Posts Tagged ‘ entertainment ’

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.

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.

The sound and the fury.

The growth of the digital age has changed the face of music. Not a bold pronouncement by any means but rather a cold statement of fact. The means of production and consumption has altered and like any epoch there are good and bad aspects. One thing I’ve been pondering over the last few weeks is the production. Digital recording has allowed for a cleaner, more uniform sound. Ostensibly this should be a good thing however, it presents two problems namely uniformity and also it highlights the ‘bad’ sound quality of older recordings.

These recordings can range from the old Delta blues masters, jazz classics, big bands, show tunes, garage rock etc. Within the punk rock fraternity the rawness of the recording was part of the aesthetic. The DIY nature of the movement often necessitated working outside and against the mainstream. Underground bands from Minor Threat, Subhumans, Crass, Black Flag, Minutemen (the list is endless) represented a rawness of sound where the message and energy was king, the medium less so. Here is the song, take it or leave it. Some of my favourite tunes and albums are less than pristine and less then polished. Those bands were chipping away from the outside and their lack of aural finesse, often necessitated by lack of funds, became part of the whole.

Today bands are often too packaged for my liking. To well put together. One eye is on getting the audiences money. The experience of listening to music has become, in many ways, less pleasurable. The medium has become more important than the message. With the advent of grunge the underground went overground and in that process the underground disappeared. The digital revolution has, in a very real sense, removed the raw, unbridled sexual energy of music and in it’s wake left a pristine almost antiseptic landscape. Don’t get me wrong it isn’t all bad as digital quality recordings can be made in anyone’s bedroom and as the breakdown of the wall between artist and audience has occurred. However, call me an old romantic but I sometimes yearn for the Lo-Fi thrill of a cheap recording one that may not be nuanced but has a heart as big as a whale!

The Low End

We often give out about the fact we are a materialistic society however, what we own or have owned can define moments in our life and help us recall memories and a time that no longer belongs to us. The first time I ever played bass guitar was on an acoustic guitar, which had no name i.e. manufacturer and had the worst action ever. It was an absolute bollocks to play and the tuning pegs were really hard to turn. I can truly say that I had absolute zero love for the instrument but it was the first one I ever played a bass line on whilst accompanying a guitar (the song was Jump in the Fire by Metallica). My first actual bass was an Arbiter and it was Sunburst and really heavy and of course it was missing a tuning peg, so I couldn’t put an e-string on it, a major impediment for any Bass player as the E is the lowest string on the conventional 4 string. No matter, it was still an actual bass guitar. I can’t remember playing it that much but I do remember buying the wrong sized tuning peg and making it fit, but it was too large and it made the bass look ugly. 

I would have been stuck with it for a long time, as I couldn’t afford another , but the dad of a friend of mine wanted it and I swapped that Arbiter for an Encore bass. This one had a jet black body and a wood coloured neck, it was also a small bass which suited me fine as I was only a beginner. I loved that bass, as in truth it was the one that I learned to play on. I remember sitting out in my kitchen learning Thin Lizzy albums on it, trying to master Metallica riffs and endlessly playing Love Cats. That was the bass I played in my first punk band, you know those bands that you join and you think: ‘God, I am so lucky that my first band is the best band ever and that it will be the only band I will ever be in.’ Well we never made it, but it was a great band and I have realised that more importantly it was a good laugh. 

During my time in that band there was ‘the one that got away’ and it was an Aria Pro II. It belonged to our singer (he also played bass) and I would play this Aria during my first couple of gigs and on our one and only demo.It was a lovely bass, it had stickers all over the body and had a maple neck. It was a joy to play but for some reason I never owned it! What can I say I was an idiot. Anyway, there came a time when I had to let the Encore go and I bought a Yamaha, it was black (a trend developing I see) and very light and for the next few years it was my bass of choice.  In the end though it wasn’t enough I always wanted another: enter Fender.

Look, I am going to say this, I love Fender basses they look cool and they sound great and the neck is exquisite and they are what I think of when I think of bass. So, my next purchase was a Japenese Fender with a black body and a white scratch plate. Of all the basses I have ever owned I still miss this one. This was the one that made me feel like a real player. I bought it in 1994 and still had it ten years later. This was the bass that carried me through leaving school, losing friends, losing lovers and the death of my mother. In the dark nights this was the instrument I played to sooth the ache and I know this probably sounds funny to those that don’t play but it was like a dear old friend. I added an acoustic bass in 1998, Hohner by the way, but that never really felt like mine, don’t ask me why that is but it just doesn’t. 

Anyway, I let the Fender (precision for those that care) go as part of a trade in for a Fender Jazz coloured, surprisingly enough,black with a white scratch board. It cost me a bit as it is a US model but I love playing it, it responds to me! It is my main bass these days (although I do have a five string Cort and a Westone fretless both of which are black the latter is really heavy and the former very light) and was the one I recorded an EP with the last band I was in, you know the band I was going to make it with this time around.  

I suppose what I am trying to say is this:  the basses I have had since I started playing back in 1992 have, in a very real way, been like friends to me. Not all our material belongings are transient. They tell a story, my story, no matter how small that may be. I wonder where the basses I have let go are now? I hope that somebody is playing them and that they are not lying in a corner somewhere and I also pray that they have brought somebody the joy they brought to me.