Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I see a salty message written in the eaves

Most of the time, I'm the kid. It's been like that for a long time, I don't know why. I was one of the oldest in my class all the way through school, but I ended up being the kid anyway. On my road, I made friends with people a year older than me, and I was always the kid. At school, when I was in Transition Year, I made friends with a couple of people in Sixth year and I was the kid in those relationships too. With Analogue and the people surrounding Analogue, I am a couple of years behind, so I can seem like the kid sometimes too, especially when I show up to interviews. The other night when I was playing a gig in Anseo, a woman was heard to say "he can't be older than fifteen" as I got behind the microphone. I'm the kid. It just ends up that way, I don't know why it is.

But last week, probably for the first time of my life, I felt old at a gig. At the age of twenty, I was suddenly the old curmudgeon, stuck in his ways with his headbanging and attempts at normal dancing. Around me were heaving swarms of underage girls being giddy about the band, and analogous swarms of underage boys trying to look cool in front of them. They pogoed. I tried to pogo too, but somehow, I was weighed down. I tried not to make a snide smile at their chants of "Ezra, Ezra" before the band started, but I couldn't help it. I tried to zone out everyone else, but extended arms with phones and cameras surrounded me and dragged me back to a world where fame is the thing and the fact of Vampire Weekend being on stage in the first place is two-thirds of the battle for enjoying your night.

Bah, humbug.

The band were a lot of fun though, I have to admit. They were feeding off the unselfconscious singing along (of the type I talked about before, with fists raised during lines about Peter Gabriel as if they were singing about world hunger), and putting the energy back into the show. The slightly more skeletal live approach worked really well, and songs that were skeletal to begin with, like Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, probably came off the best.

I can't pick out any weak moments in the set. They played everything off the album and one new song that sounded like Animal Collective ("I can see that, yeah" - bassist Chris Baio, upon being quizzed on this matter), and even included an ill-thought-out but nevertheless not-terrible Fleetwood Mac cover as an encore. They don't simply replicate the sound of one of the year's best albums, but they don't try to mess with the formula either, and anyone with half a funnybone couldn't have failed to enjoy this.

Oh, and a postscript to the bottle-blonde gentleman who felt it necessary to make a low-res digital video of most of the set over my head while simultaneously dancing... I can think of a website you might like.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Trick or treat serial killer

In one of my multiple incarnations (hint: it's not history nerd, or narcoleptic) I've done a Halloween single. Listen to it here if you like. Then buy a ticket to the gig with the exciting How Will They Cope, the dynamic A Series of Dark Caves and the avian Dublin Duck Dispensary on Halloween night.

I'm only joking, you can't buy tickets. But this is my end of the promotional machine upheld.

I interviewed Vampire Weekend last night for Analogue. We talked about the validity or otherwise of rich-boy criticism, about ghetto-ising African music, about new songs that sound like Animal Collective and about Tina Fey backlash. Gig review will be done soon.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Wash away what we create

So I also went to that Drowned In Sound show at Whelans too, thanks to the beneficence of my lovely girlfriend, who pitched exactly right on what I would want for a birthday present. I won't bore you with the details of my Odyssean trek to the venue, because I probably already did between bands, but just remember never to get a 38 bus anywhere ever if you still have the use of your extremities and your critical faculty.

The mess that is post-rich Ireland's transport infrastructure meant that I missed all but the last couple of songs by Times New Viking. Close watchers will know that I also missed Times New Viking last time they played because I was at The Mae Shi and they went on early. Guess why I missed them this time? They went on early.

What sort of promoter puts on "motherfuckin' Times New Viking" (Dean Allen Spunt, No Age) at 8 o'clock? I mean I made it to the venue at about twenty minutes past eight and I only saw the last two songs. The ticket said doors at 8. I have never been to a gig where the band starts at the time the doors were supposed to open, because logically, there would be no-one there at that time. This is apparently what happened last night. I wouldn't know, because I wasn't there. Fuck everything.

Anyway, next tack.

No Age were incredible, thankfully. It was my second time seeing them, but my first time indoors, and my first time with a respectful amount of album-listening done. Last time was more fun in the sense that the Dutch punks at Lowlands were moshing enough to make my wobbly headbanging seem okay. Last night my wobbly headbanging seemed to be shared by only two or three acquaintances and the members of Los Campesinos! who were in the crowd.

The show, though. Very, very loud. Intense. No Age have some really great songs. Teen Creeps, for example, has got to be one of the songs of the year.

Strum, strum, strum. Dididi-deh-do-do - NOISE. Washes and washes of noise. Two guys just being honest about it, playing a great song at a volume that cannot be ignored. There aren't many better moments in modern life than the heavy bit kicking in. And that's what No Age are all about.

They had some new stuff (I think) which was more directly rocking and less obfuscated. I enjoyed this. I would like to see No Age at a house-party (maybe the Hideaway House as Adam said in a comment below) or somewhere less self-conscious and less full of LC! fans. Because they've got energy in spades and it's a pity not many were sharing in the loud, loud glory of it.

As for Los Campesinos, I didn't like them. I've never liked them anyway, but they were never going to beat No Age. It's their own fault for picking such good support acts. Their lyrics are so blatantly poserish that I'm surprised anyone except teenage girls can stomach it. "I was listening to music and reading fiction at the same time" or whatever. I mean, what the fuck is that? They play like a major label band on Letterman or something. There's no heart to it. They're just trying to be clever, and their songs aren't particularly good. They're the opposite of No Age's honesty, in my eyes. If they didn't have vaguely different instrumentation I don't think anyone would ever have thought of them as separate from the NME continuum in the first place. Because they're not. Death to Los Campesinos.

Long live No Age.

Times New Viking I am sorry please don't split up before I see you.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Gealt-teach iargúlta lastiar den ré

Hideaway House. What a good idea. Take a place that is available, whether by chance, circumstance or charity, and put on gigs there. But don't make it into a "venue". No bar. No need. No anything. Just a room in a house with a PA. Get bands you think are good rather than bands you think will draw, because you don't have to cover any particular monetary figure, and the room is tiny anyway. Charge five euro. If you charge less, you won't be able to get those touring bands, or pay expenses for bands from elsewhere in the country. If you charge more, Ian MacKaye will murder a yuppie.

The Hideaway House is art in itself, in a way. It's just a guy's house. But open it up as a place to have gigs and the posters on the walls from festivals in Europe or movies in French, the cracks in the ceiling, the receding branchy darkness of the garden and the huge banner saying "This Area Is A Social Space" all seem to take on some kind of... significance?

It's a cool place. Better acoustics than a church hall. Better entertainment (and definitely better manners) than a house party. Better couches than... Whelans...

The gig itself wasn't actually that impressive. The Creeping Nobodies ( from Canada) are essentially avatars of form over content. They aren't quite as no-wave blanked-out as Cap Pas Cap while playing, and they did attempt to crack a couple of poor jokes to a cold-ish room, but their music is repetitive and amelodic. It's not that they come off like they write bad melodies. It just seems like melody doesn't figure in their songwriting process at all. They make a kind of arty murk, with enough danciness for the indie-rock shuffle, but not enough that anyone would have to challenge their own self-consciousness.

Music For Dead Birds (Galway), who were before the CNs, were a little better. They had some good anti-folk moments, and the guy's voice is interesting, but they veered back too often towards that regular sincere acousticism that I have a very low tolerance for (cf Heathers mini-review).

Cap Pas Cap were probably my favourites of the evening, and the first band that I saw. Last time I saw them was about a year ago and I was on the verge of falling for their shtick. This time, it was a little hard not to find the dead expressions and quarantined sound kind of affected, but they still played a good set. They didn't even play the hits (off the 12" that I bought when they supported Crystal Castles in Kennedys - the night I realised that even serious people can fall for bad music if it's energetic and it looks cool. Fuck anyone who hated on Nialler9 that time). But some of their newer stuff, particularly the last song they played (which featured a tom-heavy drum beat - a mini-departure for CPC) was interesting.

I was late for Ran, consensus was that they were deadly though. So well done Ran.

I'm going to leave this gig without the customary plus or a minus, because I didn't think that much of the headliners but I liked the whole idea. Check it out if you haven't been.

Friday, October 10, 2008

No encroaching

Went to see Ireland B play Nottingham Forest in Dalymount tonight. A couple of key points:
  • It was probably the worst football match I've ever paid to see.
  • The only notable player from either team was Caleb Folan who scored before being taken off at half time. He's actually good, and made an effort.
  • Nottingham Forest feature a geriatric but still plugging away Andy Cole. Compare his trajectory with his strike partner Dwight Yorke's... one is playing friendlies on a Wednesday night for a team of dossers against a team of kids. The other is an anchoring midfielder in a decent enough Premiership team.
  • The queue for chips was at least 8 long the whole way through the second half.
Trap was there though. Nice to see he really exists. Also (you can look away here anyone who knows me in reality):

Anthony Stokes of Sunderland and Ireland (Bs but also senior squad) once played for Shelbourne, before he moved over to Arsenal's youth academy. When I was in second year, the team I played sluggish but sly right back for lost 15-0 to his Shelbourne team in the cup, and he scored 8 goals. In my memory he was about 6'3". In reality he seems about 5'9". But that's my claim to fame. I hope he becomes a future legend.

In a side note, I went to Soundcheck afterwards with two accomplices. We walked in, walked upstairs, came back downstairs, stood awkwardly for three minutes and then left. Note to self: you are too young for Soundcheck.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Art-core, you know the score

I'm not all that sold on Lovvers as a band. Being knowingly obscurantist always irks me a bit. I gave out to anyone who would listen for about three weeks about how Times New Viking were just pretentiously messing with perfectly good Yo La Tengo-esque songs for the sake of being arty. I'm not that into Husker Du, not enough to Google their name to copy and paste it with umlauts into this article anyway. My pop-sense tingles when bands don't let you hear as much of their song as they hear in their head.

But after the gig, I can see why their album (or EP, if you don't consider seven songs in less than fifteen minutes to qualify for album status) sounds like it does. They're trying to reflect an attitude and an energy from the live show.

And the live show is good. It takes all the cues from the hardcore end of things. The guitarist, bassist and drummer play as loud and as hard as they can for the entire set. Everyone sweats. And the singer sings from the crowd. Hardcore singers, as much as anyone into hardcore that I know would probably punch me for saying this, are as much cheerleaders as they are musicians. Their job is to break down the arms-folded barrier between the crowd and the band. They go, they bump into people, if anyone knows the words they get equal access to the microphone.

Lovvers did it to a tee. Their arty, garage rock buzz is what saves them from being a crappy hardcore band, but their hardcore buzz is what makes them fun. The guy flopped into people. I pushed him a few times, he pulled up my t-shirt and put his sweaty face on my shoulder. It was horrible. They played a load of songs in a short space of time. 'No Romantics' and 'No Fun' were their best songs.

But they weren't really playing songs, the way I see it. They were just transferring energy. That's their milieu, I think. It definitely comes across better with a sweaty man in your face than it does with just an album the length of an Our Brother The Native song at your disposal. It was fun, and I think the crowd felt a little more involved than they normally would. All the hallmarks of a good hardcore show were present, and it was all the better for it.


Swoop swoop (rock rock)

(This is what I wrote on my phone as a review of BATS, one of the best live bands to be seen in Dublin, after their support of Lovvers in the Boom Boom Room):
Science is the doctrine
Music is the medium
The no-fi photograph from the same phone/mindset.


Who needs an eye?

Two open proposals to Grand Pocket Orchestra:

1. Make a limited run of GPO action figures. Of all bands that have ever lived in Ireland, none would make a better set than you. And it's not even like people would just want the singer or anything. Everyone in Grand Pocket Orchestra has a distinct, fruit-flavoured air. There could even be two Paddys, one with a guitar and one with a mic lead wrapped around himself, eyes bulging, face looking blue from lack of oxygen, doing the Wii skiing action that he does. I would buy them. If Of Montreal can sell their album as a paper lantern, GPO's album could easily be action figures with secret USB ports where you can get 1/4 of the album.

2. How deadly would a Monkees-style mini-series about life in a fictionalised Grand Pocket Orchestra house be? They could all get into half an hour of mischief, before introducing guest stars or something, and they could open and close with a song. There could be puppets in the kitchen who only talk to Bronwyn or something. Imagine it though... *ding dong* "I wonder who's there?" (Noel Edmonds style), then the door opens to canned applause and Fight Like Apes appear. The fun is doubled.

So the in-store itself in Tower was fun. Grand Pocket Orchestra are getting better and better as time goes by and any initial reservations I had about a second guitarist drowning the tweeness are completely gone by now. The balance that seemed like it was slightly tipped when Flesh first joined is restored, and the songs are getting complex and nearly chin-strokingly thought-worthy while staying in the same Kinder Egg world. It was disappointing that there weren't more people there to get a copy of Make Happy War, which is the older, better brother to the young, fun first EP.