Hil List 2016: Music

Despite the small matter of Mother Nature trying to kill every last musical icon, it was a fine year for tuneage. Here’s what rocked my proverbial boat. Blurbs/links attached where possible.

 

Gigs of the year

At The Drive-in / Vicar St, March 26
“Chaos and petulance have made way for generosity and focus. With this first night of their huge 13-week tour triumphing, the quintet genuflect back to the troops with sincerity. Both parties walk away feeling tonight had no right to be this good.”
Full State.ie review

The Gloaming / National Concert Hall, February 2
Soon in danger of having a wing named after them, The Gloaming swept into Earlsfort Terrace and reminded all in attendance why this is one of the most exciting musical concoctions this island has ever witnessed. Martin Hayes’ quintet have fashioned a musical colour palette all their own.

White Denim & Wyvern Lingo / Whelans, Aug 16
“I’m standing in a glacial queue to enter Whelan’s on the last night of summer. From inside, the burnt-sugar groove of ‘Sweet Life Ruiner’ wafts out between the gaps in the shuffling ticketholders. Wyvern Lingo are opening proceedings tonight, which given everyone’s giddiness about the headliners’ return to these shores is a bit like being told you’re flight to the Maldives is getting a free last-minute upgrade.”
Full State.ie review.

Whole Lotta Zepp / Sugar Club, Oct 8
It’s becoming an annual chore thinking up superlatives for this hallowed night every October. Like the best things in life, the recipe is simple – three drummers, the country’s finest rock musicians and a classic Led Zeppelin LP to worship communally. Simon Freedman’s Sugar Club militia are redefining the phrase ‘tribute act’.

Cathy Davey / Whelans, Oct 22
A welcome return for Lady Davey, who took a night off from being an animal-welfare heroine to show that all that hay and manure have not dulled her artistry or stage chops one iota. Like flicking on a lightswitch, she and her brilliant backing band put more hard-touring acts to shame.

Wyvern Lingo / Button Factory, Dec 3
“So yes, eff you, Dingle. You may have offered botanical gin, propeller-scarred dolphins and Girl Band for sustenance this night but we’ve been served the most nourishing thing to come out of Bray since the Kilruddery Farm Market.”
Full State.ie review

 

Best Albums
1. Blackstar – Bowie / 2. Human Performance – Parquet Courts / 3. Mangy Love – Cass McCombs 4. Peel Sessions – The White Stripes / 5. The Gloaming 2 – The Gloaming

 

Best Irish Albums
1. The Gloaming 2 – The Gloaming (my State.ie interview) / 2. Is – Bleeding Heart Pigeons / 3. IIVV – All Tvvins (my State.ie interview) / 4. At Swim – Lisa Hannigan / 5. New Forest – Cathy Davey

 

Best Songs (this changes every day so… yeah, right now, like)

1. Drive It Like You Stole It – Sing Street

2. Dollar Days – Bowie

3. No Tomorrow – Suede

4. Europe is Lost – Kate Tempest (my Sunday Independent interview)

5. Too Young To Live – All Tvvins

6. Berlin Got Blurry – Parquet Courts

7. Sweet Life Ruiner – Wyvern Lingo

8. Mrs Dwyer – The Gloaming

9. To The Rescue – Divine Comedy (my Sunday Independent interview)

10. Scared Money – NxWorries (my indirect nod to the passing of Prince)

 

Advertisements

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

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

National Gloaming Day

The new album is out today (it’s sublime), they’re taking over the National Concert Hall for a week (it’s going to be incredible) and, with all that going on, two of them still found time to chat to little old me for State. Here’s how it went…

***

The Gloaming: Space, Time and the Science of Play

A SENSE of timing does not necessarily equate to a handle on time itself. Or so you’d first think talking to two fifths of The Gloaming. Vocalist Iarla Ó Lionáird and hardanger d’amore supremo Caoimhin Ó Raghallaigh snuggle on a couch like brothers reunited after years apart. It’s only been six weeks, I point out.

“Ah yeah,” shrugs Ó Lionáird. “But sure that’s a lifetime ago.”

He’s probably right. Time is a relative concept, after all. Six weeks ago was December. Christmas was approaching and the most discussed Irish music outfit in years had wrapped recording on their second LP at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in Wiltshire. The Gloaming 2 lands in all good record stores this Friday and sees lightning strike twice for a group who with every song and sold-out show seem to rewrite the periodic table of traditional music science. If they seem delighted to see each other again it is because the atoms that make up Iarla and Caoimhin – and their chemical brothers Martin Hayes, Thomas Bartlett and Dennis Cahill – like to be around one another. This reunion on a hotel couch metres from their spiritual home of the National Concert Hall is a quantifiable response of that.

“Really cool” is the phrase Ó Lionáird today uses to describe the “shared headspace” the band very quickly click into when they converge. It is in this place that the unpredictable is given licence. Essentially, the former Afro Celt Soundsystem man says, all five are “solo voices swimming around each other, reacting on the fly”. “When I think of other acts I’ve been involved in, this has a lot more ‘active variability’ because we don’t make records using lots of overdubs or anything like that. It’s all ‘played’. And to be frank, it always surprises me what we’re able to do together.”

More spacious and hard to hold than its 2014 predecessor, The Gloaming 2 is an astonishing collection that will do the hyperbole surrounding the quintet no favours. ‘Fainleog’ trembles with the dark, passionate energy the Spanish call duende. A stunning guitar intro by Cahill on ‘Oisin’s Song’ gives way to breeze-blown string serenades by Hayes and Ó Raghallaigh and Bartlett’s rich ivory foundation. ‘The Booley House’ recalls the extinct house dances and “fun” spirits of Clare tin whistle legend Micho Russell and fiddle institution Junior Crehan that Iarla today speaks wistfully of. Like, say, the guitar playing of Andy Gill, things become conspicuous by their absence only to make dashing entrances once again (see the thrilling late surge of ‘Mrs Dwyer’).

The road-written songs were recorded in five days, the same time it took to pen that self-titled debut. Back then everything was “fuelled by a sense of the unknown”. If they now knew that anything was possible when they convened, what replaced that energy this time around? Without wishing to get all Rumsfeldian, did any new “unknowns” reveal themselves?

“Well there’s always unknowns,” Iarla counters. “There’s still a huge amount that just depends on the day and what decisions you make. I think especially with Caoimhin’s music, Martin’s violin interplay with him and Thomas’s piano, there’s a lot of improvisational language.”

“Absolutely,” beams Caoimhin. “I’m always looking for the unknown. There’s an energy that’s very important in terms of what the music carries rather than just ‘executing the plan’ accurately, whether you’re performing on stage or recording in the studio. It’s hard to quantify but it’s microscopic, a difference in feeling that you can’t explain. The word ‘unknown’ certainly hasn’t gone away from what we’re trying to achieve.”

For a collective of such lofty abilities – a “super group”, perhaps, but never a “supergroup” – to sit in a confluence where critics, audiences and even heads of state bow in reverence is a rare thing these days. Opera houses and Proms palaces would only do, and if an Uachtarán should shuffle in to Earlsfort Terrace one night (as he swore to me during a recent encounter that he would), he will be as likely to sit next to a world music buff as he would a Fumbally beardstroker or a lover of contemporary classical.

“There’s a fair proportion of people who come to see us who don’t have much knowledge of traditional Irish music,” Iarla nods. “I have a feeling it’s much larger than one might think. People respond to the energy rather than the surface form. It seems to bypass those stereotypes. And it’s nicer to operate just on the basis of ‘music’. Just the thing itself. It’s a blindness worth having sometimes.” He turns to Caoimhin.

“Old traditional music has things in it that are extremely powerful that we don’t understand,” Ó Raghallaigh adds as if pondering black holes. “But they’re there and you can speak that language or take the essence of it and tap into it without understanding how it works. If you ask what Irish music has to offer the world, it’s this incredible richness and depth of feeling that you’re not manipulating, you’re not using. It’s just there and it’s coming out.”

The more the two speak, the more aligned the dimensions of arts and sciences become. There is a reason for this. While seeming to dwell in the elusive musical world of feeling, sensation and harmony, both men are actually – whisper it – scientists.

Ó Lionáird has been a “passionate” lover of science throughout his life and keeps an eye on advances around the world. Ó Raghallaigh, meanwhile, worked at a particle accelerator in the US in 2000, if you don’t mind. Surely they therefore love plans, designs and equations, I protest. How do they square this with songwriting that is so instinctual, unplanned, unscripted?

Iarla nods and points approvingly at the air the question sits in. A knowing look is conspiratorially exchanged. “Caoimhin is a physicist by training,” he frowns, “I’m just a gobshite who likes science.”

“A Trekky,” hoots Ó Raghallaigh before straightening himself. “There’s a couple of things,” he begins cheerily. What follows is a perfectly reasoned, join-the-dots deductive argument from one of the world’s most experimental fiddle players. He speaks of science being analogous, and that where one aims to get to in music is the same as where one aims to get to in science. Convergent play. Divergent play. Locating breakthroughs by building logically on what went before or else via something that nobody else ever thought of. The only difference in what musicians do and what visual artists do, he claims, is in the relationship to time.

“Which is extraordinary!” he finally gasps. “You think of a writer or a painter or a scientist who can give 70 years of their life and not get that audience-artist interaction. I always thought of it as a point of infinite sharpness where things come into being. That’s where you want to be.”

“It’s the sense of wonderment,” Iarla sighs. “I love reading about how a scientist dealt with something or their lifetime pursuit of something. And I agree with Caoimhin that we’re fortunate when we’re on stage that we can create these long passages of focus on just wonderment or ‘bliss’. I’ve tried it before with different outfits but The Gloaming seem to be able to do that more effectively. Music is incredibly powerful at generating this unusual relationship with time, creating and sustaining that place where people can drift into wonderment. It sounds very pretentious but that’s really what music is for, in my book. It helps you then to achieve other levels of feeling and understanding because you’ve opened up that space.”

Space. Time. Active variability. Theories of evolution. Bricks and mortar to The Gloaming’s creation of the intangible. But the pair then slot a keystone into the algorithm that shifts in meaning with each utterance: “Play”.

Ó Lionáird speaks of not being “a player” and how the music his cohorts make is “played into existence”. Ó Raghallaigh, meanwhile, uses the word in its leisurely sense, echoing Damien Hirst’s argument that all art is childish.

“That’s what ‘play’ means,” he avers. “This childlike delight in finding new possibilities in the same backyard that you’ve known your whole life, and it’s all utterly transformed every time you step into it. It is a space that you know intimately but it’s full of surprises and infinite variety. And to play in that is to treat it like a playground, to romp all over the place and have great fun and kind of hang out, or sometimes just sit down in the middle of it or sometimes go on rollercoasters. It is that sense of joy that’s very important. That can be high-energy joy, or it can be very quiet, repetitive joy. Inherent freedom in every moment. There’s still a lot of space to explore. We’ve by no means exhausted what the five people in the band can produce, and I think that’s quite exciting.”

The two share yet another look. Atoms dance. Potential energies fire. Scientific theory has rarely seemed so supernatural.

The Gloaming 2 is out today on Real World Records. The Gloaming play five sold-out shows in Dublin’s National Concert Hall on February 27th and 28th, and March 1st, 2nd, and 3rd 2016.

First published on State.ie

What? Another year?

AS THE embers of this topsy-turvy 12 months fade, my enduring moan has to be, well, moaning. We have now entered a point of no comeback in the Age of Preciousness. It is now the inalienable right of everyone with a touch screen and a twitter account to be “offended”. To thumb shrill denunciations when their own personal (keyword) viewpoints are challenged or someone else out in the digital abyss is merely blocking their view. To only have two responses lined up when a new story, quote, opinion is reported on; righteous indignation or silence. We, as a species, now seriously need to get a life.

Helping with this, however, are the arts, music, books and cinema specifically.

From a phoenix-like Death From Above 1979 through to The Gloaming’s spectoral cartwheels, right up to Gaz Coombes and even the stupidly fun Prison Love (and their barbershop quartet alterego The Larkfield Four) just last night in Whelans, it was yet another “best year ever” in what now feels like a lifetime of them.

The same is precisely true of cinema, where directors like Dennis Villenueve, George Miller, Andrew Haigh, Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, Abderrahmane Sissako, JJ Abrams, Todd Haynes etc burned images into my mind that I will never be able to shake.

Kevin Barry’s Beatlebone reminded us that this kinetic Irish misfit now inhabits a realm all his own, part Joyce, part Waits, part Father Ted. Like U2’s frankly omnipotent demonstration in the 3Arena in Novemeber, Jonathan Franzen proved just too bloody good to throw stones at with his fifth novel, Purity. Unputdownable, in every sense of the word. She’d hate to be mentioned anywhere alongside Franzen but my friend Helen Macdonald raked in the awards and travelled the world this year with her genre-clashing masterpiece, H Is For Hawk. It is simply all this eerily brilliant writer deserves.

Wishes for 2016?

For All Tvvins, Walking On Cars, Bowie and Lenny Abrahamson to actualise the hype and make good on their promise.

For Queens of the Stone Age and PJ Harvey to rediscover danger, economy and, in the case of the former, Greg Ginn riffs.

For Ships to get me moving and for Tool to darkly bamboozle.

For Pugwash to break through properly, and for Neil Hannon to impose his genius deafeningly on the record-buying public.

For the shagging public to buy those records.

For Le Bataclan to re-open with a sold-out carnival of beautiful, eternal, defiant rock ‘n’ roll.

For an end to artists and freelance journalists being underpriced and undervalued.

For Paul O’Connell to lift another European Cup wearing red.

For the stealthy crawl of Celtic-Tiger revivalism to be bludgeoned dead in its tracks.

For 1916 to be reviewed with a clear lense.

For the so-and-sos of Paragraph 1 to grow a set.

And would it kill ye to sort out some summer weather?


F
irst published today on State.ie along with similar contributions from colleagues there. Happy New Year, everyone.

Kurt’s Vibe

Love me a bit of Kurt Vile, but he can be a tricky sort live. Last week’s Vicar St show was top notch, however. Here’s my State review.

***

Kurt Vile and the Violators
Vicar St, Dublin / Nov 15, 2015

TONIGHT feels different. When we last met Kurt Vile, there was a somewhat detached air about the hirsute guitar maestro and erstwhile Warrior on Drugs. This heavily subscribed Vicar St show sees him joined by threepiece backing band the Violators, whose fraternal presence appears to temper the 35-year-old’s more curtained tendencies. They also help make flesh the ranging, circular rock songs that we felt didn’t get fully airborne last time around due to it being a solo acoustic show.

Vile may resemble a bed-headed guitar tech and sing in a resigned drawl but the vibe the quartet conjure is, like Vile’s career in general, the stuff of fierce determination. That voice is less a disseminator of poetic visions than a read-back from his own slacker diary, a one-man conversation about times hazy and perplexing on the great Americana highway. ‘Dust Bunnies’ (one of many highlights off this year’s believe I’m goin downserved up here) uses douses of organ and a steady thump to get heads nodding. During the bittersweet bliss of ‘Walkin’ On a Pretty Day’, the wirey frame and formidable mop curl over the guitar as he goes off on one of his refreshingly indulgence-free solos.

Yes, where Vile goes so too does a crisp, multi-coloured guitar style that is all his own. Tonight, he swaps banjo (‘I’m An Outlaw’) for sumptuously finger-picked acoustic (‘Stand Inside’, ‘That’s Life, Tho’) for Fender Jaguar (‘KV Crimes’, the dusty ‘Wheelhouse’) whipping them off impatiently afterwards as if fearful of a sag in atmosphere. When someone deliriously blurts out “Kurt Vile!” amid the howls of approval, you question his concern.

‘Freak Train’ makes for a perfect crescendo, a frenzied, saxophone-buoyed celebration of rock ‘n’ roll in all its adolescent chaos. Security-riling scamps are up on the shoulders of others. Vile holds his Jaguar aloft like a beacon as FX pedals squall through the room of grins. There are no salutes or shout outs to our fallen brothers and sisters in Paris. It’s not his style. But what he’s done tonight has sounded a reminder to jaded hearts everywhere following the atrocity just 48 hours previously. The message is gin-clear: Rock ‘n’ roll will never be killed. These nights will never be taken from us. Nous Somme Bataclan.

Girl Band, you know it

They were to attack Dublin’s Button Factory this Saturday night but have cancelled the rest of their tour. Sooo… thought I might repost a recent review I did for State.ie of Girl Band’s unforgettable debut LP Holding Hands With Jamie. 

****

Having a song called ‘Heckle The Frames’ might be an indication of Girl Band’s attitude to “serious music”. Similarly, when you manage to piece apart the frantic yelps and adolescent wails of frontman Dara Kiely you might register mentions of Nutella, corn on the cob and garlic cheese chips. “Kids today,” you might harrumph, but why then do these nine songs from the Rough Trade ruffians feel like the one of the most straight-talking and expertly measured rock debuts in recent memory?

Controlled chaos defines Girl Band’s oeuvre. Take ‘Pears For Lunch’, which chips and taps with post-punk drill bits before pushing you down a pit filled with staccato guitar lacerations and brain-jamming bass pecks. Album opener ‘Umbongo’ is a straight-up aural mugging, a vicious industrial acid test for scenesters thinking the Dublin quartet could be their latest trendy Spotify search. “Survive this, and you can stay,” it screams. ‘In Plastic’ pulls a neat trick of a doo-wop rhythm and nightmarish guitar discord from Alex Duggan, as if some grand malignancy is being kept at bay via incantation. Brilliant bassist Daniel Fox slides around woozily on the primal pummel of Adam Faulkner on ‘Paul’, lurching towards a death disco riot that would send The Horrors scarpering for cover.

And then there’s Kiely. On the near eight-minute litany of outbursts that comprise ‘Fucking Butter’, the vocalist flits between an array of settings; a white-noise scream; a giddy, spit-flecked yelp; a slack background rant like a regretful reveller ejected from a Minor Threat gig for slam-dancing. He’s free associating at breakneck speed as ‘The Witch Doctor’ hurtles this astonishing album towards the cliff-edge. He might just be serious so seat-belts are advised.

4/5