“This Eagerness to Change” …with a roll of the dice … “Such a Shame”

 Such a Shame

“The dice decide my fate, that’s a shame”

In 1984, UK pop band Talk Talk released their second album – “It’s my Life”- from which three songs were taken as singles. The first was the well known title track, the third, “Dum Dum Girl”. The second, released in March ’84, was “Such a Shame”, a song based on the subversive George Cockroft novel “The Diceman”, which he wrote under the pen name Luke Reinhart.

The book tells the story of a psychiatrist who through sheer boredom starts to use the roll of a dice to make life decisions.  Cockroft based the plot on his own real-life experiences as a psychology student (Hollis also studied child psychology in Sussex Uni) during which he based his actions/decisions on the cast of a dice.  The book contains some pretty explosive material relating to experimental sex, rape and murder. It also touches on the world of governance and commerce in a non too respectful manner.  “The Diceman” has ultimately become a cult-classic, and is now in it’s 7th edition.  I for one, (as well as Mark Hollis) can highly recommend it, though it is not for the faint hearted!

Of “Such a Shame” Hollis said:-

“it’s inspired by the book ‘The Dice Man’ which is about decision making through dice throwing. Although they didn’t actually refer to it in the book, there’s a scene when he’s in party for an hour undergoing about ten different personality changes and that idea seemed quite appropriate in terms of what we’re doing. It’s a fabulous book, the idea is so appealing. I’ve just written ten times as many lyrics as I needed and thrown the dice on which ones go in. It’s ultimately wrong though, definitely immoral!”

Phone Box Scene

The video for “Such a Shame” was directed by the award winning Tim Pope and, the basis for the film was, to quote Hollis, “to try to sum the book up in 4 minutes”.  What was interesting was that they decided to use the premiss of the book to decide on how the video should be made. Genius!

See from 2.45 of the video to hear Tim and Mark discuss the method behind the making of the video, including the usage of random personalities (Hollis portrays 6, randomly chosen from numbered pieces of paper) and prominent objects to convey the numbers of the dice (see photo the scene for which represented number 3).

“A good book, not a lifestyle I’d recommend!”

“Such a Shame” became one of Talk Talk’s best selling singles – however, whilst peaking in the Top 10 across several Continental charts (#2 Germany, #3 Italy) it failed to break the UK Top 40.  It did however, help to propel them into the US mainstream market with a US Billboard high of 12.

The song is conceptually and lyrically unique, testament to Hollis’ highly acclaimed writing skills.  Musically it is punchy, rhythmic, piano and percussive driven, and, a sign that Talk Talk were moving away from the synth pop of their early days (the writing was on the wall when keyboard player Simon Brenner was coolly dismissed for being surplus to requirements).

And with the story told, that is how I now find myself…#str …so, I’ll sign off with two videos and the lyrics.  The first is the official Tim pope vid, the second is a 9 min clip of the band playing this song Live in Salamanca, which is a wickedly indulgent rendition of this Hollis classic.  (Video 1 – Lyrics – Video 2).

Official Tim Pope/Talk Talk video

“Such a Shame” (1984)

Such a shame to believe in escape
‘A life on every face’, but that’s a change
Until I’m finally left with an ‘8’
Tell me to relax, I just stare
Maybe I don’t know if I should change
A feeling that we share, it’s a shame

(Such a shame)
Number me with rage, it’s a shame
(Such a shame)
Number me in haste
(Such a shame)
This eagerness to change
It’s a shame

The dice decide my fate, that’s a shame
In these trembling hands my faith
Tells me to react, I don’t care
Maybe it’s unkind if I should change
A feeling that we share, it’s a shame

(Such a shame)
Number me with rage, it’s a shame
(Such a shame)
Number me in haste
(Such a shame)
This eagerness to change
Such a shame

Tell me to relax, I just stare
Maybe I don’t know
If I should change
A feeling that we share
It’s a shame

(Such a shame)
Number me with rage, it’s a shame
(Such a shame)
Number me in haste, it’s a shame
(Such a shame)
Write across my name, it’s a shame
(Such a shame)
Number me in haste
(Such a shame)
This eagerness to change
Such a shame

Songwriters
HOLLIS, MARK DAVID

Published by
Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Live in Salamanca

 

 

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Wine and Sugar…or… A Night of Nutrition the not so Healthy Way.

Oh..and a lot of coconut!

White Wine

I recently attended an healthy eating gig, primarily to get an insight into what purported to be a more natural eating philosophy.  A three course meal would accompany a live demo and ad hoc talk about natural ingredients and the whys and wherefores of using one ingredient over another.  So far, so healthy.

Once established at my table, the first thing I was asked was if I’d like a glass of wine  – #upselling.  I found this quite odd given that the theme of the evening was “positive eating”!  Mind you, I’ve always had a very positive attitude towards a nice glass of wine, so going with the flow (#ifnotwhynot) and, seeing as we were now running 15 minutes late, and, not looking like kicking off any time soon, I opted for a nice glass of chilled white.

Half a glass and a further 15 minutes later, the gig began.

A very enthusiastic American lady started taking us through the philosophy of the foodie company she was representing, followed by the method for making “energy balls”, with the stark warning, Do Not Eat At Night (unless, of course, you’d like some very active sex!). Dates, coconut crème, cranberries and more, were whizzed around in a bullet shaped blender and, with a light dusting of shredded coconut, hey presto and voila, turbo-charged “energy balls”.  Woo!

At this point the first course of the dinner arrived in the form of Root Vegetable and Rocket Soup.  It was served piping hot and was very palatable, but, the overriding taste was of celeriac; it completely overpowered all other flavours including the coconut crème which failed to come through.  However, as I happen to like celeriac, this for me at least, wasn’t really an issue.  What was bizarre though, was the inclusion of some pomegranate seeds, the colour, taste and texture of which had nothing positive to contribute to the soup.  Marks 8/10, lose the seeds please.

Next on the agenda was a chat about coconut oil and it’s benefits!  Did you know, a swish of coconut oil around the mouth can allegedly ease the symptoms of gingivitis?  No? Me neither.  Could I be induced to swirl oil around my mouth at a/m cleaning time…..erm!

CoconutOil

So, main course was Cajun Coconut Crusted Chicken Goujons, with a Roasted Pepper Salad, with (cough) Coconut Dressing, served with Black Rice Pilaff. I’m guessing we’re liking coconut in this establishment then!  The dressing was pretty oily, fairly tasteless and notwithstanding those facts, was insufficient in quantity to moisten what can only be described as sawdust chicken. Stick to the mouth Goujons, with all of the natural succulence of the chicken countered by the Saharan dryness of the shredded coconut crust.  The salad was reasonable, but salad is salad at the end of the day.  The pilaff was tasteless (they had used a vegetable bouillon, which I presume was additive free but that is no excuse for lack of any identifiable taste) and there was far too much of it.  The only positive here was the texture of the rice which was silky soft.  4/10 and that’s being generous.

I chatted with the ladies beside me and we all agreed that what could have been an interesting and different meal needed a lot of adjusting to get it to “good food review” stage.  Work in progress.

Finally, we were presented with dessert amidst a chat about Stevia and how this the sugar replacement of choice.  Sugar Free Coconut (yawn) Lime Meringue Pie.  To reference a diner on the TV prog “The Restaurant”  what is the point of healthy dessert, it defeats the purpose?  Sugar free, gluten free, dairy free, satisfaction free…..It was a dreadful concoction. The base was dry and again, tasteless, the meringue had a metallic tang, and the “custard” just didn’t cut it (though of the three elements it worked and tasted the best).  One spoonful and I gave up.

KeyLimePie

The gig was wrapped up with an “about us” by one of the company founders whilst fully caffeinated teas and coffees were served, with regular cow’s milk and yes, you wouldn’t believe it, sugar! #Splutter! This to me beggared belief.  They had just spent the evening extoling the virtues of Stevia and healthy eating and now here they were serving the after dinner hot drinks with that arch enemy of mankind, sugar!

To be fair to the owners, they did do a bit of a roving reporter job around the audience, doing some market research and, getting some valuable feedback , in real time, on, the presentation, the menu, ingredients, dishes and, fielding questions.  One of them had the misfortunate to come over to myself; and me being the straightforward type, gave them 100% honest feedback.  I wasn’t unduly harsh, just truthful.  If you are trying to build a brand and market product you need to understand your customer and cater for their tastes.  If there is no demand, there can be no supply.

Whilst I wouldn’t say the evening was by any means a disaster, it most certainly was not a success.  However, we can only learn from our mistakes: the key is to take the feedback on board and act on it in an expeditious and positive manner.

The “healthy eating” industry is fast becoming more competitive, and is overflowing with “guilt-free food” experts, so called celebrity chefs and and self appointed nutritionists-lifestyle changers.  You need an edge, appealing high quality product and an enlightened social /digital/media marketing plan to take a new brand from nought to household name.  Hopefully, there has already been a round table on recipes and ingredients, some experimentation in the kitchen, and a seriously innovative review of the product placement plan and future marketing strategy.  When it comes to food, sense is everything, so if they can appeal to a multitude, they’re halfway there.

I wish them luck, and if they are still trading in a year’s time and decide to host more healthy eating events, I may just pop along to see how they and their range have progressed in the intervening period!  For now though, I might just stick with my unnaturally, unhealthy way of eating whilst taking two of the nights ingredients on board.  Wine and sugar.

Coconut I hear you ask: hmmm, no, methinks the only coconut I’ll be eating will be in a Bounty Bar.  Well, for now at least.

Bounty Bar

“Tomorrow Started” but sadly Yesterday has Ended

Mark Hollis1 Mark Hollis2 Talk Talk

Those of you who know me, are aware that I have recently started a large, retrospective project on the works of UK 80’s band Talk Talk (sadly long since disbanded), and their former lead singer, Mark Hollis.

For anyone who has never listened to their music, I would heartily recommend you do so, but THAT is for another blog.

Far removed from the synth pumping “Today” and “Talk Talk” tracks from the first 1982 album, “The Party’s Over” lies the powerfully evocative “Tomorrow Started”, from their 1984 album “It’s my Life”.

As I sat listening to this song, a surge of emotion swept over me.  Maybe it’s the week I’m having, or the way that I’m feeling: or, maybe it’s just the way the music resonates with me, speaks to me.  Every element of this song is a musical tear, and, the whole, is a seven minute long lament.

I could say a lot, but I’m not going to.  I’m just going to give you the lyrics and a video from their 1986 tour.   I’ll let the song do the rest.

Performed live in 1986 at the Montreux Jazz Festival, this is a perfect piece of musical melancholia.

“Tomorrow Started”

Don’t look back until you try
A line so openly alive
Outside of you
It’s just tomorrow starting

I’ve said I’m wrong when I’ve been right
I’ve seen times when I’ve been sure
But still I find, I’m just the first that you take
Are there reasons everybody pays?

They never seem to be any use
They never seem to be any use
It’s just tomorrow starting

Don’t look back until you’ve tried
With time you’ll endlessly arrive
Outside of use
With just tomorrow starting

See my eyes
Tell me I’m not lying
I’m just the first that you take
Are there reasons everybody pays?

They never seem to be any use
They never seem to be any use
It’s just tomorrow starting

See my eyes
Tell me I’m not lying
I’m just the first that you take
Are there reasons everybody pays?

They never seem to be any use
They never seem to be any use
They never seem to be any use
It’s just tomorrow starting

Songwriters
HOLLIS, MARK DAVID

Published by
Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Susanne Sundfor: Ten ‘Triumphant’ Love Songs (Album Review)

Ten Love Songs

“Ten Love Songs” is Susanne Sundfor’s 5th album and, her best. By far.

The first track “Darlings”,  is short and doleful; opening with a strong, accordionised synth, it is the perfect vocal stepping stone from her last production, “The Silicone Veil”.

Things quickly ramp up an electronic notch with the dark, sombre, heavy sound of “Accelerate”

“Bear the cross, Die for Love, Crucify them, Kill for Love”

 

“Beautiful Dreamer” it ain’t.  After 3.30 minutes it sweeps into an organ blast that wouldn’t be out of place in “The Phantom of the Opera”.  The song lives up to it’s title, sonically and volume wise, accelerating to a crescendo of screaming synths, pulsating electronics and, throbbing guitar, which move seamlessly into next track, “Fade Away”.  Released back in December as the first single from the album, it has an altogether lighter tone and vocal.

The pace then slows right down with the acoustic openings of the angelic “Silencer” which has an almost dreamlike quality.  Packed with strikingly expressive strings, it finales with a pitch-perfect crystalline falsetto.  “Kamikaze” is a captivating tune of disco beats sweeping the vocal amongst twinkling musical stars.

“Higher and higher, Tonight is the night that we might fall together”.

The quiet bang of a gong at the end,  is briefly followed by what sounds, for all intents and purposes like a JS Bach composition for the cembalo (#harpsichord).  Quaint.  The mournful “Memorial”, opens up with a celestial choral.  Awash with funereal organ music and harmonious voice crossing, it transcends into a sublime mini sinfonia after four or so minutes.

With it’s magnificent sonic upwards trajectory, this enthralling movement of  classical lightness, almost pastoral in quality, contains sparkling piano playing and an enchanting string sequence.  It is musical deliciousness and an amazing and brave inclusion in what would be categorised by most as an electro-pop album.  Ten minutes of Sundfor orchestral manoeuvres, this is the sonic and lyrical highlight of the album.

Susanne Sundfor 2

We’re back to basics with “Delirious” which kicks off with an electronic vortex and more punchy vocals; the end result is text book Depeche Mode, sampling snappy electronic snares, sweeping chord progressions, heavy synth layering and texturing, all the hallmarks of their darker more luscious productions.

 

 

The mood lifts a little with “Slowly”  – light, airy, poppy, it has a pleasing vocal, with mellow harmonies and an easy beat.  It’s probably one of the more mainstream true “pop songs” of the track-list.

“I can feel it In the way you hold me And in your heartbeat I know you’re lonely”

We are pulled down into the abyss with “Trust Me” a song which would make a great film soundtrack – melodramatic, slow, it is quietly anthemic, a bit one woman and her harmonium, with a clear statement to make.

“You cannot erase me, You cannot replace me”

Susanne Sundfor 3

The album ends with “Insects” is electro-psychedelia gone viral. “We’re having fun” and it sounds like Sundfor indeed had a lot of fun putting this pulsating trance menagerie together.  It’s a strong ending to a musically diverse and well articulated album.

“Ten Love Songs” took the themes of violence and love (in it’s various forms and guises) and, speaking of the record’s intentions, Sundfør has said:

“To me, love isn’t always what it seems. When I first started to work on the album, I wanted to make an album about violence, and then, as I was writing the songs, there were violent aspects, but they were usually about love or relationships, how you connect with other people.

And in the end, that turned out to be 10 love songs… people try to describe their emotions with numbers today, and in terms of science, which I feel is like the religion of today. It is very taboo to be a vulnerable person. It’s almost like the biggest weakness today is to be a human being, because everything around us is about perfection, as if we’re trying to be like robots.”

“Ten Loves Songs” runs the gamut of “the emotions of love” –  despair, torture, frustration, bliss and elation; powered by a wide as it’s deep sonic diversity.  Unique, quirky, both understanding and in your face,  it is architecturally superb. Technically brilliant, it is a masterpiece created by an uninhibited imagination, and, untamed talent.

9/10.

Ten Love Songs is out now and available on all digital platforms incl iTunes

Follow Susanne Sundfor on Facebook, Twitter or her Website

 

Irish Anthems….The Songs of Three Generations……70’s, 80’s, and 90’s (Part 2)

De Dannan

So 🙂

We finished off Anthems P1 with the wonderful Dubliners “collabing”  with The Pogues: so for the sake of continuity, we are kicking off P2 with the Pogue-ish scoundrels duetting with yet another big name from the 80’s; the late, great, Kirsty McColl (yep, Kirsty “There’s a guy works down the chipshop swears he’s Elvis” McColl).

If lilting balladesque soft pop is what conjures up images of Ireland, then musically, the next offering will be right up your street.  The vocals & lyrics, however, might be a tad different to what you’re expecting!

Behold, the Irish number one Christmas song, of all time,  A song tinged with sadness, (even moreso since McColl’s untimely death) it is held with fond affection by both the Irish and home and the diaspora in America.

A tale of love and disappointment, of faded dreams and jaded hopes, the fag-hag Mc Gowan vocal compliments the richness of Kirsty McColl’s warm yet edgy tone.  Both give the song the emotional quality it deserves without falling into soppy sentimentalism.

“Fairytale in New York” is the musical signal that our festive period has begun.  It’s only Christmas, when this has started to get airplay on national radio.

 Mccoll with pogues

The Pogues 1982

FairyTale in New York – Released 1987

http://youtu.be/j9jbdgZidu8

Nearing the end of the 80’s now, we have two of the most of the enduring rock / indie songs.  First up is a particular favourite of mine, from a band that came on the scene in the Mid-80’s – The Fat Lady Sings.

The Fat Lady Sings

Lead vocals by Nick Kelly, you’ll probably pick up a touch of Ricky Ross and the Deacon Blue’s here – the two have often been compared.  A softly sung, gentle rock tune, it combines light piano chords with a stronger guitar sound for some punch, but the overall effect is an easy pleasant sound, and, a very memorable song that ticks all the right boxes.

The Fat Lady Sings 1985

Arclight – Released 1989

http://youtu.be/hlcSZotpAhE

Wrapping up the 80’s for us are a band from Northern Ireland who set the charts alight with this corker in 1989. From the Double Platinum selling album “Songs for the Tempted”, the Top 10 hit single “Mary” became one of the most played songs on national radio.  Musically it stood apart from everything else in the charts that year – the distinct vocals & overlapping harmonies, the melancholic strings, the looped 4-chord acoustic guitar riff and the bombastic bass drum.

But it was the lyrics that struck a chord with the listeners with their sorry tale of Mary, her abusive boyfriend and wasted life.  You wanted her to have a happy ending….but will she bury the past??

The 4 of Us 1988

Mary – Released 1989

http://youtu.be/kJV7ACsBVDw

THE STUNNING

Kicking off the 90’s, we have a very different type of band, and, a very electrifying song!  The Stunning, an Irish rock band formed in 1987, have split many times over the years to work on other projects such as, The Saw Doctors, The Walls, even Riverdance, but, happily they are back touring again.   One of the most successful live acts of the 90’s, it’s only fitting that the video I’ve selected, is of a live performance from Electric Picnic ’08.  This song has everything thrown in, it’s a right rakish musical hotch-potch:  not strictly rock, not totally agit, a bit right of alternative, a bit punky for indie, and all that with a touch of brass shoved in for luck.  This is one of the big songs of my gen, and is always sure to get a crowd to it’s feet.  Ladies and gentleman, may I present,

The Stunning 1987

Brewing up a Storm –

Never released as a single – track 6 of the 1990 album Paradise in the Picturehouse

http://youtu.be/CzYl4z3k7fI

***THE ANTHEM***

AEF

Next up is the big one – my Anthem of Anthems.  An Emotional Fish, a radically alternative rock band signed to U2’s Mother Records in 1989, and lead by the avant-garde Gerard Whelan (aka Jerry Fish of Mudbug Club fame), exploded onto the charts scene in spectacular fashion in June 1990, with this next song.  I don’t need to say a lot about this song – it does the talking, and then some, VERY LOUDLY!  THIS IS THE STUFF OF WHICH ANTHEMS ARE MADE…

(be warned the pace quickens with each verse!)

An Emotional Fish 1988

Celebrate – Released 1990

http://youtu.be/Jeg4mQMVGNg

Now that the pulse is racing, let’s take things down a notch with a little less shouty, a lot less pumped up, and a bit of a more poppy tune, by the wonderful Something Happens, the lead singer of which, Tom Dunne, has since become a well established DJ with Newstalk radio.

“Parachute” was one of the two big singles (the other was “Hello Hello..”) from their album “Stuck together with God’s Glue” which was recorded in LA.  Feted by NME, supporting Simple Minds, and, courting the title of “Ireland’s Next Biggest Thing…” they had huge success in the early 90’s until it suddenly fizzled out a few years later, partly as a result of the collapse of the record label to which they were signed, and partly due to a less enthusiastically received “Planet Fabulous” in 1994.  They subsequently released the hilariously titled “The Beatings will Continue until Morale Improves” aka their Greatest Hits.  They still play on/off gigs, but sadly no longer record material.

I always really liked this song – I think it’s 100% Feel-Good in a Musical Bottle of Happiness.

Something Happens 1987

Parachute – Released 1990

http://youtu.be/cuLcCmj4v

***FAVOURITE SONG TIME***

ONE LOVE ONE LIFE

In 1991, U2 released what undoubtedly remains, one of their best albums – “Achtung Baby”.  My all time favourite U2 production, it contains three of my best loved songs:  “Mysterious Ways”, “Even Better than the Real Thing” and this, all time classic.

U2

One – Released 1991

http://youtu.be/ftjEcrrf7r0

“One” may not be my all time Irish Anthem, that prize went to AEF “Celebrate”; it is however, my favourite U2 song EVER.

It is for me “THE ONE“.  Lyrically, it has a stark, morbid beauty.  Musically it is majesty deconstructed, sonic melancholia.  It has a hugely powerful melody, reinforced by the Edge’s unique layering of (two separate) guitar sections.

One of their more pared back arrangements, it remains one of their most powerful songs, and ranks as one of thes greatest songs, ever recorded.

Funnily, despite the fractious background to the recording, many fans cite it as a favourite love song: to clarify, here is what both Bono and Edge have had to say about it….

Bono “It is a song about coming together… It’s saying, We are one, but we’re not the same. It’s not saying we even want to get along, but that we have to get along together in this world if it is to survive. It’s a reminder that we have no choice”.

The Edge (it is a ) ” … bitter, twisted, vitriolic conversation between two people who’ve been through some nasty, heavy stuff”.

Love song, maybe not; song of a reunification leading to a togetherness, uneasy or otherwise, more likely…

Our penultimate anthem, is a song close to many a Dub’s heart.  “Crazy World” by the Dublin band Aslan, is anthemic for many Ath Cliath natives.  Wracked by drug addiction, the lead singer Christy Dignam split with the band in 1988; however, following successful rehabilitation, Dignam made a full recovery and re-joined the band in 1992.  Aslan have released several hit singles/albums over the decades, and despite Dignam’s current battle with cancer, are still a working band, and tour de force on the Irish music scene.

“Crazy World” is a reflective rocky ballad, recorded when Dignam’s vocals were at their best.  It is sung with a raw, honest, sincerity, and it is this heartfelt emotion that resonates even moreso with fans, in light of all the personal tribulations the band have faced and overcome.

“…When the talking is over All the crowd has gone Nothing left I can do Am I ever gonna get through to you..”

Aslan 1982

Crazy World – Released 1993

http://youtu.be/QHeiVDSdoCM

Last but not least, we have The Frames, founded in Dublin in 1990 by the wonderful Glen Hansard.  Still going strong today, albeit after a few tweaks and reincarnations, they have come along way from busking on Grafton St in the late 80s.  “Revelate” one of their biggest hits, released from the 1995 number one album “Fitzcarraldo” (produced by ex-Boomtown Rat, Pete Briquette), is full of snarling guitars and lung busting vocals.  A blistering song of dejection; or rejected, misguided, useless love; a love that needs a “revelation”, a light, some guidance to steer it to redemption.

“redeem yourself, redeem yourself” 

FRames

I leave you with, my final anthem of three generations, the wonderful, passionate, “Revelate” and hope, that you have enjoyed my choices of personal anthems over three decades, three generations, three phases of the Irish music scene.

The Frames 1990

Revelate – Released 1995

http://youtu.be/rlheXYqwavM

Slan libh go leir.

 

“Coming up for Air” with Kodaline…

Kodaline

Kodaline – “Coming up for Air” 7/10.

Kodaline confuse me.  That being said, I can be easily confused.

On first hearing “All I want”, I thought I was listening to a previously  unreleased Coldplay track; on hearing the opening guitar chords of “Brand New Day” I auto-assumed that  I was listening to Snow Patrol.  That was 2013 – this is now.

Let’s presume Kodaline are fans of the afore-mentioned CP and SP:  isn’t it therefore understandable that their music would be in some way influenced by their sounds? Unlike some, I’m happy to park that there!!

“Coming up for Air” is Kodaline’s second album from which the hit single “Honest” was released earlier this month, entering both UK and Irish singles charts in the Top 20.  Produced by Garrett “Jacknife” Lee (The Cars, REM, Snow Patrol (them again!), U2 – get the picture?) it is sonically big: bombastic stadium sound versus rock anthem; ballads with big choruses versus soft piano-led emos.

As THE second album, “Coming up for Air”is a more mature offering, which opens with the afore-mentioned pulsing “Honest” oozing with the confidence that comes from experience, before slowing into it’s first, slightly saccharine, love song, “The One”, which for me, is one of the weaker tracks on here.

“Autopilot” however, has an interesting mellow quasi-Indian opening riff.  The slow pace unfolds into a melodic chant layered over some soft soothing harmonies which soon pick up pace, and grow into the full “gospel-monty” backed up with strong methodical percussion.  It’s “kinda-Koda” predictable but it’s highly likeable and definitely a grower.

“Human Again” is an upper; a gritty rock-pop song, plenty of whining, sliding guitar grinding and squealing synths. “Unclear” brings us back down with it’s lullabyesque sensibilities.  Similarly, “Better” is gentle acoustic guitar driven song in the ahem, Chris Martin sense.

Compare and contrast.

“Play the Game” is all about 80’s rock: first it gave me the guitar n snare beat of Joan Jett’s “I love Rock n Roll” and then it unleashed Jon Bon Jovi with his own big haired big voiced backing choir!  And I loved it.

“Lost” is a rather lovely echoey electro-pop track, the vocal of which has a hint of a tint of Thom Yorke a la “No Surprises” – give them both a listen!!  It’s one of the strongest tracks on the album.  Unfortunately, the strength of this track greatly overshadows the next in list, more run of the mill “Ready”, a fairly standard pop tune – plenty of piano pumping and strumming strings.

“Love Will Set you Free” is another slow-paced love song in the mould of Kodaline 1.0 – very “High Hopes” in tone and vocal.

Without doubt the most “sonically beautiful” song on the album is the emotionally charged “Everything Works Out in the End” – soulful vocals play over light piano chords and flowing strings.  This is one of those light the lighter/phone, wavey hands at the festival feel-good songs, that puts Kodaline up there with the best of their peers in this genre.

Coming up for Air

“Coming up for Air” isn’t faultless, but it’s a confident, strong production, in which the band have upped their game, and into which they have tried to incorporate the funk of a hugely talented and experienced producer, with the tricks they themselves have picked up along the way.

As usual, I have included vids from YouTube for you to sample, but, as I always say, if you enjoy, please support music by downloading from iTunes or buying the real deal in your local record shop.

http://www.Kodaline.com

https://itunes.apple.com/ie/album/coming-up-for-air-deluxe-album/id945240218?ign-mpt=uo%3D4

“Coming up for Air” Tracklist

1. “Honest” 3:38
2. “The One” 3:52
3. “Autopilot” 4:18
4. “Human Again” 3:47
 5. “Unclear” 4:25
6. “Coming Alive” 4:16
7. “Lost” 3:35
8. “Ready” 3:53
9. “Better” 3:34
10. “Everything Works Out in the End” 3:37
11. “Play The Game” 3:54
12. “Love Will Set You Free” 4:20
13. “Caught In The Middle” 4:36
14. “War” 3:31
15. “Moving On” 4:25
16. “Honest” (Acoustic)

The Charlatans – Modern Musical Magnificence – “Modern Nature” Reviewed

The Charlatans

After a bit of a clingfilmic struggle to get liberate the contents of the too well packaged new offering from The Charlatans, I neglected to read the “instructions”, and pulled a CD from the sleeve, slipped it into player and sat down with the enclosed lyrics sheet.  There was just one teeny problem; I couldn’t find any trace of the song! “We sleep on borrowed time…” sings lead singer Tim Burgess behind a thin layer of digital overlay on the first track of what it transpired was a CD of bonus tracks.  Wow!!

The second bonus track opened and I was teleported back to mid-90s Madchester.  “Walk with me” is a stunner, but what is even more amazing about this track is that it was written by their late drummer Jon Brookes from his hospital bed.  Brookes succumbed to a brain tumour in 2013 and the album is naturally dedicated his memory.  Incidentally Brookes played the drums on this track (it’s the only track he played on) giving it his trademark percussive sound.

“It’s the start of a journey , not the end of the road

Cause life is the enigma, only love can be cold,

… Walk with me, love walks by my side”

The bonus CD is quite simply wonderful and as great a warm up for the main event, as ever I’ve heard.

So to “Modern Nature” proper.

“Talking in Tones” is the opener and arguably one of the strongest songs on the album.  The harmonies bring Simon & Garfunkel to mind there being something S&G about the soft synchronicity of the crossing vocals.  It’s thoughtful and meditative in lyric and tone, attributes which can also be found in “Keep Enough” and the beautifully contemplative but up-tempo “Emilie”.

Musically, this album is heavy on the keyboards, which in the main have a 60’s retro feel with a slight hint of Manzarek; this nostalgic nod is bolstered by the addition of some gospel vocal, sexy brass sections (courtesy of Big Jim Paterson of Dexys fame), and some very 70s funky on down Collins guitar solos – “Let the Good Times be Never Ending” is a classic 60s/70s mash up with a distinct disco-vibe.

If “I need you to know” were a novel, it’d be a thriller; full of intrigue.  It opens with a musical sense of foreboding, ramping up with “Bondesque” strings adding to the sense of mystery and intensity.  “Trouble Understanding” is Tim Burgess’ favourite track and is piano driven, percussive toe-tapper, again with Gospel-like backing vocals giving it a very chilled vibe, which melds perfectly seamlessly into the final track, “Lot to Say”, a light, jaunty melody, with more airily blended harmonies, rounding off the album in wound down mode.

‘Modern Nature’ is by far one of the most stunning albums I have heard in a very long time.  It took me by surprise, not having been a dedicated Charlies fan back in the 90s.  It is a masterclass in musical resurrection and undoubtedly a shoe-in for every best album award for 2015.  10/10.  Magnificent.

And as they say – “Let the good times be never ending”….

Musical Mini Blog – A “Golden Brown” Sweetness of Youth

Golden Brown 45 Golden Brown

For some weirdy reason, one of my favourite ever songs (to which my long suffering mother will attest), “Golden Brown” by The Stranglers, came into my head this afternoon…..and refused to budge.

So, I had to play it.

But it still wouldn’t budge.

So then I had to relate this “probleme ancien” which I’d had back in the day, to our receptionist, in a bid to finally offload, all these years later.

You see when “Golden Brown” was released, fado fado, on 10th January 1982, I was still very young and well, a bit wet behind the ears (actually I was so wet I was soaking!).  I wasn’t very good at, well, lyrical interpretation!

1982 was not only pre-internet, it was also pre-computer!  These were the glory days of  ye olde black “let your fingers do the talking” phone, ye “fuzzy come snow or sunshine” pipe TV, and, ye radio a la batteries.  Communication was via pen and paper.  To get stuff, you had to move…to find out something, you had to go through pages and pages of information, like telephone and reference books.  There was no google to instantaneously answer my questions.  The only means I had of figuring stuff out, was through magazines, and my pocket money only stretched so far.

Anyway, after joyously discovering the romantic middle-eastern sub-tones of “Golden Brown” via the radio, I promptly despatched my trusty vinyl dealer to procure me the single from Golden Discs asap, chop-chop.  This dealer took the form of Mammy Mc Cloat, always good for a trip to town on a Monday and therefore always on hand to buy the latest release hot off the shelves (singles back then were normally released on a Sunday – which worked out perfectly for the Monday city centre run!).

Woo – there it was all shiny and unmarked, sitting on my turntable; around and, around and, around, and on, and on.  You get the picture.  This was de rigueur with every new single that came into my possession – for the first 48 hours, it was nothing but. So, there I was, myself and Jean-Jacques (Burnel – Bass player – mini-crush) in a reverie of Harpsichord 3/4 then 6/8 time, all Egyptian mystique, pyramids and eastern promise (yes, I’m going all Fry’s Turkish Delight for a moment, but you get the gist).

But there were two weeny problems:-

First up, the meaning of the song – who or what was Golden Brown, “the ..temptress”!  Was she some magical Delilah type, wooing The Stranglers across the Egyptian desert sands?  I just had to find out.  I asked in my class, no-one knew. Quelle surprise.  I asked the lads down the road, who just looked blankly at me with “WHA’?” written upon their faces.  No point in asking my mother. Damn.  So I asked the one last person on my go-to list who I thought might help.  I asked my teacher.  She was young(ish), she’d know.

“Miss, do you know what “Golden Brown” is about?  She looked at me very calmly, and said, “Whiskey”.  Huh?  Whiskey??.  And then when I thought about it, well it made sense.  Whiskey is warm, it’s a golden brown colour, it makes people happy, “never a frown, with Golden Brown”.   Okay then, first problem sorted.

The second problem was a little more difficult, in that I had no means available to me of checking my facts.  You see, I was very unsure about the second line of the song, it just didn’t seem to fit into the context:

“Golden Brown texture like sun

Lays me down with my, um, Rancheros”?

You see I knew it couldn’t be Rancheros, cos’ they were,  well, bacon flavoured crispy snacky things!!

Rancherso

Why would the Stranglers be singing about Rancheros?  And yet, I couldn’t get anything else to fit.  it would just have to do.  I had no way of verifying the lyrics.  And it rhymed.  So that was okay then, once it rhymed, it was sort of, well, okay-ish!

And so that was the “Golden Brown” of Derval’s world for many years.  A song about Whiskey and Rancheros!  Oh my innocent heart.

It wasn’t for a very long time, that I finally found out the true meaning of the song, from an interview with lead singer Hugh Cornwell, and just in case, there is any doubt, here you go:-

There has been much controversy surrounding the lyrics. In his 2001 book The Stranglers Song By Song, Hugh Cornwell clearly states “‘Golden Brown’ works on two levels. It’s about heroin and also about a girl”. Essentially the lyrics describe how “both provided me with pleasurable times”.

To end my ranchero-rambling, I leave you with, the full lyrics of “Golden Brown” by The Stranglers, together with the official video.  “… with my mind she runs…never a frown with golden brown”

Golden brown texture like sun
Lays me down with my mind she runs
Throughout the night
No need to fight
Never a frown with golden brown

Every time just like the last
On her ship tied to the mast
To distant lands
Takes both my hands
Never a frown with golden brown

Golden brown finer temptress
Through the ages she’s heading

West
From far away
Stays for a day
Never a frown with golden brown

Never a frown
With golden brown
Never a frown
With golden brown

Irish Anthems….The Songs of Three Generations……70’s, 80’s, and 90’s (Part 1)

Boy

*The year beside each act is the year they formed

I know what THE anthem of my gen is, but it’s not my favourite song……out of this list, there will always and only ever be THE “ONE”.

That was the song of my “never-stop-all-energy -isn’t-life-the-biz-where-are-we-goin’-next?” period; it came from THE ALBUM of my early adulthood, of my isn’t life wonderful period, and THEY were THE BAND of my “youth culture”.

“…..we’re one, but we’re not the same…..”

The anthem was what I wanted to hear when I walked into a house party, the latter was what I was listening to on my Walkman – er, remember them?

Walkman

There are anthems for each generation of Irish youth – and today I’d like to focus on those of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.  Pick and choose what you’d like to listen to out of my anthemic pick n mix.  Please explore and hopefully enjoy, what I consider to be, some of the best songs of our modern musical heritage!

Now, I’m too young for the 70’s anthems to really mean anything to me, in a, “I was there” kind-of way.  “Thin Lizzy” the first big Irish band to make it outside of these shores, were “before my time” as they say.  Before my time, and, far too hard a sound for this Abba loving child.  Phil Lynott (RIP) was a musical icon of his day.  A Dub of mixed race, adored and scorned in equal measure, a talent equal to that of his peers, guitarist, vocalist, lyricist – he had it in spades.  Who will forget that sublime collab with Gary Moore – “Parisienne Walkways”, or, the musical poem for Lynott’s first born daughter, “Sarah”, both beautiful, soft, romantic, wonderful songs.  Or indeed, the heartfelt poppy “Old Town” with it’s sweeping piano bridge and heraldic trumpet backdrop.

But it will be for this huge anthemic Irish rock song, that the Lizzy and Philo will always be remembered.  The guitar says it all!  A vibe for Philo.

Thin Lizzy 1969

Whiskey in the Jar – Released 1972

For any of you who haven’t heard any Thin Lizzy or Phil Lynott I would heartily recommend you hit iTunes for some best of material.

Next up, one of Ireland’s greatest trad-rock groups, Horslips, led by the supremely talented Barry Devlin.  There isn’t anyone in Ireland that doesn’t know of “Dearg Doom” and when it’s played at parties, festivities and festivals, the floor and the air fill in unison with the sounds of feet and voices, dancing, clapping and singing to what many would call, one of the biggest celt-rock anthems of our time.  Here you go………..(Just don’t look at the clothes!)

Horslips 1970

Dearg Doom – Released 1973

And now we move into the 80’s, though the next band has it’s roots firmly in the 70’s.

Arguably one of the greatest bands in the world, U2 were formed in the kitchen of a north Dublin suburb in 1976.  I won’t bore you.  There’s too much to say.

U2 feature three times (ish) in this Celtic musical menagerie.  They are my band, my youth and rock legends of my lifetime.  The first of three kicks off here with a song written and released at a time when we (Irish) thought we’d never see an end to the “Troubles”.  This song, musically powerful and lyrically incendiary, brought raw heightened emotion to every Irish gig at which it was played.

Thankfully, those days are behind us now.  But for many of us, this song will always remind us of what was for this island, a very black period in our modern history.  “Sunday Bloody Sunday” was our anthem, our call to all sides in this nonsensical war to stop the bloodshed, cease the violence.  It was hair-standing-on-back-of-neck-stuff!

This clip is from their 2001 headline at Slane Castle, for which I was lucky enough to have a backstage pass, and the memory of which will stay will me forever!  #NOMORE

*The black and white clips in this video are actual footage from the Derry “Bloody Sunday” 30/1/1972. Some might find these scenes upsetting.

U2 1976

Sunday Bloody Sunday – Released 1983

And now back to more traditional, lighter and fleet footed entertainment.

On 30th April 1994 Ireland hosted the 39th International Eurovision song contest, and, for it’s main interval act, RTE commissioned Bill Whelan, Anuna, the RTE Concert Orchestra and an Irish dance troupe led by the internationally renowned Michael Flatley and Jean Butler (Production by Moya Doherty & John Mc Colgan) to produce a traditional euro-friendly offering. The result was the phenomenon that was Riverdance, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Though not exactly an anthem, it has become without exception our cultural international calling card.  Sit back and enjoy…

Bill Whelan with Anuna

Riverdance – Released 1984

Goosebumps eh?  What a roar…what an ovation!!!  #ProudMoment

Oddly enough, in contrast, our next anthem was produced by a band who were not in fact, wholly Irish. Founded by the Scotsman Mike Scott in 1983, it comprised of what I call the Paddy Joke men.  In my childhood, the big jokes doing the classroom rounds were based on the mythical foursome of “Paddy Irishman, Paddy Englishman, Paddy Scotsman and Paddy Welshman”.  These “Paddies” were in essence, what made up, The Waterboys.  Living in Ireland, adopted and loved by the Irish, they released “The Whole of the Moon” to huge critical acclaim, receiving non-stop airplay on radio and in discos alike.

It’s a classic, which won Scott an Ivor Novello, and which to this day remains their greatest hit and biggest crowd pleaser at live gigs.

“I pictured a rainbow,

You held it in your hands…”    rainbow

The Waterboys 1983

The Whole of the Moon – Released 1985

Very 80s!

Next up our second entry featuring U2 frontman Bono, in a hauntingly beautiful duet with the wonderful Clannad.  Clannad, from Donegal, are made up of the hugely talented Ni Bhraonain& Duggan families.  Gaeilgeori, they originally specialised in trad-folk, moving over time, into a more ballady-soft-celtic rock pop which has won them several international awards including a BAFTA and an Ivor Novello.

Again, it’s not an anthem as such, but I think it exemplifies soft-Celt-Rock at it’s best and if you like what you hear, invest some time in their legendary UK hit, the “Theme from Harry’s Game”, sung entirely in Irish.  It is fair to say, that Clannad hold a very special place in traditional Irish hearts!

Clannad 1970 (with Bono)

In a Lifetime – Released 1986

I fell in love with that song the first time I heard it.  I hope that you enjoyed its melodic sound, the wonderful voice of Maire Ni Bhraonain, and, the beautiful scenic shots in the video.

On 6th March, 1987, the homes of Ireland were tuned into the longest running chat show of all time, “The Late Late Show”, which was holding a tribute night in honour of Irish trad/rebel band, “The Dubliners”.  With an interesting mix of eclectic music types making up the audience, it featured interviews, reminiscences, old footage, tribute covers etc., and THEN this happened…

The Dubliners 1962 (with the Pogues)

The Irish Rover – Released 1987

The Pogues had taken a traditional Irish Folk song and “punked” it up.  Collaborating with the inspirational Dubliners was a masterstroke and the result was a feast of rebel-rock at it’s best.  The musicianship on this track is outstanding, and the vocals ragged, rough, and rasping, give the lyrics a sense of urgency in this tale of wild exaggeration of the plight of the stricken vessel “The Irish Rover”.  This song will bring any room to it’s feet, just watch your ankles, as legs tend to fly.  An anthem for “the craic”, it remains one of the most popular Irish songs in the traditional mould of the 80’s, still enjoying frequent airplay today.

We’re now half way through our list of 70’s, 80’s and 90’s anthems…..take the time go back to listen to any you may have skipped over.  It will give you a sense of our youthful progress through the decades.