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This review was first published on CLUAS in 2000
Other albums reviewed in 2000

National Prayer Breakfast

A review of the album 'The Sociables Prefer Pop Music'

The National Prayer Breakfast built their reputation as one of Dublin's leading indie lights on the back of an intensive gigging schedule, and the fact that they gave out free sweets at their daytime gigs. In the last three years, their brand of raucous surf pop was heard in just about every venue in Dublin as well as a few places beyond the city walls.

National Prayer Breakfast 'The Sociables Prefer Pop Music'Recording wise, they've been much quieter, with just three EPs in that time (that's one a year, statistics fans). Limited or not, the NPB back catalogue was very well received by the normally sceptical-of-anything-enjoyable Irish rock press. The "Popsong" single even won the Sunday Tribune's single of the week, knocking the likes of the Beastie Boys into a cocked hat that particular week. Mini-successes like this were made all the more notable by the fact that all releases thus far have been on the bands own "Catchy-go-go" label.

And so, last year the full-length LP "The Sociables Prefer Pop Music" was finally released. Unlike most Irish rock bands, NPB have seen fit to NOT cram every song with fake angst and unnecessary, jangly, teeth-cuttingly annoying acoustic guitars (Hi Wilt, Hey Marbles how are ya?). "The Sociables...." is actually fun to listen to. Big loud distorted guitars are backed with slick, tongue in cheek lyrics, a personal favourite being "There's a girl in my kitchen, Oh man she's really bitchin'". By turns groovy and goofy, this is probably the first Irish record to capture the dumb, visceral thrill of the Ramones or John Spencer Blues Explosion and the knowing humour of Pavement. Though not quite that good, obviously.

It might take a few listens to pick stand-out tracks, none of the songs shine as brightly as, say "Cut Your Hair" or "I Wanna be Sedated", but it would be even harder to pick out an actual bad song. One of the albums biggest strengths is its consistency.

Every track, from track 1 to 12 will set your toes a-tappin'. Then, on the last two tracks they decide to turn it all around on its head. As a result, the album closes with the mournful country of "Love your Neighbour" and the quirky (the only word I'm afraid) "Can't Go On". As if convention hadn't been defied enough, they defy their own.

If you were looking for some kind of beautiful post-rock soundscapes to provide an all-cleansing catharsis then you won't find it here. Just one super cool guitar pop song after another. Some people might see that as a drawback, but given that everyone in Dublin has suddenly gone all shoe-gazer on us, it's more refreshing than disappointing.

All hail "The Sociables Prefer Pop Music" then. The only album that could make Charlton Heston warm to the idea of Gun Control.

Jamie Swan

(bullet) See also an interview with the National Prayer Breakfast
(bullet) Then there's reviews of the NPB playing live in TBMC and Whelan's.

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