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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…

Robert Holmes 1976-2018

February 27, 2019

Robert Holmes had startling blue eyes and a quiet manner. He had worked as a tree surgeon and hod carrier. He painted and wrote and he often took himself up into the hills above his North Belfast home where he indulged his nature boy tendencies. He built stone cairns and found other ways to lift his experiences out of the normal.

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Ubu is a hairy arse-crack, a chancer, an upsetter and a bin-hoker. Ubu is engorged and filthy, an opportunist who grabs the crown, trades in filth and reads his manifesto from a bog roll. Ubu is a parade of infantilism and id – literally and theatrically, a shit in a box.
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Geraldine Quigley’s first novel happens in Derry in 1981. Teenage dreams are informed by post punk and the patriot game, by Ian Curtis and Bobby Sands. The former has made a glowering exit, beaten by illness, circumstance and a belief that all hope has been exhausted. Meantime the hunger strikers are very conscious about the power of mythology and the belief that the story can be changed with acts of self-obliteration.

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Bridie, In The Name Of Love

February 11, 2019

Bridie Monds-Watson was in her Manchester flat on Wednesday October 19 when management rang. It was a request from U2. Could she add her vocals to a track that would feature during the band’s performance the following night? It was for a section in the gig about women of the world, taking over. Sure, she said, and recorded her part two hours later. Next evening, she was in a private viewing area at the Arena, listening to her own voice over the speakers and getting a namecheck from Bono. Continue Reading…

David Quantick – Go West

February 10, 2019

Go West, the new David Quantick book is great. A gauche, antiques whisperer with a stash of John Peel cassettes steers towards Land’s End and ever-reeling havoc. Bits of tenderness, philosophy, ripsnort, bathos and calumny. Names pinched from the payroll of Ace Records and a contrary search for the verifiable and real. DQ writes sentences that snap into unguessable shapes. Wry and spry.

The Alternative Ulster fanzine had asked Jake for a song that they might use as a flexidisc. He obliged in February 1978, using the fanzine title to imagine an empowered, shared space, the punks united against the bigots. Jake says he was chiefly the author of the song, although Gordon Ogilvie had provided the wordplay of “alter your native land”. The song was declined by the fanzine but Stiff Little Fingers had another flaming tune in the songbook. Also, they were working on their version of Bob Marley’s ‘Johnny Was’. Some liberties were taken with the words, Henry says. Continue Reading…