Archive for the ‘ Bass ’ Category

A wave that breaks.

Generation X was the label of my generation. We were/are the slackers, the cynics, the ones that had lost all trust in authority and just kinda shrugged at it all. Well at least that was the cliche. Who knows what we were or are for labels are handed out in an arbitrary fashion usually at the whim of journalists or sociologists. What is true is that the movement known as grunge brought the underground overground as it were. There were many bands involved but there were four that stood out for me: Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. Well we all know what happened to Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley of Alice in Chains died after. That left Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell. Unfortunately Chris Cornell died in May. There is a deep sadness that the bands that changed so much lost their frontmen. Of all the four Soundgarden were my favourite and I had the pleasure of seeing them live in Dublin some years back. Sleep well Chris and thank you for the music.

A Wave That Breaks

The remnants of my youth
carried on the updraft of your voice.
It echoed through the rooms of my thoughts.
Images formed of fragments
the possibility of the now,
the slow trudge of an ending
and the beginning of newer age.
What gifts the seer brings
harnessing the whisper to create the scream
showing the believers the worth of their dreams
knowing the unknown
keeping us alive
measuring the distance
of rooms a thousand years wide.

She Speaks

image…boop,boop.Metronomic time, ceaseless and unforgiving.Under her watch fingers freeze, throats tighten and pulses race. In the moment four fight from going under the sonic waves they have created. Outside there is the alley. The artery. Rain falls in giant globs running from Pearse Street to Lombard finally coming to rest at the side streets end.

Some months before and the half whistled shapeless melody is given form by the guitar player’s hands.Lucid dreams given substance. Consonants and vowels drift from the larynx and the word is made flesh. Bass flitters between the gaps, wild and old. This new ship is anchored by the drum. Happiness fills the space.How easy it can be to make worlds.

Joyce’s Liffey everflows to the sea. The eastlanders follow on to Westland. Time passes.The metronome is tamed. Beginnings give way to ends. Parents to our children (all eight of them and those we lost) we coo at them, play peek-a-boo with them. Afraid to let them go but let them go we must.

I think of them now and then. I wonder where they are and what they are doing? Our children. Out of nowhere She Speaks. I hear the lady clearly and remember our moments, frozen now in my mind. Silently, I thank her and all the minutes we shared. All the seconds. Bip, bip….

Little Known Irish Classics (Vol. II)

 

No discussion of Irish music would be definitive without mentioning Microdisney. Fronted by Cathel Coughlan the band were lyrical and representative of the ’80s indie led sound that, whilst the norm for our near neighbours still wasn’t really in vogue in Ireland. Record companies were scouring Ireland looking for the next U2. Microdisney weren’t that but we are none the worst for it! Helicopter of the Holy Ghost.

 

 

 

With influences from Echo and the Bunnymen and vibing off Joy Division and The Cult (to a lesser extent) Into Paradise continued building on the idea laid down by bands like The Blades, Microdisney etc. Growing up in the late eighties and hearing Irish bands that weren’t like U2 or playing acoustic showed me I could pick up an instrument and give it a go. Rains come down indeed.

 

Ciunas  were part of the punk scene that had re-emerged in Dublin (and various parts of the country) during the early nineties. For a small number of us bands like this are a reminder not just of that scene and time in our lives but also for the independent record company: FOAD. There were bands such as Brinskill Bomb-beat, The Blue Babies, Coitus and, of course, Paranoid Visions on the roster. The song ‘Life’ is a near perfect slice of hardcore and skank inducing ska. Yes, it dealt with some clichéd lyrical themes (which doesn’t take away from the lyrics itself) but it is propelled by a driven guitar and melodic bassline it very much proved that Punk was alive and kicking in the Ireland of my youth.

This will be the third time that I have mentioned the seminal Irish punk survivors Paranoid Visions in my list however, around 1993 the band disbanded but some of the members re-surfaced as Striknein DC. Circus is a little cracker and a bit like the previous band DC melded hardcore with ska and reggae. The movement was heavily influenced by UK bands such as Citizen Fish and AOS3 however, Irish bands weren’t merely aping the scene but were actively shaping it. I will allow myself a bit of nostalgia on this one as the band I was in the nineties (Mythical New Underground) supported the DC in the now defunct Newbridge venue: Cox’s. That night was a crazy one as skinheads started to run amok and I remember DC’s singer Deco exhorting the audience to ‘Fight the real fucking enemy’. What a night that was!

Back to the early nineties but away from the punk scene we find The Pale. They were one of those odd Irish acts that emerge every so often that sound nothing at all like what people think of as an Irish sound. The Pale had this Romany gypsy vibe but not in a commercial sense. Dogs with No Tail was not as big as their hit-single Butterfly but that is no bad thing. I love the mandolin infused tune and the delivery of the vocal. They were totally out of time with their surrounding but they produced a fantastic album that is proof, if ever it was needed, that Ireland can produce a lot more than the traditional music clichéd lens that we are often viewed through.

Little Known Irish Classics (Vol.I)

The following songs are, by and large, little known Irish classics or at least curios. Three things to note: by Ireland I mean the island, I’m not considering politics etc here and since this is the first part I have looked at songs and bands from the 1970s and 1980s.  I have tried to avoid looking at more well known Irish bands and artists such as Thin Lizzy, U2, The Undertones, Stiff Little Fingers, Van the man etc I love them too but wanted to shine a spotlight on a few other acts I like.

Under Cleary’s Clock by The Radiators from Space is a hauntingly plaintive song written by the late Phil Chevron (later of The Pogues). The band were one of Ireland’s first Punk bands however this song is built around an acoustic guitar and tells the story of a gay man waiting for his date (and worrying will he be stood up). They are to meet under Cleary’s clock, which one stood on Dublin’s O’Connell Street. There is an added poignancy to the song as homosexuality was illegal in Ireland and the narrator of the song just wants a lover like everyone else.

Strange Girl by Paranoid Visions. This band have flown the flag for Irish punk long after many had thought it was dead. This song follows a simple enough punk formula of three chords and the truth. However, like the song above it shines a light on the darker side of life and a famous incident in Ireland. The death of a pregnant teenage mother and a child in a graveyard. She felt she couldn’t tell anyone and died alone. Lyrically it gave a kick to the idea that Ireland was a pro-life haven and when I first heard it the infamous X- case was all over the news as Ireland’s long story of abortion denial dragged on (as it still does to this day).

Downmarket by The Blades. These were a much lauded band, so much so that many on the Dublin scene believed that it would be they and not U2 that would become rich and famous. Often viewed as an Irish take on The Jam they were more than just a cheap copy. The lyrics of their main man Paul Cleary put them above many of their contemporaries as he painted many a vignette depicting the Ireland of the late 1970s and early 80s. Downmarket has some funky little guitar chords, a solid rhythm and a horn section. Anyone alive during the 1980s and early 90s will recognise the Ireland of few choices.

Mania by The Outcasts. Legendary Belfast punk band that were involved with the equally legendary Good Vibrations label. I first heard this on the now classic record: Punk and Disorderly: Vol. I. I’m not going to say much more than I seriously love this song, it makes me want to pogo all night long (oh and that beat…)

Caucasian Walk by Virgin Prunes. This group were like the anti-U2 (although it should be said both groups were and are still great friends). This is real post-punk territory. Throbbing drums, pulsating bass, twitchy guitar and two singers wearing skirts (Guggi and Gavin Friday). Definitely avant-garde they tried and succeeded in producing a different type of music..

Sandinista!

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Sandinista! stands as a result of a new found confidence on the part of The Clash. Burning incandescently on the comet trail of the double album and dizzy with ambition the band decided on an aural smorgasbord with a triple album (yes that is six sides). After the disastrous and Ill-conceived Cut the Crap this is the album that divides the faithful: in many ways one could argue that with a steadying editing influence this would have been a masterpiece fusing the raw power of punk with the newly emergent hip hop or on the other hand that the spiral sprawl allowed for a freedom which demands you listen to each and every note at least once. The album opens with Magnificent Seven: all funk and form, bristling with the new New York movements and with a bass line that carries all before it. Hitsville UK follows and it is a hopeful skank and call to arms that recalls the apogee of the arrival of punk and ska in 1970s/ 80s Britain. Junco Partner is a Brixton dub reggae tune, reminding us that the band have not lost touch with their London roots. The Leader continues London’s Calling Rockabilly vibe in a fine vein. Ivan meets GI Joe is Cold War disco writ large and is followed by Something about England, Mick Jones sings about the death of the post war dream through the eyes of a homeless Londoner and again the echoes of the Cold War can be felt like a Dickensian ghost. Rebel Waltz is concerned with the American Civil War by way of Jamaican dub reverb and is a trope followed up by both Paul Simonon on The Crooked Beat and by Strummer and Mickey Dread on One more time (and One more time: Dub ) which is biting social The Clash, reggae and roots are all to the fore with Joe singing to the world in a desperate bid to get us all to listen. Sandwiched in between all that is the Mick Jones classic Somebody Got Murdered. Have I forgot anything? Yes in between all that is a version of Mose Allison’s Look Here. This is two sides in and there are four more to go.
Rather than labour over every song on the album I will just mention some of the highlights The Call Up is pure anti-war, Joe singing about wanting to see the wheat fields rather than murder and maim for God or country. Broadway is beautiful and sparse, all feeling and awe and you can tell that America has been digging in to the bands psyche. Charlie don’t Surf uses that famous line from Apocalypse Now and the subject of Vietnam would be a subject to which the band would return. There are strange bedfellows in Career Opportunities reworked into a mad lullaby sung by kids, Mensforth Hill is just Something about England played backwards, there are dub versions of If Music Could Talk, Washington Bullets, Junco Partner and an instrumental in the shape of Shepard’s Delight. There is an Eddy Grant cover: Police on my Back. At times it feels like the album is going to tip over into a free form jam as the coherence dips and you feel that the band are laying down every demo idea that they have jammed. They want to make you work to find the brilliance and the album reminds me of how bland and uniform soundscapes have become of late and how artificial the industry has become. The Clash wanted to expand minds, talk politics even the name of the album is a statement of intent giving a massive fuck you to Reagan politics and Thatcherite gloom. This wasn’t introspective navel gazing but all out balls out broadside balladry for a new age. This group really believed they were the only band that mattered and were on mission: that mission was clear Lydon had screamed get off your arse but The Clash were going to kick us off our arse one at a time if needs be. God bless them it was a big ask and one that ultimately failed as music is now full of the whingeing generation who couldn’t be bothered lifting an amp never mind putting their shoulder to the wheel to try to pull down the walls of conformity. Yes they may have been Don Quixote, tilting at windmills but there were enough of us willing to be Sancho Panza and jump on for the ride. Will we ever again have an age where a band will get away with a triple album like this? Alas I think not but fuck it, it is only rock and roll but… Ah you know the rest

Live (or where I swear and philosophise at the end of another year)

imageThroughout my blog posts I have mentioned many facets of playing music from the bands I was in, the jams that I love and the recordings I have made. However, I have never mentioned the lifeblood of music: playing live! Now there is a reason for this namely I have played the guts of 300 plus gigs and that makes it hard to pick which ones to write about! After much thought I have decided to concentrate on three important gigs that have meant a lot to me and in doing so might give my readers an insight to the joys of harnessing all that energy and putting it into (at times) a cohesive performance.

Where to start? Well at the beginning is always good. Twenty years ago I had just turned seventeen and I was itching to play live as I had been practicing for nigh on three years. The band was Mythical New Underground, the sound was wibbly-wobbly reggae punk with a twinge of thrash metal. Where to play? A dank corner of a filthy pub? Somewhere in Dublin supporting the cognoscenti of the punk underground or maybe my debs in the Hazel Hotel Monasterevin? Of course the logical choice was the latter. Jesus I remember the anxiety most of all, just waiting to get up and finally play. Our guitar player, Carl, was hammered, our drummer, Mark, ended up with half an electronic kit and I couldn’t hear myself or our singer, Pog and we banged and bashed our way through a set that no one really knew. Our classmates danced though and that was great. I walked off full of the buzz of having lost my gig virginity, grinning from ear to ear and headed for the bar. I was met by a woman who said ‘Ye were shit’ but I just thought ‘Fuck you, I ain’t like everybody else I have just played a gig!’ Pure bliss (followed by pints and puke oh the glamour and no cash may I add).

Fast forward a few years, possibly 1999 or 2000, Newbridge, Co. Kildare, The Railway Bar. I can’t remember what the occasion was but I was singing that night ( I went through a brief phase as a singer…not to be repeated) but this should have been a gig consigned to the dark recesses of my memory and it would have been bar one incident. We finished the gig, we had belted through a folkish set and the reception was warm but one man turned to me and said, with a voice full of spite ‘Why didn’t you play something we knew?’ I should have said ‘Because I am not a fucking Jukebox’ but I didn’t. Now for those that have never been on stage here is the thing: it takes guts, it takes balls but it also takes energy and there are times you get off that stage and you are spent. That night I was and his words stuck. I returned home, knackered, penniless (no pay again) and deflated. The words played again and again and I thought ‘Why am I doing this? Why am I putting myself out there?’ I walked for about an hour and I was so down I thought about never playing live again but ultimately I came to the realisation that I was addicted to playing live and it wasn’t going to happen.

Dublin, 2014. Czech Inn, Temple Bar. No cash- free pint, She Speaks is the band. It has been a year since I have played a gig (I am excluding playing at school masses and grads) I need this. Energy flowing, adrenaline rushing. New band and an original set. Playing is a type of madness, half of the band are mad nervous and the other half are jumping out of their skin and ready to have the ego stroked. Then the first note comes and the four of us are surfing the moment. The shakes recede, the nerves dissipate and we all begin to let go. The flow takes over and for a little while the four become one. We bounce off each other. Rebecca, our singer does that little shuffle she does with her hands, Skip beats the drums, Wayne lets go on a guitar and my neck moves like a bobble headed toy that you find in a car. We start to smile, we start to let go and in that moment nothing can touch you. There is no sadness, no worry, no stress there is just the moment. When you first play gigs that moment can be scary-you don’t know what it is- but after a while you gain experience and you know what that moment is: Joy. Happy Christmas all and may you find that ever elusive joy that you seek.

She Speaks

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So, I lied somewhat in one of my posts. It was the one about recording and more specifically the moving on part. I ended on an optimistic note but in truth I had thought about giving up. I was wasted and spent. Music is beautiful but sometimes it cuts. All the time spent, all the hours of hope, all the nerves and all the times you lost when you should have won. I looked at my bass and thought I can’t even play this thing why am I codding myself? But God it had always been there and especially on those nights when I thought all was lost and that I would never smile again. I remembered the time not long after my mother had succumbed to cancer when my friend Mark made sure we got together to jam. It restored normality. How could I let that go? I very nearly did but the spark wouldn’t die no matter how I tried to dampen the fucker and that is why I lied in that post because that lie was the beginning of the long crawl back.

I get the feeling (and I could be wrong) that people who aren’t involved in music probably read the above and think: ‘Jesus stop being melodramatic’. However, music, as cheesy and clichéd as this sounds, is like a religion to me. Not in the sense that I worship it but in the sense that it gives me solace. I haven’t been in a long-term relationship in a good while so the longest relationships I have had have been in bands. You get the picture, it means a lot! With that I started to claw my way back and wanted to find the fun again and to be clear I had lost the joy, no one in my previous band had caused it, that responsibility lies with me. Now, music is fundamentally about people and the way in which people interact and I started to think about that. I wanted something different than what I had worked with previously and as luck would have it the band I was thinking about needed a bass player.

I would love to tell you that I made a great first impression with She Speaks and that I was a consummate professional. I would love to tell you that. I bowled into practice with a poxy guitar amp that could fit in your pocket and no one could hear me. But as I said music is about people and the ways in which the atmosphere changes when those people congregate and it was there in that first practice. I could feel it. At this juncture I could tell you how talented Rebecca (vocals), Wayne (guitar) and Skip (drums) are, and they are super talented, but what I really want to say is that we all click. The jams are fun and we have a laugh but there is a seriousness too. I love the songs, I can’t wait for everyone to hear them and I think they are really special. Playing together and pushing the air in the room is as good as it gets and what we do together has been great so far but it is just the beginning. We are mapping out the landscape as we go and I am learning anew but I am also relearning what I had lost, Jesus I even got a bass solo into one of the tunes! Rebecca, Sarah and Wayne: thank you, for a long time it felt like I was away…finally I feel like I have returned.