Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Autumn: Winter series continues this Friday, Saturday

THE SUPERBLY titled Autumn:Winter Collection series of shows continues with a double-header of gigs in the atmospheric St. John’s Church this weekend, with some of Limerick’s top bands taking to the stage on Friday night and Sharon Shannon bringing her accordion to the altar on Saturday night.

The series - which will see Bell X1 and Villagers appear in the church in the coming months - marks a special date this Friday when promoters celebrate the ninth birthday of the Limerick Event Guide with a very special show in the intimate 14th century church.
The Brad Pitt Light Orchestra, We Should Be Dead and Walter Mitty and The Realists will provide a very special show to celebrate the milestone, while an after-party will take place in the Loft at the Locke Bar, featuring top local DJs Leon and A2DF, Greenwood and Broken Funk.

Chart-topping trad musician Sharon Shannon takes to the stage the night afterward, providing fans the opportunity to see the Clare-born artist - one of the finest of her generation - perform her popular songs in the jaw-dropping venue. Shannon’s debut solo album, which featured U2’s Adam Clayton, became the biggest-selling Irish folk album ever, and was released after she quit university in Cork in the late 80s to concentrate on music, later joining The Waterboys.
“School for me was like prison, so to be able to just do what I loved and get paid for it and be free during the day, to just learn more music and be myself and be happy, was amazing,” Sharon has said.
Saints & Scoundrels, her most recent album, features songs from a superstar cast that includes Imelda May, Jerry Fish, The Waterboys, Carol Keogh and Shane MacGowan.
Backed by her four-piece band, Shannon will perform an evening of the finest traditional music from her extensive and number one selling back catalogue, which should prove to be a big hit with local music fans.

The Limerick Event Guide 9th birthday takes place on Friday, October 29, Sharon Shannon on Saturday, October 30.
Doors for both shows open at 8pm. Tickets are available from Euro Empire on 061-317211.

Album review - Kings of Leon 'Come Around Sundown'

Kings of Leon
‘Come Around Sundown’

THERE IS an argument that the Kings of Leon could be considered rock’s version of Wayne Rooney (indulge me here); substitute Croxteth for Tennessee; both were snarling, street-smart and dragged up by their bootstraps as youngsters; both subsequently had their heads turned with the price of money, fame and idolatry (substitute Paul Stretford for Bono as you wish); both threatened to be world-beaters, but have seen their careers level off in recent years.
Hang on, I hear you say, haven’t the Southern rockers sold truckloads of records more since they went mainstream? Yes is the answer, but at what cost?
I must admit to listening to this new Kings record - their fifth - with a heavy-heart. There is little to suggest that the four-piece have cast a knowing glance at their superb, world-beating back catalogue and tried to find out where they lost that urgent, adolescent, grubby rock and roll vibe and replaced it with bland, stadium rock anthems.
However, when you allow this record to sink in (rather grudgingly as a result), it starts to re-engage you; where the Kings have lost their Southern drawl, screeching guitars and dirty, scuzzy rhythms, they have replaced it with an album that is actually quite introspective, thought provoking and tender, in parts at least.
Gone from this offering, thankfully, are the woeful Sex on Fire/Use Somebody-type tracks of predecessor Only By The Night, and present are the brooding, oft-dark and rebellious The End and Radioactive; the grungy The Immortals, the serene Pyro.
A highlight is the lap-steel and violin driven Back Down South, full of handclaps and gospel choirs, cat-calls and back-slapping; while the brassy groove of Mi Amigo is superb.
They may not have hit the heights of yesteryear, but they have gone some way toward redeeming their careers on this offering - and may yet hit the back of the net again in the future. RATING 3/5

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Interview with O Emperor

ACROSS A Limerick city centre hotel, Waterford band O Emperor are clearly discernible from the business power lunches taking place in the riverside restaurant, five scruffy looking individuals eagerly tucking into fish and chips, huddled around a table, awaiting the arrival of yours truly.
While they clearly stand out among the suits, shirts and ties, the five piece, who have just released one of the albums of the year in Hither Thither, also exude a dynamism and natural confidence in each other’s company, the type of attitude that can only come from years of gigging and touring together.
The fact that they are childhood and school-friends adds to that aura, as they complete each other’s sentences and giggle mercilessly at each other’s answers.

O Emperor are made up of Paul Savage, Richie Walsh, Alan Comerford, Philip Christie and Brendan Fennessy and despite their young age, have produced one of the most assured and anticipated albums of the year - a shoo-in for a Choice Prize nomination and possible win. Boasting a deeply layered sound, mature instrumentation - ringing guitars, shimmering, lush soundscapes and delicate pianos - and songs that namecheck influences as diverse as Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Midlake, The Band and Neil Young; simply put, this is an astonishing piece of work from such a young band.

Not many bands get two opportunities to record their debut album, but then not many bands are of the level that O Emperor have reached in just a few short years.
This band recorded their debut in Kinsale over a six-month period, had it packaged and printed, and then decided to scrap it - using the completed album as a calling card to record companies. A management deal was signed, a contract was secured with Universal Ireland, and the five piece headed back into the studio to re-record some of the original songs, and some newer ones.
There is a palpable sense of relief at finally releasing the much anticipated product.

“Yeah definitely, it has been a long time coming,” says Paul, something of a spokesman for the group.
“It is nice to have an actual body of work out that people can judge - people always ask you what you sound like and you never know what to tell them, at least if you have an album they can listen to it and find out what you are about,” he adds.
Asked if they are happy with the end result, Philip leans in: “We are pretty happy with it. We had a long time to mull it over and get everything that we wanted on it - we would want to be happy at this stage! If we weren't, I don't think we ever would be”.
“It was pretty crucial we get it right this time, because it was last chance really, we couldn't possibly do it a third time. But it was pretty easy to do, it was all done in four weeks,” adds Savage.

However, the experience of recording themselves and then going into a studio to work with an engineer ultimately helped shape this album, the band explain, meaning they almost skipped that ‘first album’ experience that many bands suffer through.
“That kind of helped in the end really, because we had such a good idea of where the songs were going from having all that time to play around with,” says Brendan.
“It definitely wouldn't have happened as easy if we hadn't gone through the process of recording the songs already and gigging them so much,” he adds.

The obvious closeness between the five friends must help as well, certainly given their eery harmonies, which often number five separate parts in a song.
“We all feel the same way about what is a good song, and seem to have the same sort of idea about what we want a song to sound like,” says Brendan.
“We never really thought of doing anything else to be honest. We didn't have an original vision, but once we had a set of songs that all worked together, then we decided to do something with it.”
Paul takes up the baton: “I think everyone needs to be equally as passionate about it; if it gets to any stage when you have a leader and a sideman, people start thinking, what's the point? If it is everyone's collective responsibility, you feel the same and put a lot more into it”.

Brendan adds with a grin: “It helps more in terms of touring. I suppose we are used to playing with each other live, but definitely touring it helps - we know each other too well, we have no qualms telling each other where to go!”

O Emperor play Upstairs in Dolan’s this Saturday night. Hither Thither is on general release.

Album review - Strands

(Casino Gravity)

YOU MAY not immediately recognise the name Stephen Shannon, nor the moniker for his new solo project Strands.
Chances are however, that you have heard the man’s work, seeing as his production abilities have graced most of the finest independent Irish releases in recent memory.

Shannon, in his Experimental Audio studio, has produced some of the best loved Irish albums over the last few years, from Cap Pas Cap to Crayonsmith, Babybeef to Vyvienne Long, David Turpin to Adrian Crowley’s Choice Prize winning Season of the Sparks, as well as playing live with Crowley.
Somehow, Shannon also found time to be an integral member of electronica extraordinaires Halfset, whose two beguiling albums Dramanalog and Another Way of Being There lit up a dull Irish ambient electronica scene.
The news on Shannon’s debut solo record is equally as enlightening; while not bursting with the energy that Halfset poured into their work, the Strands album sees Shannon wrap some delightfully kaleidoscopic melodies around an element of subtle menace, the elegant 11-track offering oozing class.

Echoing elements of Chequerboard, his own band, Lemonjelly and tinges of the sweeping, glacial soundscapes of Sigur Ros, Shannon continually manages to disguise deep, dark elements among seemingly saccharine melodies - to a wow-factor on second track Chow Bell, which features militaristic drums and opulent pianos, splashed across a lush soundscape that sounds eerily like an early David Kitt track, without the grating vocals.
The guitar-based bounce of Framed belies the brooding base line contained underneath, while the shimmering electro-beats of Tremon wash over the listener.
The ever-expanding, at times pounding Temper is a certain highlight, as are the effervescent drums, harpsichords and melodions contained on second from last track Home.

All in all an excellent debut solo offering from Ireland’s finest contemporary producer.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Rubberbandits, Sharon Shannon for St. John's Church series

THOSE nice folks over at have given us a heads up on the next acts to form part of the Autumn:Winter Collection series of shows to be staged in the delightful St. John’s Church, which already includes sold out gigs with Bell X1 and Villagers over the next two months.
The local promoters have announced a further three series dates, including a rare opportunity to see the superb Sharon Shannon in the intimate 14th century church, plus a unique and innovative “Intimate Evening With The Rubberbandits”. will also celebrate the ninth birthday of the popular Limerick Event Guide magazine with a show featuring the cream of the crop of local musical talent at the end of October.
The Brad Pitt Light Orchestra, We Should Be Dead, Walter Mitty and The Realists, Nick Carswell and the Elective Orchestra and more will come together to celebrate the LEG’s ninth birthday, followed by a party in The Loft @ The Locke Bar afterward, with top local DJs taking to the stage, including Leon and A2DF, Greenwood and Broken Funk.
Chart-topping trad musician Sharon Shannon will take to the stage in St. John’s Church the night afterward, providing fans the opportunity to see the Clare-born artist - one of the finest of her generation - perform her popular songs in the jaw-dropping venue.
Backed by her four-piece band, Shannon will perform an evening of the finest traditional music from her extensive and number one selling back catalogue, which should prove to be a big hit with local music fans.
However, the gig that has us most excited is the news that dastardly duo, The Rubberbandits, will step onto the St. John’s Church alter for a night of insanity and hilarity - big news after selling out a gig in Dolan’s Warehouse recently, and ahead of scheduled national television appearances, including a regular slot on RTE’s top rated comedy show.
The plastic-bag wearing comedians/rappers are planning a live interview as well as performing some of their most popular songs, and this is a must for any self-respecting Rubberbandits fan.
The Limerick Event Guide 9th birthday takes place on October 29, Sharon Shannon on October 30 and the Rubberbandits on November 20.
Tickets are available from Euro Empire on 061-317211.

Album review - O Emperor 'Hither Thither'

O Emperor
‘Hither Thither’
NOT MANY Irish bands get two cracks at the whip when recording their debut album. But then, there are not many Irish bands around as good as Waterford five piece O Emperor, fewer still who have produced a debut album as incredibly confident and assured as this.
Boasting a deeply layered sound, mature instrumentation - ringing guitars, shimmering, lush soundscapes and delicate pianos - and songs that namecheck influences as diverse as Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Midlake, The Band and Neil Young; simply put, this is an astonishing piece of work from such a young band.
Holed up in in a cottage over a period of six months, the fledgling band - all of whom are schoolfriends and went to college together in Cork - recorded their album by their own endeavour, but then wisely allowed an early EP and rapturously received live performances to allow word to spread. As a result, O Emperor were picked up by Universal and decided to go back into the studio to re-record the album over a rapidly quick period, recording new songs and allowing the older ones to develop into fully fledged adults.
The results are stunning.
The soft-core, Radiohead-bass-chug of opener Don Quixote is an immediate eye-opener, vocalist Paul Savage allowing his voice to descend into a Thom Yorke sneer, while the guitars scream in the background.
The unexpectedly delicate piano-based rhythm of the subtle Sedalia is equally as impressive, the band mixing a dash of Syd Barret with more quaint English 1970s folk-rock.
Intertwining three part - at times five-part - vocal harmonies on certain songs, most notably the excellent single Don’t Mind Me, O Emperor effortlessly achieve heights no other Irish band has hit in recent times.
The weirdly spine-tingling and ghostly reverb of the Echo and the Bunnymen influenced Heisenberg is another highlight, as is the simple yet effective Catch-22.
There might not be enough upbeat moments on this album for many listeners, but it is a stunning piece of work, and one which loudly hints at further riches to come from this band.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Album review - Windings 'It's Never Night'

‘It’s Never Night’
(Out On A Limb Records)
CHOOSING TO open this album with the soft, atmospheric and warmly folk-tinged track ‘Lil Hands’ is something of a masterstroke by windings frontman Steve Ryan - proving immediately that this band is the antithesis of his former band, the hard-rocking Giveamanakick.
That said, the cheery, “woo” opening of second song Brain Fluid is the polar opposite of that hushed offering, and a demonstration of this band’s range, now that a “definitive” windings line-up has been found featuring, in particular, Ryan’s long time collaborator and friend Liam Marley, who brought a high level of multi-instrumental and song-writing skills to the table in 2008, with Aaron Mulhall’s drumming abilities and Patrick O’Brien (of Last Days of Death Country fame) added later.
This settled unit, which initially offered Ryan a font with which to express his musical alter ego, has now, with a settled line-up and collaborative process in place, given him the position in which to flex his musical muscles in a way that GAMAK could not.
Brain Fluid was the lead single from the album and impressed many on its release earlier this year for ringing with a sunny pop sensibility evocative of Teenage Fanclub or REM but we (proudly) knew of Ryan’s potential since the first windings release in 2005 - and through his antics with his former band, now sadly disbanded but not forgotten.
The Limerick man’s effortless electric guitar skills and fingerprints are all over this album, particularly on the aforementioned lead single, the upbeat yet retro Poor In The Mouth and the rockier You Did.
But it is the folk driven songs we love most here, the epic, stomach churning Apologia, finishing as it does with a post-rock wig out; the beautifully wistful Song of the Doomed; and the gorgeously warm Old Like J, a stone-wall album highlight that you won’t be able to get out of your head for days, and won’t want to for that matter.
The changing, twisting seven-something minutes of These Horses Also Ran is firm proof if you needed it that this album was worth the wait, chugging toward a soaring finish with rat-tat drumming and jangling guitars, bursting into a furious, eye-opening climax. A long time coming, but worth the wait - and then some.