. Which is why we gave our beleagured art director a break on the cover and got the awesome BRENB to Illustrate our 50 Best Albums front. Don’t feel bad about slicing it off and putting it on your wall – this lad is an embarrasment of rich talent. At home, Ireland produced what could well be the most exciting generation of musicians for years. Fight Like Apes spearheaded the assault for sure, but there were many who followed closely behind: Messiah J & The Expert, Heathers, Ham Sandwich, One Day International, Jape, Halfset, the list goes on. There are more to come too,

State Editors

JOHN WALSHE

editor

PHIL UDELL

editor

SIMON ROCHE ROGER WOOLMAN NIALL BYRNE AOIFE McDONNELL

} editorial@state.ie

art director publisher assistant editor & web editor operations manager

advertising and marketing enquiries – ads@state.ie heart

Feargal Ward Works as a press photographer/documentary filmaker in Dublin. Has recently opened ‘The Joinery’ - a gallery/workspaces/photostudio/ experimental space with photographer Miranda Driscoll on Arbour hill in in Stoneybatter.. Favourite obscurity of 2008? Have been listening to a live recording of Electronic Sensoria Band with Damo Suzuki from a couple of years back and it’s great nuts. Damo Suzuki colours in outside the lines with fat crayons. Rock, paper or scissors? Paper

~ John Walshe and Phil Udell

head

CONTRIBUTOR VS CONTRIBUTOR

with a host of names already tipping the State radar for 2009. But we reach the end of 2008 feeling pretty chipper about Ireland’s musical future. We’re especially delighted to welcome Annie Mac to the team, who will be tipping us off to the greatest tunes and trends in her world on a monthly basis, as well as representing Team State in London. We’ll even be breaking out of the office to host the State Christmas Party at the Think Tank in Dublin on December 19, featuring DJ turns from Fight Like Apes and Super Extra Bonus Party: it could be boozy; it may be festive; it could involve the State team trying their hand on the decks; it might even see two grown editors try to recreate their youth on the dance-floor. It will be fun.

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 higgins, anna forbes, paula shields, alan reilly

eyes

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

brenb, nathalie nysted, christian kirkegaard, wulff & morgenthaler

organs

illustrators

hands

Simon Roche Our art director used to want his design work to be a mix of the style of Portishead and the smarts of Julian Cope, now he just want to finish the bastard albums section. He lives in Copenhagen and creates State every month using Pritt Stick and magic. Favourite obscurity of 2008? ‘My Get Up And Go Just Got Up And Went’ by Swedish oneman-band Ass. Includes a mello, bearded version of the Escape From New York theme. Rock, paper or scissors? Scissors

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

RESULT: SIMON WINS. (And didn’t even need to cheat! Haha.)

strictly prohibited. Although State Magazine has endeavoured to ensure that all information is correct, prices and details may be subject to change. The opinions expressed are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of State Magazine Ltd.

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Incoming

Ease Yourself In

THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS

PASSION PIT

Responsible for one of the most infectious songs of 2008 in ‘Sleepyhead’, this Boston band’s buzz has grown from a seed into a beanstalk with the release of their Chunk Of Change EP and appearances at US industry festivals like CMJ. Theirs is a sound of sweet melodious electropop with a smidgen of the eclecticism that made Avalanches so exciting, finished with a dollop of The Postal Service. Listen to the oscillating synth hook 80 seconds into ‘Sleepyhead’ and defy the goosebumps. Listen: ‘Sleepyhead’ Click: http://www.myspace.com/passionpit

THE DEPARTED

100 ALBUMS TO AVOID BEFORE YOU DIE

MIRIAM MAKEBA It is a terrible irony that, at the end of a year that has seen African music continually referenced by the likes of Vampire Weekend, Damon Albarn and Franz Ferdinand, it should also lose one of its most inspirational figures. Born in South Africa in 1932, the woman known as Mama Africa found herself exiled in 1960, after her outspoken criticism of the apartheid regime. Subsequently granted honorary citizenship of no fewer than 10 countries, she went on to record with Harry Belafonte, husband Hugh Masekela and Paul Simon. She returned home in 1990 on the personal request of Nelson Mandela and continued performing right up until her death last month, fittingly after a concert organised to support writer Roberto Saviano in his stand against the Italian criminal organisation, the Camorra.

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If any band demonstrated the fickle nature of music press patronage it was The Others, the gobby London indie outfit fronted by icon/idiot Dominic Masters. Mates with Pete Doherty, the NME unsurprisingly adored him and helped hype his band to a deal with Alan McGee’s Poptones label. When it arrived in early 2005, their debut album rapidly exposed the flaws in the plan. Hearing the Somerset born Masters bellow his way through

the likes ‘This Is For The Poor’ appalled everyone, apart from a small section of the London media, with the public at large so disinterested that the album failed to reach its contractual sales targets. Subsequently dropped, the band are still in existence, while Masters also presents a show on a local radio station in Essex. Don’t download: ‘Stan Bowles’ If you hate this don’t listen to: Babyshambles, The Horrors

PP BY ELIZABETH WEINBERG

No. 9 THE OTHERS: THE OTHERS


Incoming

FUELLING THE STATE ENGINE FROM THE PRESENT…

THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS

THEIR HEARTS WERE FULL OF SPRING Cut Copy W : Hearts On Fire Relive the ’80s without the unemployment and depression… oh.

Kanye West: Amazing Hip-hop just got courageous again.

Still Flyin’: Good Thing It’s A Ghost Town Around Here Upbeat pop methadone for our Glasvegas addiction.

TV On The Radio: Golden Age It just keeps getting better. Those horns and violins are orgasmic.

Mr. Scruff: Kalimba Although it’s been dubbed “Nu Jazz”, don’t let pesky pigeonholing deter you from giving this a well deserved listen.

& FROM THE PAST… Steeleye Span: Lowlands Of Holland If you were wondering where Fleet Foxes got it from, this is a good place to start.

The wonderfully named Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring formed a couple of years ago, when Marcus, Matth, Vicky, Maeve, Emmet and Ian stumbled across each other in one of south east London’s more unsavoury drinking dens. Two of them (go on, guess) were born in Dublin, but geography doesn’t matter when you make glorious indie pop like ‘New Favourite Band’ or ‘A Question Of Trust’, their 2007 debut single,

which attracted the attention of a certain Steve Lamacq. Life-affirming and melancholy, often in the course of the same song, they’re equal parts The Smiths and The Magic Numbers. Their live show is described, albeit by themselves, as “a fancy dress food-fight at an afternoon funeral”. Listen: ‘A Question Of Trust’, ‘Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind’ Click: www.myspace.com/theirheartswerefullofspring

WULFFMORGENTHALER: by Wulff & Morgenthaler

Yello: Oh Yeah Best ’80s song ever. Fact.

Ryan Adams: When The Stars Go Blue Heartfelt and heartbreaking ballad from the alt. country king, before he became boring.

Justin Vernon: Hazelton Before the wood cabin made him Bon Iver, he was still fuckin’ great.

Bananarama: Robert De Niro’s Waiting The ultimate girlie pop for your instant nostalgia fix.

WWW.WULFFMORGENTHALER.COM

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Incoming MY ROOTS ARE SHOWING: SIMON ROCHE

A JULIAN COPE /NICK CAVE C90 Arriving in college from a relatively quiet and distinctly un-edgy youth, my outward appearance pretty much gave the game away on what was in the tapes and CDs that I brought with me. My projected image was of Axl Rose, plaid shirt tied around the waist mostly, torn jeans and long (ish) hair. What others actually saw was Liam Ó Maonlaí as a lumberjack. Bar one alternative mix tape I had picked up in a post-leaving cert course, the music that fuelled my youth was always middling, chart bothering stuff like Steve Windwood, maybe the Pixies, but always the newest Hits album. Though I listened to Dave Fanning’s show, I never had the confidence to go out and seek out the stuff I liked, preferring to sit on the fence, listening to stuff that most people liked until home taping saved me. A girl I met in my class surprised the life out of me by actually wanting to ‘get involved’. From a midlands town, she had somehow tapped into a more interesting vein of music and talked of The Velvet Underground and names I’d never had the cojones to buy. She did what all young couples do for each other: she made me a mix tape. Well, not exactly a mix tape, but two albums on one C90 cassette. One side was her pick from Julian Cope’s opus to Mother-Earth-On-The-Edge, Peggy Suicide, and the other was Nick Cave & The Bad

Seeds’ The Good Son. It can’t be over-estimated how mind expanding this was. From listening to Marty Whelan’s 10pm Radio 2 show on my bedroom’s clock radio, to now letting Cope, the ‘Archdrude’ (pictured), take me through a trippy and haunting album of delights that I felt like an archaeologist just discovering Pompeii. ‘Double Vegetation’, ‘Las Vegas Basement’, the epic ‘Safesurfer’, all stunning and the sheer genius of the lyrics put most of the landfill I was listening to in the shade. Then there was Nick Cave. All black and angular, but thankfully post-Birthday Party, who I could never relate to. The album pours fire and

brimstone in parts (‘The Weeping Song’, ‘The Hammer Song’) but then you find ‘The Ship Song’ and ‘Lament’ tucked in there and it’s all so fucking miles apart but it all fits and it occurs to me that both these artists have had albums out before this and why was I only hearing this now? Looking back, I wasn’t so late, and there’s been plenty more in both artist’s careers that I have eagerly followed. In the 13 years since college ended, I have been lucky enough to meet both Cope and Cave but I never met her again. I still have the ticket stub from The Bad Seeds concert we went to in the SFX, November ’91, and somewhere in my old boxes, I still have that tape.

THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS

NOW WE KNOW THAT…

JIM MORAY

When our editors finally retire, we definitely won’t be giving Peaches Geldof the job. MTV seems to think that Europe is part of America. We also know that Jared Leto is not a great presenter. Neither is Katy Perry. Boyzone (WTF?) became the first boy band to have a gay band member kiss in a video. Twitter rocks! Follow us: twitter.com/statemagazine Scandanavians have mashed R&B instrumentals and minimal techno to create Synthetik Skandinavian Funk or ‘skweee’. The new Animal Collective album, Merriweather Post Pavilion, is going to blow you away in ’09.

Being hailed the future of your particular style of music at the age of 21 is daunting enough for anyone. For Jim Moray, it was compounded by the fact that the English folk world at large wasn’t particularly pleased that its future lay with a young man who was as happy using laptops and loops as he was fiddles and squeezeboxes.

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Undaunted, he has continued to push forward to the point where he can release a record that can comfortably feature members of Art Brut and British-Ghanian rappers as it can some of folk’s brightest names on a cover of XTC. Listen: ‘All You Pretty Girls’, ‘Low Culture’ Click: www.jimmoray.co.uk

RTE’s 2XM is freakin’ awesome. Steven Spielberg and Will Smith are remaking the fucked-up Japanese film Old Boy? How exactly is Hollywood going to get around an incest scene? Lads?


ER LAN PAUALCOCHOLIC NON


Incoming MY FAVOURITE WORST NIGHTMARE: DAVID MCLAUGHLIN

JULIETTE LEWIS: NATURAL BORN DIVA Telephone interviews can be fraught with difficulty at the best of times, especially when you’re limited to an almighty 10 minutes while connected to a tour manager’s cell phone in a noisy backstage area during a bloody soundcheck across the Atlantic. Usually though, there’s an unspoken understanding between interviewer and interviewee in such circumstances, that whatever problems technology throws at you, both parties will try their utmost to make the best of the situation. I have done hundreds of phoners with bands and artists down the years and many have been conducted through gritted teeth thanks to a crackly line and intermittent reception problems, yet most of them have ultimately been a pleasure and worth the effort. Never, though, have I experienced one so cringeworthy as the phoner I had with Juliette Lewis in 2004 to promote her band The Licks’ debut Irish shows. Juliette was clearly having a bit of a diva moment and from the off, I sensed it wasn’t going to be easy. The first clue was the curt exchange between her and the TM just before we started. “Do I have to do another interview?” she snapped like a petulant kid. Some muffled words and a pregnant silence later and she picked up the phone and greeted me with a sigh and a laboured “Hi”. Keen to keep it professional and to soften her tangible edginess, I explained the nature of the interview and stressed how it wouldn’t be anything too taxing. Halfway through my first question, she interrupts me. “Gawd, do we really have to do this?” she whined. “Of course not, if now is inconvenient for you, we can reschedule?” I offered, despite having spent the guts of the previous two weeks securing this precious 10 minutes with her PR. Cue a long silence, followed by another sigh. “Let’s just get it over with quickly,” she replied. And so we did, with things continuing in much the same vein for the remainder of our time; my straightforward questions being met with agonisingly long pauses and one word, glorified grunts as responses. Oh and of course the connection decided to cut out every 30 seconds to make it that little bit more enjoyable for us both. Did I mention the Dictaphone I was using somehow managed not to pick up a single word of the conversation? That was a pleasant surprise when I sat down to transcribe it later that evening.

THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS

THE MAGIC WANDS All the way from an uncharted island called Fantasy and with a strong penchant for unicorns come Chris and Dexy, who played punk 2000 miles apart, unbeknownst to each other. Then the duo hooked up in Los Angeles, subsequently moving to Chris’ hometown of Nashville: now, they make lovely dreamy pop music together, like the sublimely slinky ‘Black Magic’, a simple psychedelic tune with an undeniable guitar hook and an MGMT-style falsetto. Right now they have two seven-inches to their name but February will bring a new EP and a new legion of fans to the already burgeoning Magic Wands army. Listen: ‘Black Magic’ Click: http://www.myspace.com/themagicwands

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While I wasn’t exactly taken by Juliette’s band, I admired the balls it took for her to ditch the acting and try her hand at rock ’n’ roll. Something about it seemed genuine and less of a vanity project than previous slashys who dabbled in the music world (hello Keanu). Plus, she always seemed nothing less than interesting, from the unique movie roles she chose, that I really wanted her to succeed in music too. I could even forgive her membership in the Church of Scientology. She was still after all, the charismatic actress who played Mallory Knox in Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers and the prodigious young talent the Academy saw fit to nominate for an Oscar for her turn in Scorcese’s Cape Fear remake. How disappointing then to discover that someone so obviously gifted and ostensibly cool could turn out to be so rude, cranky and ultimately a big fat let down.


IREL AND’S MUSIC PAY L O A D A L S O H A S A R AT H E R F E T C H I N G ONLINE SISTER. AND THE SWOT EVEN WO N A N AWA R D !

IRISH WEB AWA R D S B EST MUSIC SIT E OF 2008

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Incoming

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FROM OUR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: PAT O’MAHONY IN

THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS

LONDON

THE BRIGHTON PORT AUTHORITY

Anyone familiar with London’s favourite weekly listings mag, Time Out, will know of the pages upon pages of live musical riches permanently on offer in this great metropolis. It’s not quite, of course, that all tastes are completely catered to each and every night, but if seeing a diverse range of acts in the flesh is your thing, then you’d need to be the fussiest of fusspots to not find four or five minimum from the hundreds of gigs each week of more than passing interest. So why then do I and most of my mates here not go to as many live performances as, deep down, we probably feel we should? I remember back in Dublin, I’d hit at least three a week – often many more – and look at the size of poor tiny little Dublin in comparison and its consequently substantially smaller gig rate. Is it that, over here, we’ve got complacent? Are we now spoiled rotten? Could it be we just can’t be arsed? Or are we just getting old? Well, while I’d certainly have to admit to aging apace, y’know, I’m not sure it’s that simple. OK, all those years ago I never paid in anywhere, so it was easy: working in RTE did have some benefits. But I guess I was doing more music-related jobs then, be it filling in for Fanning, reviewing albums or presenting and producing a long-forgotten radio series on the music biz, so going to see bands live was all part of the deal. Today, while I still work in the meeja, it’s generally in the more grown up world of television documentaries so my guest-list-friendly contacts are far thinner on the ground. Like everyone else, I now first weigh up the bill’s potential bang for my buck before parting with any hard-earned cash. But, apart from dosh, often the biggest factor in deciding whether you head out for the night is geography. If you don’t already know, London really is a sprawl. Because of the Underground, getting around is generally fairly easy, but jeez, it can take forever. And if the venue happens to be off the beaten track and reliant on buses to gather up its audience, then unless it’s local, forget about it. I saw the delightful Lambchop last week, for instance, but then the Union Chapel – a breathtaking beauty of a venue – is only 10 minutes away on the 393. Later this week, I’m off to The Black Keys in the Brixton Academy, way down the other end of the Victoria line in deepest darkest sauf Lahdan, a commitment that typically requires a certain degree of planning and organising. In this town, understandably, traipsing from one side to the other, except for a big major act, is usually a no-no. As for spur-ofthe-moment spontaneity, hah, don’t make me laugh. Having said all that, a mate’s just texted with a spare ticket for Goldfrapp in the Brixton Academy in a couple of hours and I’ve said yes. I know, how fucking crazy am I, huh?

What do Dizzee Rascal, Emmy The Great, Iggy Pop, David Byrne, Justin Roberston, Jamie T and Martha Wainwright have in common? They’re all wanted by the BPA. Who the hell are the BPA? Ask Norman Cook, the brains behind the whole thing. Sightings have been few so far, a Pop fronted track on the latest Heroes soundtrack and two singles but there’s much to suggest that Cook’s decision to leave his Fatboy alter ego behind may be a smart move. Listen: ‘Seattle’ Click: www.thebrightonportauthority.com

COME IN YOUR TIME’S UP

GREEN DAY A lot has happened in the four years since Green Day grew up in public with the all-conquering American Idiot album, not least the US regime change that they were so desperate for. The band too have kept themselves busy in various forms (Foxboro Hottubs, Pinhead Gunpowder, The Network, collaborating with U2) but a new Green Day record has risen and fallen on the horizon. Currently in the studio with Butch Vig, their website promises details of a world tour “soon”. How now is soon? We can only guess.


Incoming DAN HEGARTY

THE WAR OF THE ROSES

MY HEADPHONES WHAT REAL FOLK ARE LISTENING TO

ANDRIUS BOLDYSEVAS

LITHUANIAN, LIVING IN IRELAND FOR THE LAST THREE YEARS What kind of music do you listen to? Indie-rock like Kings of Leon and The Killers. All that kind of stuff. If aliens landed on earth and decided to analyse the history of rock music since its birth in the 1950s, there would be quite a few things that would baffle them. The first might be: how the hell did anyone ever think that Ocean Colour Scene and Whitesnake were any good? Coming in a close second would have to be, how did it take Axl Rose/Guns N Roses the best part of two decades to follow-up the Use Your Illusion albums? November 2008 was a momentous month for GNR fans because it finally saw the release of the long, long, long overdue ‘Chinese Democracy’ single and album of the same name. As I write this, I’ve heard the single (which isn’t bad) plenty of times, but am still awaiting the album. To say that there’s a great deal of expectation about Chinese Democracy is a huge understatement. Depending on how you view it, GNR are in a lose/lose or win/win situation. This album is going to have to solve world poverty (and the greenhouse effect) if it’s going be able to justify the extensive amount of time that it’s taken to complete. I’ve often referred to myself as having a rhythm deficiency when it comes to music: I sing out of key, and I’m a lousy dancer. But even I could have put together an album and released it in a shorter period than this. Admittedly, it would have been crap, but at least I would have had something to show for it! In 2008, Guns N Roses is Axl Rose minus Slash, Duff McKagan, Matt Sorum, and any of the other members that were in the band in

their late ’80s/early ’90s heyday. There have been rumours that the original line-up with the aforementioned McKagan and Slash (with Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler) are to reform, but this is unlikely. You can seen how these rumours start: Scott Weiland leaves Velvet Revolver, and somehow people think that Velvet Revolver’s former Roses are coming home. But why would Axl Rose and his current GNR cohorts release an album that none of his former bandmates had anything to do with if there was any chance of them regrouping? If that doesn’t quash that story, maybe this will. When I interviewed Slash a few years ago, and asked him whether a Guns N Roses reunion was out of the question, his reply was clear: “Oh yeah! You’ve got to understand, there’s a lot of resentment that built up between Izzy and Axl, myself and Axl, and Duff and Axl, so when we parted, I don’t think any of us had any intention of ever going back. I haven’t spoken to Axl in eight years, and I’m not looking forward to the day I have to, so the concept of having a reunion isn’t at the forefront of my mind!” Getting back to the facts, Guns N Roses, if only in name, are back, and I’m glad. Are they the centre of my musical universe like they were many years ago? Not even close! My main curiosity is wondering how many versions of the album were recorded before this definitive one was decided on?

What are you listening to right now? At the moment, it’s Keane’s new album. How is it? It’s very good. Have you been to any good gigs lately? I went to TV On The Radio in Tripod. It was really good. What are your favourite music websites? I usually check NME.com and bands on Myspace. Who are your favourite artists? I would say Kings of Leon and Bloc Party. What about Irish bands? The music is cool. It suits my taste at the moment. My favourite is Ham Sandwich. I don’t know that many apart from the few I’ve heard in Whelan’s. Anything you’d like to say to your fans? Keep listening?

Tune into Dan Hegarty’s Alternative To Sleep on RTE 2fm, weeknights from midnight to 2am.

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Incoming AVERAGE WHITE BAND

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS

ANNIE MAC’S CHART OF EXCITEMENT

Dublin born DJ Annie Mac, known for championing cutting edge music on her BBC Radio 1 show The Mash Up, begins her monthly column of lifeenhancing odds and ends which thankfully should point our humble lives in the right direction for a while. 10. Hot Ports Perfect for the onset of cold weather and a lovely way of spending an evening… 9. Liberty Dunks Liberty of London flowery prints on Nike Dunks. Heaven. http://url.ie/xnb 8. DJ Mehdi: ‘Pocket Piano (Joakim remix)’ The most gorgeous uplifting piece of house music in the world right now. 7. Oh My God It’s Techno Music! T-Shirts I’ve ordered two of these. www.myspace.com/omg_itm You can pin a lot of things on the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Funk metal. Baggy shorts. Limp Bizkit. Double albums. What you could never accuse them of is making music that is consistently imaginative, interesting or engaging. The Red Hot Chili Peppers are just there, like a reliable old sock hanging from your appendage. Their first three albums were, let’s be frank, useless: a jumbled up collection of funk riffs in search of a decent tune. Getting George Clinton, the king of such folly, to produce them was clue enough. Then the Chilis did what they’ve always done and flattered to deceive. Mother’s Milk wasn’t a bad record, had a couple of killer tunes in the form of ‘Knock Me Down’ and ‘Higher Ground’ and suggested that maybe there was more to this lot than cheap tricks and tattoos. It’s a pattern that has continued throughout their career. Take Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik. No please, take it. Sure, ‘Give It Away’ and ‘Under The Bridge’ are fine tracks but as a whole, double at that, album it’s pretty tiresome. Have ‘Suck My Kiss’, ‘Funky Monks’ and ‘Mellowship Slinky in B Major’ gone down in musical history or are they just more examples of the band’s self indulgent nonsense? I think we all know the answer. One Hot Minute was simply rubbish throughout and need not bother us again. And then, well then something weird happened. They remembered that they were men of a certain age (although to look at some of Anthony Kiedis’ wardrobe decisions, you wouldn’t know it) and decided to write songs to match. When they got it right, they were amazing: when they didn’t, they were just the Red Hot Chili Peppers. What is so frustrating is that they can get it right, often when John Frusciante is at the helm. The By The Way album was the closest they’ve come, dumping the funk and showing off for a record of proper songs. Hopes raised, they were promptly dashed by the sprawling folly that was Stadium Arcadium. Normal service having been resumed, the band have disappeared on an indefinite hiatus. We won’t be holding our breath.

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6. A-Trak The man who introduced Kanye West to Daft Punk. Winner of DMC championships when he was 15: now, head honcho of Fools Gold and amazing producer in his own right. 5. The Tenori-On As played by Little Boots. http://url.ie/xnd 4. Toddla T 21-year-old skinny white bwoy from Sheffield who specialises in ragga, two step, electro jump-up sounds. 3. The Wire Completely addicted to the perpetually expanding layers of crime and corruption that Baltimore has to offer. Season 3 is ridiculously good. 2. Q-Tip The only man I would hang a picture of on my wall: well, along with Josh Homme and Simon from Biffy Clyro. It’s so nice to not be let down by a comeback album. The Renassance has a permanent place on my iPod. 1. The Hype Machine My favourite online music library. The door to the world of exciting music. www.hypem.com Annie Mac can be heard on BBC Radio 1 every Friday 9pm – 11pm or check out her weekly video podcast at http://tinyurl.ie/325. The ‘Annie Mac Presents...’ Tour comes to Dublin Andrew’s Lane Theatre on Saturday, December 20.


Incoming THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS

SHOWTIME

CRYSTAL ANTLERS

Cathy Davey Venues nationwide – Dec 4-27 One last lap around the country for Ms. Davey and band, before it’s time to get back to recording a new album. Cathy will be celebrating a year in which she won a Meteor Award, was nominated for the Choice Music Prize and gained many a fan thanks to 2007’s Tales Of Silversleeve.

Other Voices St. James’ Church, Dingle - Dec 5-9 Filming for the seventh series of the series takes place with confirmed acts including: Emiliana Torrini & Duke Special (Dec 5), Billy Bragg, Liam Finn and Colm Mac Con Iomaire, Noah & The Whale (Dec 6), Elbow, Richard Hawley & James Morrison (Dec 7), Lisa Hannigan (pictured), Christy Moore with Declan Synnott, Steve Reynolds & Mick Flannery (Dec 8) and the final night with Kila, Imelda May, Eric Bibb & Jape (Dec 9). Buraka Som Sistema Twisted Pepper, Dublin - Dec 11 Purveyors of kuduro (basically filthy sounding global booty music), Portugal’s biggest band will be doing a special DJ and MC only set in Bodytonic’s new venue in Abbey Street.

They may be one of the many “one to watch” bands coming out of the US ahead of 2009 but, on the strength of their self-titled EP, they should be all over alternative stations and channels in the coming months. Their sound is brutally kaleidoscopic rock, think The Mars Volta meets Wolf Parade. Those with their curiosity tickled only have until February to wait. Listen: ‘Until The Sun Dies (Pt 2)’ Click: www.myspace.com/crystalantlers See: Pavilion, Belfast (Jan 31), Roisin Dubh, Galway (Feb 1), Upstairs in Whelan’s, Dublin (Feb 2) and The Whiskey, Cork (Feb 3).

Stereolab The Pavilion, Cork - Dec 12 / Tripod, Dublin Dec 13 / Black Box, Belfast - Dec 14 Having released another cracking album in August, we get three rare yet wonderful opportunities to hear Sadier, Gane and company play, thanks to Maximum Joy and friends. Modeselektor Live Twisted Pepper, Dublin – Dec 18 The bad boys of German techno return after their incendiary Electric Picnic set, which was a lot more minimal and progressive than their most recent and banging album Happy Birthday.

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Music is my Radar

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A L E X BA RC L AY Best-selling thriller writer Alex Barclay on her love of Nick Cave, her Death Cab For Cutie obsession and her singing debut. JOHN WALSHE BRENDAN DUFFY

As told to Photography by

“I like a real mix of stuff: Aerosmith, Maria Callas, Johnny Cash. I buy a lot of individual songs for my iPod. I’m almost entirely an iPod person now, unless I see an album that has really beautiful artwork. If I’m somewhere and I hear a song I really like, I’ll Google the lyrics and then buy the individual track. If there’s a beautiful melody and the lyrics are really bad (not weird, ‘cos I love weird lyrics but really crap), I just can’t listen to it. But if the lyrics are beautiful, I can forgive the melody being awful. Certain lyrics from songs really hit me. Death Cab For Cutie are my obsession at the moment. I missed going to see them play the other night and I’m very bitter about that. I think their lyrics are brilliant: I just got the new album, Narrow Stairs, and I can’t stop listening to it.

“I’m a huge Nick Cave fan. I always feel the most romantic songs are written by singers and bands who have more of a darker side. I think ‘Straight To You’, ‘Into My Arms’ and ‘The Ship Song’ are the most beautiful love songs ever written. And he’s so sexy. I saw him at Electric Picnic and I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He’s amazing to watch: this tall, dark, brooding, energetic performer. There’s so much to be said for lyrics that do not go where you’re expecting them to go. For that to happen in a novel is amazing but for that to be pared down into a song, where, like poetry, your words have to be so well chosen, is incredible.

“The first music I can remember is the soundtrack to Grease. It was the first movie I went to, and there is a tape of me at home, singing ‘Summer Loving’, aged four. I also sang the school choir. I remember our Confirmation mass: myself and three others sang ‘On Eagle’s Wings’. We had a verse each. That doesn’t mean I’m any good, though. I sang ‘Black Is The Colour’ recently and I didn’t do a very good job: I claim to have had a sore throat.

“I was old coming to gigs, 17 or 18, and the first gig I went to was Lenny Kravitz and he was brilliant. But I think gigs can surprise you. I remember being at the MTV Europe Awards in Dublin and the best performance of the night was Britney Spears. If I stumble on gigs, then I will go but I’m trying to go to more. Last year,

I saw Aerosmith in Paris, which was absolutely brilliant, because of the music and because I fancy Steven Tyler. Two of my favourite gigs ever were Yann Tiersen and Philip Glass in Vicar Street, which happened around the same time. To experience somebody at the top of their game, creatively, is just amazing and once you’re sucked in like that, it blows your mind.

“I play a lot of the Inspector Morse soundtrack when I’m working: I couldn’t be without it. Adagio Mozart is another one that I could listen to forever, or Johnny Cash’s Wanted Man and Dolly Parton’s Greatest Hits. If someone had come up to me when I was a teenager and said I’d be into country, I’d have said ‘Get a grip’, but now I look at my collection and there’s a lot of country there and I tend to have a lot of soundtracks. I like some of the new quirky female singers, the type that would show up on the Gray’s Anatomy soundtrack or on Zack Braff’s magical music selections – any time he does a movie, I’ll always like three or four of those songs. I’m also a huge Serge Gainsbourg fan: I think he’s a genius. I love John Prine and Dropkick Murphys, and both of them have given me permission to use lyrics from their songs in Blood Runs Cold, which is totally cool. My other desert island discs would be Nevermind by Nirvana and disc two of The Essential Simon & Garfunkel. And I love Goldfrapp: ‘Strict Machine’ has to be one of the best and baddest songs ever.” Alex Barclay’s third novel, Blood Runs Cold is out now through Harper Collins.

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Seasick Steve.

MAN’S LAND

ONE ~ Words by

JOHNNIE CRAIG

An electric fan,F attached E A R G A L W A R D 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 there’s something of santa’s grotto about this dressing room. the dublin weather outside is just frightful but inside, down a cold, meandering little next corridor, next Photography by

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there’s a warm, welcoming glow from a fire. Beside it sits a jovial old man, stroking his

white beard; beside him, a table of goodies that some kind soul has left out for him. Slightly gingerly, he pours himself a tumbler of red wine and sits back in his chair. Of course, it’s not a roaring fire beside him, it’s three-bar plug-in affair, and the old man ain’t no Santa Claus: this is Seasick Steve, the former train-jumping hobo with the blues, the unlikeliest musical phenomenon of 2008. His third album, I Started Out With Nothin’ And I’ve Still Got Most Of It Left went Top Ten earlier this year, bringing this most unassuming of gents fame and fortune beyond his wildest imagination. Plucked from relative obscurity to appear on Jools Holland’s annual Hootenanny in 2006, Seasick Steve has now become a cosily familiar figure on mainstream radio and TV. Still, in such an image-conscious era, it’s hard to believe this old guy, who, in his overalls and cap, looks a lot like Uncle Jesse from The Dukes Of Hazzard, is such big star. To say that life, if not his dress sense, has changed for Steve Wold in the past two years is to seriously understate the case. “They tell me I’m a rock star, but just the fact that I got a job is pretty novel,” he humbly notes, in his endearing, grumbling drawl. He takes another of his many sips of wine. “I just keep thinking I’m going to wake up under a bridge with a bottle, thinking, ‘Well, that was a funny dream I just had.’ Might as well just keep working until I wake up.” If Steve’s modesty belies a suggestion of quiet satisfaction about his lot in life, it’s partly because it’s taken him 50-60 years to become an overnight success. In fact, it’s a remarkable triumph over adversity that he’s even here. Four years ago, he suffered a heart attack from which he almost died. “I take medicine now: I try to take care of myself as much as I can,” he says, stuffing dried fruit and nuts through the hole in his beard. “But mainly I try to eat better. And I try to drink wine.” More so than whisky? He pauses to regard the bottle of JD on his table. “Yeah, more than whisky.” Steve doesn’t care to dwell on the story of his early childhood in California (he won’t even tell you when exactly that was), but it’s true that he left home at 14 to escape a violent relationship with his stepfather. The final straw came one day when he was thrown through a closed window. As he picked himself up amidst the shards of glass, Steve decided against revenge: instead, he packed his bags and fled. Even at that tender age, the young Steve saw this enforced change as an opportunity rather than a problem. “A lot of people had the same experience,” he shrugs. “The only difference between me and other kids who left home was that I was determined to do something. I wanted to work.” His journey took him across states on trains, doing as many odd jobs as he could find, mainly casual farm-hand work. “Living that life of train riding, it has its own world, you work in certain places. In America, no one gives a shit whether you ride a train or work on a farm, it’s like, so what?” Over here, the life of the American so-called hobo does get somewhat romanticised. “Ain’t nothing romantic about that,” he says firmly. “Everything is romantic once in a while, and we had some good times, but you just get stuck in a life, you know? I was busy trying to earn money and find places to live, I don’t remember thinking nothing romantic about it. Actually, it’s quite boring.”

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SEASICK STEVE

The one constant that drove him on through the decades was music. He becomes far more animated and demonstrative (to the point of throwing his wine around) when he talks about his introduction to the art form, and genre, that would (eventually) make him famous. “My dad always played piano, boogie woogie piano,” he enthuses. “When I was a kid, I liked The Ink Spots and The Mills Brothers: in the ’50s, I liked Hank Williams. My dad had a lot of old boogie music: Pinetop Perkins, Jelly Roll, all the boogie piano stuff, but I didn’t really understand that it was blues. I mean, I liked the old black vocal groups, the doo-wop blues stuff. I also liked Elvis and Carl Perkins. But in the ’60s, I got to hear Son House and Mississippi Fred McDowell play: then I was lit up.” It was this process of lighting up that set him, literally, on the road to being a performer, although he quibbles over the terms of what he is. “I’m not much of a great musician, that’s for sure, so I must be something else. I feel like an entertainer. I played on the street a lot when I was a young soul. Everyone who plays on the street is an entertainer, and how well you do depends how much you get in the hat. So the fact that I’m doing really well now means I think I’m a pretty good entertainer.” Even so, he says he’s not worthy of his Delta blues idols. “I don’t think I really play the blues. Hell, I’m not sure I know what the blues is. I certainly know what it’s like to be blue.”

Steve started playing guitar as an eight-year-old, “but I never thought of being a musician making money back then.” Naturally, for someone without a home, the rite of passage that is buying and playing records was lost to him. “I did hear music all the time… in cars, or when I’d work in carnivals when I was a boy. I had opportunities, but not as much as people who went to school had. Sometimes I’d live in someone’s house who had a TV, so I was always running into something. I wasn’t ignorant of what was going on. I certainly knew Elvis was around. I mean, I couldn’t relate myself to that, but I could relate it to making money on the street. In a way, I was always a working musician.” The man we now know as ‘Seasick’ Steve (“not just seasick, but car sick, everything. Don’t bother me on no rockin’ chair, though”) is still plying his trade with a selection of very old guitars and homemade instruments, like his infamous onestringed ‘diddley bow’. Isn’t it time to invest some of his fortune in new instruments? “I don’t like guitar shops,” he grumbles. “I go once in a while, if I have to buy a slide, but I get confused because I don’t like guitars. I wish I did. I’ve had one for 45 years – it’s like a friend. If you get a new one, you have to get all used to it again… oh man, I’ll just keep these. I figure that my time in the limelight is probably limited anyway, so they’ll probably last me the duration.” It’s a remarkably savvy observation about fame’s fickleness. He learned something about it from spending much of the ’60s in the dead-centre of the San Francisco music scene, where, he says, he was able to “live like a bum in style. There was free everything, especially music. All the bands and artists lived within a couple of blocks of each other. You had Big Brother and the Holding Company, Janis Joplin’s group, Jefferson Airplane, they all lived within walking distance. I didn’t know at the time how special


State

SEASICK STEVE

~ “I don’t got time to make records for other people, trying to guess what other people might like. Shit, I might be dead in a week or two, I got no time for that bullshit. They told me I had to have producers and all that shit, I told them to fuck off.” ~

that was, I found out later. I thought that stuff like that was going on all over the world.”

Despite his innate wanderlust, the less than weary traveller got married to Elizabeth in 1981. Yet, even with a comfortable new abode in Norfolk, England, he’s still unable to feel settled. “I can’t find that feeling of home,” he concedes. “But I’ve been married to this gal for a long time, I realise she is my home. Wherever she is, we’re good. Last year, I was gone 149 days on tour, and I was thinking, this music thing ain’t that fun. She was working at an old people’s home and I said to her, if you don’t come with me, I’m gonna quit because I don’t wanna be away from you. So she comes with me now.” Can we trust that she’s a fan of her husband’s music? “She’s a fan of me. I don’t know, she don’t come to the gigs hardly ever. She’s heard me sit and play the guitar like this for 27 years: the fact that other people all of a sudden like it is a little odd for her.” Steve brought several lifetimes’ experience to bear on his first two records, Cheap from 2004 and Dog House Music in 2006, both of which were recorded for next to nothing. Yet, despite a record deal with Warner Bros, he was determined that I Started Out With

Nothin’… wasn’t going to be a slave to money or technology. “This was my fancy record,” he jokes, “but it was still recorded on an old analogue machine. I read somewhere I’d got all these session musicians working on the record: there was no-one on there! On the Nick Cave song, Jim played drums, Warren played violin; and on another song, KT Tunstall come and played a little rhythm, just for fun. But every song has pretty much one guitar and that’s me. I made the last record in my kitchen. I might make the next one in my kitchen too but I wanted this one to be at least different.” It seems to have worked for him. If nothing else, he’s shown that, even in this hi-tech, multimedia age, one man and a threestring guitar can still, somehow, go mainstream. “Yeah, I’m real happy about that,” he says, before his tone changes to amused exasperation. “I don’t got time to make records for other people, trying to guess what other people might like. Shit, I might be dead in a week or two, I got no time for that bullshit. They told me I had to have producers and all that shit, I told them to fuck off. I told them, you go talk to your kids about that kind of stuff: I’m older than all of you put together. I’ll do exactly what I want. If you don’t like it, I’ll take my toys and go home. That record is exactly what I wanted to do. I’m really glad some people like it, God darn it.”

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X

Little Joy.

DRUM SOLO ~ Words by

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ANNA FORBES


State

fabrizio moretti is driving across pennsylvania. the strokes’ sticksmith has more on his mind than the road, however, as Fab has a new band to

tell State about, the rather wonderful Little Joy, whose roots stem from an encounter with Rodrigo Amarante from Brazilian band Los Hermanos some while back at a Portuguese festival. “My brother lives in Rio and sends me new music and Los Hermanos were one of those bands,” Fab explains. “We always talked about the idea of making music together. Back then, it was more of a joke, well not even a joke – more wishful thinking. Then he arrived in Los Angeles and we met up and made a record.” Is it different forming a band with someone you meet as a fellow musician, as opposed to a friend? “To be honest, we didn’t have a clear cut plan to make music,” he confesses. “We came together for the sake of friendship. When he came to Los Angeles to work on Devendra Banhart’s record, he called me up to have some time off from thinking about music and just to hang out with a fellow Brazilian. We started to get to know each other and it was probably inevitable that we would start working on music because we got along so well. It was further down the line that we decided to start playing though.” So what was Fab doing with his own downtime? “I was just living a quiet life and writing songs on the side,” he sighs. “Once Rodrigo and Bink came along I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to present these songs because they didn’t sound very Strokes-ish.” ‘Bink’ is LA musician Binki Shapiro, the third part of the Little Joy puzzle. It was Shapiro who has been credited with bringing the project into focus, although Fab isn’t so convinced: “Like Rodrigo, our friendship and professional relationship coincided, neither came first. We would hang out all the time, I’d wake up and call her, she’d come and pick me up in her Honda and we’d go and have breakfast somewhere, just chatting. I started to get more and more comfortable with her and more at ease at playing her my songs.” His Little Joy cohorts helped Moretti to feel more comfortable as a songwriter: “They both played an integral part in my confidence. I think that Julian [Casablancas, Strokes] is an amazing songwriter and maybe I was a little apprehensive to play him my songs. I figured my role was the drummer and I’m very proud of that role. I can’t wait to get back to it. Little Joy has helped me see that this is a different line and that life isn’t all about one thing. It’s about trials and accomplishments or failures.” Little Joy is anything but a failure. Despite Fab’s thoughts, it does have a strangely Strokes feel, albeit a quaint, homely one. It’s a great little record, probably by design. The final results certainly don’t sound that far removed from demo recordings. Fab agrees.

LITTLE JOY

“One of the songs, ‘With Strangers’, which sounds like it was recorded on a bar piano with a bunch of drunk people in the background; that was recorded at home. We tried to re-record it but it didn’t have the same feel, so we kept that one. If that song doesn’t sound like a sore thumb on the record, which I don’t think it does, it means that we tried to keep the quality of the demos.” We’re not sure what a sore thumb actually sounds like, but we get his point. The album came out last month but you might have been hard pushed to notice as there seems to have been a conscious decision to avoid a big fanfare around its release. “Absolutely,” he avows. “There’s a real focus on starting over. I’m very proud and very thankful for The Strokes and I don’t think certain opportunities would be as readily available to us, but at the same time, I appreciate the chance to see this as a respectable band and not a side project. It’s inevitable that people will see it in that way but as long as people see that we’re honest and enjoying the opportunity, rather than selling myself between recording with The Strokes.”

The band have immediately set out on a fairly gruelling tour of the US. “It’s pretty crazy. We’re playing virtually every single night, which is something I haven’t done in a long, long time. We’re driving in a van that stinks of stale food and body odour. Our tour started in Minneapolis which was a 35-hour drive from Los Angeles. I have a terrible memory so reliving this stage is nice because it forces me to remember.” How does it compare to the early days of his other band? “It’s harder than I remember it, especially compared to the fact that The Strokes were able to go around and play to 500 people based on an EP of five songs,” he recalls. “That was a crazy buzz. With this band, some nights we’re playing to no more than 15 people.” That, we offer, must be pretty soul destroying? “It’s not at all. It’s actually really exciting,” he gushes. “Everyone feels uncomfortable when the place is empty: it’s not just the band but the people who came to see you. You wonder why you’re only one of 10 people who knew about this band. If we can woo a crowd that small, make them feel like it’s some cosy little secret, that’s great. You get them to approach closer and get a dialogue going with them, they become part of something. Rock ‘n’ roll music shouldn’t be a measure of success; it should be a measurement of joy.”

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Circuit Breakers Words by

PHIL UDELL

STRICTLY CO M E DA N C I N G Ireland’s most innovative club promoters, The Rock ‘N’ Roll Rescue Squad, on 14 years of Strictly Handbag, the changing face of clubbing in Ireland and why David Bowie and Bono are just like any other punter. were very much a reaction to all that.” With DJ Tonie Walsh appearing at the opening night in a wetsuit, Strictly Fish soon caught the Dublin imagination. Ironically, once its original venue, Power’s Hotel, was sold, the club found itself moving to the last place you might have imagined. “I was quite happy to go to the POD,” admits Martin. “It was a great space to make a mockery of. Every Friday, we’d dress the fuck out of it. The big screens had aquariums on them; we’d cover the Chocolate Bar with those horrible strings of disco lights and Gingham table cloths. John Reynolds would walk around, grimacing. We did that for about a year and brought in a crowd that wouldn’t go to POD and didn’t go back once we’d left.”

martin thomas and rory o’keeffe are looking remarkably fresh-faced when state meets them for lunch on a grey frustration at what was on offer. Tuesday afternoon. Last night may have been a Monday but, as has been the case for 14 years, that means a Strictly Handbag club night. Two things about last night were different though. One, it was the last ever Monday night for Handbag, and two, it just happened to be an after-show party for MGMT. With a guest list that included Dirty Pretty Things, The Kills and Har Mar Superstar, it was an unavoidably late night for The Rock ‘N’ Roll Rescue Squad. It’s the end of one era and the start of another for Dublin’s longest running club night. It all stemmed, says Thomas, from a

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“In 1994, POD and The Kitchen had just opened and they meant nothing to me, so I went and started a club (Strictly Fish) that totally took the piss out of those places. That was the specific reason for doing it. It was a reaction to (a) being broke and (b) going ‘how can we do better than this shit?’ There was a bullshit door policy in these places and music nobody wanted to hear - POD had Jon Pleased Wimmin doing a residency, which was just bizarre. It was wanker music for men in spangly Dolce & Gabbana t-shirts who weren’t even gay and orange women. We

Once Strictly Fish became established, Thomas started looking around for a new venture. He soon found one. “At the time, Monday was my favourite night for going out and the only thing that was on at that time was the Ju Ju Club, which was an absolute pile of wank. We went after them primarily because I hated it so much and I always ended up there. We were playing new wave and ska and within a couple of months, that was rammed. Out of that came Strictly Handbag. People weren’t really sure what it meant. In the UK, it was house music but over here, it meant nothing. Within a month, there were 400 people there.” From there, the empire grew. New nights were launched, from Sassy Sue’s GoGo Inevitable to the rock ‘n’ roll karaoke of Songs Of Praise. Of course to some, Thomas and O’Keeffe are the enemy –


tempting people away from live gigs with the offer of something a lot less risky. So has the clubbing scene had a detrimental effect on live music? “I think it initially killed it,” agrees Martin, “but in the last few years, some of the bands who have come out of the city have re-invigorated the live scene. Also, I think people have become bored of clubs: they want to be entertained. That’s why Songs Of Praise works very well, it’s entertaining.” Rory is well placed to judge, having made his name as the singer with The Ultra Montanes. “There is no ‘clubbing’ and ‘live’ in different boxes, there’s just being entertained. Clubbing didn’t kill live music anywhere else. People who decided to replace bands with a DJ booth in the corner because it was cheaper, killed it. The future is in surprising people.” Even though Rory came to the Squad later on, their clubs were always on his radar, as he explains. “This city is very short of interesting people who are willing to put their heads above the parapet and be loud or extreme in any way. There are a lot of loud people but not many who are trying to define themselves outside of the very clearly defined strata of Irish society,” he opines. “Going to Martin’s clubs, I adored dancing to Dandelion’s Northern Soul even though I was a Dead Kennedys and Cure fan. The idea that there was an inclusive club with

no bullshit and no VIP area was great. That’s always been the ethos, that the entire club is the VIP area and that the most interesting person doesn’t necessarily have to be someone who rang ahead to tell us they were coming down. We run plenty big guest lists and we’re more than happy to encourage musicians to come along but once they’re in, that’s it. David Bowie was sat with Bono in Rí Rá, waving security away and shaking people’s hands. “As a punter going to these clubs,” he continues, “I never perceived them as ’80s clubs, never as a school disco night: all I saw was an absolute obsession with proper tunes. That was the most important thing about any Handbag event. It’s the kind of club where people come up to the DJ every third song to find out what it is.”

With success comes, shall we say, imitation, as Martin is fully aware. “I give people a chance: I phone them up first. When Strictly Fish was going and Strictly Handbag was the most popular club in the city, a lot of people started their own ‘Strictly’ nights. I own that name: any club called that in Ireland is mine. If they argued, then the lawyers got involved but mostly they backed off straight away. I scan the internet once a month, seeing who’s ripping off the name.” One thing that always caught the eye was how they presented themselves.

(Above) Martin Thomas, guest dj Kevin Rowland and Rory O’Keeffe; the GoGo Inevitable at full tilt; Songs Of Praise and somebody’s 15 minutes.

“We definitely raised the bar promotionwise for clubs,” reckons Martin. “Before I started, people thought a circular flyer was a big deal. You have to have a brand, whether you’re a band, DJ, venue or promoter. I always wanted a person to look at the thing and go ‘That looks like fun’. The fact that it was cool was irrelevant. It was cool because it was but that shouldn’t matter to a punter. People would get their Handbag flyer on a Monday night and make up their handbag. By the time you’d finished making it, you’d probably decided to go to the club.” Given that they started with the aim of making a difference to the Dublin club scene, how do the pair think they’ve fared? “Most clubs, when you’re 22 years old, you’re lucky to be in the door,” muses Rory. “You’re lucky not to be humiliated in front of your friends and you’re lucky to be dancing to any music at all. And that’s bullshit.” Martin agrees. “If I’ve done anything, it’s that the promoters who’ve come up behind us, and Bodytonic would be a very good example of this, have placed great value in the customer. They don’t take them for granted and they appreciate them. I don’t think that existed in general for a very long time.”

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Q-Tip.

OF THE GODS ~ Words by

the last ten years of kamaal ‘q-tip’ fareed’s life didn’t quite go according to plan. not that he let it bother him too much. While the path to

the release of his new album The Renaissance is littered with record company knockbacks and creative control power plays, Q-Tip took it all in his stride. “A lot of stuff has gone down..,” he tells us but his patience is paying off with the release of his new album The Renaissance. Artists who have formed legacies as part of a seminal group always find it difficult to shake. And if the group is as important to a genre as A Tribe Called Quest is to hip-hop, then even moreso. Their first three albums might be between 15 and 18 years old but they still crackle with the possibility of positivity and pleasantry in a genre now much maligned for manufacturing carcinogenic cartoon caricatures. Just listen to the beautiful flow and ambiance of 1993’s Midnight Marauders LP, a perfect example of Tribe’s jazzinfused hip-hop and intelligent wordplay. When the following two albums’ degradation in quality and focus led to the group splitting in 1998, Q-Tip wasted no time in launching a solo career: the following year, he released the J Dilla produced Amplifed. Much to the surprise of Tribe fans, it marked a shift in sound to a more pop-orientated direction and is notable for its two infectious hit singles ‘Breathe And Stop’ and ‘Vivrant Thing’. The album was certified gold, selling over 500,000 copies in the process. With success under his belt, Q-Tip began to explore his musical boundaries, working with a live band on what was to

NIALL BYRNE

become his second solo album Kamaal The Abstract. The album sees Tip extend his ouevre by adding an admirable singing voice to his musical palette. It had an organic jazz-lounge, moonlitfunk vibe and he was joined on all of its 10 songs by a live band. It contained some wonderful evocative songs but Kamaal The Abstract is an album that’s closer to Norah Jones than Noreaga in terms of atmosphere, so Tip’s label Arista weren’t too happy with the outcome. It was shelved just before release in 2002, despite critical acclaim, on the grounds that the album was “uncommercial”. “Y’know, you take it with a grain of salt because you just do the music and you get frustrated and shit if it doesn’t happen for you when you want it to happen, but it teaches you humility and teaches you vigilance,” Tip tells State, down the phone from the quiet streets of New Jersey, where he currently resides. “I love what I do, I’m an artist. That’s my lifelong thing, that’s my destiny. I don’t waver from what I want to do, y’know? No matter what one other person may say.” Just two years later, Tip was again knocked back by his new label J Records when he submitted an album called Open in 2004 which, while not as unconventional as Kamaal The Abstract, certainly retained that album’s eclectic leanings, featuring guest appearances by Common, D’Angelo and another rap entertainer and innovator, Andre 3000, who in the previous year with Outkast had released the dizzying sex rap funk album The Love

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State

Q-TIP

~ “I’m just an everyman kind of a guy. I’m not like one of these rappers with a whole bunch of shades on and loads of money, saying ‘I’m the shit’. I’m more of a working class hero, like John Lennon would say.” ~

Below. Q-Tip didn’t let his focus slip, however, and he estimates he recorded over 500 songs in the last nine years, finding time to reunite with A Tribe Called Quest for some shows in 2006. “I’ve been working on music the whole time. I stay on it. I’m really sharp and I just keep going. I just don’t slow down,” he explains.

coming up which are good, whether that be Amanda Diva, Wale, or Pacific Division. Artists like these are like inspiration,” says Tip, thumping his chest. “Totally inspiring.” The Renaissance is not, however, a 180 degree turn from those shelved albums. While it does move away from the live band setup in favour of more MPC-assisted sampling, it retains the same effortless cool. It also shares three songs in common with the shelved Open and the last collaboration between Q-Tip and the State has clearly caught Q-Tip during a tired moment at the legendary and rightfully-lauded producer J Dilla, who died of an end of a tiring day. He pauses a few times throughout our short incurable disease in 2006. conversation to accept compliments from fans and a Jamaican “He is part of the fabric for me. It’s crazy,” Tip says mournfully. elder, with whom Tip briefly corresponds in Jamaican Patois. He is “I kinda brought him in the game. It makes me feel weird in a way gracious in taking compliments and it is obviously heartfelt. The that’s he’s not here.” PR lady who connected the call had mentioned that he was up late Q-Tip feels that lyrically the album is disparate with what last night, was very tired and had done a lot of interviews that day: came before. “I feel like it’s different because it’s of the times, it shows. He’s despondent throughout the interview and asks for where we’re at politically and socially, where were at with this questions to be repeated occasionally but when he talks, like when administration, the things I’m saying. I’ve got rhymes on there he raps, you take notice. Talk turns to how his life has been in the that are saying stuff about…” he pauses for a second and begins to last five years. recite a rhyme from the opening track ‘Johnny Is Dead’: “My life has changed,” he admits. “I’ve been deepened by “Magazine debris or shit you have to see / I’m no different from you music. I play a little piano. I have some music theory, so my / I goes through it too / Through the page / I don’t come of age / I’ve not a understanding of what’s happening in a musical scope has deity / I’m far from perfect, see.” increased. I’m still on a search for a loving partner in my life. So Tip is insistent on explaining his mindset before his tired self y’know, I’m just an everyman kind of a guy. I’m not like one of leaves for home. these rappers with a whole bunch of shades on and loads of money, “When I was making the Tribe albums and I did the first one, it saying ‘I’m the shit’. I’m more of a working class hero, like John was like a canvas. I took colours and just threw them on the fuckin’ Lennon would say.” canvas, right? Without any regard of anything. I just wanted to It shows. The Renaissance is about as far as you could get from put some colours on the canvas. That was the first album. Now the Lil Wayne in hip-hop terms in 2008. It took him eight months second album, I’m looking at it and starting to put a line and shape to make and was released on Universal/Motown on November 4. to those colours: bleed the colours so it makes more of a formation. State points out it ties in with another rebirth that took place on On the third album, I put another colour on there and I finished the same day this year, involving one Barack Obama. the painting. So it’s a three album process for a certain kind of “Yeah, it does actually,” he laughs. “I named the album because sensibility , a certain sound. I feel like this album, The Renaissance I felt that hip-hop music is in a renaissance. There’s been a lot of is the beginning of a new painting for me. I feel like this painting stuff about misogyny and bling but there are some groups that are is the going to be a very nice thing when I get done with it.”

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(EARUSON&-$UBLIN 50#$IGITAL#HANNEL $!"$IGITAL2ADIO /NLINE


State

12 NIGHTS TO CHRISTMAS

CO U N T D OW N TO CHRISTM A S ~ Words by

PHIL UDELL

The 12 Nights To Christmas festival 2008 takes place between December 12 and 23 in various top Dublin venues and clubs. One of the nights includes the State Christmas Party but another features Jamaica’s own Santa, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry who begins our guide to the festival by instructing us in dub, punk and the birth of reggae.

perhaps the last place you might expect to find lee ‘scratch’ perry would be switzerland. this clean, quiet corner of Europe may be the antithesis of the and made it into drum ‘n’ bass but I’m Jamaica of his youth but it has been his home for the past 22 years, settled with his wife and two children. He’s even managed to find musicians to collaborate with for the White Belly Rats project. But for Perry, his musical home will always remain on the other side of the world and he keeps a constant eye on the latest crop of artists coming out of the island. “When the music is good and Jamaican music is good, they are the best,” he says, “but they need someone to tell them how to make music, instead of doing everything on the one beat. The DJs do everything to a dancehall beat but they could do something that has more of a spiritual vibration to educate people who didn’t have an education and teach them about god. They need someone to guide them.” For the young Lee Perry growing up in Kendal, the music that inspired him came from outside of Jamaica. “A lot of it came from American soul music,” he remembers. “We listened to a lot of jazz before we made reggae music, we heard it on the college radio. That was an influence, as well as blues. James Brown was one of my favourite artists.” In later years, that debt was repaid. “In America, they took our dub music

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not jealous because they have done a lot for Jamaica. America and Jamaica should work together in music. If there is something good in Jamaica, they will copy it in America and if there’s something good in America, we’ll copy it in Jamaica. If you copy something to make something else, that type of creativity is good.” The US is not the place that we would associate most with the international growth of dub, however. That honour must surely fall to the late ’70s and London’s punk heyday. Perry agrees. “That really was the start of the music we call reggae: it went to the United Kingdom and then turned into punk. They loved our music and they loved to have a party, so I thought, ‘Why don’t we put it together and have a punky reggae party with Bob Marley singing?’”

Despite turning 70 a couple of years ago, Perry is still very much in touch with musical trends (“Of course, I love drum ‘n’ bass. I can recognise that is the modern way of making dub”) and recently worked with the unlikely pairing of Andrew WK and Moby on this year’s Repentance album. More than most, he is aware just how far the music that he helped invent has spread

across the world. “There’s a mixture. You get a different vibration with each one but it all came from soul and jazz. It then got turned into something else.” He himself, however, has unexpected tastes. “I listen to classical music all the time. There’s a lot of magic and science and art in that music.” Perhaps it makes sense, though, as Perry has been an architect of sound himself down the years, creating records with a very distinct purpose. “You always start with the instruments. If you get a guy who wants to sing, you tell him that you want him to sing to a rhythm, tell him how you want him to sound. Whenever you make music, you should always have the instrumental first: then you can tell the artist what you want him to do. If you have a good instrumental, you will always have a good sound.” And where does he see that sound going next? He chuckles. “It will always come back to dub. With it, you can do anything. I’m a very good piano player because of dub. You can turn it into anything as long as the drummer is good and the bass player is good you can take it wherever you want to take it. People will be going to the dancehall with a girl by their side for generation after generation.” Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry plays The Village as part of the 12 Nights To Christmas on December 19.

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12 NIGHTS TO CHRISTMAS

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Jon Moore ALT, Friday, December 12 Half of the hugely influential Coldcut and co-founder of Ninja Tune records, Jon Moore has spent over 20 years cutting up records, doing strange things to them and turning them into prime examples of imaginative dance music. Expect nothing less from this DJ set. Radioactive Man Think Tank, Friday, December 12 Moving up the dance ladder from his early days on the free party circuit in the UK, Radioactive Man has been part of Two Lone Swordsman, a much in demand DJ and remixer to the likes of Freq Nasty and Red Snapper. Shit Disco Button Factory, Saturday, December 13 Alumni of the Fierce Panda label (always a mark of quality), Glaswegians Shit Disco have made something of a name for themselves by taking their punk dance tunes into the most unlikely of venues: including squats, streets, abandoned railway tunnels, shipping containers and caravans. The twin spirits of rave and punk are alive and well.

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12 NIGHTS TO CHRISTMAS

The Clientele Sugar Club, Sunday, December 14 Londoners The Clientele are one of those bands that have enjoyed more success in the US, which is strange because they owe more to the likes of Felt and Galaxie 500 than Bush or Natasha Bedingfield. With a sound drenched in reverb, breathless vocals and surrealist lyrics, it’s about time we in Europe caught up. I Am Kloot / The Chapters Whelans, Monday, December 15 A classic cult act, I Am Kloot have been ploughing their own furrow since the turn of the decade, catching the ear of John Peel, amongst others. One of the finest recent Manchester bands, this will be their first Irish gig for three years. Support comes from a recently revitalised Chapters. 12 Dirty Bullets / Kopek ALT, Tuesday, December 16 Two of the more fancied young bands around come together for one double bill. 12 Dirty Bullets have launched themselves onto the thankless London gig circuit and not only emerged in one piece but tipped by those in the know. Kopek have been doing similar things in Dublin,

Radioactive Man, The Clientele, Delays plus Homer. (Would anyone in The Clientele who wishes to marry a caption writer please stand up)

resulting in them recording with producer extraordinaire Danny Saber. DJ Vadim 4 Dame Lane, Wednesday, December 17 Three hours of one DJ on the decks can often be a bit daunting, but in Vadim’s case, we’ll make an exception. Born in Russia, raised in London and living in New York, Vadim came through the Ninja Tunes academy before starting his own label. The response of the dance community to the news that he had been diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer proves in what high regard Vadim is held. Lost Vagueness Presents Christmas Craic ALT, Thursday, December 18 Purveyors of glitz, glamour and sleaze, Lost Vagueness are best known here for hosting the best parties at Electric Picnic and Glastonbury. The winter months see them equally active, if on a smaller scale, and Andrews Lane promises to be the place to be. Expect...well, expect the unexpected.


State

State’s Midnight Mass Think Tank, Friday, December 19 We’ve spent the year bringing you the best music in print and online, now State wants to do it in person. Except that we’re not musicians so we’ve coerced two of our favourite bands, Fight Like Apes and Super Extra Bonus Party, to do the business on the decks. If you get there early (or indeed late), you could be ‘treated’ to the State dj team in full flight too. Starts with a ‘rosary’ at 11pm. Delays / Codes The Village, Saturday, December 20 Emerging onto the UK music scene in 2001, Delays have always stood out from the pack, being influenced by the likes of Cocteau Twins at a time when everybody else was namedropping Wire. They refused to stand still too, moving further away from indie guitar into something more otherworldly. In that sense, Codes are the perfect musical partners – similar adventurers in sound through a wealth of different instruments.

12 NIGHTS TO CHRISTMAS

Phil Hartnoll Think Tank, Saturday, December 20 As one half of Orbital, Phil Hartnoll practically wrote the book on dance music, taking it from the world of illegal raves to Top Of The Pops and the main stage at Glastonbury. Now at the helm of a new band (Long Range), Phil is also still a DJ to reckon with. Alexis Taylor (Hot Chip) Tivoli Theatre, Sunday, December 21 2008 was the year that Hot Chip built on their cool status and took a look at life in the mainstream. That they entirely enjoyed it is not clear yet, but they are already planning their next move. Could their cover of Vampire Weekend’s ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’ provide a few clues? Maybe Alexis Taylor’s DJ set will provide the answers.

A-Skillz / Cut La Roc Whelan’s Tues, December 23 One of the most acclaimed young DJs working in the UK today, A-Skillz has swiftly moved from playing other people’s records to making his own, still heavily influenced by the worlds of funk and hiphop. Cut La Roc is part of the Brighton big beat hierarchy, having followed Norman Cook from Skint to his new label, Astralwerks. David Holmes The Village, Tuesday, December 23 Closing parties need a special name and David Holmes is second to none. With his latest album wowing all and sundry (including State) opportunities to see him returning to his DJ roots are scarce these days. Eat, drink, be merry and get on the floor. For full details use a ‘computer machine’ and go to

Royseven Whelan’s, Monday, December 22 It’s been pretty quiet on the Royseven front of late, at least in public. Behind the scenes, however, a new record deal has been struck and new material is in the offing. A fine time then for a return to the live circuit. Big band, big tunes.

www.12nightsfestival.com

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CHILDR E N

Cold War Kids.

OF THE R E VO LU T I O N ~ Words by

it’s the evening after the epoch marking, history making night before. nathan willet is sat in a dressing room, contemplating what to have to

eat. Across the world, the majority of his fellow countrymen and women are facing up the future with a much lightened heart. We know that we’re making assumptions here, but we guess that Willet must be feeling pretty happy about the election of Barack Obama? “Yeah,” he says, “It’s pretty insane.” It feels, we offer, like someone has switched a light on all over the world. “The last couple of months have been so heavy for people, with the economy, and everything being so wrapped up together affecting people’s moods, even people who are not directly affected by the economy or by political related things, because the whole mood of the country went down.” Although by no means a ‘political’ band, you would have thought that Cold War Kids would have more interest than most in this new convergence of black and white American culture. It is, after all, what they have done with their music – delve into the history of soul and blues and present it in a way that the alternative audience can understand and appreciate. So does he, the singer of these songs, agree that Obama’s election is proof that the two communities have finally started to meet on equal terms? “I guess you could view it that way but I never thought of it like that.” Right. “I think it’s gonna be an interesting thing,” he continues, becoming a bit more animated on the subject. “My biggest thing is that it’s great that Obama is elected and our country can rally

PHIL UDELL

around a person. But when people are looking towards a president to solve problems that presidents shouldn’t really solve, there’s a degree to where the optimism is misplaced. I’m only 29 but I guess the sensationalising and glorifying of politicians and what they are able to do leaves me feeling surprised at my older generation. They would probably say that my generation and younger are very cynical about politics but I think that we’re also very realistic about not lionising politicians, not making gods of them. “There was a time in America when Obama was a politician on the up-and-up and everyone was very interested in him and it was very exciting. But then, six or eight months ago, something was pushed over the edge and people are turning Obama into a god, someone who’s going to solve everything and make all our dreams come true. It’s depressing to see that. If it was youth and naivity doing that, [you’d understand] but when older people do that, it ain’t right. You’ve to realise that he’s just a guy: don’t let your heart and your mind be angry and hateful or loving and good because of who’s here. It gets kinda scary when that kind of mob mentality comes in...” his voices trails off. That’s it for the politics, then, and it’s onto the music.

The first Cold War Kids’ record, 2006’s Robbers & Cowards was in reality little more than a compilation of their EPs to date, so does new release Loyalty To Loyalty actually feel like a debut. Nathan

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State

COLD WAR KIDS

~ “When people are looking towards a president to solve problems that presidents shouldn’t really solve, there’s a degree to where the optimism is misplaced. I’m only 29 but I guess the sensationalising and glorifying of politicians and what they are able to do leaves me feeling surprised at my older generation” ~

pauses. “In many ways, this does feel like a debut album.” Right. Here’s the thing. Nathan Willet is a nice guy. It’s not that he’s a particularly difficult interviewee. It’s just that sometimes he doesn’t say an awful lot, and doesn’t seem very comfortable with the process. Still, we persevere and thankfully, so does he. “With the last record, when we were going in to record and we had some new songs, we knew what we were recording and we knew the structure of the songs,” he opines. “Whereas this felt much more like the daunting task of making an album: you want everything on it and everything to be perfect about it. The last one felt like assembling pieces that were already there.” Travel has always seemed incredibly significant to the band, who make a point of immersing themselves in whatever locale they find themselves in. The record, however, was made back at base in LA. “We had talked about recording it somewhere else,” he says, “but it went on so long that by the time we got home, we said ‘let’s just do it here’. But travelling is still very important to us. It’s a constant balance between taking in the city itself – to really take in a city in one day is always near-impossible to get to the heart of what’s there. But the nature of us playing in big cities, we usually end up in shopping centres, so it takes a lot of work to get out there. Today I went to the Irish Film Institute in Temple Bar and hung out there: they have a lot of sweet books there and the café is really nice.” When they travel, do they stumble across bands or scenes that surprise them? “There’s a guy called Richard Swift who used to live in Southern California, and now lives in Oregon. He’s an incredible musician and he’s remixed songs for us. A guy called Otis Perkins, who opened the Clap Your Hands... shows, has a record coming out in February and we’ve been listening to it a bunch: he’s one of the guys who I respect most.”

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Like almost every North American band that emerged in the middle of the decade, Cold War Kids were talked about in hushed terms, expected to make a huge commercial breakthrough in the wake of Arcade Fire. As with all the others, that didn’t happen but they certainly put themselves on the map. As Nathan explains, it was something that they had to close themselves off from. “It’s almost like every record is an experiment and the idea of the second record was to not talk about what it meant or what we were taking into it; to totally ignore the fact that we had a lot of attention; that this record would go to a lot of people; that people would buy it without even knowing it, just from knowing our name,” he notes. “Our relationships with both our US and European record labels are great: we basically just deliver the record to them as a finished product. We made the record in the least self-conscious way possible.” In reality, Loyalty To Loyalty is more of the same from Cold War Kids. The thrilling sound that they established on Robbers & Cowards – pounding pianos and rhythms, down and dirty bass, soulful vocals (at one point Willet even seems to be channelling the great black female jazz singers) – is present and correct. It’s a fine record, but you sense that this is the last time they can do this exact thing. We’re not, it appears, the only ones to come to that conclusion. “I think,” says Willett, “that in the future we won’t necessarily ask ourselves what does this sound like, but I think we’ll bring more people in. This record is, in many ways, the most pure Cold War Kids record. This is how we write songs. This is how we edit ourselves. We have never had a proper producer, someone who’s telling us what to do, to any degree. And that’s awesome. We realise at this point that we now want to bring people in to help us do things better.”


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JUST

One Day International.

NOT CRICKET ~ Words by Photography by

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JOHN WALSHE RICHARD GILLIGAN


State

some bands don’t take the usual route to success in the music world. not for them the years of grind on the live circuit before finally releasing a debut

album of songs they’re already sick of. This Irish-Aussie quintet (Matt Lunson on vocals, Cormac Curran on piano, Danny Snow on bass, Ross Turner on drums and Eimear O’Grady on cello) decamped to a studio soon after their formation and spent the next 18 months crafting Blackbird, their stunning debut album. “A lot of us had played live in our various guises, so we knew what that held, and I guess it was a case of getting it right before we went out there and presented what we had,” Eimear muses of their unorthodox beginnings. “Our live show is changing all the time,” Matt notes. “We’re introducing faster songs and more epic songs into the set. But the initial set of songs was very delicate and fragile and we didn’t just want to go and play gigs for the sake of it, where the situation and circumstances weren’t perfect for it. There’s no point going and playing on a Wednesday night with the wrong band to the wrong audience, ’cos it’s just heart-breaking. We’re still like that now. The music is very precious, so we’re really trying to treat it right and take care of it. It’s better to wait and do a support in Vicar Street with Elbow and have an amazing night, rather than doing four shit gigs.”

The five people who make up One Day International have serious collective musical experience (for instance, Matt was a wellrespected singer/songwriter, Ross plays with David Kitt and Jape and Eimear shared stages and albums with a host of acts). But they are definitely a proper band and not merely a band or collective of like-minded souls. “Probably when we started, it was a bunch of songs that required something, but now it’s definitely a band,” Matt stresses. “The line-up has been settled since the start of 2007 and it’s rock solid now.” Their whole ethos has evolved from the early days, when it started as a songwriting collaboration between Matt and Cormac. “We had never written collaboratively before and we wanted to know what that felt like, so we just messed around with a couple of songs and fell in love with them,” recalls Matt. Since then, however, One Day International has become much more of a team event. “We’re definitely learning that trick of the five of us being in a room and somebody bringing something in and being able to spark it off the next person,” explains Eimear. “It’s working, and we’re all really enthusiastic about it.” “What I love about it is that there’s no passenger in the band,” Matt notes. “Everyone is very intelligent, articulate, experienced and opinionated. We have a robust relationship with one another. We were really good friends when we got together...”

ONE DAY INTERNATIONAL

he laughs. “There’s a mutual respect between everyone. Often the drummer is happy to sit back and just keep time, but Ross is incredibly articulate musically and comes to the songs as a songwriter as much as any of us. He probably consumes the greatest amount of music out of all of us, so he’s kinda the cool police.”

When One Day International became a going concern, Matt had three dreams for the band: to play Vicar Street, to sign with Independent Records and to appear on Later With Jools Holland: they’ve already achieved two and haven’t given up on that TV appearance. “We wrote ‘Miss Your Mouth’ and that was what made me decide to leave the solo stuff behind to do this,” he admits. “I felt that we could stand in that circle of whoever the acts were on Jools Holland, singing ‘Miss Your Mouth’ and feel like it was at the standard of everything else. I had never felt that about my solo stuff.” Their live show too is pretty incredible. State was suitably impressed by their launch gig in Whelan’s and we were not alone, with The Irish Times awarding their Limerick show on the following tour ‘Gig of the Week’ status. They were also acknowledged as one of the stars of this year’s Hard Working Class Heroes weekend. “We didn’t know what to expect from it because we thought maybe we weren’t indie enough, but it was absolutely amazing and the response we got from it was staggering, both from the public and industry,” Matt notes. “Because we recorded the album first, the fear was that the live show wasn’t going to measure up to the quality of the album, but I think it’s actually superseded it, which is no mean feat.” State readers can judge for themselves when the band play their biggest headliner to date in Dublin’s Button Factory on December 18. “We’re planning a much bigger show, with lots of the people who guested on the album joining us,” Eimear smiles. It won’t stop there, however. 2009 will see One Day International go, eh, international, with appearances planned for South By South West and Canadian Music Week. “Right from the very start, we felt like this album doesn’t sound Irish: it doesn’t really sound like it came from anywhere and we think it’ll travel really well,” explains Matt. “We’re all professional musicians, we’re really ambitious and we know that to make a really good living, it has to translate outside of Ireland. I think we have as good a chance of that happening as anybody.” One Day International play The Button Factory on December 18.

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Tim Wheeler.

ASH WITHD R AWA L ~ Words by

on one side of the street, a dreadlocked homeless woman is playing ‘ring of fire’ on the spoons, while across the way a tourist and his family stand over a guy with barely a dollar to his name while he plucks away

at ‘The Gambler’. Everywhere in Nashville, there’s music – both kinds as the locals say, country and western. In between the crab houses, saloons and endless tourist stores, there’s 101 men and women playing a classic song, often criss-crossing the same tunes at different points: someone is stuck on the chorus to ‘That’ll Be The Day’ while another strums the first chords. Down by the Cumberland River, State is taking in the morning sun while a straggle-haired dude with his head rested on a sports bag plays ‘Wichita Lineman’ to the sky. We’re here in the city to meet Tim Wheeler and we find him at a crossroads. “Eh… up shit creek,” is Wheeler’s assessment of where he was in danger of heading the last time State met him. That was coming off the back of Ash’s hugely disappointing sophomore record, the brutally titled Nu-Clear Sounds, as Wheeler and the rest of band had just finished the final pieces of Free All Angels. Soon that record would hit number one in the UK, helped along the way by a series of brilliant singles and after the danger of bankruptcy and record deal oblivion had subsided, they went about their business of becoming one of the biggest acts in Europe. From personal recession to ultimate redemption in a few easy steps, maybe it’d make a good country song. “Y’know, it might happen,” says Wheeler, contemplating the suggestion, but then himself and bandmates Mark Hamilton and Rick McMurray are about to enter a whole new era, not only for them but possibly for the music industry as a whole. Ash, you see have no record deal, they have no record either, both by choice. They spend their time of late recording ’til all hours in New York (Wheeler’s home for some years) with plans to release the fruits of this labour online, song by song, whenever they bloody well feel like it. One week a metal love song, the next punk/pop, the week after some glam, perhaps, and after that an acoustic tearjerker.

JOHN JOE WORRALL

“The creative challenge of making an album is constricting to me now, I think, from a writing perspective anyway,” says Wheeler in a cavernous meeting room on the second floor of Nashville’s Wyndam Hotel. “There’s no pressure now to have 11 tracks with a similar feel or the kind of ups and downs and whatever else people generally do with an album. There’s a great freedom there. We could get a label involved but we might not actually need to get funding or anyone else involved. I think the only deal we would sign is an independent – which is where our best-selling albums were made, when it’s small and there’s lots of attention. But that’s not even on the radar now, it’s just about recording.” Essentially it’ll be a music blog then? “Yeah, like when we want something out there, five minutes after we’ve recorded it and are happy with it, it can be. There’s a danger of releasing something and hating it a day later but that’s cool, we’re comfortable with that. The recording has been the best ever, so relaxing, no pressure... It was actually hard to leave for a few days. The whole business aspects of running our own affairs aren’t all tied up yet but that’s for another day and we have people we trust around us.”

The abandonment of the tried and tested concept is something which many of the bands Ash once vied for top spot in the album charts with couldn’t contemplate (minus maybe Radiohead). Go back to when they released 1977 on the back of ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Oh Yeah’ – album releases had at that stage almost become an Olympic sport. Any band interview wasn’t complete without views on the new or upcoming records from Oasis, The Verve, Blur, Pulp, even bloody Embrace and so many of the others who made

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TIM WHEELER

~ “The creative challenge of making an album is constricting to me now, I think, from a writing perspective anyway. There’s no pressure now to have 11 tracks with a similar feel or the kind of ups and downs and whatever else people generally do with an album.” ~

hay while Chris Evans shined. The PR machines behind each of them were as powerful as a decent-sized summer blockbuster, as the music industry became oddly adversarial. Then again, the Downpatrick trio were always on the outside of those bands, finding affinity, oddly enough, with U2 more than any of their chart contemporaries. Perhaps things were always bound to turn out this way? “We finished up our deal with Warner after Twilight Of The Innocents in summer 2007 and it was like… okay, we don’t want to sign anything. We kind of took stock and decided how we wanted to approach this. I just started writing songs then and just wrote what I felt: it didn’t feel like an album and then we started talking about it and thought, well why should it? “Writing-wise, recording-wise, it’s completely different, completely better. I mean, I dunno if many bands can or will go down this road but these days, with downloads and everything, the majority of money is made on the road anyway, as well. For kids, paying for music isn’t a thing they’re familiar with. We always liked doing things the odd way anyway.”

This new-found freedom has seen them play some peculiar gigs as well, such as a recent London Astoria show where they played 1977 from front to back, not to mention the reason Wheeler’s in Nashville – the JD Set, celebrating Jack Daniel’s birthday, where he plays on the same bill as The Strangler’s former frontman Hugh Cornwell, Róisín Murphy and Tom Dartnell of The Young Knives. He has great things to say about all of them but then again, Wheeler is pretty much the most affable man in rock. Stiff Little Fingers? “Brilliant, brilliant band.” Snow Patrol? “I love them.” Oppenheimer? “Very cool.” “Where we’re going at the minute doesn’t compute for most record companies, I suppose,” he says in between eulogising about life in New York, being healthier these days (he still looks about 18 and certainly not his actual 31 years) and the transition back to a three-piece since the departure of guitarist Charlotte Hatherley last year. “It just felt right and natural,” he says on the latter. “It was amicable and best for everybody.” Fast forward to the following evening and Wheeler is ploughing through ‘Running Back’ in absolutely storming fashion. We’re at a place called Barbeque Hill at the back of the Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg – the kind of remote ‘red state’

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town with picket fences galore, rocking chairs on porches and where businesses by the name of ‘Sassy Shears Beauty Parlour’ are the norm. This is Americana, folks. Backed up by local session legends, The New Silver Cornet Band, he follows up the Lizzy cover with ‘Always The Sun’ in the company of Cornwell, a few Ash hits and even, praise be, Wreckless Eric’s momentous ‘Whole Wide World’. Finishing the oddly Irish-themed show we get ‘Gloria’, with everyone back on stage screaming their heads off. “We have diabolical plans for next year,” he writes on his own blog a few days later, adding, “our secret laboratory has been a real hive of activity.” The results of the experiment should be worth hearing.

The JD Set

FOR around 300 competition winners and jammy journalists alike, the JD Set is a now annual gig at the Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Celebrating the birthday of the man himself, previous acts at the event have included Patti Smith, Frank Black, Guy Garvey and Editors. After a whopper of a barbeque, this year’s event was headed by The Stranglers’ former frontman Hugh Cornwell, ably assisted by Róisín Murphy, Tom Dartnell of The Young Knives and of course, Tim Wheeler. The night wouldn’t be complete without some of the good stuff itself, and personally speaking, State feels the Lynchburg Lemonade (some Jack with triple sec) is the way to go. After meeting the company’s master distiller, Jeff Arnett, he’d also like to send a personal message: “Your friends at Jack Daniel’s remind you to drink responsibly,” he says. What a guy.


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

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

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FANTASTIC PLANET: FANTASTIC JJ PROJECT Taking inspiration from ace hip-hop producer Jneiro Jnel, aka Dr Who Dat? , France’s Fantastic Planet made a mixtape called ‘Fantastic JJ Project’. Dedicated to Jnel, also of Shape Of Broad Minds, all the beats from this mix are taken from the instrumental Beat Journey album by Dr Who Dat?, with added raps and cuts from USA’s Mattic and the La Fin Equipe crew. http://url.ie/wtf

4

DEERHUNTER: PLATTS EYOTTS SESSION Recorded in September on a nature reserve on the Thames, London, this seven-song session is dedicated to the memory of John Peel. It finds Bradford Cox using vintage gear, “all researched over many years and sourced from around the world”, to record songs in a stream of consciousness fashion. Like everything Deerhunter have done this year, it’s bloody brilliant.

1

ANTONY AND THE JOHNSONS: ANOTHER WORLD W Taken from the follow-up to the Mercury Prize winning I Am A Bird Now and due out in January, The Crying Light will supposedly explores Antony’s relationship with the natural world. If that means singing mournfully, lamenting the loss of seas and snow, like this track, then it should be a cracker.

4ad.com/features/deerhunter/

5

BLACK GHOSTS: REPETITION KILLS YOU (RAC REMIX) The Remix Artist Collective rework the London electro duo’s collaboration with Damon Albarn and the result leans towards the type of material Albarn himself made as Gorillaz. http://url.ie/wtm

http://url.ie/wte

2

BON IVER: UNRELEASED Before Justin Vernon became better known as Bon Iver and released one of our albums of the year, the Wisconsin singer recorded some solo material prior to his previous band DeYarmond Edison’s move to Raleigh, North Carolina. Only 100 copies of an album called Hazeltons exist and this is song is a tantalising taster for what may lie within.

blog of the month HIPSTER RUNOFF www.hipsterrunoff.com

“When I fuck my girlfriend, I pretend that I am fucking Wes Anderson.”

http://url.ie/wo7

on videotape Villagers: ‘Pieces’ Formerly of The Immediate, Conor O’Brien is stepping out as Villagers and this live footage already has us rapt. http://url.ie/wtn

Kanye West: ‘Heartless’ How far Kanye has come. Hype Williams directs this animated video inspired by the 1981 film American Pop. Looks out of place next to standard rap videos. http://url.ie/wtq

Fight Like Apes: ‘Digifucker’ A strange unofficial video made by students of New York’s Tisch School Of The Arts featuring eerie females miming to the song in cheap ’80s soft-focus. http://url.ie/whv

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A self-proclaimed “blog worth blogging about” aimed towards North American hipster youth, this bizarre music blog is a postmodern take on music subcultures. The site’s author, Carles, is both the most annoying and entertaining fickle youth on the internet, invariably talking about other people’s “personal brands” and the latest bands, dismissing them according to their varying degrees of hipster love. Carles spends much of his time writing in txtspeak, searching for authenticity and trying to decide what musical social stereotype is coolest : altbro, bloghouse, blipster, meaningful core etc etc. Carles has made up most of these labels himself and uses photos of out-there hipsters as a jumping point for his acerbic thoughts. You’ll probably hate this but that’s kinda the point.


State

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ALBUMS OF 2008


State

ALBUMS OF 2008

Gla lasv svveg egas ass iin n

With a nod to the wheels of democracy, State’s team of reviewers all pitched in their votes for the finest 50 albums of 2008. High in the polling was the debut by Scotland’s band of the year, Glasvegas, followed by, in alphabetical order, our glorious best 50. Interview by

JOHNNIE CRAIG STEVE GULICK

Photography by

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whether you win or you lose at pop stardom doesn’t just depend upon talent. sometimes, it’s like the hapless gambler who’s spent two hours,

and all his money, at a casino slot machine, employing every trick he knows, but just can’t get the fruits to line up: the next person comes along and hits the jackpot on their first go. It’s the luck of the draw. Or timing. It’s like the dream that prophetically put the ‘Vegas’ into Glasvegas: the band whose 2008 started like a dream and just kept getting better. “It’s the most bizarre thing,” admits guitarist Rab Allan, relaxing in the corporate glamour of Sony/BMG’s London offices. “To go from the east end of Glasgow, where your prospects are factory work, going out at the weekend, causing trouble, getting drunk and trying to find women, to doing what we’re doing now… it’s beautiful. I knew the songs were good, but that’s not always enough. You need a lot of luck. Timing is a big thing, and I guess you could say the stars aligned.” From Dalmarnock to Transylvania via New York, it’s been quite a year for Glasvegas. Formed in 2001 by Rab and his cousin, frontman James Allan, with bassist Paul Donoghue and drummer Ryan Ross, they had vague dreams of mild notoriety, like every other band; play some crappy gigs in crappy venues, build up a following, save up and maybe even release a record at some point. Their early musical influences were sketchy, to say the least. “I wouldn’t listen to music,” says Rab. “It would be what my mum was playing: Simply Red, on repeat. I can give you any Simply Red lyric, if you like. James’s sister would be listening to Madonna, Sinitta, Starship… you know. James and I only got into music around Britpop time. I saw Oasis doing ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ on Top Of The Pops and it blew me away. That’s when I wanted to be in a band.”

They couldn’t have foreseen that by the start of 2008, they’d be at the centre of a bidding war between every major record label in the world, desperately clamouring to sign the band who had articulated the ‘Broken Britain’ zeitgeist, with a big, loud and glamorous sound that was, in spite of some desperate comparisons, all their own. Ryan Ross certainly didn’t foresee it; he quit the band in 2004 to be replaced by Caroline McKay, another of those happy twists of fate which has paid off handsomely. When State meets Caroline, she’s jetlagged and “totally fucking delirious” on the way to Transylvania, where Glasvegas are due to record their second album of the year. “I’ve no idea what to expect,” she yelps. “I forgot my rosary beads and my garlic capsules.” It’s an established belief within the band that they owe their distinctive sound to vampire-fearing Caroline’s drumming. “When Caroline joined,” explains Rab, “she couldn’t play drums, so she just stands up playing two drums. So there was a lot of space in the songs for us to make the guitars quite big and furious. It was never really a plan: it was quite an organic thing.” “It was necessity,” Caroline argues. “I’d never picked up an instrument before in my life but I’m getting there.” Picking up drummer jokes along the way? “Oh fuck, I think I am the joke: they take the piss out of me all the time. I think that’s the drummer’s job – that’s what they told me.” “She’s talking shit,” says Rab, when he hears this. “I do take

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50 BEST ALBUMS OF 2008

the piss out of her, but that’s to tell her she looks like Danny DeVito. Her drumming, what she gives to the band, is one of the most special things. And her as a person: the band is how it is because of her. She’s quite oblivious; she thinks she’s just a drunk. And I’d agree, but she’s a drunk that hits the drums. She’s irreplaceable.” And, according to NME, she’s also now one of the coolest people in the UK. “You didnae need to bring that up,” Rab grizzles.

Glasvegas came to the wider world’s attention via Alan McGee. The Glaswegian svengali caught them, third on the bill, at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in 2006, and blogged in The Guardian about the glory of these “rockabilly neds”, the best Scottish band he’d seen since The Jesus And Mary Chain. “Alan exaggerates to a point where you have to start laughing,” Rab says, chuckling. “I love the guy, though. I was out with him last night, and I asked him how he was doing, and he said he was like John Lennon but without the heroin – everything’s dramatic with Alan.” All the same, McGee’s endorsement got the band noticed. Soon, everyone knew ‘Daddy’s Gone’, James Allan’s powerful and heartbreaking broken-home ballad. Everyone now wanted to know who this band of black-clad, quiffed-up, thick-accented Scots soulsters were. The frenzied rush to sign Glasvegas began in earnest. “It was a cattle market,” says Rab. “We were the cow that everybody wanted. Every record company you could think of. You would go to dinner and meet Seymour Stein, one of the coolest guys I’ve ever met. Rick Rubin phoned James one night; he’s like, ‘all right, this is Rick Rubin’. James hadn’t a clue, he said, ‘oh yeah, you worked with Johnny Cash!’ He’d never heard of Def Jam or any of the other stuff.” In the end, the band chose Columbia because, says Caroline, “we instinctively trusted them the most. They’re pure music lovers. We trusted them and they trusted us. Hopefully, it’s the beginning of a long and beautiful relationship.”

Within a couple of months, they were off to New York to record their debut album with Muse, Interpol and Franz Ferdinand producer Rich Costey. “Even before we were signed, James had spoken to Rich,” Caroline continues. “We went to New York because we wanted to work in his environment, which was great because there were no distractions. Everyone was really warm and welcoming. Columbia being what it is, people met us and went, ‘ooh, fancy!’” If there was any pressure on the band to deliver, it certainly didn’t show. The eponymous Glasvegas album is exquisite: it garnered almost universally glowing reviews and nestled into the No.2 slot in the UK album charts, selling 56,000 copies in its first week. The songs came in for particular media scrutiny; everyone had asked James about ‘Daddy’s Gone’ but now they wanted to know about ‘Flowers And Football Tops’, the tragic album opener about the murder of a teenage boy; ‘Geraldine’, the story of an angelic social worker; and, most chilling of all, the selfexplanatory ‘Stabbed’, all the more devastating for being delivered in Glaswegian monologue over a dreamy piano rendering of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. It may have described ‘Broken


State

Britain’, as the papers labelled it, but were these songs actually a terrifying indictment of Glasvegas’ home nation? “People outside of Scotland have asked if it’s a true representation of Scotland as a country,” says Rab. “I always say, Glasgow is my home and I love it but I wouldn’t change it from the way it is. Parts of Glasgow aren’t nice, parts are. We’re not trying to paint a bad picture. James is a very perceptive person. He writes about things that affect him – even if it’s in America, he writes about it as if it’s a Glaswegian thing.” Caroline agrees. “People relate to the lyrics, from 12-year-olds to 60-year-olds, across all social class backgrounds. We’ve got a

50 BEST ALBUMS OF 2008

hugely diverse fanbase, it’s incredible, and everyone we’ve spoken to has been really touched by the songs. James is an intelligent and sensitive writer, with a great awareness of what’s going on around him.” Is the heavy accent a sticking point elsewhere in the world, though? “No,” says Caroline, firmly. “More often than not, people love it. And that’s the way it should be. James isn’t going to fake an American accent, I don’t think anybody would appreciate that – least of all him.” “It’s an exotic accent,” says Rab, without a hint of irony, and a slight tremble of pride. “It’s a beautiful accent. Everyone in the

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50 BEST ALBUMS OF 2008

~

“It was a cattle market. We were the cow that everybody wanted. Every record company you could think of. You would go to dinner and meet Seymour Stein, one of the coolest guys I’ve ever met. Rick Rubin phoned James one night” ~

world loves Scottish people. The accent gets a ‘wow’ everywhere we go. We don’t do it to be different: we do it because it’s natural.”

Following State’s conversation with Caroline, the band spent the following few days recording in Transylvania, a place Rab describes as, “untouched, tranquil and scenic, the way you imagine it - with a lot of castles, and Hansel and Gretel-style houses.” What they were getting their teeth into was A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like A Kiss) – a Christmas album, something James had promised fans earlier in the year. As Rab tells it, “When we met with the record companies, we said, ‘we want to make a Christmas album or else we’re not signing with you’.” So why Transylvania? “You get an opportunity to go to places you wouldn’t normally go, and for some reason Transylvania just seemed cool. James gets these ideas into his head and I’ve stopped questioning them… because he’s always right.” Is it really a Christmas album? “All the songs are Christmassy songs,” he insists. What, even a song with a title like, ‘Fuck You, It’s Over’? “Yep, they’re all about Christmas. But not everyone’s Christmas is Wham! or Wizzard or Slade, not everybody’s

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Christmas is nice. For some people, it’s the worst time of year, so this record maybe shows there’s a darker side to Christmas. It’s a beautiful record.” He’s right, of course; it’s perhaps a rougher-sounding album than Glasvegas, and it’s three tracks shorter than they intended due to time constraints, but as a Yuletide gift to their fans, it’s close to perfect. “We recorded it in seven days, whereas the proper album took two months,” Rab explains. “But the songs sound great. ‘Careful What You Wish For’ is basically just a verse, and it’s beautiful. ‘Fuck You, It’s Over’ could have been a single in its own right: the vocal is out of this world. ‘Cruel Moon’ is the best song James has ever written. He wrote that when we were in New York and the first time I heard it, there were tears welling up. Incredible. Then the title track, is just a nice song. Then we’ve got our version of ‘Silent Night’, which we’ve got The Concentus Choir singing on from Transylvania. It ends on quite a happy note. We’re really happy with it.” So, after all this hard graft and creativity, it looks like it’ll be a merry festive season for this supposedly miserablist band. “Yes, and a busy Christmas,” Rab says, sucking through his teeth with ironic disdain. “And the whole of next year.” Ah, the old touring schedule, there’s no escaping success, in Heaven or Glasvegas. ‘Careful What You Wish For’, indeed.


State

50 BEST ALBUMS OF 2008

THE 50 BEST ALBUMS OF 2008

Bon Iver For Emma, Forever Ago

(4AD)

Proof positive that antisocial tendencies can lead to great things. Locking himself away from the world in a remote cabin in Wisconsin was the best thing Justin Vernon ever did. In between chopping wood and killing deer, he created For Emma, Forever Ago which may or may not be about a former lover. Consisting of layers of choral tones, brittle acoustic guitar, a warm falsetto and a broken heart, it is one of the most beautiful, winsome, melancholy and affecting albums of the year. A gossamer thread of melancholy hangs throughout but it is never depressing, always uplifting. Close your eyes and listen to first track ‘Flume’ with headphones on and you’ll understand.

Adebisi Shank

W

Butch Walker

This Is The Album Of A Band Called…

Sycamore Meadows (original signal)

(richter collective)

Tearing out of the blocks with just 23 minutes and eight songs to their name, Dublin’s finest example of instrumental rock right now don’t let up in the interim. All manner of muscular bass and frenetic guitar riffs collide with furiously dexterous drums and the occasional talk box. Robot fucking rock.

Georgia singer-songwriter Butch Walker’s fourth solo album gently caresses the boundaries between elegant country-tinged pop and fiery glam rock like a sleazy Elvis Costello on Sambuca. Written after he lost his house and home in a freak bushfire, Sycamore Meadows documents the pain, fear, isolation and relationship strain of the months that followed.

Beck

Cadence Weapon

Modern Guilt (xl)

Afterparty Babies (big dada)

While perhaps not his most warmly-received album, thanks to the foreboding sense of unease within, the album’s dark shades were counterpointed by the white light of Danger Mouse’s ’60s pop arrangements and the strength of Beck Hansen’s songwriting. At just 33 minutes, it is Beck’s shortest and most substantial record since Sea Change.

Largely, a document of Rollie Pemberton’s peers, Afterparty Babies introduces us to the hairdressers, tattoo-artists, club promoters and youth cliques of Edmonton, Canada. Rollie uses them as a jumping off point for understanding the societal place of a man in his early 20s through rhymes and electro/hip-hop beats.

Bon Iver For Emma Forever Ago (4ad) See panel

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50 BEST ALBUMS OF 2008

Fight Like Apes Mystery Of The Golden Medallion

(model citizen)

Such was the expectation that surrounded Fight Like Apes’ debut album that no-one would have been surprised if they had fallen short. Instead they came up with a truly impressive record that combined brattish punk with the poppiest of melodies. It was those melodies and the songs that they propelled that was the greatest delight of all. We knew they could do shouty (‘Lend Me Your Face’) and aggressive (‘Jake Summers’) but did anyone expect the genuine menace of ‘Digifucker’, the exuberance of ‘Tie Me Up With Jackets’ or the sheer maturity of ‘Lumpy Dough’. All from a bunch of musicians barely in their 20s. Opened doors and minds in equal measure.

Calexico

Cut Copy

Carried to Dust (city slang)

In Ghost Colours (modular)

Surpassing the heights of 2003’s Feast Of Wire, this album’s Arizona/Mexico border sound is rich with Latin brass and brushes on drums, but most of all it’s the subtle beauty of Joey Burns’ voice. Heart-piercingly gorgeous when he lifts up, the album paints images in every line that you find yourself drifting into a slideshow of “shadows drinking anti-freeze beneath the underpass” and ships drifting out of tune. Immaculately constructed and utterly cinematic.

For State, In Ghost Colours came to life at Electric Picnic, when Cut Copy owned Saturday. The set also displayed their unpayable debt to the ’80s. Many bands have learned from New Order, but Cut Copy are A students. And what of it: ‘Hearts on Fire’, ‘So Haunted’, and ‘Unforgettable Season’ were three of 2008’s most perfect moments. One word: euphoria.

Hail Destroyer (hassle) Ultra heaviness abounds on the Bats’ second album, with a masterful balance of relentless, frothing hardcore and crushing Southern rock combining to dizzy the senses. Approach with extreme caution, Hail Destroyer is not for the faint of heart or delicate of mind but it might just reawaken your inner metaller.

Coldplay Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends (parlophone/emi) Crisis? What crisis? Talk of a wholesale change of direction proved to be a touch previous but this was definitely the sound of a band expanding their horizons, without alienating too many people along the way. One small step for man, one giant leap for Coldplay.

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Love To Make Music To (ninja tune) The most thrilling electronic album of the year? Alfred Darlington certainly has the production chops and the uncanny ability to twist samples into emotionally resonant and dance-floor friendly songs. Hip-hop, dubstep, and cut and paste wizardry combine to produce the kind of album DJ Shadow should be making.

David Holmes The Holy Pictures (commercial marketing) After years of soundtracking George Clooney and Brad Pitt smugly robbing smug folk, Holmes went back to Belfast and spent his time writing the tunes to fit alongside a slideshow of his life. The result – Holmes’ vocal debut and all – is beautiful, uplifting, occasionally elegiac and, in the case of ‘I Heard Wonders’, fuckin’ rocks.

richard gilligan

Cancer Bats

Daedelus


State

Deerhunter

50 BEST ALBUMS OF 2008

Songs Of Significance

Microcastle (4ad) A surprising third record from the Atlanta group saw the unheralded introduction of pop into Bradford Cox and company’s normally strained psychedelic hearts. There are still touches of the ambient punks of old but suddenly, Deerhunter were a band unfettering polychromatic shades rather than monochrome dirges.

Tunes that permeated music culture in 2008

Department Of Eagles In Ear Park (4ad) With In Ear Park, dedicated to his late father, Dan Rossen has put his talent as a songwriter beyond any doubt. A sedate and personal affair to take the edge off life, the golden guitar tones suggest a nostalgia for classic folk music, informed by the band’s experimental bent. Wondrous.

Elbow The Seldom Seen Kid (polydor) Perennial nice guys and under-achievers, Elbow finally got the recognition they deserved with the Mercury Music Prize. Those in the know, however, have been singing the quintet’s praises for years. That said, ‘Grounds For Divorce’ is possibly their finest moment to date.

Benga and Coki: ‘Night’ Dubstep’s inimitable anthem of the last 18 months was released in January and is still being dropped by every major dubstep producer.

DJ Mujava: ‘Township Funk’

Erykah Badu New Amerykah Part One (4th world war) Erykah Badu knows what it’s like to hear the rush of a brilliant soul record. She must do because she’s made an album of nostalgic soul shot through the medium of 21st century hip-hop. Girl-group harmonies, doo-wop, Madlib productions are all imperative to the success here, but Badu’s honey heartbreak voice is the centre of the maelstrom around which all else reverberates.

The first time you hear this, you’ll wonder what the fuss is about, but the strength of this African dance song is its surprisingly resilient bleepy melody, leading it to be dropped in more DJ sets and mixes than any other this year. Infectious.

MGMT: ‘Kids’ W Are you pissed off yet? No? OK. “Do do do do do do do do dooooooooo”.

Little Boots: ‘Stuck On Repeat’

S

Victoria Hesketh struck gold with hypnotic Gorgio Moroder synths and six minutes of electro-pop goodness.

Fight Like Apes Mystery Of The Golden Medallion (model citizen)

Wiley: ‘Wearing My Rolex’

See panel

V

Grime finally found a way to make some cash. Here’s the formula: get an electro beat, a trademark dance and mention the watch brand. There were many copycat versions but the first cut is the deepest.

Fleet Foxes Fleet Foxes (bella union)

Hot Chip: ‘Ready For The Floor’

See panel

Do it, Do it, Do it, Do it, Do it, Do it, Do it now...

MIA: ‘Paper Planes’

Flying Lotus

“It had a really good run, but it’s over now.“ (Diplo, the track’s producer after hearing yet another tasteless remix)

Los Angeles (warp)

richard gilligan

With his second full length, Fly Lo exceeds all expectations placed on him as grandson of Alice Coltrane and a Warp artist. Where before he laboured in hip-hop instrumentals, Los Angeles extends his palette considerably, with a stunning collection of intense, organic, mind-altering ambient, electronic and hip-hop soundscapes.

Vampire Weekend: ‘A-Punk’ A frantic two minute jump-along all year long.

The Count and Sinden: ‘Beeper’ Another mix regular thanks to its early ’90s electro-squelches and repetitive vocal hook.

Crystal Castles: ‘Air War’ That CC have practically come from nowhere to the top of NME’s cool list and soundtracked a Toshiba ad says a lot about their 2008.

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50 BEST ALBUMS OF 2008

really had added R’n’B and pop to their already dizzying musical vision. It could have been a disaster but if anyone can pull it off, it’s this lot.

Ham Sandwich Carry The Meek (route 109 recording co.) When Carry The Meek first appeared back at the start of the year, it already felt like a singles compilation. The intervening months have revealed it to be a ludicrously accomplished debut and simply one of the best collections of songs heard anywhere during 2008. Their Meteor award for Hope of the Year wasn’t misplaced.

Heathers Foals W Antidotes (transgressive) Invariably called dance-punk, math-rock or post-punk, Foals’ music can be more easily categorised by that which it does not have: guitar chords. Two guitars precipitate notes from the high frets, sustaining each other around a taut drum and bass section, with some occasional electronic touches. Vocalist Yannis sings about tennis and Roman Emperors and why the fuck not when the songs are this good.

Friendly Fires Friendly Fires (xl) Like Foals before them, Friendly Fires make indie music you can dance to by taking inspiration from techno labels like Kompakt and supplementing it with a love of the ’80s. At the heart of this self-titled debut lies some great pop songwriting, from the synth sheen of ‘Paris’ to the Talking Heads funk of ‘In The Hospital’.

Here Not There (hideaway records) Twin sisters, a guitar and heart. Listening to Ellie and Louise McNamara’s intertwined melodies has brought shivers down the spine of many lucky enough to hear them. Clearly, the synergistic nature of these Dublin 18 year olds’ relationship has enabled them to produce an inspiringly simple and singularly brilliant record.

Islands Arm’s Way (rough trade) Islands’ sophomore work is a dynamic and lush (and vastly underrated) pop epic which its creator, Nicholas Thorburn, humbly refers to as “a load of long self-indulgent rock opera songs”. It’s certainly not a record which kisses on the first date but: if you’re a patient gentleman: its catchy inner sanctum will open up and let you in, as per the iconic cover art.

Jape Ritual (v2)

Fuck Buttons Street Horrrsing (atp) An electronic noise duo from Bristol deliver wave upon wave of oscillated digital distortion, while indecipherable hazy, guttural vocals and tribal drums fleet in and out. These are drone-based compositions and so, rarely deviate from their basic form, but as a testament to their execution, subtle chord changes feel seismic. An extremely powerful noise.

Glasvegas Glasvegas (sony bmg) Around for some eight years before their overnight success, Glasvegas’ gritty realism could only have come from the mean streets of Glasgow. Welding the dark menace of prime era Mary Chain with Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, Glasvegas are one band of the moment destined to hang around.

Guillemots Red (universal) The first time the untitled CD-R of the Guillemots second album made its way onto the State stereo, we had to check that there hadn’t been some unfortunate error but no, they

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Richie Egan may have been a long time in delivering Ritual, but it was well worth the wait. From the stunning, barn-storming electro-rock of ‘I Was A Man’ to the moving ‘Phil Lynnott’, this is a triumph of the Irish artist as an important, independent voice. And you can dance to it: like a fucking loony.

Jay Reatard Matador Singles (matador) Jay Reatard is a bit of a wizard. Not only does he practically shit tunes, but he miraculously manages to make The Matador Singles, a disparate bunch of ferocious garage pop tracks recorded separately over six months, sound like one of the most cohesive artistic statements of 2008.

Kanye West 808s & Heartbreak (mercury) A sonic blur of sound and darkness, Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak finds the noir-ish side to Prince, Cameo and Morris Day that no one ever knew existed. Throw in KLF/ Utah Saints hip-hop house, TV On The Radio’s sense of space and harmony and you have one of the year’s best records. And yes, there is a lot of auto-tune.


State

50 BEST ALBUMS OF 2008

Fleet Foxes Fleet Foxes

(bella union)

The highest polling album in our list, Fleet Foxes’ eponymous debut was, without a doubt, the surprise of 2008. When you hear the words Seattle and Sub-Pop (their US label) in the same sentence, you’d be forgiven for thinking of distortion pedals, plaid shirts and the spirit of a certain Mr Cobain. Instead, however, this quintet gave us sublime “baroque harmonic pop jams”, like the stirring ‘White Winter Hymnal’, and the Beach Boys meets Band Of Horses epic that is ‘Ragged Wood’. An album that still gets better and better with each listen, six months after its original release.

Kitty, Daisy And Lewis Kitty, Daisy And Lewis (sunday best) There weren’t many other bands this year who released their albums simultaneously on CD and 78 rpm (OK, there weren’t any), but then again there weren’t many other bands like Kitty, Daisy And Lewis. Three teenage siblings who are so versed in the ways of rock ‘n’ roll that brother Lewis built an exact replica of Sun Studios in their house, they sat as a refreshing alternative to all this post-1959 musical nonsense.

La Rocca The Truth (warner) Irish exiles in LA send back a punchy album merging eastand west-coast influences but coming out a cut above the rest thanks to some fine songwriting and a tight sound, laced with harmonies galore and lush keyboards. There isn’t a bad song on the album and it even contains one glorious two-minute pop song.

Laura Marling

Lisa Hannigan Sea Sew (iht) Perhaps the most hotly anticipated Irish debut of the year, Hannigan and her band delivered in spades with the most gorgeous collection of quirky folk/pop/jazz inflected gems to hit your speakers this year. Perfectly produced and musically adept, the real star here, however, is that voice: breathy, sensual, shy and confident, sometimes in the course of the same song.

Lykke Li Youth Novels (warner) There’s always one Scandinavian electro-popstress after our hearts, isn’t there? This year’s knockout contender was Sweden’s Lykke Li whose songs leapt into our consciousness with melodious hooks aplenty. Occasionally, she throws a stylistic curveball but there is enough substance to the style to push Lykke over the edge into essential territory.

Alas I Cannot Swim (emi)

Messiah J & The Expert

Such opulence and sweetness in a voice so young was matched only by the quality of her songwriting. Occasionally, her tremulous nature reminds us of her inexperience, but for the most part, as an example of modern English folk with mass appeal, there’s none better than Ms Marling.

From The Word Go (inaudible records) World class hip-hop from the Dublin duo, incorporating elements of jazz, soul, pop and even classical into their big musical melting pot. With each album, they get better and better and From The Word Go sees them getting as close as possible to the highs of their legendary live show.

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State

50 BEST ALBUMS OF 2008

Metronomy

One Day International

Nights Out (because)

Blackbird (independent records)

Hugely innovative, packed with unexpected turns and squelchy noises, Nights Out is a dance record that’s as comfortable from an armchair as on the dance-floor. From the cinematic title track to the spookily-voiced bonkers disco of ‘Holiday’, Nights Out is a certifiable classic, which unfortunately seems doomed to remain in the overlooked pile.

Lush, layered, rich and wonderful debut album from this Irish-Aussie quintet, including a career best vocal performance from Tasmanian singer Matt Lunson. Highlights include ‘Miss Your Mouth’ and ‘Not Over You’. Wonderful production too from former BellX1 guitarist Brian Crosby.

Parenthetical Girls Entanglements (tomlab)

MGMT

Statutory rape, doomed romances, and a great big orchestra: Entanglements conjures up every discomfort and wince that goes into the pain and passion of a love affair, and teaches us to adore every detail. Parenthetical Girls finally have their opus, and though it’s not always easy listening, it’s always beautiful.

Oracular Spectacular (sony bmg) 2008 was arguably the year of MGMT. Their Oxegen appearance was probably the busiest of the entire festival and their debut album comes chock-full of instant anthems: just add volume and watch them grow. In ‘Time To Pretend’ and ‘Kids’, they released two of the biggest indie dance-floor fillers of the year.

Portishead Third (universal)

Neon Neon

Perhaps it was the fact that they released it at all that most astounded people about Portishead’s third album, yet if the Bristol trio found themselves crushed by the weight of expectation, it didn’t show. This was tough, uncompromising stuff. Let us banish the phrase ‘dinner party music’ from our vocabulary forever.

Stainless Style (lex) Inspired by the rise and fall of car manufacturer and entrepreneur John Delorean, Gruff Rhys (of the Super Furries) and Boom Bip concocted a chrome elegy to the hedonistic ’80s. Spank Rock, Har Mar Superstar, Fatlip, Cate le Bon and The Magic Numbers all help out on the best ’80s synth pop album of 2008.

X

Nick Cave

Santogold Santogold (warner) See panel

Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! (mute) It seemed the Grinderman sideshow didn’t get all the rage out of Old Nick’s system as the finest Bad Seeds album in years showcased, including the dementedly enjoyable title track and stunning second single, ‘More News From Nowhere’. The master is back.

Santogold Santogold

(warner)

2008 was the year Santi White took over from MIA as crossover style queen and chief Diplo/Switch collaborator. On this engaging debut, she managed to straddle electro, new-wave dub and reggae. It’s not flawless but you get the feeling Santogold could lend her tonsils to any genre and it would still sound sublime.

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State

50 BEST ALBUMS OF 2008

Vampire Weekend Vampire Weekend

(xl)

You couldn’t pick up a music magazine or read any blog worth its salt in early 2008 without hearing about Vampire Weekend. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the New York quartet, however, was that their eponymous debut lived up to the hype, and then some. Much was made of the African influences and indeed they did seem to come from a place that was both strange and familiar at the same time. From the soaring piano of ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’ to the gritty stab of ‘A-Punk’, Vampire Weekend is a record to lift the soul, something that they proved equally adept at in the live setting. Forget all the talk, this is an album we’ll be enjoying for years to come.

Sigur Rós Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust (emi) For once, the terms ‘glacial’ and ‘ethereal’ were replaced with ‘lively’ and ‘fun’, as Sigur Ros’ music became more immediate, but no less beautiful on their fifth album (which translates as “With a buzz in our ears, we play endlessly”). Lead single ‘Gobbledigook’ heralded the wind of change. They even sang in English, for fuck’s sake.

The Gaslight Anthem The ’59 Sound (side one dummy) Summoning the spirit of the E Street Band at their raucous best, this New Jersey quartet blazed into our consciousness with a timeless collection of soul-punk songs imbued with rich, evocative images of Americana made universal. Move over The Hold Steady, The Gaslight Anthem are the true heirs to The Boss’ throne.

Times New Viking Rip it Off (matador) A clutch of fantastically catchy tunes covered in a layer of fuzz and noise, wired up to get you all wired up: Rip It Off is one loud, beautiful racket. The thrillingly hazy ‘DROPOUT’ is reason enough to adore it, and convince you that beneath the mess, the songs are pure gold.

TV On The Radio Dear Science (4ad) If Return To Cookie Mountain was this band’s autumnal LP, Dear Science is their spring: airy, breezy, funky and the first serious signs of longevity. Seriously, it’s so good it suggests this Brooklyn band might one day soon make one of the best albums of this or any other millennium.

W

Vampire Weekend Vampire Weekend (xl) See panel

Why? Alopecia (tomlab) With its rich instrumentation rooted in indie-rock and its confessional narrative borrowed from abstract hip-hop, Alopecia is a unique hybrid that is sometimes uncomfortably personal, frequently visceral, always engaging and wholly convincing. In Yoni Wolf, Why? have a lyricist with the ability to relay real-life with real-life poetics. Music as unpretentious art.

Wild Beasts Limbo, Panto (domino) Curtains up on Limbo, Panto and we’re drawn in by its musical theatricality and infallible lyrics, both wonderfully sustained by a more colloquial undertone. It is an album of deliberate contrasts where untamed falsetto growls float above vulnerable baritone purrs and chirpy indie riffs break suddenly into waltz time. A brave, baffling, bestial, yet coherent debut.

the 50 best albums of 2008 were voted for, with unflinching certainty, by: alexandra donald, anna forbes, bobby aherne, cian traynor, ciarán ryan, chris russell, dan hegarty, darragh mccausland, dave donnelly, david mclaughlin, deanna ortiz. hilary white, jack higgins, jeff weiss, jennifer gannon, jo-ann hodgson, johnnie craig, john joe worrall, john walshe, kate rothwell, kara manning, martin mciver, miles stewart, niall byrne, niall crumlish, pamela halton, phil udell, saoirse patterson, simon roche, shane culloty, shane galvin, sinead gleeson, tanya sweeney, tia clarke, warren jones. (If you have any problems with their choices you can fight them all after school next week.)

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Input 59

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

ALBUMS Kanye West drops the bling and braggadocio and shows he’s only human; Amadou & Mariam go global; Paul McCartney goes electro; and the final lowdown on musical stocking fillers.

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{

!!!!! !!!! !!! !! !

DIGITAL Experimental pop from Brooklyn; eclectic selections from Rinse FM and two of the world’s weirdest pop stars join forces for the environment.

68 TV What can we expect of the goggle-box this Yuletide.

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DVD Band Of Brothers launches on Blu-Ray, with a plethora of extras; RTÉ delve into the archives; Eddie Murphy hams up another role and the monkeys are back.

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GAMES The biggest games for this festive season put to the test: fear (Dead Space) and loathing (Gears Of War 2) in Consoleville.

Barry McCormack’s new album is a triumph of traditional songwriting and instrumentation, having more in common with the music of the late 1800s than anything of this century, with murders, maulings and marriages galore.

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Albums

Kanye West

illustrationby bybrenb shauna mcgowan illustration

808s & Heartbreaks

(universal)

Like the majority of hip-hop artists in the current climate, Kanye West doesn’t live in the real world, or one that any of us would recognise. And like his colleagues, he is faced with the challenge of not only keeping it real, but which reality to reference. That problem, however, has rapidly faded as West has lost his mother and seen his long term relationship crumble. Suddenly, the shadows are creeping into Kanye West’s world. It shows. This is a very different record to what has gone before, on every level. The most obvious change is that it sounds different. Boy does it sound different. Much has been made of his use of autotune (last heard on Goldie Lookin’ Chain’s memorable ‘Monkey Love’) but it is all over 808s & Heartbreaks. The opening seconds of ‘Say You Will’ set the whole tone. There are no beats, no rapping, no bravado. In their place sit bleeps, computerised vocals and introspection. It’s all very weird and, you feel, likely to get quite annoying over

the course of a whole album. Indeed, there is every chance that some will give this one listen, discover there’s no ‘Gold-digger’ Mk II and never let it trouble them again. Let them go. We have no need for them here. What 808s & Heartbreaks does require is some work on the listener’s behalf. You have to accept the fact that this weird vocal effect is what the album is about and any raps that do appear come from guests rather than West himself. The beats are predominantly provided by the TR808-created tribal drumming, powerful but hard to bounce to. It is by no means a hip-hop record, described by West instead as pop art. There is an overwhelming pattern to the record and often you do find yourself wishing for slight deviations. Thankfully, they do appear, whether it be the Dr Dre staccato beat on ‘Heartless’ or the downright weirdness of ‘Robocop’. West is taking chances, but that would seem to be the overall aim. The lyrics provide the second half of the record’s title. Sadness and longing fill the tracks, from “My friend showed me pictures of his kids and all I could show him were pictures of my

cribs” to “If spring can take the snow away, can it melt away all our mistakes?” This is not a window on a world of cars, girls and diamonds. It’s dark too, painting a picture of someone not above petty vengeance. This Kanye seeks his revenge, not through acts of macho posturing, but through sly digs and put-downs. “Tell everybody that you know that I don’t love you no more”, he sneers on ‘See You In My Nightmare’, before Lil’ Wayne weighs in with a bizarre turn on the mic. What we’re left with is probably the most downright strange record of the year, certainly in terms of what the artist has to lose. It makes Coldplay’s grand experiment look like a set of Keane covers. It doesn’t work all the time (‘Paranoid’ sounds like a mash up of ‘American Boy’ and Van Halen’s ‘Jump’), but then again, how could it? At its best, though, 808s & Heartbreaks is a record of beauty, heart and courage, a million miles away from 50 Cent, T-Pain and the rest of the bozo-hop community. Where the hell does Kanye West go next? He is, in his own words, “a problem that will never be solved”. Amen to that. ~ Phil Udell

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Albums Guns N’ Roses Chinese Democracy

(geffen)

After 13 years, as many millions of dollars (allegedly), 14 studios, 15 musicians and more ideas than sense, the running joke of Chinese Democracy is finally upon us. It may be a new Guns N’ Roses album in name alone but fans of what were once the biggest band in the world, will not be disappointed by what Axl Rose and his many hired hands have created. The audacity of Chinese Democracy alone is staggering. There’s the Elton-inspired piano (the title track, ‘Catcher In The Rye’), industrial clamouring (‘There Was A Time’), killer melodies (‘Better’) and subtle hip-hop aesthetics sprinkled throughout. Thankfully, it never feels like the dated, laughing stock many were expecting. If anything, the fluidity of styles and mongrel spirit root it firmly in the present, which is an impressive feat given the breadth of time it took. Predictably, Chinese Democracy’s strengths are also its greatest weakness. A lack of restraint and measure over 14 tracks makes for an incohesive whole and the obsessive pursual of Rose’s every creative impulse can be exhausting and oftentimes confusing. But when a near-balance is struck, it sounds gloriously epic (think Use Your Illusion I and II). Given the incredible indulgence of its creation (financially and artistically), anything less than the greatest record in rock history would represent failure for Rose’s pet project. On those impossible terms it’s an obvious failure but a noble one nonetheless and kudos to Rose for setting the bar that high and actually managing something none too shabby. ~ David McLaughlin

Q-Tip The Renaissance

(universal/motown)

Ah, what a pleasure. What a joy to be able to say that The Renaissance not only lives up to the hope and expectation preceding it, it also establishes Q-Tip as a relevant hip-hop icon once again. In the process, it manages to exorcise the demons of two unreleased albums of quality material. This is Q-Tip in 2008: still hungry to rhyme on a funky beat, still searching for alternatives to the bling hip-hop mainstream and still sounding fresh. His love for soul and jazz are all over it: the grooves bump and Tip’s silky rhymes coupled with his trademark nasal inflections are present and correct. He sings occasionally too. Much of The Renaissance was produced with the aid of an MPC sampler and the resultant songs are built on funky loops which sound like they’re played by a live band. ‘Official’ is laid back neo-soul rap at its best; ‘ManWomanBoogie’ is a funky bassline number and the Motown horn-driven ‘Move’ is damn near the best hip-hop tune made this year, not bad considering it was

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produced by hip-hop’s best producer, J Dilla, now sadly deceased (and the subject of another highlight ‘Shaka’). Norah Jones contributes a lovely hook to the lilt of ‘Life is Better’, while D’Angelo makes a rare appearance on ‘Believe’. Sometimes it’s so smooth, you might not notice you are suddenly on track five but fluidity is its strong point and contributes to The Renaissance’s sumptuousness. Welcome back, Tip. It’s been too long. ~ Warren Jones

Kieran Hebden & Steve Reid NYC

(domino)

Describing music as being like Chinese water torture usually isn’t a good thing, but in the case of NYC, the fourth collaboration between Four Tet’s Hebden and classic jazz drummer Reid, conventional wisdom is turned on its head. This the six-track, 42-minute album builds and builds, each song being allowed to gain in momentum and menace until it’s front of house, banging into your cranium without a by-your-leave. Opener ‘Lyman Palace’ sets the tone, a subaquatic bass rumble surreptitiously working its way into your subconscious, while the mood gets more alarming by the minute. Instrumental it may be, but background music it certainly isn’t, thanks to Reid’s insistent rhythms and Hebden’s edge-of-terror drone soundscapes. If this was to soundtrack a film, it’d have to be a high octane combination of The French Connection and Bullitt, possibly with Terminator-like androids replacing Hackman and McQueen. Ostensibly a concept album about Reid’s home city, NYC certainly captures the energy and often manic nature of the Big Apple: at times, synths sluice in like ambulance sirens, while elsewhere, the funky jazz beats seem to take us back to the ’70s (‘1st & 1st’), there’s the monumental ‘Arrival’, the playful ‘Between B & C’ and the unsettling electronica of ‘Departure’. Certainly not easy listening, then, but often well worth the work. ~ Miles Stuart

Essie Jain The Inbetween

(ba da bing/leaf)

After Essie Jain’s debut album attracted a handful of complimentary comparison’s to ’60s/’70s singer-songwriters, including Vashti Bunyan, Joan

Baez and even Joni Mitchell, many alt-folk fans may be excited to hear her second offering. But they may well be disappointed. The Londonraised singer now resides in New York, and it seems that the self-indulgent nature of the jazz café scene has made its mark. Jain’s breathy, strained and desperate vocals are, on their own, quite appealing, but her clumsily confessional lyrics often let the album down. At times it’s whiney and banal: on ‘Not Yours’, she declares that “This is my life not yours/ You take it away from me, but I’ll take it back from you”. Such triteness detracts from the delicate and minimal use of guitar, piano, strings and the occasional soft hum of brass. There are, however, a few moments of lyrical sparkle. On standout track ‘Eavesdrop’, an aching piano part and country violins provide the canvas on which Jain paints her sorrow: “I am not a house upon your land”. Although mostly intimate and haunting, there are a few more up-tempo tracks on The Inbetween. On ‘Please’, she explores her vocal range and ‘The Rights’ displays leanings to the dark pixie-like quality of Kate Bush. But there is something missing here, something that makes Jain more of a copycat than an inspirational new female folkster. ~ Jo-ann Hodgson

Her Space Holiday XOXO Panda And The New Kid Revival (wichita)

Her Space Holiday, also known by the equally memorable name of Marc Bianchi, have been scratching the surface of musical exposure for quite a few years now and, unnecessary monikers aside, appear to possess all of the necessary features to make a respectable breakthrough. XOXO Panda And The New Kid Revival may just be the album to achieve this. Bianchi’s “new sound”, which incorporates an apparent love of both indie and folk music, seems at first to be miles away from any of his previous (predominately electronic) releases, but the endearing quality of the lyrics, along with the immediately obvious understanding of instrumental arrangement, prove his true prowess in composition and songwriting. The drag, which is inevitably created by Bianchi’s vocal defects, is more than made up for in the sublime melodies, such as the delightful banjo in ‘The Truth Hurts So This Should Be Painless’ or the flushes of mandolin in ‘Two Cans And A Length Of String’. By the time you reach ‘The World Will Deem Us Dangerous’, you’ll have ditched your original scruples (brought about by the album’s chirpiness) in favour of the cheerful mood every silvery tune creates. We defy anyone not to dance jovially to ‘Four Tapping Shoes And A Kiss’. As each instrument eloquently presents itself (banjo, harmonica and mandolin), the vocals take a back seat but Bianchi never once over-


Albums

[

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Brandon & Co. embrace their inner Rogers & Hammerstein.

The Killers Day and Age

(vertigo)

After the grand histrionic folly of Sam’s Town, the aesthetically unappealing follow-up to debut of Hot Fuss, Las Vegas’ most famous musical sons return to hopefully gain some gravitas away from the sequined jackets and silly statements. Alas, Day and Age seems to be a rather odd relation to those that came before it, though it is an improvement on the previous chapter in their story. First song ‘Losing Touch’ is a nice overture, with a swathe of horns seemingly taken from Robert Palmer’s back catalogue. Brandon Flowers’ voice is more relaxed and less gung ho than before. Actually he sounds a little robotic at times, which is fitting, as lead single ‘Human’ asks clunkily “Are we human? / Or are we dancer?”, while synths and guitars jostle for the ’80s new wave revivalist crown. The single bears the most obvious touch of producer Stuart Price, who himself used to knock out ’80s inspired electro-pop as Les Rythmes Digitales. The decade is all over the album, whether it be the Duran Duran / ‘Rock The Casbah’ mash of ‘Joyride’, complete with god-awful sax solo (not the only appearance of the devil instrument) or the ‘Lion Sleeps Tonight’ background oddity of ‘This is Your Life’. Even stranger is the bossanova ‘I Can’t Stay’, with harp, more saxophone and acoustic guitars jaunting in a whimsical style that convinces you it’s about time The Killers did a musical. There are very few melodies worth singing along to here, something which

uses them. Those who wish to sneer at all this sentimental pleasantry can feel free to do so. We, however, are willing participants in this new kid revival. ~ Jack Higgins

Murcof The Versailles Sessions

(leaf)

Since his startling 2002 debut, Martes, Murcof (aka Fernando Corona) has built up a reputation for mastering the fusion of minimalistic electronica with classical stylings, to create unique, post-modern soundscapes. Oceano, the follow-up to 2007’s monumental Cosmos, is pencilled in for next year, but until then, fans of the Mexican composer are being treated to this unusual recording; a specially commissioned collection of six experimental sequences for Les Grandes Eaux Nocturnes, an annual festival of sound, light and water held at Chateau de Versailles in France. The opulence and decadence of the location plays a suitably large part in Corona’s music, which embraces a real sense of scale and drama. He takes recordings of 17th century baroque instruments as his starting point (viola de gamba, violin, harpsichord and flute) and combines them with vocal performances by a mezzo soprano, field recordings and his own electronic interventions. The final product is often as chilling as it is calming – with Corona juxtaposing tense and foreboding sequences such as ‘Death Of A Forest’ with the dreamy, new dawn of ‘Spring In The Ar-

the band have excelled at in the past. The weird mix of songs makes for an uneasy listen and it bewilders and baffles in equal measure, without offering anything to hold onto. ~ Niall Byrne

tificial Gardens’. Even the most inaccessible and at times grating passages retain an otherworldly beauty. The main melody line in ‘Louis XVI’s Dreams’ is provided by a scratching violin, yet it never becomes irritating. Corona is a master at letting intricate layers of instruments resonate against walls of silence to create an eerie dimension. It’s this gift that elevates The Versailles Sessions from an esoteric classical recording to an essential purchase for anyone intrigued by the possibilities of sound. ~ Saoirse Patterson

Eugene McGuinness Eugene McGuinness

(domino records)

Parting sonic company with his lo-fi debut EP, McGuinness slips on his spats, runs a comb through his hair, and dramatically slides onstage a la Kramer from Seinfeld. Wide-eyed exuberance is tattooed all over the 22-year-old Liverpudlian’s self-titled album. Tracks jitter, toe-tap, bounce, jive, wiggle, shake, and swing, but they rarely sit still. McGuinness uses the blueprint of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ to build climactic layers over what would have been an average, Beatles-eque lead single, ‘Moscow State Circus’, eventually teasing it into an spinning top. Album opener ‘Rings Around Rosa’ and its naughty counterpart ‘Nightshift’ roar up and down the dance-floor like gritty Grease lightning, while ‘Those Old Black And White Movies’ captures the crooning of the 1920s with cinematic flair and Neil Young style vocals. There are so many variations of McGuinness’

sound here that without his distinct cocktail of eccentric rockabilly and eclectic pop, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for a collection of 1950s tunes given a millennium makeover. Think Sondre Lerche, The Last Shadow Puppets (who guest here) and heaps of energy. While the album has multiple genre personalities, repeated listening smoothes mismatched edges. The question is: can you see McGuinness dancing in this Magic Eye picture or are you cross-eyed from staring at a blur? Either way, peel back the edgy, playful arrangements on this banana’s skin and a core group of solid, fairly old school pop songs rattle and roll. ~ Deanna Ortiz

Brightblack Morning Light Motion To Rejoin

(matador records)

It’s been a long night. The pitch black darkness slowly fades into the first glimpses of sunlight. It’s a sign. It’s time to go to bed. Everyone else has stumbled home in various states of disarray. If you don’t make the move now, you know you’ll slip into slumber on the couch and wake up in five hours with a contorted back. As you fail to remove yourself from the sofa, heavily reverbed vocals meander over a swampy blues groove. This is the sound of Brightblack Morning Light, a band so laid back, it’s near impossible to stand up. They’re also a band that sound so incredibly like the lazier moments of early-era Spiritualized that it’s almost litigious. But Motion To Rejoin is no Laser Guided Melodies. There are times where the record sparkles - for instance, in the prowling organs and soulful horns of ‘Hologram Buffalo’ or

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Albums

[

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World music in the truest possible sense from Malian duo.

Amadou & Mariam Welcome To Mali

(because music)

They met at Mali’s Institute for the Young Blind, married, made a succession of cassette albums and ended up recording the official theme for the World Cup, supporting Scissor Sisters and appearing at the Lollapalooza festival. Safe to say, the story of Amadou & Mariam is not that of your average band. The dilemma they now face, with the ears of the West now fully open to their music, is how to approach their new audience: keep it real and risk alienating the potential mainstream listenership or embrace the opportunity and potentially lose their heart and soul? The first impressions of Welcome To Mali suggest a worrying shift to the latter. Produced by Damon Albarn, opening track ‘Sabali’ is a disaster, drifting far too close to the sound of the Pet Shop Boys for comfort. Thankfully, it’s the only time they put a foot wrong. Under the watchful eye of long-term collaborators Marc-Antoine Moreau and Lauren Jais, the album strikes the perfect balance. It sounds crisp and clean, as big as a modern rock record should, but never loses sight of the source material. The pair’s voices are bristling with both experience and energy, singing in a tongue that is just familiar enough to give it some grounding, yet still exotic. While every track has an undeniably Western sheen to it, there are always reminders of where this came from as Amadou’s gloriously raw guitar peeks through or the massed vocals saw. It’s funky as hell too, capable of filling any dance-floor across the globe. Wonderful stuff, however you want to translate it. ~ Phil Udell

amidst the pretty ripples of ‘A Rainbow Aims’ with its ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’-esque middle eight. But too often, the constant mellowness and complete lack of song structures result in tunes passing by with nary an eyebrow raised. Songs such as ‘Another Reclamation’ and ‘Gathered Years’ ramble on unnecessarily for seven or eight minutes without having warrant to. It’s a shame because there is a charm to the hazy world of Brightblack Morning Light but it’s a world that would benefit from less time skinning up and more time writing songs. ~ Shane Galvin

Lindstrom Where You Go I Go Too

(smalltown supersound)

Alongside his friend Prins Thomas, Lindstrom has established himself at the centre of the ‘cosmic disco’ scene in contemporary dance music. Cosmic disco is a glistening update of the ItaloHouse movement of the 1980s, which has traded some of that scene’s dance-floor anchored sexuality for beardy star-gazing; and when it comes to beardy star-gazing, this guy is Galileo. On Where You Go I Go Too, Lindstrom has given birth to the sprawling beast he threatened he was capable of on older tracks such as ‘There’s A Drink In My Bedroom’. This, his first full-length, is a remarkably ostentatious album; one so positively bloated with far-out ideas and cheesey synth-loops, that on paper it sounds

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like a stinking folly. It has a 28-minute long title track that doesn’t kick in for a full eight minutes for chrissakes! And yet, despite the awkward prog-rock elephant in the room, the whole thing not only works, but at times seems almost transcendental. Over the incredible course of the title track’s length, a nebulous cloud of sound solidifies into tiny interlocking synth patterns of baffling complexity that eventually give way to a ferocious riff that is unashamedly OTT, a little camp and knowing, but still completely ‘out there’. After this psychedelic blowout, the second track, ‘Grand Ideas’ treads water a little (if it is possible to thread water, thumpingly), before things take off majestically once more with ‘The Long Way Home’, which sounds remarkably like Steve Reich on disco biccies. Essential. ~ Darragh McCausland

The Fireman Electric Arguments

(mpl)

The Fireman is the nom de plume of a certain Paul McCartney and Youth (former Killing Joke bassist and super-producer), and Electric Arguments is actually their third collaboration and their first in a decade. Where their previous work was pretty ambient in nature, this time around, they’ve eased up on the technology and allowed a dollop of rawness to enter the equation, at least for raucous opener, ‘Nothing Too Much Just Out

Of Sight’, all squalling blues guitar and Macca screaming like his soul depended on it. Apparently, the album’s 13 songs were written and recorded in a day each, spread over the course of a year, and their immediacy is evident. Indeed, this is some of the most innovative and imaginative music we’ve heard from Sir Paul in aeons. The off-kilter acoustic ‘Two Magpies’ and ridiculously catchy ‘Light From Your Lighthouse’ could be out-takes from The White Album, while ‘Sing The Changes’ is possessed of the kind of galloping, infectious melody he used to compose in his sleep. There’s a loose playfulness to the rock ‘n’ roll of ‘Highway’ that’s been missing from McCartney’s work for way too long. The albums’ second half sees the duo letting their inner electronica loose, to lesser effect. As a counterpoint to the driving ‘Lifelong Passion’, we have the ponderous ‘Is This Love?’, while the dancey ‘Universal Here, Everlasting Now’ is offset by the pointless dub/ambient ‘Lovers In A Dream’. Still, for longtime McCartney aficionados, it’s worth getting your hands on for the heady rush of the opening half alone. ~ John Walshe

Little Joy Little Joy

(rough trade)

Little Joy have the perfect name; their eponymous debut is the sweetest pop gem you will hear this winter. Strokes’ drummer Fabrizio Moretti


Albums has moved from grimy, belligerent New York to hazy, laid back California, from where he makes frequent trips to Hawaii. Echoing stripped down ’60s pop, chilled out guitar rock and surf music, Little Joy consists largely of simple melodies and stunningly clever barbershop-style harmonies. Opening the album with a ukulele, ‘The Next Time Around’ is straight from beaches of Honolulu. Instantly catchy, ‘Brand New Start’ will have you singing along for the rest of the day. Rodrigo Amarante, currently on hiatus from Los Hermanos, sings with a breezy croon, straining most marvellously on the lo-fi lament ‘With Strangers’. Binki Shapiro makes up the trio, playing guitar, glockenspiel and percussion. Her voice is clarinet-like, warm, jazzy and lispy, adding texture and contrast through her harmonies without exercising a huge range. Binki takes lead on a couple of tracks, most beautifully on ‘Don’t Watch Me Dancing’, a slow jam with particularly lovely backing vocals from the boys, building to a sublime string and horns piece. The reggae/afro vibes of ‘No One’s Better Sake’ could be Vampire Weekend had they enrolled in UCLA as opposed to Columbia. Then there’s the sun-kissed ‘Keep Me In Mind’, the NYC-influenced ‘How To Hang A Warhol’ and the Brazilian folk ballad, ‘Evaporar’. Listen closely and you’ll hear gentle lapping waves and the rustle of palm trees swaying in a warm breeze. ~ Alan Reilly

Digital

Jay Reatard Matador Singles ’08

(matador)

wondering of the possibilities for Jay Reatard’s next full-length, due in early 2009. ~ Ciarán Ryan

Bizarrely for a man who spits out vehemently bastardised pop tunes at an incredibly fertile rate, there seems to be something genuine about Jay Lindsey, or at the very least, his alter-ego Jay Reatard. He may manage to funnel oomph from decades of rock music, mashing Eddie Cochran, The Stones, Ramones, Richman and Dino Jr into one guitar-wielding oddball; yet, Reatard’s splatterings of garage-infused bedlam are far from being the work of a mere revivalist. In saying that, he has done what few independent artists have even come close to doing in recent times, and that is to incite pandemonium via the outlet of 7”s, so much so that the six released this year all feature on Matador Singles ’08, Reatard’s second singles compendium. It’s a dizzying journey that sounds way more cohesive than a bunch of singles lashed together, even if they are in chronological order, have any right to be. ‘See/Saw’ is a blistering start, but Reatard takes it up a notch with the lethal cowboy punk of ‘Screaming Hard’, parading just how prolific a writer he is that it was relegated to a b-side; and, as he demonstrates on numerous occasions, an acoustic can be punk rock. ‘Always Want More’ has, like a quasi-Bob Mould, a pop sensibility underneath its barbed wire exterior, while a cover of chums Deerhunter’s ‘Fluorescent Grey’ may hint at more experimental forays in the future. For the moment, however, after this frenetic 25 minutes, one is left only

Horse Feathers House With No Name

(kill rock stars)

Somewhere up in the high plains of the USA, there surely exists a mystical neighbourhood where this new crew of folk revivalists (Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Phosphorescent, etc.) reside within little snow-covered cabins, plaintively plucking banjos, bowing cellos and assuming the role of the prodigal son’s weary father all the live long day. For Horse Feathers, despite having borrowed their name from the wacky Marx Brothers’ movie and being signed to the radical Kill Rock Stars label, this is home sweet home. Their album cover even depicts the house of the title in an overexposed, wintery shot which perfectly foreshadows their sound; all minimalist and pastoral Cold Mountain-style Americana, elegantly arranged and with vague, mumbling vocals. ‘Working Poor’ is the sweetest thing here; its measured percussion makes the song a blazing signal in the frost that is the bare variation in instrumentation, tempo or mood throughout this record. As much as it pains State’s cold heart of stone to say it, much of this album comes to these ears like Damien Rice singing over some of Sufjan Stevens’ more boring bits. That said, there are few things as appealing as the thought of sitting around a high altitude Christmas Eve

~ Niall Byrne

Björk and Thom Yorke

Appleblim

Nattura

Rinse FM Podcast

For a song in which all the proceeds go towards the Icelandic environmental campaign of the same name, it sounds like it was conjured up in some German industrial zone. ‘Nattura’ features Radiohead’s Thom Yorke on backing vocals, Brian Chippendale (Lighting Bolt) on pummeling drums, Matthew Herbert on synth/bass, and Mark Bell (LFO) on additional electronic beats.

The co-founder of the Skull Disco label with Sam Shackleton did a Rinse FM podcast back in April. This is two hours of eclectic music listening, taking in classic tracks from Alice Coltrane, Davey Graham, Beach Boys, The Clash, which gives way to the best techno-infused dubstep tunes of the year from Skream, Scuba, Ramadanman and Geiom. http://url.ie/x8e

Available @ eMusic and iTunes, nattura.info

Florence And The Machine Telepathe

Au Revoir Simone

Covers

Chrome’s On It

Reverse Migration

Having being brought over to Ireland by Skinny Wolves in October, this Brooklyn duo have offered up this EP as a showcase of their gift for (very) experimental pop music. Think Gang Gang Dance meets High Places. Also available on 12”, this EP has two originals and remixes from Mad Decent, Free Blood, Frankmusik and the Mae Shi.

The remix album of the three Brooklyn girls’ debut The Bird of Music features remixes from the likes of Jean-Benoît Dunckel of Air, Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip, The Teenagers, Best Fwends and Montag. While half of the songs are aimed towards the dancefloor, the other half use the ethereal vocals as a starting point to creating whole new atmospheres.

One of our favourite artists of 2008 (and maybe 2009 too) left us a nice Christmas present in the form of two exemplary cover versions, one of Beirut’s ‘Postcards From Italy’ and another of Cold War Kids’ ‘Hospital Beds’. Florence Welch and band’s new single ‘Dog Days Are Over’ is out now.

Available @ eMusic & iTunes

Available @ eMusic, Amie St & iTunes

http://url.ie/xw6

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Albums

[

Former Jubilee Allstars man brings it all back home for this timeless collection of murder ballads.

]

Barry McCormack Night Visiting

(hag’s head)

Former Jubilee Allstars man, Barry McCormack is so out-of-step with current aural trends that he and his music sound like they were plucked out of time and deposited Life On Mars-like into 21st century Ireland, wide-eyed but not so innocent. It’s folk, Jim, but not as we know it. It’s also fucking brilliant. Many of the 10 tracks are old-fashioned murder ballads, inhabited by knifewielding blackguards, brogue-wearing miscreants, barn-burners, hard drinkers, condemned men and others who’ve been bet down by the tribulations of a hard life. Joyous, it certainly isn’t. Elsewhere, we’ve a song inspired by a John McGahern short story, the powerful ‘The Road To Tyrellspass’; the boozy singalong of ‘The Waxing Of The Moon’; and a wry ‘epic’ about being caught by a Guard cycling without lights on your bike (‘Encounter On The Road To Cobh’), before the beautiful title track brings things to a suitably melancholic close. Musically, it’s led by McCormack’s guitar and whiskey-raw vocals, augmented occasionally by Colm Mac Con Iomaire’s delicate fiddle, Gary Fitzpatrick’s accordion and banjo, and Shane McGrath’s mandolin. This is so old-school, it could have been recorded a hundred years ago, were it not for the pristine sound quality, and it’s a testament to McCormack’s literary song-writing that his work stands up to intense scrutiny. The fact is that these songs could be sung at traditional ballad sessions for a century to come. High praise indeed. ~ John Walshe

bonfire with the (assumedly bearded) members of Horse Feathers and their respective instruments, as they hum these hymns to rival hats, scarves, gloves and warm beverages during this dark, dark season. ~ Bobby Aherne

Jóhann Jóhannsson Fordlândia

(4ad)

During the Great Depression, Henry Ford bought a huge tract of land in Brazil and built an old-style imperial plantation: Fordlândia. He dug up rain forest, threw up clapboard towns for poorly paid workers, and despoiled all around him for cheaper rubber to ship back north, before Fordlândia over-reached and collapsed in on itself within a few years. This, the second in Johann’s trilogy about faded American industrialists, after 2006’s IBM 1401: A User’s Manual, is the first time anyone has brought up the subject since. But Jóhann never was much of a cars-and-girls merchant. With Fordlândia, Johann has added to his IBMera palate. Still in place are the gradually evolving, Philip Glass-indebted string arrangements (‘Fordlândia’, ‘Melodia’), but he’s adding in the other orchestral elements, as if working towards a magnum opus: echoing choirs (‘The Great God Pan Is Dead’), soft horns and woodwind (‘Melodia (I)’) and swirling, uncertain pipe organ on ‘Chimaerica’. For a set of songs ostensibly set in the Amazon rain forest, Fordlândia doesn’t stray far from Johannsson’s previous works, which never

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evoked anywhere far south of Hammerfest. But then geography is not the theme. The theme is the decline of once-great industrial powers, and the melancholy sustained throughout Fordlândia suggests that this loss – the weeks after this album comes out could see Ford finally go under – is something to mourn. You can argue the point, but you can’t argue with ‘How We Left Fordlândia’, or ‘Melodia (III)’ or any of Johann’s sonorous, subtle, mini-symphonies. Maybe we lost nothing when they left Fordlândia; maybe the imperialist polluting scumbags deserve everything they get; but this isn’t ideology – it’s elegy. ~ Niall Crumlish

Crystal Stilts Alight Of Night

(slumberland)

They may be residents of Brooklyn, New York, but spiritually and sonically, Crystal Stilts inhabit an altogether less glamorous place. With a sound that is heavy on the reverb, sparse atmospherics and boasting a singer who sounds uncannily like Lurch from the Addams Family on a serious downer, Alight Of Night sees the five piece barely breaking a sweat, jangling and chiming without much fanfare beyond the shiver of a tambourine or the rumble of a tom-tom. While it’s obvious they idolise the dour, depressed aesthetics of Thatcher-era British indie, they also have a thing for The Velvet Underground too, hitting upon something similarly arch but forgetting the accompanying tunes to make it palatable for the 30-plus minutes they ask of

your time. Their carefully studied mix of strippedto-the-bones garage pop, Xeroxed psychedelia and Brad Hargett’s grim croon make Alight Of Night hard work, with little to no ultimate reward for your efforts and when it’s all carried off with such desperately sneering, wannabe-cool, why would you bother? Word online is that knickers are already being entangled over this lot, with much praise being strewn at their feet before this debut had even surfaced. Still, it is pretty difficult to imagine anyone getting off on them once the emperor goes clothes shopping again and while theirs may well be a name to drop at all the wrong parties soon, stick the miserable buggers on at one and you will probably clear the room. ~ David McLaughlin

Stanton Warriors Session Volume III

(fabric)

Known for their pristine production, driving beats and dance-floor filling remixes, Stanton Warriors have earned legendary status in dance music circles and have been lauded most recently with the Best DJ award at Breakspoll 2008 and Best Compilation for their Fabric Live 30 Mix. Once their tunes would have been firmly rooted in breakbeat, but now the Stantons are branching out into glitchy electro and minimal dubstep and their signature production style brings a more beefed-up sound to these genres. The third volume of Stanton Sessions contains their remixes, original tunes and mash-ups to create a set which makes the listener feel like


Albums they’re at one of the Stantons’ legendary sets at Fabric, right down to the ecstatic applause at the end of the album. There are many unreleased and exclusive tracks here, including remixes of Chemical Brothers, Basement Jaxx and DJ Mehdi. Standouts include the mash-up of Boys Noize’s ‘Oh (A-Trak Remix)’ and D-Lirium and Faze’s ‘Bonus Beats’ released on the Stantons’ own Punx label, the stompy remix of Digitalism’s ‘Zdarlight’ and their reworking of Yo Majesty’s ‘Club Action’. Unlike many other breaks acts that have recently floundered in the electro explosion, Stanton Warriors have continued to evolve whilst still retaining their own sound and hence they continue to set the bar for the rest. This is how it’s done boys… ~ Alexandra Donald

Thomas Tantrum Thomas Tantrum

(pure groove)

Thomas Tantrum check all the trends for much of 2008’s successful British acts. Fronted by a quirky girl singing in local accent about everyday life with semi-intelligent lyrics, this Southampton quartet could easily be thrown in the same barrel as some NME headline-grabbing scenesters. Thankfully, more Los Campesinos! than what’s

Christmas Turkeys?

her name whose name is not actually her name, Thomas Tantrum make shouty, bouncy guitar pop with jerky rhythms delivered with creative wit. Crazy, sexy Megan Thomas does that English girl thing, where she doesn’t pronounce the ‘t’ in ‘it’. Without her appealing dialect, charisma and persona, the band would be indistinguishable from the rest of the set. Explaining ‘Why The English Are Rubbish’, Thomas goes all geezer-ette, singing from the Derek Trotter School Of French: a bit of a Parklife affair, it’s easy to see why Lilly Allen is a fan. Grating and beguiling at the same time ‘Work It’ has modern student disco written all over it. It will have you running, either to the dance-floor or for a taxi home. Similarly, the album highlight, ‘Shake It Shake It’ is classic indie pop and it would take some pretty defiant hips not to shake it upon instruction. Clocking in at just over 35 minutes, Thomas Tantrum don’t get a chance to outstay their welcome. Even though it’s a short visit, however, some bad habits come to the fore. There’s a pattern of changing tempo mid-song, ruining a perfectly good melody in an effort to make the song more interesting. If this is just a tantrum, it’ll be interesting to see what some maturity might bring. ~ Alan Reilly

The Gorgeous Colours The Gorgeous Colours

(gorgeous records)

Let’s get it out of the way early: with their selftitled debut, The Gorgeous Colours have made one of the finest Irish pop albums for some time. Though they may at first glance resemble many of the myriad beardy-types-with-guitars bands that fill stages up and down the country, they possess a quiet confidence that sets them apart from the flock. This group of talented musicians complement one another better than most of their counterparts: a hallmark of many fine bands, this helps bring out the best in the songs, adding little details that seem to grow in scale and significance with each listen, until you find yourself looking forward to the little bass flourishes and joyous vocal tics that have come to seem utterly inspired. The band seem to have figured out how to use their instruments to every possible effect, ratcheting up the tension viciously in the opening bars of ‘Hunting Something’, before picking out the dreamy melodies of the gorgeously lovelorn ‘Locksmith’ - a song so good it makes the line “You’re my lovely girl / My thump-thump beats for you” seem beautifully earnest, rather than hopelessly romantic. Herein lies their real strength: there’s admittedly little innovation on

~ Aoife McDonnell

Alesha Dixon: The Alesha Show (Asylum) Buy this for: Your Strictly Come Dancing watch-

Blake: And So It Goes (Universal)

Buy this for: Your mum Four trained choirsters who met on Facebook make up this boy band with a twist. Your mum will love their take on Snow Patrol’s ‘Chasing Cars’ and Katie Melua’s ‘The Closest Thing To Crazy’.

ing, pop loving female/gay best friend. This fits the pop hit album template with the upbeat, infectious (or irritating, depending what camp your in) current single ‘The Boy Does Nothing’, the R&B track ‘Italians Do it Better’, and the power ballad ‘Can I Begin’. Manufactured pop has never been so... er, manufactured. Jason Donovan: Let It Be Me (UMTV)

Buy this for: Your dad The ubiquitous Jools Holland returns. Respect to the man who has kept a big band on the road for 20 years. You can always nick it and stick it on your own MP3 player.

Buy this for: Your gran While Kylie, who can give a Madonna a run for her money in the reinvention stakes, is a serious chart topper and pop contender, Donovan has become a jaded granny-pleaser and his competition is more Cliff Richard and Daniel O’Donnell than Justin Timberlake. Your gran will surely appreciate his wholesome image and cover of Elvis’ version of the Everly Brothers’ ‘Let It Be Me’ and other saccharine songs like ‘Dream Lover’.

Enrique Iglesias: Greatest Hits (Polydor)

Andrew Johnston: One Voice (Syco)

Buy this for: Your musically challenged sister. Enrique returns sans mole with “15 massive hits”, including two versions of ‘Hero’. Just remember to buy her a set of earphones too.

Buy this for: Your very refined auntie who you only see at the holidays. The classically trained choir boy, who was plucked from relative poverty and came third in

Jools Holland with Ruby Turner featuring Rico Rodriguez: The Informer (Rhino)

Britain’s Got Talent, really has an angelic voice. Let’s hope puberty will be kind. Duffy: Rockferry Deluxe Edition (Polydor)

Buy this for: Yourself. There’s nothing wrong with slyly sneaking this into your own stocking when nobody’s looking. We promise not to tell. Mamma Mia!:The Movie Sountrack Deluxe Album with bonus ‘Behind The Music’ DVD

Buy this for: Everybody. Cool? Perhaps not. Great fun? Absolutely. Admittedly not as good as the real McCoy but with all the old favourites like ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Super Trouper’ and ‘The Winner Takes It All’ sung by the cast of the movie, this is one the whole family can enjoy while pretending they like each other. Admit it, you love Abba as much as we do. Various Artists: This Warm December A Brushfire Holiday Vol.1

Buy this for: Background music for Christmas Day Not the most nauseating collection of Christmas songs to stuff yourself with turkey, drink copious amounts of champagne and fall asleep by the fire to.

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Albums

[

]

Stylistically baffling album from Mark Cullen’s mob.

Pony Club Post Romantic

(hum)

Post Romantic is a confused beast. Jumping from ’90s Britpop to piano ballads, throwing in a rap-esque effort and adding an overall retro sheen, it makes for an intriguing but difficult listen. Mark Cullen has been absent from the music scene for a few years and his return smacks of someone who’s still not sure in what direction he’s headed. The droning vocals on the menacing ‘Welcome’ override anything of instrumental interest, and whilst ‘I Still Feel The Same’ benefits from a brighter tone, the domestic-themed lyrics, which mirror much of the album’s subject matter, are hardly as cheery. The Divine Comedy spring to mind for the strings and brass bounce of ‘Diplomat’, but something entirely different is uncovered with ‘People Need Others’. A brooding piano-based track, this sounds like something that Duke Special would come up with on a dark day, and along with bitter ballad ‘In Your Dreams’ proves to be the best that the record has to offer. The odd line, such as “Congratulations now we’re middle class” (‘Anthony’) might be amusing the first time around, but the social commentary soon starts to grate and the piano-by-numbers verses leave some imagination to be desired. Mark Cullen suffers from the almost enviable problem of having too much to offer. Perhaps if he sat down, took one of the stronger aspects from Post Romantic and developed it, he might have a more listenable album to call his own. As it is, Pony Club won’t be attracting too many more members with this one. ~ Kate Rothwell

this record, yet even with the slight decline as the record plays (the first half is undeniably superior to the second), it’s never really a problem. The band may not have broken any new ground, but they have built something damn fine on what was already there. A quite remarkable debut. ~ Shane Culloty

Buraka Som Sistema Black Diamond

(fabric)

It’s all Diplo’s fault. The man responsible for highlighting the global soundclash to insular Western club circles injected some much needed vitality into club culture, just as it was dying on its arse. He created an appetite for baile funk from Brazil, which has in turn paved the way for kuduro, the sound of Portugal via Angola best exemplified by Buraka Som Sistema. In many ways, kuduro shares similarities to its southern cousin. Both genres are built on crunchy bass lines, primitive but effective boombap digital percussion, African rhythms and loud, obnoxious-sounding MCs. Black Diamond is best described as a more natural amalgamation of baile funk, Hi-NRG rave and techno. It’s as hypnotic as it is danceable yet fits perfectly in with today’s bass-heavy, “wonky” and “fidget-house” dance culture. BSS excel when the music falls between the

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cracks of their influences, like the polyrhythmic dub of ‘Kurum’, the ghetto booty funk ‘Wegue Wegue’ or the techno-funk hybrid of ‘Acqui Para Voces’. MIA’s appearance on ‘The Sound Of Kuduro’ is fitting, as there are touches of her sound (itself a world hybrid) all over the album, while Wiley contributes to the early Prodigy/dubstep feel of ‘Skank & Move’. Black Diamond is the best example of thrilling global dance music this year, from London to Lisbon to Los Angeles. ~ Niall Byrne

Trost Trust Me

(bronzerat records)

On first glance it would seem that Annika Trost is the latest addition to the never-ending chorusline of knock-kneed, tinkley voiced shy-girl singers who floated through 2008 on a wave of patchouli perfume; but whereas their hobbies and interests include fairy stories, looking wistful and crocheting, Ms Trost seems obsessed with the seedier, altogether more fun side of life. Trust Me is a highly stylised, theatrical journey that moves from pretty vaudeville samples and hiccupping rhythms to pitch-black acid pop in the flutter of an eyelash. As the styles change, so do the languages, with Trost ping-ponging from her native German to French to English, her irresistible cut-glass intonation at its most enthralling

on the desolate ‘Black’. Trost’s delicate, girlish vocals curl around dark beats and dirty, guttural grooves unfolding nocturnal hymns to the thornfilled drama of love and beauty. This dramatic, tragic tone runs through the veins of the album from the pounding, grimy noir-thump of ‘The Scales And The Score’ to the intoxicating, unyielding thrust of the outstanding ‘In Diesen Raum’. The mark of her influences can be seen everywhere as the shadowy, eerie presence of the high priest of brittle blues, Nick Cave infects the album like an aural cancer. When not aping Anita Lane or sounding like a sinister Snow White to Lykke Li’s kooky Rose Red, Trost seems to run out of steam and the album loses its potency on inconsistent fodder such as the supremely irritating ‘I Was Wrong’ and the chirpy ‘Guy Le Superhero’. Trust Me proves that Trost has all the makings of an interesting artist, once she ditches the need to be twee and learns that it’s okay to have a bag of ashes where your heart should be. ~ Jennifer Gannon


Reissues & Compilations A treasurable assortment of songs to accompany the re-issue of all Wyatt’s landmark albums.

Robert Wyatt EPs Box Set

(domino)

Heavy smoker. Heavy drinker. Wheelchair-bound since 1973 and all-in-all a creator of some of the most beautiful British music ever, Wyatt lives in the relatively remote North English town of Louth and rarely now, if ever, plays live. Being kicked out of his band The Soft Machine in 1970 shattered his confidence and he prefers these days not to deal with the pressures involved in re-creating his music on a stage. At that time, they had been touring with The Jimi Hendrix Experience and it was Wyatt’s constant partying that pitted the band against him, and eventually lead to him falling out a window while drunk and breaking his back while beginning his first solo album, Rock Bottom. He claims the split was much, much more damaging to him than the fall but from those points in his life onwards he has become a writer combining the oddness of existence alongside much beauty. This is exemplified on the first song on his first album, ‘Sea Song’, gorgeously covered by Rachel Unthank And The Winterset, a beautiful refrain of drink, love and survival. It can be found, like all his other albums, freshly re-released on cd and glorious, covetable vinyl. As a bonus to this epic collection is this box set of five EPs containing a treasure chest of work, past, present and ‘In Progress’. Included is an extended version of his cover of ‘I’m A Believer’ (which even had him on Top Of The Pops), a lush remastered ‘Shipbuilding’, glorious oddities such as ‘Pigs… (in there)’ and some remixes which, while fascinating, cannot compare with

Various Artists Faction 2

the originals – crafted as they were from a unique, positive soul, lucky enough to have the talent to express the love within him so beautifully for us to enjoy. For anyone who really likes music, every song in here is a gift better than any material goods you’ll unwrap this season. ~ Simon Roche

Echo & The Bunnymen (faction records)

Until recently, we could often be found pondering to anyone who’d listen about why Ireland was unable to produce a modern, consistently exciting and challenging pop act. We’d had glimmers of hope here and there, but why had The Immediate abandoned us so, and why hadn’t Turn given it one last crack of the whip? There was a chasm – on one precipice stood U2, masters of all they purvey. Across, struggling, hungry young men with perfect intentions waited in vain. Things have changed. People are humming Cathy Davey in the streets and Irvine Welsh dubbed Republic of Loose’s ‘Comeback Girl’ “the greatest song ever written”. Such acts appeared on Faction 1, three years ago. But where Faction 1 was prime veal fillet, this is more bangers and mash. The bangers are hot and filling. Fred’s ‘The Lights’ is muscular, epic pop. Dark Room Notes’ taut ‘Slow Puncture’ bleeds with suspense. ‘Cats’ by La Rocca is soulful pub rock at its best. Johnny Flynn’s anti-folk style nails it too. But sitting amongst it is the mash, and some of it’s straight from a packet. Black Soul Strangers might blossom when they stop trying to be Bloc Party, The Flaws are too hammy on ‘No Room’ and Autamata have nothing to say bar that they’re fond of sunshine. Perhaps, these are simply the wrong tunes to fully showcase Faction’s roster, but you still feel this should have quickened more national pride.

Ocean Rain

Rod Stewart (warners)

On its original release, 1984’s Ocean Rain was heralded as The Bunnymen’s landmark album and spawned hit singles including absolute classic ‘The Killing Moon’. Singer Ian McCulloch is as prolific in the surreal as he is in the poetic, whilst the trademark experimentation of ethereal guitars have the power to draw you from the dark. So, without doubt, Ocean Rain is one of their best albums, and deserves its mantle. However, as with all great albums succumbing to the inevitable re-issue, there is of course that optional ‘super bonus, extra buy incentive’. If the band had attached current live versions of old classics, this would have been a superb addition to the package, but a ropey 1984 recorded live album does nothing more than slingshot their current relevance back into history without even a nod to their recent resurgence. Ocean Rain’s shine has diminished, though arguably its influence has not. E&TB are most definitely ‘radar slippers’ in the stratosphere of iconic musical heroes, but there’s a plethora of alterno-pop bands out there blissfully unaware of The Bunnymen’s hand in their own current sound. For some of those bands, a journey to find the father they never knew awaits; for others, this will be simply be a saunter down Memory Lane. ~ Martin McIver

Some Guys Have All The Luck

(warners)

Had it, lost it, tried to get it back – so can Rod Stewart’s career be summed up in one neat soundbite. Some Guys Have All The Luck (yet another compilation) sums up each stage neatly. The ‘had it’ years, from ‘Maggie May’ onwards, are practically peerless. He was still able to pull off the booze swigging, ciggie puffing rock ‘n’ roll that made his name, yet also could work his way around a slow tune with ease. The big hits of the period (‘You Wear It Well’, ‘The Killing Of Georgie’, ‘I Was Only Joking’) are big ballads for sure, but elegant, lyrical gems a million miles away from the saccharine of modern pop music. Then disco came a-calling and it all went downhill, reaching a nadir with the Atlantic Crossing album and the mega selling/ mega naff ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?’ That should have been it, really, and pretty much was for the best part of 10 years. Then, after too long coasting, redemption came in the unlikely form of producer Trevor Horn and a Tom Waits song, ‘Downtown Train’. They’d repeat the formula on ‘Tom Traubert’s Blues’ to even greater effect. The compilation closes with 1993’s Unplugged record, which saw him reunited with Ron Wood and back in the saddle. A whole other chapter was to follow on a new label but for as far as this goes, revel in the beginning, admire the end but stay well clear of the middle. ~ Phil Udell

~ Hilary A. White

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TV C HRISTM AS ST U F F I N G

Words by

MAIA DUNPHY

Hollyoaks’ traditional Christmas tot

christmas is coming and the tv guides are getting fat. (Mind you, with watch even one tenth of the programmes RTE screening The Polar Express back in mid-November, it wasn’t just retailers who were trying to start Christmas early). But now we’re really entering the thick of it. The you-won’t-want-to-leave-yourcouch-til-January time of the year, when we’re promised television of such magical quality that you will need to spend at least a couple of hours in early December with the TV pages and two different coloured pens, to highlight which shows you will watch and which you’ll Sky Plus (or set the video for, if you still live in a non-Sky Plus world, like me). Families have been known to injure each other in a bid to book in their seasonal viewing early. The reality is, we all go back to work in January and realise that we didn’t

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we had planned to. There’s no doubt that television is an essential part of the ‘holiday season’, but as we all know, that doesn’t necessarily mean everything is worth watching. There will be the usual festive favourites, plus all the grand finals of the various reality shows – from I Was Once a Celebrity, Give Me Another Chance, to The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing. Soap storylines are starting to gather that early December momentum, building up to the Christmas week crescendos, usually resulting in life changing revelations and at least one murder. If soap writers really wanted to surprise us, they should throw a happy, uneventful Christmas into the mix. Perhaps the turkey might be overcooked, granny

might drink too much or someone mixes up the labels on presents with hilarious but banal consequences. But that would miss the whole point. Soaps at Christmas are designed to make us normal folk realise that things could be so much worse; yes we eat too much, have to visit relatives you don’t see all year for good reason, and trawl 24-hour shops for batteries at 11pm on Christmas Eve. But at least no one has tried to burn you in your sleep/ sold your baby on the internet/ told you your brother used to be your mother. And let’s not forget that Hollyoaks gets another chance to put busty girls in tiny Santa outfits; and sure where would we be without that? Then there are the one-off specials of all our favourite shows. Let’s be honest; only once in a festive blue moon is there genuinely must-see TV on at Christmas. When it does happen, you’ll know, as they will be repeated until we know them off by heart and start referring to them as ‘classics’. The quality of such specials is directly proportionate to how many years in succession they are repeated. The Office and The Royle Family are two such examples over the last few years, and they will no doubt be trotted out, along with shows we already refer to as classics, like Only Fools & Horses, for years to come. The annual Doctor Who seasonal special is usually worth breaking into the second layer of Milk Tray for (and we are promised something very special this year, what with it being David Tennant’s final outing). I was recently reminded of the brilliance of the Zig & Zag Christmas Specials (please repeat them, RTE!!), which, if you are between 25 and 40, the mere mention of them will make you feel warm and fuzzy (and old) inside. Because that’s really the key isn’t it? Nostalgia. We are incredibly forgiving of festive TV, and once it warms our cockles, we are generally pretty content. This is the reason we watch films like It’s A Wonderful Life and Miracle On 34th Street


TV Ones to Watch

without ever picking holes in them. Once something is labelled a ‘Christmas Classic’, it is somehow untouchable. With that in mind, let’s give a thought to the Christmas specials which didn’t quite catch people’s imaginations. Like the all-time family favourite from 1998, Noam Chomsky: Deconstructing Christmas. In this particular gem, linguist and social commentator Chomsky explained how the development of the commercial Christmas season directly relates to the loss of individual freedoms in the United States and the subjugation of indigenous people in southeast Asia. All whilst wearing a jolly red Santa hat to appeal to the kids. ‘Can I get it on DVD?’, I hear you ask? Thankfully, no. And it’s probably about as likely to be repeated as a Gary Glitter Rock n’ Roll Christmas Special featuring the St Anne’s Children’s Choir. In 2002, spurred on by the phenomenal success of The Osbournes, VH1 commissioned a reality style Christmas special from zany rocker Ted Nugent. The result was Christmas With The Nuge, which involved Ted making jerky from four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. Seriously. VH1 decided not to broadcast it at the last minute, and apparently put out a compilation show of classic Christmas videos in the slot instead. A wise move. I believe it is still available to buy at Ted’s website and could make an interesting gift (if anyone wants to be friendless by the New Year). So this year, if you’re put out by Pat Kenny mildly patronising kids on The Late Late Toy Show, or irritated by the predictable misery of the Eastenders Christmas Special, just bear in mind that it could be worse. Choose your festive viewing wisely and remember that you don’t have to watch everything (a bit like that ninth mince pie - just stop yourself). And of course, avoid any programmes which you suspect involve an aging rocker turning a much-loved carol into a recipe card.

Christmas Cookery Shows BBC Since very few of us get away with not cooking at all over Christmas, there’s advice for everyone on the BBC this month. In particular, watch out for The Hairy Bikers Christmas Special, and three new Christmas Kitchens from Nigella the week before Christmas. If nothing else, you’ll learn how to make gravy whilst looking like you’re in an adult film, which is trickier than it sounds. The Podge & Rodge Stephen’s Day Special RTE 2, Dec 26 Podge & Rodge are aiming to get Twink to co-present this special edition of the show. Whether or not they succeed in persuading the Grande Dame into their dirty den remains to be seen.

The Big Fat Quiz of the Year Channel 4 Without a doubt, the best ‘run down of the year’ show of its kind. Jonathan Ross has featured for the last few years, so let’s hope he signs up again as it may be the only time we see him over Christmas after the ludicrously overblown reaction to ‘Manuelgate’. Rab C Nesbitt Christmas Special BBC2 It’s been 20 years since Rab first hit our screens, but if you only see one new Christmas Special this year, make it this one. Yep, the string vest has been dusted down and dirtied up once more for a brand new episode. The storyline is a closely guarded secret, but is rumoured to be about Rab’s struggle with alcohol. You want nostalgia and pathos? You got it.

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DVD collar suburbia. What could be a tabloid-esque shock-fest, however, is transformed into an engaging, if complicated, family drama, and can be genuinely touching and hilarious at the same time, particularly Bill’s over-reliance on Viagra to satisfy his conjugal obligations. It’s well directed and superbly acted by a fine cast, but one thing stops Big Love becoming essential viewing: none of the characters are particularly likeable, and some (Bill’s parents in particular) are positively hateful. Quirky and controversial it may be, but Big Love is also extremely watchable. For fans of: Six Feet Under, Desperate Housewives. ~ John Walshe

Elton John: The Red Piano

Running Time: 153 minutes Extras: Documentary, original films, audio disc.

[

Nazis, nostalgia and numerous wives: the season’s top DVDs reviewed.

Band Of Brothers (Blu-Ray) W

Starring: Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston, Donnie Wahlberg. Running Time: 705 mins. Extras: Interactive field guide, featurettes, Making Of, Video Diary, Documentary.

Steven Spielberg’s superb 10-part mini-series finally makes it to Blu-Ray, so you can relive the heroism and horror of World War II in glorious detail. If you missed it first time around, you should snap this up immediately. Based on the book of the same name by historian and biographer Stephen Ambrose, it follows the 101st Airborne’s ‘Easy Company’ from their basic training through to the end of the war. While it starts slowly (with David Schwimmer particularly out of his depth), BOB develops into a stirring and extremely moving portrayal of WWII. The ‘Bastogne’ episode is amongst the most affecting pieces of television ever made. For Fans Of: Saving Private Ryan, The Big Red One, Platoon.

]

soundtracked it all. It took years to clear the music and footage rights for this DVD and the downside is that the decade is zipped through in two and a half hours, rather than an a luxurious hour per year. It’s still essential viewing, however. For Fans of: The recession

The Feeling Come Home Running Time: 193 minutes Extras: Promo videos, extra tracks

An odd one this. The main feature, a live show from London, is strangely lacklustre. Fans should instead head straight for the Feeling On Ice feature, where the band head back to the tourist gigs in the Alps where they learned their chops. Good tunes, good attitude, good band. For fans of: Queen, non-ironic ’80s cover versions ~ Phil Udell

Big Love Season One

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~ Phil Udell

~ Niall Byrne

~ John Walshe

Reeling in the ’80s

Starring: Bill Paxton, Chloe Sevigny, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Harry Dean Stanton. Running Time: 643 minutes. Extras: Commentary/ A Balancing Act On Ice featurette

Finally, the best thing RTE ever did with their extensive archives gets a Christmas release. So, what does history teach us? Well, Ireland was largely a dull depressing place during the ’80s, with an economy in recession and constant musical chairs in the Dáil. It was a decade full of conflict in Northern Ireland, Haughey and Thatcher were omnipresent, divorce and condoms were illegal, Gay Byrne presented everything, Kerry took the majority of accolades in GAA and U2

Bill Henrickson (Paxton) has a lot on his plate. He’s about to open his second DIY superstore, while simultaneously trying to extricate himself from a dodgy business arrangement with the sinister Roman Grant (Stanton). There’s also the small matter of juggling three wives and their combined family of seven children. Bill, you see, is a fundamentalist Mormon and a polygamist, who is trying to integrate into normal Utah society, buying three houses in a row in white

Running Time: 150 minutes. Extras: The warm satisfaction of knowing it’s not the ’80s anymore.

If you have to see any mega artist in the hellhole of Las Vegas, it may as well be Elton John. The Red Piano was his shot at the big show, complete with original film clips by David LaChapelle and a spectacular stage setting. It’s all ridiculous, of course, but at its heart lie some of the best tunes of the past three decades. And ‘I’m Still Standing’. For fans of: Billy Joel, Strictly Come Dancing

Planet Of The Apes 40th Anniversary Collection (Blu-Ray)

Starring: Roddy McDowell, Charlton Heston, Kim Hunter. Running Time: 606 minutes. Extras: Animated intros, commentary, extended scenes, documentary.

Franklin J. Schaffner’s original 1968 Planet Of The Apes movie pisses all over Tim Burton’s 2001 remake. OK, so the special effects are dated and the ape costumes do look a little silly, but for adrenaline and compelling narrative, this is hard to beat, and the final scene is one of the most memorable in movie history. Of the sequels, only Escape From The Planet Of The Apes approaches the greatness of the original, its social and political undertones extremely powerful in 1971 America. Worth buying to remember Charlton Heston as a fine actor and not a relic of everything that’s wrong about right-wing America. For Fans Of: A Clockwork Orange, classic sci-fi. ~ John Walshe


Words by

Games

JOHN WALSHE

tion of RPG, action-adventure and shooter (either first or third person) as you unravel mysteries, explore the enormous environment any way you want and choose your own moral code as you do so. Massive and magnificent.

FIFA 09 X360, PS3, PS2, PC

(ea sports)

The latest incarnation of the long-running series takes on and beats its bitter rival, PES, for the first time. With more playing options than ever, most of which are fully customisable, along with lifelike, intuitive gameplay, great graphics, a cracking soundtrack and superb commentary (from Martin Tyler and Andy Gray), FIFA 09 is the real deal, even allowing you to download weekly updates of players’ form, based on their real-life performances.

Prince Of Persia PS3

[

After a mediocre year for games, the big guns are unleashed for the Christmas market.

Gears Of War 2 X360

(microsoft/epic)

The Locust Horde are back and this time they’re really pissed off, destroying the human race’s last cities at a ferocious rate. The city of Jacinto remains the last bastion of mankind on earth and it won’t be long before that too falls to the Locusts and their giant worms. So strap on your weapons and move out, soldier, for the finest shooter of the year. Reprising your role as the grizzled Sergeant Fenix, you must lead an elite team of Gears into the heart of the Locusts. While the environments, including a superb underground section and a seriously creepy research facility, and some of the weapons and enemies (particularly the ugly bastard who looks like the offspring of a Predator and a Ring Wraith) are new, the gameplay is pretty much as-you-were for the first GOW game. It’s the same combination of finding cover and picking off your targets as its predecessor but when the action feels as natural and intuitive as this, you’d be mad to change it. The graphics are top-notch, the sound is superb and some of the set-pieces are incredible, such as the pitched battle on the back of two slave transporters, reminiscent of a scene from Pirates Of The Caribbean, albeit with kickass firepower. It’s not going to rewrite the rule-book for shooters, but with excellent enemy AI, drop-in co-op play and a host of new multiplayer options, Gears Of War 2 is well worth your attention.

Dead Space PS3

] (ea)

Coming across like the terrifying love-child of Aliens (the movie) and Silent Hill (the game), Dead Space is quite simply the scariest fun you’ll have all year. When your team of intergalactic wanderers is sent to locate a missing mining vessel, what should be a routine mission turns into a nightmare. Your ship crashes while trying to dock at your target and you’re effectively stranded in a less than hospitable environment, populated by the kind of monstrous aliens that would give Sigourney Weaver nightmares, all sawing limbs and spikes. The stunning graphics, eerie sound and shady lighting create the atmosphere, but it’s the jumps galore and edge-of-the-seat gameplay that lifts Dead Space into the realm of the classics.

Fallout 3 X360, PS3, PC

(bethesda)

Set in and around Washington DC in the aftermath of nuclear meltdown, Fallout 3 owes quite a debt to last year’s game of the year, Bioshock, in visuals and tone. You begin the game in the Vaults, an Orwellian sub-society set deep beneath the scarred surface, but it isn’t long (your first 19 years flash by) before you’re up top, exploring the huge playing area that is The Wastelands, searching for your father and encountering all manner of mutants and mercenaries en route. It’s a combina-

(ubisoft)

While searching for his missing gold-laden donkey in the middle of a great desert, the Prince encounters the mysterious Elika and before you can blink, an ancient god of darkness has been unleashed onto the world and guess who has to put him back in his box? There’s the usual mixture of high-rise high-jinks (with gargantuan leaps, wall-runs and balancing acts galore) and combat, as you cross swords with The Corrupted, including some monumental boss-fights. Superb animation and non-stop action make this a nice mixture of God Of War and Shadow Of The Collossus, albeit without quite hitting the heights of either.

Little Big Planet PS3

(scee)

A game that’s unlike any you’ve ever played, Little Big Planet is ostensibly a side-scrolling 3D platformer, but it’s oh, so much more than that. You’re a little sack-person, making your way around the big bad planet, which is inhabited by all manner of traps, puzzles, ghosts and other nefarious creatures intent on your demise. But that’s only part of the story. Perhaps this game’s most impressive feature is the player’s ability to create new levels and expand the environment. It’s utterly cute and shamelessly charming and it’s narrated by the godlike genius of Stephen Fry: what more excuse do you need? Now, go buy it.

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Anger Management What’s your name again?

MISTLETOE & W H INE JOHN WALSHE CHRISTIAN KIRKEGAARD

Words and Bile by Illustration by

Ebeneezer Scrooge is one of the most unfairly maligned literary characters ever created. His catchphrase, ‘Bah humbug’, has become a calling card for anyone perceived to be anything short of ecstatic about Christmas and all the shiny, glittery, fur-coat-andno-knickers falsity it represents for fucking months at a time. This year, there were ads on the telly for kids’ toys before the little fuckers had even ran out of bangers and rockets. At least a week before Halloween, we were being inundated with images of Prozac-faced pre-teens gurning relentlessly in their pastel onesies, while banging the latest noisy, dayglo creations from the torture specialists otherwise known as the manufacturers of children’s toys. This was in October, people. A full two fucking calendar months before the “big day”. And then there was the debacle over the Christmas Lights. It seems that county councils across the country decided that the best way to overcome the recession and to get Irish consumers back where they belong (i.e. maxing out their credit cards on more shite they don’t need, like another Christmas compilation featuring ‘Fairytale Of New York’ or a 12-inch HD-Ready TV for the jacks) was to light the entire country up like Funderland for a whole two months. Do they think we’re so fucking stupid that we’ll be so dazzled by the pretty fucking lights to the extent that we’ll forget the fact that we can’t afford our car repayments and will rush into the nearest shopping centre to buy those furry slippers we always wanted? As we get closer the corporate Holiday Season itself, it gets worse. Much worse. Normally sane people can be seen queuing for half an hour at tills wearing stupid fucking Santy hats; the prevalence of Chuggers (charity muggers) increases on every street corner (if I want to donate to charity I will do so on my terms: I’m not giving my bank details to a beardy backpacker wearing a high-vis. vest); every second film on TV is a ‘feelgood’ romp about another orphan who finds wealth or the heartwarming tale of a stuffed animal who “saves” Christmas. Take it from me: Christmas is beyond saving. As December ploughs on, the nightmare before Christmas turns social: every gobshite you’ve tried to avoid for the preceding 11 months of the year phones, texts or emails you about meeting up for a Christmas drink and no matter how hard you try, you can’t avoid them all. What really fills me with festive fear, however, is the office

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party (not our own, of course: the State affair is tasteful, subdued and involves good tunes – last year’s incorporated Girl Talk at Whelan’s). Thankfully, spotting these gatherings is extremely easy: if you see a group of people dressed like accountants at a smasual (smart-casual) business lunch, who look as uncomfortable in each other’s company as a sports agent at a GAA conference, run like the fucking wind. The entire country is full of these arseholes in the fortnight from December 11-25. There’s normally mild-mannered Frank from customer service: add five pints of flat lager and he turns into the festive hero, wearing the obligatory novelty tie. Or how about Pernilla from accounts, who lives with her mother and buys her cat a Christmas present, sitting in the corner trying to snort sherry. Then there’s the absolute horror that is Christmas day itself, one of only two such occasions during the entire calendar when the pubs close. At least there’s always a party on Good Friday, so there’s at least a chance of you passing the time with some people you actually choose to like. On December 25, however, you’re stuck with family and the older I get, the more I realise that every Irish clan has at least one raving alcoholic, a ‘character’ who’d bore the knickers off a nun and a herd of kids trying to work off their sugar buzz by showing off their latest ring-tones. The real nadir, however, is Christmas dinner itself, when you spend more than an hour tearing into the driest old bird on the planet (or maybe that’s just my grandmother). So what if Charles Dickens was writing A Christmas Carol in 21st century Ireland? Scrooge would be up before the Mahon Tribunal, Bob Cratchit would have been laid off, his wife in debtors’ prison for running up online shopping bills, and Tiny Tim would spend the entire holiday season in methadone withdrawal. Humbug indeed.


I

a song for Christmas

Make sure you get what you want this Christmas. Put the Sony Ericsson W910i Walkmanâ&#x201E;˘ on your wish list and feed your Music Monster with the tracks you really love.

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State Magazine issue 9  

Top 50 albums of the Year Glas Vegas Seasick steve Little Joy Q-Tip Tim wheeler One Day International 12 Nights to christmas Cold War Kids

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