Hil List 2016: Film

The top 10 films of the calendar year (according to yours truly), with blurbs from my Sunday Independent reviews.

  1. Spotlight66914


    “An irrefutable argument for longform journalism is made. Process, procedure and exposition define the narrative, but this Oscar hopeful is full of the quiet detail and thematic nuance that grant it “classic” status. There is no arch villain cackling in the shadows. No gory flashbacks and no all-American grandstanding. The cast is an impressive ensemble but
    Spotlight’s genius is in its calmly urgent take on historical events. In doing so, it makes them all the more sobering and gravid. Compulsory viewing.”

  2. Hell or High Water

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    “Always an actor of huge vitality, Ben Foster gives a career best while Chris Pine shows he’s far more than just a pretty face. The landscape belongs to Jeff Bridges, however. The veteran brings much sensitivity and nuance to such a trope character, and is mesmeric when quietly observed by David Mackenzie’s masterful lens.”

  3. Arrival

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    “Stealthy signals, unforgettable moments and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score coalesce magnificently as an iconic classic of sci-fi cinema, something to cherish for life, is created before your eyes.”

  4. Sing Street

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    “A glorious and irresistible teenage dreamscape opens up before our eyes. It’d be nothing if John Carney didn’t slow the rhythm and let the pulse of young love, and indeed brotherly love, shine through. Between this and the soundtrack – penned by Carney and Gary Clark – expect to be charmed to tears between the bellylaughs. A classic, and yet another durable blossom in Irish cinema’s current purple patch.”

  5. The Childhood of a Leader

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    “US actor Brady Corbet’s first outing behind the lens is an oddly chilling study of the conditions that can create a fascistic ego. Beneath peering camera direction, chiaroscuro cinematography and Scott Walker’s seismic score are ominous discussions on control and rebellion that are handled with a Haneke-like poise belying the 27-year-old’s lack of film-making experience. He secures superb performances from his cast (including Robert Pattinson), most impressively that of his smouldering young lead.”

  6. Paterson

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    “Lean back and let this graceful protracted tremor of a film slow you down to its speed. Paterson will be looked back on as something of a career high for Jim Jarmusch, and also as a signpost that in 2016 screen acting had uncovered something unique and supremely adaptable in Adam Driver.”

  7. Anomalisa

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    “There’s much to take from Anomalisa that belies its soft-eyed dolls and dry wit, not least its meticulous mix of the whacky with hard, uncompromising realism. Even David Thewlis’s bleating feels like “textbook Kaufman”, which is saying something. It’s great to have him back.”

  8. Room

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    Room feels like the culmination of Irish cinema, a sublime interplay of story, talent, vision, sound and feeling that pushes rare buttons. As for Lenny Abrahamson? Well, for many years I swore he was among Europe’s finest film makers. Make that the world’s.”

  9. El Club

    the-club-poster
    “Pablo Larrain’s roving direction and cool framing, Carlos Cabezas’s strings and a roundly excellent cast combine to stunning effect in this magnetic and highly original critique of the Church. Rarely does a drama balance a range of colours – intrigue, repulsion, beauty, dread, humour – with such brazen confidence.”

  10. The Revenant

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    “Some men have all the luck. Others, like Leonardo DiCaprio, are preyed upon by man, beast, element and Alejandro González Iñárritu. In The Revenant, the Birdman director put DiCaprio, his co-stars and the crew through such endurance feats that there was talk of breakdowns and walk-outs on set. Iñárritu’s steel has paid off, however, because this mud ‘n’ blood survival-revenge epic is a genuine masterpiece of 2016 and deserves any further awards coming its way after its Golden Globes rout.”

Every Venue a Cathedral

Those lucky sods going to see Low tonight in Christ Church Cathedral are in for a hell of a treat. With about ten viewings under my belt, they are one of my favourite live acts of all time. Here’s a review I did way back in 2012 of their set in the Button Factory to get you in the mood. Merry Christmas, everybody. 

***

Low
Button Factory, Dublin / July 10, 2012

IT NEVER sounded quite right; “Explosions In The Sky. With special guests Low.” The touring agreement may have suited both bands financially but the suspicion was that it would have curtailed a supporting act that had a good name when it came to showstoppers. With a family illness forcing Explosions In The Sky to drop out, the Minnesota three-piece stayed the course to visit long-time friends in Dublin. While our sympathies are with the original headliners, by the end of this exquisite performance the point has been proven – Low are just too commanding an outfit to play second fiddle. The Gig Gods had conspired wisely.

“Are they awestruck or just polite”, you ask of the quiet heads filling every inch of the venue. “Ssshhh,” someone quips allowed and everyone laughs. Awestruck it is, then, and why wouldn’t they be? Now reigning over a hallowed country that sits on the map somewhere between the prairie harmonies of Fleet Foxes or Bonnie Prince Billy and noise royalty like Dinosaur Jnr and Sonic Youth, Low turn every venue into a cathedral.

‘Pissing’ crashes glacially into view, a tense, deep-water stalk that erupts into a sky-shredding, glistening guitar voyage from the visionary Alan Sparhawk. ‘Nothing But Heart’ soars on similar thermals, his voice interlocking ever-seamlessly with percussionist wife Mimi Parker and floating off into the beyond. Other newer fare like ‘Especially Me’ and ‘Witches’ warp their choral beauty with lyrics about Al Green, baseball bats and moot elixirs. Even an old B-side such as ‘From Your Place On Sunset’ seems imperious on this night, like the most important thing you’ve heard all day.

The spirits are forcing Sparhawk’s brow to furrow and his body to writhe and spasm. Parker and bassist/keyboardist Steve Garrington lilt and sway along with the audience. No one takes their eyes off Sparhawk. When the time comes for an encore, a multitude of song requests are flung stagewards. ‘When I Go Deaf’ shimmers into life, the congregation quickens for the umpteenth time and the Gig Gods smile down at all they have created.

@HAWhiteK

A storm coming

I had an idea in my head of Kate Tempest as an intense lyrical warrior who wouldn’t suffer fools lightly. What a relief to find that the poet/ rapper/ laureate was, in fact, quite lovely when I sat down to interview her a while back for the Sunday Indo. She plays Whelan’s tonight and those with tickets are in for a major experience.

***

WHAT did you call it?” Kate Tempest squints, leaning into the phrase.

“Sean-nós,” I reiterate. We had been talking about the idea of “sung language” when I mentioned the Irish a cappella tradition whereby stories are made song. She loves the concept. “I feel very close to that idea. My experience of telling stories or poems is that communication is a musical thing. I need to hear that.”

This relish from the 30-year-old poet, rapper, novelist and playwright is typical. It is this hunger along with a ceaseless work rate and sheer white-hot talent that saw the Londoner push past the somewhat snooty, academia-led literati to become a new laureate for a new age.

By 27, she’d won the Ted Hughes Award for innovation in poetry for Brand New Ancients, an epic about inner-city life that drew its energies from antiquity. Fellowships and curatorships sit next to a Mercury Prize nomination for her 2014 debut album Everybody Down. As a teen, she was as comfortable in the company of Sophocles as she was Q-Tip and Lauryn Hill. She is at home at both Glastonbury and the Old Vic. Does she lean more to one side?

“It’s not for me to classify myself,” she says, stirring her coffee. “At first I found the term ‘poet’ a very big term I didn’t deserve. Then someone told me it’s a praise word. It’s offered to you. You can be described as a poet by another, but if you describe yourself as one you’re probably not.”

I know a few people who fit that description. “Yeah right,” she laughs. “That rings in my ears every time I say, ‘Hey, I’m a poet!’. It’s more a characteristic, a personality rather than a profession. It’s the way you experience the world. Something will happen and I’ll be like, ‘God, you’re being such a poet, f**king hell!’”

You only have to listen to her speak to know Tempest burns with a conviction all too rare in “showbiz”. Like any artist that matters, she sees the world through a viewfinder all her own. It can lead to moments of localised elation, such as in anecdotes about a friendly itinerant who talked literature with her in a park in Portland, or how at a poetry slam in a Rio favela she saw four generations of a family in the audience.

But for each nice memory there is a thorn in the side. The Brazil story is finished with: “It’s not elitist in a way that in Britain especially is so f**king elitist.” On the encounter in the park, she sighs: “You’re doing a ‘literary tour’ in libraries to ‘literary types’ but the most profound and interesting conversation I had about a book was with this homeless guy.”

Tempest is warm, thoughtful company, but pluck any verse from her catalogue and a leonine heart snarls back at you, one sickened by injustice, greed, waste and violence. In “Europe Is Lost” on brilliant new LP Let Them Eat Chaos, she rails hard. “Massacres massacres massacres/new shoes, Ghettoised children murdered in broad daylight by those employed to protect them, Live porn streamed to your pre-teens’ bedrooms, Glass ceiling, no headroom, Half a generation live beneath the breadline.” Does disillusionment come to us earlier in life these days?

She nods. “Youth is still as difficult and enjoyable as ever but the stakes are much higher. The prospect of catastrophe looms pretty large for this generation in a way it did a couple of generations previously with the prospects of nuclear war. I take comfort in positioning myself on a line that goes back to the beginning of time but it does feel like – and this is my rational mind talking – my emotional core is rattled by the present times. It’d be impossible to be born into these times and not be aware of how potentially disastrous they are in a way that many years ago you couldn’t. It’s in our timeline but it’s also actually happening.”

Let Them Eat Chaos was cut in a studio with super-producer Dan Carey before Brexit trampled into the picture but it is of course on her radar. “It speaks of a worrying trend that in times that feel chaotic and close to crisis you blame others and create divisions rather than heading towards a realisation – which is what the album’s all about – that we are all part of something much bigger than ourselves, and that blame is not useful. And the idea we’re heading towards a surge in nationalism in Britain I find worrying because it doesn’t make any sense with how I understand human experience.”

A pause. One of many today. “That was a really laboured way of saying something simple!” she says, letting through a flicker of goofiness that you doubt Tempest gives enough airtime to. A very becoming sunny smile also breaks out on her face when I ask her about her professed love of the Big Three of Beckett (“He completely cloaks you in his humour and way of seeing things so that you can’t leave the house”), Joyce (“A huge influence. He probably directly led to Brand New Ancients, those ideas about the mythology of the everyday, the immediacy and the eternity of very tiny moments”) and Yeats, for whom all she can do is mime a miniature mushroom cloud exploding in front of her.

There were other inspirations, however, long before the highly literate primary-school girl or the rebellious wordsmith who gravitated towards the hip-hop and dub-reggae communities. Born Kate Calvert, she grew up the youngest of five in a south-east London hotspot of teen pregnancy and violence called Lewisham. Both her father (a lawyer and a glass-blower) and grandfather read Greek and Roman classics to her as a child. There was a teacher – there always is – who pushed her. More recently, there was also a wife who “challenged” all she knew (that relationship, she tells me, is no more). It was her aunt, however, who became a very special kind of role model.

“You’ve done your research…” she smiles. “Yeah, she’s amazing. Women visual artists face a very particular struggle. She would say to me that they only give you your own exhibition at a big gallery as a woman if you’re dead or too old to cause any trouble. If there’s any hint of anything slightly radical, they’ll wait until you’re dead. I think her experiences are not consciously directly related to mine but you look around and you learn about the possibility of living for art. The drive is very familiar; the compulsion, the frequency at which we operate, is so raw and open that until you make some sense of the world, it’s too much.”

Kate Tempest plays Whelans, Dublin tonight. Let Them Eat Chaos is out now on Fiction Records.

First published in the Sunday Independent

Everyone suffers

Space restrictions prevented this review of the pants War On Everyone running in the Sunday Indo last weekend. Ah the joys of the blogosphere. This gets a star just for casting Stephanie Sigman and another for Caleb Landry Jones.

***

War on Everyone
Cert: 16

IF YOU were a crook in Albuquerque, you wouldn’t want to be face-to-face with Terry (Alexander Skarsgård) and Bob (Michael Peña). Without sounding glib, the pair are the archetypal “bad cop / worse cop” duo and have a nice little racket going on in blackmailing and shaking down local criminals with any level of brutality they see fit.

After hours, Michael has family time with wife Delores (the wonderful Stephanie Sigman) while Terry – the muscle to Michael’s mouth – drinks, snorts and dances to Glen Campbell. Their feathers are finally ruffled by Theo James’ posh Brit crime lord and his weirdo sidekick played by Caleb Landry Jones, who are setting up a bank heist. A taste of their own medicine might be coming for Michael and Terry after they look for a cut.

John Michael McDonagh (The Guard, Calvary) is more concerned with zany, adolescent, politically incorrect humour than plot and it is the undoing of this potentially fun caper. A talky, smug sub-Tarantino vibe comes across during the London-Irish director’s first foray Stateside that is too busy and self-satisfied.

2/5

 

What a piece of work

A bonkers premise, perhaps, but McEwan really pulls off this tale of an unborn foetus witnessing a murder. 

***

Nutshell
Ian McEwan
Jonathan Cape
RRP: €19.99

DECIDING upon a starting point for a protagonist to begin their arc can be tricky for an author. Unless we are to go the route of some Russian epic, a key frame within the lifetime is probably best. As far as Ian McEwan, an author never seemingly constrained by the boundaries of normal fiction writing, is concerned, the foetal third trimester is as good a time as any to give voice to a main character. Why wait around for the first breadth, the first kiss or the axial crossroads of an adult life? It might as well be the birth canal itself that puts the “passage” into “rite of passage”.

The child inside the womb of a scheming ex-wife is for sure a novel voice and one that will guarantee that this 14th novel from the UK storytelling overlord has a place in many literary discussions this calendar year, and perhaps beyond.

At the start, it feels too much to witness an unborn contemplate fine wines snobbishly (“You may never have experienced, or you will have forgotten, a good burgundy (her favourite) or a good Sancerre (also her favourite) decanted through a healthy placenta”) or reel at the state of the world it is about to join and the nasty geopolitical and environmental ruin in the post. All this discernment, all this age-earned wisdom and reason has been gleaned from late-night radio documentaries received via the bedside dresser. McEwan has gone too far, you initially suspect.

And then it slowly happens. The outright absurdity of the premise falls to the side. The voice grows gills and begins to bite into Nutshell’s narrative course. Strong whiffs of Hamlet, unhidden by way of paternal ghosts, treacherous mothers and even Danish cuisine, are softly blown your way by McEwan’s mischief. This is an omnipresent but not omnipotent narrator, one that can contemplate and emote in its own way but is more or less powerless to intervene with anything other than a well-timed kick to the uterus wall.

Like the Prince of Denmark, “the mother” and her influence looms large. Trudy is heavily pregnant but still engaging in heated and wild bedroom activity with Claude, the brother of ex-husband John. John is the father and scrapes a living as a diligent small-time publisher of poetry. Claude, meanwhile, was always second best growing up, and like Claudius himself, rises to power via the demise of the brother. He is dull, shallow, trite and speaks in meaningless cliché. He is, however, an expert swordsman in the battlefield of lovemaking, as detailed in frankly hilarious passages of description from inside the hostess (“Not everyone knows what it’s like to have your father’s rival’s penis inches from your nose … This turbulence would shake the wings off a Boeing”). The dim and mundane has cuckolded the noble and literate, McEwan notes of the modern world, and it very much takes two tango, might he add.

The London house they are in, the former marital abode, is worth a few bob, money that Trudy and Claude want to get their dirty hands on. John arrives to the house with a girl who is that bit too pretty, and the murderous seed muttered over by Trudy and Claude germinates into something real and very determined. The lodger in Trudy’s womb, privy to all her changes in blood pressure and mood, despairs at the prospect of his father dying at the hands of both his grunting, illiterate uncle (“when will he learn to speak without torturing me?”) and the person who means more to him than anything else in the universe.

Nutshell would be a harder sell were it not for its straight-up crime fiction DNA which gives a superstructure and builds to a very tastefully rendered crescendo that finds the foetus doing the only thing that it can in order to try to foil the plans. It also provides recesses for the child to consider what kind of world it will be entering and the dilemma that might be thrown its way should it succeed. A foster family or a life imprisoned with Mother Dearest could be inevitabilities of its determination to avenge the father and punish the mother. Hamlet had it easy by comparison.

Understandably, if you’d call it that, matters existential loom large and preoccupy the child’s bemusingly succinct thoughts. A long and thrillingly percussive rant about the ills of a “weak” Europe, the Middle East (“fast-breeder for a possible world war”), China (“too big to need friends of counsel”) and population explosion (“the urinous tsunami of the burgeoning old, cancerous and demented”) are concluded in this tiny brain as the product of humanity’s “twin natures” that it can relate to all too well – “clever and infantile”. “It’s dusk in the second age of reason,” McEwan’s homunculus drily concludes. Then, with tongue slightly in cheek (as it feels throughout this little delicious swagger of a novel), the author riffs from within about how we “excite ourselves with dark thoughts in plays, poems, novels and movies … Why trust this account when humanity has never been so rich, so healthy, so long-lived?”

At 68, McEwan has earned the right to use whatever mouthpiece he chooses to take aim at a world falling down around him, one populated for the most part by idiocy and greed to the point that even a child, unborn, unseeing and yet to take its first breath, can perceive it. The greatest trick he performs here is making it seem like the best vantage point there is.

First published in the Irish Independent

About-face

That feeling when the injustices of history are addressed…

***

The Siege of Jadotville
Cert: 15A

THE fate of the Irish UN Battalion who resisted a six-day attack in Jadotville in the Congo is one of the more shameful passages of modern Irish life. The 150 men of that company and their equally heroic leader, Commander Patrick Quinlan, were shunned on their return after a month in a prison camp following their surrender. It was only through pressure from their families that a 2004 enquiry was held into what actually happened in that 1961 incident and the men could shed the “Jadotville Jack” slur and have their bravery recognised.

Jamie Dornan ably steps into the role of Quinlan in this functional retelling of the events. After a brief intro prepping at home and an expository reminder that Ireland is a neutral country not prone to military conflicts, the action turns to sun-baked Congo where a secessionist government in Katanga is using French and Belgian mercenaries to protect its uranium mines. When a militia loyal to that government attacks the small outpost where the Irishmen are stationed, Quinlan, right-hand man Sgt Jack Prendergast (Jason O’Mara) and the troops bed down and inflict heavy causalities despite being hugely outnumbered, short on ammo and supplies, and largely left for dead by pawn-moving overseers back at headquarters.

This Netflix Original production does a commendable job in bringing the truth to a wider audience. Newcomer Richie Smyth’s film is light on frills, as it should be, the only indulgence being some persistent mood music. Dornan puts in a sterling turn alongside a solid cast that includes Michael McElhatton and Rob Strong (as “The Cruiser” himself, Conor Cruise O’Brien).

4/5

First published in the Sunday Independent

All Tvvins

The debut album’s out today. They play Tower Records at lunchhour. Here’s my State.ie interview-profile with All Tvvins.

***

In Two Minds: The Duality of All Tvvins

IF KUBRICK had choreographed it, it wouldn’t surprise you. A top-floor studio with windows at opposite ends. Perched on each sill and enjoying the Luas dings, gull croaks and exhaust fumes of Dublin city centre are Conor Adams and Lar Kaye. They turn and greet me with uncanny symmetry.

All Tvvins haven’t done an excessive amount to make their creative lair particularly homely. Two desks sit against adjacent walls, each arranged with computer hardware and other modern tools of the tunesmith’s trade. All around them is a carpet of keyboards, flight cases and percussion items. The only sign that 2016’s most discussed Irish musical export have decorated the workspace are framed vinyl copies of The Suburbs and In Rainbows huddled close together on a wall.

It’s easy to imagine Kaye and Adams leaning back during an intensive song-writing session and sighing up at these masterworks, both released years into each band’s careers and both the best thing either has done to date. Although I already know the answer, I ask All Tvvins about their ambitions.

“World domination,” breezes Kaye, swivelling playfully in an office chair and cradling a coffee cup in his palm like the world’s worst Bond villain. Once the half man/half fretboard sledgehammer of Adebisi Shank, Kaye appears in the flesh to be a man unfazed by the everyday stresses prone to the rest of us fools.

Adams, of course, was the Sam Malone of The Cast of Cheers, the frontman with the Reznor-ish snarl that has now softened to a thing of soulful determination that only years can provide. He protests happily. “…But without being funny, we aim high because we believe in our music. And I love it. It’s the music I want to be making. It’s the music I would like to listen to. We’re definitely in it for the long haul. And, yeah… fuckin’ world domination.” (Tellingly, he’ll later cite how heroes The Police began a three-month US tour in New York and how the buzz and audiences grew the further west they got, and call the idea “romantic”).

The width of their horizon doesn’t seem unreasonable, you must admit. As 2013 gave way to 2014, two songs appeared online under the name “Tvvins”, ‘Two Worlds’ and ‘You Better’. These were early fruits of this collaboration between the two old friends who ran into each other one night and decided not to simply liquidise the scattergun shreddings of Adebisi Shank and The Cast of Cheers’ poppy post-hardcore. This had to be more than just another side-project, and very soon was.

And then, in mid-2014, a black-and-white video clip from Asylum Studios of ‘Thank You’ stuck its head above the YouTube parapet and the bullshit was over. Hits clocked up. Interviewers demanded an album release date. High profile support slots with visiting titans (Win Butler and Co, The Pixies, Foals) seemed like the most natural idea in the world. Beards were stroked down to the follicle worrying would the duo outsoar the sum of their parts.

More singles also followed, sizzling confections of hard grooves (‘Too Young To Live’) and precision-cut, Fifa-courting hooks (‘The Darkest Ocean’), each primary coloured and sumptuously produced but with a slight razor-edged bullishness that betrayed each man’s Richter Collective past.

“I guess this band’s done more than our previous bands, and a lot quicker,” shrugs Kaye. “And we take that as good thing. It’s felt pretty gradual up ‘til now, putting our music out and doing small shows. It feels like a natural build to me, not this overnight thing. That’s way better than waking up one day and finding you’re massive – that’s probably going to go away.”

Adams picks up: “We have a huge body of work – songs that aren’t on the album. We always had some things but we were just waiting to get the right recordings and the right songs. There were songs that just didn’t fit, and even now there’s ones that were nearly on the album that we look at and go [rolls eyes], you know that kind of way?”

I don’t but I can imagine. Being signed to Warners has given the duo the luxury of allowing these things to be the biggest concerns of their day but they also see that with the big label and the big budgets comes big expectations, a complaint many bands would love to have even if it mightn’t be “cool” to admit it.

“I think people have chilled out about the whole ‘major label’ thing,” says Lar. “You don’t hear people in bars so much anymore saying ‘so and so got dropped’. It’s like, who gives a fuck?”

“Even with smaller labels,” Adams reasons, “you’re signing a contact to go, ‘right, they’re going to give us some money to record what we’re doing and they’re going to try and make that money back. It’s not like, ‘here’s free money’. We got to work with some really cool people [producers such as Jim Abbiss, Mark Rankin and Matt Schwartz] who we probably wouldn’t have had we not been on a major.”

And here we are, a few short weeks away from the unveiling of that long-mooted long player, IIVV. I’m told I’m the first person to pick up on the Talking Heads influence (“10 out of 10,” Lar applauds) but tracks like ‘End Of The Day’ and ‘These 4 Words’ have inherited the oblique, jilted funk of David Byrne’s troop. Elsewhere, numbers like ‘Too Much Silence’ revive the more muscular, cocksure spirits from the 80s heyday of The Police and XTC.

Kaye may smirk about there being loads of “cheap shitty keyboards” on their debut, but this desire to follow the path of “weird bands” who understood pop structure is further proof of All Tvvins’ refusal to go without leaving their joint mark on the world. They turn to each other often and will step in to finish a sentence by the other. (Kaye: “I was so used to insanely fast tempos with old bands, for me personally it took a long time to just…” Adams: “…Just slow down”). A language emerges, a shared shoptalk that involves “de-gridding” and “swing”.

The pair have known each other since they were teenagers. They both played in critically lauded acts that released cult classics. None of this matters a damn, though. For every Marr and Morrissey, Omar and Cedric, or Fela and Tony, there are countless other musical partnerships that look great on paper but don’t work when the gear is plugged in. Why is this one producing the goods?

Looking at his foil, Adams acknowledges their luck. “They trust each other, you can see that. It is the same with us…”

“We said to each other when we first got together, whatever about whether we can write songs together, we’re willing to live in a van and piss each other off and do what it actually takes to be in a band,” Kaye smiles. “That was one of the first things we talked about,” continues Adams, “being a touring band. Are we up for that?”

Yes, there’s not many people in this world that you can spend an Autumn touring Europe with (as they’re about to), performing by night and slurping service-station pot noodles by day. And with all respect to dazzling touring drummer Lewis Hedigan, it is the duality of All Tvvins that appears to be making this machine tick and indeed tock so beautifully.

From those very first couple of jams in Kaye’s bedroom, they looked at each other and realised this was “going to be a thing”. That said, they both chuckle about it being “a little bit awkward” when you start writing with someone, a phenomenon the pair liken to a kind of “First Dates for bands”.

But two shortens the road, as the old Gaelic saying goes – decision making is quicker and easier. The democratic process of keeping or binning riffs is largely a clean and gentle two-way street inside the Adams & Kaye storefront. This is a bubble, Adams agrees, a place where objective ears are hard to locate and it’s perfectly human, as Kaye puts it, to want to be in a different band some days. That trust holds a great deal of currency when it’s just the pair of you on board.

 To my sadness, my theory that Adams’ lyric in ‘The End of The Day’ (“I will be your shield/you will be my sword/I will need no other … you always make me better”) being about Kaye is “categorically” denied by the singer (much to Kaye’s relief) but he does concede that “it could be”.

Whatever you’d call this – bromance, musical soulmates, yin and yang – it’s working. “I’ll be very honest about this,” Kaye says to the two of us. “I can’t write songs. I’m pretty good with sounds and stuff but Conor is the Songwriter…” He’s cut off by the Songwriter. “Well this is the thing – I can write songs but they usually sound like a bag of crap until he puts his stamp on them. There couldn’t be an All Tvvins song with only one of us.”

By way of explanation, Adams gestures to his desk in the corner of the studio, this room where two men tinker at greatness while two lofty records eavesdrop.

“I have this computer. And he has that one [points]. He’s got crazy noodly stuff that aren’t songs, while I’ve got loads of songs that don’t sound very good at all. So it’s when we swap USBs and it’s when we plug in and jam that we get the best stuff. We need each other for this.”

@HAWhiteK

‘IIVV’ is out today on digital, CD and limited edition vinyl formats. www.alltvvins.com