Monday, March 31

Live review: Efterklang at the Button Factory

While I would be loathe to refer to yet another band’s music as ethereal (the prevalent factor in a lot of the music I‘m currently piping into my head) there really is no other way of putting it for most of Efterklang’s live shows.
They arrived into Whelan’s of Dublin not so long ago and dazzled a small, attentive crowd with their passion, musicianship, delicacy and joy. Their return visit on Saturday night, to the newly revamped, and beautifully lit, Button Factory (formerly the Temple Bar Music Hovel) was simply sensational.
As was the case the last time, the band is in nearly matching outfits. Some of them, mostly Rasmus, have been manning the t-shirt stand before the gig and the octet eventually bound onto the stage, effervescent and beaming, clearly as thrilled to be back as the crowd are to have them. Peppered about a stage packed with all forms of instruments, they launch into a set that includes a beguiling Swarming, Step Aside, Chapter 6 and a scattering of tracks from their most recent Parades album, Frida Found a Friend and Mirador to name a few. A new track, Mirror Mirror, gets a run and on this evidence it could be the single that introduces the group to a (the bastard muso in me grits my teeth…) much larger following.
Efterklang are a band that has somehow managed to find that bridge between the electronic glitch and the organic instrument. They dash about the stage, changing musical equipment seamlessly and all of them participate in the frequent choral vocals. In between songs, a rosy-cheeked Casper engages warmly with the crowd, sharing jokes and laughing, and the band seem to get on so well; it makes you wonder if they could ever have not been together.
No song is a disappointment and when they finish with the gorgeous Collecting Shields and Step Aside, the gleaming glam shoes of Casper toddle off with rest of his Danish troupe to rapturous applause and a palpable elation amongst the chattering fans that you really do not find at many gigs these days.

Interview with Mumblin' Deaf Ro...originally done by me for drop-d..

Mumblin' Deaf Ro is a singer-songwriter of a different ilk to the more serious artistes that have flooded our nation in the last few years. With some of the most original lyrics you'll hear, his songs dip into the hitherto unexplored waters of lovelorn mental patients, failed boxers, and frustrated authors to name but a few. His couple of album's, 2003's Senor, My Friend and 2007's The Herring & The Brine, have garnered impressive reviews yet this has not made him any more prolific and he remains untouched by major labels, something, mind you, that clearly does not phase him.Drop-D spoke to the Dublin man himself (his real name is readily available but I'll laughably attempt to keep the mystery on this page) and tried to scratch beneath the surface of his quirky characters and fingerpickin' blues..

What 's the plan for the moment, following the Adrian Crowley support slot?
I'm playing support at the launch of the new Spook of the Thirteenth Lock album on 18 April; the Cobblestone in Dublin on 10 May; and in Belfast on 15 May. I'm planning more gigs around the country for the summer and autumn, but in general I don't play too often as I prefer to do a small number of one-off gigs rather than a long list of shows where I play the same songs in the same order and make the same wisecracks.
I have also started writing the next album, but it will take the guts of the next two-and-a-half years to finish. It feels good to be writing again after an eighteen month hiatus.
What does your music do for you personally - is it a hobby, a creative release of sorts, or what would you call it?
Music is a way for me to understand my life and to reflect. There are lots of things I think about, but desultorily. Often it's only when I start to articulate a particular viewpoint in a song that all the latent thoughts and feelings washing around in my head begin to surface and come together in a coherent way.
How important is it for you to be more of a storyteller as opposed to delivering more specifically personal stuff?
I don't consciously try to adopt a more fictional style: I just find that a story can make particular personal ideas or feelings more vivid for the listener. What's important in writing is to find something universal in your own personal experience; it's that insight that's worth writing about rather than the personal experience surrounding it.
What are you reading/watching/listening to these days that you are finding interesting, or that you feel really enthusiastic about?
I usually read fiction and have just finished the Hunchback of Notre Dame, which was heavy going. I'm a huge fan of Thomas Hardy and generally enjoy nineteenth century writers such as Dumas, Gogol and Chekov. More recently I've started reading South American and Japanese writers, probably because I need a holiday and fancy reading something from a foreign setting.
In terms of music, I really like the new Laura Marling record 'Alas I cannot swim'. It's a remarkable album and I hope the music business treats her well so that she can make a few more like it. I'm also going through a big Elis Regina phase: her voice is very natural and has an almost maternal quality to it.
Where and when do you like writing your songs? Do you have a specific place or time which best suits you or is it just whenever and wherever you get a chance?
I usually vomit up loads of musical ideas quite quickly and then spend about three or four years walking and singing under my breath; writing and rewriting until I'm happy. Each song takes about three or four months. I never rush things as the world has enough half-baked ideas already.
How ambitious are you for your music and your gigging? Would you fancy living out a few chapters of Hammer of the Gods?
I'm ambitious in terms of the quality of albums I'd like to make. I look at my CDs and books at home and am all too aware of the standards that have been set, and how far I will have to develop to get near them.
I'm not at all interested in working in the music industry. (The feeling is mutual by the way.) Fame was the great failed experiment of the 20th century: it ruined the lives of famous people and their families, and created cycles of expectation and disappointment among audiences. For me, music is joyful and makes me feel alive: it would be greedy to demand more from it than that
My father and my uncle are both long-serving civil servants and are both creative people with numerous extracurricular activities that I think are reactions to their specific work environments. You, however, have said that you enjoy your civil service job. Does the 40 hours a week you spend at your 'day job' feed any aspects of your music at all?
In work I am exposed to new ideas, new people and new demands on my abilities all of the time. I think that in order to become, and stay, creative a person needs that sort of stimulation in their lives. If I were a full-time musician driving six hours a day; playing the same songs over and over; and talking about myself all the time, I would become bored very quickly and my interest in music would almost certainly disappear.
Do you feel that music these days is lacking the certain sense of humour that flows through some of your music?
A lot of songwriters want to be taken seriously or to be viewed as deep or sensitive; maybe that stifles their sense of humour. I have always tried to sprinkle songs with a little humour without necessarily making them funny. I find deliberately funny songs - for example Loudon Wainwright III's stuff - quite annoying.

Wednesday, March 26

(Far from) Electric Picnic

Seriously? Is that the line-up? Why don't we just put Boyzone up there while we're at it.

Monday, March 24

Mad Men: watch it

With The Wire and The Sopranos both essentially finished, a hole has been left in the TV schedule that needs to be filled with something of high quality. It is rare to see a programme that sucks you in immediately and gives you real hints that it may well be a bona fide classic, and that you are going to be talking about it alot with your TV-loving friends. The Wire was certainly a show that started strong and grew better and better as you became more engrossed in the characters, the plotlines and the politics of it all. Mad Men could well be the show to fill the considerable void left by these shows' departures.

The men in Mad Men (BBC4, Sunday. Repeated on BBC2 on Tuesdays) are so called because they're ad men and they work on Madison Avenue, centre of American advertising in the 1960s.
In the early '60s New York ad world, morality has not yet been invented and a thick cloud of smoke envelopes the sharp-suited, racist, sexist, drinking, smoking titular characters.
Matthew Weiner, the show's creator, was a writer on The Sopranos and the similarities are apparent even if the action has moved across the Hudson river, and nearly half a century back in time.

The characers are deliciously complex and are revealed to us slowly - Don Draper (John Hamm), a talented but tortured copywriter, is the main player, but other characters are coming to the fore as the series progresses, particularly the weaselly, snivelling Peter Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser). The impatient amongst you may download the first season from somewhere on the internet, but I'm going to be following it as the weeks go by, with every confidence that it is going to blossom, before my eyes, into a work of great importance in modern television. Another programme that does not pander to its viewers and is an adult work, brimming with snappy dialogue, startling period authenticity and with alot to say, not just about then, but also about now..

Wednesday, March 19

Tuesday, March 18

The Mars Volta live at the Brixton Academy

Myself and a friend trekked excitedly across the water to see The Mars Volta bring their unique sound of glorious, pretentious, engaging, disorganised, periodically unlistenable, often incredible (both good and bad) kind-of-progressive rock musicianship to the Brixton Academy in London after they had failed to announce an Irish date for their current tour promoting their poorly received recent album The Bedlam in Goliath.
It has to be pointed out, to Irish music fans in particular, that the venue was simply fantastic. The Tube zips to Brixton from any central-ish London location (we were in Kings Cross) where, on arrival, we collected the booked-online tickets.
If only we could have a place like this over here.
With a capacity of nearly 5,000 (huge but strangely navigable, quite different to the bastard soullessness of The Point in Dublin)and a kind of Roman-design finish (all pillars and white stone) this is a brilliantly-lit arena with a roof that at times looked like the night sky.
We entered the arena just before 8.30pm and the band had just come on. We then wormed our way quickly down the side and were soon only 30 yards from the stage.
From that point on, Cedric Bixler-Zavala and guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez pummelled the crowd with a nearly-three-hour set of new and old tunes, performed by their eight man troupe that included a demonic, muscular drummer (Thomas Pridgen) and a multi-instrumentalist on the left (no idea) who seemed able to play any, and every, instrument available. Probably at the same time.
With a slightly frustrating commitment and focus, the band did not pause for a single word to the crowd until the very finish. The set was dotted with major 20-25 minute wig outs (notably during Aberinkula and Goliath) and jazz/prog noodlings, never once pandering to anyone but themselves and receiving a few hostile crowd roars, as well as some walkouts 90 minutes in.
But to expect anything else from the group would be naive.
The twiddlings allowed the audience to engage with the band in a different manner to the usual 'Hello, London/Dublin' rockstar platitudes. Zoning out during these jams only made the re-entry to the song more powerful and despite my total bafflement at times, the songs were intricate, wild, aggressive and detailed.
It would be ridiculous to suggest that at least half the gig wasn't indulgent and I won't say it wasn't. Neither will I pretend that much of The Mars Volta's lyrics aren't stream-of-consciousness onanistic gibberish. But it is a long time since I saw a band put in a performance as dedicated as this. I stood beside one die-hard fan who knew every lyric, lick and beat and seemed utterly enthralled by everything that was happening onstage, so much so that I felt guilty for, at times, being unable to keep up.
Whether most people, besides The 'Volta themselves, 'got' the performance or not (including myself) is another matter...but I'm still running it through my head almost a week later. And if this review seems highly confused at times, try heading to see the Mars Volta next time they're in Europe..

Anthony Minghella RIP

News just in that The British director has passed away.
...Peter Bradshaw, later in the afternoon, summed Minghella's legacy up well in this piece.

Friday, March 14

Jollydaying idiots

SXSW...I know..I wish I was there too

As well as all the blogging going on, check out the comprehensive coverage of SXSW over at Pitchfork, with loads of pix aswell as covering nearly all the gigs it seems.

Thursday, March 13

A rare weekend away..

Heading across the water for the weekend with J, to see The Mars Volta and, most likely, die in some kind of horrific prog-induced accident..
That's tomorrow night in the Brixton Academy, then it's Saturday at the Jazz Cafe in Camden to see Steven Reid & Kieran Hebden (hopefully not drunk/lost/exploded by then) and possibly fitting in Millwall vs Leyton Orient(?) since we're in England. That said, the rugby's on so may just watch that. See ya.

Wednesday, March 12

Predator Rap....unbelievable

Bon Iver: For Emma,Forever Ago

If you haven't got Bon Iver's album 'For Emma, Forever Ago' yet, then make it a priority. Thanks to The Guardian's Laura Barton and her piece about the album in the always great Friday Film & Music supplement, I grabbed a copy and was suitably astounded.
Also check out this video for his song The Wolves (Act I and II).
Then, check out the typically indepth and informative review from Pitchfork and you now nearly know it all.
Go get the album.

Tuesday, March 11

Casiotone For The Painfully Alone

Whelans was the venue to which Owen Ashworth returned on a Sunday evening in March - under his more common sobriquet of Casiotone For The Painfully Alone - to deliver a typically raw performance, briefly complemented by the vocal stylings of Jenny Herbinson, but mostly just himself and a boggling amount of electronic equipment over which he seems to have utter control.
His last visit here was a ramshackle and beguiling affair, all collapsing equipment and nervous banter from a man whose lyrical honesty is matched only by his nimble musical fingers.
Having been capably supported by the endearing, thoroughly enjoyable and cutely profane Ugly Megan, as well as Storkboy Choons, Ashworth arrives onstage to a warm crowd, cheering loudly and bringing a shy smile to his face. On his most recent album, Etiquette, an array of instruments were added to the signature electronics and drum machines, but onstage Ashworth does nearly all the songs alone and the appreciation and enjoyment in the room is evident as he dishes out such pop marvels as Cold White Christmas, Young Shields and Nashville Parthenon.
The afore-mentioned Jen, his glowing, bubbly indie-chick sidekick, literally bounds onto the stage for the pulsating Scattered Pearls and the rapport between the two, as they discuss last night’s hotel room excesses of teacakes and Carrie on TV, gets some infectious giggles from the audience.
Two cover versions, Graceland and Streets of Philadelphia (the latter of which suits him so well he may as well have written it), fit beautifully into the set, which is also peppered with a few new tunes, and after a brief encore the crowd finally let him go to enjoy a pint in a venue, and amongst a crowd, that seem to really love him. Here's hoping he makes a speedy return to Ireland.

The perfect coffee

Now this, I want to own..

The Incredible Norton

Brief but groovy trailer for the new Ed norton hulk film. Can't wait.

MGMT gig at The Academy. Prog-tastic

Dublin’s Academy (formerly known as Spirit) was the venue for the spangly, space-prog Brooklyn band MGMT on a blustery Saturday night and by the end of their sparkling, energetic set, Ben Goldwasser and Andrew Van Wyngarden's expanded-for-the-tour ensemble had secured a stage invasion and wild applause for their efforts.
For a new band arriving in Ireland for the first time, they seemed as surprised as I was by the reception from a buzzing crowd of old and young. On the surface it’s all bandanas and 70s glam chic, while the music could be anything from the Rolling Stones to The Flaming Lips by way of a glut of synth, pop, prog, and all-out rock bands from the last 30 years.
The band are genuinely humbled by their treatment from the singing crowd and proceed to rip through their album with aplomb. Kicking off with Weekend Wars' flourishing keyboards is a delicious start to the gig, while Time to Pretend is a fuzzy, thumping delight and Pieces of What takes on a gloriously epic feel as they twang through its sunny-day lazy melodies.
The encore sees Van Wyngarden don a multi-coloured boa of sorts, along with a pair of over-sized shades, to finish with Kids, a booming bassy track that brings the whole crowd to a dizzy climax and prompts a stage invasion that bewilders the venue’s security and sees them eventually shepherd everyone safely off the stage and back to the darkened floor.
Somehow MGMT finish the song, with even Van Wyngarden’s crowd-surfing failing to stop him hitting every line.
A perfect introduction to Ireland for the band, and vice versa. They’re back in May and no doubt the crowds will be even bigger then.

Interview with We Should Be Dead

We Should Be Dead are a Limerick four piece (consisting of Tara - vocals/synth, Anna - guitar/vocals, Stephen - drums, Gary - bass) whose poppy, eminently danceable and unpretentious debut album has been critically acclaimed in a modern music world awash with asymmetrical haircuts and contrived apathy from ‘The Next Big Thing’. Having witnessed the TV abomination that was the NME awards not too long ago, I chatted with Tara, the co-vocalist of this breath of fresh air band..

So how does the interview process work in a four piece like this - have you done many interviews so far?
Weeell, we’re a little bit reluctant to do interviews coz it’s just a bit weird or whatever, y’know? So we just kinda take turns doing it.
Do you find it weird talking about the band and the music?
Well, (laughing), you kind of feel like a bit of an eejit y’know saying ‘Aw yeah, it’s all about the music, maaaan’
Well, you could always take the Bob Dylan approach and just say ‘fuck you journalists’ I suppose?
Oh God, yeah right! It’s just odd, you know yourself..
So how did We Should Be Dead happen?
Ok so, we started off as me and Steve (drums). Steve had three songs and it was supposed to be just a studio project for just, like, recording and just having a bit of fun. Then we recorded three songs with Mark O’Connor from Balls of Iron studios and then one of the songs made it onto a compilation CD of loads of Limerick bands and we were thinking: ‘Well who are We Should Be Dead and what are we doing?’ When it was really positively received Steve rang me and said: ‘Listen people are being really responsive to this and, if you’re up for it, would you be on for maybe recruiting people and actually getting a band together?’ At the time we were in other bands but we were looking to do something a bit different and we thought, well this is the perfect opportunity and we should go for it.
I was in a previous band with Anna (vocals too) and we know each other since we were 12, singing together and writing songs together and stuff and she was an obvious choice. Gary (bass player) had heard the CD and he was really interested and by chance Steve said ‘ Do ya wanna join our posse?’ and that’s how it started.
What kind of sound were you going for when you started out or did the sound just come naturally once you were all together recording the tracks?
We were much heavier when we started and much more of a punk outfit and then it kinda happened naturally when we went to record the album. We didn’t know how they were going to sound when we went to record the album coz we’d never played them live. I mean we knew the structure of them and how they were gonna go down but when all of it came together it was like ‘Oh my god. We’re a pop band. Cool!’ We don’t want to be taken too seriously, y’know? We want people to dance and have fun, it’s a bit tongue-in-cheek. It’s definitely not for the chin-strokers. We were talking about the second album and we want to be sure it’s light-hearted, fun music. Chin-strokers not welcome.
How does the band approach writing the songs?
All our songs are made for dancing. One of the most important elements of WSBD’s music is a singalong melody. The second most important element is a good, strong, dancy drumbeat, like, the melody - so you can sing along to that - and a real stompy, dancy drumbeat and then once you’ve got those two things good and strong, then y’know throw in a couple of funky bass lines and a bit of sparkly guitar y’know and sure you’re sorted. Flyin’ it, know what I mean?
What are the influences for the band beyond the punk sound you may have flirted with originally? Blondie has been suggested as a reference point, along with, maybe, the Shangri-Las. What do you make of that?
We all listen to so many things. I mean, I know the lads like Spector and the 60s girl groups. I mean who doesn’t like all that music you know? But we listen to so much different stuff, I don’t know where we get our sound from. All our influences are so broad, I like to think that if I don’t necessarily like a band but I like a song then that’s good and it doesn’t matter who it is…it could be fucking Britney Spears or whatever! A good song is a good song, you know that kind of way?
Well, her last album had some decent tunes on it, didn't it?
Her last album is brilliant. Anna got it for Christmas and I borrowed from her and it is stomping and I’m not ashamed to say that. I don’t subscribe to the whole ‘Oh, it’s uncool to like that’ thing. People should take it for what it is.
Dublin had a reputation for having a few cliques going on, not too long ago - the singer-songwriters of a few years back for example - but there seems to be a notable amount of comradery between new bands up here recently. How does the music scene in Limerick compare at the moment?
I think the scene in Limerick is great for bands coming up and there are a lot of great acts around here. I mean one of Ireland’s best bands at the moment is still giveamanakick and their third album I know is gonna be just brilliant. I think the Irish people are gonna get a dose of cop-on one of these days and realise how good the two lads from giveamanakick are and will appreciate how talented those lads really are. Another band coming up that I love is Walter Mitty and the Realists; they are such a strong band with a fourth member just joined up and they’re gonna shine this year.
The inevitable Myspace question. What do WSBD make of it?
Myspace has been unbelievable. Sweden and Scotland are the capitals of the world in pop music, they really are. All the good pop comes from there and we’ve made so many friends in these countries that we would never have made before y’know? It’s like we can share our pop roots together and Myspace has made it a really small world in that way.
How have the four of you taken the acclaim your debut album received critically?
I’m very positive about the album reviews but to be honest I’m ready to move onto the second album now. I love the album and I’m still having fun gigging it but as a band we are always trying to move forward and at the moment, because we are in a bit of a lull, we’re not doing so many gigs. We’ve just finished the album tour so we’re trying not to do so many gigs and we’re actually writing for the second album and hoping to record as soon as possible. We want to follow things up fairly quickly; we don’t want to sit on this for the next whatever length of time.
Have you written much for the new album?
Emmmm, we’re nearly there yeah…
Really? So can we expect it within the year?
Emmmm I can’t say yes and I can’t say no.
Evasive eh? I like it.
Well, keep your ears open, that’s all I can say...


Check out this. even though it costs something like 2grand, who's not going to want one?