Friday, July 17, 2009

Tonelist - album review

RATING: *****

FAIR PLAY to Noel Hogan; the former Cranberries’ guitarist is using his considerable clout to help Limerick bands get a leg up by releasing a 14 track collection of the best in up and coming local bands.
The selection process employed here is varied, giving us the best in rock and roll (local noisenik duo Giveamanakick, frenetic rockers Walter Mitty and the Realists), indie (Supermodel Twins), electro-ambient (Drumming Room, Headgear), pop (We Should Be Dead) and more.
It is a testament to the local scene that there is such variety on display here - a sign of strength if ever there was one.

The LCD Soundsystem-esque synth sounds of Drumming Room open proceedings, with the very fine Good Riddance.
The whispering, dulcet tones of Steve Ryan open Giveamanakick’s offering, the excellent Brittle Bones - one of the highlights of their outstanding recent album Welcome to the Cusp. The duo showcase their softer side with this track, a subtle and menacing offering with a delightful sting in the tail.
One of the heavyweight offerings comes from Headgear, Daragh Dukes contributing the superb Where is Home, all twinkling glasses and slightly countrified guitars and violins, a stand-out track.
The poptastic two girl-boy quartet We Should Be Dead demonstrate some depth with Disaster - ‘don’t come lying to me/telling me I’m all you’ve got/you can’t live without me’ - Tara Nix’s lead vocal mixing beautifully with Anna Murphy’s backing, the quartet showing why their brand of bubblegum-pop is going a storm in the US.

A quick burst from Supermodel Twins and Vesta Varro follows - two of the more well-known bands from the local scene; the Twins currently recording their debut album, with Footprints an early sign of their upbeat, pop-rock potential and Vesta Varro showing why they have garnered praise in Canada and Germany, where they currently have a booking agent. In fact, this a rather more melodic offering from the local band - full of harmonies and soaring vocals.

Hogan’s latest project, Arkitekt, follows quickly with Pacing, seeing him teaming up again with Oxford singer songwriter Richard Walters, formed from the ashes of the Monoband project. Leaping like a phoenix from the flames is this soaring track, bearing Hogan’s stamp - curt strings and military style guitars and drums. A real eye-opener.

The album literally leaps from strength to strength as it reaches a conclusion - the superb Grace Jones from the devilishly theatrical ensemble Brad Pitt Light Orchestra, in our estimation one of the most exciting of all local outfits.
Shannon artist Alan Fitzgerald - operating under the moniker of Alkali Flat - offers one of the more textured offerings, Preferred Vision cutting a dash between acoustica and heavier rock. There is a raw element here, one that screams of potential.

The laid back acoustic nature of Seneca is apparent on Playing Fair; exhibiting their flair for anthemic melodies that will stick in your head long after you hear them. The quartet embrace their Irishness in a confident way not heard since the last big thing to emerge from Limerick, Mr Hogan’s former group.

Nestled around one of the best things to emerge from the Limerick rock scene in years - the frenetic, Talking Heads-esque Sucker Punch by Walter Mitty and the Realists - are two local singer songwriters with a difference.
Brendan Markham, once of Drive fame, gives us the balled False Witness, one evocative of a young Jagger as Markham howls with his bluesy timbre.
Finally, veteran local musician Mark O’Connor offers us the Bells of St. Mary’s as a final track, a delightful shoe-gazer of a track, with a distinct Limerick-edge, all brooding guitars and tongue-in-cheek lyrics.

A superb slice of the local scene, bundled into one package. We know there is enough material for a follow-up - Tonelist 2 - so let’s have it.

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