Screw no. 328 – Underrated Irish – Pet Lamb

Another in the long line of what could’ve beens for Irish alternative music in the 90′s, these guys occupy a very special place in the hearts of many. Not because of how good they were, and they were great, but that they truly represented an opportunity for Dublin to have a true band of underground heroes made good. Pet Lamb at The Attic was also my first ever proper gig. That was sometime in 1994 and it clearly stayed with me. Two full decades on!

These guys took the usual road to get to where they ended up – a few EPs on a local indie (co-owned by Andy Cairns admittedly); picked up by a “major” indie; sniff of the dream; then dropped while also suffering the misfortune of having a never-released album – 1996′s “High Anxiety” – which finally surfaced online in 2011.

They led a funny Dublin scene, an undefinable bunch of bands that to some were vanguards of the underground, but to me were always so close but not quite there; the likes of Mexican Pets, Jubilee All-Stars, Female Hercules et al. All great bands, but I was too young to be fully immersed in that scene, and from the distance of a teenage bedroom without access to live music on a regular basis, relying primarily on CDs and tapes, it was difficult to appreciate them next to the mainstream alternative barrage of the time from music television. Pet Lamb were lo-fi punks, a southern Therapy? in many ways, but the latter released their “Troublegum” in 1994. Pet Lamb didn’t release theirs. None of the bands in that particular scene did.

Their first EP, 1993′s “Paranoid from the Neck Down” set out their stall. “Little Meaner” and “Where Did Your Plans Go?” were raging and memorable punk songs. When they resurfaced on 1995′s Roadrunner debut LP “Sweaty Handshake”, accompanied by lead single “Black Mask”, it felt like something incredible was stirring.

Pet Lamb – Black Mask

They then headed off to record in New York, the aforementioned “High Anxiety” but were dropped by their label Roadrunner. They went on to release a 2nd LP on Blunt records called “Tenderness”, but by this time perhaps the world had moved on and while this album demonstrated an ability to progress from the early noise and anger, it just never happened for them. I had seen them live once more, in The Furnace in late 1995. They disappointed, and in researching this piece, I found a review from earlier that year which reflected what I had experienced – they’d stopped playing most of their great songs!

A loss to Irish music perhaps, victims of the Irish music press and industry’s relentless apathy towards heavier music, particularly of the domestic variety – (you can have signed to a UK or US indie label, but at that level you really could do with a few thousand sales and a few magazine covers back home as well). While they may never have merited huge success, they deserve a place very high up on the list of great Dublin bands. They, and the others mentioned above, were an inspiration to dozens of Dubliners back then to form bands and start recording and releasing their own songs, and they absolutely deserve to have their music kept alive, particularly at a time when it’s all just a click away.

Pet Lamb – Where Did Your Plans Go?

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Screw No.327 ~ Watch Kate Bush Running Up That Hill (BBC Documentary)

Kate Bush

In case you missed it last Friday night on the BBC, here’s the documentary “Running Up That Hill” reflecting on the enigmatic career of one of the worlds most creative talents. The hour long piece features interviews with Peter Gabriel, Elton John, Tori Amos, St. Vincent, Bat For Lashes’ Natasha Kahn and the man who brought her to the world’s attention, Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour. Kate Bush has just kicked off a 22 night residency at London’s Hammersmith Apollo and to rapturous reviews. Entitled “Before The Dawn” this is her first series of live shows in the UK since 1979.

Watch it before it’s ripped down by the internet feds.

Vimeo Credit: Videodrome Discothèque

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Screw No.326 ~ Richard & Linda Thompson

This year sees the fortieth anniversary release of Richard & Linda Thompson’s seminal British folk rock album “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight”. The album is being reissued on vinyl and fans will agree that this is the best format to appreciate this great record. “I Want to See the Bright Lights” is the second Richard Thompson solo album and the first to feature his wife Linda. Thompson was the talented guitarist with the original Fairport Convention lineup, responsible for creating their edgy folk-rock sound and composer of several memorable compositions. By 1974 he had left Fairport Convention, married folk singer Linda Peters and established himself as a solo artist.

“I Want to See the Bright Lights” is a melancholy album about booze, longing and “the people on the edge of the night” but there is is hope in these songs which makes it ultimately an inspiring listen. While Richard Thompson put the whole thing together, Linda is the real star, her voice is something to behold; a beautiful mix of the blues and folk. A big influence on Radiohead, Richard & Linda would go on to record several more albums culminating in their final and second great album “Shoot Out the Lights” in 1980.

The British folk rock scene became something of a laughing stock when punk arrived in the late 1970s, much like its progressive rock cousin. A generation of music fans thus missed out on some great music from this era due to the narrow mindedness of the punks and their descendants. Yes, some of it may have been twee and dated but who nowadays listens to Sham 69? Check it out.

Richard & Linda Thompson ~ Down Where the Drunkards Roll

Richard & Linda Thompson ~ When I Get to the Border

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Screw No.325 ~ Prince Announces Release of Two New Albums

Prince Art Official Age

After years decades even of legal wrangles, ‘Slave’ facial inscriptions, indecipherable symbols, and general nastiness, Prince has returned to the fold at Warner Bros and today they have announced the release of not one, but two new albums. One is the much anticipated release of the Plectrum Electrum album with the band 3rd Eye Girl. The album will feature the song “The Gold Standard”, and a remix of “Funknroll”, plus a rap song featuring Rita Ora. The other album is a separate solo project entitled Art Official Age. The album will include the single “Breakdown”, which was released this April.

“Every No. 1 song, every Top 10 song, every song in the Top 40 is at least six months old…we should be able to make music and put it out now”, is what Prince has stated in relation to the music industry of today. The thing about this statement is that it is pretty much what he said first time round at Warner Bros in the early days of his career. This industrious multi-instrumentalist and producer battled with, not for the first time, the big wigs at Warner. Prince couldn’t understand why they were only going to release one of his albums when he had four complete albums produced and ready to go. While it is true that this is Prince’s first studio release since 2009′s Lotusflower, this fact pales into insignificance when you figure out that this is his 37th album. I know, that is what I said.

Art Official Age and Plectrum Electrum are due for release 29 September, and both available to order now.

Here is the lush soul/funk of “Breakfast Can Wait” from Art Official Age:

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Screw No. 324 ~ The Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt

These guys are the sort of band that you desperately want to love. You want every song and album to be a classic. And in the case of 2008′s “The ’59 Sound”, their second album, and 2010′s follow-up “American Slang” – on which they perfected that style of emotional, almost romanticised, anthemic punk that treads a very fine line between sincerity and parody – they came very close to achieving this. 2012′s “Handwritten” didn’t meet their own standards, but surpassed most. Over 4 albums then, The Gaslight Anthem had established themselves as a fine band, blending alternative elements with punk, and mainstream American rock, accompanied by folksy, personal lyrics. An honest sort of a band – as I said, one you desperately wanted to love. And did.

Classic Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound

So it was with slight dread that I began to listen to “Get Hurt”. New directions were promised. The dominance of the New Jersey and punk influences was to be tempered, with Pearl Jam’s “No Code” being cited as critical. As a massive fan of the Seattle legends, I found this intriguing to say the least.

Opening track ‘Stay Vicious’ does indeed kick-off with a cracking riff straight out of Seattle, but certainly not of the type perfected by Pearl Jam. A decent song, but a little confused as the band veer from this unexpected mode back to their trademark sound. It doesn’t quite work. The songwriting continues in an all too light and breezy fashion. And this combined with a heavier sounding production, particularly on the guitars, gives the whole album a jarring feeling. Many of these guitar riffs also seriously lack originality.

Lead Single – Rollin’ and Tumblin’

Where they slow down, such as on the title track, it’s fine. If the Irish meaning of grand was a genre, this would be it. Decent background music, but that which fails to lift, with the exception perhaps of ‘Selected Poems’, the one truly great song here.

And I think that’s the sum of it. Throughout this album, I was not grabbed once. Certainly nowhere near the way previous outings have captivated and thrilled. It’s an ok album, even good. Listenable and one that will be listened to again, but ultimately disappointing. In their defence, they were due one of these, having been near-faultless for so long.

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