Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Review: Interpol at The Olympia

Interpol strode onto stage of the Olympia with military precision at exactly 9:30pm. The stage design of industrial piping and massive 30's style spotlights complemented by overwhelming amounts of dry-ice that make it almost impossible to see the band.

Heavily back lit by flashing lights, five silhouettes just manage to protrude the mist. This is a band who definitely want the audience to concentrate on what they are playing rather than what they are wearing.

First song Success one of only 4 songs from Interpol's latest album, slightly underwhelms the expectant crowd. Say Hello To The Angels quickly gets things in gear. Paul Banks voice cuts crisply through the mist, note perfect on every song. The crowd go wild from the very first note of Daniel Kessler's guitar on Narc and are swept along by Length of Love.

Summer Well takes things down a notch, before Rest My Chemistry's guitar riff whips the crowd back into a frenzy. The stage dressing perfectly suits the shoe gazing NYC. This however, is a momentary lull as breakthrough hit Slow Hands hits the moshing switch. cue mass hysteria, which continues through C'mere and Leif Erikson.

Barricade the first single from Interpol's self titled new album, is the best received of the new material so far. Bass driven hit Evil, as with Slow Hands, brings focus upon who is not on stage, rather than who is, but Interpol's former "Mr Cool" Carlos Denglor's replacement David Pajo proves more thank capable of filling the void, on bass at least.

The excellent Not Even Jail, brings the first section of the show to a blistering close. A quick water break later Interpol return to the stage with the epic shoe gazer Untitled. Interpol dismount the evening, heads held high, with hardcore fan favourite PDA ringing in the ears of the audience as they return to the treacherous conditions outside. An evening worth every red cent.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Review: Kowalski - The Workman's Club

Bangor quartet Kowalski take to the stage in The Workingman's Club as temperatures plummet outside. A four count later, they have transported us to bikini clad sunkist sands, with their fabulous bright breezy, yet serious, summer pop.

Straight from the off with This Years Ideas it is clear that Kowalski are individually musically accomplished. They are propelled by the slick snare and high hat combinations of Paddy Baird and pronounced bass groves and dancing of Tom O'Hara. Louis Price's sweet tender voice is a mix of Ben Gibbard & Matthew Caws.
Take Care, Take Flight the title track from current EP is built on more throbbing disco drums and groovy bass licks. "How is your Island in the sun" enquires Price through the chorus underpinned by Paddy Conn's keys and Price's jingle jangle guitar line. Think 'Let Go' era Nada Surf. The track boogies to a close through an extended outro as Tom O'Hara pounds the stage, living every beat.

Fast forward to Navigate November the best song of the night so far, a Jimmy Eat World style "forget me not" Paddy Conn double jobs on keys and guitar to good effect especially on the Lo-Fi breakdowns.
The rhythm section continue to prosper on I.D.O. a jingly Smiths meets Death Cab For Cutie outing. This song also contains elements of cult Indie heroes The Very Most. The bass dances between slash chords and arpeggios as I.D.O. builds an ephemeral soundscape. The vocal harmony between Price and Conn is excellent. There are at least six vocal hooks in the song "Oh no love is not so clever." and "I not follow you." are among the best.

Letters From the Height of Summer (Dear Bird) is an idyllic slice of 60's pop with twin guitar interplay shimmering against one another. Think early Cardigans material; only better, mixed with elements of The Flaming Lips. The main guitar line is very catchy and hummable as is its "Little Girl" refrain. Paddy Baird's unusual drum beat and percussion are the icing on this somehow festive song.

Asleep a beautiful mid tempo escape balled, emerges from a backwards stew of noise. Price's beautifully soft vocals declare "Ghost away and you'll be fine." He also shows excellent range with flashes of falsetto. Asleep makes an unexpected turn into synth pop for the outro. Electric guitars crash as harmony vocals enter, for the sing-along refrain of "Just leave them all behind."

"This is a new song" proclaims Price introducing While We Drive before Tom O'Hara tramples the stage in a trance, showing us his finest moves. While We Drive slowly builds into a crescendo and a drum extravaganza. Perhaps Paddy Baird is Indie synth pops answer to Clem Burke and John Bonham rolled into one.

Forthcoming single Outdoors is a radio friendly mix of wobbly keyboards disco drums and a Cure style siding bass line, with yet more good harmonies. Kowalski end the set with Get Back an excellent dreamy indie disco anthem. The memorable chorus of "Get back to the place that you know" floats on cascading reverb and guitar effects.

Judging by what I've heard this evening Kowalski could be your next favourite band. Definitely one of my top five gigs of the year. I caught up with the band backstage for a quick chat

How did Kowalski Form?
"Kowalski formed in about 2005. Me and Tom were in a typical rebellious heavy metal band, we were about 16. We got sick of it because it was shite and then we decided to make some happy pop music. Then Paddy B joined us on drums shortly after that and we had our old guitarist Dan Brown. He left the band last October..." Says Price.

"He wrote a few books first" I interject to much laughter "basically he got too big for his boots" quips Price to more laughter... " Then Paddy C joined in October and we started a fresh". says Price in his best children's TV presenter voice. "and went to a cottage and wrote some songs that would become the EP that we released."

Where was this Cottage?

Price "It was in Donegal in a place called Dunfanaghy."
O'Hara "It was a cottage up on a hill and you could see the bay and there was this old man called Jimjam who gave us the cottage his name wasn't Jimjam it was James" "but we called him Jimjam" says O'Hara fondly.

Did watching the sunset every night explain how all this California style music happened?

Price "It did yeah. Well I mean, where we live in Bangor. Its a seaside town, I think the seaside and the beach comes into our music, without us even realising it. Minus the glamorous side of things, the babes and the big pimping."

How did the name Kowalski come about?

Price "It comes from a play called Street Car Named Desire there's a film as well" O'Hara cuts in "Marlon Brando plays the character called Stanly Kowalski. I was studying the book at school and we were kind of just sitting around one day trying to find a name and shouted out Kowalski and it stuck." Handing back to Price "and we where like that will do sounds great and we stuck with it. Its an angular word. its kind of bizarre. I think it sums up our music quite well."

I was expecting you to say Primal scream or the movie Vanishing Point.

Price "We get that a lot its more cultural than that though. Kowalski is the equivalent of Smith in Poland as a second name" The band go on to list many appearances of Kowalski in modern pop culture including the "Penguin in Madagascar." O'Hara chips in with "Clint Eastwood's character in Gran Torino is called Walt Kowalski." Price "There's Kowalski's everywhere, take your pick." O'Hara "We are following in an illustrious line of cultural heroes. Hopefully we can live up to the name."

How does the songwriting process work?

Price "Me and Paddy C usually jam out ideas in my bedroom or whatever little riffs and take it in to the band. I don't write all the songs myself its very communal if we have a little riff or idea on the guitar we bring it into the practice room and spend hours trying to turn it into a song"

Is he really like that or does he think he wrote them, even when he wasn't in the room?

After some awkward laughter O'Hara says "He's quite good about that."

He's generous with the song writing credits?

O'Hara "Oh he's very generous with the song writing credits."

And how does that work is it four ways do you subscribe to the whole one for all musketeer vibe?

"Well you know its sort of like that" says Price cautiously.

We will ask this lonely looking drummer man at the end here a question. Drums who's good who's bad who should give up?

Bemused, Paddy B answers "Buddy Rich he was pretty special he had some amazing snare drum techniques he could do a drum roll with one hand" The rest of the band mockingly say Ooooh.. "that most average drummers would struggle to do with both hands."

"What about the drummer from Def Leopard?" asks a smirking Price "Oh he's pretty special" retorts a deadpan Paddy B "Lars (Ulrich) should probably give up" he continues. The conversation quickly turns to Lars contribution to Metallica rockumetary Some Kind of Monster "Its so funny everybody has to see it." says Price "He asks questions and answers them himself." says O'Hara before doing a fairly decent Lars impression "Do I think this could be a song...Potentially." followed by lots of laughter

So what are the influences for the rest of the band?

Price "I'm massively influenced by Ben Gibbard and Death Cab For Cutie both vocally and lyrically for me anyway. In terms of music we are influenced by old school bands like The Beatles more recently Phoenix, Arcade Fire, Beach House and Granddaddy. We like to take a piece from all those bands combine it together and make one big pie." adding jokingly "One big pie of ripping off other bands." O'Hara "you rip off little pieces of individual bands and nobody realises your ripping them off."

Is this the Death Cab phase then?

Following much laughter Price eventually says "Yes."

So whats next for Kowalski recording wise?

Price "We are just in the process We spent 3 days in the studio before we came down here recording a single for next year."

Where did you record it?

Price "Paddy B works in a music shop with a studio and a warehouse on the back of it and we record in that for free and we rehearse in the warehouse."

Who is producing the single?

Price "We are producing it and engineering it as much as we can ourselves Paddy B is in control of the computer, Logic and stuff like that. We are sending it off to a producer to weave his magic on it."

And who is doing that?

"A guy called Tom McFall he's worked with Jacknife Lee for many years." O'Hara "He's been his righhand man on the last Snow Patrol and REM albums. He's been engineering it and Jacknife Lee has been producing. "He (McFall) produced an album for an Irish band I think it was Director."

Any plans to tour?

Price "We just got back from doing a European tour so we've got a good few months off now and we are going back over to Europe in April possibly and we'll be playing down south February or March Dublin, Limerick, and Galway I think. Galloway's so much fun."

What bands have you played with around Europe?

Price "We opened for Two Door Cinema club in the UK and Ireland in March. Paddy's brother is in Two Door and they have been a great help to us."

There is a similar sound to Two Door Cinema Club on some songs are you worried that you might get tagged with being a sound alike band?

"Thing is we started first they sound like us" says Price knocking that question straight out of the park, much to the delight of the rest of the band "we are both from Bangor" he continues "so that kind of light breezy pop aspect of our music is in common."

And is there a breezy pop scene in Northern Ireland?

Price "It's just us." Paddy C "Belfast is a funny place a few years ago there was loads of bands all doing stuff and all helping each other out And So I Watch You From A Far, Panama Kings General Fiasco and it didn't matter what you were playing we were all in it together but its all died off now The bands are all gone now." Price "The name of the game is to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible."

So whats the goal for the next six moths?

Price "Just to try and build up our fan base and get some people digging our music so we can play bigger shows. then the single will be out March or April hopefully and then we will be touring to support that. Hopefully down south the UK and Europe and try and hit it really hard in the summer try and hopefully do some festivals in Europe we've been in negotiations with some people and hopefully the Irish festivals like Indiependence."

And long term plans?

"All we are trying to do is make a career out of music. We are not trying to be the next Snow Patrol or U2 or anything. We are just trying to make some nice Lo-Fi Indie music" concludes Price.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Review: Evil Uncle Album Launch - The Sugar Club

The O’Sullivan brothers Stephen & Emmett aka Evil Uncle took to the stage of The Sugar Club bathed in blue light, twinned in grey Dillinger style suits and hats sans jacket, for the release of debut album 'Two Lights Not Broken.' the follow up to the 'Songs for the Road' EP released only a matter of months ago. What followed was an evening of free badges, free light bulbs, free crisps, remaking the acquaintance of a famous childhood friend and above all else music for horses and humans.

Starting with the non album slow/fast turn of Builders the first of many comedic moments of social commentary of the night. A tale of being awoken by construction workers, in the height of the Celtic Tiger erection. “Sonic Boom Explosion” cries the memorable chorus. No Great Shakes: “This a song about realising your to good for someone” boasts Stephen to warm applause and laughter “I’m no great shakes your no big deal” is but one of many self deprecating chorus lines.

We are treated to the traditional singer songwriter mouth organ moment on Junkies, a slow death ballad. Bad Habits is reminiscent of criminally overlooked band The Turtles. It's a fine self acceptance love story with excellent harmonies provided by Emmett. Crooked Heart is another dark love song lyrically akin to Babies era Pulp. While Questions has a beautiful picked guitar intro slowly joined by Emmett on bass drum and melodica.

Album Highlight Sunny Day in Space with its up tempo shuffle beat and jovial lyrics is a feel good mix of Supergrass and Super Furry Animals. “Round of applause for DEL” says Stephen as backing tracks of drums and bass are introduced momentarily, while brother Emmett takes stage right, to provide backing vocals and another gentle melodica melody.

It's now time for the interval!!! Free crisps are handed out by the band. The bemused crowd look lost as Worzel Gummidge appears on the stage backdrop. People settle back and watch an entire episode, featuring Barbara Windsor-post Carry On-in what has now become a giant Sunday sitting room, back from the either. This is an ingenious move by Evil Uncle as they have now secured the love and attention of the audience for the rest of the evening.

When Evil Uncle return Gardening a track from previous O’Sullivan brothers incarnation Dwight receives the loudest applause of the night so far. Gardening is a song about a peeping tom who spends the night in a tree, so close yet so far. Its lyrics are perhaps to knowing not to be true.

“It’s easy you’ll pick up the words. It’s like reading the bible” quips Stephen introducing People Like You and the crowd duly sing along for the repeated outro of “We must not be alone.” An excellent cover version of The Everly Brothers almost brings the house down. Before Everyone Wants Something for Nothing a rock and roll wig out on plastic society, now culture ideals. It concludes with Emmett screaming “Everybody wants something for nothing” down a megaphone for its pounding finale. A fist in the air finale to a unique evenings entertainment. Evil Uncle have undertaken a national tour to celebrate the release of 'Two Lights Not Broken' check them out at the very least you may be baffled…

Review: Preachers Son - Love, Life & Limb

Preachers Son is the brainchild of Kila bassist Brian Hogan and former Engine Alley drummer Emmaline Duffy-Fallon. Their debut album 'Love Life & Limb' is a fast paced mix of turbo charged swamp rock with nods to alternative renegades such as Nick Cave & Lou Reed. Hogan has put aside the bass to front Preachers Son on both vocals and guitar. The vocals are delivered mostly in spoken word format. They bare resemblance to the aforementioned Cave and Reed as well as alternative 80's front men like Andrew Eldritch and Wayne Hussey. There is even a resemblance to Bono on several tracks.

26 Years starts the album off with a dirty Jon Spencer Blues Explosion style guitar blast, before we are diverted to unexpected places through the chorus "I don't really believe you when you say you don't care" would comfortably fit into any U2 album. Born Another Time is a dirty swamp blues stomp panting sexually between Nick Cave, The Sisters of Mercy and Personal Jesus, and also contains some excellent tremolo picking by Hogan.

The voice of Emmaline Duffy-Fallon turns Book of love into Beauty and the Beast for grown ups. The sparse noir arrangement is the first of several tracks build on atmosphere, rather than bombast. The Jarvis Cocker-esque sexual paranoia of single X For Sandra-the best of several duets on the album-Is a bobbing blues boogie, sprinkled with some Bowie magic in the choruses "And this is the time that makes me, keeps making me struck with wonder."

This Time of Life has a white soul era Bowie vibe with funky bass running head first into classic rock riffage. On Lipstick Gavin Friday's guest vocal is cast over a classical landscape mixed with avant garde Diamond Dog diversions for clashes with "bimbo bitches." The albums low point arrives with the over cooked cover of Son of A Preacher Man. It's as ill advised as the Jack White-Alicia Keys, James Bond combo.

It's as if an eerie voice-over from the villain in a Western movie gets things back on track with Rain. The words of wisdom are set against accomplished classical and jazz acoustic guitar phrases. Hogan's voice has its second Bono moment on Heaven For The Moment a mix between Albatross style lead guitar parts and Faraway So Close. It is certainly one of the albums highlights especially when it's "staring down the isles of heaven or hell."

It all goes a bit Led Zep for the eastern tinged Should Have Been Gone. A barrage of instruments are underpinned by a pulsating bass riff. This is the albums only nod towards Hogan's traditional roots. But don't let that put you off its more Aleister Crowley than Fionn Mac Cumhaill. Lost My Faith is a rockabilly firestorm, which Imelda May could only dream of producing, complete with super fast wailing guitar solos and on point horns.

This is certainly the most commendable sidebar from Kila any of its members have embarked upon. Thank God Hogan had the sense to stay away from amateurish TG4 X-Factor style judging panels and focus on the creation of music instead. ' Love Life & Limb' is a bold move by Hogan, but he who dares wins.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Review: Duncan Maitland - Whelan's 11/11/2010

Former Picturehouse main man and Pugwash collaborator Duncan Maitland returned to his adopted home of Dublin for his first solo show in Ireland since the release of his critically acclaimed new album 'Lullabies for the 21st Century' which is currently picking up more 9 out of 10's than an Olympic gymnast's wildest dreams.

In the upper saloon of Whelan's of Wexford St. there's no laptop or backing tracks for Duncan Maitland-as is the fashion for solo performers these days-just him and a twelve string guitar. 'Lullabies for the 21st Century' on the other hand is a lush orchestral instrument laden album with lashings of harmonies. So how will this work then?.

Its easy peasy for Maitland as the albums tacit bedrock of acoustic guitar is revealed in all its glory. Your Century is perhaps better live than on the album. Thanks to this more organic -as it was originally written- style of delivery. The folk boogie of Terry the Toad with its excellent chorus of "Everybody's playing it cool" is well received by the audience, containing some excellent vocal ad libs. Maitland also mouths some organ parts throughout the outro.

"You gotta stand out in the rain to get hit by lightning and I'm gonna stand in the rain for this one" Maitland informs us before inticing the audience to hum in a zen like fashion for the George Harrison influenced Horror Stories an excellent mix of 'Revolver' and The Notorious Byrd Brothers physcadelia. Maitland leaves Whelan's awestruck with an immaculate version of the classic David Bowie song Starman. Note perfect subtle and nuanced it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Album highlight Up To You a tale of tested faith, sex and the No.42 is surprisingly masculine live, minus its sombre trumpet intro. Duncan Maitland is accompanied by saxophone for genre spanning Insect Under the Stone which flips between jazz tinged Rat Pack and ELO acid rock. From Bowie to Bobby Darin, Maitland's voice is sensational and truly versatile.

Hybristophilia is a strange theme for a song "I played this in Wisconsin" quips Maitland with a smile before launching into Fan Club an old Picturehouse song which was revamped for Maitland's 'Live Alien EP'. Fan Club is a dark tale of people who are attracted to serial killers like Wisconsin's own Jeffrey Dahmer and Ed Gein. The lyrical syntax is similar to American Psycho and the music echos this, building to a frantic Day in the Life style crescendo. A dark end to an excellent evening.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Review: Jogging - Minutes

Jogging are a power-punk trio. Their debut album 'Minutes' is released through the Richter Collective whose other acts include Adebis Skank, Enemies and Bats.

Jogging reel in dark shadowy images of modern life and cast back scathing social commentary with sharp venomous tongues. The music mirrors this world view. it's fast, frantic, cascading rage, sometimes unhinged but almost always on target.

Opening track Threadbare has a dirty melodic swagger to it. This up tempo drink-to-forget song is a live highlight and features some excellent distorted bass playing by bassist/singer Ronan Jackson. The track cascades to a close with the repeated melody hook of "I can see through you, we will see this through."

A sunkist guitar riff by guitarist/vocalist Darren Craig eases us into Not Simple. A bruising stampede of One Hand Scissor style rock. A reap what you sow tale of jealousy "You made your bed now lie in it. Even if it’s made of old napkins." While the chorus recoils "Everybody's laughing at your weakness, Everybody's laughing at your name." Once again the bass is excellent weaving around the top notch Robert Frippesque guitar solo.

Fostered Foes is frenetic half hepped up Psychobilly instrumental meets Frank Zappa half QOTSA firestorm. It contains the well known but seldom spoken fact that "Cream and bastards rise to top, the rest just gathers down here with the slop." However the delivery of the word "land" is definetly one of the albums low points.

Shattered Knees on the otherhand is one of the album's highlights containing some classy, funky, punk, guitar riffs "It’s two long then two short for too long" is a fine melodic moment. The interplay between the guitar and bass is excellent. Each keenly deploys its own dancing melody before racing the other to the finish line.

The held-back-scream, spoken word delivery of Shape Up Shakedown adds weight to the broken home scenario. Where "Worthless parents couldn’t care for, the welfare of their heirs." While "Bullies carry broken homes. Youth abandoned, youth unknown." Just like a HSE care home? Perhaps theres even a salute to those who have escaped to the streets "You can say, but you don’t know. When you fore-go the umbrella, there’s a certain drenched dignity."

A stadium rock guitar intro, propels Bruises Like Bow-Ties through the verses. The vocals begin with an astute put down "You blew me away, but not in that good way". Before comic self loathing "If I went to punch a window just to prove a point it’d punch back until my eyes crack." descends into self indulgent screamo. A sad outcome from such promising beginnings.

Thankfully normal service is returned on anger biscuit Cleft Chin, Good Heart. Built around two pulsating guitar blasts. Initial lyric "It’s not love, but it’s affection" acts as a decoy before the groove explodes into anger and remorse "I've got blood on my hands."

If you can get past the decidedly teenage, amateur, bedroom squeakiness of the opening barrage of Lifeline you will find a companion piece for Shape Up Shakedown with more prominent bass licks and spoken word cataclysms. While Judas Priest meets post punk Arboriculture on Heartwood. Minutes closes with the aptly titled Curtains a melodic slice of Dinosaur Jr. style Americana.

Jogging nearly have a four star album on their hands. But they have overstretched themselves in places, cramming to many musical ideas in to songs. The drum sound fails to deliver the bombast that the songs require. A failure on the part of the producer no doubt, rather than drummer Paul Lee who obviously displays the ability to meet the challenges of this genre of music. Minutes however, is worth the download fee alone for standout tracks Threadbare & Shattered Knees and we don't believe you'll find a better punk trio around.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Review: Neosupervital - Battery Power

'Carpe Diem' may have been a more appropriate title for 'Battery Power' the latest album from eighties enthusiast Neosupervital such is the level of pep and can do spirited lyrics contained within its twelve tracks. The songs are heavily influenced by 80's super groups such as Depeche Mode and Tears For Fears and more modern acts such as Daft Punk and Les Rhythm Digitales, spinning tales of love on the dance floor, one night stands, and how self believe will see you through, in the process.

For There's Only This Time an Angus Young style riff is given a full on electronica treatment with Numan synths in the chorus as NSV sings "We gotta do it properly this time." The vocal delivery is akin to 'Much Against Everyone's Advice' era Soulwax. While Dance With You, is an eclectic mix of Herbie Hancock meets OK Go, in a fluffy ode to dance.

Do What You Feel is a summer holiday island dance floor anthem with big bass and funky guitar rhythm figures and a Kenny Loggins style guitar solo. "If you want to be real gotta do what you feel" is a simple but memorable chorus line.

Sun Goes Down is a classic big-hair Depeche Mode style stomper, filled with layered syncopated synths and another sing along chorus. While Instrumental track Then is definitely one for people who still dream of "sand dunes and salty air..." Can't Be On Your Own is pure lovable cheese and even contains the phrase "Danger Zone."

Be Who You Want contains the quintessential 80's pulsing synth line and fractured nonsensical lyrics which somehow work. The influence of Tears For Fears looms large on Sky is Higher, especially on the sound of the lead guitar. This is the best of the more serious sounding songs on the album.

Neosupervital goes bilingual for the half French half English Distant Light. The darkest song on the album it explores the alternative synth landscapes of Talk Talk and Ultravox juxtaposed against a metallic guitar line.

'Battery Power' is an album for fans of 80's movie themes and feel good one hit wonders such as We Close Our Eyes It may be a guilty pleasure for many, but shouldn't be viewed as such. As Neosupervital is a quality songwriter and deserves to recognised as such. Not just celebrated by drunken hordes on the dance floor.