News From The North Weeks 65-66

16 11 2010

Can you believe in another couple of months I’ll have been doing my NI news column in Hot Press for three years? Time flies and all that, so here’s a bunch of recent ones for your reading pleasure.

News

Words: Edwin McFee

Vol 34 Issue 22

As we get ever closer to the unveiling of the Beat Poets’ debut album, the band continue to build up our expectations with new single ‘Gravity,’ which is another superb slice of stadium rock. Released on Nov 15, the four-piece officially launch the track with a gig at the Hideout in Warrenpoint two days before it goes on general sale via all digital platforms and they’re also currently making a video for the aforementioned tune too. Support on the night comes from the Q, Firefly and Brendan Fitzpatrick and admission is £5, so make sure you clear the diary this Nov 13 and go and support one of our brightest hopes.

Speaking of promising acts with bags of potential, the mighty Not Squares release their debut album Yeah OK on Nov 27 and play a launch gig at the Bunatee in Belfast in celebration of the release. These days, the rave/punk outfit have slimmed down to a three-piece, but they’ve not lost any of the intensity that made us fall in love with them in the first place and the record is an absolute belter. Support on the night comes from their Richter Collective label-mates Logikparty and there will also be sets from Deformative DJs and Obscene Strategists DJs too.

Also releasing their debut album this month are the soul punk behemoths that are Dirty Stevie. Nine years in the making, A Beginner’s Guide To Levitation is the culmination of months of hard work and while we haven’t received a copy yet at the time of going to press, we’re sure it’s a suitably raucous affair. The Dirt will be selling copies of the slab of wax at the launch gig at the Oh Yeah Centre in Belfast on Nov 13 and support comes from We Want Blood and Gascan Ruckas.

 Have you always fancied a career twiddling knobs? Are you one of those people who love to take established tracks and mould them into something different? Well, if your answer to those questions is “yo’ damn right” (or even just a simple “yes” for that matter) then you may be interested in General Fiasco’s latest plan to let their fans remix their sublime single ‘Ever So Shy.’ The winning entry will see their version released via the band’s record label Infectious and all you have to do to enter is click on this link http://www.tracksandfields.com/requests.php?request_id=217 for their terms and conditions. You’ve got until Nov 25 to channel your inner Baron Frankenstein, so good luck!

News

Words: Edwin McFee

Vol. 34 Issue 21

Not content with touring around Ireland (and indeed the world) celebrating 20 years in the alt rock business and releasing their first ever live record We’re Here To The End this November to boot, Larne/Ballyclare legends Therapy? are already eyeing up album number 11 in a bid to capitalize on the creative momentum gained with the mighty Crooked Timber. Yes readers, NI’s greatest export (sorry Mr Lightbody) are hatching plans for next year and as I write this very missive they are holed up in a rehearsal studio in Derby and honing their new tracks. Earlier this month, this writer caught up with the band’s frontman Andy Cairns and he had this to say about the new slab of wax.

 “We’re looking at going into the studio in March, 2011. We’ve got the bones of 14 tracks written already. We’re gonna make it a ten track album, and we have some working titles already. We want to keep in the deeper and darker vein. We had a habit over the years of making a really noisy record followed by a poppy, alternative record but we’ve got out of that. If you like stuff like ‘Unbeliever’ it’s down that alley.”

But before all that of course, we’ve got the so-called Troublegum and More shows to sate our thirst for their own unique brand of awkward rock and they play Cyprus Avenue in Cork on Oct 23 and 24 and Vicar Street, Dublin on Nov 5 so if you haven’t got a ticket yet we recommend you get one pretty sharpish for these once in a lifetime shows.

Keeping things slightly alternative, do you remember how last issue I was complaining about the lack of live action in the South Down area? Well, it seems like someone somewhere was listening as a brand new venue called the Hideout has just started operating this month in Warrenpoint. Located above Jack Ryan’s pub, the space was launched in style with a gig from Fighting with Wire last week and upcoming shows include the Vortex (featuring Bonehead ex of Oasis) on Dec 11 and And So I Watch You From Afar on Dec 23 and we’d like to wish everyone involved in the venture the best of luck.

Finally, John D’arcy and his “Great Bunch Of Lads” have released a new single via the infamous Good Vibrations label. Entitled ‘Get Over Yourself,’ the song is the singer’s finest moment to date and you can download it via his Bandcamp page here:  http://johndarcy.bandcamp.com/track/get-over-yourself.





News From The North Week 46

27 01 2010

After a brief break for crimbo, my NI news column in Hot Press is back in action. The latest issue is onsale in a  few days, so here’s the words from the previous issue to keep you entertained.

News

Words: Edwin McFee

As it’s the New Year we thought it best to kick start it with some good news-namely the fantastic Silhouette winning the first prize at a battle of the bands in Warrenpoint last week. If you haven’t managed to see them yet, the band are the brainchild of Shauna Tohill and employ a cello, double bass and whatever instrument comes to mind mixing Dresden Dolls, Kate Bush and Tegan and Sara influences and coming up with something else entirely. By winning first prize, Silhouette scooped £2500 worth of booty which included the release of her first single via VM Records and we’ll keep you posted about release dates etc. By the way, if anyone from the Silhouette camp wants to send us over some leftover bubbly, then post it to us c/o Hot Press

On January 24, the Green Party’s North Down candidate for the upcoming Westminster election Steven Agnew is organizing a fundraiser in Auntie Annie’s, Belfast. What’s this got to do with music we hear you cry. Well, the bash is called the Wee Green Man Festival and features Axis Of and Adebisi Shank playing live and there’s also a DJ set from Not Squares so we think it’s relevant (plus Mr Agnew loves the Murder City Devils, which can only be a good thing). The cover charge is a £5 donation and for more information visit www.greenpartyni.org. Should be a fun night.

Talking about showcase gigs, the ninth “Big Gig” takes place this Jan 22 at the Spring and Airbrake, Belfast and features a world beating line-up featuring a returning Yakuza (who play their first show in over a year) plucky contenders Before Machines and a headline slot by the inimitable Dirty Stevie. The Dirt are currently knee deep recording their debut record which will hopefully see the light of day this year and as it’s the first time they’ve ever headlined in the venue they’ll be chomping at the bit to pop their cherries in style (apologies for the mental image there folks). Admission is £4 and doors are at 9pm.

Finally, General Fiasco have revealed that they will release the mighty ‘Ever So Shy’ as a single on March 8 via Infectious Records. Possibly the band’s best song to date, the track should see the trio capitalize on their momentum quicker than James Corden chasing after the last chicken wing in the bucket and we wish them all the best. Their debut album ‘Buildings’ is slated for a March 22 release and judging by what we’ve heard from the sampler, it’s going to be a belter.





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 40

23 09 2009

As promised in a previous blog, here’s the NI news column from the previous issue of Hot Press, Vol 33 Issue 17

 

News from the North

Words:  Edwin McFee

This October sees the return of the Hard Working Class Heroes festival in Dublin and featuring in the line up once again are a whole host of NI’s finest. Taking place from Oct 16-18 in Temple Bar, the acts that are keeping the Northern end up are A Plastic Rose (who are seemingly everywhere these days), Cutaways, Escape Act, Here Comes the Landed Gentry (who are sure to be the highlight of the whole weekend), Kowalski, Not Squares, Pocket Promise, the Vals and Yes Cadets. Despite some noticeable exceptions, it’s a pretty great bill and we’ll be filling you in on more details over the coming weeks. For now keep checking www.hwch.net for more info.

The mighty fine Oppenheimer are busy in the studio at the moment, working on album number three and they’ve come up with a rather unusual request via their website (www.oppenheimer.co.uk in case you didn’t know). The duo (who sometimes aren’t a duo, but never mind all that) want you, Joe Public, to help write two of their new songs, as Rocky from the band explains: “There will be two songs on the next album that we will write about anything you want. Anything at all.  If you want us to write a song about the time your friend fell asleep in a taxi cab on the way to watch a boxing match, and then you slapped them in the face so many times they lost feeling in their cheek for month, we’ll do it! If you want us to write a song about the tall ships visiting Belfast once every nineteen years, we’ll do it! We’ll give you a shout out on the album, a free album, free Oppenheimer gig entries and other goodies as and when we make them.” So there you have it. Personally we’re hoping they write about a handsome young Hot Press columnist from Newry and if you’d like to hear that too, then email rocky@oppenheimermusic.co.uk pronto.

Finally this fortnight, the Thrones of Roll are releasing a new EP called ‘Video Store’ by putting on a gig on Oct 23 at the Black Box in Belfast. The chaps have also made a video for the title track and it was directed by Sean Duncan and you can have a butcher’s by clicking on the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vTI5aJ3hoQ. It features the band dressed up as iconic film characters and it’s well worth a click or two.