HOT PRESS ALBUM REVIEW: Ash ‘Kablammo!’

28 06 2015

Here’s a reprint of my review of the ace new Ash album that ran in Hot Press.

ASH

Kablammo! (earMUSIC)

Key Track: ‘Go Fight Win’

7/10

ASH ON FIRE FOR THEIR COMEBACK ALBUM.

ash

Almost eight years to the day, trail-blazing garage pop rockers Ash announced that Twilight Of The Innocents would be their final album and from that point on they’d only release singles. As the quick witted among you might have already guessed, they recently had a change of heart and thank whatever deity you worship they did as it’s a resounding return to form for the Downpatrick natives. Perfectly capturing the fizz and fuzz of Ash’s incendiary live show, Kamlammo! strips away some of the electronic influences of recent singles and reboots the band somewhat.

Old school fans will be thrilled to learn that some material recalls the scuzzy punk of Trailer. The likes of the unrelentingly catchy ‘Cocoon’ and the Brian Wilson meets Rivers Cuomo vibe of ‘Machinery’ are like being punched in the face by a rainbow, while ‘Go Fight Win,’ stomps along like Deep Purple’s ‘Space Truckin’,’ and is packed with pop hooks and metal guitars. It’s not all about revisiting their early days though as the instrumental, galloping sci-fi western ‘Evel Knieval,’ cowpunk-tinged ‘Shutdown’ and string-laden ballad ‘Moondust’ prove they’ve plenty of new ideas and sounds to explore. Welcome back boys.

OUT NOW

EDWIN McFEE





News From The North 104

21 06 2012

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

Oh,I have some interesting news for bands from the North next week by the way…

News

Words: Edwin McFee

First up, I’d like to kick off this fortnight’s column with some Fighting with Wire news that is absolutely fandabbydozy (as the slightly creepy Scottish swingers the Krankies might say). Yes readers, the always awesome Derry trio have signed with London label Xtra Mile Recordings and their second album Colonel Blood will finally arrive on record shop shelves on Sep 24 (insert “whoops of joy” here). Recorded in Nashville in 2010, the band found themselves in a frustrating situation when Atlantic Records (their label at the time) essentially did absolutely nothing for the band and Cahir and Co. were in limbo as a result. After a spell spent pondering hanging it all up and going their separate ways, it would seem that everything’s turned out great for the well thought of rockers as not only have they escaped the clutches of their major label, but they’ve also managed to keep their record too and all you lovely people will be able to buy it this September. Nice one.

 

Speaking of well thought of rock bands, the absolutely iconic trio that is Ash celebrate their 20th birthday with a party at the Relentless Garage in London on June 17. Hosted by comedian Josie Long, the night looks like it’ll be a veritable ton of fun and any self-respecting acolyte of the pop-punkers should check it out. Happy birthday boys (and occasional girl!) and keep me some cake. In the meantime, I’ll be sitting in a corner and generally feeling grumpy because I recorded over Ash’s first demo back when I was a surly teen.

 

Next up, staying in county Down (where all the best people hail from *cough*) NI’s kings of classic rock the Answer have announced that they will perform their debut album Rise in its entirety at the Empire, Belfast on July 5. Hosted by the Gifted Live club night, also performing on the evening will be Bee Mick See, David Kitt, the Riptide Movement and Cosmo Jarvis and there’ll be recorded sets from General Fiasco, Shake! and Droids too. Admission is £10 and if you’re too cheap to attend, you can watch it all online at giftedlive.com. Well, that is if some of you cyber people can tear yourselves away from Tulisa’s home video of course…

 

Finally, news reaches us that Master and Dog have signed up with Canadian record label Matchless Minds and join a roster that includes The Man Whom, Verse Chorus Verse and Arms of the Girl. Expect their second LP to come out in September.





Arthur’s Day Belfast

12 10 2011

Here’s a reprint of my coverage of the Arthur’s Day gig in Belfast that ran in Hot Press.

Arthur’s Day at the Ulster Hall, Belfast

For the last few years the music fans of Belfast have looked across the border every Sep 22 and felt, to borrow a phrase from the modern day prophet that is Amy Childs, well jell at our neighbours in Dublin having a fine old time celebrating Arthur’s Day. Tonight though, the green-eyed monster has been thoroughly slain as we’ve got our own event that boasts a solid line-up which rivals other shin-digs across the rest of Ireland and it all kicks off with bona fide local legends Ash.

Wasting little time breaking out the big guns, they metaphorically hit us between the eyes with their opening sucker punch of ‘Jack Names The Planets’ and ‘Girls From Mars’ and for the next twenty minutes or so, Tim and Co. treat us to an absolute pop punk masterclass. ‘Kung Fu’ leaves us feeling all nostalgic, ‘Oh Yeah’ (which is dedicated to Wheeler’s aunt who’s celebrating her 21st birthday tonight *nudge nudge, wink wink*) is as anthemic as ever and ‘A Life Less Ordinary’ proves that Ash can still set the stage alight after all these years. File under “P” for “Perfect.”

Next up, R ‘n’ B chanteuse Kelis takes to the stage clad in a sparkly outfit that would make the Strictly Come Dancing judges weak at the knees if they saw her. Starting her set with ‘Trick Me,’ she has the crowd in the palm of her hand when she performs a mash-up of Madonna’s ‘Holiday,’ Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and her own ‘Milkshake,’ and ‘Acapella’ sounds great in the Ulster Hall. Sadly though, it seems that her eagerness to (responsibly) enjoy some Guinness has gotten the better of her as she doesn’t stick around much longer than that, but what we did see was fun while it lasted…

Beatsmith DJ Fresh is on afterwards and unfortunately his backing singers fall foul to some of those pesky sound desk gremlins, but they grin and bear it and manage to turn in a good rendition of ‘Louder’ for the faithful. After that, local lads Cashier No.9 take to the stage and from the opening strains of ‘Goldstar’ it’s apparent that they’re rapidly maturing into one of the best bands the country has to offer right now. There are plenty of highlights in their short set, but oldie ‘When Jackie Shone’ is this reviewer’s pick for song of the night.

A few minutes later, the Enemy march on stage and perform an attitude-filled set which really benefits from a punkier, rawer sound. One of ladrock’s leading lights now that Oasis have snuffed it, the boys sound like world-beaters during the likes of ‘Away From Here,’ ‘Had Enough’ and ‘You’re Not Alone’ and the Jam-esque ‘We’ll Live And Die In These Towns’ sounds tailor-made for the Belfast crowd.

Irish demi-gods Horslips handle headline duties and the reunited Celtic rock innovators do it with aplomb. The Ulster Hall has always been a special venue for the band and it really does feel as if we’re witnessing something truly special tonight. Though they only have time for a few songs from their much storied history, the five-piece are utterly spell-binding and their musicianship is, as expected, first class. ‘Dearg Doom’ is the undisputed highlight but the band’s unplanned, curfew breaking cover of ‘Shakin’ All Cover’ gives it a run for its money.

So, same time next year then?

Edwin McFee

http://www.hotpress.com/news/8319474.html





Bye Bye 09, It’s Been Great

31 12 2009

Yes friends, today is the last day of the year and indeed the whole decade. The “noughties” have been a decade of huge highs and lows. I started out in ’02 with people lining up to tell me it was impossible for a working class bloke from Newry with no contacts to make a living as a freelance journalist. It was a really tough few years with literally no money. I was living in glorified squats while dealing with the fact that at that time there were NO outlets for entertainment journalism in Northern Ireland and needless to say it was pretty stressful. Still, there was a light at the end of the tunnel and helping launch the Belfast Telegraph’s weekend supplement 24/7 and giving a hand in founding Alternative Ulster magazine were definitely highlights from those shitty years.

I’ve been at this for 7 years now and in many ways I’m very grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way. In early 2005 I was about to pack it all in as I (somehow) ended up interviewing every one of my heroes (bar Morrissey and Courtney Love…). While it was a huge acheivement for me, I was in a bit of a slump and left in a “what do I do now?” funk. Thankfully I gave myself a metaphorical boot up the hole and got on with things and the last half of the decade has been fantastic.

So what have been my highlights of 2009? Christ, I don’t even know where to start, but I thought it might be good to reprint my favourite piece I’ve written this year. So below is the final draft of my NI scene report for the NME. Enjoy and see you all next year…

United by Noise

A Northern Ireland Scene Report

Three decades ago, Stiff Little Fingers’ Jake Burns first preached from his punk rock pulpit about an ‘Alternative Ulster.’ Since then, music in Northern Ireland has grown and mutated into a visceral and at times venomous beast with bands preferring to give the mainstream a sonic two fingered salute rather than court the industry coke-heads of London Town. You see, for years the Ulster scene has been brushed under the carpet in favour of more geographically friendly areas in both the UK and Ireland. Due to its well documented political Trouble, the media appears to prefer focusing on yet another report from Liverpool, Manchester or wherever rather than sending a scribbler to the formerly war-torn area because it just seems like a safer option. While it pains this writer to admit it, NI will always be haunted by the spectre of semtex and suicide even though it’s been relatively bomb-free for years, but this has ultimately made it’s music utterly life affirming. Every note counts and every song matters. Thanks to sites such as local music bible http://www.fastfude.org, bands like the Beat Poets and Ash-endorsed Oppenheimer can make music and tour under their own steam without relying on hand-outs from ‘the’, ahem, ‘Man’. If you want something done right you have to do it yourself afterall.

Right now there are a gaggle of great acts in NI. Leading the charge are And So I Watch You From Afar. The four-piece craft instrumental music that could easily soundtrack buildings tumbling, world’s colliding and large, green aliens landing from space and eating people’s brains. Plus, any band who can get run over by a car and play a gig later that night has our vote for life

NI’s finest purveyors of indie pop Two Door Cinema Club are also doing great things and peddle tunes that are as catchy as Chlamydia at the Playboy Mansion. Think Deathcab for Cutie embroiled in a knife-fight with Modest Mouse and you’re close.

Not Squares are currently getting local music critics’ collective undercrackers in a bunch and from a quick listen to thrash dance anthem ‘Vita Sackville West’ it’s easy to see why this Julie Ruin worshipping mob are making all the right moves. Their sound is a synth-laden cacophony of boy/girl vocals and shouts and their live show has more kick-ass moments than a night out with Joey Barton.

But it’s not just about hand-claps and keyboards in NI, probably the most historically prevelant scene has featured music from the ‘eavier end of the spectrum. Carrying on the torch from the likes of the Undertones and Therapy?, the Black Bear Saloon are the latest group to give us some new teenage kicks and they sound as venomous as an episode of America’s Next Top Model. The future of rock is in safe hands with this fearsome four-some.

Finally, if there was ever a band that summed up the true rebel-rousing spirit of Belfast then it’s the Tin Pot Operation. They adore putting noses out of joint, have wound up more people than Jeremy Beadle and best of all they’re not afraid to talk about politics and poetry. Their self-released slab of wax ‘Human Resources’ is a beautifully battered sonic manifesto and it sums up their home-town better than any empty-headed politician ever could.

It’s true that NI has had more than its share of ups and downs over the decades but 2009 looks set to be a break-out year for Northern Irish musicians who have been united by noise. Remember where you read about them first.

Edwin McFee





News From The North Week 43

5 11 2009

This fortnight’s Hot Press is on the stands now (more details here http://www.hotpress.com/2893481.html) so here’s a reprint of the previous issue’s NI bands column!

News

Words: Edwin McFee

This fortnight this writer has been playing the new album from NI’s finest punk rock band the Lobotomies in almost constant rotation. Entitled Big Bang Hangover it features 17tracks in around 30minutes and it’s pretty much one of my favourite records of the year. Why am I telling you this, you ask? Well the four-piece launch their album on October 23 with a gig in the Pavilion, Belfast and you should all be there as it’s only £5 in. There are plenty of highlights on the release, but the smashmouth sounds of ‘Freedom,’ and the savage ‘Bloodsports With Lapdogs’ get our recommendation and if you can’t get to the gig don’t fret, as Big Bang Hangover is released vie EHC Records. Visit www.myspace.com/thelobotomies for more details.

Congratulations to the Panama Kings who not only ruled the school at their first ever Mandela Hall headline gig a few weeks ago, but they’ve also bagged the hugely coveted support slot on Ash’s up-coming UK and Irish tour. The boys will hit the road with the band from mars (see what we did there? No? Alright, please yourselves…) throughout the months of October and November and these include dates at the Button Factory, Dublin on Nov 25 and the Spring and Airbrake, Belfast on Nov 26 so check Ticketmaster and the usual suspects for ticket details.

Sludge worshipping heavy hitters Slomatics have released their latest slab of wax this fortnight and it’s a split CD with the mighty Selaah. The band contribute three songs to the record (while Selaah recorded a 17minute long improve piece. Jazzy!) and it’s strictly limited to 200copies, so get ‘em while you can. At £4 it’d be rude not to. More details are available at the link http://slomatics.bigcartel.com/.

Delirium Tremens (who are currently beavering away in the studio like, er…beavers) have posted up two demos for their forth-coming debut release on their MySpace page (www.myspace.com/deliriumtremensrock). ‘Shuffle Off This Mortal Coil’ and ‘Requiem’ are currently available for streaming and even in this rough format, it’s pretty clear that the record will be nothing short of monstrous once it sees the light of day in the New Year. The boys are also in the process of booking a tour south of the border and although some shows are to be confirmed, the trek runs from Nov 27-Dev 7. As if that wasn’t enough, they also support American post rock types Junius in Belfast on Nov 27 and once we have the final dates, Hot Press will of course keep you up to date.





Ulster Hall

7 03 2009

As promised, here’s the full blown Do You Remember the First Time feature that ran in 24/7 on March 6.

Do You Remember the First Time?

This Monday night BBC Radio Ulster’s ATL help celebrate the re-opening of the Ulster Hall with a gig featuring a gaggle of great acts from the NI music scene. Each band plays two songs (one of their own and a cover of an act they saw in the near mythic venue) and it looks set to be one of the most talked about shows of the decade. To commemorate this once in a lifetime bash, 24/7 catches up with some of the bands involved to hear them pay tribute to a venue that is steeped in history.

 

 

Therapy?

How important do you think the Ulster Hall is in NI?

Michael McKeegan (bassist): “It’s a one-off, timeless venue with a lot of history under its belt. There’s not that many of those around in the world anymore, let alone Northern Ireland.”

What was your first gig there (either as a punter or performer or both)?

“The first gig I ever saw there was another N.I. three-piece, the mighty Mama’s Boys, I got crushed down the front and nearly passed out but still managed to get my programme signed by the band afterwards. The first Therapy? performance was totally surreal for all of us, especially having stood on the other side of the crash barrier so many times before. It had always been a dream of ours to play there.”

Any special memories of the place?

“My first ever Metallica gig with my hero Cliff Burton ripping it up is one to cherish (he tragically passed away 11 days later). Another great moment was in 1994 watching our support band CopShootCop from the wings as they proceeded to confuse, terrify and bulldoze the audience.”

How do you feel about playing Do You Remember the First Time?

“It’s our first live appearance in almost a year and we’re all delighted to be part of what is a pretty cool concept. It’s a short set but we intend to maximise the rock!”  

 

 

Jetplane Landing

Nearly every gig go-er has a defining Ulster Hall moment, what’s yours?

Andrew Ferris (vocals/guitar): “I’ve never played there before-but I remember seeing Rage Against the Machine perform there about ten years ago; it was completely intense and that night really changed my life.”

 

Do you have any special Ulster Hall memories you’d like to share with us?

“My teenage bus journeys from Derry to the Ulster Hall were very memorable, but perhaps for unprintable reasons. I do remember always feeling very ‘grown up’ when I went to shows there; there is something evocative about the building’s grandness, you’re reminded of all the greats that have graced the stage.”

 

How do you feel about this gig?

“It’s going to be special-we’ve got a few surprises planned for our set and also for the Smalltown America After Show Party in the bar afterwards, featuring Clone Quartet, Not Squares and Halves.”

 

Ash

 

Ash are no strangers to the Ulster Hall’s stage, but what was your first gig there as a paying punter?

Tim Wheeler (vocals/guitar):  “I saw a load of late 80’s rock bands with a lot of hairspray, so my memory is a bit misty, but I have a feeling it was a band called Little Angels. I’ve a lot of good memories in that place. It was brilliant seeing Therapy? there on the Nurse tour. Mark and I went and gave a load of our demo tapes out to anyone who’d take them outside the venue. When they played there again on the next album we were supporting them. That was the first time we got to play there and it was a great gig.”

 

Do you feel proud to be playing Do You Remember the First Time?

“Yeah, I’m excited. It’s about time we got the Ulster Hall back and I’m expecting a very chaotic fun-filled night. We’re only doing two songs, so it’ll be short and sweet. We haven’t decided what to play yet. We’ve seen some hideous bands there so there are a lot of terrible songs we could do ironic cover versions of, but I think we’d better go for a crowd pleaser instead.”

 

Panama Kings

How important do you think the Ulster Hall is for Ulster music fans?

Stuart Bell (guitar): “It’s a beautiful old building with a great atmosphere and is easily the best of the larger venues in Belfast. It’s also steeped in history, for example everyone knows Stairway to Heaven was first played there, and there’ll undoubtedly be plenty more things to add in the years to come.”

It must be pretty mind blowing to be on the bill.

 “Well the first gig I ever went to, when I was 16, was Coldplay in the Ulster Hall. I only really went on a whim but it’s no exaggeration to say that it changed my life. Not so much Coldplay (although it was a great gig) but more the fact that it was my first time experiencing the buzz and excitement of live music. I decided that night that I wanted to be a musician so it goes without saying that playing at DYRTFT is pretty significant, especially sharing the stage with so many other great NI acts.”

 

ATL

Where did the idea for the show come from?

Rigsy (ATL presenter): “The gig started life as a ludicrously ambitious concept suggested to us by Adam Turkington at the Waterfront Hall, who we’d worked with before on the Trans Festival. As we have such a good relationship with bands here (having done our best to promote local music for 22 years) Adam knew it would be a great collaboration. We never expected it to end up quite so good, though.”

 

You’ve pretty much got every NI heavy hitter from the last two decades on the bill? How hard was it to put together?

“Logistically it was a lot of hard work, but getting the bands to play was a simple case of asking. Some of the bigger acts said yes early on and I guess it became obvious it was set to be a very special night, so it kind of snowballed because everyone wanted to be involved all of a sudden. We were completely blown away with how it all came together. It felt like we’d been given a magic wand that would make our favourite bands do anything we wanted and we just kept waving it. Anyone into music in this country has an interesting story or wonderful memory based around a gig at the Ulster Hall and it’s great to see it back in action.”

 

The Lowly Knights

Do you think the Ulster Hall deserves its status as one of the best venues in the world?
Neil Mullan (vocals): “Yes, I think the Ulster Hall is an iconic venue for NI. So much has happened there over the years. So many seminal performances, so many people’s most cherished memories of gigs are from shows in the Ulster Hall. It’s a big part of our history, so to have it open again is a mouth watering prospect. I remember cueing for seven hours to see Coldplay. Taking the day off school, we decided to make sure we were at the front so were waiting outside the doors on the steps from
midday until the place opened. As it turned out, midday was a bit premature as the next people to arrive to queue turned up at 5.45pm. In retrospect, it was cold but worth it. We also did the same thing for the Counting Crows. It seems every teenager worldwide had a Counting Crows spell.”

How do you feel about playing Do You Remember the First Time?
“We are delighted to be included on the bill. With so many big name artists in the line up it’s a pleasure to be playing along with them. It’s going to be a brilliant night. We’re doing our best to hit people with two energetic, harmonious, life affirming tracks to get the punters going.”

 

Do You Remember the First Time takes place on March 9 at the Ulster Hall and features Therapy? Ash, the Divine Comedy, Duke Special, Fighting with Wire, Jetplane Landing, Panama Kings, Kowalski, Iain Archer, Foy Vance, LaFaro, Cashier No. 9 and the Lowly Knights. This gig is sold out.

 

Edwin McFee