Sunday, July 31, 2011

1981 45 Fire U2

An annoying notion often flung around since the late 80s is that U2 didn’t have a hit single until New Year’s Day in 1983 or even Pride in 1984. Granted, the goalposts changed considerably for them through the 80s and the success of The Joshua Tree inevitably dwarfed any early achievements. 

However, if you’re particularly fond of these early achievements you tend to resent them being misremembered/labeled incorrectly e.g. Fire, their 6th single released in Aug 1981 was a hit.  It reached no. 35 in the UK charts, they appeared on Top of the Pops, ah c'mon lads is that not a hit?

I was watching the show in my cousins’ house in Enniscorthy and when they appeared I remember being excited and aware of its significance – that it was the first hit single by a new Irish band since the Rats or Lizzy. The Rats had been appearing on TOTP since 77 which seemed a lifetime ago to me (cos it nearly was). There was more to it- of which I was barely aware - they operated from Ireland and were distinct. Here they were on Top of the Pops – result.

 I already knew I Will Follow and Out of Control from the radio, Boy was floating around on a reel to reel tape that summer and October was snapped up by my brother in, um, October .
Fire was shuffly and mildly explosive - not a classic song but punctuated by several distinct moments that could define their sound. For a ten year old Irish music nerd it was ground zero.
 In my mind when Gloria, the next single came out, they were elevated to great heights. In reality they weren’t – Gloria stalled at 55 and October got middling reviews. I was blissfully unaware of this as my media filters were mostly Irish – RTE bigged them up continually (correctly). In 1982 BP Fallon did a 2 parter of his BP Fallon Orchestra on them on Radio 2, I thought ooh, they’re getting big now. Gloria and Fire were unofficial anthems to young teenagers at discos throughout Ireland for the bones of the 80s. You did a kind of backwards roundabout feet together bumpy bop to it and I'll still drag it out when I need the heat. Gloria remained prominent in their set till the late 80s but Fire died out much sooner. All spent with nowhere to grow -there was no trace of it on their 80s singles compilation in 1998- talk about too much perspective, boys. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

2001 Films of the Year

The Believer
Donnie Darko
Ghost World
Gosford Park
In the bedroom
The Lord of the Rings
The Man Who Wasn’t There
Monsoon Wedding
Mulholland Drive
The Pledge
Riding in Cars With Boys
The Son’s Room
Vanilla Sky
Waking Life
Y tu mama tambien

1991 real life - Leysin Festival, Switzerland

1981 LP JuJu Siouxsie and the Banshees

Sometimes, at least for a while, you just have one album by an artist and this was our Banshees album. My brother bought it in the summer of 1981 on the strength of the hit single Spellbound and it hit the ground running in our house. It’s a strong, evocative and haunting work and it soundtracked many a board game and jigsaw puzzle.

Guitarist John McGeoch's exceptional playing is rightly acclaimed but it shouldn't be overestimated - everyone here has raised their game. The key dynamic for each song is the insistent interlocking rhythm of the guitar against Budgie’s drums propelled by Steven Severin’s bass and haunted by the singer's swooping call.

It is Siouxsie's voice as percussion/messenger/human instrument that binds the piece, makes it exotic yet recognisable and unique.

Side one is remarkable, kicking off with Spellbound, a thrilling single from a summer full of thrilling singles, followed by the hook laden Into The Light featuring the unusual dulcimer instrument. The first half-minute of Arabian Nights (another hit) demonstrates all their powers, the creepy introductory chord harnessed by halting toms sinks into a smothering groove verse before a thundering celebratory chorus.

The punkier Hallowe'en is next and it segues into Monitor of which the opening rhythm chords eventually explode brilliantly into the song proper. Monitor is the centrepiece for me and is the most played punky band abrasive rock type song in my world for the last few years – I think it’s aged very well.

I haven’t heard side two as much as the other side but I intend to - it ranges from epic darkness (Nightshift, Voodoo Dolly) to violent funk rock (Head Cut) and all out one-note-song-by-attitude shocker Sin in my Heart.

 The record sleeve looks like how the record sounds, a cryptic postcard from a strange hot land east of the Nile, gold and black music notation snips pasted Burroughs next to the head of a mysterious statue.  The songs took you to places – hotter stickier and scarier.  The album has a bit of a reputation as the template of goth and as the defining moment/millstone for the Banshees but I just think of it as a really good album which evokes enough powerful memories to prevent me overplaying it . 
It’s a shaker. It’s a breaker.

Contemporary quotes:

      NME - “ a gliding, comfortless delivery of self-distrust, infatuation and fetishism”
      Melody Maker - “they’ve already composed quality nightmare soundtracks and they don’t need to do it again”
      Sounds – “doom is at the door…creating something intriguing, intensely brooding and powerfully atmospheric”

“Sit back and enjoy the real McCoy….” (Monitor)