Photos: The Natural History Museum @ The Workman’s Club, April 15 2011

Hello, it’s been a while…

Life can just get in the way sometimes. For good reasons and bad, I haven’t posted in far too long. I’ll resume service with some photos I took of The Natural History Museum in their slot supporting A Hawk and a Hacksaw in Dublin a couple of weeks ago. The assignment was to shoot AHAAH, but I snuck some photos of TNHM in when filing to Ragged Words towers, and I’d like to share the remainder. The Natural History Museum is (in addition to, as RW points out, being google-proof) a collaboration between Duncan Murphy of Ambulance and Sunken Foal and Carol Keogh of Plague Monkeys and Tycho Brahe, the fruits of which are strange and beautiful. Reminiscent of Kate Bush, Keogh’s vocals soar and glide while Murphy’s loops and live tracks tug your head and heart into sync. According to Murphy, The Natural History Museum as a live entity is very much in its infancy. I’m very much looking forward to seeing where it goes as it grows up.

See the full set of photos here.

Carol Keogh of The Natural History Museum by redheadwalking

The Natural History Museum by redheadwalking

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Watch: The New Pornographers meet Tom Scharpling for Moves

The importance of the music video might have reached its height in the late 90s, and a promo clip may now not be the obligatory accompaniment to the (ever-rarer) single release it was back then but happily it, as a medium, continues to thrive.  In the sphere of independent music, at least, it has adapted. No longer tied and complementary to a single, as a standalone entity videos can be a vital, exciting online promotional tool for an album. And, crucially, as production and distribution costs have plummeted, a cash-strapped industry can still afford to indulge sometimes.

All of which is my long-winded intro to the video for “Moves”, from The New Pornographers’ most recent album Together. Directed by Tom Scharpling, it’s a fantastic example of what can be achieved when a great idea is brilliantly (and simply) executed. The video was shot in friendly locations – the record shop you see is Other Music in Manhattan, and the office scenes were filmed in Matador’s offices (if the gold discs hadn’t given it away) – with a small and very capable crew.

Setting itself up as a trailer for The New Pornographers’ biopic, the cast includes Scharpling’s Best Show collaborator Jon Wurster as Carl Newman, Julie Krausner as Neko Case and Ted Leo as Kathryn Calder (yes, really) all of whom are in their element being the band the real New Pornographers are most assuredly not. Or so we hope. The clichés it apes are old as the hills, but both the direction and acting are so energetic and funny they never feel stale.

Preceding the video proper is a trailer for another fictional film, “Expectant Dads”, featuring Paul Rudd and Bill Hader, no doubt sending up some of the actors’ film choices in the past. Even with my unashamed Paul Rudd-crush, let’s most definitely hope this one stays fictional.

Tom Scharpling previously collaborated with Matador on the equally hilarious video for Ted Leo’s “Bottled in Cork” from last year’s album The Brutalist Bricks.

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Going Out – Five Things To Do In Dublin This Week (Week 5, 2011)

We may be down, but we’re not out. Our nation’s fiscal outlook grows bleaker by the day and our political landscape, while destined to change, is desperately unlikely to do so for the better – at least in the short-term. But despite all this we continue to excel creatively. It’s a wonderful and comforting thing to me to see so much diversity and brilliance on show by local artists this week. Hopefully you’ll make it along to appreciate for yourselves.


Ruby and the Duke – The Concert
Ruby Murray’s may not be a household name these days, but during the 1950s the young Belfast woman recorded a string of hits in the UK and was a star on screen at the BBC. Last month RTÉ aired a documentary in which Duke Special traced Ruby’s rapid rise to stardom, and her sad decline, not just in popularity, but in her personal life. It’s an intimate look at a fragile girl’s journey from a very early age. Too early an age. Following on from the film, Duke Special takes her songs to the National Concert Hall’s stage in a live celebration of her work. Joining him on the night will be the RTÉ Concert Orchestra conducted by David Brophy, Mary Coughlan and Fight Like Apes’ MayKay.

RTÉ Concert Orchestra Signature Series 2011: Ruby and the Duke – The Concert
The National Concert Hall, Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2
Show: 8pm
Tickets from €15, available from the NCH online or by phone

The RTÉ documentary Ruby and the Duke is available on RTÉ Player until 8 February – highly recommended.


Bláthnaid Ní Mhurchú & Stephen McGlynn: ‘Working My Way Back To You’
The Joinery is a remarkable little space which consistently offers emerging artists and performers not just an outlet to display their work, but tremendous support and encouragement. Additionally it’s an arts space that’s accessible to and actively engages with the public. This week The Joinery hosts an exhibition of collaborative work between MFA (painting) candidate Bláthnaid Ní Mhurchú and printmaker Stephen McGlynn. While Ní Mhurchú’s work stems from reconstructing the found object and McGlynn’s from a distinct narrative, both artists have spent years exchanging ideas and critique to arrive at this juncture. A meeting of minds and disciplines.

The Joinery, Arbour Hill, Dublin 7
Until February 7
BYOB (this Thursday)

Digital Socket Awards
The Digital Socket Awards are being handed out this Thursday! The live final will be held in the Grand Social and is set to feature performances from Groom, Meljoann and yet-to-be-revealed guests. The DSAs have been a breath of fresh air, not least because they acknowledge the broader creativity behind the music scene in Ireland by recognising the photographers, designers, radio presenters and video-makers who play a vital role in bringing music to a wider audience. It really is a refreshing, welcome change to have these contributors spotlighted alongside the musicians they support. Wishing everyone well on the night.

Digital Socket Awards Live Final
The Grand Social
Doors: 7.30
Adm: €10
Tickets available from


First Friday means two very different but equally special things – Popicalia and B-Music.

This month’s Popicalia is set to be just a wee bit extra-special, as it doubles up as the launch party for Big Monster Love’s long-awaited debut album “Game Over”. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Big Monster Love is one of the smartest, neatest songwriters I know. He’s
gifted with the ability to write melodies that stick with you, have you humming to yourself after a single listen, and lyrics that are articulate, poetic and deeply personal. I sometimes feel that, when listening to Cormac’s music, or watching him play live, I’m taking a surreptitious glimpse inside his journal, so heartfelt are his songs. On Friday, everyone’s invited along for a peek. I suggest you do so.

Also appearing at Popicalia are Moutpiece and Brain Kelly. I honestly thought that, with the birth of Retarded Cop, Gazzer had hung up his blue Y-fronts and put Moutpiece on hold, but given the rate that he’s turning out Retarded Cop tunes I should have know that his creativity wasn’t suffering. Moutpiece are brash. Moutpiece and bold. And Moutpiece may scare the pants off the Popical Islanders – then wear them.

Brain Kelly is not a typo; Brain Kelly is Brian Kelly is So Cow, a songwriter I’d put on a par with his mate Cormac in terms of mastery of the perfect pop song. Having spent far too much time in the US of late, to my liking at least, Brian is back inside the Pale for his first solo show of the year. He might be unaccompanied, but he certainly won’t be unplugged as So Cow solo performances qualify as one of the most accomplishedly loud one-man-bands out there.

Since its move to the Workman’s Club late last year, B-Music has added a whole new legion of fans to its hardcore base. The venue may have changed, but the ethic remains resolutely the same – that is, different. If there’s one thing you can say about B-Music, it’s expect the unexpected. From kraut to psych, library music to freak-out music, from all corners of the globe B-Music is an odyssey and an education. DJs this month are Darren McCreesh, Ray Ruddel (TwinKranes) and Mark Winkelmann. For my money, one of the best regular club nights in Dublin.

Popicalia #6 with Big Monster Love, Moutpiece and Brain Kelly

Shebeen Chic, Georges St, Dublin 2
Doors: 9pm
Adm: €5

The Workman’s Club (upstairs), Wellington Quay, Dublin 2
Kicks off at 9.30pm
Adm: Free

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Sights and Sounds: Yximalloo, Nightcycles & Emily Aoibheann at the Joinery this Saturday

For many (but not nearly enough) years, promoters Maximum Joy brought a host of diverse, exciting and challenging artists to Dublin. It’s been some time since Darren and Micí put Maximum Joy on hiatus, and while they’re still at the heart of B-Music Dublin, their unique contribution to live music here has been missed. Thankfully Darren has decided to dip his toes back into the choppy waters of gig promotion and has a number of exciting events coming up between now and March.

First up this Saturday, at the Joinery in Arbour Hill, is Japanese noise performance artist Yximalloo. I won’t pretend to know much about Yximalloo, but what I’ve heard is refreshingly naive and non-conformist – riotous collisions of keyboards, tape-loops and bleeps that combine to produce deliriously happy noise.

Support comes from Nightcycles, another creative outlet for Patrick Kelleher. Nightcycles made its debut at the Workman’s Club last September supporting Thread Pulls at their album launch. That opening slot should give you a hint of what to expect – it’s a dissociated, stripped back sound that I’m looking forward to hearing it live for the first time.

Also playing on the night is Emily Aoibheann, formerly of Party Weirdo, currently of Cixous Ghost, who’s extending her creative reach beyond music to encompass spoken word, cabaret and video. Saturday’s performance will take in all of these and more. It’s great to see an artist develop and challenge both themselves and their audience – and this performance is bound to do just that.

YXIMALLOO (Japan, esp records)
NIGHTCYCLES (Patrick Kelleher & friends)
EMILY AOIBHEANN (Party Weirdo, Cixous Ghost, Janey Mac)

The Joinery, Arbour Hill
Saturday 29 January
Doors 7.30pm
€10 admission

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Young Love, Keep Your Cool

Belle and Sebastian at Matador at 21 by redheadwalking

Last October, barely recovered from their 21st birthday celebrations in Las Vegas, Matador announced the latest in a string of contests with frankly amazing prizes. This time around, the challenge came from Belle & Sebastian, to write about love. The prize – a visit from Stuart Murdoch to the winner in their home town, and a song written about the winner to be released on 7″.

At the time my mind immediately drifted to all the things that had gripped my heart and made it leap with joy and sink like a stone in the preceding weeks and months. Everyone’s got a story – it was down to the entrants to tell it. When the prize’s shortlist was announced, I, like many others expected it to contain evocative, storybook accounts of loves won, celebrated and lost; and it had its fair share of those. So much so that one particular entry stood out, less like a sore thumb, more like a unsophisticated mockery of the competition. At the time it didn’t generate much reaction, but when this particularly blunt missive was chosen by Stuart Murdoch as winner of the grand prize there was plenty, ranging from raised eyebrows to out and out consternation. I’ll put myself at the lower end of that spectrum, but I should have known better than to rush to judgement without context.

For it turns out the context is that the winner is a 15 year old kid, who wrote the winning paragraph not long after breaking up with one girl and just starting to see another. Given the context, the piece, the fact that it won didn’t just make sense – it felt quite beautiful. In adulthood it’s easy to forget that the complexities of love, romance, relationships which we tie ourselves up in knots over to spend endless hours untangling, are learned experiences, gained through years of successes and failures, heartbreak and heart-skips. At 15, without the burden of years of baggage, love can be a simple, straightforward thing. Oh to be 15 again. Congratulations, John.

John Ficenec’s winning entry

Advice for Young Lovers: Never in ANY instance believe that you are going to marry someone you are dating/fond of before you are 18. Play the field while you are young. Don’t cheat or be a whore but see what all the fish are like so you’ll know what you like and what you don’t. Don’t dwell on past loves; they are ex’s for a reason. Don’t go out with someone if you have to keep it a secret because when it ends since no one knows you were dating there will be no one there but your actually ex to comfort you and chances are pretty good that they won’t. While you can show some public affection keep it to a minimal of holding hands or a cheek kiss. I always find myself disgusted walking by and seeing people swap tongue right in the middle of public. Yes, we get you are dating and whatnot, but really get a room. Don’t have sex without a condom. Don’t date your best friend. It may sound like a good idea at the time and even while you are going out with them but you know what when the relationship is over so is the amazing friendship. Don’t date people up to 2 years or older until you are 18. Don’t make someone your rebound. It makes them feel like shit and you feel like a monster. Talk to your significant other. Laugh with them ask them questions but DON’T interrogate them. Don’t become too jealous of anyone else. And never EVER get into the friends zone with someone you are fond of. It will scratch away at your heart and soul knowing that you will get no further than friends but that your heart wants to be more than friends.

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Stars on 45 – Jeff The Brotherhood

It’s a week of firsts on the blog and today sees my first post in the Stars on 45 series, where I pull a favourite 7″ out of the pile to share. Opening the series is Nashvillian duo Jeff The Brotherhood, who are (the name’s a bit of a giveaway) brothers Jake Orrall and Jamin Orrall.

Both are former members of Be Your Own Pet, and the brothers reprise their roles on guitar and drums, respectively, in their current band with Jake taking on vocal duties this time out. Jeff The Brotherhood’s guitar-and-drums setup may be minimal, but there’s nothing minimal about their sound – they manage to fill every inch of every groove with with the density of their songs. This 7″ was the March 2010 installment of Too Pure’s Singles Club and is one of the stand-outs of last year’s series. A-side ‘U Got The Look’ pounds along furiously, with a big bass line and an even bigger, incredibly catchy, hook while phaser pedals wail overhead. This is power-pop’s evil twin, pure jump up and down, punch the air party music.

Flip side ‘The Tropics’ brings the party mood down a few notches, but that’s not a criticism. Like the A-side, ‘The Tropics’ is blessed with a killer hook but takes its cue more from classic rock than buzzy pop. The song’s extended outro is a heart-busting bluesy riff that’s as emotive as it is epic.

Jeff the Brotherhood play three dates in Ireland next week:
January 25 – Auntie Annie’s, Belfast
January 26 – Crawdaddy, Dublin
January 27 – Róisín Dubh, Galway

Jeff The Brotherhood’s Blog
Jeff The Brotherhood on Myspace

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And Here’s One I Made Earlier #1

This mix is the first in what I hope, at least, will become a series and it very much lives up to its title, in that it’s a mix I made for a small group some years ago. Listening to it this morning made me realise how well it’s held up so I think it’s worth posting again. I hope you agree. There are some particular favourites in this mix so I urge you to listen all the way through.

And Here’s One I Made Earlier #1

Low – Over the Ocean (Re-Remix Of Tranquility Bass ’91 Party Dance Mix)
The original is classic Low – fragile, mournful and barely there. With the addition of a bass and vocal over-dubs the effect is transformative and “Over the Ocean” shimmers with a very different kind of beauty.
(From owL remix Low 12″, Vernon Yard, 1998)

Susumu Yokota & Rothko – Path Fades Into Forest
Hollow beats and Mark Beazley’s nervy bass cast a pall over the already unsettling body of the track supplied by Yokota. One of the highlights of their collaborative full-length.
(From Distant Sounds of Summer cd, Lo, 2005)

Snooze – Snooze for Beginners
The low-end strings are more than a little reminiscent of “Unfinished Sympathy”, but I’ll file that as a pro, not a con. This track is all about the methodical build-up to those strings which, when they enter, feel like a massive release of breath.
(From Going Mobile cd, SSR, 2001)

Bent – Invisible Pedestrian
The dominant theme on “Invisible Pedestrian” is Bent’s trademark live beats, but there’s so much more going on here besides as warped synths and a burbling bass conspire with the percussion to mesmerise.
(From Programmed To Love, Sport, 2000)

Max Mohr – Old Song
Old Song, old school. Max Mohr turns back the clock in this heavily 90’s influenced piece, with straight-up beats underpinning all kinds of wonky layers, to  wonderful effect.
(From Trickmixer 12″, Playhouse, 2004)

Lindstrøm – There’s a Drink In My Bedroom and I Need a Hot Lady, Pt 1
This version of Hans-Peter Lindstrøm’s epic is from Box Jams, and I included it over the original from a purely practical, time-saving point of view. The 15 minute original 12″ version incorporates both parts on one side of vinyl and is an even greater beast. Wholly worth owning in its own right too – all the more of this Can and Moroder inspired collage of disco hooks, middle-eastern flourishes, and bleeping accents to get down to.
(From Box Jams Pt 1 cd, Clone, 2005; original (highly recommended!) on There’s a Drink in My Bedroom and I Need a Hot Lady 12″ Feedelity, 2004)

The Avalanches – A Different Feeling (Ernest St. Laurent remix)
Vastly departing from the original, this remix has more sheen and polish than a barrel of lip gloss. The house grooves, sleek and poised, glide over the twirling bassline all the way ’til the glorious breakdown. Stunning.
(From Electricity 2×12″, XL, 2001)

Tantra – (A Place Called) Tarot
Like Cherrystones, The Idjut Boys are master crate-diggers and re-jiggers. Here they unearth a lost disco gem from 1982, extend the intro to a teasing, breathy and very sexy prelude to a paean to a night on the tiles.
(From Press Play cd, mixed by The Idjut Boys, Tirk 2005)

Johnny Harris – Odyssey (Zongamin re-edit)
This is disco at its most funky, brash and well, weird. The thrumming motif is punctuated with screeching synths. Subtle, it certainly is not. Incidentally, this track first appeared in the “Space Rockers” episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and Harris also composed for Wonder Woman. Now that’s what I call pedigree.
(From OST: Original Block Party Edits cd, EMI, 2006)

Lindstrøm & Prins Thomas – En Dag i Mai
L&PTs laid back s/t debut album was different in tone to the 12″s that preceded it and at the time took many fans by surprise. In my case that surprise was a welcome one, and though En Dag i Mai is maybe closer in style to those earlier singles than other tracks on the album, it still has that expansive spaced-out sound that signified the album.
(From Lindstrøm & Prins Thomas cd, Eskimo, 2005)

Minilogue – Certain Things Around You, Pt. 2
Cleverly borrowing from Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place”, this is as eerie as it is intriguing. The stifled, muzzled vocals struggle to break free of the strangely hollow and downright creepy sample as the deep minimal beats keep both pinned down. This was the single that brought Minilogue to wider attention and every one since has been a winner.
(From Certain Things 12″, Traum Schallplatten, 2005)

Hot Chip – Crap Kraft Dinner
Ah, Hot Chip, how I used to love you way back when you produced oddball pop, when you were geeks whom I seriously could picture pumping Yo La Tengo whilst cruising down the street. These days I’m a bit burned out on Hot Chip but still go back to Coming On Strong, and in particular this track. Despondent and bitter with plenty of cheese in that saxophone outro, it’s one of their finest moments.
(From Coming On Strong cd, Moshi Moshi, 2004)

Chequerboard – Konichiwa
Chequerboard is Dublin musician John Lambert, and his Dictaphone Showreels EP was the rich, sentimental follow-up to the sparse Gothica album. Konichiwa possesses all the nostalgia of the rest of the EP, but with desperate – and beautiful – sadness. One to treasure.
(From Dictaphone Showreels cd, Lazybird, 2005)

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I took a walk the other day and thought about how things used to be…

Jay Reatard at Whelan's Dublin, November 2009 by redheadwalking

Walking through the city last week, listening to Blood Visions, I found myself having trouble believing that in a week’s time it would be a year since Jay Reatard died. Simultaneously it felt so recent, so raw, yet still like so much time had passed. I wondered just how much more music he would have made, and in what direction his seemingly endless capacity to embrace new styles would have taken him. It makes me desperately sad that we’ll never know.

Even at just 29, he’d taken more creative twists and turns than most artists could ever dream of. It’s quite astonishing, on reflection, how massively inventive he was – his recording career began at 15 and spans at least nine bands. But still there’s a sense that, even though he’d spent over half his life writing and recording, it was only the beginning for him.

After Jay died, a friend who worked very closely with him said “…something that a lot of people out there just have never understood about Jay – (was) his sheer love of life.” That enormous energy and desire to meet life head on makes the empty space left by Jay’s passing all the more vast. Though I’d also like to think that, as it is in my case, he’s left us with many, many wonderful, madcap memories to laugh and smile at.

Thinking of all my friends for whom this day must be especially hard.


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