Friday, February 26, 2010

Album review - Two Door Cinema Club 'Tourist History'

Two Door Cinema Club
‘Tourist History’
(Kitsuné Music)

THERE IS an awful moment at the start of this album where one can’t help feeling a hollow ball developing in the pit of your proverbial stomach; is this yet another case of hype over substance? We were led to believe that this album would contain great things, the Northern Irish trio of Alex Trimble, Kevin Baird and Sam Halliday, performing as trio Two Door Cinema Club, were to be the new great thing to emanate from these shores.
Inclusion on the BBC Sounds of 2010 list; plugs from Kanye West; signed to trendy French label Kitsuné Music in Europe and Glassnote in the US - with label mates Phoenix; good advance press; flashy videos - it all seemed to stack up.
But the opening thirty seconds of Tourist History, opener Cigarettes in the Theatre, is so samey, so part of the current zeitgeist of popular bands - Friendly Fires with dashes of Delorentos and Director from these parts - that you can’t help feeling let down.
Thankfully, this is but a passing feeling.

Admittedly it takes a few tracks for this album to worm its way in, but when it does, boy will it grip you and dig in its claws. By the time you get to the fifth track - the Vampire Weekend influenced Something Good Can Work - the first single from the album, it will be hard not to be hooked by the irregular Afro-beat, electro-pop inspired indie music.
All of the above influences are prevalent, including elements of Bloc Party’s earlier output, no surprise to note that UK producer Elliot James worked on this album.
The sheer joy of Something Good.. with its Caribbean rhythms, yelps, shouts and genial bass and guitar lines, will be hard to prevent working its way into your brain, but the Atlas-lite, Foals-esque intensity, Passion Pit-sing-song of I Can Talk will reel you in.
In fact, together with the superbly sweet and bouncy Undercover Martyn - “she spoke words that would melt in your hands / she spoke words of wisdom ” - these are the three most addictive tracks on this eventually immensely satisfying album.

There is a remarkable tautness to the songs on this debut, a complete lack of filler on an album that clocks in at a mere 33 minutes, while Trimble’s vocals are confident, the trio clearly feeding off each other’s youthful energy, the last 30 seconds of What You Know illustrating this in spades, while if second last track Eat Up It’s Good For You is not all over radios this summer, we will eat our hat.

Yes, Tourist History is hackneyed in places, and often sounds uncomfortably like the Irish bands mentioned above at times - but there are moments when this album will leave you gasping at its hotch-potch of styles, mixed together to produce a startlingly fresh sounding album.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Limerick's 202s come home for a rare gig

IN our ‘Ten Best Irish Albums of 2009’ we ranked the self-titled debut album by 202s as one of our favourite of the year, noting that duo Mike Glennon and Steve Melling of the band “appeared as if out of thin air” in 2009 adding that as Melling was a Limerick man, we were claiming this band as one of our own.
Melling, speaking to us recently, confirmed in fact that both himself and Glennon are from Limerick, meaning one of the most exciting Irish bands to emerge last year are indeed one we can lay claim to in these parts.

The self titled debut album, released on hip French indie label ‘Le Son Du Maquis’, was described on these pages as “dark and brooding, with a nice dash of Primal Scream in places, boasting the best use of a harmonica we have heard in years”.
The album is a diverse and varied one boasting a plethora of influences, from the coarse rock of Beck to the shimmering electro-pop of Air, and is an impressive debut from 202s (there is no ‘The’, confusingly) that was extremely unlucky not to secure a Choice Music Prize nomination.

Glennon and Melling met in Ard Scoil Ris, playing together in several bands over the last decade, more latterly with band Long Lost Brother, who released a couple of singles, but ultimately didn’t suit the Limerick duo’s tastes.
A trip to Berlin in 2006 saw the duo take to busking to earn their crust, and their sojourn among the city’s Krautrock history influenced their tastes heavily. Kraftwerk and particularly David Bowie’s Berlin-era output impacted heavily on the album, and in April 2007, they began to form the foundation for 202s.

Interestingly, the band eschewed the normal route taken by bands these days, which largely consists of bashing a single together and heading out on tour, with little experience or depth. Instead, Glennon and Melling spent time in the studio with producer Stephen Shannon of Halfset, thrashing out a “body of work” before going on tour.
“A lot of bands tend to just write a single or EP and put it out and we didn't really want to fall into that,” explains Steve, who hails from Caherdavin, while Glennon hails from Westfields.
“We said right from the outset that our main aim was to create a body of work in the form of an album and see where it went from there. We had a lot of old demos and loops and stuff that we wanted to work out so we went into Stephen's studio in Crumlin and just got to work on developing those ideas. The initial tracks were pretty good, so we decided we would progress and concentrate on developing an album.”
He adds: “Every artist aspires to making an album and it was great to be able to get it done and get it out and heard”.

The result is superb, featuring Halfset drummer Cillian McDonnell and chanteuse Carly Sings on one of the few tracks with vocals, the rather excellent Who Cares About Sunshine. The album was finished towards the end of 2008, and 202s began to concern themselves with playing live, recruiting drummer Barry Smullen as third member, who slotted in perfectly.

The interest in 202s by the prestigious French label Le Son Du Maquis, home to A Certain Ratio, rounded things off nicely.
“We had four or five tracks recorded, so we decided to put them up on the Myspace page, and the label got in touch, they found us online,” explains Steve. “As soon as we had the album done they wanted us to send it to them - we sent them little snippets of tracks as we went along and every time we did they came back very positive so by the end of 2008 they were fully on board with it. A lot of good albums are made and they don't really get heard or even put out, so it was brilliant to have it come out on a label and be supported by them.”

The French label’s involvement certainly added a weight to the fledgling 202s, with festival slots, including one heralded appearance at Oxegen last summer, arriving in spades.
They plan to tour in France at some stage this year, but first up is a rare gig in their home town this Friday night, with the excellent Patrick Kelleher on support duties.
“Yeah it has been a while,” says Steve. “We were down twice last year (but) we wanted to go for something a bit different and mix it up this time. I haven't played in Baker's for a long time, so I'm looking forward to it.” He adds: “It is always good to go home and play a show”.

We couldn’t agree more.

202s and Patrick Kelleher play in Baker Place this Friday night.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Speakeasy Jazz double bill this week

THE VERY popular Speakeasy Jazz crew are to host an extra special double header of gigs this week, with Shannon Rowing Club set to rock to the tunes of Speakeasy’s invited guests on both Thursday and Friday night.
The Limerick jazz promoters are to host a “one off, extra gig this month”, which they say they “wouldn't normally do, but the circumstances call for it”.
And do they; the bi-monthly jazz night has been growing and growing and become a firm favourite on the live scene, but this week they have assembled possibly their finest line-up yet, featuring local songstress and harpist Sí, plus Laura Sheehan and the superb Vertigo Smyth on Thursday night, while on Friday night 'The Lyttle Varady Quartet' take to the stage, featuring 12-year old Limerick guitar supremo Andreas Varady (pictured above), who will leave you gobsmacked with his skills.
Sí (pictured above), is a singer-songwriter, harpist and pianist originally from Dublin but now living in Limerick who has performed her devilishly theatrical songs a number of times in local gigs, and been very impressive. Sí is currently recording her debut album with Fergal Lawlor from The Cranberries, due to be released in early summer.
Sí will be joined on Thursday night by 22 year old solo artist Laura Sheeran, currently putting the finishing touches to her own debut album. Ennis man Vertigo Smyth, a firm favourite in these parts, will complete Thursday’s line-up, and show off his considerable skills, which were demonstrated on the rather excellent Future Happiness EP he released not so long ago.
On Friday, Limerick music fans are in for a special treat, as Limerick-residing, guitar-genius and 12-year old Andreas Varady, originally from Slovakia, takes to the stage with his dad Bandi, on bass, drummer David Lyttle (pictured below) and Martin Bencat on double bass. Andrea “comes from a family of musicians and loves jazz, especially the music of Miles Davis and George Benson”, and has a talent that has to be seen and heard to be believed. Andreas plays regularly with The Limerick Jazz Workshops, who continually rave about his performances.
Lyttle has worked professionally with a wide variety of internationally-respected artists, including Soweto Kinch and Dave Allen - and 'The Lyttle Varady Quartet' will be a sight to behold, take it from us. Speakeasy Jazz Limerick takes place this Thursday and Friday in Shannon Rowing Club from 9.30pm.

Friday, February 19, 2010

'Love Haiti' this Sunday in Bentley Barker's

SOME OF THE best and brightest local bands, DJs and entertainers, are to gather together this Sunday to participate in a fundraiser for Haiti, which will take place across five floors of the Brazen Head complex on O’Connell Street.
‘Hurt for Haiti’ takes place this Sunday from 3pm and will feature a huge number of local bands, DJs, actors and comedians, while Limerick’s ethnic population will be well represented, while specially prepared food will also be available at the all day event.
The organising committee of the event are keen to emphasise that they are working “hand in hand” with the Irish Red Cross, who will oversee and take responsibility for all of the money collected.
The event will seek to raise funds for the victims of the recent earthquake in Haiti, which devastated the country and left thousands dead and many more without basic provisions or homes.
The organisers are appealing to the people of Limerick “to give something that hurts them a little bit”.
The main stage will be set up in the Courtyard of Bentley Barker’s, with the Downtown Dixieland Jazz Band kicking off proceedings at 3pm. They will be followed by The O'Malley's, The Brad Pitt Light Orchestra and Walter Mitty and The Realists throughout the day, with Jon Kenny, Myles Breen and Mike Finn acting as ‘ringmasters’ for the day.
Bands such as Joe Browne and The Durty Dawgs and The Half Yards will play in the Brazen Head from 6pm, while local pianist Nick Carswell will open proceedings in the upstairs piano bar in Bentley's from 7pm.
The Roots Factory crew, Paul Tarpey, Tokin’ White Boy and Jon Greenwood will all take to the stage downstairs in Issac's Bar from 9pm.
The top floor of Bentley’s will also act as a relaxation room throughout the day, featuring massage therapists and sitar players.
Specially prepared foods will be available all day, including a barbecue buffet and a pig on a spit. Various auctions and raffles will also take place on the day, and the organising committee wished to thank everyone who has helped so far, particularly Doras Luimni, Limerick City Council, the Red Cross and Bentley Barker’s.
“Everyone we have approached was keen to be involved, we haven't had to knock on any doors, they have all been open to us, people have been more than willing to help. This thing has touched people in a way that hasn't been seen before,” added the spokesperson.

Line-up and more details below:

Bentley's Courtyard:

3pm The Downtown Dixieland Jazz Band
4pm Live Magic Show with Terence Andrews
5pm The Varadys,
6pm Shannon Bangla Group
7pm Drea
8pm The O'Malley's
9pm The Funk Junkies
10pm The Brad Pitt Light Orchestra
11pm Walter Mitty and The Realists
12am DJ Tom Fitz

The Brazen Head
From 6pm, The Brazen Head will open its doors and house more great bands, such as The 54 Club and Joe Browne and The Durty Dawgs and The Half Yards. .

The Piano Bar
From 7pm, The upstairs piano bar in Bentley's will open up, Nick Carswell will kick start proceedings and give way to Steve Hanks and many other Jazz cats throughout the night.

Isaac's Bar
From 9pm, Issac's Bar downstairs will start hopping to the sound of Limerick most well respected DJ's, The Roots Factory crew, Paul Tarpey, Tokin White Boy, and Jon Greenwood to name a few.

The Board Room
On the top floor of Bentley Barkers, there will be a space dedicated to relaxing in a calm environment with complementary massage therapists on hand to guide you to full relaxation, and even a Sitar player to keep the mood nice and vibey.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Niall Quinn of The Hitchers reinvents himself as Theme Tune Boy

THE CHAMELEON-like Niall Quinn, former drummer with The Hitchers and late of local rock band The Pennywhores, has re-invented himself again, returning to Irish stages as frontman with his “Theme Tune Boy” moniker. The Hitchers, arguably one of the finest bands to emerge from the Limerick music scene, celebrated the 20th anniversary of their formation with their annual Christmas gig last December, a gig the punk-rock foursome have played every year since they formally disbanded in 2001.
From their beginnings playing a gig as a raw band in Limerick Youth Service in 1989, the band went on to bigger and better things; debut album 'It's All Fun and Games ‘Till Someone Loses an Eye' got rave reviews and was hailed by NME as “a work of lyrical genius”, while debut UK release 'Killed It With My Bare Hands' was heralded by BBC1 DJ John Peel, who continued to play the Limerick band’s single ‘Strachan’ right up until his untimely death.
This was the original Limerick rock group, formed as the Hogan brothers and Mr Lawler also started getting their act together and auditioned one Ms O’Riordan, but they decided to call it a day in 2001.
However, the band released a single, Austin Cusack, to coincide with their Christmas gig, and thinking about it now, Quinn says “if we had taken a longer look at it, we probably wouldn't have split up at all”.
“When we broke up we were of the opinion that it was not going to be practical to run this band, but nowadays with the internet and so on, I can record here, Andy (Gallagher) can record in France, Hoss (Carnage) can record in Dublin and we bring it all together.
It is possible we will do something again, I'd love to do something again, but it depends on what humour they are in when I meet up with them this week,” laughs Niall.
Looking back, the amusing Quinn clearly has fond memories of his time with The Hitchers, who also included Eric Fitzgerald.
“We had some great craic with it. In some ways I feel a bit like Johnny Giles about it, looking back on the Irish teams of the 60s and 70s - we had the players, but just didn't get the bounce of the ball, dodgy refs or whatever,” he laughs.
His former band aside, Quinn has re-invented himself with the moniker of Theme Tune Boy, enlisting the help of Dutch punk legends Cooper to fill the void of his former bandmates. The moniker was a necessary one, for obvious reasons.
“I have been working on a record under that name,” says Quinn, “I needed something else to go as, because if you do a Google search for Niall Quinn, the first 20 pages don't pertain to me at all. Even after the soccer player, there is a playwright called Niall Quinn, a racing driver and a singer songwriter from London as well,” he laughs.
The involvement of the Dutch punk band has “taken me out of my comfort zone”, he explains.
“I was going to do it all myself, because I am a bit of a jack of all, master of none when it comes to instruments, but a few mates of mine, including Cooper, heard the demos and were in the humour to help out. I am very happy with it.
To a degree you kind of have to give them the ball and let them run with it, which I found very threatening initially but now I am settling into it. It is comfortable and exciting that somebody else is taking a producer and arranger role on the thing, and you just have to roll with it a little bit.”
The first single from Quinn’s new solo offering was the short, frenetic burst called ‘Rose’, which clocked in at a mere 53-seconds, but was typically high-octane. The debut Theme Tune Boy album will be The Return of the Living Dead, but don’t expect Quinn to conform to anything resembling fashionable music.
“It is just me writing songs, there has never been a ten year plan. I just write and I am too long in the tooth to be trying to follow anything fashionable, so what is written is written basically,” he laughs.
The singer-former drummer will have his work cut out for him this Saturday night - and fans of the Hitchers should take note; not only will Niall Quinn take to the stage as Theme Tune Boy, his old bandmates will also regroup for the gig, and will be joined on the night by Cooper themselves. The Hitchers, Theme Tune Boy and Cooper play in Baker Place this Saturday night.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Album reviews - Hot Chip and Midlake

‘The Courage of Others’
(Bella Union)

USUALLY a case of ‘back to the drawing board’ comes when a new idea is needed, a better one than has gone before. On this album, The Courage of Others, American indie band Midlake have produced something completely different to their preceding, breakthrough album, The Trials of Van Occupanther.
It is not quite a case of re-inventing the wheel, rather more Fairport Convention than Fleetwood Mac, but it is nonetheless admirable from a band that built up quite a head of steam with Van Occupanther, their second after 2004 debut Bamnan and Slivercork.
It would have been easy to make version two of that record but the band have said they refused to do that, “pushing for a newer sound and emotion”.
Where Van Occupanther had the excellent, pulsating soft-rock track Roscoe as its calling card, the steady throb of folk-inspired tracks such as Winter Dies and the Wilco-esque Small Mountain form the centrepiece of this album.
Rather than the mid-70’s Fleetwood style rock they channelled on their last album, Midlake have mined the trad-tainted folk sound of early British and American folks bands and added a druggy, prog-rock element, with the result producing a gently undulating, yet gripping acoustic-folk rock album that is a joy from opening track Acts of Man to closer In The Ground.
Of these, the epic, Jethro Tull inspired Small Mountain - featuring a heavy, throbbing guitar line that Wilco fans will devour - stands out as one of the finest, while the superb Children of the Grounds builds to a stirring finish.
Themes of nature and vivid Americana populate this album, which is a dark and often mournful offering, vocalist Tim Smith retaining his instantly recognisable drawl.
Rulers, Ruling All Things is a mournful epic, but it is on the deliciously country-esque The Horn and the short, trippy burst of Fortune that Midlake achieve heights not seen on their previous offerings, vindicating their decision to go back to the drawing board.
Rating 4/5

Hot Chip
‘One Life Stand’
THERE IS SOMETHING triumphal about the opening to Hot Chip’s new album One Life Stand, as a single drum beat gives way to a spacey, bleep-filled wonder featuring some of the most heart-felt lyrics founding member Alexis Taylor has written in the band’s relatively short life-span.
This is the happiest and most-structured Hot Chip album of the four that the London based electro-pop/dance outfit have released, a journey that began with the release of their debut Coming On Strong in 2003.
Where they made their big breakthrough with Made In The Dark, released in 2008, it was in fact their most unstructured offering, a dark and at times indecipherable album that didn’t stand-up to the test of time, at least in the eyes of this reviewer.
For all of their big dance floor numbers, Hot Chip’s greatest successes have been the softer, heart-felt songs, of which there are many on this superb album, most notably on the aforementioned opener Thieves in the Night, and the Joe Goddard-sung Brothers, a delicate and melodic offering that sounds like a tribute to Goddard’s bandmates.
The addition of drummer Leo Taylor and in particular, the Trinidadian steel player Fimber Bravo, add an extra oomph to this album, the sing-song steel pans on the dancey I Feel Better and the rather delicious One Life Stand really standing out.
Live favourite Alley Cats is finally included on record, and is a delight, its soft electro tones supplemented by a gently undulating beat.
Taylor has declared that this is the “most warm and soulful sounding record” Hot Chip have recorded, and he wasn’t wrong.
It is also the most cohesive, and a much calmer and inventive collection of songs that will give people plenty to dance to, but will also leave them with plenty to think about after listening to it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Baker Place fifth birthday celebrations begin this Wednesday

CHOICE MUSIC prize nominees And So I Watch You From Afar are to play a free gig in Baker Place this Thursday as part of the venue’s fifth birthday celebrations.
Baker’s are running five days of free gigs from Wednesday to Sunday this week to celebrate their fifth birthday, and the mighty Belfast band - who played 170-plus gigs in 2009 - headline proceedings on Thursday night, along with rockers Maslow and Cork band Hope is Noise.

Baker Place his firmly established itself as the premier alternative music venue in the city, boasting an upstairs live venue and the cavernous Underground downstairs club area, which regularly hosts premier DJs and live gigs.
Over the years Baker’s has played host to any number of top up and coming Irish bands, including Super Extra Bonus Party, Fight Like Apes, Messiah J and the Expert and The Infomatics - plus Limerick’s own Giveamanakick, while remaining fiercely loyal to the local Limerick music scene, where many of the current bands and artists have first cut their teeth on the live scene.

The venue is to host five consecutive nights of free gigs, beginning this Wednesday night with an acoustic night including Benoit, Paddy Mulcahy, Scully and the Misfits and the Built For Comfort. Thursday sees the aforementioned rock juggernaut of And So I Watch.. take to the stage, and Baker’s advise that interested parties “come early so you can get a good spot for the blood sweat and tears that will be unfolding”.

On Friday night popular local rockers The Fewer The Better (pic above) launch their new EP, with support from Jester, Odd Stocks Revival and Pet Hates, while local band Idle Hands will play their last ever gig in their current line-up on Saturday night, joined by I Caught Fire, Ka Tet and Brain.
Irish rap veteran Ri-Ra - formerly of ScaryEire - will perform live in Underground on Friday night while Sunday is the purview of the many metal bands that play regularly in the venue on a Sunday, including Clurichaun, Brigantia and Shardborne.
Fundraising for Serve, an initiative committed to tackling world poverty, will also take place over the course of the five nights.
(Interview below with And So I Watch You From Afar)

BELFAST four-piece And So I Watch You From Afar are a gargantuan rock outfit that released one of the finest albums of last year, deservedly securing a recent Choice Music Prize nomination for their self-titled debut.
The instrumental four-piece have also gained a warranted reputation as one the most exciting live bands currently on go around Ireland, a reputation built up from playing 170-plus gigs last year.
Their gig in Baker Place last year was an awesome experience; a sweaty extravangaza of powerhouse rock and innovative rhythms. The band return to Baker Place this Thursday to help the alternative music venue celebrate their fifth birthday with a free gig.
It wasn’t hard to persuade them, as drummer Chris Wee tells On the Beat that playing in Limerick is an exciting experience.
“The crowds in Limerick are mad, they really go for it,” laughs the drummer, speaking as the band finish a UK tour that saw them play to sell out crowds - an indication of their growing presence and profile.
“There are some places you can turn up to in England and they are a bit stagnant, you know? There is a bit of pretence about them, then you come down to places like Limerick and people are a lot hungrier for it, which certainly adds to our own energy,” says Chris.
“Energy” simply doesn’t really cut it for a band whose tagline is “we are the bull, you are the china shop”, and with songs like Set Guitars to Kill and Clench Fists, Grit Teeth...GO!, can whip an audience into a frenzy with their music, which clearly owes a debt to post-rock pioneers like Mogwai, but it is still staggeringly original and inventive, fusing dreamy melodies with balls-out rock and roll.
Instead, Chris and his fellow members - Rory Friers, Tony Wright and Jonathan Adger - perform a live set that is akin to say, going 14 rounds with Mike Tyson.
“Yeah, my arms can feel like that sometimes,” laughs Chris. “There have been a lot of energy drinks imbibed over the last year - we could do with not having so many. I think that is a good thing about touring so much because our sets are so high energy, it is all-out physical endurance for me and the other guys.”
He adds: “I love it. That is the way we like to play, especially with the live stuff. Obviously we have quiet songs like the Voiceless - but it is all about providing a show for people that they can really enjoy and engage with, and we like to be as mad as possible.”
The band have cemented a cast-iron tautness about the way they play, thanks to the incessant touring in 2009, which included shows at Pukkelpop in Belgium, Glastonbury, the Eurosonic Festival and a high-profile run of shows in Ulster Hall in Belfast.
They have no intention of resting on the laurels of critical acclaim and award nominations however, with the EP ‘Letters’ due out in February and a follow-up album due in the Autumn. “We are going to try and be as busy as we were before, but we are also going to try and get this album done. I think we have always believed in what we are doing and written what we wanted to write and people respect us for that. It is great to be acknowledged for that.”
And So I Watch You From Afar play in Baker Place this Thursday and admission is free.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fionn Regan - "The Shadow of an Empire" album review

Fionn Regan
‘The Shadow of an Empire’

WHEN BOB Dylan abruptly decided to leave his folk roots behind in 1965 and ‘go electric’, he caused a massive kerfuffle that threatened to overshadow his career.
The very fact that Dylan is mentioned in the first line of a Fionn Regan review should be an indication of the Irishman’s qualities.
It is unlikely that the introspective Regan will be villified as Dylan was for his decision to change tack in musical styles, but there is a correlation between the artists that does not end with their genre-confounding abilities.
The Bray man returns to shelves with his much anticipated follow-up to 2006 debut ‘The End of History’, a Mercury Music Prize nominated album - a rare feat for an Irish artist.
That album was greeted with critical acclaim - especially, crucially, among the fickle UK music media - and was a gentle, if innovative, folksy-blues offering, featuring ditties like ITunes download ‘Put A Penny In The Slot’ and ‘Be Good or Be Gone’, which featured on several American television shows.
Regan spent much of the last four years on tour as a result of the success of his debut, but has not been resting on his laurels. He told us recently that he began working on a follow-up not long after ‘The End of..’ was released, and indeed, a full record made with Kings of Leon and Ray Lamontagne producer Ethan Johns, was scrapped before it saw the light of day.
Finally, thankfully, Regan has returned with the graceful and eye-opening ‘Shadow of an Empire’, which sees the erstwhile Bray man push the boundaries of his abilities and return with an electric swagger and punch that was unthinkable after his first record.
This is an incredibly visceral and visual record, personified particularly by Genocide Matinee, an off-kilter, up-tempo and dark offering, where Regan drawls “did they seal your lips with a molten vice-grip?”, and adds in the chorus - “the front row is reserved for the lunatic fringes / down at the genocide matinee”.
The superb Violent Demeanour stands at odds with that song, Regan allowing his voice to be the main instrument, before the introduction of a electric blues sound and polka beat takes the song to a different height.
The swaggering opener Protection Racket sets the tone of the album, all jangly guitars and Dylan-esque rhythms. But it is when Regan allows other influences to the fore that the album takes the listener to exciting places; the George Harrison-beat of House Detective, the Simon and Garfunkel harmonies of Little Nancy, the Neil Young inspired Lord Help My Poor Soul - by far the standout track on the album.
First single Catacombs is another standout moment, Regan’s drawl coupled with his soaring harmonies, a plethora of guitars backing him up - ‘you have a lot to learn and I have a lot to forget’.
It might take a while to filter into the public consciousness, but we feel this may become one of the defining Irish albums of our generation.
Who knows, it might be as influential as Dylan’s decision at Newport in 1965.
We hope so.
RATING *****

Friday, February 5, 2010

Out On A Limb host label night in Dolan's

LIMERICK based independent record label Out On A Limb are to host a ‘label night’ this Friday night, featuring two of the bands on the label’s roster, plus exciting new up and coming Ennis based band C!ties.
Rest and Crayonsmith will perform at the label show this Friday in Dolan’s, plus the Ennis based electro-trio.
OOAL have been quiet of late, in fact, 2009 was a year in which the label were completely inactive, the last Limerick gig a fifth birthday celebration in December 2008.
The label was originally established by Albert Twomey and Richard Bourke to release Giveamanakick’s 2003 offering ‘Is It Ok To Be Loud Jesus?’ - before going on to release nine albums by seven different bands over the next five years.
Thankfully, despite last year’s period of inactivity, OOAL have decided not to go the course of the now defunct Giveamanakick, and are aiming to get new releases out in 2010, as well as find some new bands for the stable.

“We are trying to get a bit of momentum going, because last year was incredibly dormant,” says Ciaran Ryan of OOAL, who joined not long after its inception.
“I think an important part of this year is that we are trying to add a couple of bands to the label roster, which is what we need - we had no releases last year because we had no-one new coming through and the lads were all working on albums and stuff."
"So we are on a recruiting drive, so to speak, at the moment,” he laughs.

Still home to Windings - featuring Steve Ryan of Giveamanakick - Rest, Crayonsmith, Ten Past Seven and Hooray for Humans, OOAL have a lot to offer, and have a weighty reputation as a no-frills label with an eye for talent.
Windings will release a single in April, with an album to come later in the year, while Cork band Hooray for Humans will release a much anticipated album this year also.

A meeting between the label and the bands decided that it was worth salvaging and keeping it up and running, good news for Limerick and music fans in general.
Asked if he can see the label celebrating a tenth birthday, Ciaran is positive, but somewhat circumspect.
“Yeah, why not. It's not that far away. I can't see why not, but we have to change how we operate - there are not that many record labels going for ten years, especially small independent record labels, of which there are very few at all. No-one is buying records, and at the end of the day, that counts. I think the important thing is to try and be a bit more creative”.

He adds: “Limerick has always been great to the label and I think there has been a element of pride and people standing by the label, so it will be interesting to see if that goodwill is still there”.
Out On A Limb’s label show takes place this Friday, Upstairs in Dolan’s.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

UnFringed Festival 2010 review and awards

ENVELOPES arrived with a heavy thud last Monday afternoon to arts organisations in Limerick City, informing them of decisions on annual funding from the Arts Council. Most were cut, among them Daghdha Dance Company (36 percent, or €90,000) and the Belltable (16 percent or €45,000), with only Limerick Printmakers holding firm at last year's levels.
Despite the doom and gloom that accompanies such news, just a matter of days ago we were hailing the strength of fringe theatre in the city at the end of another higly successful UnFringed Festival in Limerick.

On the strength of the five day festival, which finished on Sunday night, there is still a bustling vitality to theatre in this city that goes on despite any cuts.
This year's UnFringed Festival - the 13th - was a shortened one due to economic necessity, but what it lacked in length was certainly made up in diversity and depth.
Over the five days 16 separate productions took place, made up of theatre, both full productions and rehearsed readings, as well as comedy and music.
The rehearsed readings are innate to UnFringed and one in particular, Peter Gowen’s The Chronicles of Oggle, to be produced by Cork based theatre company Corcadorca, was simply mesmirising, despite being a work in progress. Noted actor Frankie McCafferty - of Ballykissangel fame, who read what was essentially a 50 minute monologue - was stunning.
We await the finished product with interest.
Likewise, the rehearsed reading of For the Birds, written by Siobhan Donellan and Jen Browne - who worked collaboratively across the Atlantic - was excellent, with Browne notably standing out in the piece.

Site specific theatre is also one of UnFringed’s selling points; and this year was no disappointment.
Anu Productions presented the Irish premiere of Memory Deleted in the Boutique Hotel on Denmark Street - taking over a whole floor of the city hotel. This was a baffling and beguiling piece, almost more installation and performance art, as a large and superb cast presented the tinges of memories that remain in a hotel room after its use - from a doomed couple to the hotel cleaning staff, to the teacher having an affair with a student.
A provocative and profoundly disturbing piece, it was also atmospheric and enveloping, as actors leaned over the audience to switch on a light, it felt as if you were intruding onto something immensely private and touching.
A deserved winner of Best Production.
Bookshelf’s production of Beast, featuring the acclaimed actor David Heap and superb up and coming actress Hannah Scott, was also a highlight; a lilting story of lust between a dying artist and his muse.
The use of visuals was superb, but the writing was the star in this piece, which was profoundly affecting and deeply emotional. It is hard to believe that Elena Bolster, the writer, is merely 27 years old.

The uplifting element of UnFringed is the sense of fun that pervades proceedings, and this was reflected in two productions, Cirque de Legume, which opened the festival, and Lords of Strut, which featured two guys in lycra performing theatrical acrobatics on Thomas Street (see pictures, thanks to Sarah Lynch for those).
The latter drew huge crowds and was a deserving winner of the Spirit of UnFringed award - the 45 minute, high energy show encapsulating the energy behind the festival.
As one observer remarked of Cirque de Legume, “I’ll never be able to look a vegetable in the eye again”, and this sums up the fun about this show, which won an award at the Dublin Fringe Festival last year.
Featuring two superb performers in Jamie Carswell and Nancy Trotter Landry, Cirque was half an hour of pure mayhem, involving little dialogue and a lot of physical comedy, as the two “idiot performers” attempt to put on a Cirque du Soleil type show, using nothing but a box of vegetables.
Local comedy troupe Choke Comedy produced a special show for UnFringed, called ‘Pure Sketchy’, essentially a series of sketches that saw the local group make the jump from off-the-cuff improv - of which we were a major fan - to scripted set pieces. The production showcased the group’s fine comic abilities but requires further work, in this reviewer’s opinion.

Special mention must be made of Cleaner, which was performed in Our Lady of Lourdes and Watchouse Library, Moyross - a one woman show about a woman who falls in love with her sweeping brush.
Deep and dark in places, actress Meave Lambert fully deserved her award for Best Female for the piece.

A full list of winners is below, but we are pleased to report that UnFringed is alive and well and as strong as ever.
Long may it continue.

Best Female Meave Lambert for Cleaner

Best Male David Heap for Beast

Best Production Memory Deleted

Spirit of UnFringed Lords of Strut

Judges Special Award Elena Bolster for Beast

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Albert Niland returns to Dolan's this Wednesday

ALBERT Niland doesn’t do industry speak.
No talk of shifting units, radio play, scheduled releases - it just doesn’t interest him.
Instead, the Mountmellow guitarist is happiest when travelling, just him and his guitar - and his thoughts - for company.
The singer-songwriter, probably best known for his exceptional cover of Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’, returns to Dolan’s this week for his annual appearance at the venue, part of a month long tour of his favourite haunts in his home country.
Niland is a creature of habit, a sort of travelling troubadour, following a similar structure from year to year, existing beyond the realm of the insular Irish music scene, surviving by way of a “cottage industry”, as he calls it.
“The way it is for me now, there is kind of a natural order for the year,” explains Niland, who released his fifth album, The Hungry Ghost, last year. “
The way it has fallen I do Ireland every January, and then go off and do Belgium and Holland and then I might do a few gigs in Germany and Switzerland, then France - and I keep working hard in France, gigging away until the end of September and then I'll hibernate for the winter and do the same again the following year,” he explains.
He adds: “I just live wherever I am, I know all these little places I can stay, guesthouses and BBs and stuff - it is a cottage industry. There is no coolness attached to it, just do what you say on the tin.”
The Hungry Ghost is Niland’s first studio album in many moons; his last two - A Night In Dublin and Live At The Paradiso - were both recorded live, capturing the intensity and spirit this virtuoso is capable of bringing to the live arena.
“The album consists basically of songs that I wrote while I was travelling,” says Niland. “I went on a busking escapade that started in France, and ended up in Norway. I wrote these bunch of songs as I was on the road, as I got out of the loop for a while. “I wrote a lot of it up in Norway, and when I got back to Ghent, where I was living, I found a little studio there out in the middle of nowhere, with one guy running it. He didn't know me and me him. It was perfect.”
He says the album harkens back to his debut album, Dirty Day, a soulful and raw expression of Irish folk music, intertwined with the continental influences that have always informed Niland’s output. Travelling is in his blood, and helps him hone his craft, it seems. “
Travelling is always the best place for me to be writing, (but) I'm a bit too used to it for my liking I think. It's the gypsy blood,” he laughs.
“I've made little vague attempts to settle down that last about two hours. All these clubs exist in Europe, which we really don't have here any more, local music clubs that have been there for years and years.”
It is a life he dearly loves, a sort of modern day wandering minstrel, but he looks forward to getting home for those select gigs, one of which is in Dolan’s, an “ace venue”.
But there is an acceptance in Europe that Niland cannot leave behind.
“That is the profound difference I think; out there a guy with a guitar is really regarded as at least equal, it is kind of like a trade, which is all anyone can ask for.”
Albert Niland plays Upstairs in Dolan’s this Wednesday, February 3.