Album Review: Paranoid Visions (Hot Press)

30 11 2012

Here’s a reprint of my review of the new Paranoid Visions record that ran in Hot Press a few issues ago.

PARANOID VISIONS

Escape From The Austerity Complex (Overground Records)

Three and a half stars

Key Track: ‘Poles Apart’

DUBLIN PUNKS STILL KICKING AGAINST THE PRICKS

Despite what some critics and self-appointed social commentators may try and tell you-punk rock isn’t, and never has been, a sub culture solely for those of a youthful (usually teenage) disposition. It’s a movement dominated by people with probing minds, a penchant for pissing off the moral majority and a mutual passion for barbed riffs and ballsy choruses. Don’t believe me? Just look at Bad Religion and Siouxsie Sioux for proof that there are plenty of artists who still “mean it, maaaannnn,” well into their middle age. And the names don’t stop there of course. Infamous, iconic Dublin band Paranoid Visions are another act who have loyally stuck by their principles over the years and their latest effort Escape From The Austerity Complex is as fiery and frenetic as anything they’ve released in their career to date, which began back in the early 80s for those keeping score.

 

Opening with the jarring, stomping, string-infused ‘Austerity Crusade,’ lines like “What have they done to our language?/The tongue of the devil we speak” are particularly relevant in an era of TXT SPK and wide-spread American-isms and it sets us up nicely for the mayhem to come. Highlights include the blood-thirsty ‘Outsider Artist’ (featuring TV Smith from the Adverts) and the riotous ‘Split Personality’ (with has vocals from Crass legend Steve Ignorant) but it’s the moody, bass-y rumble of ‘Poles Apart’ which really impresses thanks to a menacing, Banshees-esque arrangement and gothic vocals from Deka Coppa, Famine RelAoife and K SarahSarah. Fans of the first, second and indeed third wave of punk rock should check this out.

EDWIN McFEE 





Interview:Band Of Horses (Hot Press)

29 11 2012

Here’s a reprint of my interview with Band Of Horses that ran in Hot Press.

BAND ON THE RUN

Hanging out with Willie Nelson, enjoying “big old love-fests” and dealing with major label pressures is all in a day’s work for Seattle’s Band of Horses. Words: Edwin McFee

Two years ago, Seattle-based quintet Band of Horses found themselves embroiled in a budding courtship with the mainstream music world. After releasing two well received records via Sub Pop (‘06’s Everything All The Time and ‘07’s Cease To Begin) they made the leap to major label Columbia, created Infinite Arms and pretty much charmed us all thanks to their southern rock, indie and country-tinged sounds. Since then, the group, led by singer/guitarist Ben Bridwell, have been doing everything in their power to hang on to our affections and when Hot Press caught up with the charismatic frontman recently, he tells us he’s hopeful his just released fourth album Mirage Rock will do the trick.

 

“When it comes to people’s reactions to the record I’m preparing for the worst and also hoping for the best,” laughs the musician. “I’m feeling really good about the album and we’re all proud of it, so that’s the important thing.”

 

With each record consistently performing better than its processors, in both a commercial and creative sense, Mirage Rock (which is a pun on the term garage rock) has a lot to live up to. Did Ben suffer from any sleepless nights due to being under pressure to deliver the goods?

 

“I think the pressure was probably coming in heaps at the beginning,” he offers. “Sometimes I wondered if I was choosing the right material and I worried about whether I was working hard enough, but that’s part of the whole process.”

 

Featuring a looser, rawer sound, legendary producer Glyn Jones (who twiddled knobs for the Rolling Stones, the Band and pretty much every iconic rock band there is) convinced them to record live and Ben cheerily tells us that the making of Mirage Rock turned into a “big old love fest.”

 

“Oh man, working with Glyn went as good as it possibly could have gone,” he enthuses. “We really got along really well and I love him as a friend. Pretty much the whole record was recorded live to the point where he forced me to play guitar and sing while recording at the same time and that was new for me.”

 

Not surprisingly, working with a producer of such pedigree helped inspire Band of Horses to new heights and Ben confesses that there were times during the making of the record where he tried to impress the 70year old Englishman. Case in point: the slightly schizophrenic ‘Dumpster World,’ which is reminiscent of Radiohead’s ‘Paranoid Android’ in its construction.

 

“You think everything is nice and cool during ‘Dumpster World’ and then we just beat you over the head with some nasty old bullshit-it’s fucking hilarious,” he laughs. “But yeah, I was absolutely trying to impress Glyn, man. Especially on some of the more rock and/or roll stuff, just to get into his area of expertise. We were kinda mining a Stones and a Who vibe.”

 

In a few weeks time, Band of Horses team up with another legend of the music world, Mr Willie Nelson, and Ben confesses that playing the Railroad Revival Tour alongside him is a bit of a dream come true.

 

“Oh my god, Willie’s one of the coolest people alive on this planet today,” he grins. “He’s as cool as advertised, man. This tour is going to be awesome. I’m sure we’ll be pinching ourselves the entire time and we won’t believe that it actually happened once it’s over.”

 

After that, Band of Horses head to Europe in November and Ben tells us that he’s looking forward to returning to Ireland.

 

“We’re really excited to play the Olympia again, it’s an amazing venue,” he concludes. “This will be our third time playing there and it’s one of our favourite places. Ireland’s always been good to us. We love the way you guys don’t go in for the too cool for school thing. You’re like the opposite of the aloof, jaded music fan and that’s exactly like us too. It should be a great night.”

 

Band of Horses’ new album Mirage Rock is out now on Columbia. They play the Olympia, Dublin on Nov 17.





News From The North Week 114

28 11 2012

Here’s a reprint of my NI music news column that runs in Hot Press every fortnight.

News                                                                                                                      

Words: Edwin McFee      

                                                                                    

As it’s that time of year where seeing ghoulies on every street corner is a common occurrence (steady now) this issue your humble correspondent has decided to kick off my latest missive with some news about a suitably spooktacular Hallowe’en hootenanny happening in Auntie Annie’s, Belfast on All Hallows’ Eve. Featuring a line-up full of some of the north’s most loveable misfits, the monster bash is headlined by those hell-raising head the balls Mental Deficiency and also on the bill (at the time of writing) are newly formed horror punks Little Miss Stakes, underground rap anti-hero/bikini-brief wearing deviant Roysta, sleaze rockers Filthy Angels and the Unprotected. There will be various tricks and indeed treats all night too and some Samhain-based sounds through the night courtesy of DJ Tramp Corpse and the cover charge for Shizznigh Presents Halloweeny is a mere £5.                                 

Next up, I’ve got some good news and bad news for you all. Word reaches us of the sad demise of two of the north’s most consistent bands-namely In Case Of Fire and Swanee River. In a statement issued on their Facebook site, ICOF mainman Steve said: “I’ve loved every second of being in ICOF. It’s been an amazing seven years, but the time feels right to bring it to an end. Thanks so much to every single person that bought/downloaded our music, came to a gig and spread the word about our band-it was because of you that we got to do what we love and for that I am truly thankful.”

 

While Swanee River posted: “Yes folks the rumours are true…Swanee River are closing business…for good. It’s a very sad time for the entire band; however there have been a number of factors contributing to this decision. Some factors were internal band tensions and others were external, though they are totally irrelevant now! In any case we are all very gutted and feel bad for our fans who have supported us continually. I personally have given everything in these last eight years, though now it is time to realise when to walk away.”

Keep your peepers peeled here for further info on what happens next for the members of both groups.

 

And now the good news, the mighty Here Comes The Landed Gentry have reformed. Yes readers, one of Derry’s best bands are coming out of retirement to play two charity shows (Oct 18, Sandino’s, Derry and Oct 20, the Cellar Bar, Draperstown) so if you’ve never seen the gin-soaked blues-roll boogie woogie merchants now’s your chance. Spoiler alert: they’re fucking awesome.





Album Review: Steve Harris ‘British Lion’ (Hot Press)

27 11 2012

Here’s a review of the Steve Harris record that ran in Hot Press.I fucking love Steve Harris, me!

STEVE HARRIS

British Lion (EMI)

Four stars

Key Track: ‘Karma Killer’

MAIDEN MAN’S SOLO DEBUT A ROARING SUCCESS

 

Ever since the 70s, Stephen Percy Harris has resolutely steered rock legends Iron Maiden through supreme highs and character-testing lows. Having sold 85million records with the aforementioned Irons despite little to no mainstream coverage (an achievement which, somewhat bafflingly, is still largely ignored in the Londoner’s homeland) the bassist is pretty much the most indomitable man in metal and after penning over a hundred songs with the band, he’s also one of the chief architects in the creation of one of the world’s most enduring genres too. British Lion is his first ever solo project and when its release (and indeed existence) was announced last July, it took many people by surprise.

 

You see ‘Arry had always stated he would never make a record outside of Maiden, so the bassist’s new venture has cocked many an eyebrow as a result. The music itself, needless to say, will also provoke a similar reaction too because British Lion is by no means a metal record and apart from that iconic bass sound of his, that’s where the association between his day job and side project ends. Instead, we see the musician re-embrace his rock roots and the likes of the Who (‘The Chosen Ones’) and Rainbow (‘A World Without Heaven’) influence and infuse the music.

 

British Lion is far from a walk down memory lane though and there’s a Soundgarden/Stone Temple Pilots-esque grunge-iness to ‘This Is My God’ while the sublime ‘Karma Killer’ calls to mind Queens of the Stone Age at their most grandiose (especially during the climax) and features an ace wah wah-laden riff wrapped around a swirling chorus delivered by singer Richard Taylor. The 80s-tastic arena rock fest of ‘Eyes Of The Young’ might be a little too commercial for some listeners, but personally this reviewer applauds Harris and Co. for taking chances and ripping up the rule book. In fact, I’m already looking forward to the mooted second album.

EDWIN McFEE 





Interview: Therapy? (Sunday Life)

26 11 2012

Here’s a reprint of an interview I did with Therapy? for the Sunday Life that ran ahead of their Gifted Live show.

As Sunday Life is a newspaper, you have to write in a different style but I enjoy the change of pace and indeed discipline.It keeps things interesting. Anywho, I’ve also added the video for the boys’ new single ‘Before You, With You, After You’ that was filmed on the night.I’m sure if you hit pause at the right time you can probably see my mush in there too,so there’s a bonus treat for you…

If you happen to live in the UK, Therapy? are out on tour right now, so if you bump into them, buy them a pint of Black Milk and tell them your pal Edwin says hello.

Return of the Kings

This Thursday night sees local legends Therapy? return to these shores to play a headline show at the Empire Music Hall in Belfast. Part of the monthly Gifted Live showcase gigs, which is are broadcast live online at http://www.giftedlive.com, the evening features the cream of Ulster talent (such as Fighting with Wire and Silhouette) and the Larne/Ballyclare born band are eager to make the event a home-coming to remember, as bassist Michael McKeegan explained when Sunday Life caught up with him.

“It’s always good to be back in Northern Ireland playing and we’re all chuffed to be doing the Gifted Live show as apparently it goes out live online, so we’ll have fans watching from all over the world at the same time as the show is happening, so that’s a new one for us. Also, there’s a ton of other killer NI acts playing as well, so it should be quite a night.”

Currently enjoying life as the God-Fathers of the NI music scene, the iconic act have become one of our most popular and well-regarded exports over the last two decades. At the moment the trio, who are completed by singer/guitarist Andy Cairns and drummer Neil Cooper, are touring the length and breadth of Europe in support of their critically acclaimed 13th album ‘A Brief Crack Of Light’ and Michael reveals that it’s not just the boys’ musical chops which are winning rave reviews these days, it’s their football skills as well.

“Probably one of the highlights of the summer festival season was non-music related,” recalled Michael. “We supported Linkin Park at an old airfield just outside Moscow and as Euro 2012 was in full flow, the national TV channel asked us (jokingly, I think) if we wanted to play in their onsite five-a-side football tournament. We’d just performed an hour long set in the blazing sun, but fancied a go at it anyway, so we joined in. Even though it was a bit hectic, we managed to win the thing, beating Russia’s equivalent of the Red Arrows (no joke) in the final. You should’ve seen their faces getting beaten by us lot.”

“The rest of the festivals were all universally great this year,” he continued. “We’re lucky in that we can appear on quite ‘heavy’ festival bills and then also on more diverse ones with pop and electronic artists. Two Austrian shows with Billy Idol were particularly good and he had a super cool band and crew and we also did a show with Tricky in Luxembourg which was great as I’d never seen him live before.”

This year also saw Therapy? headline the Glasgowbury festival in Eagle’s Rock, Co. Derry and for Michael (whose band helped scores of Ulster acts break into the mainstream throughout the nineties and beyond) topping the bill at an all-local event was a particularly proud moment.

“Glasgowbury was a lot of fun,” he said. “We’d been looking forward to that show for ages and the crowd and atmosphere didn’t disappoint. It was definitely one of the best, most memorable festivals we’ve done over the years and fair play to the organisers for inviting us up. Also, special mention must go to Alan Lynn from LaFaro who was filling in for our drummer Neil, who was on ‘paternity leave’ at the time. Alan did an amazing show with LaFaro, then walked over to our stage and went straight into a 60 minute set with us, pausing only to change his shirt. I don’t think he could walk for a week afterwards.”

With their ever increasing back catalogue quite rightly establishing Therapy? as bona fide national treasures, the band’s genre-straddling, almost un-pigeonhole-able sound has won them followers from numerous sub-cultures, but even Michael confesses he was surprised when it was revealed that British soul singer Any Winehouse was a fan of the band during the recent BBC4 Arena documentary The Day She Came To Dingle.

“I always knew Amy was into a broad range of music but yeah, that was indeed a bit of a shock to hear she’d listened to us as a teenager,” he said. “Likewise, Therapy? were all fans of hers too. She was an amazingly talented artist and her passing was a massive loss for decent music.”

 

Therapy? headline Gifted Live at the Empire Belfast on Thursday, October 4. Tickets cost £10 from Ticketmaster and the gig will be broadcast on www.giftedlive.com

 

Edwin McFee

 





Q And A: Triggerman (The Big List)

24 11 2012

Here’s a reprint of a Q and A I did with Triggerman that ran in the Big List last month.Well I think it was last month anyway.I’m getting terribly forgetful now I’m in my early 30s…

Triggerman Q and A

Continuing our catch-up with some of the music scene’s latest and greatest acts, this month we meet Derry’s very own monsters of rock Triggerman.

 

Hi folks and welcome to the Big List. First off, your new record ‘Hail To The River Gods’ is out now. Can you tell our readers a little bit about it?

Bap (vocals/guitar): “We are really happy with how the album came out and how it’s being received; it’s very humbling to have so many people say nice things said about it. We recorded it in Einstein Studios with the lovely Frankie McClay who has been so good to us we can’t thank him enough. He managed to get the sound that was in our heads onto disc, although I frustrated him at times using technical terms such as ‘wanting it to sound earthy and woody,’ [laughs]. But we got there eventually. The songs all feel very organic and that’s portrayed in the lyrics. In fact, some are directly influenced by some old folk songs and sea shanties-as in the title track, which is about hardy men heading to sea and leaving their loved ones behind.”

 

For me, ‘Rise Of The Woodsmen’ is a definite album highlight and one of the best tracks you’ve ever done. What’s your own personal favourite on the new record and why?

Bap: “Well, at the minute I think it’s a toss-up between ‘Thon Strange Brew’ and ‘The Flower of Life.’ We all love the way ‘Thon Strange Brew’ grooves along that wee bit differently from the rest of our songs and we love doing it at sound check too. Also, ‘Flower of Life’ is another sound check favourite and we love the weight of the track and the fact it’s got more riffs in it than we usually put in and is a lot of fun to play.”

 

To these ears, ‘Hail To The River Gods’ sounds more groove-based this time around, would you agree?

Bap: “Well I think there a lot more cohesion on this album as there have been a few lineup changes over the years, but we have settled into a really good groove with each other and that seems to be coming out through the songs. And we do love getting into a big groove and rocking out.”

 

For the unenlightened, can you fill our readers in a little on the Triggerman origin story?

Dixie (bass): “Triggerman are a four-piece band formed in Derry by Bap and our guitar player, Niall in the early 2000’s. Over the years there have been a couple of line-up changes. Our drummer Rory joined six years ago and I joined the lads in 2010.From day one, the band has written songs based around big riffs, big grooves and big choruses. The important thing to us is the song. It’s easy to make a load of noise, but there has to be a song in there for people to remember.”

 

Do you feel like veterans of the NI rock and metal scene or do you feel you’re only getting started?

Bap: “Well the band has been in existence for 10 years but with lineup changes over the years it has been a stop start affair. We seem to have well settled into it now with this line up so it does feel like we are only getting started. It’s all a learning process anyway and as the saying goes-every day’s a school day.”

 

It was a hell of a summer for you that finished with Triggerman supporting Sepultura at the Limelight in August-that must have been a highlight for you?

Bap: “That was amazing, we were so happy to have been asked to do that gig-it was like Christmas come early. Sepultura were such a big influence way back from ‘Beneath the Remains’ on up. I learned a lot about riffs from trying to play some of their songs. They were absolutely immense in the Limelight. Derrick Greene is such a powerful frontman and a nice guy to boot. I was a bit nervous, but we really enjoyed the experience and were really happy with how we played and the reception we got was really nice. So thanks to everyone who cheered us on.”

 

You also played some of the more mainstream festivals such as Glasgowbury. Do you feel it’s important for metal and rock acts to appear on less genre-specific bills?

Bap: “It’s great that we get asked back to play Glasgowbury regularly as it’s a good festival to play and we love it up the mountain and we always seem to go down well. I would love to see a few more heavy bands on the bill but then I am biased towards the heavier end of the spectrum. I do think it’s good to really mix up a festival with loads of different musical genres represented as it increases the flavour. The one thing about the Glasgowbury setup is they aren’t afraid to try new things and they are constantly trying to keep things fresh and current which is great. We also played the Stendhal Festival in Liamavady which had a real eclectic mix of music and had a really great vibe. I definitely think that festival has a very bright future and hopefully they will ask us back again too.”

 

How do you feel about the general perception of louder bands in NI? Do you think acts like Triggerman get a fair crack of the whip?

Bap: “I think the louder bands are starting to get noticed a bit more as people are looking for something a bit different. I think we do get quite a fair crack, but we would all love to be playing a few more bigger shows as we would really like more people to hear what we have to say, but in saying that, the small, in your face intense shows are always great to do. Those are the ones where the energy is really flowing.”

 

For more information on Triggerman visit www.triggerman.co.uk. ‘Hail To The River Gods’ is out now. 





Live Review: Firewind (Metal Hammer)

23 11 2012

Here’s a live review of Firewind’s Belfast debut that ran in Metal Hammer last issue.

FIREWIND

THE LIMELIGHT 2, BELFAST

Tonight, Greek metal quintet Firewind pop their Belfast cherry in front of a decent sized crowd filled with long-time followers and those eager to see Ozzy guitarist Gus G perform with his “other band” up close and personal. Opening with ace new single Wall Of Sound from seventh album Few Against Many, the band really get going on the decidedly Dio-esque Head Up High which features more than a few melodies indebted to the late, great legend and even sees singer Apollo Papathanasio playfully peep out from behind the pillars onstage to flash his horns. The blood-thirsty Destination Forever keeps proceedings firing on all cylinders thanks to some killer double kick drumming from Johan Nunez and seriously fast shredding courtesy of Gus (who has his own personal fan on stage to ensure his locks fly in the breeze) and the epic Losing My Mind sounds monstrous live, but soon afterwards, Firewind start to run out of puff. Instrumental The Fire And The Fury and I Am The Anger in particular suffer from a lack of original ideas and by the time they reach the tellingly titled final song Falling To Pieces the band are almost invisible thanks to the excessive dry ice and in some ways it feels apt as the crowd have seen enough. While far from a disaster, tonight’s gig lacked that spark of greatness during the second half and overall it was a flawed, occasionally fun affair. [6]

EDWIN McFEE