Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Stars are pretty much the epitome of a type of music I try to appreciate from the outside. Without listening to it. Like Metric, Tegan and Sara and various other Canadian or American bands who make music a little sweeter than my ears seem to be able to take, Stars seem a little too limp. However, I did love Stars for a while back when everyone used to love Stars, so I gave this gig a shot.

This actually happened about three weeks ago, so this summary will be so concise as to be pointless as a piece of pseudo-journalism. I'll give it in bullet-point form, because it's just for the record anyway.

  • The new songs are for the most part pretty fragile.
  • The crowd was big, and hoping for lots off Set Yourself On Fire.
  • Stars played plenty off Set Yourself On Fire.
  • They seemed really excited to play Dublin. Genuinely.
  • They stressed how amazing the gig was for them, and were very grateful.
  • If that's what amazing Stars gigs are like, I can only imagine how un-intense regular ones are.
All that said, they were tolerable. The hits were duly sung along to, and some of the new songs seem pretty good. I haven't been won back to the faith, but they're a decent enough band. I suppose. For the indie Will and Grace.


Saturday, October 6, 2007

Handsome Furs

Handsome Furs don't hate this city, fortunately. Back in Dublin for the first time since he spat all over me alongside Spencer Krug and the rest of Wolf Parade two years ago, Dan Boeckner seems to have positive opinions of Whelans. "This is probably my favourite bar to play", he said, likely being serious. Having been witness to Wolf Parade's first coming on a fake ID and more awe than I care to recall, I can safely say that Handsome Furs are a different experience.

They are comprised of the second most important member of Wolf Parade (and writer of Modern World, Shine A Light and others), Dan Boeckner and his wife Alexei. There is a vague feeling of "proving a point" about their show, which probably isn't intended at all. Alexei is pretty minimalist in her contributions - she presses play on the drum machine and plays fairly rudimentary chords on the Korg. It's really Dan's project though, and songs that probably could have been sung in harmony with Spencer end up here stripped down with distorted guitar and bare beats.

My perspective here is skewed because I've been really into Wolf Parade since 2005, but I've always felt that the charm of Spencer is in the closeness, how intimate and almost oppressive he can sound with Wolf Parade and especially with Sunset Rubdown. And conversely, Dan has always sounded like he dealt in space. He thrives with Handsome Furs, alone onstage providing the backing to his own songs of uncertainty with his wife's support. Maybe being from western Canada makes your songs sound like miles of forests, or maybe it's specific to Dan Boeckner, but he's loud and he means it, and it would be a mistake to ignore Handsome Furs just because they don't involve Spencer Krug. Get Plague Park.


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

HWCR - A recap

Best of Friday: Ten Past Seven
Best of Saturday: Fight Like Apes
Best of Sunday: Grand Pocket Orchestra
Biggest Surprise: Ten Past Seven
Biggest Disappointment: Alphastates

HWC? - Didn't see enough to judge.

Loveninjas were Swedish and sounded Swedish.
Super Extra Bonus Party seemed like great fun, but I only saw the very end from the very back.
The Terribles should either tighten up and play with a bit more feeling, or change their name to make it harder for people to make jokes.
Tidal District were making the sort of cathartic outro sound I love when I saw them briefly.
Dali seemed pretty punk rock, but in a good way.
My Brother Woody had some Beach Boys vocals and some fluffy but solid songs. They also gave free CDs. Thanks!
Cathy Davey is alright but has Conor O'Brien chained down when he could be either reforming The Immediate or doing something better than Cathy Davey solo.
Soda Fountain Rag sound like they're probably into J-pop. It was entertaining enough while I was there, if a little vacuous.

HWCZ - Bands I didn't really like.

I didn't want to dedicate a full post to caning everything I didn't like, so I'm going to put them all into one. The picture is unrelated to anything.

The LKs were the first band I saw on Friday and I didn't like them because: they kept falling slightly out of time with their loops, they didn't really have any melodies, they seemed to take themselves more seriously than their sort of light-souled music should allow. They're Swedish, just so you know.

Alphastates had the mitigating circumstances of having their drummer being away delivering a baby "somewhere far away", but playing basically a full-on set just without drums doesn't really work. Also, I don't think I would've been into their "alt" thing very much anyway.

A Kid Hereafter is Danish and as a Swedish photographer said to myself and my friends "he is more about the entertainment than the music". So I committed the cardinal sin against politeness by leaving the barrier right in front of the stage at Tripod during his third song after he had waved at me. I'm sorry, A Kid Hereafter, I just wasn't into it.

Gavin Ryan was sort of a Nick Cave-lite. I saw the first half of his set but left after he said "this is a new song" and then played what is basically by this stage a template blues-jazz song about his baby or something like that. Did not capture my imagination at all.

The Radio weren't great either. I wouldn't have them in the minus category if I wasn't expecting them to be really good, but that was the information I had. Their last song was a post-rock epic which I actually really liked, but their music was a little bit too "rock" to be as credible as it seemed to think it was.



Jape was pretty bangin' as Sunday's headliner. I can say bangin' just this once, because Richie Egan spent the best part of his set pointing in the air or raising his fist in a way that would lead one to believe he wanted to be called bangin'. It was my first time hearing Jape, strangely enough, and I was seconds away from the last bus home before deciding to actually wait and see. I'll explain to you what I was expecting, and what I got. Jape has always been described to me as an "electronic" artist, and the closest I came to encountering him/them was at Whelans when I was in the bar and there was pounding bass coming from the venue. So I was expecting some techno, basically. I didn't get it. Jape is as much rock as it is electro. Not that that's a problem. The best thing about Jape anyway, all things and genres considered, is the lyrics. He has a rare frankness and an ability to make you go "haha" or "fuck" or "..." with every second line he sings. I'm not sure I'd pay 20 euro to see him alone because of the sort of vestiges of 90s-ness about it all, but I think he was worth the extra 2.20 the Nightlink cost me at least.


General Post Office.

Fun is the new black. Grand Pocket Orchestra sound like Danielson Famile, Go! Team, White Stripes, bluegrass, punk rock and a multi-pack of Skittles all in a blender, but most of all they sound like the sound of the blender. The band is idiosyncratic in hitherto unheard of ways (for an Irish band). If somebody drew them with crayons, you'd know immediately who it was, and if someone mentioned "tweeabilly" trying to be clever and stupid at the same time you could stand up and put on some Grand Pocket Orchestra to shut them up. Their songs are very short and most of the singing comes in the form of a super-sped-up Daniel Smith and even sometimes almost Jack White-like yelp-bark-squeals. It's very interesting stuff, and great fun to watch. Keep eyes peeled for a postulated EP.


Panda, Baby Panda

If you were to believe Panda Kopanda's panda propaganda, you'd turn up to their gig in Pod Sunday night expecting to hear some sort of Pavement derivative group of young men who spend all their time locked up in a room listening to superhip 90s indie. They press all the right doorbells when it comes to stating influences (Pavement, early Grandaddy and Postal Service in the HWCH booklet) and whether this is a cunning ploy to try and ensnare lost hipsters is anyone's guess. The main thing is that they don't actually sound like any of those bands at all.

Panda Kopanda sound like the picture above looks. They are shoegaze (not even nu-gaze) and pretty unapologetically so once they actually get onstage. The only similarity they bear to Pavement is that their singer looks a little bit like Stephen Malkmus. Not that there is anything wrong with their music. I quite liked it. They were immediate in parts, and when they went for wanders, it generally swirled in a pleasant rather than a boring way. If only they could get over whatever block it is that keeps them denying their fathers and refusing their names.

Now, Fight Like Apes

As Crawdaddy filled up for Fight Like Apes, there was a definite sense of anticipation. It felt weird, like on of the landmark shows people talk about - The Smiths in the Hacienda or Radiohead at Glastonbury 97 or whatever. The room was heaving. They played at the same time as the Concretes, but I can't imagine even having given half a thought to seeing that. It was like a big fight or something. Like when Bernard Dunne fought Kiko. It wasn't the title fight, but if he fucked it up (which he did) it was back to square one. Luckily, Fight Like Apes were not knocked out by a Spaniard in the first round. The opposite, really. Gig of the weekend.

There are three main things that I would note if I was seeing Fight Like Apes for the first time (rather than the second time). The first: they don't use guitars. Without hearing them, you'd immediately start to think of shit new rave bands or boring atmospherics. But it's not like that. It's definitely indie rock, it's Elephant 6 on punk rock tablets. The second thing: they're really loud. They use synths. Tech bit: synth synthesise sound. So they use the full wave instead of just whatever comes out, like in a guitar. So when you play a synth loud, it's like a wall. Which is the great thing about Fight Like Apes. They sound like a wall. The third thing about them is just that they look mad, which again is partly a result of not using guitars and being able to dance around in a visually different way.

All of that is pointless talk though, so ignore it. The reason Fight Like Apes blew away Hard Working Class Heroes is because they have really catchy songs which they play really loud. They have flippant songs like Canhead (which I nearly lost my voice screaming) and they have serious songs like Battlestations. They have Lend Me Your Face, "114 of Irish contemporary music's most celebrated seconds", universally recognised and easy to appreciate. But Jake Summers is the best. It just is. The way it's put together. The words. It's one of those golden apples of pop music. I hope Fight Like Apes become the next U2 and I can tell people I was in the front row for them twice and saw May Kay burp while introducing a song, and fall over while rocking out in heels. They were definitely better than most of the touring bands I've seen in the past year. They're probably better than we deserve.


Monday, October 1, 2007

Michael Knight

The last time I wrote anything about Michael Knight, it was a band that featured not only Richie Murphy but also two women (one of whom is Edel Coffey off Phantom now) who provided the washing backing vocals and the live backing. Nowadays, Richie is based out of Berlin and seems to be Michael Knight by himself. Which begs the question: is it now legitimate to refer to Michael Knight in the singular, or is this still not allowed because of Hasselhoff? Pointless semantics, really, but worth a thought.

I thought Youth Is Wasted On The Young was an excellent album two years ago if you hadn't noticed in the review, and I still listen to it occasionally so I was looking forward to seeing what Richie was going to lay on for the substantial enough crowd in the Lennon Lounge. As it turned out, the set consisted of Richie at the piano (or the keyboard which sounded like a piano) and the guitar playing to deceptively orchestral backing tracks. Most of the songs were new to me and will probably end up on the new album due "soon". A lot of the sweetness of the older songs seems to be lost but this is not necessarily a negative comment. Michael Knight now sounds like Michael Knight is writing songs on pianos in Berlin, which is most likely what is happening. The hooks weren't as obvious though, and that makes first-time listening hard work.

God forgive me, but my heart lifted when I heard Waves To The Shore second from the end. And I appreciated the sentiment if not the execution of the woman to my left's blurt: "Play Foals you bastard". Happily enough, though, the (new to me) set closer "Victory Is Mine" was great. Just about a good gig.


Tupelo Honeys

Sweden have an Arcade Fire. Which is nice. Instead of a husband and wife duo consisting of a Texan and a white Haitian though, Tupelo Honeys are the Edin twins Joel and Linn. They are visually fairly angelic, and when they took to the stage in Tripod on Saturday they were both wearing all white outfits and wings to complement their already fair Scandanavian ethereality. Their background people (four others) wore black, and were not quite so beautiful. But still beautiful, by Irish standards.

Anyway, all of that is completely beside the point. They sounded good to me. Joel took the lead role on songs that mostly sounded like either The Well or The Lighthouse but took in shades of Parenthetical Girls, Belle and Sebastian and Burt Bacharach at the same time. In a world where every Swedish band seems to sound at least 50% like 90s Cure (I don't know if I'm just listening to the wrong bands but that's what I hear), one Tupelo Honeys set has them vying with Shout Out Louds for the position of primary Swedes in my brain. Baffled disagreement on a postcard to the comments box.