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John Meagher in The Irish Indo
Last Post 26 Aug 2005 07:58 AM by Pilchard. 41 Replies.
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PilchardUser is Offline
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26 Aug 2005 07:58 AM
    Fantastic piece by John Meagher in the Indo on Irish rock. It has been said before by other critics (its a regular rant for jim carroll in the irish times) but its good to read nonethless. Heres the piece... So much music, so little talent Thursday August 25th 2005 We're constantly told this is a golden age in Irish music - but forget the hype ...there's practically nothing to get excited about, says rock critic John Meagher I met an English musician some time ago who gave serious thought to moving to Dublin. He was under the impression that it was a great city in which to be a singer-songwriter. We Irish were a kind bunch who liked nothing better than sitting in a smokeless pub, sipping our Guinness while listening to some bloke pick at an acoustic guitar and tunelessly singing about losing his girlfriend. London audiences, he suggested, aren't quite as forgiving. Too right, mate. The problem with the Irish is that we're not a nation of complainers. Many of us will listen to just about any old guff and buy the albums while we're at it. It might explain how the hideous racket served up by Declan O'Rourke has charted so highly and why Paddy Casey's Junior Cert lyrics have found such a large audience. It's Irish so it must be good, right? Wrong. The common perception - pushed by the record industry and a subservient media - is that we're experiencing a golden era in Irish music. And if you're particularly naive you'll have bought the line that the Hard Working Class Heroes festival - happening in Dublin this weekend - will be a glorious showcase for musical talent in this country. The intentions of the organisers can't be faulted, but it's likely to be all chaff and no wheat. The aforementioned Casey is one of the 'big names' playing at the event, for heaven's sake. U2 may be making millions and playing to millions on their marathon world tour, but things have rarely been so glum on the domestic music front. And it's not just the awful raggle-taggle of singer-songwriters who are delivering such insipid and uninteresting music. Rock bands - the lifeblood of any music scene - are doling out fare that veers from bland to wretched. I'm tired of going to see bands with nothing to say and who seem to be embarrassed about being on stage. Nearly all of them feel they have to dole out monologues to us a la Glen Hansard of The Frames, a man who most local critics agree is a pain in the posterior. And would somebody tell Ollie Cole of Turn to return to the day job? I often wonder what I've done to deserve this life when I find myself at Dublin's Sugar Club on Friday nights. It's a lovely venue, but with any band able to hire the place to put on their show, you can be privy to some dreadful rubbish. A few weeks back I ventured there with a friend to catch a three-piece called Stoat. It was terrible sub-Electric Six stuff with nonsense lyrics and erratic musicianship. When I pointed this out on a radio station the next day, one of the guys in the band took offence. He seemed to be under the mistaken impression that local journalists should give local acts an easy ride. Not this one, Cormac. As music critic with this paper, I'm exposed to a lot of local music. Very little makes it to my iPod. The best Irish album of the year so far? Hal's eponymous debut. It's a sweet, melodious work. In truth, though, it's very hard to be passionate about a band who write songs with titles like What A Lovely Dance and I Sat Down. I also enjoyed albums by Joe Chester, Emmett Tinley, Cane 141, Jimmy Behan and the soon-to-be released albums by former A House frontman Dave Couse and Pugwash. They're all good albums, but are any of them good enough to be nominated for the Mercury Music Prize? Not one of them. None has that spark of brilliance that puts it alongside nominees such as Antony and the Johnsons or The Magic Numbers. Every week, I receive at least 10 demos from Irish acts. I'd be lying if I said I've listened to all of them, but I can count on the fingers of one hand the demos that made me sit up and take notice. I'm the first to slag off record company A&R personnel but I sure as hell don't envy their job. And I'd really love it if Hugh from Monaghan would stop ringing me every Friday about his Kraftwerk-meets-Iron Maiden outfit. Go and bug some other journalist, please. Then there are the new acts that have a bit of live experience under their belts but whose work to date remains patchy at best. Jove, Delorentos, Tadhg Cooke and Larry Beau are promising, but still seem to be struggling to find their feet. Porn Trauma are too much in thrall to Kings of Leon while Ham Sandwich should really change their name. And what about female musicians. Is anybody likely to follow in the footsteps of the overrated Gemma Hayes? The UK-based Dubliner Cathy Davey is very talented - far more so than Hayes - but she failed to find an audience for her fine debut Something Ilk. It's hard to see the likes of Jenny Lindfors or Grainne Brookfield making much impression. As for all-girl rock band Fair Verona, they look better than they sound. Yes, it's been an annus horribilis for Irish music and there are precious few releases before year-end to look forward to. I like The Chalets' live show and they have an album out next month which I have yet to hear. I worry that they are a triumph of style over substance, though. And Bell X1, who have promised so much in recent years, release their third album in October. They remain the band most likely to do a Snow Patrol but they have made some catastrophic decisions in the past about what songs to release as singles.. They need to learn from those mistakes, otherwise Island Records may wonder if it's worth keeping them on the roster. Perhaps we get the music we deserve. After all, more than half a million of us tuned into the dreadful Celebrity You're A Star - to hear a bunch of jumped-up nonentities sing badly. Maybe Hard Working Class Heroes will unearth Ireland's answer to The Arcade Fire - the Canadian band who have released 2005's finest album - and I will have to eat my words. I doubt it, somehow. Hard Working Class Heroes runs from tomorrow until Sunday, with 100 acts performing in six Dublin venues. www.hwch.net Are we really lost in music? Angela Dorgan, organiser Hard Working Class Heroes festival "I don't think it's fair to say that Irish bands don't box well even in their own weight category. It is too subjective to say there are no good bands from Ireland. Iain Archer puts goosebumps on my arm, the Frank and Walters make me dance for three hours in a row, Delorentos make me think I'm 17 again and 8 Ball could be the backing track for a BBQ anywhere in the world. The indie industry has never been healthier, the opportunities here are in the hands of the artist more than any other industry. Per capita, we have more successes. That's something to be celebrated and not dismissed." Ian O'Doherty Irish Independent columnist "A golden era for Irish music? What a joke. The success of The Frames and Paddy Casey is a triumph of persistence and mediocrity over pure talent and inspiration. With the exception of a few honourable exceptions, the self-congratulatory nature of the scene is grotesque. Just look at the party line spouted every fortnight by Hot Press with its insistence that we're a great little country with great musicians. We're going through a very lean time and anybody who uses their two ears properly will acknowledge that." Stevo Berube Music industry publicist "There is a lot of talent out there but many acts don't get a chance to develop because the bar is not set high enough in Ireland. There's enormous competition in the UK and that pushes the standard up. Here, everything seems to rise to the top - good and bad. As it's a small country there is a limited live circuit so bands don't get to play live often enough to hone their sound or to make enough money to be full-time musicians. It's interesting that some of the best Irish acts of recent times have worked on their craft in the UK first. And the lot of local outfits are not helped by the fact that the press and media here tend to be conservative and unwilling to take chances with emerging local acts."
    GarUser is Offline
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    26 Aug 2005 08:12 AM
    While I don't agree with everything he says, it's an entertaining piece and he makes some good arguments.
    palaceUser is Offline
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    palace

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    26 Aug 2005 08:32 AM
    lazy, lazy, lazy... ...for a music journalist, he's not looking very deep, is he?
    PilchardUser is Offline
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    26 Aug 2005 08:34 AM
    quote:
    Originally posted by palace
    lazy, lazy, lazy... ...for a music journalist, he's not looking very deep, is he?
    er.....what do u mean?
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    Cormac Looney

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    26 Aug 2005 09:22 AM
    quote:
    Originally posted by palace
    lazy, lazy, lazy... ...for a music journalist, he's not looking very deep, is he?
    Having spent the past 5 years going to increasingly less gigs in Dublin, for the precise reasons he's outlined, Meagher's struck the nail on the head for me. If anyone's lazy here it's the acts not serious enough about their careers to do the necessary and relocate to London. I'd prefer a flow of young, enthusiastic and emigrating bands to a thrombosis of turgidity epitomised by P Casey and his ilk.
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    26 Aug 2005 10:06 AM
    i think its a good article... i'd say palace reckons its lazy because he could just look a bit harder to find some good bands dry county, the redneck manifesto are obviously missing... waiting room, rest etc.
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    26 Aug 2005 10:07 AM
    He's certainly nailed it alright but he's neglected to mention the fact that its not just the musicians themselves that are lazy and uninspired, its the people of Ireland themselves who are content to listen to endless streams of mediocrity. I mean The Frames and Paddy Casey still sell records and get people going to their gigs where the same dull bastards will simply stand completely motionless in some kind of trance nodding their heads and supping occasionally on their pints. People in this country are content to listen to "safe" music. We don't like to think about our music. We don't want interesting stuff that will challenge us and make us use the grey matter. We made David Gray big for gods sake. Stereophonics headlined Slane and almost filled the place. Coldplay are ridiculously big (which is true for the rest of the world admittedly) and Aslan keep packing them in. The average irish music fan needs to converted first before all this boring drivel can be disposed with. Having said that, there are a few bands out there that I've seen that do have potential to do some justice to this place but they really do not to get out of here to do it. It also strikes me as somewhat daunting when the organiser of Hardworkingclassheroes raves about a band by saying that they "could be the backing track for a BBQ anywhere in the world". Isn't that just another way of saying "it's music you can ignore". Is that what we need right now?
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    Carlsberg

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    26 Aug 2005 10:12 AM
    Ultimately, I agree with 99% of what John has said. Coming straight to the point, we are still talking about the same acts for the past 5 years as acts which have "broken through". The Frames,Paddy Casey,Bellx1,The Corrs,Damian Rice(I no longer hear people talking about Turn, correct me if i am wrong) & when we get stuck we (ireland) bring back the Cranberries as another artist of mass success outside of Ireland, which, they are, but in my opinion, are one of the most embarrassing and god awful acts we let out of the cage here. Everyone of those acts are successful and have to be respected for what "they do". But not one of those acts (bellx1's october release may prove me wrong!!) can stand up to the dark beauty Interpol.. have the magic of Mercury Rev, the passion of The Manics, the creativity of Death Cab for Cutie or the massive genuine big band worldwide appeal of Coldplay. Snow Patrol have joined this party late and am going to give them the benefit of any doubt as we await their new album, I also think that Snow Patrol have the potential to be a really good band but as mentioned a minute ago, i await the release. I don't buy the whole population per band thing as an excuse as to why a country like ours cannot produce an act which combimes both substance, sytle and has "that" thing. As a manager of an act in Dublin I see bands every week. I see alot of tight Hard Working Units some of whom have good songs but they are just not different, just not gripping me, not making me want to go and see them again. It's like at the moment you have to have a certain degree of shi*tness in order to be commercially successful However, I do think that in the last year, there has been a collective of bands which have gigged the dublin scene and around Ireland and taken the initiative to move the process forward themselves and go the Independent road. The Rags have what I consider two Fantastic EP's, 66e's album is brilliant. I loved Polars single but we're losing them to the UK and good on them. I am excited about Delorentos and Lost. Alphastates, The Urges & Wicker have all got something going on which i have yet get but i see why they are liked and I see why they have the potential to be good acts. People talk alot about The Chalets, I dont and I dont get them. Director are an act which i believe could break this barrier between genuine quality and mass commcercial success. They remind me of so many bands that they've almost created a sound for themselves. We are bombarded by singer-songwriters 24/7. That's their right however & I for one am looking forward to seeing Tadhg Cooke when I can. I like Jenny Lindfors & Karl Vincent, I think Herm has got a good thing going on. It's any musicians right to get up onto a stage and do something "they" believe in and that should never be knocked. Unfortunately, the quality of the majority of those getting up on stage, while often well crafted, well meaning and for want of a better word, good, remains below the par for what is needed to make it at this level and more importantly, what is needed to take people with you on your journey. I dont think HWCH will give us the next Arcade Fire either but we have an Arcade Fire, I just want to be blown away by an act over the weekend and feel when I leave that I either want to manage them or cant wait to see them again. Enjoy HWCH guys & have good weekend Carlsberg
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    Ian Wright

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    26 Aug 2005 10:16 AM
    Becasue London/NY/LA/Nasville is the be all and end all of the music world? I'll admit that the Dublin/Irish scene is a bit stale but it doesn't mean that you need to be in one of the places mentioned above. Look at all the stuff that's emerged from Manchester in the last 20 years, in Canada there's amazing music coming out of Toronto and Montreal right now, I think Seattle might have produced a few decent bands in it's time. Moving to London wouldn't make Paddy Casey good, not writing s**te music would. And, by the way, there is some horrendous crap coming out of these musical epicentres that most of us will never hear about. We might have to put up with Havana Calling but New Yorkers have got Morning Wood to contend with. Also his comments on the Mercury Music Prize are complete toss, winning awards doesn't mean music is good (M People are mercury winners for chrissakes) and they certainly shouldn't be used to (in)validate people's music.
    PilchardUser is Offline
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    26 Aug 2005 10:30 AM
    All good points made and all part of the debate I'm going to go to Hard Working Class Heroes and hope I hear something amazing, something knock-out brilliant. But thats just the start - the band need so much more to succeed than just songs. Everything from management and record label to luck and coincidence. The infrastructure here means that if a band is serious about being more than just "big In Ireland" (the new "big in Japan"), they have to go abroad. Say what we will about the fr*m*s but they havent been in ireland much this year at all. theyve been touring everywhere. it may not work but they are out there giving it a lash There is another problem with dublin bands. i spent about an hour yesterday on the HWCH site listening to MP3s and it struck me that there seems to be an awful lot of bands who sound the damn same. All that same bluesy guitar R&B old-school howl. bands like Porn Trauma want to be the Kings of Leon. Bands like The Things want to be The Kinks. Fine but others do it so much better. We need something new, exciting, raw, emotional, angry, startling to come along. Thats the kind of thing John Meagher is writing about. But unfortunately, i dont see that changing. In 5 years time, he will still be writing the same piece because nothing will have changed. I hope I will be proved wrong
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    26 Aug 2005 10:47 AM
    Less focus on image and more on learning how to sing properly would be a good step for alot of the singers/fronts in local groups. Honestly while there are a great deal of exciting and talented outfits at the moment (and I believe there are), very few have a lead singer with a note in their head. Having seen the majority of bands on the "scene" at the moment, that is the common denominator for me. It'd be refreshing if a group cultivated their own sound and approach as opposed to ripping off their teen idols too. The Rags, Delorentos, Ch-1 and Dry County would be the stand out groups at the minute for me personally. However unfortunately only two of the above play this weekend. Hopefully there will be a big turn out for this though. The last thing needed is apathy.
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    26 Aug 2005 10:47 AM
    I think John Meahger is spot on. We are being dominated by safe, coffee table, schoolteacher-chic singer songwriters whose lyrics, rhyming for the sake of it, bounce non-threateningly off People Carrier passenger seats whilst the drivers tend to their kids. In every town and every city there exists a number of scenes. There's the Alternative Scene, the Pop scene and the DJ scene. Currently, in Dublin the only scene that's thriving (On Wexford St anyway) is the DJ scene, with Anseo pushing all the buttons. The pop scene is dead at the moment while the alternative scene is suffering from a huge identity crisis. But wait, didn't I say the pop scene was dead? Well, in truth it's not. Paddy Casey, Declan O'Roruke et all are amongst these, scene confused artists, wandering up and down the Village Qtr looking for a place to hang out and invariably ending up in pop towers (or Whelans). Is it that hard to know who's fault it is? John Meagher levels some blame at the audience. Valid. And the bands? Strike two. Apart from the dreadful Stoat, he mentions a number of other bands who, in truth, rely on mates to bring up the fanbase. Ham Sandwich (awful name) .. Is it Glen (I was OK on Miriam, but you've got me, I DO have a different story everytime I explain how I wrote lay me down)?? Certainly, Angela's heart is in the right place and she does a great job every year with HWCH. And I applaud her for being able to get Pony Club, Jape and the mighty Sack to appear with such low quality acts. And I'm sure a number of these guys will go on to better things ( Ruby Taillights and the Gugginheim Grotto for example ) but there is a serious overall lack of genuine talent here. Dave Couse's album will obviously be great. Cane 141's is. Jape is the most exciting thing coming out of Ireland right now..Emmet Tinley too. But, you know these guys have been around a while and a hardly new. Is the scene dying?
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    26 Aug 2005 10:49 AM
    Less focus on image and more on learning how to sing properly would be a good step for alot of the singers/fronts in local groups. Honestly while there are a great deal of exciting and talented outfits at the moment (and I believe there are), very few have a lead singer with a note in their head. Having seen the majority of bands on the "scene" at the moment, that is the common denominator for me. It'd be refreshing if a group cultivated their own sound and approach as opposed to ripping off their teen idols too. The Rags, Delorentos, Ch-1 and Dry County would be the stand out groups at the minute for me personally. However unfortunately only two of the above play this weekend. Hopefully there will be a big turn out for this though. The last thing needed is apathy.
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    26 Aug 2005 11:25 AM
    most of what I have to say has been said already but suffice to say I think thatthe article is spot on and I have to admit I found Angela's BBQ remark quite strange indeed.
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    26 Aug 2005 11:40 AM
    quote:
    Originally posted by Unicron
    Becasue London/NY/LA/Nasville is the be all and end all of the music world? I'll admit that the Dublin/Irish scene is a bit stale but it doesn't mean that you need to be in one of the places mentioned above.
    the difference, in my opinion, between dublin and all these places (canada included) is the number of independent record labels... in the uk & usa there are thousands of indie labels that will release music on a small level but develop a band's sound while getting them a fanbase... people know and respect the labels and therefore buy stuff from them on merit (like what happens with rough trade/matador/sub pop except obviously they're on a much bigger scale now) then often the band will get bought by a bigger label (nirvana/bloc party) and the band will go onto bigger things, the small label will get more money to develop more acts and the cycle goes on. here in dublin/ireland all the indie labels are run by the bands themselves (with the exception of www.outonalimbrecords.com - fantastic label) which means self financing, which in turn means bands have to either develop a fanbase over night or work a day job to fund their band. working a day job to fund your band is terrible because straight away you lose out on precious writing/recording/rehearsing/living time and as we all know, its impossible to develop a fanbase overnight unless your marketed by a nice big corporate machine. i think this lack of indie labels directly contributes to our lack of good/successful bands, but to be honest i cant propose any ideas to change this... because we're such a small country setting up an indie label just isnt economically viable unless you can have the success of david gray or damien rice with one of your releases and lets face it... if you did have that kind of success people here in ireland would dismiss your label/band straight away as overly commercial or whatever - we all remember the days when the frames were the darlings of the indie scene here, now a bit of success and they're a swear word on cluas???
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    Ian Wright

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    26 Aug 2005 11:48 AM
    And ironically way back then Stokes and the HP crew wouldn't piss the Frames' name in the snow, now that they aren't cool (were they ever?) they're all over it. The fact that there isn't a viable alternative to Hot Press here has to be damaging the scene.
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    26 Aug 2005 11:57 AM
    the problem with hotpress might be the lack of subject matter to cover too? i dont buy nme or hotpress but i'm sure they'd be the exact same magazine if they were located in the same place??
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    Daragh Murray

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    26 Aug 2005 12:15 PM
    quote:
    He seemed to be under the mistaken impression that local journalists should give local acts an easy ride. Not this one, Cormac
    hehe, brilliant line. Liked the piece in that its a good read, and i do think that the music scene is a bit weak at the moment. But im sick to f**king death of people moaning about f**king paddy casey and the frames, get over it! ive been to a fair few gigs, and never once come across those f**kers, like some one mentioned earlier, there are good bands out there, but you do have to be prepared to go to some s**te venue, and (inevitably) listen to some other mediocre bands to find them. Definitely the lack of a music press bringing attention to these acts is part of the problem, if people dont read about bands etc then a simple "X are playing here on friday, it will rock" isnt really going to make a great ad. I think we're dropping the ball on Cluas a bit too, with the amount of attention paid to unsigned acts, that should change a bit after this weekend with HWCH reviews though.
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    26 Aug 2005 12:19 PM
    quote:
    Originally posted by Unicron
    And ironically way back then Stokes and the HP crew wouldn't piss the Frames' name in the snow, now that they aren't cool (were they ever?) they're all over it. The fact that there isn't a viable alternative to Hot Press here has to be damaging the scene.
    well, why isnt there? didnt we have this conversation before? i'm sure we did i dont think the lack of a decent music mag has anything to do with the lack of ambition displayed by dublin/irish bands and the amount of s**te music fans seem to be able to tolerate. it will be interesting to see how things may change after a year of 18 months of Phantom, though. i think the lack of a good radio station has more to do with how awful the standard is than a music magazine.
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    Rev Jules

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    26 Aug 2005 02:02 PM
    A few thoughts. I empathise with John Meagher, sitting there day after day listening to CDs containing music that he wouldn't normally listen to and having to bang out an article on same. Grim. Articles like this usually appear when a critic leaves a paper. There was one a while ago in The Dubliner along the lines of 'I hate all the rotten restaurants I ate in' and another in The Guardian along the lines of 'I hate Big Budget Schlock and Harvey Weinstein'. What they signal most to me is that the critic's taste has become too jaded and out of kilter to judge things properly anymore. Personally, and its no secret, I cant abide Rice, Casey etc. Yeuch, yeuch, yeuch, but I don't agree with the central point that there aren't any excellent musicians in this country, nor the article's title 'So much music, so little talent' (when the article's real focus is confined to the narrow and small pop music scene in this country and what takes place in a handful of venues) There are plenty of wonderful Irish musicians such as Louis Stewart, Peter Browne (the younger, not to be confused with the RTE producer of the same name), Barry Douglas, Niall Toner, Phillip Donnelly (who knows a thing or two about writing hit songs), Clive Barnes and Davey Spillane. I remember sitting transfixed in the rain in Meeting House Square a couple of years ago as Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill wove their magic in the air around me. But these are people who spend their every waking moment playing music - whose focus is on making music - and not on appearing on the front of Hot Press (The Chalets anyone ?). As for the superiority of the British scene...the history of British Rock, from The Beatles to The Sex Pistols to Oasis has been written by musicians of Irish parentage. A point made by none other than 2005 Mercury Prize Nominee MIA in a recent interview. As I say, I empathise, but this article needed to clarify its theme.
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