My Birthday Gig-Talulah Does the Hula, Pocket Billiards, SilhouettE

21 07 2009

On August 28 I turn the grand old age of 30, so I thought what better way of celebrating the fact than by putting on a gig with some of my favourite bands. The date for your diaries is August 29 and I’m putting it on in association with the folks from the Big Gig. All money on the door gets split equally between all three bands, so come down and check out the show. Here’s the press release below and I’ll keep everyone up to speed over the coming weeks…

GENERATION WHY???  (IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE BIG GIG) PRESENTS:

TALULAH DOES THE HULA

PLUS POCKET BILLIARDS AND SILHOUETTE  

Spring and Airbrake, Belfast

Saturday, August 29

Making their Belfast debut, Dublin supergroup Talulah Does the Hula (featuring former members of NME and Hot Press darlings the Chalets and Neosupervital) bring their 50s inspired brand of Phil Spector-esque anthems (before he went mental of course) to the masses, promising good times and great tunes for all. Already a hit with the press, the four girl, one guy combo are said to have been brought together by a mutual love of the tropics, harmonies, bouffants, sex (how rude!), sunshine, outdoor drinking and groups like the Shangri-las and the Shirelles. Fans of perfect slices of power pop should clutch the band to their chests now, but don’t take our word for it, here’s what the critics have to say-

“Ireland has a new perfect pop band to fall in love with.”  Hot Press Magazine

“One of our favourite new bands of the year” State Magazine

Also on the bill are the world’s best party band (yes, that’s official) Pocket Billiards. who bring their full ska orchestra with them and it’s a rare chance to see the group before they head into the studio to record their debut slab of wax. As if that wasn’t enough, erstwhile Poet’s Pocket Symphony and Angelfall chanteuse Shauna Tohill’s latest musical incarnation SillouettE (who is sure to charm the under-crackers off of the crowd at this year’s Glasgowbury) rounds off an eclectic, yet electric bill.

To download a Talulah Does the Hula press pack click on http://brixtoncat.com/talulah/TDTH_EPK.zip

Venue:                          Spring & Airbrake

Date:                              Saturday 29th August 2009

Ticket Price:                £4.00

Doors:                          9:00pm

Links:                        http://www.myspace.com/talulahdoesthehula

                                    http://www.myspace.com/pocketbilliards

                                    http://www.myspace.com/silhouetteofficial

                                    http://www.myspace.com/thebiglistni

 

 





More Anti Stuff

17 07 2009

As I’ve mentioned before-the Anti exhibition is now up and running and I thought it might be nice to publish the piece I wrote for the Therapy? section, so here goes.

Therapy?

“I was 13 when Therapy? first burst onto the mainstream boasting short sharp shocks for the masses. The year was 1993 and at that point in history cock rock was still very much in vogue, but these three short haired blokes from mid-Ulster bucked all conventions with glee, irrevocably snaring millions of jaded metalheads under their spell in an instant. While their peers pranced and preened during their endless guitar solos (snore), Therapy? gave us three minute slices of lunacy served up with a side order of perverted punk rock bravado. Needless to say, I was in love the first moment I heard the opening chords of ‘Opal Mantra.’

While I found the skewed guitar solos and oddly named tracks jarring at first, I knew that this was where the future of rock music lay and I wanted in on it too. So, ever the comic fanboy, I sold old copies of Thor, Captain America and others, bought a busted up bass and amp and formed a band in a bid to ape their sinister, but utterly perfect pop songs. I wasn’t the only one either. You see Therapy? gave hope to a generation of NI musicians that it can be done. You really can boot down the doors of convention and “make it” on your own terms. Best of all, the boys (Andy Cairns, Michael McKeegan and Fyfe Ewing) actually cared about homegrown acts too and took the likes of Joyrider and Ash under their wing, giving them their first crack at fame and helped kick-start a resurgence in local music not seen since the seventies.

These days I firmly believe that without Therapy? leading the charge in the early nineties, NI’s music scene would be a very different place indeed. Perhaps what is most exciting is that they’re still continuing to kick ass and take names to this very day, making some of the best music of their career. A few years ago I got the band’s mirrored question marks from their ‘Infernal Love’ album tattooed on my arm and it’s a permanent reminder that regardless of what the cynics say-music can really change your life forever. Twenty years on and the Church of Noise’s sermons are as loud and proud as they ever were and I for one wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Edwin McFee is a music journalist and writes for NME, Hot Press and AU.   





The Rumble Strips

16 07 2009

Well I’m back from Oxegen and despite getting utterly drenched and my phone drowning from all the rain, it was great fun. Highlights were Lady Gaga, Nick Cave, Therapy?, Katy Perry and the Gaslight Anthem and the reviews are in this week’s Hot Press.

Anywho, yesterday I dug out my copy of the new Rumble Strips album so I though I’d reprint the review up here to get back into the swing of things.

The Rumble Strips

Welcome To The Walk Alone (Island)

Four out of five

Welcome To The Walk Alone is the Rumble Strips second stab at fame and the cinematic slab of wax is almost certainly a step in the right direction. Produced by Mark Ronson (yes, he actually produces music when he’s not falling out of clubs with Daisy Lowe) songs such as ‘London’ and ‘Daniel’ have his finger-prints all over them. In many ways, Welcome To The Walk Alone is a bit like an old Brit flick from the 60s. The melodies are swooping, the lyrics drip with toothless melodrama and the staccato rhythms sound like they are right out of a Dusty Springfield single.

To say that the Rumble Strips owe a debt to Dexy’s Midnight Runners is like saying Marilyn Manson is partial to a little bit of make up every now and again. Literally every song from ‘Sweet Heart Hooligan’ to ‘Dem Girls’ oozes Kevin Rowland-isms, but since the former frontman prefers to sully his good name by cross-dressing and acting like a mentalist these days, we’re happy to have Rumble Strips’ Charlie Walker take his place. Welcome To The Walk Alone succeeds when it’s at its most pure. ‘Running On Empty’ is almost like a Shadows record (only, y’know, good) and the retro riffage is tastefully done too. All in all, it seems like the second time is the charm for the Rumble Strips.

 Key Track: ‘Running On Empty’

Edwin McFee





Just a Beard

4 07 2009

In honour of my brother growing a wee beard-here’s a video that made me smirk recently-





Anti Exhibition

3 07 2009

This Tuesday sees the Launch of the new Anti Exhibition which sees various NI luminaries pay tribute to 10 trail-blazers from the last few decades. I wrote a piece on one of the bands but I’ll keep it under wraps until it’s up and running (in fairness though, it doesn’t take a mind reader to guess who I offered my thoughts on).

Here’s the press release below. You should really check it out-

 Anti / 7 Jul 09 10:00 am-31 Jul 09 5:00 pm / Waterfront Hall / Free

Belfast is often portrayed as a city of two opposing cultures, but throughout the recent history many have chosen to align themselves with a third. The often bleak setting young people in Belfast found themselves in meant that many, feeling no affinity with either of the traditional tribes, through themselves enthusiastically into the music scene. And if that scene embodied a rejection of the status quo, a resounding two fingers to the establishment, then all the better.

Anti is about documenting this part of our culture, ensuring that when people look at the cultural history of Belfast they get more than two tribes.

We asked you to send your answers in on a postcard (both literal postcards and digitally, through forums and networking sites) to let us know what iconic people/places/events/times symbolised Belfast’s alternative heritage for you. Everyone was then invited to debate these symbols and we got together to decide 10-12 iconic subjects for this exhibition.

The list of Belfast’s icons was never going to be exhaustive. We felt it was important to acknowledge the multifaceted web of people, places, things and events that went together to help form this alternative culture. This isn’t about nicely mounted pictures in a white-walled gallery either; this installation is designed to present Belfast’s icons in the quotidian, gritty reality in which they existed. We’ve mounted your icons on toilet walls, so that you can look, praise and defame them at your leisure.





Gallows interview

3 07 2009

Here’s a reprint of my Gallows cover story for AU.

Gallows

Misery Loves Company

Words by Edwin McFee

As Gallows return to the fray bigger, better and ballsier than ever before, we sit down with frontman Frank Carter to dissect their new album ‘Grey Britain’ and talk bloodshed, bad tempers and being spokesmen for the next generation.

“Great Britain is fucking dead…”  ‘Crucifucks,’ Gallows, ’09.

 “For the past three years we’ve been such a cartoon band in the press,” spits Hertfordshire-based hardcore punk Frank Carter. “Everything they thought we were-we weren’t. Everything they made us out to be was wrong. This time around it’s all about the music. The press have had three years of us getting in fights, spitting and having tattoos and I think the general public is bored with it all now. They know we’ve got tattoos, they know sometimes our shows can get a bit raucous and there is plenty of blood, sweat and tears, but now people want to genuinely hear the music and see if there’s substance behind the style and the fact of the matter is that there is. We’ve always been about playing live and living and dying by our music and now we’ve got a really solid record behind us that we’re all extremely proud of.”

If Frank sounds more than a little fucked off, then he has every right to. You see, ever since his band arrived on the scene a handful of years ago with their debut ‘Orchestra of Wolves’ it seems that the five-pieces’ collection of tattoos and craving for chaos has fired more people’s imaginations than their ballsy brand of sonic smackdowns that former WWE superstar Stone Cold Steven Austin himself would be proud of. But that’s all about to change once their sophomore effort ‘Grey Britain’ hits the shelves.

“This record attacks everyone. It’s anti-authority, anti-religion, anti-government-it’s anti-life really. It’s mainly anti-apathy though. I want to try and break the idea that you can’t make a difference. I’m speaking to the kids of the world and trying to tell them that they can change things if they want to. A lot of the younger generation feel worthless and feel like they can’t make a difference but in actual fact they are the future for all of us.”

It’s quite surreal talking about educating children with a man who’s become notorious for busting himself open (albeit unwittingly) at gigs and who can often find himself strangled by his own hatred, but even the most pig headed right wing bigot would admit that he’s talking sense on tracks like ‘London is the Reason’ and anti binge drinking anthem ‘I Dread the Night.’

“It’s time for a change,” offers Frank, warming to the subject. “Whenever anything falls to its lowest point, that’s when the power is really up for grabs and that’s when it can go back to the people. When you’re put in a situation that is just horrendous, they can take the power back and I think that’s what needs to happen and I’m not talking about a revolution of riots-I’m taking about a revolution of fresh education and to help people dream again and start having aspirations. I want listeners to know they can do something with their lives-whatever you want to do-you can do it. Everyone goes through that bad spell of being a fuckin’ raucous teenager, getting fucked up, going down to the park. When you first find girls or boys it’s fuckin’ exciting, but really, the problem is that parents aren’t teaching their children that it’s ok to go through that but to find yourself while you’re doing it.”

“Take that 13 year old kid who became a dad recently,” he continues. “He needs to realise he’s got nothing to offer that child. He may think he can look after it but he can’t because he can’t even look after himself. At that age you can’t even legally get a job, so how can you expect to look after a family when you can’t even work. Parents now are teaching kids that it’s better to claim the dole and benefits than it is to go out and earn a living and that’s really got to change. We have to try and impress on these kids the value of a hard day’s work. It’s difficult for me because I’m in a position where I’m doing what I love to do. When I’m not in the band I try to tattoo as much as possible but that’s still a very easy job compared to most. I worked hard to get there though. These days, the only time now where I feel like I’ve done a hard day’s work is when I’m out in my garden with my brothers. We built a fence last summer because the old one was haggard and we rebuilt it by hand and we really felt like we did something good and I think we need to instill that sense of pride in one’s work to the next generation. We need to make children contribute to society or else there’s not going to be a society anymore. I just want them to have pride in themselves.”

 

And this renewed sense of pride is a theme that runs through ‘Grey Britain’ like the River Thames. The lyrics may be grim and cover a range of topics like the hypocrisy of religion (‘The Great Forgiver’) and politics (‘Black Eyes’) but there’s an over-whelming feeling of catharsis too. A feeling that if we all turn off Jeremy Kyle for half an hour and do something with our lives, then we can achieve something positive. In short, ‘Grey Britain’ is possibly the greatest punk rock record of our generation.

“This album is pretty much exactly what we wanted,” states the singer. “We’ve always been fighting against ourselves but now we want to offer something to people and prove that there’s more to punk rock other than venom. Like look at children now-they are the next wave of prime ministers and police and priests and teachers and you kinda think-what good do they have to look at in the world. There’s nothing there. That’s going to make for a very bleak outlook. If they don’t have something to live for, what can they then offer their children? Hopefully we can provide the alternative.”

The theme of ‘Grey Britain’ is a pretty simple one. It’s Frank Carter saying “the world is fucked and so am I.” However, with lyrics which bathe in images of Union Jacks, does he worry his songs might be misinterpreted? As a way of explaining the point, AU tells the singer that Iron Maiden’s cover for their single ‘the Trooper’ (a tune based on the Crimea War during the 19 century that features a red coated Eddie on the sleeve holding a Union Jack) was adopted by loyalist paramilitaries in this country. They even went as far a painting Derek Riggs’ image on a wall in the Maze prison, thereby totally missing the point of the song and high-jacking the image for their own purposes. Does he worry that the BNP or, on the flipside, anti-British factions may do something similar?

“You’re completely right-I am worried about that. I was very careful when I came to writing the album because I didn’t want it to be adopted by the wrong crowd of people,” admits the singer. “For example-the lyric ‘Great Britain is fucking dead’ is just a line about how I feel and about how a lot of other people feel. It’s not hard to see that the world is fucked but I don’t want anyone twisting my words. I’m not singing for anyone other than myself and the generation of children that are coming now because everything is in their hands.”

As well as a marked musical change (more on that later) Frank has also made a conscious decision to alter his lyrics too. Gone (well, for the most part) are the crude curse words of ‘Orchestra of Wolves’ and obvious as a high-waisted trouser joke round Simon Cowell’s gaff imagery and in its place is a more restrained, yet still utterly pissed off prose.

“I’ve still got the anger in me, but it’s more refined and focused this time around. Beforehand we were quite a messy band and on the last album I was always behind everyone else. The music was always written and I was usually late with my lyrics, but this time I got to sit down and consider the whole concept and idea behind the record. I got to be offensive and completely attack it. I think the lyrics are slightly more intelligent and ten times angrier than the first one. I’ve toned down a lot of the swearing (even though that’s just how I speak) because when I was writing the songs I just didn’t need it. The hatred and the bile was there without using any fucking swear words. Every word I needed was equally disgusting without cursing and in a way they had more venom to it.”

 

To say that ‘Grey Britain’ is an ambitious record is like saying Vannesa Feltz enjoys the odd snack every now and again. The slab of wax is complex (it features a 33 piece string section) catchy (‘I Dread the Night’ is the best Murder City Devils song the band never wrote) and controversial (Gallows perform acoustically on ‘the Vulture Act I’). But perhaps most surprisingly though, it’s a (gasp) concept record. So will the band be breaking out the capes and keyboards for their up-coming tour?

“Fuck off,” he laughs. “God I hate that word ‘concept album’ but you know what? That’s exactly what we were trying to do with the story and ideas behind it. More importantly we just wanted to make the record we’ve always wanted to make. As kids we grew up reading rock magazines and went to Reading and other festivals and followed groups on tour and we were in our own little band that never got anywhere and then this dream of ours happened and it’s happened so fast. We’ve toured the world so many times off the back of a record that was really a compete mistake. To be given this opportunity and be given the last great record deal of probably the rest of time [author’s note-the band signed to Warners for a reported £1 000 000] we all felt like if we didn’t use it wisely and live up to our full potential by doing every single thing we wanted to do, we would’ve felt like we’d robbed ourselves. We got to work with Garth Richardson and Andy Wallace-just complete rock legends and we even got to work at Abbey Road studios-one of the most important recording studios in the world. We did everything live and everything about this record is real. We wanted to hark back to an era when everything was simpler and just go-let’s fucking do it.”

For all of his bravado, Frank is admittedly shitting himself over ‘the Vulture Act I’ however. When we tell him that we think the song (which sees him actually sing for the first time) works really well, he seems visibly relieved.

“I’m really glad you said you love it because I’m a bit nervous about it. It was a risky decision on my part.  I really wanted to do it but didn’t know if I could pull it off and the boys were like ‘definitely give it a try. If it doesn’t work we’ll let you know.’ They seemed happy with it and I feel like it works. Any other time you could say ‘oh Gallows have recorded an acoustic song’ and people would look at you and think what the fuck are you talking about-you are lying through your teeth, but in the context of this record it really works. I’m so proud of it. I don’t listen to that song and cringe and that’s all I was worried about. I didn’t want that one song to ruin the whole album and it doesn’t. It flows so perfectly and effortlessly and it doesn’t disturb the ebb at all. In my opinion we’ve always been about making brave choices though.”

At the time of our interview, Frank is just back from tearing Texas a new bum-hole at South by South West. With yet more images of the singer’s face covered in a crimson mask circulating on the web, we ask him if he’s the clumsiest man in the world, or just a clever PR guy.

“Yeah…” he laughs, slightly sheepishly. “The thing is with those shows, there’s a lot of press there and it’s really industry only and maybe a few fans, so in that respect, because it’s industry only, we go there and destroy absolutely everything-including ourselves-in an attempt to get those industry people to understand what we’re about. At the same time though, if you go on You Tube and watch us perform I can guarantee you’ll see that same fury no matter where we’re playing. It’s tops off, sweating to fuck and completely trashing everything. We’ve never dulled down what we’ve done.”

And does he worry about his band’s success? Gallows are playing somewhat roomier venues this time around…

“We don’t know how it’ll pan out. The stages will be bigger but we don’t plan on changing any time soon. I won’t let anyone put a barrier between me and the crowd. We’re all as one and you can guarantee I’ll be in the middle of them, leading the charge.”

 

Of course, with a band like Gallows, it has to be a concern that their success will inevitably cause a split in the punk community. In the past bands with similar ideals have strayed away from their roots, but we get the feeling from talking to Frank that his boys will always be ones to believe in.

“People message me on MySpace asking if it’s really me and I’m like-of course it fucking is. Who else would it be? I don’t ever want to get to a stage where we’re kept apart from the fans because the way I see it is there is no real difference between anyone. It doesn’t matter anyway, it’s not like we’re going to be around in 20years time, is it?”

A lot has been made of the band’s longevity in the past. A year or two ago, this writer interviews Lags [Gallows guitarist/songwriter] and even then he confessed he couldn’t see the band surviving the decade, so I was intrigued to hear Frank’s take on the subject.

“I’ll put it like this,” he says. “Will the Ting Tings be around in five years? I don’t fucking think so. Most modern bands don’t last that long and most modern bands don’t play at the same level we do. Other groups usually have some sort of drug to keep them going but my brother [Steph, guitar] and me are sober-so we’ve nothing to rely on which means we’ll probably be fucked in two years time, but I still wouldn’t change a thing.”

After spending time in Frank’s company, I’m rather taken aback by the similarities we both share. Apart from the cosmetic traits [we’re both heavily tattooed and we both love the Murder City Devils more than life itself] we view the world in the same way-work hard, keep your principles intact and don’t give a fuck about the people too stupid to understand.

“There’s a song on ‘Grey Britain’ called ‘the Queensbury Rules’ and on it I’m almost harking back to an era that’s completely lost,” reflects Frank, expanding on the point. “Like back to a time where if men had a problem they would sort it out by a fist fight that was governed by the local towns-people instead of talking shit behind their backs. I think things back then were a lot easier. You didn’t need to worry about biological warfare because it wasn’t fucking invented. They were too busy about worrying about the Plague and putting food on the table and working to support their families.”

As we finish up our talk, we go back to his initial outburst about the media in general misrepresenting him and writing him off as some steak headed tattooed thug. Obviously it annoys him somewhat, but if the recent April Fool’s story about him guest starring in an episode of Eastenders is anything to go by (there’s more chance of a zombie Pete Beale turning up and eating Big Mo’s brains than Frank being Barbara Windsor’s bit on the side I’m afraid) he’s willing to see the funny side.

“Yeah, that was hilarious,” he laughs. “I got so much abuse over that and I think what was worse was that people actually believed it!”

By the time you read this, ‘Grey Britain’ will be on the shelves of record shops around the world. It’s an album that sees the band finally live up to their potential and is up there with the greats. Before e bid the singer goodbye, we ask, does the impending ascension to punk rock royalty concern him?

“Not really. I’m happy with everything we’ve achieved in this band and there’s not a day goes by where I’m not thankful and humble about it,” he says finally. “I feel so proud of this band right now, man. I feel proud and blessed. Well, I don’t believe in a god, but whoever’s blessing me I’m thankful for it.”





Things That Have Amused Me This Week

1 07 2009

It seems that for the past month I’ve been slowly working myself into the ground, but a few things have made this week exciting. Firstly, Captain America:Reborn is out in Irish comic shops tomorrow. As some may know I was gutted when Ed Brubaker killed off Steve Rogers and personally I’m glad to see him (hopefully) come back. Yeah, all you kids that are too cool for school might have predicted this two years ago but you know what? I don’t fucking care.

Marvel.com have an 8page online prologue up too featuring Sin, the Red Skull’s daughter. Go look! http://marvel.com/reborn/

This week I’ve also found myself laughing at this photo-

Check out Ghost Rider’s buns of steel! Oh, if you’re stuck for ideas on what to get me for my impending birthday, then you can’t go wrong with these bad mo-fos.

Right…back to the coal-face.