Hello Again / Cam’s Mix Tape

5 02 2012

It has been close to two years since I last posted here due to various mitigating circumstances. Y’know, life and the like. Recently though, the pull of having a place all of my very own from which to spout nonsense from has proved too strong and I find myself back here again, spouting nonsense.

Shall we start with a list? Imagine you’re turning nine. You wake up on the morning of your birthday and instead of the professional rollerblades you have been angling for since Christmas, your mother has decided that it’s time you put a bit of distance between yourself and those Pitbull and Lady Gaga singles and opted – not for those black rollerblades with the red flame motifs on the side – but rather for a crappy homemade CD with a crudely-scrawled ‘Happy 9th Birthday!!!’ standing in for cover art, in the hope that it might steer you in ‘the right’ musical direction. What could possibly be on that CD that wouldn’t make you want to emancipate yourself from said mother immediately?

This is my predicament. This is what I’ve come up with:

Cam’s Mix Tape 

CD1

AC/DC – Thunderstruck (live)

The Who – My Generation

Outkast – Hey Ya!

Beastie Boys – Sabotage

De La Soul – The Magic Number

Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody

Happy Mondays – Step On

ELO – Mr. Blue Skies

The White Stripes – Hotel Yorba

Bruce Springsteen – Born in the USA

Curtis Mayfield – Move On Up

House of Pain – Jump Around

Daft Punk – One More Time

Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit

Blur – Song 2

The Ramones – Blitzkreig Bop

The Clash – Rock the Casbah

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bad Moon Rising

Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart

CD2

The Specials – A Message to You Rudy

The Stone Roses – Waterfall

Oasis – Rock ‘n’ Roll Star

Arctic Monkeys – I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor

The Strokes – Last Night

Groove Armada – Superstylin’
Hot Chip – Over & Over

The Prodigy – Out of Space

The Cure – Lovecats

The Clash – London Calling

The Beatles – Come Together

Kings of Leon – Taper Jean Girl

The Black Keys – Lonely Boy

Michael Jackson – Thriller

Fleetwood Mac – The Chain

Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love

Bob Marley & The Wailers – Jammin’

The Rolling Stones – Gimmie Shelter

The Beach Boys – God Only Knows

*Disclosure: I also bought him a Scalextric set.





Review: Fionn Regan “Shadow of an Empire”

12 02 2010

An album review for Ragged Words

Imagine if the only films you ever saw consisted of romantic slush. Sure, it’s pleasant enough to watch the odd feel-good rom-com, and the latest slew of indie flicks that employ some hapless, scrawny sucker brimming with a nerdy charm to bring an element of geek-chic to the proceedings are making the genre more bearable to the cynical masses (depending on your level of cynicism of course), but pretty soon you’re going to get sick of all the icky love stuff. Pretty soon you’re going to demand more from your movie.

Well, the same goes for your music. Many musicians of the cursed singer-songwriter variety tend to fall back on their own experiences of love. While this is all very nice, in a slushy sort of way, the vast majority seem a little daunted by the prospect of exploring a broader subject matter. Thankfully, Fionn Regan is one troubadour who’s not afraid to push unfamiliar boundaries. While his debut album The End of History matches the enormity of current follow-up Shadow of an Empire in the impressive name stakes, the former stopped short of contextually tackling the unknown the way that this new record seems to. Although The End of History was a fine album full of quietly confident, folksy musicianship, Shadow of an Empire sees Regan’s music mature alongside its creator.

Themes such as racketeering, institutionalism, abuse and genocide run strong throughout the album and are largely given an ironic, upbeat melody that draws attention to their blunt, albeit beautifully penned, lyrics. On second single ‘Catacombs’, for example, Regan jauntily sings “Let’s take it outside / the kids are sleeping / I’ll pay you to do me some damage” and on ‘Genocide Matinee’ he thunders through a chorus containing the lyrics “They’re selling coupons / They’re handing out tokens / Now the curtains are shrieking / Take your seats for the genocide matinee” with a raucous, bass-heavy charm that’s not dissimilar to some of The Libertines’ more boisterous numbers.

Although Regan has certainly turned up the tempo and given Bob Dylan some company on his list of notable influences (Johnny Cash is right up there beside him), he somehow manages to retain an admirable level of individuality. The beauty of the quieter songs on ‘Shadow of an Empire’ serve to highlight just how talented a musician Fionn Regan is: the wistful imagery of ‘Little Nancy’ uncannily captures a relationship unburdened by the demands of adulthood while the delicate arpeggio and vocal fluctuation of’ Lord Help My Poor Soul’ convey genuine sentiment. Listen to ‘Violent Demeanour’ for a masterclass in fusing true folk-style storytelling with rollicking rock ‘n’ roll.

Shadow of an Empire is undoubtedly a triumphant second album for Fionn Regan. It sees him both staying true to the folk sensibilities and off-kilter lyricism that helped him to create such mesmeric songs as ‘Put a Penny in the Slot’ and ‘Hey Rabbit’, whilst simultaneously teetering on the cusp of his comfort zone; both lyrically and musically. A truly refreshing album.

Sheena Madden





O Emperor

7 01 2010

Beautifully arranged music that effortlessly avoids the toothless indie scene. Touted as one of the Irish bands to watch for 2010 (but don’t let that put you off). Their first single ‘Po’ commanded critics’ attentions but it’s the smooth and jangly ‘Don’t Mind Me’ (clip below) that caught my attention. Influences like The Band and Mercury Rev are easily picked up on but these guys don’t seem to be blindly following any particular scene.

O Emperor tour Ireland with hotly tipped UK bands Sons of Noel and Adrian and Alessi’s Ark before embarking on their English dates.

O Emperor Irish Dates

Jan 13th – Cyprus Avenue, Cork
Jan 14th – Roisin Dubh, Galway
Jan 15th – Electric Avenue, Waterford
Jan 16th – Whelans (Upstairs), Dublin
Jan 17th – Dolans (Upstairs), Limerick





RAGGED WORDS PRESENTS: ADRIAN CROWLEY, THE HOLY ROMAN ARMY & HUNTER-GATHERER

14 12 2009

One of the UK and Ireland’s loveliest independent music sites, Ragged Words, is turning its attentions to organising gigs. With a talented group of writers who really know their stuff and a starting line-up as good as this one, chances are we’re in for a treat. I’m especially looking forward to sibling duo, The Holy Roman Army, whose debut album ‘How the Light Gets In” was definitely one of the most under-rated of the year.

Details and clip below.

The first of many Ragged Words shows (on both side of the Irish Sea) sees Adrian Crowley, The Holy Roman Army & Hunter-Gatherer play Dublin’s Twister Pepper on Sunday December 20. We’re thrilled to have put together a really strong lineup – all three acts are being strongly tipped for a Choice Music Prize nomination when the shortlist is announced in mid-January – so this gig showcases some of the cream of Irish music doing the rounds right now.

It all kicks off at 8pm on and tickets are priced at a budget-beating, pocket-pleasing €10 (plus a small booking fee) and are on sale now through tickets.ie. They’re also available from Road Records, City Discs and Plugd

The Holy Roman Army – Stagger Gently Home






Coors Light Peak Dublin

23 11 2009

For Connected

 

I make no secret of the fact that I think a lot of Irish music doing the rounds nowadays is very mediocre. Therefore, when Connected assigned me to stand in the middle of a Dublin shipping dock on a Saturday night in the middle of November, the only thing that was tearing me away from the warmth of my sitting room and Jedward (now there’s quality…) was the draw of a certain Jeremy Hickey and his wonderful drumstick-wielding ways. Hickey, who is better known by his ironic moniker, Rarely Seen Above Ground (RSAG), was on just before headliners New Young Pony Club, though, so whilst waiting I hung around and took advantage of the free Coors Light and ate chips to keep warm. Oh, and I checked out a couple of bands too…

Codes
The Dublin indie quartet played songs from their debut album, Trees Dream in Algebra, to get the crowd warmed up. Phantom FM playlist stalwarts such as ‘You Are Here’ and ‘This is Goodbye’ provided plenty of fodder for the mass of indie fans that had amalgamated at the foot of the stage. In fairness to the band, ‘This is Goodbye’ is a catchy, melodic number that suits the singer’s androgynous voice but, on a whole, Codes are a poor man’s Keane who probably aspire to be more like Muse, yet haven’t quite got the balls to pull it off (although Muse are the most overrated band of our generation, so it’s much of a muchness). They seemed to placate the crowd – each to their own – but at this point I was still wishing I had stayed in and watched X-Factor.

Tiny Magnetic Pets
With nods to Kraftwerk, Stereolab and David Bowie, Tiny Magnetic Pets emulate some of electronica’s greatest innovators with an admirable aptitude for their chosen field. They seem to have grasped the concept of ‘less is more’ on a lot of tracks (‘See What I See’, ‘Spinning’); letting sparsity speak volumes whilst dually avoiding the messy synth-orgy that so many Irish electro-pop outfits get drawn into due to over eagerness and inexperience. Saying this, tracks like ‘Control Me’ prove that the Psychonavigation-signed duo can still hold their own in the dancefloor-filling stakes. Ok, so they’re not breaking any moulds with singer Paula Glimmer’s Allison Goldfrapp-esque vocals, but their understanding and usage of analogue instrumentation is usually spot on. Their cover of the Eurythmics’ ‘Love is a Stranger’ was particularly noteworthy and there were more than a few heads mouthing the words to their biggest hit to date, ‘Girl in a White Dress’.

RSAG
After some time spent admiring industrial paraphernalia that had been transformed to fit the scene – 40ft shipping containers used as projection screens – RSAG was announced as the next act and the crowd started to heave en masse towards the stage. As the only artist to have been booked to play all five Coors Light Peak gigs (in Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Galway and Limerick), the Kilkenny man was undoubtedly one of the main draws for many ticketholders.

rsagpeak.jpg

His debut album Organic Sampler is one of the best Irish records to have been released in recent years and his live sets never fail to disappoint. With his trademark ‘graphic band’ visuals especially striking thanks to the industrialised backdrop, things were off to a good start. Whoring through tracks from the aforementioned Organic Sampler, RSAG’s short set surged through the crowd like a combustible burst of live energy. Live, his deadpan, Ian Curtis-like voice is certainly less-than-comprehensible but I guess it’s a matter of personal taste as to whether that takes away from the songs or not.

Personally, I think it’s neither here nor there and, in fact, may even add to his renowned reputation as a great live performer. Flawless vocals can often be strangely unsatisfying at a live gig but, again, it’s down to personal opinion on that front. It’s hard to pick out any one highlight of the set; ‘Talk Back, Crawl Back’, ‘The Climb’, ‘Days Go By’… the list goes on. I would strongly urge you to check out RSAG before the rest of the world cotton on to one of our most exciting musical assets.
Ok, sycophantic fawning out of the way… let’s move on.

Drag Queen Bingo / Extreme Rhythm
Filling the set up time that was going on over at the main stage, regular Twisted Pepper DJ duo Drag Queen Bingo teamed up with Wexford-based percussion ensemble, Extreme Rhythm, on the smaller stage to inject some vigour into the frost-stiffened limbs of the crowd. Energetic drum pounding fused with favourite club classics such as Paul Van Dyk’s ‘For an Angel’ were definite crowd pleasers.

New Young Pony Club
Considering that New Young Pony Club (NYPC) haven’t released any new material since their 2007 Mercury-nominated debut, Fantastic Playroom, the band’s headliner status felt more like a last minute panic by the booking agents than a carefully planned move. That fact is compounded further by looking at the quality of Coors Light Peak’s previous Irish headliners: Reverend & The Makers, The Charlatans, Fight Like Apes and Jape.

new_young_peak.jpg

Call me ungrateful, but I felt a little hard done by on behalf of us Dubliners. Nonetheless, onetime super-hyped singles such as ‘Ice Cream’ and ‘The Bomb’ persuaded me to drop the cynicism for a nano-second and give NYPC a chance. Result? Meh. The crowd bopped away regardless in the ever-increasing cold, thanks to a steady stream of Coors Light and an admirably energetic set from a so-so band. They did play some new material but in my humble opinion there was nothing earth-shattering going on.

Overall, the gig was visually impactive and well organised. Feeder busses ferried punters to and from the city centre with no obvious hiccups and security seemed to be extra vigilant; perhaps due to the somewhat perilous setting. Just give us a bit of sunshine to go with our ice cold beers next time and we’ll be happy.

Review: Sheena Madden

Photography: Sara Devine

 





Maria Tecce ~ Fringe Fest Queen

18 11 2009

maria tecce

I used to work for a cd duplication company. We took in the masters, listened to the quality, checked the track listing was in order then sent them for pressing. If it was a really exciting day I might get to design the face of a promo cd – pulse-racing excitement. This being Ireland, it was rare that I came across ‘the next big thing’ through this process and so I had to resign myself to the fact that my days would be spent listening to either Red Hurley’s latest, greatest showband tunes or the strained attempts of some Rose of Tralee wannabe from Borris-in-Ossery who’s daddy had paid for a demo. You can imagine, so, my surprise and relief when one of these master copys turned out to be not only highly listenable but alluringly distinctive.

Maria Tecce, Dublin-based, Spanish-American, one-woman jazz force is unlike anything you are likely to come across by scouring the Hype Machine or any of your usual musical hunting grounds. Maria’s music doesn’t feel like it belongs on the web, amongst the overpowering myriad of hipsters, scenesters, movers & shakers all vying for your eyes and ears. It feels like the kind of music you would have discovered whilst strolling down some prohibition-era backstreet, straining to detect the whisper of a speakeasy songstress rising from the quagmires of the underground.

I mentioned Maria last year when she performed at the Dublin Fringe Festival and this year Scotland’s Fringe Festival crowd experienced the music of one of our most soulful and playful adopted citizens. Catch Maria perform in the intimate settings of JJ Smyths of Aungier Street (beside DBS college) this Sunday 22nd November for an theatrically indulgent pre-Christmas treat.

 

 

 





Review: Hypnotic Brass Ensemble @ The Button Factory

27 10 2009

From Connected

After months of watching insipid indie-kids standing around languidly as some hipster in hipsters played with synthesisers, it was great to see people dancing so much that their collective sweat dripped from the walls
The Saturday night before a bank holiday Sunday doesn’t usually bode too well for pub owners or party goers. Not to mention the fact that that bastard of an economy has knocked the bollocks out of our leather wallets and sequined purses, people tend to save themselves for Halloween night so that they can blow €70 on an inflatable whoopee cushion costume in the vain hope of winning a plastic trophy and a bottle of sparkling wine down the local hotspot.

Imagine my surprise, so, when I arrived at the Button Factory last Saturday to see Chicago’s most successful buskers, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, and found the place packed tighter than John O’Donoghue’s expense account. The thing about the Button Factory is you have to get there early otherwise you’re screwed, thanks to the ‘school hall’ shape of the room. Thankfully, Connected risked life and limb manoeuvring our way through the slightly agro crowd as they tutted, sighed and spilled warm beer on our heads, before nestling ourselves into a comfy spot between the sound techies and the stage (all for the benefit of you, our beloved readers, of course).

Only once we were in situ did the real energy of the place come resonate with us; though we did feel a little sorry for the poor sods who’d forked out €22 to stand down the back without so much as a glimpse of the stage. After months of watching insipid indie-kids standing around languidly as some hipster in hipsters played with synthesisers, it was great to see people dancing so much that their collective sweat dripped from the walls; such was the effect of the nine hyperactive Hypnotic’s on stage; eight of whom are sons of Kelan Phil Cohran, trumpeter with the legendary Sun Ra Arkestra and founder of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

The assemblage of trumpets, trombones, baritones, drums and that mighty impressive sousaphone is a sight enough in itself but to play those instruments with the panache and professionalism of the HBE takes some doing. Not to mention the fact that they move like Chippendales in rhythmic unison to the jazz/hip-hop/funk/soul fusion that appears to come so easily to them. As children, the eight Cohran brothers had wind instruments thrust into their mouths in place of pacifiers and, though they have grown up in a hip-hop generation, their primary sound has its roots in 60’s Jazz and 70’s Soul.

Their instantly recognisable second single ‘War’, which they dedicated to all of those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, could be described simultaneously as a battle cry, thanks to its segmented instrumentation and overlying trumpet solo, or a contemporary jazz opus. Either way, the crowd went mental for it, as they did with the rest of a raucous, sweaty set. In fact, the only time that HBE seem slightly under par is when they allow their hip-hop influences to surpass their phenomenally disciplined musicianship. Calls to the crowd to “let me hear you say Hypnoticbrass.net” and an over-extended rendition of ‘ole, ole, ole’ came across as unnecessary and caused a bit of a lull in the night’s proceedings.

But now we’re really just nit-picking. Ideally, you want to be seeing these guys in their natural, organic environment: in front of a dressed shop window at Christmas, a sprawling urban park in Summertime or down a cobble-locked side street in the late evening sun. You can bet your bottom dollar that at least half of Saturday’s crowd turned up as a result of having seen this formidable band of brothers at Electric Picnic in September. For all their hip-hop stylings and “say yeeaah, say ho-ho” yammering, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble are exceptional musicians and merit a distinctive setting for their music to be fully realised. Failing that, though, the Button Factory will do.

review: Sheena Madden