Screw no. 386 ~ Sinéad O’Connor, Vicar Street, Tues 16th December

Sinéad will be taking to the stage next week in Vicar Street. This year’s album “I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss” was the subject of a screw back in August . And if her all too brief cameo with John Grant some months back (it was his gig after all) is anything to go by, then any questions about her talent and her ability to affect an audience will be well and truly answered in her favour.

Her off-stage antics can grate at times for many people. Her latest one is applying to join Sinn Féin in order to see a “proper socialist Ireland”. The fact that she immediately called on the entire leadership to step down is a portent of how things might turn out in that adventure.

But it doesn’t matter. I don’t look to Sinéad for political leadership, not for spiritual guidance, or particularly as a role model for anyone – male, female, Irish or foreign. She is an artist with strident opinions and she has been extremely brave and absolutely right so often in the past. Her treatment by some in the establishment here and abroad has been utterly abhorrent at times, but when it comes to her stance on the abuse perpetrated by the Catholic Church, Irish history will remember her as a hero.

She is a singer and a songwriter, however, first and foremost. And when she gets on the stage, she ascends to a place no other performer can dream of reaching. If that voice doesn’t move you, you are simply fucking dead inside.

The gig has been sold out for a long, long time.

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Screw No.385 ~ Markéta Irglová: Muna

Markéta Irglová

With an Oscar, a Tony, and a Grammy award under her belt it is safe to say that Markéta Irglová has been busy since, at the age of nineteen, co-writing the soundtrack and acting in the surprisingly successful film Once. Due to the phenomenal musical and theater success of Once combined with touring and recording with Glen Hansard and the band Swell Season, Irglová has only this year got around to recording her second studio album. In October, this evidently talented songwriter and multi-instrumentalist released Muna (meaning “to remember” in Icelandic). The album is inspired by the incredible natural beauty of her current home of Iceland. It was whilst touring with Swell Season that she fell in love with, and became infatuated with, the majesty of Iceland’s glacial wilderness. Irglová explains that it is an “internal dialogue of spiritual nature”.

The album opens with the chiming of bells and is book ended with a celestial chorus. Contained in between are piano-ballads, nursery rhymes and instrumentals; featuring lush orchestral arrangements, sparse electronics and field recordings. The song “Fortune Teller”, below, highlights Irglová’s vocal dexterity with the use of Arabic female vocal techniques. No less than 27 musicians and singers contribute on this enchanting album which is out for purchase and enjoyment now.

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Screw no. 384 ~ Foo Fighters, Sonic Highways

A couple of months back, I wrote about this record and the accompanying HBO series. I’ve only managed 2 episodes of the series so far and it’s been fascinating, if a little stilted in its presentation. But however revealing the interviews with Buddy Guy, Steve Albini et al have been for viewers, the Foo Fighters’ day job remains making music, and it is by their recorded output that they will be judged. This is where it gets a bit tricky.

Pencilled in for headlining Slane next year, no-one can deny the popularity of Foo Fighters. During the 20 years since Grohl’s genius and industriousness hit us between the eyes on their debut self-titled album (which Grohl wrote and recorded alone), this band have been incredibly successful. Listening to the first 2 albums, it’s obvious why. Listening to the following 4, yes 4, albums and it’s less clear. Mediocre is a fair description of that period of output, yet it seemed their fame and status grew continually. And exponentially. Thankfully 2011’s Wasting Light was a very different beast altogether; a phenomenal return to form. So what of this experiment?

You probably know the deal by now – 8 songs, 8 studios, 8 cities. Each track a paean to the city it was recorded in and featuring guests from each location. It all sounds very interesting, but can it deliver a coherent album? The answer to that is yes, and there’s no feeling of disconnectedness on the album. It flows fine. It just doesn’t flow with great music. This is back to Foo Fighters mediocrity, I’m afraid.

And it’s a peculiar form of mediocrity the Foos have perfected. All the ingredients are there. The dynamics, the production, the riffs and the vocals are all present and correct. It just doesn’t sound organic. It’s ‘rock by numbers’. Take the ingredients, put them together and yeh, you have a decent rock record. But there’s no flourish, no sense of urgency, no real passion evident, no soul. The album was released on November 10th and it’s taken until now for me to really listen to it in full. There’s simply no incentive to resist putting on something else. There’s no hook or anything which rises above the average. While I cannot but applaud the project and the love Grohl has shown for American music by showcasing it to a new audience via the television series, as a band Foo Fighters seem to have lost their way again.

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Screw No. 383 ~ Jill Scott re-visited: Beautifully human

Jill Scott’s grammy winning Beautifully Human (Hidden Beach 2004) is one of the best R’n’B-soul albums of the last 20 years.

These are songs in the key of life if I can nic that famous title for one second. The personal stories about which Jill Scott sings express strength and vulnerability in equal measure, In fact it’s the strength in expressing vulnerability and an emotional honesty which is the binding agent of the album.

Opener ‘I am not Afraid’

Jill Scott ~ I’m Not Afraid (Declaration of Wifedom)

‘I’m not afraid to be your baby
I’m not afraid to be your strength
I’m not afraid to be open wide
I’m not afraid to be glutinous

‘I’m not afraid to wind it, wind it
I’m not afraid to keep your pace
I’m not afraid to create my queendom
I’m not afraid to take my place’

Jill Scott ~ The Fact Is (I Need You)

‘The Fact is (We need you)’ is an even stronger case in point, Jill sings:

‘I could be congresswoman
Or a garbage woman or
Police officer, or a carpenter
I could be a doctor and a lawyer and a mother and a good girl
God what you’ve done to me
Kind of lover I could be
I could be a computer analyst, the Queen with the nappy hair raising her fist
Or I could be much more and a myriad of this
Hot as the summer, sweet as the first kiss
And even though I can do all these things
I need you’

Whether it’s an apology to a former lover for infidelity (Can’t explain (42nd Street Happenstance)) or a lustful remembrance (Cross my Mind), that essential dynamic of strength and vulnerability and their correlates of vitality and openness remain.

Jill Scott ~ 42nd Street Happenstance (Can’t Explain)

Jill Scott ~ Crossed my Mind

Spring Summer Feeling is a breath of fresh air and a spiritual eye in the centre of the materialistic storm we find ourselves these days.

Spring Summer Feeling

‘It takes more than diamonds to woo me
It takes more than money to move me
It takes more than ooo material things
It takes more than diamond to move me
It takes more than money to groove
It takes more than cars to get me where I need to go

Jill Scott ~ Bedda At Home

‘Bedda at Home’ speaks truthfully to the illicit temptation of the other but ultimately celebrates the transcendent nature of love.

‘You’re that kind
that turns my head and makes me look
whoa whoa whoa uh uh uh…uh
You’re the kind
that makes me pull single dollars
out my pocket book, ooh baby
You’re sexiness in my restitute makes me
wanna cook my favorite recipe
and place it on your table, baby
Your in-toxic ting and so divine
You’re the kind that stays on a sista’s mind

Chorus: and I know you’ll think this is crazy
but, I got something better at home
ooh whoo oo woo woo
hey hey I got something better at home

Verse: he’s the kind that breaks it down
and curls my toes, woo woo woo baby ow
he’s the kind that loves my mind and feeds my soul
and I love it baby

his intellect and outer respect, makes me wanna crawl
and be my best
and I know…
he loves his baby

his sense of self and silliness
makes the hardest things
the simplest and I look but don’t touch
never know baby

cuz, I got something better at home
ooh ohoo ooo
cuz, I got something better at home
ooh ohh woo wooo

Bridge: baby I know you love me
and your love is wonderful
you help me feel free
I wont betray you unintentionally, or intentionally
I got you babe
You can rest your shoulders and sleep at night

alright cuz I know
Cuz I Know know know,
I know, I got something better at home

Jill Scott ~ Family Reunion

‘Family Reunion’ is a celebration of the domestic milieu of family while ‘I Keep’ is a quiet hymn to the human spirit in the face of the neasayers of the world while hidden track ‘I’m Here’ is similar yet reaches for a more poetic lyricism.

I’m Here

‘I am a source of power
I am excited journey
I am the rock of patience
I am a whisper singing
I am unbridled freedom
I am the thought from thinking
I am a love unshattered
I am the great orgasm

And if you don’t recognize my presence, I am here
And if you don’t recognize my presence, I am here’

It’s all exquisitely crafted and an obvious labour of love, she brings an attention to intonation that subtly weaves a kind of soul magic and it’s one of those classic albums that ultimately vindicates the form itself.


Jill Scott ~ I Keep

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Screw No.382 ~ The War On Drugs : Red Eyes

The War On Drugs Lost In The Dream

The War On Drugs have been topping many best of year lists out there so far. Namely with Uncut and Q magazines. Although not a fan of “the yearly list” myself, I’ll defo be taking a look at all the wonderful music the year brought to our ears in the coming weeks. Do the band deserve all the plaudits? Check out “Red Eyes” below as performed on Jools Holland earlier this year.

The War On Drugs ~ Red Eyes

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Screw No. 381 ~ Lagwagon, Hang

Lagwagon return with their first full album since 2005’s “Resolve”. And it’s a bit of a return to form for almost everybody’s favourite So-Cal punks. No one would argue against the notion that this band seemed to have peaked a long, long time ago and never quite recaptured the spark of the likes of 97’s “Double Plaidinum” and follow up “Let’s Talk About Feelings” released a year later. They’ve been through the mill personally, losing a former drummer Derrick Plourde to a self-inflicted gunshot wound, to whom their last album was dedicated – and then very close friend Tony Sly (singer with No Use or a Name) just 2 years ago.

In amongst all that turmoil, the members were involved in numerous side-projects, most notably the brilliant Bad Astronaut featuring singer Joey Cape and Plourde, as well as Cape’s solo acoustic material and collaborations with Sly. It’s no wonder they’ve been on hiatus more than once.

This album, their 8th studio full-length, sees them return to their earliest sounds. Lagwagon always blended melodic punk with full-on heavy metal riffing. They have matured, it seems as well and this is a straight-ahead great punk album as a result. It starts in classic Lagwagon style, a thoughtful acoustic intro that immediately brings “One Thing to Live” from Double Plaidinum to mind, before blasting into the hyper “Reign”, Cape’s vocals as oddly evocative as ever.

But it’s on “Obsolete Absolute” where they utterly excel. This track clocks in at over 6 minutes. In Lagwagon terms that’s a full opera. It builds, using the tried and tested spoken word device to build atmosphere in the intro – which in itself is as long as most of their other songs – it veers in all directions, with tempo breaks, section breaks, massive riffs, great vocals and all of the energy one expects from this band. It achieves that rare feat of obtaining ‘punk rock epic’ status and is a sure sign that Lagwagon mean business.

Where they perhaps may have let themselves down is in allowing the metal take over a bit in places, such as on “The Cog in the Machine” which could have been an 80’s hair-metal band’s b-side, were it not salvaged in the choruses.

Overall, however, it’s a joy to hear a band return to form, having experienced some major personal lows. It’s unfair to compare an album like “Hang” to personal tribute such as “Resolve”, but it’s part of the job of a review, and they had already released one just ok LP in “Blaze” in 2003 after a 5-year absence. Lagwagon are different to other bands, however. They occupy a strange place in people’s affections. Not only were their best albums among the very best of the genre, but they go beyond that. I don’t know if it’s the melodies or the delivery of Joey Cape, but there’s an emotional side to their music that captures you. Very few punk bands manage to marry that with the speed and aggression required. People don’t like Lagwagon in the same way as they like other bands. They support them, like a football club. They want them to be brilliant; they see their bad days; share their defeats as much as their victories and just hope that they have more of the latter than the former. In 2014, Lagwagon have won the title. I just hope they get into Europe as well.

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