Review of their gig in Whelan's, Dublin, Jan 28th 2001
Power pop. That's what The Subtonics are all about. Power Pop and buckets of
attitude. Beautifully crafted, guitar driven, brass filled three minute pop songs
delivered with all the swagger of a double platinum selling, stadium packing band.
And all this front on the launch night of their first single? That's a cockiness
you have to respect.
Their Whelan's gig doubled as the launch pad for "Halftime Holiday" which is available now in your local record emporium. However it's a strange choice for first single. At least a half a dozen of the other tunes to emerge last night were far more radio friendly, notable "No Thanks". But ignore my opinion, Halftime Holiday has sufficiently peaked the interest of the music world to secure them an A listing on 2FM and FM 104, a B listing on BBC Radio 1 and guaranteed airtime for the vid on MTV.
You know you are in the presence of a magical band when its sound is greater than the sum of its parts. Songwriter and ex-Joseph's guitarist Mark Healy is the obvious band leader. His reggae/ ska guitar style evokes memories of the Specials with a few Who moves thrown in for good measure. Lead vocalist Stephan Murphy sings with a bottle of whiskey and 40 Rothmans growl. Wonderful stuff. The rhythm section of Gareth Desmond and Shane Walsh is as tight as the proverbial duck's and Johnny Quinn completes the band on the ivories. Add to this the Clash's three piece brass section and you have an idea of where Subtonics are coming from. It's kinda like the late 1979, early 1980 ska mod thing sending tingles down your spine and getting you on your feet at the same time.
The ever cocky Murphy almost lost his composure just once during the gig when, after introducing the single, he pulled the mike a bit to vigorously out of the stand, separating it from the lead. The band kept the intro going while he frantically tried to reconnect the mike. He managed. They played on. The crowd loved them to bits, not least the three Swedish cuties up front, to whom our lead vocalist made constant reference through out the gig. One can only wonder why?
With the right management and a bit of luck, hopefully we'll see the Subtonics fill the Olympia within a few months. In the meantime, see them wherever they play. I promise you won't be disappointed.