tag: Music

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.

2 comments  |  Posted in: Media » Audio

Apr 2010

Something for the weekend

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

1 comment  |  Posted in: Media » Audio, Video

Apr 2010

Here Lies Love

As even a casual reader of this blog will know, I’m a big fan of David Byrne. Hell, the blog title is lifted from the lyrics to one of his songs. In 1986 I bought my first album; a vinyl copy of Remain In Light, arguably the best recording in Talking Heads’ magnificent catalogue. Arguably the best recording I own (and I have a large record collection). I bought it on the strength of a mix tape that my friend, P, had made for me. It wasn’t long before I’d bought everything Talking Heads had released, plus the handful of solo albums and collaborations that Byrne had put out up to that point. And they told us that Home Taping was Killing Music.

Since then I’ve gotten hold of everything Byrne has produced; the mainstream releases, the mail-order-only stuff, bootlegs, demos and one-off collaborations on other people’s records. These days my need to be a completist has fallen by the wayside, except when it comes to David Byrne (well, him and Stina Nordenstam, but she’s not exactly prolific). I’m still genuinely excited when I hear about a new Byrne record (or book or tour). His music does everything I want from music. It makes me think, it makes me feel and it makes me want to shake my body rhythmically. Often all three simultaneously.

Because he’s really not let me down in a career spanning 33 years*, I’ve learnt to trust his instincts. So if he thinks that a double-album about the life of Imelda Marcos and Estrella Cumpas (the woman who raised her) with a different vocalist on each track and Fatboy Slim providing beats on about half the record is a good idea, then I’m more than happy to see where he goes with that.

Here Lies Love

And true to form, he’s gone somewhere quite splendid. Here Lies Love is a glorious record. I’m not going to say it’s better or worse than any other thing he’s done, but it holds its own with the best of his work.

Kicking off with the title track sung by Florence Welch, I finally have a song that lets me see what everyone else sees in Florence and The Machine, who — I confess — don’t really do it for me (“overhyped advertising jingles” was how I described FATM recently… but then, I tend to say that about almost anyone who allows corporations to use their music for consumerist propaganda). Byrne’s trademark “strings-and-latin-beats” form the basis of the track, but Welch’s soaring vocals and Fatboy Slim’s thumping bass create a truly ecstatic chorus that I defy anyone not to be humming long after the song’s over.

And it’s this fusion that elevates the record above pretty much any dance-pop out there right now. The vocalists all bring something wonderful to their songs, Fatboy Slim’s club sensibilities are evident throughout, but it never stops being a David Byrne record. There are echoes of Talking Heads all over the place (in fact it’s possibly the most ‘Talking Heads’-esque thing he’s done in years) along with the strings and latin percussion that fans of his solo work know and love.

It’s all there and it all works wonderfully.

While concept albums are often justly criticised for the triteness of the story they shoehorn into the lyrics, this one works superbly. Byrne is one of the great lyricists, despite his tendency towards self-deprecation in this area (“lyrics are just there to fool people into listening to the music”, he once said) and he’s really on form here. The story is deftly woven around the beats. And what a story it is too. Byrne is less interested in the politics than he is in the psychological factors that drove Imelda from her humble beginnings amid the poverty of the Philippine slums to the palaces and power of her latter years. As he says in the publicity for the record… “no, the shoes don’t get mentioned”… instead the focus is on her early life and the burning ambition it instilled within her. Her hunger for power along with her willingness to use her sexuality and sensuality to manipulate the men around her are the central themes here. And remember, those men included Nixon, Mao Tse-Tung and Colonel Gaddafi amongst many others.

While there’s a tiny part of me that’s a little disappointed not to hear more of Byrne’s vocals (he sings American Troglodyte and features on a couple of others including a duet with the breathtaking Shara Worden), there’s honestly not a single vocalist out of the 22 that fail to impress. Steve Earle is the only male voice (aside from Byrne) which perhaps makes his song, A Perfect Hand stand out a little further from the crowd than would otherwise be the case. But each and every singer is perfectly matched to their song. Tori Amos makes You’ll Be Taken Care Of her own, so after a couple of listens you couldn’t imagine one of the others singing it. And the same is true of them all.

Cyndi Lauper’s vocal on Eleven Days is oddly reminiscent of Prince during the good years. The dialogue / duet on Every Drop of Rain is utterly captivating with its description of slum life and the struggle to retain dignity while living on scraps and handouts

They called us garage people
Where we lived there, you and me
When you’re poor — it’s like you’re naked
And every drop of rain you feel

When it rained we slept on boxes
There was water all around

But the people in the big house
Never bothered to find out
No clothes, no bed, no jewelry
Sometimes I had no shoes

A typhoon came — the house collapsed
And the neighbors passed us food

Of them all, though — if I had to pick one — the ambiguous ode to repression, Order 1081, stands out with Natalie Merchant managing to sound plaintive and powerful all at once. A genuinely cracking track.

And all the while, Byrne and Fatboy Slim are turning these strange psychological ballads into music you can dance to. I’m utterly captivated by this record and suspect I will be for some time to come.

* He’s released some stuff that I don’t listen to very often, but nothing I’d consider bad.

1 comment  |  Posted in: Reviews » Music reviews

Apr 2010

Glad To Be Gay

I received this email from Merrick a little earlier. I reproduce it here without further comment. Well, except to say, check out the site. It’s bloody great.

I just made the internet get bigger!

In 1978 Tom Robinson released Glad To Be Gay. It was the first time anyone apart from a handful of gay activists had ever heard a gay protest song, let alone one so bitter and furious. Robinson managed to get it into the Top 20 despite radio stations refusing to play it.

He’s updated the lyrics many times over the years as new issues have come to the fore and old references became obsolete.

I’ve done a website tracking all the versions, with references explained, MP3s, a big interview with Tom and more.

It’s not only musical and creative history, but social and political history too, a lesson in how different attitudes were so recently and how many people suffered despite harming no-one.

Check it out if you get chance: http://gladtobegay.net/


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Apr 2010

We all dance to a mysterious tune

There’s another of those blog memes doing the rounds. I first encountered it over at Chicken Yoghurt where Justin nominated this hilarious version of Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows as the theme tune to his blog.

I thought about posting a theme tune for The Quiet Road but then got sidetracked by a short article on Peak Oil and it slipped my mind. Earlier today though, Merrick picked up the meme over at his place. Those of you who don’t know him won’t realise just how apt his choice of theme tune actually is. Not merely for his blog, but for his life.

Anyhoo, I gave some more thought to what the theme tune for this place would be. The obvious one would be The Overload by Talking Heads (simply because that’s where I took the name of the blog from). But actually, that’s proabably a wee bit darker than is appropriate for this place. And, in truth, there’s a kind of stately genius to the song that I’d feel a bit cheeky claiming as a theme tune.

There was a strong temptation to choose something extremely silly, but I resisted it. I figured that it did actually have to be something by Talking Heads. Nothing else would really do. Which is when this amazing clip came to mind…

Mind by Talking Heads (1982 performance)


I should point out that Merrick has been slandering me at Bristling Badger. His psychotic hatred of donkeys has led to an ongoing war against anyone who tries to lessen the suffering of these often-abused creatures. Take — for instance — forgettably mediocre crooner, Mr. Chris de Burgh (who, let’s face it, is not very good but the first couple of albums have nice tunes on, which is more than you can say for Huey Lewis). De Burgh has worked tirelessly to fund donkey sanctuaries in both Ireland and the UK and as a result, has come under heavy fire from Merrick whose strict veganism is only interrupted by his weekly bath in donkey-blood. Anyway, Merrick’s claim that this blog’s theme tune should be “the 12 inch version of Chris De Burgh’s Don’t Pay The Ferryman” is a cheap shot unworthy even of the most savage donkey-violator. Everyone knows that anything post-1980 by de Burgh is unlikeable MOR pap. Perhaps his saint-like regard for our downtrodden equine friends can redeem this disagreeable musical output. Or perhaps not. Either way, I consider the Don’t Pay The Ferryman accusations to be below the belt, beyond the Pale and unworthy of anyone who’d nominate the Theme from Shaft as their theme tune (no matter what version).

7 comments  |  Posted in: Blog meme

Mar 2010

Discovering a new band

I was in town today and found myself with an hour to kill before the next bus home. I have an established routine for such situations… firstly a trip to Hodges & Figgis on Dawson Street, Ireland’s largest bookstore (famously mentioned in Ulysses) where I’m more than happy to spend a whole afternoon in sedate browsing. Despite having been absorbed by the massive HMV group, the shop still retains a quiet charm and a real sense of history.

Even though it’s possible to spend several hours in Hodges & Figgis, I like to leave 20 minutes before the bus so I can spend a little while wandering around Tower Records on Wicklow Street, a shop that completely transcends its ‘franchise’ nature and contains one of the best selections of non-mainstream music in the city. As I approached the record shop I could hear music emerging through the open door. “Could that possibly be a Joy Division track I’ve not heard?” was my initial thought.

Unlikely. I’ve got all their albums (including the 4-disc Heart & Soul boxset) and I’m pretty damn familiar with them all.

As I crossed the Tower threshold, the music became clearer and it was fairly obvious that it wasn’t Joy Division. Instead it sounded for all the world like what The Jesus and Mary Chain would sound like if they reformed as a Joy Division tribute band. But in a very good way.

I’d no idea who it was, but I was really digging them as I browsed the usual places… no, still no Legendary Pink Dots since I’d bought the last two albums they’d stocked. But at least they had one of those plastic dividers with “LEGENDARY PINK DOTS” typed across the top. A silent promise. Nor could I find the new Peter Gabriel album which contains an amazing cover of the Talking Heads classic “Listening Wind”, which was good enough to make me resolve to buy the album when I see it.

I continued to browse (got tempted to buy the CD/DVD package to Bowie’s Reality Tour) and continued to enjoy the music playing at a pleasing volume over the P.A. system. David Byrne’s latest project (the soundtrack to a musical he wrote about the life of Imelda Marcos; the music a collaboration with Fat Boy Slim) positively demanded I buy it, but my resolve to not spend more than €30 on this visit meant that I had to be careful with the decision. And I found myself — almost without noticing — carrying the recent CD reissue of “Tracks and Traces” (a 1976 collaboration between Brian Eno and Harmonia) around the shop with me. It soon became apparent that part of me was not going to permit the rest of me to leave the shop without it.

So that was one.

I briefly toyed with buying the new Gorillaz album. But it was a very brief flirtation. I have a fair amount of time for Damon Albarn these days and dug the first Gorillaz album a lot. The b-sides and remix album from the same period was also pretty excellent, though the second studio record was a bit of a let down.

And all the while, the Joy Division vs The Jesus and Mary Chain groove had me nodding my head as I wandered the aisles. I still had no idea who it was, but by now the faint twang of Americana had me fairly convinced that I was listening to something from the US East Coast rather than Manchester or Scotland. Eventually a track came on (which I later discovered was called “The Sinking”) which gave me little choice but to walk to the counter and find out who I was listening to.

Alight of Night

Alight of Night by Crystal Stilts.
An excellent album.

Approaching the desk, still clutching “Tracks and Traces”, I asked the girl at the till who we were listening to. She grabbed a CD from behind the desk and I saw an unfamiliar cover and a name I didn’t recognise. The album was called “Alight of Night” by New York band Crystal Stilts, released in 2008. Much to my amusement and delight, the shop assistant had put a sticker on the front of the jewel case. “Recommended for fans of Joy Division and The Jesus and Mary Chain”, it read.

I couldn’t not buy it. The last one in the shop (I wasn’t the first person to buy it on the strength of hearing it in-store apparently). Which is how for a total of €29.98 I emerged from Tower Records with the Eno & Harmonia reissue and an album I didn’t even know existed 30 minutes earlier.

I only just made my bus.

1 comment  |  Posted in: Reviews » Music reviews

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

1 comment  |  Posted in: Media » Audio, Video

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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Jun 2009

The Sunday papers

I read the news today, oh boy…

So sang Neil Young during his Glastonbury encore. I rarely watch festival coverage on TV as it always falls so far short of the actual experience, that I usually end up annoyed rather than uplifted or entertained. Yesterday though, I got completely caught up by The Specials and wound up watching almost their entire set. Thanks to the wonders of modern television, the BBC offered me five screens to choose from. I lingered briefly on each screen (some recorded, some live) to get a flavour of the festival, and I’m clearly showing my age when I confess that The Specials were head and shoulders above the rest. Lily Allen, Lady Gaga, N.E.R.D. and Fleet Foxes all went up against them on the beeb’s interactive coverage. And all seemed somewhat lacking in energy by comparison. A bit lifeless really.

Don’t get me wrong, the crowd seemed to be having a good time at each of the performances, but musically there was just no comparison. Next to songs like Monkey Man, Concrete Jungle, Ghost Town (of course) and a blistering version of A Message to You, Rudy the others just fell flat.

Later, having sat down with a pizza and a DVD (OK, not the edgiest way to spend the Friday night of Glastonbury… I’m pacing myself) I flicked back on the Glastonbury coverage in time to catch the very end of Neil Young’s set. If the encore was in any way characteristic of the entire performance, then I suspect I just missed one of the great Glastonbury shows. Young radically reinterpreted the classic Beatles song, A Day in The Life, turning it into a feedback laden, bass-driven piece of grungey folk-rock. Or something. It was hard to tell exactly what was going on, what with Young having broken every string on his guitar by the time he’d reached about three quarters way through the song. Still he drove it on though, raking the broken strings across the pick-up, the amps, the mics, whatever he could find. All the while stamping on his effects pedals as though he could literally squeeze extra noise from them.

When he finally finished beating the hell out of his guitar with a mic-stand, he strode off stage in the manner of a man looking for a fight. I’d barely had time to utter the words, “Now that’s a real rock star!” before he reappeared to spend about twenty seconds gently tapping on a xylophone before disappearing for good. Incongruous to the end.

Farewell, Mr. Jackson

Of course, despite Glastonbury going on, the big music news of the moment is the death of Michael Jackson. I didn’t really “get into” music until my mid-teens, but Thriller was a huge thing even for me. The video, the songs, the moonwalk, that one white glove… it was more cultural event than album. Did you know that worldwide, Thriller has sold more than twice as many copies as the next highest selling album? It’s sold over 100 million copies. No other record has ever topped 50 million. The popularity of Thriller exists on a whole different level to other records.

And while I rarely play Jackson’s two truly classic records (Thriller and Off the Wall), and while I wouldn’t rate them among my personal favourites, I can nonetheless appreciate the greatness that lurks within. I may be doing the modern music industry a disservice here, but it seems to me that 83% of all records made today — from Beyonce to The Black-Eyed Peas — are faded copies of Thriller. But when Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones and their crew entered the studio in 1982 they were inventing that sound. It was new and exciting, and you can hear that excitement on the record.

I listened to Thriller again yesterday for the first time in a good while. Within 30 seconds of the start of the first track (Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’), it’s only a willful curmudgeon who isn’t having fun (Yeah! Yeah!)

The entire album glides effortlessly along on a series of glorious grooves. Criticisms that it’s “over-produced” or “too smooth” or “too 80s” are — in my view — missing the point entirely. The joy and energy of Thriller isn’t airbrushed out of existence by that highly polished production and arrangement, as happens with almost all of the imitators. Instead, it’s amplified and thrown into sharp relief. It’s celebrated.

And that’s how I intend to remember Michael Jackson. The rest of the stuff? The media circus? I’ll let that slide by.

2 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion

Jun 2009

The Longest Day

Happy Summer Solstice, y’all.

The Street Performance World Championship is currently on in Dublin, so that’s how I’ll be spending Midsummers Day this year. There’s some good weather forecast and the park in Merrion Square is a lovely place to spend a sunny day — even without the promise of a free festival. Eight stages and an extremely eclectic line-up. Like any festie, it’ll be hit and miss I’m sure, but I’m also sure that there’ll be some gems to be discovered and — as I say — it’s a nice location to spend a summer afternoon. If you’re in Dublin, why not get down there?

Speaking of festivals, it looks like the weather will be good for Glastonbury this year (if the long-range forecast is to be believed). The line-up is excellent and really makes me wish I’d gotten some tickets. I’m still planning on one last Glastonbury (perhaps next year?) It was one of the most important dates in my calendar for a decade and I always had a blast. Except for the last one. The last time I went to Glastonbury, it was a disaster… both in terms of the weather and from a personal point of view (things were starting to get a bit grim in my life at the time). So I want to return for one last hurrah. End my relationship with Glastonbury Festival on a high note.

My tip for this year, if you’re going to be there, and assuming they don’t clash with one of your favourites — is to check out Lamb on the Jazz/World Stage on Friday afternoon. Always good live.

And of course, if you’re there and don’t make your way to the Pyramid Stage on Sunday night, then you really don’t know what’s good for you…

1 comment  |  Posted in: Opinion