Archive for the ‘ Music ’ 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.

It’s a swindle…

imageFor a band that changed so much in our music and culture the Sex Pistols have, by and large, been ill-served on the movie front. Shortly after the band split The Great Rock n’ Roll Swindle (directed by Julien Temple) was released. In many ways it is a fun film and offers some great footage of the band. There are classic scenes of the chaotic US tour including such highlights as Sid whacking a guy over the head with a bass and, of course, Lydon’s parting shot on the San Francisco stage where he looks out and says: ‘Ha ha ha, ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?’ Steve Jones plays a Philip Marlowe like character, albeit a foul-mouthed version as he fucks and blinds his away around England and Brazil. There are oddities aplenty, Ronnie Biggs (a train robber, then on the run and living in Brazil) is shoe-horned in for no apparent reason and an most bizarrely mentions of ‘who killed Bambi?’ which is never explained (it comes from an earlier script). However, it is wrapped in a narrative which creates the impression that Malcolm McLaren (their manager) was some great puppet master that pulled the strings behind the scenes. The band are reduced to a play-thing for the machinations of their malevolent manager. It becomes little more than an ego-stroking exercise. What is rather ironic is that in the fictitious telling of the story whereby McLaren wants to make the band out to be anti rock n’ roll his story makes them the most boring rock n’roll cliche. He destroys the bands power; he reduces them to a cheap carry-on farce and robs them of any real potency. All that is left is the cartoon version of the band, the one that can’t play, the one that pukes all over the place and the one that was essentially a boy band created to sell clothes for Malcom’s infamous shop, Sex.

Sid and Nancy was directed by Alex Cox and was released in 1986. Gary Oldman stars as the doomed Sid Vicious but just like the aforementioned Swindle the characters are reduced to caricatures. Oldman does a great job with the material as does Chloe Webb in her role as Nancy Spungeon alas, the rest is shocking. Lydon is portrayed as a bean-eating joke,one that is is jealous of Nancy. Steve Jones and Paul Cook are just in the background but criminally when Cook is shown he is an idiot that for some reason the band don’t like. Verisimilitude is absent from the gig scenes, punks with day-glo Mohawks are pogoing about despite the fact Mohawks weren’t to arrive on the scene until the 1980s, Poly Styrene, half Somalian lead singer of X-Ray Spex is transformed into a white woman and it all just seems off. Again, the potency of the band is neutered.

In the end maybe a fictitious telling of the Pistols story is impossible. If you are interested in their story read Lydon’s No Irish, No Blacks,No Dogs and Anger is an Energy, Glen Matlock’s I was a teenage Sex Pistol and Steve Jones’ Lonely Boy. Three films I would recommend are Don Letts The Punk Rock Movie, DOA by Lech Kowalski and The Filth and Fury by Julien Temple. Get off your arse.

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….

The Fear

 

https://shespeaksmusic.bandcamp.com

imagehttps://shespeaksmusic.bandcamp.com

 

Hey all, just a quick plug for our debut single ‘The Fear’ we would be most grateful if you could give it a listen. Just click the link above. We are all very proud of it, hope you like.

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..

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.