Sunday, October 26, 2008


It's one of the great tragedies, if not mysteries, of the Irish music scene that so many of the best bands around these parts die premature deaths: just lately we've had the excellent Chalets and the Immediate fall by the wayside, joining the likes of Whipping Boy, Rollerskate Skinny and JJ72 in the 'why did they have to split?' files. It may be an unfair generalisation, but the bands with greater longevity and commercial success tend to be more conservative in outlook (the Frames, Snow Patrol, Bell X1), while more adventurous bands tend not to get due credit for their vision or ambition.

So let's just hope the same fate doesn't befall rapidly-rising Dublin-based band Codes. In the remarkably short time they've been together (they formed in mid-2007) the quartet have clocked up two Irish top 40 singles ('Edith' and 'This is Goodbye') and have just released latest single 'Guided by Ghosts'. On top of that, they've picked up rave reviews across the critical board, which is doubly impressive when you consider how sceptical certain sections of the Irish media are when it comes to domestic music (although it has to be said, they've frequently got good reason to be).

Codes deal in the kind of unashamed, wide-eyed, electronica-influenced indie pop that the word 'soaring' was invented for, going straight for the jugular and not failing to hit the target. Reference points that come to mind are JJ72 (with less of a Joy Division fixation) or Delays (with a bit more grit and muscle) - not just musically but also in terms of singer Daragh Anderson's falsetto vocals. Yet this is the kind of music that is so fresh and vital that it renders references irrelevant: it's quite simply joyous pop music, and their debut album, which they're currently recording in Cardiff, should be very interesting indeed.

In the meantime, 'Guided by Ghosts' is available on iTunes and in HMV now. It's probably the most propulsive, guitar-based track they've released yet, and it possesses the kind of sweeping, grandiose chorus they're quickly becoming renowned for. Highly recommended, here's the video:

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dawn Landes

Have to admit, I really do have a bit of a weakness for female alt-country/folk singer-songwriter types (Gemma Hayes, Feist, Jenny Lewis). Which is just as well, considering the amount of distortion, feedback and noise I subject myself to on a regular basis. Always nice to have a bit of a balance.

Dawn Landes hails from Kentucky via NYC, where she interned at various recording studios, in the process picking up the skills which led her to start recording and producing her own songs. It also led to her recording with such artists as Ryan Adams, Josh Ritter and Philip Glass.

Her music is a beguiling mix of alt-country, lo-fi and folk influences, all held together by her understated yet richly melodic vocals. She's been compared to artists like Cat Power, Beth Orton and Suzanne Vega: impressive reference points, but she's worthy of them. Particular highlights are the lilting country swing of 'Straight Lines' and the aching melancholy of 'Kissing Song', while her bluegrass version of Peter, Bjorn and John's 'Young Folks' has to be heard to be believed. Landes' set at the Electric Picnic was a treat, one of the many great performances I witnessed that weekend; Josh Ritter even joined her onstage for a tune at one point. All the above-mentioned tracks are on her Myspace, so if you've got 10 minutes to spare check them out. You'll thank me. Or her.

The video for 'Straight Lines':

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Killers' new single

Ah, those crazy Killers. First it was New Order and The Cure, then it was Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, and now who's their new inspiration? The Pet Shop Boys, apparently. Stuck in the 80's, these lads.New single 'Human' is a lush, yearning synth-pop confection, and it's a damn fine tune once you get over the initial cheesiness. It's the first material from their third album, Day & Age, which will be released on November 25th.

I've got very mixed feelings about the band: on the one hand, they've released three of the finest singles of the last few years ('Mr. Brightside', 'All These Things That I've Done', and 'When You Were Young', which prompted one of the most spine-tingling singalongs I've ever been a part of at Oxegen last year); on the other hand, their practice of wearing their influences on their sleeves descends into tacky pastiche at times, and their desire to be a big arena band leads to some shamelessly pandering gestures. Like all good conservatives, they've also expressed their wish that Radiohead should 'go back to writing pop songs'. Lads? Shut up, seriously.

Anyway, as good as the new single is, it's not going to erase any of those doubts. 'Are we human? Or are we dancer?', asks the chorus. What's that all about? Apparently it's inspired by Hunter S. Thompson. Who knows? Who cares? I've got soul but I'm not a soldier. What's that about? Just go with it.

Florence and the Machine

One of the highlights of this year's Electric Picnic was witnessing a breathtaking performance from 22-year-old Londoner Florence Welch in a tent which couldn't have been holding more than 30 people at the time (it was early, very early). While I knew she was very much on the fringes in terms of mainstream exposure, it shocked me to learn that, goddamn, this woman doesn't even have a Wikipedia page! What kind of world do we live in?

Possessed of a sensational voice that seems to summon up all the stormiest extremes of human emotion, her songs are frequently unsettling, bluesy journeys into those murky areas of the human psyche that we like to keep a lid on: the eerie 'Bird Song' is about killing a bird who sees you doing something wrong, only to find that when you open your mouth, birdsong exposes your secret; while 'Girl With 1 Eye' (a cover) refers to cutting out a girl's eye ('I took it home and watched it wither and die...'). Probably her most famous song, 'Kiss With A Fist', caused such a stir with its lyrics ('You smashed a plate over my head / Then I set fire to our bed') that Florence was prompted to state the following:

'It is about two people pushing each other to phsycological extremes because they love each other.The only way to express these extreme emotions is with extreme imagery, all of which is fantasism and nothing in the song is based on reality.
Leona Lewis's bleeding love isn't actually about her bleeding. This isnt really about punching someone in the face.'

Mmm, that pesky PC brigade!

She's also gaining quite a reputation for being a terrific interpreter of other artists' work, with her haunting version of Cold War Kids' 'Hospital Beds' being the most notable example (she's also covered Springsteen's 'I'm Goin' Down' and Beirut's 'Postcards From Italy'). This girl is heading for big things. She's playing the Tripod in Dublin on November 14 and it's highly recommended you see her live: aside from her powerhouse voice, she's eccentric as a bat and has incredible stage presence.

here's the vid for the song that's NOT about domestic violence:

and her myspace:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fight Like Apes and their damn remixes!

Now I haven't heard the album yet, and so I can't pass judgement on it, but it's worrying when you see John Meagher giving it one out of five in the Irish Independent. Worrying and disappointing, because Fight Like Apes really did seem like a breath of fresh air when I first witnessed them live last year. Providing a much needed injection of colour and inventiveness to the domestic music scene, their excellent early releases - 'Jake Summers', 'Lend Me Your Face', 'Do You Karate?' - suggested a band with bags of potential, one reared on influences like the Breeders, Mclusky and Siouxie rather than Nick Drake or Joy Division.

However, the alarm bells started ringing for me when I heard the the way the three aforementioned songs had been remixed for the album. Quite simply, they've butchered them, adding a load of gratuitious, irritating sound effects, and polishing up the sound so that the lo-fi charm of the original versions has been completely lost. I really don't know why bands do this, if a song is good enough in the first place then why bother messing around with it? Nine times out of ten when bands do this, it's a bad idea. Unless of course it's a wholesale remix where you turn a rock song into a dance tune or whatever, but that's a different story.

Proof that the pennywhistle is a rock n' roll instrument

Fan of Sonic Youth? No? Shame on you. Fan of the Stooges? No? Shame on you. Well even if you're not a fan of either band you'll still find the following clip absolutely hilarious. It's TV footage from a show called Night Music back in the late '80's, with Sonic Youth joined by jazz saxophonist David Sanborn, Daniel Lanois, Don Fleming and a few other headers as they tear through an electric cover of the Stooges' 'I Wanna Be Your Dog'. Fleming steals the show as he runs up beside Sanborn to play the whistle in unison with Sanborn's sax, and best of all, starts throwing his whistle against the amplifiers to see if it can create feedback. Absolute genius. And quite possibly the funniest and most rock n' roll thing I've ever seen on Youtube:

Unfortunately, the footage cuts out before Thurston runs over to Lanois and cuts the strings off his guitar with a hedge-clippers.

While you're at it, check out this coverage of Iggy Pop joining Sonic Youth for a performance of the same song, Iggy literally barking like a dog towards the end. Amazing scenes:


what better way to get the ball rolling around here than with a good old-fashioned rant?

Oasis were recently unveiled as the headliners for Slane 2009. Yes, that's the same Oasis who haven't released a great album since 1995's (What's the Story) Morning Glory? (9/10) and whose main contribution to the music scene nowadays is their ever-hilarious interviews (more on that below).

Now don't get me wrong: Oasis, being the first band i ever fell for when I heard the glorious Crazy Horse-inspired 'Some Might Say' on my sister's radio one evening, will always have a special place in my heart. But, apart from a few inspired moments such as 'Who Feels Love?' or 'Stop Crying Your Heart Out', the music they've been releasing since the epic drug folly of Be Here Now (5) has been a mixture of the average and the downright awful (anybody remember 'I Can See a Liar'?). Don't believe me? Ask Noel Gallagher: of the 18 tracks he chose for inclusion on the best-of collection Stop The Clocks, a mere four were taken from the post-Morning Glory albums.

So what?, i hear you ask, it'll still sell out and plenty of people will enjoy it. Yet the announcement of Oasis as headliner is further evidence of the sad, sad decline of Slane, which used to represent so much more to Irish music fans. A quick glance at past line-ups illustrates the point: in 1993, a resurgent Neil Young shared the bill with Van Morrison and grunge heavyweights Pearl Jam; in 1995, Oasis themselves, on the back of the classic debut Definitely Maybe (9.5), played support to R.E.M., who were then still arguably at their commercial peak and touring for the first time in six years; while people still talk in awed tones about the legendary set Bruce Springsteen played in 1985. However, Slane never seemed to recover from the cancellation of Eminem's planned appearance in 2005: the only concert held since has been the travelling circus known as the Rolling Stones, while three-day festivals like the Electric Picnic or Oxegen are now held in much greater esteem and have been for some time.

Of course, you could argue that there's a shortage of bands with the ability to sell out the 80,000-capacity venue, but that's where multiple acts come in, and let's face it, between Oxegen, the Picnic and the fact that bands like the Killers often opt for their own arena shows, there's not much room for manoeuvre there either.
Anyway, back to the issue of Oasis interviews, here's a few gems:

"Americans want grungy people, stabbing themselves in the head on stage. They get a bright bunch like us, with deodorant on, they don't get it." -Liam

Liam on aliens: "I'm not frightened by them. I'm as smart as them. Probably thick as fuck, aren't they? Big goggly-eyed big heads, man, they haven't got a fucking clue. I'd do their fucking heads in, them aliens, man. They'd be like, 'Farking hell, farking hell! Lets get back to Planet Knob!"

"'Talk Tonight', the one he wrote while he was in San Fransisco with some fucking bird, that's shit and I fucking hate it. That's not going on no fucking record of ours. Y'know he's gonna have to get it together for that album. Ballads - one on the B-side, maybe one or two on the album, but that's it. He better cut it out, I'm telling ya. All this feeling down in America, man, and shit like that." - Liam

Liam on Coldplay: "Dido's with willies"

Comic genius. And here's a reminder of those halcyon days when Oasis really were the greatest band in the world:
This is going to be a blog mostly about music, but probably some other stuff as well. Expect record reviews, gig reviews, articles, think-pieces, rants (especially expect rants) ... hope you like it, feel free to leave comments