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Abomination at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast was astounding. Actual words from local politicians set as an uptight libretto. Homophobic lines of the cheapest order transposed into high art. Central figures from our recent history talking of supposed gay cures and justifying their comments as “scriptural”.

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#1. The Supremes – Stoned Love
‘Stoned Love’ was the final US hit for The Supremes. Diana Ross had left by this time, but Jean Terrell was entirely capable. Actually, her voice has a richer timbre than her predecessor, and with the help of Cindy Birdsong and Mary Wilson, the song builds into this fierce expression of hope and deliverance. Continue Reading…

You’ll know ‘The Wild Rover’ as a party tune – a thigh-slapping, porter-chugging admission of a bold boy. But that’s not how Lankum see it. They strip the song away from all of the shamrockery, remove a few centuries of sanitation and behold – The Rover is desolate, cussed. The guy is a lurching archetype. He arrives into the company like the ancient mariner, expecting to be shunned. But still he persists with the itinerant gig, the habitual shame, the forlorn hope of a cottage and a coat.

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Rave on, Paul Muldoon. Rave on across the pages of Binge – new poems, freshly unboxed in the Sunflower, upper barroom in Belfast. Whip-smart Muldoon, setting the verse akimbo, metaphors like party poppers, cascades, riff and refrain. Muldoon as the outlaw palindrome – Noodlum – word-rustler and renegade readiback.
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There’s a first aid tent in the campsite at Moneynick, County Antrim. Here the damage is assessed. Blisters are lanced and drained and strapped up with zinc oxide tape. It’s the evening of the first day of Lyra’s Walk and Compeed plasters are getting rare. Also, toenails are starting to pop with the pressure. More than 70 people have taken part so far and those who covered upwards of 25 miles are taking off their wet boots and having a good wince.

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There was a pause in the funeral for Lyra McKee and then two singers stepped up: Morgan McIntyre from Belfast and Gemma Doherty from Derry. They were known as Saint Sister, two exceptional voices. At Saint Anne’s Cathedral, their work was to perform a song for Lyra called ‘Dreams’.

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SOAK
Grim Town (Rough Trade Records)

Grim Town is home to the poor, the medicated and the cracked glitterball. The inhabitants are spiked with anxiety and beaten with loneliness. Grim Town is twinned with Llareggub, the backwards location that Dylan Thomas wrote up for Under Milk Wood. The train announcement informs the traveller that prospects are poor and “sustenance will not be available”.
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Stephen Travers tells you a lot about endurance and soul. It would be trite to say that he’s come out of the far side of trauma because we’ll never know such an experience. Three of his band members were killed on July 31 1975. Another colleague Des Lee was blown into a ditch while Stephen survived the absolute malice of a dum dum bullet – a fragmenting device outlawed in the Hague Declaration 70 years earlier. Then again, the Miami Showband killings were not constrained by any normal theatre of war. Continue Reading…

Inhaler is a Dublin band that reaches into the spaces in the music and fetches up a kind of doomy radiance. The songs assume the grave manners of Joy Division and the other boy outsiders of that age. The method is low, booming notes and electronic shimmer. But this is confounded by swerves of grace and lightness. Continue Reading…

The Fontaines DC are righteous and romantic. Every song is a declaration and a rumble. They catch lightning, write the best words and their upcoming album, Dogrel is set to be an unrivalled moment in Irish music. That’s reason enough to feel glad but their debut is going to be so perfect and of its time. It will register far beyond this island. Remember the excellent buzz of hearing The Strokes and ‘Is This It’? Prepare for a party soundtrack, an education and a way of looking back at the world. Continue Reading…