Seems like no time since I was sitting here putting together last month’s column (that’s cos you’re always late – Ed) but here I am again with another bumper crop of local (and slightly further afield) talent. So what is my intro topic this month?
Well, given that Metallica has just announced a European tour that doesn’t include Ireland (not at time of writing anyway) and whose cheapest tickets are £60, but are more commonly £100, it brings into sharp focus the gap between the big acts whose fortunes are made (and perpetuate) and the struggle for acts coming through to make enough money to keep doing what they love, never mind actually get a step up the ladder. I like my big bands as much as the next man. I like my nostalgia as much as any 45 year old. But when I consider spending £100 for a ticket, plus air/boat/train fares, plus hotel stay, not to mention the time off work, I can’t help equating it to how many local gigs that would pay me to go to, how many local band’s cd’s/downloads/merchandise I could buy. Rest assured my £5 or £10 will mean much more to those guys than my £100 will to Metallica. If you are reading this, you are already interested in something other than the big bands, so maybe I am preaching to the choir. But all I would ask is that you try as best you can to support local music – in other words, if you’re going to steal anyone’s music, steal Metallica’s (and no, I haven’t been paid by Napster to say that).
►More Than Machines– ‘Youth’
While not my favourite sub-genre of Rock music, even I will admit that, when Pop/Punk is done well it can be downright infectious. What it needs is to steer away from the now tired, formulaic melody styles and glib Millenial shtick. Dublin’s More Than Machines clearly recognise this and while I wouldn’t say a song called ‘Youth’ is breaking new ground in terms of lyrics and attitude, it at least is honest and not attempting to be faux cool. Young people have a right to sing about their issues after all. There’s a lot to like about this song – I like the heavy underbelly of the ‘Tallica style riffing and I love Leah Moore’s strong smooth vocals and how they fit over the top of that technical music. Again, not everyone could pull that off and find a melody and lyric structure that fits over the music without slavishly aping it. There is also something that little bit special about a good female-fronted rock band. More Than Machines – more than yer average Pop/Punk wannabes.
►Emily McCormick– ‘Spellbinding’
Having said in previous Singles Club columns that the R&B sultriness of Michelle Dowd was a rarity in my inbox, in pops a wee email from Derry native, Emily McCormick. OK, she classes her music as ‘Jazz’ on Soundcloud, but it’s all silky smooth sultriness to this aul fella. Like Dowd, McCormick manages to do some genuine storytelling in her lyrics, which always helps keep my interest. I like the acerbic nature of the tale she tells – the man who thinks he is ‘all that’ but isn’t. If Amy Winehouse left a genuine legacy after her death, it is the empowerment of women to fit this kind of storytelling into what had become a fairly ‘safe’ style of music. Now resident in London, you would hope Emily can find plenty of venues to ply her trade and expose her talent to a wider audience than she would have in her homeland.
►Surf Green– ‘Sweet Nothings’
While not my favourite sub-genre of Rock music, even I will admit that, when Pop/Punk is done well it can be downright….oops, hang on, I’ve already said that. Ok. Start again. Right, I want to preface what I am going to say by letting you know that the first band I was in was pretty cr*p (just the first one? – Ed) and the one original song we wrote was as ‘Janet and John tries to play Rock music’ as you will ever hear. So. I am not saying this from some lofty position where I don’t know the stages musicians have to go through to in order to get better and find their way. Belfast’s Surf Green are clearly a young band, full of ideas, full of energy and not without talent. If this is their first statement as a band, then it isn’t half bad at all. But there’s lots of cliched rhyming in there (you know what the next rhyming word is going to be before they say it), which they will need to work on a little harder in future if they are to capture people’s interest and then hold it. I feel too they perhaps tried to do a little bit too much musically with the song. It’s almost Prog/Punk at times, and I don’t know if those are two comfortable bedfellows. But, I always want to end on a positive note and that is that I would be only too happy to hear how this band progresses from here.
‘Ashes’ is the taster single for Derry Operatic Metal band, Selene’s, soon-to-be-released debut album ‘The Forgotten’. I have been following the band’s progress for a couple of years, having reviewed recorded work and live performances alike. There is no doubt the band have progressed in terms of professionalism and their live performances, especially the on-stage persona of singer, Shonagh Lyons, have improved. So I totally respect them for this hard work and dedication. What I am and never will be, is a fan of this type of Metal. I’m not a fan of this style from any other band such as the most famous exponent – Nightwish, so it would be condescending of me to declare unbridled love for Selene, simply due to them being from here. They wouldn’t thank me for it either. But, if you are a fan of this style of music, I have no doubts that Selene will tick all the right boxes for you – the bombastic feel of the riffing, underpinned by double-bass drum driven percussion, the gothic keyboards and Shonagh’s perfect soprano – and of course a certain style of lyricism you expect from this genre. If you love that, you will love ‘Ashes’ by Selene. If it leaves you cold or you just wouldn’t enjoy a whole album of it, then you may join me by the fire.
►Rory Lavelle– ‘Poor Pride’
I have to confess that Rory Lavelle’s name didn’t ring any bells when I first heard it, but his voice did as soon as I heard the opening bars to ‘Poor Pride’. It instantly brought back memories of reviewing his former band, Indigo Fury’s, album. It was actually one of my very first reviews for CB. It is an album I still listen to. A good band who I will miss. But Lavelle is moving on and, if anything, this (what I would call) classy Brit Rock style really suits his voice. It brings to mind a touch of Starsailor, The Verve or the more recent introspective Stereophonics. He certainly seems confident in this style and it all bodes well for forthcoming debut album, ‘Waves’. I will be eagerly awaiting the chance to review that.
►Chris Keys– ‘Stronger’
Another month, another Singles Club, another great song by Chris Keys, another great video, another reason to get excited about his forthcoming debut album.
Another great review. ‘Nuff said.
►Kate Gilbertson– ‘Will You Wait’
Bucking the trend of many of my recent reviews of acts from here who have gone elsewhere to find their path, Kate Gilbertson has come here from Australia, by way of Europe and Canada. Citing Joni Mitchell as an influence is no surprise given the gentle-yet-urgent nature of ‘Will You Wait’, the wistfulness, the sense of happiness being just out of reach. It’s no surprise to see that Gilbertson is getting a lot of attention on this island, and plenty of opportunities to play. She makes it all sound very easy indeed.
►Chris Madden– ‘World’s Gone to $h!t’
The thing I like about Chris Madden is that he really doesn’t give a $h!t. He plays his own brand of raucous Country Rock and makes no apologies for it. He doesn’t try to polish it up with over the top production – the guitar is raw, the vocals are a drawl, the lyrics are a hoot…and yet strangely true. At a time when Country & Western is the biggest selling music on this island, it would be very easy for him to slick back his hair, tone down the swears, and rock like a wagon wheel. Thank $h!t he doesn’t.
►Wasps– ‘Future Endeavours’
Wasps is a ‘Math Punk’ (yeah, seriously) duo from Derry and Belfast. Other than that, I know little more about them apart from what we all can glean from their facebook page. But they sure are different. Honestly, like Selene, I can’t ever see myself sitting down to a full helping of…whatever it is that Math Punk is. It’s a little too discordant to these ears. The vocals are a little too shrill. It’s all a little bit jarring. But then, Wasps aren’t writing for tired aul men like me…so move over daddio and let the kids take over.