Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lisa Hannigan to come back to Limerick

We might be on holidays, but that doesn't mean we are not keeping tabs on exciting news building regarding artists on their way to Limerick over the next few months..

First up is the exciting news that Eightball are bringing Lisa Hannigan back to our fair city, and that the venue is going to be St. John's Church - aka Daghdha's Dance space - where the Swell Season performed to such aplomb last year. We are excited! The gig is set for Thursday, August 6. See for full details and tickets are already on sale here.

More later, gotta go enjoy the sun some more! Stay tuned..

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cois Fharraige update

Just had a quick chat with a spokesperson for MCD who "couldn't confirm or deny anything" about Cois Fharraige going ahead, except that they have applied for a licence.
Informed sources tell us that while they have applied for a licence for Cois Fharraige, as of yet MCD don't have a sponsor for the event (Sony Ericsson did the needful for the last two years) and haven't approached any acts yet.
This would lead us to be a bit sceptical (maybe realistic is a better word) about the event taking place or not, considering the state of the economy and the fact that no-one has any money at the moment.
Anyone know any sponsors interested in helping out?!
Hoping for more news towards the end of the week.

MCD apply for Kilkee Cois Fharraige licence

On the Beat has learned that MCD have applied for a licence to hold Cois Fharraige in Kilkee again this year, with September 11-13 the dates being sought.
This news would bring a massive boost to the seaside town - and the Mid West region - as upwards of 15,000 people have flocked to the idyllic resort over the last two years for the three day festival.

More news when we get it, but see below for a report on last year's festival.

DESPITE predictions it might be a complete washout, somehow the return of Cois Fharraige - held in association with Sony Ericsson - to Kilkee, proved another remarkable success for the small coastal village.
A deluge of rain reaching epic proportions threatened to turn many - this reporter included - off making the short trip from Limerick last Friday.
Like many Limerick natives, Kilkee is something of a second home for me, and this festival was a keenly awaited one.
There must have been shudders in Kilkee when the rains set in on Friday, but despite this thousands of eager music fans flocked to the town, and facilities were much improved this year, with a number of camp sites available to those souls set to brave the elements.
The major feature of last year’s festival were the huge numbers of people who arrived down for the weekend with no intention of taking in the music on offer in St Senan’s GAA pitch at the top of O’Curry Street. Instead, they intended to soak up the atmosphere on offer around the town, and again, this proved the case. Pubs provided music of their own, with some going all out to capture punters.
Meanwhile, up to 6,500 ticket holders took the time to check out the likes of the Coronas, the Futureheads and the Zutons in the kayham tent on the Friday night. Conditions were soggy at best, but the Zutons in particular provided a sparkling performance, with the camera chiefly interested in attractive saxophone player Abi Harding.
Amazingly, the weather on Saturday morning was perfect - blue skies and sunshine were gently tempered by a wind that became merely a breeze as the day wore on. Entertainment was provided around the town and the main street was mobbed from an early hour. Personalities like Munster’s Paul O’Connell were more than happy to sign autographs and pose for photographs in the sunshine.
It was left to bands 28 Costumes and the Broken Family Band to contend with the lure of the Irish soccer international on Saturday evening, before Kila continued their impressive run of spirited performances as they returned for a second year.
However, one of the highlights of the weekend was the dungaree-wearing, Jack Daniels swigging, three-string guitar playing Seasick Steve Wold, who blasted out his hobo-style songs I Started Out With Nothing and I Still Got Most of It Left and Doghouse Blues.
Unfortunately laddish rock band Supergrass were not as impressive, impassively taking to the stage and blasting out six or seven new tracks with little compunction or connection with the crowd, before playing hits Moving and Richard III.
"This is a nice place you’ve got here, we’ve been here now for a few days," singer Gaz Coombes tells the crowd, before the band rush through a version of monster hit Alright - apparently a song they haven’t played in a long time.
As we file out of the tent after Pumping on your Stereo, the party continues downtown as the main street is wedged with people dancing in the street.Incredibly, Gardai later confirm that despite the huge numbers in town for the weekend, the majority are well-behaved with few public order offences.
Sunday brings the undoubted highlight of what has become a very successful weekend, for punters and businesses alike. Scottish legends Travis draw such a roar from the crowd that Fran Healy is forced to stick his fingers in his ears, and the band put on a show that liberally sprinkles classic hits with newer, edgier material such as J Smith and new single Something Anything.
Writing to Reach You, Side, Turn and Flowers in the Window are played with such joy and aplomb that people remember why they loved Travis in the first place.
And the band can hardly be heard over the roar of finale Why Does it Always Rain on Me, happily sung with gleeful irony rather than resignation.
With any luck this festival will return next year, but, if not, we always have two brilliant weekends to look back on.

One from the archives, Evan Dando interview

Received an email/press release this morning with the enlightening news that The Lemonheads are to "regroup" with a unique covers album called 'Varshons'.

Produced by Gibby Haynes (he of the Butthole Surfers), this is the first album to bear the Lemonheads tag since the 2006 self titled release, but essentially it is Evan Dando and assorted players. On 'Varshons' Dando et all have covered songs by Gram Parsons, Leonard Cohen, Townes Van Zandt, G.G. Allin, Wire, July and plenty more. Kate Moss and Liv Tyler even feature.

Full tracklisting as follows :
1. “I Just Can’t Take It Anymore” (Gram Parsons)
2. “Fragile” (Wire)
3. “Layin’ Up With Linda” (G.G. Allin)
4. “Waiting Around To Die” (Townes Van Zandt)
5. “Green Fuz” (Randy Alvey & Green Fuz)
6. “Yesterlove” (Sam Gopal)
7. “Dirty Robot” v/ Kate Moss (Arling & Cameron)
8. “Dandelion Seeds” (July)
9. “Mexico” (Fuckemos)
10. “Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye” f/ Liv Tyler (Leonard Cohen)11. “Beautiful” (Linda Perry)

The album is to be released on Cooking Vinyl on Monday June 15 - more than a year since this reporter spoke to Evan Dando of the 'heads about the record, his career and more in advance of a rare gig in the city, and let's be honest, this side of the Atlantic.

So, in honour of this pending release, we have dragged this interview out of the archives, shaken the dust off it and reprinted it here in full, for your pleasure.

IT IS hard to know where to begin with Evan Dando.

Reading old interviews with the lead singer and only constant member of the Lemonheads reveals that the once notoriously media-friendly singer has become elusive and prickly in recent times.

Trying to become familiar with Dando’s history, and that of the Lemonheads - once considered one of the biggest bands in the world in the mid-90s – merely induces a severe bout of head-spinning.

At anyone’s best count, there has been at least 15 different members of the Lemonheads since the band first released EP Laughing All The Way To The Cleaners in 1986 and huge column inches have been devoted to how Dando, as much a grunge icon as one certain Seattle native, threw it all away.

1992 release It’s A Shame About Ray – featuring some of the best pop songs of the 90s such as the title track, Rudderless, Bit Part and My Drug Buddy, all of which remain timeless classics to this day – was followed by Come On Feel The Lemonheads a year later, and Evan’s star went into supernova.

He was never taken as seriously as some of the other leading lights of his generation, possibly due to his good looks, which saw him dismissed as a pretty boy. His talent is undeniable however.

Many publicised meltdowns took place, including Glastonbury in 1996, when an obviously strung-out Dando was booed off stage. He has admitted several times to prolific drug use, famously in the early 90s to smoking crack-cocaine to most recently in a Guardian interview from a year or two ago when he revealed he was still dabbling in psychotropic drugs. However, he has recently claimed to be on the straight and narrow, so it appears there are number of contradictions in the tales about him.

The Lemonheads returned with an eponymous release in 2006 after a long hiatus, during which Dando released several solo records, and are apparently set to release a new album this year.

I decide to start on this seemingly safe territory.

Although Dando tends to slur his words slightly – I am unsure if this is due to the years of hard living or the annoyance of an early morning call – he turns out to be quite forthright.

Asked about the new record, he dashes out a multitude of information about the as-yet untitled project.

"We hope to finish it up some time in June to come out in August and it is a covers record," he explains, "So I have been very busy lately, travelling all over the place, recording bits here and there.

It’s definitely on the psychedelic side, but it’s really fun, the whole thing."

Dando explains that he and producer Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers picked the songs which will include those by Wire, Tim Hardin, GG Allin, Gram Parsons and more.

It is clear that the project is a departure for Dando, but that he also needed a diversion.

"It is definitely different, it is on the quiet side even though there is some loud stuff too and it should have something for everyone on it," he drawls.

"It is fun and I really like these songs, but I need to kill some time, or whatever, I need to bide some time until I want to put out a real proper record in January."

It appears this record will still bear the moniker of the Lemonheads.

"Yeah, lots of different people are playing on it, but it’s going to be called the Lemonheads, I just figure there are so few record stores left anyway, why not keep at least a whole section?" he laughs.

As if to explain his own joke, Dando adds: "I’ve been doing a lot of quieter stuff, I might, whatever I end up doing – I might go do some more solo records eventually, but for a while, I’d like to do a bunch or a couple more Lemonheads records."

This admission is not a surprising one.

There has been noticeable dichotomy in the songs Dando has written for his solo records than those for Lemonheads projects.

Prompted by Karl Alvarez and Bill Stevenson - both members of The Descendents, a band that Dando was heavily influenced by in his early years - on a tour of Brazil in 2004 to record an album with them, the result was 2006 offering, the Lemonheads, the first released under the moniker in almost ten years.

It was also a much rockier, up-tempo affair than his 2003 solo release Baby I’m Bored.

"Yeah, that’s the thing, that’s why I called it that," he agrees. "It sounded like a Lemonheads record. I started writing those songs that just seemed…right, and those guys (Stevenson and Alvarez) were just like perfect doppelgangers for what I wanted the band to be when we started - really good players."

Seeing as he mentions the beginnings of the band first, I feel bold enough to enquire about origins of the Lemonheads and if there was a specific period he remembers above others.

"1989," he volunteers without a thought, "That’s when it was like ‘wow this is really fun’ because we got to go to Europe and stuff every couple of months, that meant more, before we really started to take it seriously."

He once said that he was content merely to play music and get by, but never wanted more. Again, he agrees.

"That’s all, yeah, that’s the thing, I mean a lot of people forgot that’s all any of us were in it for before everything got so crazy. A lot of my friends got really rich and stuff and it got all strange then.

But then, I always remembered through the whole thing ‘all you ever wanted was to live ok off this’ so if you can do that you are doing really well."

The conversation turns toward the re-release of seminal album It’s A Shame About Ray which was recently awarded classic album status by NME, an award Dando accepted, but he reveals it won’t sit on the mantelpiece in his New York home.

"Yeah it was so ugly I threw it away," he laughs. "I mean I was honoured to get the award but it was so ugly I would never have had it in my house. I ended up fishing it out and I gave it to the band that played that night, so they were psyched. It didn’t even say my name on it, it was really shoddy."

I wonder how he views the album now, in retrospect.

"I like it a lot, I think that the next one is really good too, but at that point there was so much over-exposure people didn’t even really listen to it as much," he says in reference to Come On Feel The Lemonheads.

"But there is something cohesive about Ray that makes it work really well live too."

He says he will play "Ray" through in full to begin his acoustic show when he comes to Ireland, a real treat for fans and those that venture out to see him when he returns to these shores.

"I’ll play it in order and then go on to other stuff. I’m going to give it a shot and see if it works, just playing through the album and then I’ll be half an hour into it and I’ll take it from there. I mean I don’t play the cover ever, but everything else is fun to play acoustically."

The cover he refers to is of Paul Simon’s Mrs. Robinson, one the band were asked to do and which the record company tacked on to the end of the album, to Dando’s obvious displeasure. "Yeah that was just an accident, we loved the movie - The Graduate - but didn’t ever care for that song much, so we thought what the hell, they could give us some money, we didn’t have any money back then.

And then, bob’s your uncle, it’s the only thing anyone ever remembers. Well, actually people bought the album and a lot of people liked the other stuff too so I can’t really complain about that."

We wander through a discussion about authors – he declares James Joyce as a favourite – and he reveals he is going to write a book soon, but not a biographical one.

Looking forward he says this will be a year of firsts, as he is due to play for the first time in Israel and South Africa, and it appears he still gets pleasure from his calling.

I wonder if he still lives as wildly as he once did, and for the first time, he clams up.

"Ah you know, I don’t really talk about that part, I have already talked enough about that in the past," he says in reference to his frank admissions of drug use.

Still he laughs when I ask if he has settled down slightly. "I wouldn’t say so, it’s still the same as always, you know? I’m still all over the world at times so it doesn’t matter what you are doing, it is still pretty hectic and it is really fun still, so we will see."

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pictures from Africa Day 2009

True Blood Souljaz on the Hip-Hop stage
The Main Stage

Cathy Davey

A few drops of rain for Niwel Tsumbu


Children of Soweto
The Loose get their groove on..

Africa Day 2009 in Limerick

Africa Day yesterday, though the weather gods didn't take much notice, bringing us a deluge of Limerick rain, rather than the more appetising and warming climes from faraway African lands.

Despite the on/off showers, it was heartening to see hundreds of local people come out to support this Irish Aid-sponsored event, held behind City Hall, in the shadow of King John's Castle.

A riot of colour - a bazaar if you will - greeted you on arrival, as food stalls, information tents and drumming groups dotted the inner sanctum of city hall and the delightful green space out the back.

Wandering through the festival, one was greeted by the hip-hop stage first, located conveniently across from the food stalls; the juxtaposition of fine Africa food, tinged with bouncing hip-hop made for a wonderful assault on the senses.

Further up through the festival and right in front of the Castle Tavern was the main stage, situated up against the back wall of the castle and boasting stunning views across and down the river. Surely one of the most picturesque spots in the city and a new festival venue? More on that anon.

As I arrived, the delightful Cathy Davey was just beginning her set, sprinkling favourites from her Tales of Silversleeve album with new, seemingly darker material from her forthcoming release, due to be recorded this summer.

A large crowd had gathered to hear Ms Davey, but were ultimately rewarded by a rain shower towards the end of the set.

Undettered, they remained in situ for Congolese guitarist Niwel Tsumbu - due to play at Electric Picnic this year - who impressed with his eclectic blend of rumba, jazz and flamenco inspired African rhythms, complete lyrics in his native Lingala.

Offaly native Mundy took to the stage next, warming up for a big finish with material from his less than inspiring recent release Strawberry Blood. However, when you can finish with the anthemic July and mix a cover of MIA's Paper Planes with the biggest hit of last year - Galway Girl - and receive this kind of reaction, you have to be doing something right.

Chatting to On The Beat back stage, Mundy seemed relaxed and happy, something he put down to the recent birth of his first child, a girl. Mundy said he thought Africa Day was a "a great thing. It is great to see the merge of two cultures and even to be asked to be involved in something like this - which is a bit different to what I would normally play - it is nice to be a part of something."

He added: "I was doing my rain dance, but I think July is what brought the good weather back out."

The Offaly man was followed by the Children of Soweto - a real highlight on a sodden afternoon. This trio of exuberant African performers gave us a lesson in gospel and acapella hymns, celebrating the core beauty of South African history through poetry and the pulsating rhythms of traditional dance and music. Fantastic.

Finally, the excellent and energetic Republic of Loose drew proceedings on the main stage to a close. Despite the rainfall, this seven-piece trio drew a smile from the sizeable, hardy crowd that stuck out the rain to see them - quirky frontman Mick Pyro doing his best to get the crowd bouncing, and succeeding.

A superb day all round, Irish Aid are to be congratulated for sponsoring such an event, one that drew two core cultures together, sprinkled liberally with diversity and positivity.

Word around the site was that this could be an annual event - possibly at least for the next three years - while local promoters are gearing up to use the site for a big commercial gig later in the year. The site can potentially hold up to 3,500 people On The Beat was told.
Let's get to it!
(pics courtesy of Don Moloney/Press 22)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Martin Sheen watch - day two

Of all things to hear at 5pm on a Wednesday evening, the news that one of your all-time heroes is walking around Limerick - Parnell Street to be precise - has to be one of the strangest.

Yes, Martin Sheen - aka Ramon Estevez, President Bartlet, Capt. Willard - was spotted walking around Limerick yesterday evening by one of Owen South's (LL photographer) many sources around town.
Needless to say we hopped in the car to go looking for him, trying to figure out where he might go from the end of Parnell Street? Left onto Roches Street?

Rumour has it he might have been on the Angela's Ashes tour? Nope, that rumour confirmed as false by local tour guide, Mick O'Donnell.

Maybe he fancied a bit of shopping on Thomas Street? Nope, no sign.
King John's Castle? The Treaty Stone? St. Mary's Cathedral? Nope, nope and nope.

Well we tried, but trying to find a huge Hollywood movie star in Limerick city ain't easy.
Anyone who spots Mr Sheen might drop us a line? Here he is in one of his iconic roles, Capt Willard from Apocalypse Now..

In the meantime, watch him on last week's Late Late Show here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Additional acts announced for Electric Picnic '90 line-up

News just in, Mr Brian Wilson will after all be making an appearance at this year's Stradbally Electric Picnic festival along with (woo-hoo!) ROYSKOPP, plus:
From the blurb:
The legendary BRIAN WILSON will be bringing a taste of Californian sunshine to Electric Picnic, Stradbally Hall, Co. Laois when he performs some of the best known anthems in the history of pop - Wouldn’t it Be Nice, Surfing USA, California Girls, I Get Around, Barbara Ann, Good Vibrations – the list is endless. Wilson will be accompanied with his renowned backing band, who Sir Paul McCartney called “the best touring band in the world” and his set will cover all the hits of his 40 year career.

Dubbed the “Mozart of Rock” Brian Wilson co-wrote, arranged, produced and performed over two dozen Top 40 hits with The Beach Boys. He is one of popular music’s most deeply revered figures, the main creative force behind some of the most cherished recordings in music history and certain to be a highlight of Electric Picnic ’09.
Norwegian summer bliss providers, ROYSKOPP play their first Irish show in four years to perform tracks from brand new studio album, Junior. This album is being hailed by critics as a return to form following their landmark 2001 debut album Melody AM. Svein Berge and Torbjorn Brundtland are renowned for putting on an impressive live show and whipping up a party atmosphere with their infectious enthusiasm. Expect pure electro-pop pleasure.
More additions to the Electric Picnic lineup including Global Green, Comedy Stage, Body and Soul, Spoken Word, Art Trail coming soon…

Weekend Tickets are €240
For more on the full line-up see here.

Interview with Red Eskimo

See below for interview with local band Red Eskimo from last week's paper. Very impressed with the gig (and the album, review here) in Dolan's Warehouse last Friday night. The trio played the album right through from start to finish, something I don't think I've seen before and wouldn't have recommended, but it worked really well in this case. Anyway, read the interview and look out for these guys playing soon.
See this weekend's paper for an interview with Delorentos about their recent issues.

FOR MANY bands, going the DIY-route is a matter of necessity, the cost of recording in a studio too prohibitive. For others, eschewing the mainstream, studio-process is a matter of pride - a philosophical approach that determines the style of the material produced.

Red Eskimo are such a band. A softly-spoken triumvirate of local musicians - brothers Neil and Peter Delaney and Robert Carey - they are set to release their much-anticipated debut album this Friday night, the fruits of much labour on their part.

The ‘Grey Death Billow’ is a lovingly crafted album of nine ambient, understated electro-acoustic offerings - drawing from a wide range of influences and bursting with soundscapes and texture. Think elements of Midlake and The Shins with a smattering of Sigur Ros and Dublin band Halfset and you’re not far off the mark.

One of the key aspects of the album is the noticeable and, as it turns out, deliberate feeling of restraint, a band clearly not afraid to craft some delightful music that doesn’t mean to force itself to be heard above a crowd. Tellingly, the well-known local band don’t tend to use a live drummer when they play, preferring the pre-programmed beats recorded for them by sometime-member Dave Carroll.

“We like using that sound as opposed to an acoustic kit - drums can tend to take over and when we play live, we don't necessarily tend to play loud,” smiles singer Neil Delaney. “Over time we have realised playing a little lower than usual is better and suits us. When everything is turned up to ten, it just doesn't work.”

Red Eskimo emerged from the ashes of local outfit New Land Jester, Neil’s brother Peter joining in time to feature on the band’s debut recording.

“We started out as New Land Jester but that was a long time ago at this stage,” explains Neil, as Rob notes that it will be ten years ago next January that they released the album. “You can hear it too on that album, it sounds ten years old,” laughs Neil. Peter, the quietest of the trio, nods to himself.

It was literally back to basics after the dissolution of this group, the trio simply using a “really naff four-four beat” from Rob’s bass pedal when they played live.

“We thought there was something good naff about it,” laughs Neil. “Someone tagged us as lo-fi and we liked that, making simple music, but it developed on top of that. That was the basic groundwork.” Rob adds: “It has been a collaboration going on over the last couple of years, getting a set together and working out what songs to keep. We are doing things ourselves and trying to find the best way to do that - without going into a studio. This was a project we really wanted to take onto ourselves and have full control over and not be tied down to set deadlines.”

Recording was completed in a Kilmallock location, before being scrapped and started again. They talk about the three of them, huddled over a computer, working out the songs, adding to them, buying better software and adding again.

“The cost of going into a studio is obviously a factor and when you are in there you are under pressure cause you know you only have so much to spend,” explains Neil. “You start skipping things and don't give it the attention it needs. When you start doing the DIY thing - which we are into - basically you can take as much time as you like to record, until we were absolutely happy with it.”

That care is apparent on the album, there is no sense of the process being anything but slow-paced and careful. They have taken this DIY-ethos beyond the recording, uninterested in record companies and keen to handle themselves.

“In theory there is no real reason why you would spend all your time going out to woo record companies, or management and these types of people - there is nothing that says you need to do that,” says Neil. “The thing is there is total freedom for us - we put down these songs that we are playing at this moment in time, but the next recording we do, there is no-one to say what we have to do, we don't have to duplicate it.”

He adds, drawing laughter from all three band members: “If we want to become a dance band tomorrow, we can do that”. You get the sense that these guys could do exactly that. In the meantime go and see them perform these songs live. You won’t be disappointed.

Limerick's Catherine Ireton to feature on 'God Help The Girl'

Interesting one, Limerick's Catherine Ireton - a native of Limerick and now living in Edinburgh - is to appear as guest vocalist on the new musical project from Belle & Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch, God Help The Girl.

Ireton has previously featured with Belle and Sebastian as seen by the cover for The White Collar Boy below.

‘Come Monday Night’ is the first single to be released from God Help The Girl, out on May 22nd on Rough Trade. Video here.

God Help The Girl is a story set to music, which Murdoch has been working on intermittently for the last five years. The record features an array of singers including Neil Hannon of the Divine Comedy, the other members of Belle and Sebastian and a 45 piece orchestra conducted by 'Withnail & I' composer Rick Wentworth. Out June 19th.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Lisa Hannigan on Jools Holland

The bewilderingly, beguilingly beautiful Lisa Hannigan (yes, I'm a fan) is to appear on Later Live With Jools Holland, tomorrow night, On the Beat can reveal.
Ms Hannigan will appear tomorrow, Tuesday May 12 at 10pm and again on Later with Jools Holland on Friday May 15.
Lisa is currently on tour in the UK where her debut album, Sea Sew, has just been released. The current single, I Don’t Know, is set to be featured as Single of the Week on Itunes UK from May 12.
On the Beat has also been informed that Lisa is to come to Limerick for a special show (or two) in the near future, but I can't reveal the full details yet, much and all as I would like to tell all!
In the meantime, here are some of the places you can catch Lisa over the next couple of months.
Jul 04, 2009 Cork, Live @ The Marquee
Jul 05, 2009 Clonmel, O'Keeffe's (Clonmel Junction Festival)
Jul 07, 2009 Waterford, Electric Avenue
Jul 08, 2009 Kilkenny, Kytelers
Jul 09, 2009 Galway, The Roisin Dubh
Jul 10, 2009 Galway, The Roisin Dubh
Sep 04, 2009 Electric Picnic, Stradbally Hall

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Red Eskimo - The Grey Death Billow album review

Local trio Red Eskimo launch their debut album The Grey Death Billow in Dolan's Warehouse this Friday night. Review below.

PREVIOUSLY tagged as a "lo-fi" outfit, Red Eskimo's debut is anything but.
Lo-fi, by definition, is something sparse and ever-so-slightly beaten up - think about someone singing through a shoe, using a 50 year old microphone and a tape player to record their work and you would be on the right track.
The Grey Death Billow is "high-fi", if that even makes sense.
A wonderfully warm, textured offering, bursting with ambient soundscapes and samples, the album is lovingly-crafted and restrained - no bombastic, ott offerings here.
The fact that the trio of local musicians, brothers Neil and Peter Delaney and Robert Carey, spent two years fiddling and adding to the songs is obvious. What clearly began life as basic, off-centre indie offerings, have been transformed into a collection of richly-diverse, often electro-acoustic tracks, evoking the Americana of The Shins or Midlake, mixing in the ethereal feedback of Sigur Ros, and coming out as a sort-of Halfset, with vocals.
The vocals are interesting, singer Neil Delaney at times sounding like a softer Jeff Tweedy, his hushed timbre mixing with the blend of guitars, bass, synthesizers, harmonium, melodica, drum programmes - and whatever else has been employed here.
The delayed and dreamy guitar line of opener 'You Know What You Want' is crushed by the beat of follow-up track 'Ghost in the Machine' - easily one of the best tracks on the nine-track album. A chunky bassline and the twisting, conflicting vocals make this an eye-opener, 'you gotta burn, burn, burn', Delaney tells us.
The softest offering on the album is 'Grace', all hushed vocals and delicate - graceful - lyrics; 'her infamy grows/wherever she roams/the twinkle of toes/dance songs of her own'.
It is the seven and a half minutes of 'Headlights' that really jumps out, the aforementioned Icelandic band influencing the opening, before we settle into the ebb and flow of a Dinosaur Jr-esque groove.
The final track is a purely instrumental one, all dreamy electronica - and, wait, is that the sound of muffled cannons?
This is an album of surprises; catchy, veering towards but studiously avoiding sounding generic or conforming to a specific course.
Rating: 4/5

Interview with Conor O'Brien of Villagers

Raging I missed this gig in Dolan's on Sunday night, looking forward to seeing Villagers soon. Interview with Conor O'Brien below.

THERE IS a point about half-way through the second song on the Villagers ‘Hollow Kind’ EP when Conor O’Brien sings ‘For a long, long time, I’ve been in pieces”. If ever there was less-opaque lyric in a song, this might be it.
The song moves from slow, Burt-Bacarach croon to a wild finish - think Radiohead recreating the Beatles’ orchestral antics on A Day In The Life - as O’Brien bangs the piano and literally howls at the moon.
Now, it might not be fair to read too much into such a seemingly transparent theme as the one named above, so it is important to tread softly.
O’Brien essentially is Villagers, a name he adopted for his latest vehicle after the band he was in - The Immediate - broke up in 2007. It is widely accepted that the band broke up just as they were about to take off. He speaks to the Limerick Leader from RTE, where Villagers are recording a live 2FM session.
O’Brien wrote, recorded, sang and played all of the instruments on the songs on the Hollow Kind EP and seems to have a revolving cast of players when Villagers play live, as they will this month, embarking on a small Irish tour.
On the cover of the EP, O’Brien explained that he hopes to “breath new life into these compositions on stages throughout the land”.
“I like the idea of the songs taking their own form, depending on who is playing,” agrees Conor. “For instance today, I have a friend David, who plays keys but who only plays with us sometimes and has never played with Danny, who is playing bass - so today is kind of a new band and that is really interesting, it is sounding different again.
That is the exciting thing really, not trapping it too much, trying to let it go on its own course.” The obvious conclusion is that this way of working is a reaction to the demise of The Immediate, O’Brien keeping things loose and fresh rather than the opposite.
“I suppose, I don’t know,” he says, almost sighing at the notion.
“That makes sense because there is no way this band can break up, it is completely based around the songs, it is not about a group of people necessarily.
It is about the group of people performing at that time but it is very much of the now - if you had a gig it mightn't be the same a few weeks down the line - so the only way that could ever break up would be if I decide to stop writing. I guess it is less susceptible to ending, then yeah.”
There is a lyrical richness to the songs O’Brien has recorded, Down Under The Sea and The Meaning Of The Ritual and the aforementioned For A Long, Long Time, I’ve Been in Pieces sticking out particularly, folk-centered soul songs surrounded by epic pop arrangements.
O’Brien released the EP earlier in the year, after a building of hype in the Irish music scene saw Villagers become one of the hotly-tipped bands of the year.
As he has spent some of the intervening period since The Immediate split as Cathy Davey’s guitarist - and still currently is, helping to record her third album this summer - one wonders what he makes of this hype as he steps out of the shadow.
“Em, ehh, I don't know,” he mutters. “Well if you thought about it too much you wouldn't write good songs - I'm happy that my mum gets to read about in the paper, you know? It makes them think you are doing something with your life,” he laughs.
With an album due to be recorded in August - he says it might be called Becoming A Jackal - upcoming tours of the UK with Bell X1, Conor’s mum will be reading a lot more about her son. But he seems happy, the way he is working clearly quite interesting and innovative, far from the sentiment of being “in pieces”.
“Yeah it is, I think we have cracked on something that is a bit more open and exciting and not as serious. I don't know, I don't really like the idea of taking it too seriously, I prefer letting it happen itself.”

Friday, May 1, 2009

Two things I have learned recently..

Things I have recently learned:

Radiohead and Kate Nash share the same manager, Brian Message, who was in Dublin this week to speak at the Music Managers Forum Ireland.
Can you even imagine how uneasily these two acts sit together, "so how is your pop/faux-chav career going Kate?" - "Well, about as well as your angsty-saviours of the music industry faux-rock and roll career Thom".
Wonder who else is on the books? Coolio?

Chicken also comes in a can. Yes it does. Yuck.