The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

20
Mumford & Sons 'Sigh No More'

A review of the album 'Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons

Mumford & Sons Sigh No MoreReview Snapshot: This London folk foursome presented their first album, 'Sigh No More', at the beginning of this month, following in the footsteps of the contemporary Noah and the Whale, and echoing the forlorn vocals of Neil Young. Mumford & Sons' unique brand of indie-folk, with edgy lyrics and widely varied music, will not be everyone's favourite, but for the more eclectic, this is an absolutely brilliant debut from a promising band. 

The Cluas Verdict? 8.5 out of 10

Full Review:
I readily confess that I’m not a huge fan of folk music. I’ve never really considered the banjo as a serious instrument, and had someone asked me what I thought of the genre, I would have raised an eyebrow and said that I wasn’t that into it. I was surprised, then, by this album, which I immediately liked. It mixes traditional-sounding introductions with thunderous climaxes, replete with roaring distortion and the ever-present banjo (which really does work in this context). The acerbic lyrics are at odds with the often bright and bouncy music. In all, it’s an interesting and accessible record, even for those who aren’t normally into folk.

‘Sigh No More’, the first track, opens up with tranquil guitar and chorus, and builds up to a powerful crescendo. The refrain,

“Love, it will not betray you, dismay or enslave you, it will set you free,
Be more like the man you were made to be”
,

is invigorating and refreshing. ‘The Cave’, once again edgy and innovative, combining a pleasing hook, a bright melody, and unnerving lyrics: “I will hold on hope and I won’t let you choke on the noose around your neck” is typical of the sort of contrast Marcus Mumford, the lead singer, draws throughout the album. ‘Winter Winds’ is similar, exploring the theme of insincere love and loneliness, to a warm, cheerful tune.

 ‘Roll Away Your Stone’ is a brisk, buoyant ballad, with the same gloomy undercurrents. ‘White Blank Page’ is much darker, with a wistful tune and embittered lyrics, this time in waltz-time. ‘I Gave You All’ develops the melancholic strain further, recalling the beginning of the first track with the similar chorus.

This record is one of those that gets better as it goes on. ‘Little Lion Man’ is much more energetic, but still sinister; it’s also my favourite track on the album. Mumford & Sons seem to like playing with rhythms, and the syncopation of the guitar makes this an interesting song rhythmically as well as anything else. ‘Timshel’, easily the shortest song on the album, is puzzling and interesting. Motifs run throughout this record, and the idea of brotherhood and unity, first mentioned in ‘I Gave You All’, forms the refrain of this track. ‘Timshel’ reads like a poem, and it isn’t alone; it’s because of this that I think they have great potential.

‘Thistle and Weeds’ is an epic piece, beginning with the quiet gloom of the past few tracks and building up to a storm of desperation and darkness. Once again, we see artful repetition: the refrain in this song, “I will hold on hope”, echoes exactly the chorus in ‘The Cave’. ‘Awake My Soul’, then, seems incongruent, with its mellow tune and seemingly innocuous lyrics. It is this very discomfort that this band are so capable of exploiting.

‘Dust Bowl Dance’ is another desperate ballad, that uses interesting blues-rock and psychedelic guitar in a tasteful and completely unexpected manner. ‘After The Storm’, the last song and a subdued but uplifting summary, resurrects once more the refrain of the introductory track, nicely tying the album together.

I am greatly impressed by this band: not only is their debut album lovely to listen to, it’s also a real work of art. They have already created their own style, distinct from, if closely related to, their influences and contemporaries, and they have certainly proven their ability to write good music. Mumford & Sons are poets, and I’m already looking forward to their next release. If you’re already into the folk scene, or if you’re looking for something refreshing, this album is a must-buy. If not, then please don’t complain that it isn’t mainstream enough.

Philip McDonald


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19
The Swell Season 'Strict Joy'

A review of the album Strict Joy by The Swell Season

The Swell Season - Strict Joy

Review Snapshot:  At times underwhelming and familiar, 'Strict Joy' brings nothing new to the table and deals with much of the same subject matter as The Swell Season's previous albums. While people who were already fans will probably find this album enjoyable it did very little to grab the attention of this reviewer's ears.

The Cluas Verdict? 5 out of 10

Full Review:  Since the success of 2007's 'Once' Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, aka The Swell Season, who both starred in the film and composed the soundtrack, have become highly regarded members of the Irish music scene. Hansard, portraying a struggling busker on Dublin's Grafton Street, and Irglová his love interest and a fellow musician in 'Once', raised their profile considerably and garnered much international attention, particularly in America. Their Oscar winning track from the 'Once' soundtrack, 'Falling Slowly', is a beautiful, memorable song which has received wide radio play. However, their follow-up 'Strict Joy' is quite a different affair altogether.

While 'Strict Joy' can at times be affecting, a lot of the tracks seem more akin to pub songs, to rouse an excitable and inebriated crowd who aren't entirely coherent. While I'm sure this could be classed as a good thing by some people, I strongly doubt that this was the sound Hansard and Irglová were hoping to achieve.
 
'In These Arms' displays Hansard's usually lowly singing. It has the air of a song that was written instantly in a fit of emotion - and is all the better for it. With Hansard professing "Maybe I was born/To hold you in these arms" with seemingly fragile guitar playing and powerful vocals, it's both thought-provoking and emotive. It's a stand out track on the album, combining both sombre but sweet tones in a way only The Swell Season can.
 
On the sixth track on the album, 'Paper Cup', Hansard continues the age-old tradition of writers penning pieces to inanimate objects. In such an instance writers tend to offer an interesting insight into their opinion of the object, or how they'd desire to live as simple a life as the object. Instead, Hansard decides to use the word 'paper' as a kind of prefix - "paper saint", "paper plane", "paper bird" not really offering an insight into anything or being particularly engaging. Essentially, 'Paper Cup' appears to be filler without any real purpose or defining composition.
 
Irglová makes only two distinctively notable vocal appearances as the lead vocalist on 'Fantasy Man' and 'I Have Love You Wrong'. On 'Fantasy Man' Irglová's voice is perfectly suited to the track, she sings passionately with a soothing instrumental accompaniment. At times, 'Fantasy Man' has similarities to Vyvienne Long's style of composition and singing, but still retains a quirky uniqueness which is hard to pigeon-hole. 'I Have Loved You Wrong'  is a tranquil track with Irglová's swirling vocals adding a new scope to the song.  
 
Though Irglová provides backing vocals on many of the tracks she tends to be overshadowed by Hansard and at times can fade into the background. Such occurrences make this album sound more like a Glen Hansard/The Frames album as opposed to a collaboration between himself and Irglová in The Swell Season.
 
The Swell Season have been prosperous in creating an album that people who were already fans of theirs will enjoy, but I'm not so confident that they will gain many more new fans as a result of 'Strict Joy'. I can't help but feel that if Irglová had sung more solo tracks, or if she collaborated on a song with Hansard in equal measure the album could really be something amazing and diverse. I'm not convinced by any stretch of the imagination that 'Strict Joy' is a culmination of the the best songs The Swell Season have written since the 'Once' soundtrack. This album offers nothing particularly enthralling or dynamic, and could easily meld together with 'The Swell Season's back catalogue without it being obvious that it's a separate album from their two previous releases.

Aideen O'Flaherty


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17
Day Two Hard Working Class Heroes 2009

Oliver Cole, Escape Act & Others (live in Temple Bar, Dublin)

Review Snapshot:  Day two of Hard Working Class Heroes involved quite a bit of venue shifting but was all the better for it. 

The Cluas Verdict? 8.5 out of 10

Full Review:
Thankfully, my leg felt a great deal better and so venue-hopping was not going to be as much of a problem as it was on Day One of Hard Working Class Heroes 2009.  

Oliver Cole - The Button Factory
Oliver Cole certainly knows how to write a tune.  Tonight, Cole's set consists of songs taken from his yet to be released debut solo LP such as Little Bad Dream, A Drug Song and, the title track, We Albatri.  His ear for melody is second to none and it would be impossible to watch an Oliver Cole gig without wanting to sing-a-long and tap your foot.  That being said,  it was such a shame that Cole was on so early as his stage presence and interaction with the crowd is much more suited to later in the night.  Indeed, it's almost worth checking out Cole the next time you can just to hear the story behind We Albatri.

Escape Act - 4 Dame Lane
2009 has been a bit of a revelation for me in terms of bands from Northern Ireland.  And So I Watch You From Afar and General Fiasco both blew me away at Oxegen but it was Belfast's Escape Act that started the trend earlier in the year with their excellent debut album, Loosely Based on Fiction.  Tonight's set, in the gorgeous surroundings of 4 Dame Lane (why aren't more gigs held here?), consists of a mixture of tracks from that record and the band's sophomore LP, to be released in 2010.  Of the newer tracks, Salt in Your Eye is my favourite but it's interesting to hear how the band have grown organically into their new sound without losing the qualities that caught my attention in the first place.

C!ties - Twister Pepper
There was a lot of firsts involved in this particular set.  My first time venturing to the Northside during HWCH 2009, my first time in Twisted Pepper and my first time to see/hear C!ties.  The instrumental 3 piece, from Ennis, look about 12 but don't let that fool you.  Despite the number of gigs I go to, I've always thought that people who wear ear plugs to gigs just don't have the aural fortitude that I do.  Tonight, I wish I had ear plugs.  Perhaps it is the venue's small size, but C!ties are possibly the loudest band I've heard live.  I could literally feel the sound waves emanating from the speakers.  Behind the wall of sound and veil of chaos; C!ties are a band fully in possession of any number of finely crafted songs.  Definitely a band to watch out for.

The Poormouth - Think Tank
I had intended on waiting around Twisted Pepper for The Holy Roman Army, but it took them so long to set up that, when they finally started, I couldn't forgive them for how poor they sounded.  Maybe soundcheck the mic in future, yeah? Anyway, as luck would have it, I was told that The Poormouth in Think Tank might be worth checking out.  They certainly were; the band's blend of lo-fi melodic rock was the perfect way to counter the sonic onslaught of C!ties.  There's more than a hint of Bright Eyes, Neil Young and Smog about what The Poormouth do but, as influences go, they're not bad reference points by which to chart your musical journey.  Indeed, The Poormouth prove to be the perfect way to end the evening. 

Steve O'Rourke

It should be noted that I also saw Cutaways and Fionn Regan this evening but not enough of either to give a fair review.


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17
Hard Working Class Heroes 2009 Day 1

Villagers, The Ambience Affair & Others (live in Temple Bar, Dublin)

Review Snapshot:  

The Cluas Verdict? 8.5 out of 10

Full Review:
While my intention had been to make my way between various venues during the first day of Hard Working Class Heroes 2009, a strained muscle (one week before my first marathon) meant that I was restricted in my endeavours.  It was clear early on that the place to be was Andrew's Lane which featured three of the four bands I really wanted to see tonight anyway.  While it was disappointing not to be able to see Dark Room Notes' set in The Button Factory, the intensity of Subplots and the raw talent of both The Ambience Affair and Villagers more than made up for it.

Subplots
There was quite a chatty crowd in place as Subplots took to the stage in Andrew's Lane.  The band's record, Nightcycles, is one of my favourites this year.  However, I was worried that their carefully crafted songs might struggle to make an impact in a live arena.  Not for the first time, I was wrong.  Indeed, such was the level of intensity in their performance that those same songs I described earlier this year as being not 'instantly accessible' stood tall and screamed for both your attention and adulation.  Despite this, there was a nagging sense that the band would have benefited from a later time-slot, when the audience might not have been more interested in discussing making blind dates through Facebook, but that is hardly their fault.

Dead Flags
I can appreciate pop music as much as the next person.  I also appreciate comedy.  Why then, did I find this band so objectionable?  Perhaps it was because every song, from Too Much Love to Give through to Let's Start A Fire seemed to contain nothing but thinly veiled sexual innuendo; single entendres were the order of the day.  One song, the aforementioned Let's Start A Fire was actually irritatingly catchy but so too is Take That's (a band probably never mentioned on CLUAS before now) Patience, that doesn't mean I'd be rushing out to see them live either.  If Dead Flags want lessons on being a comedy band, they could do worse than check out the new(ish) Flight of the Conchord's DVD.

The Ambience Affair
Ever since I saw this two-piece playing Road Records at the launch of HWCH 2009, I was desperate to see them live again.  I wasn't disappointed.  Jamie Clarke and Marc Gallagher build sonic walls on stage that bands three times their size could only dream of.  For those of you not familiar with The Ambience Affair, Clarke builds songs with endless looping of both his acoustic guitar and vocals while Gallagher (a contender for Ireland's best drummer) provides the heartbeat for their musical behemoth.  Songs such as Fragile Things and the newly written Lost at the Start could not fail but to absorb the audience who, by this stage, seemed much more appreciative of the fact that there was a band on stage.

Villagers
It was pretty clear from 20 minutes before they came on stage that Villagers were the band to see at this year's Hard Working Class Heroes.  If the pressure of being hotly tipped by almost every musical publication in the country is weighing on Conor O'Brien and his band mate's shoulders, they're doing a very good job of hiding it.  Indeed, the former Immediate frontman appears to be completely at home in front of his enraptured audience; wielding his guitar like some emotional shotgun, taking musical pot shots at the souls of his faithful. Given the contrasting power and delicacy of O'Brien's voice, it can be all too easy to overlook the important contribution of his fellow Villagers.  Their role is crucial here, providing the flesh to O'Brien's lyrical bones.  Stand-out for me tonight is Home with its multi-part vocal harmonies and red raw lyrics.  For once, believe the hype.

Steve O'Rourke


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16

Joshua Radin (live in The Academy, Dublin)

Review Snapshot: It was always going to be interesting to see if Radin’s quiet yet absorbing melodies along with his whispery vocals could translate well to the stage. Unexpectedly but brilliantly, it transcended into an appreciated and intimate gig as you could hope to see, in a criminally underrated venue. 

The Cluas Verdict? 9 out of 10

Full Review:
Like many others, I discovered Joshua Radin’s music playing in the background of the more touching scenes in the TV show Scrubs. (Hey, good music can be found anywhere, right?) And good music is exactly what I found; some say the answer to Elliott Smith’s sad departure in 2003. But Radin is a breath of fresh air on his own with an addictive folk ethic on debut album “We Were Here” which is now improved by a pop-rock element on his more recent release “Simple Times”. It was quite a happy coincidence recently getting hooked on his music to discover only a couple of weeks later he’s playing in the Academy.  

As “Simple Times” demonstrated a surge in Radin’s confidence, it’s fitting that he looks thrilled to be here, playing with vigor and opening with “One of Those Days”, the opening track to his latest offering. That’s soon followed by new material not due for release till next year, (unfortunately). Obvious highlights include “Closer” and “Winter” along with “Brand New Day”. 

As so many of his songs would suggest but never quite confirm, Radin is a storyteller and every song is preceded by a story, the crowd charmed no doubt by his tale of playing in Doyle’s pub on Fleet Street some years ago. Quite often, Radin’s whispered, wistful vocals so commonplace on his records remain just that playing live but he has an audience to appreciate it, some being told to shut up while he’s playing when all they were doing was ordering a drink! To prove the point, he compared the audience to a New York audience, who are never quiet during a performance, but he enjoyed the attention so much, he had his band unplug all the instruments and descend into the middle of the crowd for a song. No electrics, no mics, and the crowd never missed a beat.

Radin’s influence by Dylan also plays a part as the show goes on as new material and “Free of Me” are played with a more upbeat tempo and acoustic ring before finishing off with the entire band semi-circling 2 microphones, jamming and loving it. 

Those of you don’t know should get to know Radin’s music, its delicious melodies, catchy finger-picking and unassuming lyrics are enough to capture the imagination of any serious music lover. To witness this performance in front of such an appreciative audience (not to mention the staggeringly cheap ticket price of €17) in such an intimate setting was nothing short of a thrill.  

An immersive, intimate and above all else, essential gig. 

Jimmy Murphy


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16
Pearl Jam 'Backspacer'

A review of the album Backspacer by Pearl Jam

PearljamReview Snapshot: If you want the smooth waves of the surf, some rocking little riffs and more fine songwriting from Eddie Vedder, then Backspacer is for you. Die-hard fans like myself ought not to be disappointed. 

The Cluas Verdict? 9 out of 10

Full Review:
What's not to like about Eddie Vedder? Surfer, writer, and a mysterious creature that puts forth his vision of the world with a voice that has only grown better with age. More importantly, Vedder is the iconic figure in Pearl Jam, the Seattle rock band that survived the 90s and have become enriched as the group continues to play to sold-out venues.

Backspacer represents a mellowing of the group, with lyrics that reflect a more relaxed Vedder. As if to prove this, the album bursts forth not with the heady rushes of a track like 'Go' , but rather with a Johnny B. Goode style blues riff on 'Gonna See My Friend.'

This slice of home-grown Americana rock continues with 'Got Some,' a frantic start to a track where Vedder grunts a little, his voice acting as the addict's devil-on-the-shoulder: 'I got some if you need it / Get it now, get enough before it's gone.' This is the song to really remember from the album and at the moment it is being played on air as their second commercial single.

First single 'The Fixer' is a catchy pop number that merges opposites: 'When something's broke / I wanna put a bit of fixing on it.' Its breezy vocals and Vedder's sliding vocals indicate acceptance and a willingness to grow with relationships, to water them and let them flourish.

As a whole the album is a more optimistic Pearl Jam with less to prove to the world. There is no direct political song that's the equivalent of 'Brain of J' from the album Yield or 'Bushleager' from Riot Act.

Indeed there is little to dislike about Backspacer. The album might not have a bone-crunching 'Porch' or 'Leash' track on it, but the simpler, peaceful songs are a welcome antithesis. 'Just Breathe' is a Buddhist mantra: 'I'm a lucky man to count on both hands the ones I love / Some folks just have one, others they got none.'

From surfing on 'Amongst the Waves' to the beautiful finger-picking in 'The End' the album symbolises gratitude, with Vedder the engaging prophet. Backspacer is a worthy follow-up to previous Pearl Jam offerings and die-hard fans will not be disappointed.

Niamh Madden


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16
Fnessnej 'Stay Fresh, Ey'

A review of the album Stay Fresh, Ey by Fnessnej

fnessnejReview Snapshot: A compelling collage of sounds from a German five-piece whose name is almost impossible to pronounce. Part chip-tune, part post-rock, Stay Fresh, Ey is a playful album that offers new delights on each listen.

The Cluas Verdict? 9 out of 10

Full Review:
Some song titles aren't made for memory. '1360280' is a fine example of this. But then when the artist's name appears equally scrambled, it all starts to make sense. Whisking together seemingly incongruent flavours is a speciality of Fnessnej. The quintet's music is self-described on their website as 'instrumental postkutsche rocknroll elektroge frikkelballer post blahabblaha'. Quite the mouthful.

Fnessnej are masters of blending bleeps and ticks, rock riffs, synth sounds and syncopated drumming on a rich palate of musical fervour. The album's first track 'Duplex Knaller' begins playfully, with four short clownlike notes and moves towards a mood reminiscent of Metronomy. There's bass, handclaps and a childlike melody on xylophone. What's not to love?

We move into richer territory with the sweet tapestry that is 'Voll im Harras', which could have accompanied an early PC game like Pango or Frogger. There are deeper mute bass sections and the tune moves into more grown up territory in its second half. Succinct, organic, and without the awkward stages of adolescence, this is a track to be treasured.

Further treats are in store with the dulcet acoustic nylon tones of 'Mann aus Frau' and the journey of 'Gewehrwolfgang,' which samples classical, post-rock and 1950s high school romance. And if you thought ping pong was just a bizarre sport or one of the first computer games, think again. In 'Diode' it becomes a genius melody that takes the game through bouncing and beeping heights.

Fnessnej might not roll off the tongue in a recommendation to friends - but the tracks themselves are catchy, musically complex, and make offerings worthy to all genres. So far I have been recommended this album by one other - and I have yet to meet another who knows of this little treasure. German, random, and rich, this 2008 album has been a favourite of mine for the past few months.

Niamh Madden


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14
AFI 'Crash Love'

A review of the album 'Crash Love' by AFI

AFT - Crash LoveReview Snapshot: The Californian rock veterans make a triumphant return with their eight studio album, proving precisely why they've lasted so long and still have the awe-inspiring ability to always exceed expectations.

The Cluas Verdict? 8.5 out of 10

Full Review:
In 1991 in a high school in Ukiah, California, sat four teenagers eager to get involved in the punk rock and hardcore music scene. They decided to start a band and set about learning how to play instruments hoping to emulate their heroes such as the Misfits and The Cure. Now, several line-up changes and some genre-hopping later AFI have presented us with 'Crash Love.'
 
Their previous album, 'Decemberunderground', was by all accounts a success. It was well received by both critics and fans alike, their first single from the album, ‘Miss Murder’, garnered them some mainstream attention in the US (both ‘Decemberunderground’ and ‘Miss Murder’ were number 1’s on the Billboard Chart) and they won the VMA for Best Rock Video in 2006. To say ‘Crash Love’ was eagerly anticipated would be an understatement.
 
Opening track ‘Torch Song’ is a cacophony of electrifying riffs and passionate singing. Musically it’s reminiscent of AFI’s early punkier, harsher sound. It’s accompanied with powerful backing vocals chanting “Anything” throughout the chorus. It perfectly encapsulates all of the best elements of AFI’s music, being progressive but without losing sight of what originally made their music so enthralling.
 
‘Okay, I Feel Better Now’ is a pivotal track on the album. Lyrically it's very strong,  
 
"I cannot breath.
I can't deny  
that I've been faking for you,  
every sign of life"

 
While it's not entirely different from previous songs they've written, it's a definite departure from their previous work and is incomparable. It swiftly captures a moment of emotion and effectively invites the listener in.
 
Another distinguished track on the album is 'I Am Trying Very Hard to be Here'. First revealed to fans a few weeks before the release of 'Crash Love' through a video of AFI in the studio with fans assisting them with backing vocals in the chorus, it was highly anticipated. Through it is lyrically weaker than the other tracks on the album, it shows guitarist Jade Puget at his best playing excellently energetic riffs.
 
Overall, 'Crash Love' is an admirably successful album. Though it is void of some of AFI's previous traits, most obviously no screaming from vocalist Davey Havok on any of the tracks, it is a welcome departure from 'Decemberunderground' into slightly newer territory.

Aideen O'Flaherty


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09
Arctic Monkeys 'Humbug'

A review of the album 'Humbug' by Arctic Monkeys

arctic Monkeys HumbugReview Snapshot: The Monkeys have certainly taken a step forward with this album. Unfortunately, they seem to have stepped into a world of random and/or drug induced songwriting, where coherence is frowned upon, and nonsense is king. Musically, the record is quite interesting, and they've honed their sound significantly, avoiding obvious riffs and uniformly aggressive drumming. Overall, it's a solid album for the band, but I think critics exaggerate when they say that it's momentous; it's well produced, it's darker than anything they've done before, but it isn't quite seminal.

The Cluas Verdict? 6.5 out of 10

Full Review:
This album is certainly trying for a dark, grotesque, looming feel, but I don't think they quite achieve that. The first track, 'My Propeller', exhibits Alex Turner's new random/drug induced/'deep' lyrics, introducing the first of many excessively cryptic refrains: "Coax me out my low, and have a spin of my propeller..." Musically, it's quite interesting, as is 'Crying Lightning', which is more energetic, and slightly more coherent.

I start to lose patience with ‘Dangerous Animals’. This song takes the significant risk of spelling out its name in the lyrics. I think it’s more D-I-V-O-R-C-E than R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Musically, they can’t be faulted, and this song parcticularly showcases their command of mid-song rhythmic shifts, switching back and forth from the offbeat and subdued to Brianstorm-era aggression.

‘Secret Door’, much like ‘Only Ones Who Know’ on their previous album, is a nice break from the onslaught of the previous two tracks, and brings us back to the carnivalesque, uncomfortable atmosphere of the opening. Although I quite like this song, I feel they’re trying to be too mysterious, and the music has ended up as confusing. ‘Potion Approaching’ similarly, irritates me with its obscurity: “Yours is the only ocean” isn’t intriguing, it’s nonsense.

‘Fire and the Thud’ is my favourite song on this record, musically at least. I almost forgive the song for its lyrics, just because of its energy. Not quite, though. The last line of the song,

“I’d like to poke them in their prying eyes,
with things they’d never see if it smacked them in their temples”,


is demonstrative of the dark and hopelessly contrived nature of the whole album. ‘Cornerstone’ is a nice break from all of that. This is light-hearted and down-to-earth, a gritty ballad about Sheffield romance, and a throwback to their earlier music. I think the record could do with a few more tracks along these lines; as it is, it takes itself too seriously, and it doesn’t have the lyrical substance to back itself up.

We dive right back into the dark and foreboding with ‘Dance Little Liar’. It’s absolutely unremarkable. Thankfully, the record picks up a bit toward the end. ‘Pretty Visitors’ is musically interesting, and also contains the best metaphor I’ve seen in a while:

“All the pretty visitors came and waved their arms
and cast the shadow of a snake pit on the wall.”


Unfortunately, the rest of the song is once again disappointingly nonsensical.  The final track, ‘The Jeweller’s Hands’, is an appropriate end, caricaturing the offbeat and gloomy tone of the rest of the album. The opening, “Fiendish wonder in the carnival’s wake”, really captures the sense of remission after the storm. It’s a good song, even though it’s guilty of the same irritating ambiguity as most of the record.

Overall, I’m not convinced by the album. It’s certainly something I’ll listen to in the background when I’m doing other things, but as a work of art, I think it’s disappointing, especially considering the amount of hype surrounding it. Their next album will be the test; I can’t help but feel that the arctic Monkeys are descending.

Philip McDonald


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03

Psychonavigation Records Y9Review Snapshot: Keith Downey’s Ireland based brain child Psychonavigation Records celebrates its 33rd release since setting up nine years ago. It's testament that, in an industry where labels - like acts - come and go,  that Psychonavigation Records is not only still going, but growing too.

Cluas Verdict? 7/10

Full Review:
Psychonavigation Records was born out of the frustration of a DJ who wanted to get unsigned music out there. It joyfully heralds various acts and DJs alike and gives them a platform to release their music. It’s an admirable as well as a very successful venture and some of the fruits are in this Y9 (ninth year) anniversary compilation.

The first thing to note is that there is a broad spectrum covered in the record label. The opening track is a quiet atmospheric number from Buckminster Fuzeboard. It’s a nice opener. Nice percussion with a flute hook as an overtone. “Your Day in the Sun” by GEL-SOL follows. The sound of waves coming in act as a backdrop, unfortunately other than that it’s a monotone lazy affair. “What a Wonderful Life” from Roddy Monks raises the bar. It has a nice lick and a catchy beat drawing the listener. There’s a lot going on and it’s interesting. Three tracks in and I can honestly say it’s difficult to imagine this stuff being played in a club. It’s mood music. “What a Wonderful Life” would find a nice home on a soundtrack for Spa Treatment/Massages.

The record rolls on and the variation of the artists becomes evident on “Spinning” from Tiny Magnetic Pets. A nice delicate vocal hangs over a constant melody. It’s a pleasant track. “Miles and Miles” by Aza and Eoin is less eventful and plods along with little or no direction. Like most compilations, the highs are high and the lows are, well dull.

More highs that need checking out include Matthew Devereux represented here with “I Love You Like A Robot”. There is a tasty acoustic strings intro accompanied with an atmospheric backdrop melody. It’s one of the finest tracks on the record. Other highlights include the wonderful “Soulsearch” by Brawdcast, & R.S.A.G with “Talk Back Crawl Back”. These tracks really demonstrate the variety of the label, mixing electronica with soul and hip hop. Excellent stuff.

Much of the music on the compilation is carefully put together and testament to a guy who wanted to showcase what he saw as talent without a voice. Psychonavigation Records on this representation is a growing prospering label, rich with talent from all musical styles. Not just electronica and dance, but soul and a little hip hop too. Well worth checking out.

Kevin Coleman


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Nuggets from our archive

2001 - Early career profile of Damien Rice, written by Sinead Ward. This insightful profile was written before Damien broke internationally with the release of his debut album 'O'. This profile continues to attract hundreds of visits every month, it being linked to from Damien Rice's Wikipedia page.