A sort of homecoming: Morrissey plays the 3Arena tonight

Morrissey in concert

Former Smiths frontman Morrissey plays the 3Arena tonight. The City spoke to UL sociology lecturer Eoin Devereux about the significance of the gig for Moz’s Irish fans.

As much as I hate to admit it, I can hardly count myself as a real Mozaphile. Yes, I can recite the words to ‘Alma Matters’, and a host of other gems no bother, but I just don’t have the vast wealth of knowledge a true Mozhead has.

Put it this way: I’m more of a lowly private than a medalled general in the #MozArmy. I’ll work myself up the ranks someday, but for now I’ll just keep studying the back catalogue.

The clue is in the quiff. You can always tell Morrissey’s most devoted fans by their great sweeping fringes, and most are infantile compared to Dr Eoin Devereux’s.

Dr Eoin Devereux
Picture by Liam Burke, courtesy of Eoin Devereux

Dr Devereux (pictured) is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at UL and co-director of the Popular Music and Popular Culture Research Cluster. He is Ireland’s Morrissey expert.

He has a host of Mozzer gigs under his belt after first seeing The Smiths in Galway in 1984 and has “never looked back since”.

Writing in an email, he explains what first attracted him to Morrissey: “[His] status as the Outsider’s Outsider is at the core of his appeal for me.  He sings about the lonely, the sad, the disenfranchised. That has been the constant thread for me. He is a raconteur of the marginalised and is wonderfully anti establishment.”

It’s common for people who get Morrissey to describe how he gets them. His music changed their lives, which is common rhetoric for music fans, but there’s something different about Morrissey fans. He’s more than just a pop hero.

Dr Devereux explains: “While fandom in general is a continuum and levels of fandom vary, Morrissey fans are passionate, sensitive and devoted.  I don’t mean devoted in a slavish way. I mean they display huge dedication to knowing and understanding as much as is possible about the object of their fandom and the things that influence him. It’s striking how many of them talk of how their Morrissey fandom has led them to reading Oscar Wilde.”

Perhaps more obscurely, Mozafiles also celebrate the work of Manchester dramatist Shelagh Delaney because of her influence on Morrissey’s songwriting (The first Shelagh Delaney Day took place last Tuesday).

My inaugural Moz gig was three years ago at Vicar Street. I was amazed by the great urgency for the audience to propel themselves at their hero. Some punters defied security and flung themselves on stage just so they could touch His Mozness. This is a common occurrence at his concerts. (Take a look at the pandemonium at a recent gig in Berlin).

“There is almost a sacred dimension in evidence at Morrissey gigs in terms of the need of fans to touch the hand of their often reluctant icon,” Dr Devereux says. “This is particularly intense where his Chicano/Latino fans are concerned.”

If you don’t already know, Morrissey has a very strong Latino following, which might be a bit surprising. But think about it, Latinos are marginalised in the States. Morrissey is marginalised everywhere (at least in his own eyes), so it makes sense.

He gets most stick in the British red tops, often for saying something unflattering about the Queen or the meat industry. After all, he is a sexually ambiguous, reclusive, celibate, vegetarian pop star who doesn’t take drugs, so the tabs can’t really make any sense of him unless they can squeeze him under a headline like Heaven Knows He’s Miserable Now or Bigmouth Strikes Again.

Much like my other hero, Leonard Cohen, Morrissey is often misunderstood as a depressing whinge (The Pope of Mope, they call him). Yes, he does sing about loneliness, but he does so in a very empowering way. And he’s actually very funny. He writes witty, kitchen sink lyrics Jarvis Cocker can only dream of. Listen to ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ or ‘You’re the one for me, Fatty’ and you’ll see.

Born to Irish-emigrant parents in 1950s Manchester, Morrissey considers himself “ten parts Crumlin, ten parts Old Trafford” and is clearly proud of his Irish blood and English heart.

But is there anything unique about his fans in Ireland? Do we have a stronger connection with him since he is “one of us”?

“Fans around the world have different kinds of connections with Morrissey,” Dr Devereux says. “Where Ireland is concerned I think that apart from his Irish roots (and influences) his anti establishment position on a range of issues makes a firm favourite here.  His Second Generation Irish and Catholic upbringing are still strongly in evidence in his creative output.”

So if we were to draw a tour map of Morrissey’s Dublin, where would we go? First stop Crumlin, where next?

“The National Stadium where The Smiths and Morrissey have played; the site of the old SFX; the Point Depot (3Arena) where he talked in 2004 of being ’10 parts Crumlin, 10 parts Old Trafford’, Swords and anywhere associated with his beloved Oscar Wilde.”

So he has made his mark on this city and its people. And if he hasn’t made his mark on you, where should you start?

Viva Hate would be the one [Morrissey’s debut solo album],” Dr Devereux says. “It’s still a great record and bridges the world of The Smiths and Morrissey’s solo career.  For ‘Late Night, Maudlin Street’ or ‘Margaret on the Guillotine’ alone it’s a great album.”

I wonder if Dr Devereux has ever met Morrissey, surely the most sacred experience for any Mozaphile:

“I haven’t met Morrissey,” he says. “I don’t think I would like to, really. Never meet your anti-heroes!”

This article first appeared on thecity.ie.

O Emperor talk about their Choice Music nomination for ‘Vitreous’

O Emperor promo shot

For their second album, Vitreous, O Emperor decided to cut their ties with Universal Music Ireland and go it alone.

Since its release last summer, the album has received rave reviews, with critics describing it as a “stark, multi­coloured, pixelated piece of pop art”.

Continuing on from that success, it was announced yesterday that Vitreous has been shortlisted for the Meteor Choice Music Prize Irish Album of the Year 2013. This will be O Emperor’s second nomination for the prize – they were first shortlisted in 2010 with their debut Hither Thither.

Frontman Paul Savage chats to me about the band’s second Choice nomination and talks about the experience of doing things for themselves.

Conor McMahon: So this is your second time to be nominated for the Choice Music Award.

Paul Savage: It is, yeah – two and two.

CMM: Not bad going. Do nominations like this mean a lot to the band? Especially with this album, seeing as it was self-released.

PS: Yeah, certainly as an independent act it does mean a lot. Even just because of the publicity that it gets. There’s more notice from record shops still out there. I think even just as a little business boost, [the award] shines a focus on the nominated acts. Some of them – including ourselves – may have slipped under the radar for some people, and it brings back home that there are some good Irish albums out there to buy. And I think it does mean a lot to us just for the fact that we spent a couple of months just working on this album ourselves and making it completely DIY. It does mean a lot that we’re in there with very big acts. It’s quite a humbling experience. It’s a great boost to have, especially at this time of year when it might be quiet.

CMM: It’s a good way to kick it off 2014. And you’re right, it is an impressive list of nominees. Is there any act that stands out to you in particular?

PS: I particularly enjoyed Lisa O’Neill’s album [Same Cloth or Not]. I think she’s got such a unique voice and it’s such a great record. I really like it. I thought the new Bell X1 album [Chop Chop] was really good as well. From a sound point of view, it’s incredible, and the production is amazing on it.

CMM: You mentioned the last time you spoke to campus.ie that you were experimenting with a new sound on Vitreous. It’s been out a couple of months at this stage, so what’s it been like to play the new tracks live?

PS: It’s been cool. Some of [the songs] we’ve been playing before we recorded [the album] or before it was out so some [have been around] longer than others. We built [this album] up bit by bit. Sometimes people weren’t in the same room or in the same “timezone” – some people would come in in the morning and put on a part and some people would come in during the night. A lot of it was done in that kind of systematic way. But, weirdly, it was still very collaborative in that sometimes separated way. So a lot of the stuff we didn’t actually write by sitting in a room and jamming together. It was written by individuals and parts were put on by different people.

When we came to play it in a live sense, we had to almost learn it as a band for a couple of weeks and try get a sense of what it actually sounds like live which was quite interesting. I think it then takes on a different voice or a different body of sound when you’re actually playing it as a band as opposed to recording it individually.

Some of [the songs] have developed nicely, but I think for the next record we’ll try a different approach where we might jam more or record as a band again like the first record [Hither Thither]. We’ll play them for a while or tour them before we record them. I think there are always different stages that a song goes through, so it’ll be interesting.

CMM: The music industry has obviously been hit very hard in the last couple of years. What’s it like working in the Irish music industry in 2014?

PS: It kind of is what you make of it really. Some bands will go out and tour relentlessly and probably do quite well. [But] it’s a very small and limited field. You only have a certain amount of places that you can play. Depending on what kind of band you are, it can be even more limited. I think a lot of it is about getting out of Ireland and try – as much as possible – to branch out of playing in your own country. For some bands even playing in a different town could be a new experience. That’s great when you can do that, but once you get to that level you always want to do more.

I think the industry is healthy. There are loads of great acts and they’re all doing individual things and some are getting quite big, and it’s great to see that. I think it’s always healthy: There’s always a healthy abundance of original music, it’s just whether it’s channelled in the right way or handled correctly.

CMM: What plans do O Emperor have for 2014?

PS: We’re looking at playing South by Southwest [festival in Austin, Texas]. I can’t really say for certain if we’re going. We’ll see if we can actually plan it properly. It’s a major operation really. We did it about three years ago.

CMM: So you know it’s difficult.

PS: Yeah, it’s a big thing. It’s a big commitment to go over there. [It’s difficult] financially as well. Hopefully we can get over there. We have some plans to do some US touring as well so fingers crossed, it will all go well.

CMM: That sounds really exciting. One last question: Paddy Power have you priced at 7/1 to win the Choice award – are you going to be betting on yourselves?

PS: Actually, I was going to. And we went up to 3/1 yesterday. I won’t really get much now – I should’ve put it on when it was at 12/1. Some of my friends put one on when we were at 12/1 so they’re in for a good win if we get it.

CMM: So an anxious few weeks for them as well then!

The winner of the Meteor Choice Irish Album of Year will be announced at an event in Vicar Street in February. Tickets for the awards ceremony are on sale now priced €23.50.

‘Vitreous’ is out now.


This article first appeared on campus.ie.

The Staves are mesmerising – but there’s something missing from their act

English band The Staves

“I said fuck in a church,” one third of The Staves, Emily Staveley-Taylor, observed as she addressed punters in the deathly quiet Pepper Canister Church. She was right, she did – and successfully managed to drop the F-bomb another three or four times as she explained how weird it was to swear in such a sombre environment – all the while slugging gingerly from a bottle of beer.

This kind of humour and gentle banter peppered The Staves’ first Dublin concert since their headline gig in Whelan’s last year. Last night, they charmed the audience with both their cheeky chattering and their freakishly hypnotic harmonies and catchy folk numbers.

The Staves are an ideal live act to see in a creaky, little church – their dream-like and almost nostalgic songs ring home with some of the whimsy associated with being in a church.

Their vocal abilities and sweet guitar playing were truly incredible. But – now, this might sound weird to all the die-hard folkies out there – truth being told, there is only so much three-part harmonies a listener can take without it getting a little, well, boring.

As the set progressed, the songs became less and less imaginative and slipped into that tired folk thing that’s really beginning to wear thin (you can blame Mumford and Sons and their feckin’ banjoes for that). But to The Staves credit, their electric tracks are bang on.

Anyway, this was a far, far cry from a bad gig. The Staves sisters are a really talented bunch and were nicely complimented by an equally brilliant bassist and drummer.

They paid the Irish credit for listening to them when no one else would, and treated us to a song in the crowd to which they received a standing ovation.

The Staves are always welcome to Dublin – it would just be nice if they dished out something really different next time round.

Trust me, Hozier will blow you away

Wicklow singer-songwriter Hozier

Wow – that was unexpected. This might sound a bit harsh, but my experience of EP launches usually involves a fairly unknown singer-songwriter nervously dishing out barely-formed songs in a club in the back-arse of nowhere to an audience of awed relatives and bewildered hacks.

But Hozier’s gig in the Unitarian Church last night was something really, really special.

Hozier (Wicklow native and former Trinity Orchestra singer Andrew Hozier-Byrne) launched his aptly named Take Me To Church EP at a sold-out gig in the gorgeous Unitarian Church on St Stephen’s Green – and absolutely mesmerised the audience with his soulful, R&B tracks.

The evening opened with very special guest Stevie Appleby (lead singer of Little Green Cars) who treated us to some of his solo material.

A far cry from the rousing Little Green anthems, Appleby’s cracked, shy vocals, fantastic guitar playing and mournful lyrics even managed to coax a few audience members to shed a tear – including the poor girl in front of me who mysteriously vanished during the gig (hope you’re okay, hun).

You can check out Appleby’s stuff here.

After a brief interval, Hozier stepped up to the altar opening with ‘Like Real People Do’ (taken from the EP). It was clear from the offset that the solemn setting of the Unitarian Church would play a big part in adding a little magic to the evening.

For the remainder of the gig, the Wicklow man was backed by a six-piece band that included superb female vocals and cello (which sounded great when the group launched into a rendition of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’).

Some highlights included ‘Cherry Wine’, ‘Angel of Small Death’ and the popular ‘Take Me to Church’ – all from the EP – as well as ‘Someone New’, oldie ‘Sedated’ and newbie ‘Work Song’. But it’s hard to single out tracks from a set that just got better and better as it progressed.

The gig was “lovely but terrifying” for Hozier – and awesome (in the true, biblical sense of the word) for us. The audience showed its appreciation with a well-deserved standing ovation.

Take my word – you should check out Hozier now before things really kick off.

Kid Congo Powers rocks The Grand Social

Kid Congo Powers live

Loud, comical and a little bit nuts, Kid Congo and The Pink Monkey Birds brought their swamp-punk sound to the suitably makeshift Loft Venue in The Grand Social last night.

A legend of the post-punk scene, guitar-player Kid Congo Powers has a seriously impressive rock n’ roll résumé – he was a core member of The Gun Club, The Cramps and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds during the golden age of underground music in the late 1980s.

Teamed with The Pink Monkey Birds, Kid Congo is an exciting live performer. What’s more, he is an instantly likeable guy. Onstage, he smiles incessantly whilst wielding his Squire guitar around, and he partakes in plenty of mid-song banter.

There is a hint of cabaret about the Kid – his gravelly voice sounds as though it has been marinated in whiskey, and he playfully cocks his eyebrows when he perfectly enunciates every syllable of every fragmented lyric.

For their Dublin date, the band delved into the guitarist’s impressive back-catalogue and aired tracks from their forthcoming album, Haunted Head. The single ‘Conjure Man’ and B-side ‘Lose Your Mind’ were particularly well-received.

The group’s exhilarating show insinuated a non-stop stomp-along and there was plenty of cringey dancing – that said, it is hard not to get lost in the dreamy, punchy sound of Kid Congo and The Pink Monkey Birds.

Make it your duty to see these guys live next time they come to town.

Haunted Head by Kid Congo and The Pink Monkey Birds is out in March via In The Red Records.

Atoms For Peace’s debut is a gem

Atoms For Peace Amok album cover

Supergroups can be risky business. With the exception of the Travelling Wilburys, a short-lived band that boasts a line-up of musical giants can easily produce some God-awful albums – who could forget the Highwaymen? Unfortunately, no-one.

With that in mind, when you listen to Atoms For Peace’s debut album Amok, you don’t exactly think “supergroup” – but that is exactly what the band is.

Atoms For Peace is the electronica-brainchild of Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke. Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, long-time Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, Beck and REM drummer Joey Waronker, David Byrne percussionist Mauro Refosco make up the rest of the whopper line-up. It doesn’t get much more super than that.

Originally the group backed Yorke when he embarked on a solo tour of the United States in 2009. But it was clear that the band would be an on-going project when it was officially given a name in 2010.

Three years on, Atoms For Peace have produced Amok – a master-class album in electronic music.

Packed tightly with clever drum loops, throbbing bass hooks and some gorgeous synthesised clinking and buzzing, the album meets its giant expectations.

There is a certain tribal quality to this record which is most evident on the percussive arrangement for ‘Dropped’ and ‘Stuck Together Pieces’. It is clear that the band members have drawn influence from their rich musical backgrounds.

But this is Thom Yorke’s baby, so his input into the group is most prevalent. Amok sounds a lot like a refined version of his debut solo album, The Eraser – but with stronger tracks.

Amok is certainly going to be a major contender for best debut of 2013 – even if it comes from a band made up of serious music veterans.

Not done yet: Push The Sky Away is Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ best one yet

Push The Sky Away album cover

The reluctant king of the Goths, Nick Cave, finds himself in a pensive mood on his 15th studio album with the Bad Seeds, entitled Push The Sky Away.

Following the release of 2008’s shimmering Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, Ol’ Nick took time out to blast away some more bluesy cobwebs with garage band Grinderman, who released a raucous, sexy second album.

During the hiatus, Cave also published his second novel, ‘The Death of Bunny Munroe’, wrote the screenplay to John Hillcoat’s movie Lawless and scored the soundtracks to multiple films with Bad Seeds violinist Warren Ellis.

To say the least, the Black Crow King was productive on his break, and it is evident on Push The Sky Away that he is continuing to enjoy a period of heightened creativity.

Returning to more subtle melodies and biblical lyricism, this is a tender and genuinely beautiful record that is full to the brim with contemporary cultural references.

Cave’s incessant Googling inspired the bulk of his new batch of lyrics, which explores all things 21st century, from the mysticism of the internet to the exoticism of untrue Wikipedia entries.

Ol’ Nick’s embracement of the zeitgeist has led to some peculiar wording – “Hannah Montana does the African Savannah/ As the simulated rainy season begins,” he croaks on ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ – note the title. What’s more, he (kind of) adapts text language for the single, ‘We No Who U R’. Not bad going for a 55-year-old father of four.

Musically, Push The Sky Away is controlled and imaginative, returning to some of the themes explored on Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus. This is the first Bad Seeds album that does not feature founding-member and guitarist Mick Harvey (he left in 2009) and it is clear that Warren Ellis has taken over as chief composer.

Ellis’s swirling strings and hurly-burly noises from unidentifiable instruments are the strongest musical components on this album – just listen to those rousing violins on ‘Jubilee Street’.

Cave himself said recently: “If I were to use that threadbare metaphor of albums being like children, then Push The Sky Away is the ghost-baby in the incubator and Warren’s [instrumental] loops are its tiny, trembling heart-beat.”

Push The Sky Away is proof that Nick Cave still holds the musical and literary worlds at the tips of his lanky fingers. Coupled with the Bad Seeds, he is in no way ready for retirement after 30 years of music.

Let’s hope the Australian songster pays a visit to Ireland sometime soon – in the meantime, you have got to hear this album.

Push The Sky Away by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is out now.

Following the punk aesthetic – Desaparecidos at the Button Factory

Desparecidos the band

So how did I unexpectedly end up buying tickets to see a band I hardly knew and whose name I couldn’t pronounce? Why, the drummer invited me of course – along with a thousand other punters who had gone to see Conor Oberst (aka Bright Eyes, aka the frontman of Desaparecidos, the band in question) play a very grown-up show in the National Concert Hall last Tuesday.

“Nobody has bought any fucking tickets for our show in the Button Factory. Seriously,” the drummer told the NCH audience while Conor took a brief break.

The bit of blatant self-promotion worked – and not just on me. The Button Factory was fairly packed for the Thursday gig.

Desaparecidos are a post-hardcore, indie rock band from Omaha, Nebraska. “We’re from the United States of America,” Oberst added to their introduction – sarcastically, of course.

The name derives from the Spanish and Portuguese word for “disappeared ones” and refers to left-wing activists who were captured by South American militant governments and then vanished without a trace.

Conor Oberst’s songs have always had a political edge to them, except with Bright Eyes, his lyrics are more introverted and mournful. With Desaparecidos, Oberst’s words take on a more aggressive manifestation.

Punky and hardcore, Desaparecidos are a raggle-taggle live band. They play hard and fast, generating a fever of adolescent excitement.

They sounded particularly grungey throughout their Dublin debut, probably on account of the fact that they had only rehearsed for the first time in a long time before the show – they hired the Button Factory the day before to work out the kinks.

In accordance with the punk aesthetic, the band does not conform to the traditions of a rock band. There was no encore. They simply came, saw and conquered the crowd in a snappy one-hour set.

Desaparecidos may have missed out on turning into a big rock band when Oberst parted ways in 2002 to become a teenage icon with Bright Eyes, but they are certainly making up for lost time since reuniting in 2012.

A thrilling and refreshing live experience – I feel like a born-again adolescent, even if I’m only 20 years old.

Forever adolescent – Conor Oberst plays the National Concert Hall

Conor Oberst backstage
Photo by Hello My Name is Dev via Flickr

There were lots of hugs and kisses (onstage and offstage) for the forever-adolescent Conor Oberst when he closed his European acoustic solo tour in the National Concert Hall, his first headline date in Dublin in 11 years.

Oberst last visited Ireland under the guise of Bright Eyes to play Oxegen 2011. It now appears he has since retired the band name, but luckily that doesn’t mean he has put his impressive back-catalogue to bed.

The Concert Hall set consisted of tracks by all three of Conor Oberst’s main projects – Bright Eyes, the Mystic Valley band and Monsters of Folk – as well as some new ones. He responded to the usual silent response to new tracks with: “I know this excites the shit out of you.”

The emotive songwriter, who has done a lot of growing up in the last five or six years, seemed acutely aware of the audience throughout. There was plenty of back and forth chatting and Oberst was particularly drawn to two young female fans in the front row.

“I thought you guys were one person,” he said. “I thought you were Siamese twins. Think of the possibilities,” he added.

He wrongfully gave the “twins” a microphone for a sing-along later on – knowing the words (which were easy: “la, la, la, la”) didn’t make up for their appalling voices.

Oberst’s performance was intimate in both the abstract and literal sense (at one point he hugged the entire front row).

The mishmash audience – consisting of tweenagers, emos, 30-year-old long-term fans and Concert Hall regulars – was silent throughout the show. There were some definite tearjerker moments – ‘First Day of My Life’ being the obvious one.

Oberst’s stage presence can be intimidating at times – he hammered a grand piano, broke multiple guitar strings and went from singing softly to roaring in quick moments.

‘You Are Your Mother’s Child’ was another emotional highlight and ‘At the Bottom of Everything’ and ‘Classic Cars’ went down a storm.

The set was well selected, delving deep into Oberst’s 20-year career, but it would have been nice had ‘Lua’ been included.

The show was rousing and engaging, and Oberst received a deserved standing ovation when it all came to a close.

We could have stayed all night: Leonard Cohen at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham

Poet, author and the master of song, Leonard Cohen stunned audiences at four very special shows on the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham last week.

At 77 years of age (78 this week), Cohen played for almost three hours last Friday night to an audience of 10,000. Skipping, jogging and dancing throughout, Laughing Len was in his usual flying form.

Cohen last came to Kilmainham in 2008 after a 20-year hiatus. It was the start of what turned into a highly praised four-year world tour which initially was planned to help restore the millions of dollars Cohen had lost through the mismanagement of his retirement fund by his former manager.

Now in 2012, Cohen has hit the road again; this time in support of a new studio album, Old Ideas.

Opening with his usual starters, ‘Dance Me to the End of Love’ and ‘The Future’, Cohen launched in a career-spanning marathon cycle of 33 songs last Friday.

Cohen was backed by the superb Unified Heart touring band. Absent from the 2012 band are multi-instrumentalist Dino Soldo and guitarist Bob Metzger. Violinist Alexandru Bublitchi and guitarist Mitch Watkins are the newest additions to the line-up, and their playing created a more 70s Cohen sound.

The instrumental highpoint of the evening was Javier Mas’ laud solo on ‘The Partisan’.

Sharon Robinson and the Webb Sisters provided excellent accompanying vocals. Their solo performances were beautiful too. Robinson performed an outstanding rendition of ‘Alexandra Leaving’, one of the many tracks she co-wrote with Cohen.

The Webb Sisters (Hattie and Charley Webb) brought some of the audience to tears with their versions of ‘Coming Back to You’ and ‘If It Be Your Will’.

There are no real highlights in a Leonard Cohen show – all the songs are gems. But ‘I’m Your Man’, ‘Heart With No Companion’, ‘Suzanne’, ‘I Can’t Forget’, ‘Night Comes On’ and

‘So Long, Marianne’ were truly sublime. Cohen proved that his back catalogue and his new tunes can match ‘Hallelujah’ any day (which also went down a treat).

Three hours of the songwriter wasn’t enough — we could have stayed there long into the night. It may be a long shot, but let’s hope he comes back to us one more time.

Leonard is still the man.