Bye Bye 2011

30 12 2011

Sooo, it’s New Year’s Eve Eve here at Blogging A Dead Horse Central, so as ever it’s time to reprint my ‘Albums of the Year’ that I send out to the magazines I write for.

I have to say, 2011 has been a really fun and happy time. It mightn’t have been a vintage year for records, but it was definitely a lot of laughs and I think I’ll remember the hangover from the Revival Tour in Dublin for as long as I live (seriously,I was a VERY sorry sight down at the Odyssey reviewing Rihanna the next night).

It was great to squeeze a few press trips in, tick off a few more items on my career bucket list and while it was kinda strange going back to my old school to talk to the lads about journalism (what is it with teenagers not knowing what a fanzine is??!) -it was a cool experience.Plus I got to meet The Batman in London.No biggie.

Anyway, enough slabbering from me.I’d like to thank all the editors,writers,PRs,subs,bands etc that I’ve worked with this year and here’s hoping that 2012 is half as fun as 2011 was.Up the Irons.

 Albums Of 2011

1)      The Horrible Crowes ‘Elsie’

2)      Dum Dum Girls ‘Only In Dreams’

3)      Cerebral Ballzy-Cerebral Ballzy

4)      Warpaint ‘The Fool’ Deluxe Edition’

5)      Dropkick Murphys ‘Going Out In Style’

6)      Saviours ‘Death’s Procession’

7)      LaFaro ‘Easy Meat’

8)      The Dwarves ‘The Dwarves Are Born Again’

9)      Kitty, Daisy & Lewis ‘Smoking In Heaven’

10)    Anna Calvi ‘Anna Calvi’

11)    The Misfits ‘The Devil’s Rain’

12)    Tom Waits ‘Bad As Me’

13)    Handsome Furs ‘Sound Kapital’

14)    Drugstore ‘Anatomy’

15)    Ben Glover ‘Before The Birds’

16)    Mariachi El Bronx ‘II’

17)    Cashier No. 9 ‘To The Death Of Fun’

18)    Los Campesinos! ‘Hello Sadness’

19)    Css ‘La Liberacion’

20)    Beady Eye ‘Different Gear, Still Speeding’ 

 

 

Gigs Of 2011

Iron Maiden at the Odyssey, Belfast

The Revival Tour at the Academy, Dublin

Ke$ha at Oxegen

Lisa Germano at the Grand Social, Dublin 

Kasabian  at the Odyssey, Belfast

 

 

Aaaaand finally, here’s my Top 20 metal/punk/rock albums for Metal Hammer.





Cruachan Interview (Metal Hammer)

23 12 2011

Earlier this year I wrote a few pieces for the Irish scene special that ran in Metal Hammer, so here’s a reprint of my interview with Cruachan.

Happy Christmas, Broskis.

Blood And Belief

Words: Edwin McFee

Naming themselves after the former capital of the kingdom of Connacht, Dublin-based folk metal torchbearers Cruachan first burst onto the Irish music scene in 1992. Formed by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Keith Fay, the band’s aim was to re-tell stories of Eire’s pagan past and marry traditional instruments such as bodhrans (a handheld drum made from goatskin) and tin whistles with extreme metal sounds. Citing 70s celtic rock band Horslips and British act Skyclad as influences, Cruachan released their debut album Tuatha Na Gael in 1995. Despite suffering from a poor sound, the record’s blood-thirsty tales of figures such as the legendary warrior Cuchulainn (the so-called Hound of Ulster) and former High King Brian Boru suited the aggressive style of playing and the band began to build up a following across Europe.

“For me, putting traditional Irish music beside extreme metal was always a very organic thing to do,” explains Keith. “I have listened to both metal and folk all my life and to me the lines between the two have become very blurred. I think a lot of early metal acts were influenced by folk music (whether they realized it or not I don’t know). I often listen to early Iron Maiden albums and I can hear jig parts all over the place. Stick a violinist playing along with Dave Murray’s guitar licks and you’ve got folk metal right there.”

Over the next decade, Cruachan released four more albums-2000’s The Magic Kingdom, 2002’s Folk-Lore (which was co-produced by Pogues’ frontman Shane McGowan), 2004’s Pagan and ‘06’s break-through record The Morrigan’s Call and they expanded their line-up to include singer Karen Gilligan as the band began to fully explore the folk elements of their music. They also adopted ancient Irish garb such as cloaks, kilts and face-paint for their live shows in an effort to make their performances a truly theatrical experience and visually recreate how those forgotten warriors once looked on the battlefield.

“Wearing those traditional Irish clothes helps us get into character when we play live,” says Keith. “It makes things more interesting for the crowd as well. T-shirts and jeans are boring, so we try to create an epic type of atmosphere. Although I remember playing a show in Moscow once in front of 3000 fans and over the course of 20 minutes my entire costume became self aware and started dismantling itself. Luckily I wasn’t naked underneath and had a pair of Birmingham City FC boxer shorts on.”

As the years passed by, the folk metal scene started to grow as acts from mainland Europe like Turisas took up the baton and ran with it, leaving the Cruachan frontman with decidedly mixed emotions over the direction of where the genre, that he believes he created, was headed.

“Well, I passionately believe Cruachan were the first real folk metal band,” he offers. “We had Skyclad before us using folky bits here and there, but no-one did it like us at the time, so when you see the explosion that has taken place over the years, it is frustrating to think that we have been kind of left behind and we only have ourselves to blame. Now though, we are more driven and focused than ever before to get out there and put our stamp back on what we created.

“Not only that, folk metal today is in danger of becoming a joke and we want to change that,” he continues. “So many bands nowadays are just making happy drinking songs, but there is a lot of darkness in folk music. A lot of Viking metal bands don’t actually have folk music to use, so they employ sea-shanty type sounds instead. For me, there is a sadness and darkness prevalent in folk music and maybe these bands from foreign soil have missed out on this. I dunno, perhaps it’s an Irish thing.”

Speaking of “Irish things,” it might surprise some to learn that for all the band’s success further afield, somewhat strangely Cruachan have always been a bit of a square peg in a round hole when it comes to Eire’s metal scene and Keith has his own thoughts on why some people don’t quite get what they’re about.

“We’ve always found it hard to fit in with the Irish Metal scene on a musical level,” he begins. “We never really had much support at home in the early years, mainly because what we were doing was so ground-breaking and frankly just plain bizarre. Today things are a lot better than they were when we first formed in the early 90s. People may not like our music too much, but they certainly respect what we have achieved.

“I think a lot of people outside Ireland really embraced what we were doing, but at home we were something to be mocked,” he continues. “The folk metal explosion was about ten years away, so we were flying the flag alone in those days. I suppose it was because people in Ireland grew up with folk music. It wasn’t a cool genre to listen to. It was something that your dad had on the radio on a Sunday morning. Luckily that’s not the case everywhere else, where the majority of our fan-base is located.”

Ireland’s loss has been Europe’s gain however and while at home there are some who may see their use of much-loved myths such as the Children Of Lir (a tale about four children who are turned into swans) as a little trite, there are those elsewhere who are experiencing the sound and vision for the first time and are excited by it all.

“Playing live is the only reason I have stuck this over the years,” reflects the frontman. “We have gone through some really rough times with the band where I have questioned why I am doing this, and the answer is-it’s because of the live shows. There is no other feeling like playing live. Seeing a fan in some strange country singing along passionately with lyrics I remember writing in my kitchen in Dublin is…well, it’s hard to describe really.”

This month Cruachan release their sixth slab of wax Blood On The Black Robe and it signals something of a rebirth for the band. Adopting a more aggressive sound, it’s the first new material from the band in five years and sees them re-embrace their more extreme roots in the wake of the departure of co-vocalist Karen Gilligan.

“To be honest I had wanted to get a much harder edge into the music for the last few years, and if you listen to our last couple of albums you can hear that creeping in,” concludes Keith. “When Karen decided to leave we made a decision not to replace her and move forward with the harder stuff. We didn’t plan a complete musical redirection, just a harder and darker approach to folk metal as so many bands (us included) had been making the genre seem like a bit of a joke of late. We are now focused on Cruachan’s rebirth and a rebirth of folk metal in general, which is starting to become stagnant these days. We will try and have another album ready in less than two years and there won’t be any more five year gaps between releases either. We will also try to get to countries we have never played before as well. For example, we have huge support in Latin America, but have never toured there, so this will have to change and that change all starts now.”

 

Cruachan sidebar

Literally a few days after our interview, Cruachan frontman Keith Fay was savagely attacked by a gang outside a club in Dublin’s city centre. Left bloodied and beaten, the musician recounts the events of that fateful evening.

“I was in the city for a night out with my brother, sister and a female friend. We left the club we were in and were walking towards a taxi rank. We passed by a group of between 10-15 youths who started abusing my sister for no reason. My sister was almost laughingly telling them she was old enough to be their mother and how would they like it if someone spoke their mothers like that. They then got a bit more vocal towards her and I stepped up to one of them. I did not touch him in any way, but told him to leave her alone (well, possibly it was a little more colourful than that). None of us expected anything to happen at all.

“I was then hit on the head after that and blacked out. They kicked me repeatedly while I was on the ground. Everyone with me tried to get them away, at which point my sister was thrown to the ground and had her arm broken. Some people saw what happened and ran over to help, so the whole thing only lasted about two minutes until they ran off.

 “I’ve been back and forth to the hospital since then and they’ve cost me a fortune in medical costs. I only discovered a week after the incident that the wound on my lip was actually a knife wound. None of us knew this at the time. There have been no arrests yet, but we will wait and see.

“The events won’t put me off heading out in Dublin in the future, but I reckon if this type of situation presents itself again I will just usher myself and my sister quietly away [laughs].”





News From The North Christmas Special 2011

21 12 2011

Here’s a reprint of the festive edition of my fornightly Hot Press column. Readers may be interested to know that despite writing it in November, I managed to make it as Christmassy as possible.Yes, I am THAT good.

News

Words: Edwin McFee

By the time this latest missive from the North reaches you, no doubt you’ll all be getting ready to whip out your chestnuts in order to give them a ruddy good roasting on an open fire, so this issue I’ve taken a leaf out of Cliff Richard’s book, donned an over-sized reindeer themed woolly jumper and dug out some stories of NI acts who are getting into the festive spirit.

First up, rising Derry-based alt rockers Intermission are hosting a Christmas party in Mason’s  in their hometown on Dec 2 alongside Play On The Day North winners Mojo GoGo. The promising three-piece are also launching their debut EP ‘Escaping Dharma’ on the night and you can get a sneak peak of the slab of wax here: intermission.bandcamp.com. Produced, mixed, mastered and designed by multi-talented frontman Glenn Rosborough (who you may recall used to be a member of the well thought of Kharma 45) the record should help establish the boys as one of the North’s bigger players next year and we’re expecting great things from them in 2012.

Next up, the legend that is Mr Ralph McLean is broadcasting a special Christmas show on Radio Ulster on Dec 14 between 8pm-10pm and he will be joined by some ace local acts (which include Gareth Dunlop, Isobel Anderson, Matt McGinn, Paul Casey and Ruby Colley) who will perform some of their own songs as well as some festive favourites. Taking place on location at the Bronte Music Club in the Bronte Homeland in Rathfriland, Co. Down, the programme promises to turn even the most Grinch-like listener into a real-life Buddy the Elf, so make sure you tune in.

Sludge-loving noise rockers Comply or Die indulge their inner Kris Kringle for a show on Dec 15 at the Menagerie, Belfast and they’re promising a performance that will make Shakin’ (‘Merry Christmas Everyone’) Stevens’ legendary love of the Yuletide season pale in comparison. Backed by Larne’s the Burnt Reynolds, admission is £4 and rumours of free entry for anyone dressed in a Santa Claus suit could not be confirmed at the time of going to press…

Finally, one of NI’s brightest hopes Rams’ Pocket Radio rounds off a fantastic year by playing a gig at the Stiff Kitten, Belfast on Dec 23. Currently touring in support of the sublime ‘Dogs Run In Packs’ EP, Peter McCauley and Co. aim to cap off a great 2011 in style and the gig is a must-see for anyone who loves left of centre alt-pop. Miss it at your peril.





Isobel Anderson Q and A

13 12 2011

Here’s a reprint of a Q and A I did with Belfast-based songstress Isobel Anderson that ran in the Buig List a few months ago. As they used to say in the 90s-PEEP THIS!

Isobel Anderson Q and A

Continuing our year-long catch-up with some of NI’s latest and greatest acts, this month we meet rising singer/songwriter Isobel Anderson. Enjoy.

 

Hi Isobel and welcome to the Big List. First up-your second album ‘Dark Path’ is out on Sep 14. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

“Hi Edwin, thank you for having me. The album was recorded at the Sonic Arts Research Centre in Belfast and was mixed and mastered by Chris Corrigan, who is the studio manager there and is sort of the godfather of sound in these parts. There’s a real live feel as it was recorded with us playing together as if in a gig, but in the studio. ‘Dark Path’ is more instrumentally dynamic than my first album ‘Cold Water Songs,’ so it was important to keep the energy of our live shows, which can be hard in a studio environment, especially when recording percussion.”

 

In your opinion, how does it differ from your debut album ‘Cold Water Songs?’

“Before moving to Belfast I had been playing solo for a long time in London, but when I moved there to study, suddenly I had the luxury of having a student’s timetable and lots of musicians in a small city. This meant I started to expand my sound and within about six months of ‘Cold Water Songs’ being released I was regularly playing with Paddy McQueen on cajon and Gascia Ouzounian on violin, so ‘Dark Path’ represents that expansion.

‘Cold Water Songs’ was very much an album that expressed a particular time in my life. Each song is from the 12 months prior and after moving from London to Belfast, so there are very definite themes running throughout. ‘Dark Path’ has more of a variety of styles and sentiments.”

 

It’s only been a year since you released your debut. How important was (and is) it for you to keep releasing new material?

“I think it’s really important to keep releasing new work. I really loved making ‘Cold Water Songs.’ It was a record I really poured myself into: performing, recording, producing and mixing it myself. Once I was playing with Paddy and Gascia regularly, I started to want to have a record that represented our live sound. So, even though it’s only been a year since releasing ‘Cold Water Songs,’ it feels like ‘Dark Path’ existed long before now and I’m already thinking about the next one. I think once you make one, you get the album bug.”

 

Influence-wise, what inspired ‘Dark Path?’

“I guess songs like ‘My Love’ and ‘Your Love Is Cruel’ would be very influenced by traditional English Folk, or singers like Sandy Denny or Joan Baez. ‘Let Me Go’ has much more of a country feel to it, whereas ‘The Proposal’ has a real tongue and cheek Jazz influence. Then ‘Resolution’ and ‘Never Enough’ have really syncopated rhythms between the cajon and guitar, giving them almost a sort of flamenco feel. ‘Dark Path’, the title track, is almost like a sort of 40’s crooner ballad in its vocal line, so it’s a real mix of influences really and similarly in terms of the actual ideas and emotions behind the songs. ‘My Love’ is a story of love dying, but resting in limbo, whereas ‘The Proposal’ is a sort of smutty ode to Belfast. It’s pretty diverse!”

 

What’s your favourite song on the record?

“I think it would have to be ‘Dark Path’. It’s the song I named the album after as it’s probably the one I feel the most affinity with. The chorus line was in my head for years. I kept singing it to myself. One night I sat down in the studio and wrote it and it’s one of those songs where I cried while I was writing it because it felt so raw at the time. A sort of “stop smudging the ink on the page with your tears”, kind of moment. That’s a nice depressing image for all your readers..!”

 

This year you performed at Glastonbury? How was that?

“Glastonbury was amazing! I was so surprised to get the chance to play. I completely was not expecting it, but it was such a good experience. There was such a great energy in the crowd and the whole festival had a good atmosphere.”

 

Have you always wanted to play there?

“Yes-I would say most musicians do, so I feel very lucky to have had that experience.”

 

 

Finally, what are your plans for the next six months or so?

“Well, I’ll hopefully be booking up some gigs around Ireland and the UK to promote the album. I’ll be playing at Proud in Camden on the 28th of September, which is a really cool venue, so that’ll be a chance to play in London again. I’m also doing a PhD at the moment so I have lots of work to get done for that, and will be making a trip to the States to present some of that work as well as do a couple of gigs hopefully.”

 

Isobel Anderson performs at the Black Box, Belfast on Sep 14. For more information on her check out www.isobelanderson.com.





Katy Pery At The Odyssey Review

9 12 2011

So, a few days ago I posted up a video of the Horrible Crowes covering Katy Perry’s ‘Teenage Dream,’ so today I thought it might be cool to reprint my review of the aformentioned lovely lady’s gig at the Odyssey a month or so ago that ran in Hot Press.

Oh and the pic below is stolen from Ramsey Cardy.Go check him out at www.shoottothrill.co.uk 

Katy Perry at the Odyssey, Belfast

Tonight, in front of a sold out crowd of blue wig wearing mini-me’s, multi-million selling hit factory Katy Perry kicks off the 109th show on her never-ending California Dreams World Tour with ‘Teenage Dream’ and in just three minutes she effortlessly justifies why she’s one of the biggest pop stars on the planet. Backed by a white suit sporting band, the singer (who is celebrating her birthday in a few hours time) is every inch the perfect performer and belts out the likes of ‘Waking Up In Vegas,’ ‘Ur So Gay’ and ‘Peacock’ without breaking a sweat.

But this evening’s show isn’t just about the songs. She’s also woven a typically bonkers back story into the performance which tells the tale of a girl named Katy who works in a butcher’s shop and is secretly in love with the unfortunately named Baker’s Boy. After enduring an especially grim day cutting up meat, she goes to bed and wakes up in techni-colour sweet-filled world where she spends most of her time searching for her cat Kitty Purry (get it?). Needless to say it’s all as pink and fluffy as Louie Spence’s living room, but it helps fill the time between costume changes nicely.

 There are loads of highlights to tonight’s performance and Katy also has plenty of interaction with the crowd throughout the show. Just before ‘I Kissed A Girl,’ the ball-gown and red and yellow feather boa clad singer encourages a male fan to take his shirt off before dragging him up onstage to poke a little fun at him. “Your name’s Keith?” she coos. “That’s my dad’s name. Maybe you can be my daddy tonight. Is that too creepy?” Yes Katy, yes it really is…

Still, we’ve got the likes of the nu-crunk future classic that is ‘E.T.’ to help banish the weird images from our brains and the stripped back rendition of ‘The One That Got Away’ (which also features a brief run-through of Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’) shows that Katy can still charm a crowd without all the bells and whistles. At certain points the storyline does get a little bizarre (mid-way though, giant meat props hang from the rafters like something out of Morrissey’s worst nightmare) and we kinda wish she crammed in a few more songs instead of making room for dancing slot machines, quick change magic acts and sexy Hulk Hogan outfits, but the likes of the storming ‘Hot ‘N’ Cold’ ‘Thinking Of You’ and Mario Balotelli’s favourite song ‘Firework’ ends the show in spectacular fashion.

Edwin McFee





News From The North Week 92

8 12 2011

Fancy some NI music scene news?Course you do!Here’s a reprint of one of my recent columns from Hot Press.

Remember folks, the feature runs every fortnight,so if you’ve any news for me get in touch.

 News

Words: Edwin McFee

First up this fortnight I bring you news of an interesting experiment that’s currently being carried out by Belfast-based indie folksy types Farriers. At the moment, they’ve just completed work on their debut album Years Ago In Our Backyard and have decided to get involved with the Pledge scheme (which you may remember the likes of Duke Special took part in relatively recently) to generate enough money to get the slab of wax mastered and manufactured. So, what exactly is the Pledge scheme I hear you cry. Well, basically fans can send over money to the band in return for bespoke, one-off rewards and Farriers are offering the likes of private dinner parties with the group (for £80), a personal song written just for you (£100), a gig at your house party (£200) and more and you can check out the full list here- sponsume.com/project/farriers-debut-album.

Next up, the insanely talented Shauna Tohill (AKA Silhouette) has been making waves round old London Town recently. The singer and her band were given the opportunity to support Snow Patrol a few weeks ago at the Q Awards show in the HMV Forum and, lovely lads that they are, they also invited her to join them onstage to perform backing vocals for ‘Set Fire To The Third Bar’ and ‘The Garden Rules’ (which you can view here youtube.com/watch?v=890r6VCWnlw&feature=youtu.be and here youtube.com/watch?v=cSe7p1Wd1TE&feature=player_embedded). Regular readers of this column may recall that I’ve long been championing Silhouette (who have just released their new single ‘What Are These Voices’ via all major downloading platforms by the way) and I’m predicting that 2012 is going to be a massive year for Ms Tohill and her cohorts. In the meantime though, visit facebook.com/silhouetteofficial for more information and up to date info on where they’re playing next.

The good news keeps on coming this fortnight as it’s just been revealed that Rams Pocket Radio and Cashier No. 9 have been chosen to perform at the Eurosonic festival in the Netherlands in 2012. Now in its 26th year, the bash is one of the biggest industry showcases in the world and runs from Jan 11-14 and has featured the likes of And So I Watch You From Afar in the past and this writer for one is certain that both acts will go on to even bigger and better things after they play at this hugely influential event.

Finally, I’ve just enough room to let you all know that ska punk deities Pocket Billiards are on the hunt for a new drummer. If you’re interested in joining one of the north’s best live acts visit pocketbilliards.co.uk for more info.





The Horrible Crowes-‘Teenage Dream’

5 12 2011

Guess who sucked at updating his blog last month?! Yup, that would be me, but I plan on readdressing the balance this month now the deadlines aren’t quite so crazy.

So, in an attempt to ease my way back into it, here’s a video of the Horrible Crowes covering ‘Teenage Dream’ by Katy Perry.Lovely.