Friday, January 30, 2009

Youth and The Day We Caught The Train

We all think about the how things were brighter in the past. The summers were hotter, the winters were colder and times were happier (Damn global warming cause pretty soon it going to debunk that myth). To complement the mood you still remember the songs that provided the soundtrack to those heady days before i-pods and music "sharing". How you used to spend hours making mix tapes, waiting patiently next to a radio, tape recorder in hand hoping for once the DJ wont butt in for the last twenty seconds of a song.

So in honour of those more innocent days here are some of the songs that used to make regular appearances on some of my mid-nineties mix tapes. You cringe at some, you smile at others but all the songs at one time or another meant something.
Word of warning this is going to be a Britpop montage!
Oasis "Stand By Me"
Blur "End Of The Century"
The Connell's "74 - 75"
The Longpigs "On and On"
and obviously given the title, Ocean Colour Scene

Thursday, January 29, 2009

From Crisis To 5 Covers

After yesterdays rather depressing Davos '09 blog ending in a doom laden Arcade Fire song, I reckon its time to get back on an upward trajectory and talk about some of the best covers around. So what makes a good cover? Is it a totally new way of interpreting an old song, if that was the case we all would be in love with the X-Factor hatchet jobs on Snow Patrol's "Run" and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" and those covers are just shocking.

So I've decided you have to be a band with some form of street cred or the song has to be a hidden gem that was previously under-rated. All up and coming bands out there should consider at least one wisely chosen cover! Although on second thoughts that plan did not exactly work for Toploader dancing all the way back into the moonlight!

Radiohead "Nobody Does It Better"
The White Stripes "Jolene"
Pixies "Winterlong"
Muse "Feeling Good"
and finally....
Clayhill "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want".

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Crisis..... Let's Have A Meeting

Davos '09 see's the thirty eighth meeting of global political and business leaders in Switzerland. It's that time of the year again as the world goes about trying to save itself from the mess it created in the previous thirty meetings. It is comforting to note that Citigroup are part of the Global Risk Network seeing as they have been so successful of late managing their own internal risk, the lunatics have well and truly taken over the asylum!

One of their main findings is that developing nations economies aren't as decoupled from major global economies as previously thought. Surely this isn't a surprise as globalisation is about the interconnection of all economies for the generation of wealth for the chosen few. What we want to see this year is real leadership and not the pandering to global business of previous conferences. A clear strategy will have to be formulated to ensure a Malthusian future does not await. Unfortunately it appears we lack both the vision and the political will to devise never mind implement adequate solutions.

If Diamond was right in hypothesis of why societies collapse then we are all in real trouble.... What song to soundtrack this doom and gloom? I think I'll go for the Arcade Fire, "Intervention".

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Plenty Times

After a quick browse of youtube some shocking statistics emerge... There is just something wrong with the world when there is 113 million views of Avril Lavigne "Girlfriend" and Cork's finest with "Plenty Times" ironically enough only has 600 plays. If this is a reflection of the world we live in no wonder people are printing money and hoping it solves the problem of being in hock for trillions. "Quantitative easing" is they new buzz word, but this video is just pure gold. Here are the Franks...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Working On A Dream

No album for years upon years then two in the space of six months. Bruce is out doing himself in his old age. "Magic" saw the E-Street Band re-united once more and was a step into the mainstream again with the FM Classic "Radio Nowhere" and number of other cracking tracks the stand outs of which were "Devil's Arcade" and "I'll Work For Your Love". I've just had a few listens to the new album that is released here on the 27-Jan and the standard has not dropped.

The track which everyone will know is "The Wrestler" used on the soundtrack to the film of the same name. An acoustic classic which would not be out of place on a Bruce Springsteen solo album. Think "Nebraska" meets "Devils and Dust" and a genuinely good fit for the film. The rest of the album harks back to typical Springsteen subject matter of love, chasing dreams and the spirit of America. An album of hope in these bank fueled times of crisis. It's guaranteed to provide new material for the never ending touring schedule.

If released twenty years ago it would out-sell "Born to Run", unfortunately "Working On A Dream" will not be as successful but not for lack of quality just that the era of eighties hysteria will never be re-visited however the man still has an eye for an ingenious lyric though. It's a must buy and an album you will just keep returning to. Hope does still appear to spring eternal.

Here is a track off the new album courtesy of, don't ask how I got to listen to the new album. "My Lucky Day", eighties vibe and sax solo. It's all good.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Philosophy Hurts My Head

I'm currently trying to read Bertrand Russell and a "History of Western Philosophy" and it really is a struggle. This is supposed to be entry level stuff and really my head is done in from it all. It's like a self help book but without the answers, its funny but still sixty percent of it goes over my head. I suppose there was always going to be difficulty in drawing a line from Plato through Descarte to Kant. That is even ignoring the more modern stuff such as Gray and Dawkins to name but a few. So far all I can make out is that by staring at a steeple for a while the human race can make a leap forward in understanding what it means to exist. Insightful stuff!

Anyway it has got me thinking about what should music really say to us, okay so it didn't, I was looking for any tenuous link from philosophy to music without mentioning Wagner or The Beetles trip to India. Should there be a spiritual side to the whole thing or is it enough to write about broken hearts and getting wasted. Are there any real philosopher type artists out there in mainstream music that write about the human condition? Who is challenging what we perceive to be reality? Is this just a load of bollocks and we spend too long sitting around just thinking about or on the other hand is this just an argument to stop us questioning and quiet happily go with the flow? It's a Pandora's box when you get into this material.

So this got me thinking, what songs are out there that have pushed us to think a little bit deeper and not just hum, "I kissed a girl and I liked it". One thing for sure is Thomas Aquinas I am not. So here is what I've come up with... Modern music meets a couple of thousand years of philosophical debate. God bless (if he exists, hedge my bets ala Pascal) the Internet.

British Seapower "Atom"
Modest Mouse "Bukowski"
Neil Young "After the Goldrush"
The Pixies "Where Is My Mind"
I really should have thought out this list before I posted but this is all I got.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

More Bible References Than A Christian Rock Band

It is to my constant shame that it was not until 2007 that I bought my first Hold Steady album which was "Boys and Girls in America". Filled with more pop references than should be possible it also managed to intertwine rampant drug taking, violence and bizarrely enough Catholicism. Craig Finn obviously never heeded the call of Mr. Russel or Mr. Dawkins although that being said it is a unique brand of religious fervour.

The songs filled with tales of Charlemagne, Gideon and Holly flow from album to album maintaining a narrative through-out each album. None more so than "Separation Sunday" charting an epiphany of sorts culminating in "How A Resurrection Really Feels". It does echo the work of The Replacements and Bruce Springsteen and even going back to the books of F Scott Fitzgerald and the questioning of the American Dream. While Bruce sang of leaving the badlands, Finn speaks of pills, hazy memories and celebrating the scene.

The Hold Steady have been on a upward trajectory since "Almost Killed Me" was released with their most recent offering "Stay Positive" producing classic hooks and sing along choruses. A mix of wordy lyrics and rock music... in a word BRILLIANT

5 Steps with The Hold Steady
The Swish ("Almost Killed Me")
Your Little Hoodrat Friend ("Separation Sunday")
First Night ("Boy and Girls In America")
Chips Ahoy ("Boys and Girls In America")
Stay Positive ("Stay Positive")

White Lies but not as you know it

What happens you mix the influences of Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits and Ryan Adams with a childhood based with in Cork? Usually a poorly written blog, but in this case a treat for all singer/songwriter lovers in the form of Mick Flannery's second album "White Lies". An album which has garnered much local and national air-play through the pop driven beat of "Tomorrow's Papers" and as a result generated much interest in the shy Blarney stonemason.

The album belies the age Flannery with blues tinged songs covering a varied series of topics from a one night stand ("Goodbye") to world slowly consuming itself with violence ("Wait Here"). The album improves with every listen and this is really due to the quality of songwriting. The album opens with the stunning "Safety Rope" ("I want my innocence back, I want my confidence back, I don't want to feel like this no more") and just continues on an upwards spiral. This is the kind of album the alights the music scene and is destined to be an international seller

Currently touring Ireland, Mick plays De Barra's in Clonakilty 29-Jan. Even better live its a gig that shouldn't be missed. Here is an acoustic performance of "Wish You Well".

Monday, January 19, 2009


Every now and then music surprises you.There are pretty much two ways to conquer the music world, option 1: have circa €1,000,000 outlay, blitz marketing and airwave campaign, major record company backing and bludgeon the world into believing that the music is worth buying and listening to (thank you Mr. Cowell) or option 2: retire to the woods in deepest darkest America and record music that speaks of loss, break-up and love, hope that one day through word of mouth the album will gain world wide attention.

Although the second option rarely works every now and then a gem of an album is created that by-passes the corporate dragnet and gains recognition through the standard of the music. Bon Iver released one such album in early 2008 with "Emma, Forever Ago" with a collection of songs that were bleak, sparse and genuinely breath-taking in the mould of Bruce Springsteen's "Nebraska". There were no weak tracks on the album and it included the classics "Flume" and "Skinny Love" which were without doubt some of the best songs of 2008.

Following hot on the heels of the album Bon Iver have released a four track EP "Blood Bank". Recorded at the same time as the album these songs are no cast-offs or a cynical effort of profiteering on the back of the albums success (not looking at you Coldplay... ahem). The four tracks: Blood Bank, Babys, Beach Baby and Woods are along the same lines musically as the album although Woods has a slightly bizarre sound driven by unusual beats and some nice voice distortion. Its all good and should do as well as it predecessor. Still its not a get up and dance EP but has a quality that just doesn't leave the listener go, you just keep coming back for more. Low-fi, not over produced and a soundtrack for closing out winter. You can't ask for much more. A cabin in Wisconsin could be the answer to some of music woes!!

Take a look at a home camcorder and some dubious recording of a recent Bon Iver concert, crowd movement and grainy images for free. Bon Iver: Blood Bank

First Post and it starts with White Lies

Its a new year and according to every music journal in the world there appears to be a contender for album of the year. After much hype and airplay (thank you NME) White Lies release their debut album "To Lose My Life". The album harks back to the sound of Joy Division and can find comparisons with more modern artists such as Editors and Stellastar*. Doom laden lyrics and base driven tracks are the modus operandi of this group and a hype warranting appearance with Jools Holland Later On... have set the band up to be a fixture on the summer festival scene with main stage credits surely beckoning.

The album lacks a certain sense of immediacy but after a few plays it does grow on you while never hitting the heights of the Editors debut. The sound and content are relatively dark but nothing that hasn't been seen before. The opening track and first single is the stand out of the album however the majority of the album fails to replicate the simplicity and impact of "Death". "I picture my own, cause fear has got a hold on me" will never be considered for fell good lyric of the century but it does give a sense of where the band is coming from.

That being said the album isn't a complete mess and can be considered a qualified success. It's a solid start but it doesn't deserve the band being hailed as musical saviours. However no doubt airplay, fame and money await for White Lies, but don't believe the hype...

Check out the video that's been played non-stop on pretty much every alternative music channel on earth, White Lies "Death"