category: Media » Audio

Feb 2011

Something for the (election) weekend

In honour of the most important election in recent Irish history…

… stealing all our dreams…

Found out this morning
There’s a circus coming to town
They drive in Cadillacs
Using walkie-talkies, and the Secret Service

Their big top: Imitation of life
And all the flags and microphones
They have to cover our eyes

We play the sideshows
And we like the tunnel of love
And when we ride the ferris wheel
We’re little children again

And when they’re asking for volunteers
We’ll be the first ones aboard
And when the ringmaster calls our names
We’ll be the first ones to go… to sleep

Stealing all our dreams
Dreams for sale
They sell ’em back to you

On with the show
Start the parade
We sang along
Sweep us away

It’s political party time
Going down, going down
And the celebrities all come out
Coming down, coming down, coming…

The sun is going down
And the dogs are starting to howl
We stay out after dark
Eating cotton candy
And the music’s playing…

How we all laughed!
We split our sides
The cameras flashed
We almost died!

The rain’s gonna pour on down, falling out of the sky
Coming down, coming down
And the celebrities all run out, and the rain’s
Coming down, coming down

Gonna rain,
Gonna rain, gonna rain
Gonna rain, gonna rain,
Rain, rain
Rain, rain

And now I wonder who’s boss
And who he’s leavin’ behind?

Talking Heads: The Democratic Circus

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Aug 2010

Something for the weekend

Can’t go wrong with a bit of Christy Moore. Ireland’s finest folk singer (which is saying something). Always righteous, always passionate. This particular song was written by Shane McGowan and while I love The Pogues, I think the simple voice and guitar treatment suits Aisling better than their full band version. Enjoy.

Christy Moore

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Aug 2010

Incredible Justin Bieber track

I know nothing at all about Justin Bieber except that he’s a teen idol-type pop singer whose adoring 13-year old fans have used social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to turn him into a worldwide star.

There was a time, in my late teens and early 20s, when I’d have been made very irate by his massive success. These days I’m more tolerant of the tastes of others, no matter how bad they might be to my ears, and instead simply ignore the ocean of dross that passes for popular music. I know what inspires and delights me and I stick to that. Others can wallow in filth if they so wish… I have neither the time nor the energy to harangue them about the terrible choices they make.

That said, I have just learnt (via Twitter, inevitably) something new about Justin Bieber. And that’s the fact that if you slow down his song, U Smile by a factor of 800, you get a genuine ambient masterpiece. Seriously, check it out. Marvellous stuff.

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Aug 2010

Something for the weekend

When I’m out walking with my mp3 player on, I often put it on shuffle and let it choose the vibe for me. Usually after three or four songs it’ll have found an album that I want to listen to and I’ll take it off shuffle. A few days ago it randomly hit upon What a Day That Was from the early David Byrne solo album, The Catherine Wheel. It’s not an album I listen to as much as some of his other work, but it’s been a joy to revisit. A mixture of songs and instrumentals, including several collaborations with Brian Eno, it was recorded as a soundtrack album for a dance company.

Now dance, as a spectacle, has never been something I’ve been interested in. I enjoy dancing, but not watching it happen. Whether it’s ballet or more contemporary stuff, it’s just not — as they say — the bag I’m into. Nonetheless, a few years back I tracked down an old VHS copy of a performance of The Catherine Wheel, partly out of curiosity and partly out of that weird completist compulsion that I still have for David Byrne’s work. Sadly, it failed to convert me and I never watched more than half of it.

Nonetheless, as an album, The Catherine Wheel is still a great listen. And that well-known Talking Heads concert film has a wonderful version of the song that drew me back to it. Enjoy…

What a Day That Was – Talking Heads
From the concert film, Stop Making Sense

Note: it was only after I published this that I realised I’m a full day early for “the weekend”. It’s just midnight and I’ve spent the entirety of Thursday convinced it was Friday. Isn’t it weird when that happens?

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Aug 2010

It Says Here

Imagine switching on the TV at quarter to nine some Tuesday morning and seeing this.

I thought I’d share an odd slice of the 80s with my one remaining reader. The song and the performance are classic Billy Bragg. Strident, no-nonsense social commentary that remains as relevant now as it ever was (more so, in fact). But the context is just so bizarre. BBC Breakfast Time television… a cultural vacuum designed to do nothing more than fill air-time between news bulletins. Possibly the most conservative (small ‘c’) broadcasting environment outside US televangelism; certainly not a place you’d expect to hear a hard-hitting assault on tabloid media culture and conservative (small ‘c’ and capital ‘C’) politics.

Introduced by Selina Scott in a positively restrained hair-do (bearing in mind the year) holding an album in a manner which suggests she’s never seen one before. And followed by Mike Smith (Princess Diana’s favourite DJ, let us not forget) looking bewildered; no doubt trying to work out how to segue between a song telling us that “politics mix / with bingo and tits / in a money and numbers game” into Russell Grant’s astrology segment.

Anyhoo, enjoy the song. It’s a bit of a belter.

It Says Here — Billy Bragg
Live on BBC Breakfast Time, 1984

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May 2010

Something for the weekend

Do I Love You? (Indeed I Do)

Merrick turned me on to this song a while ago and despite it having been co-opted by the advertising industry it remains one of the most uplifting and downright joyous records ever made. It was also one of the pieces of music played at my wedding last week. Enjoy.

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Apr 2010

Something for the weekend

Please Don’t
The first single from Here Lies Love
(vocals by Santigold)

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Nov 2009

Something for the weekend

Something of a departure from the type of music I occasionally post here. I’ve been reading a lot about Brendan Behan lately (though not, I must admit, reading a lot of Behan’s work — which is close to the top of my ‘to do’ pile). Behan was a writer, a drunk, an Irish revolutionary, a convict. And many other things.

His first play was The Quare Fellow, set in Mountjoy Prison in Dublin and inspired by his own time spent there. The play opens with a song… a dirge almost… which has proven both enduring and influential, and has been covered by a large number of artists including U2, Bob Dylan, Cat Power, The Pogues and every single folk band in Ireland.

Exactly which version is the definitive one has, I’m sure, been the subject of many a Guinness-fueled dispute. For me though, it comes down to one of the two versions by The Dubliners. And as much as I love Ronnie Drew’s vocal, it’s the Luke Kelly vocal that I come back to most often.

The Auld Triangle by The Dubliners, with Luke Kelly taking lead

I’m intrigued to note that a collection of Brendan Behan’s aphorisms has been published. It’s out of print apparently, but thankfully Dublin still has a few decent second-hand bookshops.

I have never seen a situation so dismal that a policeman couldn’t make it worse.

The Bible was a consolation to a fellow alone in the old cell. The lovely thin paper with a bit of mattress stuffing in it, if you could get a match, was as good a smoke as I ever tasted.

I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer.

Brendan Behan

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Nov 2009

Something for the weekend

Jane’s Addiction | True Nature
How you treat the weak / Is your true nature calling

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May 2009

Some Bowie for the weekend

OK, so the weekend is half done, but it’s a bank holiday over here, so I have an excuse. Anyhoo, I’m still going to post this for your delight and delectation. It’s a Bowie video. A 1997 live performance of ‘The Man Who Sold The World’, reworked radically in a drum-n-bass meets discordant guitar stylee.

The Man Who Sold The World. Live, 1997.

I was listening to some Bowie earlier today. I had him on random play, and at one point African Night Flight found itself shuffled up next to We Prick You. The former is the gloriously weird second track from 1979’s Lodger (it’s one of his best vocal performances, which — given that it’s Bowie we’re talking about — is really saying something). The latter from 1995’s 1.Outside.

It was seamless. And I thought to myself how incredibly fortunate it is that Bowie, against all the odds, got a second wind. As a glance at this page will show, I listen to far more of David Bowie’s music than anyone else’s. Even if you add on David Byrne’s solo stuff, Talking Heads are quite a distant second. And while only lists the stuff I play here on my PC, I’d wager that my mp3 player has an even bigger Bowie-bias.

Sadly though, by the time I discovered Bowie (the mid-80s) he appeared to have passed his peak. Having single-handedly invented half of the sounds being made during the 1980s, he decided to take a mountain of cocaine and rest on his not inconsiderable laurels. The man fell to earth. The singles were still great (Let’s Dance, Loving The Alien, China Girl, This Is Not America, and so on). He hadn’t lost his touch for writing a great song. And that voice… well, so long as he still had that, everyone desperately wanted him to keep making great records. All of which made the sad mediocrity of the albums so much more difficult to take.

And there the story should have ended. Nic Roeg got it right.

Except he didn’t, did he? Bowie should have got fat and complacent. But instead he got creative again. And started doing unexpected things. And despite having spent the eighties lambasting him for his predictability, the music press hated him for it. How dare he not be written-off when they said he was. First came Tin Machine and The Buddha of Suburbia soundtrack. Both of which deserve some serious reappraisal, incidentally. Then Black Tie, White Noise which is no Lodger, but it is an album by someone who gives a shit again. What the hell was he up to?

None of these, though, could prepare anyone for what happened next. He only called up his old mate Eno, and went and made an album that’s just as good as anything he did in the 70s. OK… not just as good, but a truly worthy heir. Which, technically, shouldn’t have been possible. When 1.Outside came out, I felt like he’d realised that there was a whole bunch of us who’d simply been too young first time round. Listen to that album with open ears. Play it loud, give it your full attention and it opens out into something dark and thrilling and genuinely wonderful. It’s not quite Low, but it sits comfortably beside it… wrapping itself around that same corner of your soul that’s never been the same since Warszawa.

Seriously, if — like most people who appreciate genuinely good popular musics — you think Low is an extraordinary album, then do yourself a favour and play A Small Plot of Land (track 4 off 1.Outside). It’s coming from the very same source. Albeit with rather more control and self-referentiality. But I think we can forgive David Bowie the occasional knowing smile.

Most people couldn’t have returned from The Serious Moonlight Tour. But Bowie wandered far further into the wilderness than even that. He went all the way to The Glass Spider and still found his way back. Nobody else could have done that. But, of course, Bowie is the coolest man on the planet (what with being from space, or another dimension, or something), so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.

In fact, he’s been able to treat the world to another decade of great music. Three of his post-80s albums get regular play on my mp3 player.

And I got to experience it first hand. No, I wasn’t at Hammersmith in July 1973, but I embarked upon an epic winter hitch around the UK in pursuit of the 1.Outside tour (granted the vibe was rather different — more post-apocalyptic industrial decay / less glittery space operatic). But it was utterly incredible. Sure sure, it got a bit psychotic at times, yes that’s true, but it was one of the great defining times of my twenties (a 36-hour hitch in a blizzard with a massive speed comedown… me and Justin, we didn’t have Vietnam, or The Somme, or the beaches at Normandy… we had the Severn View Motorway Services). I may have to post the full story of that hitch one day. It’s an epic voyage into the Heart of Darkness complete with angels, demons and Cliff Fucking Richard.

The above video, so you know, is the version of The Man Who Sold The World played on that tour. Clearly you won’t get the same shivers down the spine that it gives me, but I hope you dig it.

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