Friday, 31 October 2014

Album Review - David Bierman Overdrive, 'Standard Skies'

David Bierman Overdrive, 'Marking Days'

Info: I have to admit that my knowledge of American music during the nineties was restricted to bands that everyone knew about, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Foo Fighters, The Smashing Pumpkins etc., and it wasn't until I was a bit older that I discovered great alternative bands like Pavement, Cake, Nada Surf, The Lemonheads and such like. Detroit band David Bierman Overdrive are a modern day amalgamation of 4 bands from that era, and listening to their debut album, Standard Skies, you can certainly hear that sound echoing through time to 2014. If I knew more about the alternative music scene in the States back then I could probably do this review more justice regarding perspective, but good music is good music, and here's the highlights for me.

Opener 'Clock' has a 1950's rock meets (and yes I know what I just wrote above) quirky Britpop song, like you might expect from Belle & Sebastian or some such. 'Superhuman' gets right into the contemporary rock sound, with some banging electric guitar and a youthful optimistic indie vibe. Third track 'Unmade Thing' is awash with references which again seem to come from this side of the Atlantic, there's a country feel to the guitars, but at the same time it's quite like English band James with regard to the melodies and vocals, a definite highlight on the album for me. Then we have a sudden and pleasant swing to Americana, Bruce Springsteen, slide guitar, a bit of Wilco even, on 'Fountain' and 'Come On', before above track, 'Marking Days', another favourite of mine, takes on a country-punk hybrid sound, a combination I thought I'd never see myself describing! Other highlights are 'Swept Away', again the electric guitar is so good from start to finish on this track, and you get a feeling that this track is a retrospective ode to youth. The punk returns on it's own this time on 'This Is The Chorus' before an alternative version of Aretha Franklin's 'You Make Me Feel', à la Van Morrison, leads the album to a close. Standard Skies is a melting pot of many different styles of music and proof that you should never stop making music until the fat lady sings. 

David Bierman Overdrive, 'Swept Away'

Additional Info: 

David Bierman was lead singer of Detroit’s Junk Monkeys, a seminal alt-rock band that released several albums in the late 80's / early 90's. Their last two releases on Metal Blade/Warner Bros, Five Star Fling and Bliss, both featured "hook-laden power pop/punk inspired by 70's legends like Cheap Trick, Big Star and the Flamin' Groovies." (

MusicHound’s Rock: The Essential Album Guide called 1992’s Bliss, "One of the best guitar-pop releases in a decade rife with great ones."
But the band, and Bierman, essentially closed shop in 1994. Until now.
David Bierman Overdrive, then, is a welcome surprise from a Detroit rocker who’s been silent for 20 years before wandering into Ferndale's Tempermill Studios earlier this year with a handful of songs, and an impressive band ready to help bring them to life.  
"I sent some pretty rough-sounding demos to friends I really wanted to play with, and hoped they’d be into it. Luckily for me, they all were." Bierman said. "We kept it really loose and just let each song follow its course."

David Bierman Overdrive are:

David Bierman – Vocals, Guitar 
Jim Faulkner - Drums  (Blueflowers, Beggars, Sugar Clouds)
David Feeny - Pedal Steel, Organ  (American Mars, Blanche)
Stephen Palmer - Guitar  (High Strung, ex-Back in Spades)
Kevin Perri - Bass  (Brian McCarty’s Big Bad Beat, The Dives, ex-Junk Monkeys)

*With help from the Whiskey Charmers' Carrie Shepard, the Legal Matters and guitarist Patrick Butler.

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Album Review - , Siân Brown, 'The Girl From Nowhere'

Siân Brown, 'Want To Go'

Info: The above video for 'Want To Go' was my first taste of Siân Brown's music, Dire Straits guitar riffs, a strong clear voice and lots of fun, enjoyable stuff. Then I listened to the rest of the album, 'I've been tricked!', for Brown's music goes full on song-writer and more serious on the rest of the tracks (while still retaining some brevity on swinging second track 'Miss You When'), and the results are great. I still think the opener, 'Cut You Loose' is my favourite track on the album, if this had been a Joni Mitchell track on Court & Spark (think 'Help Me'), it'd probably be one of my favourites on that album. The third track 'Wolves' has a very 70's British folk feel about it, like a contemplative Pentangle track, it's hard not to picture Brown walking through a misty English woodland. 

Next up is 'Mary', which has a tiny bit of a Fleetwood Mac feel about it and the strings are like a slowed-down version of Bob Dylan's 'Hurricane', it's a lovely heartfelt number from Brown and very easy on the ear. The seventh track, 'No Need To Be Lonely' is beautiful, with lovely piano and a great showcase of Brown's voice, it's powerful in the sense that it captures the atmosphere she wants to evoke so well. The album finishes strongly and optimistically with the string-driven 'I Feel' and contemporary sounding closer 'Way Down Low'. There's plenty happening on The Girl From Nowhere to keep the listener engaged from start to finish and Siân is no one-trick pony, it's easy to see the Cork-based singer has a handle on this song-writing thing and a powerful and unique voice to compliment those talents.

Siân Brown, 'Cut You Loose'

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Wednesday, 29 October 2014

You'll Never See The Likes Of It Again - Farewell Laser DVD

Info: There's an old Irish phrase when someone of note passes away, 'Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís', 'You'll never see the likes of them again', which I've modified slightly. Yes, all I have are romantic and fond memories of Laser DVD, and when a fellow Ranelonian sent me a message this afternoon that Laser was to be no more, it was my second bit of heartbreak in the last year and a half after the flagship shop closed in Ranelagh last May. I have many fond and funny memories of Laser, I remember when they first opened up in my home town back in the early 90's (the owners were two sisters) and as part of it's efforts to get a piece of Xtra-vision's (which was located where Coffee Society is now) market they delivered vouchers to every household in the area. The vouchers were booklets that looked like cheque books, and you could rent a free film on VHS or a console game for your Sega Mega Drive or SNES. My friends and I had the great idea of knocking on loads of doors in the neighbourhood and asking people 'if they weren't going to be using the vouchers, could they, maybe, give them to us?' We had varied success, but needless to say we were kept in free rentals for at least a month or two, much to the puzzlement of the owners I'm sure, seeing us arrive in every day of our school holidays and slapping a wad of vouchers on the counter.

Laser DVD, Ranelagh, shortly before it closed it's doors

Other memories which are both funny, moreso in hindsight, was the time when I was ten and rocked down to Laser with a few school friends and rented Point Break, sure it was 18's, but the statute of limitations has passed. The guy in the shop asked were we allowed rent 18's, we lied, went home and watched Keanu and Patrick Swayze kicking ass. That night my parents gave it a watch and my mother was horrified, presumably at 'that scene' when they raid the house and there is boobies flying all over the place. She marched down to the video shop the next day, gave the poor chap a piece of her mind, something along the lines of vulgarity no doubt, and to assuage my mother's fears for how I would turn out as an adult, the staff member suggested he make a little note beside the membership number that I was not allowed rent films rated 15's or over, this was crushing news, but thankfully my friends were not under such draconian restrictions. Another less dramatic story was when a group of us wrote a note saying that one of our father's was very ill and housebound and was sending us down to rent Candyman on his behalf, I'm sure it was a source of amusement in store, probably written with crayons.

Johnny Utah get's in a spot of bother

As the years went on and we became more discerning about our film choices, one of my friend's older brother would check out film reviews in The Irish Times and the odd magazine (these were pre-internet days), make a decision on what to rent based on his research, and off we'd head down to Laser. Most of the time we'd get what we wanted but if all copies were rented out panic would set in. An impromptu committee would be formed in the aisles of the shop and debate would rage over what we should do know? What if the others didn't like our selections?? (no mobile phones back then either), on really bad days you could be there for half an hour and end up coming home with Wolf starring Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer, man that was a terrible film. Needless to say we were ostracised when the end credits rolled on that bogey.

In early adulthood it was the box-sets and Laser always had good deals for multiple rentals, heading down to the off-licence to get some wine and then to Laser to bag a few films or a series for the weekend on a Friday after work was one of life's simple but thoroughly enjoyable pleasures. After moving out of Ranelagh in my mid-20's my Laser life sadly waned, apart from popping in to the George's Street and Andrew's Street shops to buy a DVD, and have a chat with the staff. But I always took great comfort from seeing the familiar and distinct shop front in town, both of which had a constant flow of punters coming in and out, and knowing that they were doing well, even more impressive that they kept going after Chartbusters and Xtravision went under, and survived so long through the recession. 

When the Ranelagh shop closed last summer I was genuinely sad to the core, devastated might be too strong a word but it's pretty close, and I find it bemusing that a medium that is being made almost extinct by the internet, has been replaced by a book shop of all things in the same location, a kind of bittersweet joke. Hearing the news that Laser is gone altogether after 25 years did leave a small lump in my throat as I was walking home this evening, an institution for film fans which was a quarter of a century old is gone, and now there's nowhere left for us to go and browse what was such a broad and magnificent collection. Such was Laser's popularity and renown I wonder would a fund-it campaign have saved it, or would that simply have prolonged the battling against the waves of modern technology, ultimately leading to a predictable finale. It's a sad day, simple as that, and there's no consolation or silver-lining from what I can see, no 'Well at least...' or 'There's still such and such a place', just nothing. 

To finish up I just want to thank all of the staff I've interacted with since I was a chissler, especially the Ranelagh store where I spent untold hours of sunny summer days when I probably should have been outdoors! These guys actively brought great films to our home screens and caused recommendation domino effects that so many film fans benefited from. Laser, you were more than just a video shop, you were and are an enigma, you'll be sorely missed, but fondly remembered by all who passed through your doors, thank you.

The only plastic you ever needed!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

New Irish Music - Fun With Ropes, 'Out Of Sight'

Fun With Ropes, 'Out of Sight'

Info: 'Out of Sight' is a hot of the press new track from Dublin duo, Fun With Ropes, which has a distinctly 80's overtone, both vocally and musically, like some kind of indie dream-pop version of Belinda Carlisle with Larry Mullen bringing the beats. 'Out of Sight' is a very enjoyable listen and there's more on the way with further recording underway, thumbs up these guys.

'Fun with Ropes came together to make melodic music somewhere on the border between electronic and new wave.  A wide range of influences from new wave to progressive house mean that you can expect lots of stylistic twists and turns in upcoming releases…

They're currently recording our next track 'We don't remember' which should be available some time in December.'

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King Fantastic - New Album, The Great Man Theory

King Fantastic, 'Spooky Spooks and the Trouble With Capitalism'

Info: Finally the four year wait is over and King Fantastic have released their second album, The Great Man Theory, which is the follow up to 2010's incredible Finger Snaps & Gun Claps. TGMT opens strongly with the smooth 'Sands Through The Hourglass', mellow hazy beats and cool Funkadelic style guitar riffs leave you with that 'aw yeah' feeling. If you were getting into a relaxed groove you're snapped out of it quickly with a trademark King Fantastic number in 'Spooky Spooks & The Trouble With Capitalism' (above), Killer Reese means business, and the melodies that cover the verses are sweet. 

The fourth track 'Sexbot Sexpot' is a great display of one side of King Fantastic's music which made a brief appearance on their debut album, the mix of rhyming and guitars, it works so well and it's a stand out example of what separates KF from other acts. Some more electric and acoustic guitars appear on the hard-hitting and dark 'Sewer Surfer', and by the time you've reached the end of the track you've got your King Fantastic on, they're back. 'Rad Racer' has some delicious riffs on it but also Killer Reese evokes early 90's LA hip-hop and brings you back in time to that golden era. One thing King Fantastic have always had in abundance is a witty sense of humour and on The Great Man Theory it's no different, in particular on 'Joshua Tree', Reese and Troublemaker take us on a trippy journey into Alice's Wonderland, which includes the line 'Reese knows how to calibrate the chaos, Reese enjoys the psychosis for the pay-off....Reese knows that reality is subjective, so Reese is never a slave to the collective', as the song title suggests, our two adventurers hit the desert and had some candy! Once again King Fantastic have made an album with no waste on it, the rest of TGMT is made up of previously reviewed single 'Los Angeles International', other single 'Yup, Yup, Yup' and the stomping 'The Hardest Song Ever'. The evolution continues and it's all good.

King Fantastic, 'Joshua Tree'

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Saturday, 25 October 2014

French Girls - Tablemanners E.P.

French Girls, 'Creator'

Info: French Girls' E.P., Tablemanners is one of my highlights of 2014, and it's the best new release I've been sent from the U.S. this year. It's unnerving how accomplished the band are at a presumably quite young age. The sum of all their parts, bassist Keith Gillespie, drummer Randy O'Shea, front man and guitarist Charlie Voltz and the gifted lead guitarist Cody Page combine in a rare manner that suggests all four were destined to combine, but listening to the music they make suggests more than chance is at work here.

There are three parts here for me, the first, is a maybe subconscious ode to late 70's / early 80's post-punk and Talking Heads on 'The Medicated Youth'. 'In The Meantime' is the perfect blend of grunge and some, to date, undefined version of indie rock along with (which excites me the most about French Girls), mid-60's garage. There are so many great bands from that era like The Monks and The Pirates that were not popular in their day but are so influential now that it's music to my ears to hear bands drawing on them, accidentally or intentionally, today. 'In The Meantime' is, with regard to my own personal taste, one of the best songs I've heard in 2014 from new or established bands, it draws every decade of music I like the most together in one track.

French Girls, 'In The Meantime'

In addition to 60's and 70's sounds, French Girls doff their cap to many contemporary acts such as Austin band White Denim, there's a hint of surfer rock and, dare I say it, some Britpop. It's a nice idea to want to try and tie so many diverse versions of rock music together, it's another thing to have the ability to do it, and it's an entirely different proposition altogether to pull it off, here it is.....

French Girls, 'Oakland'

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Monday, 20 October 2014

Goldfish - 'Sugar Man' Remix

Goldfish, 'Sugar Man' (Remix)

Info: If you weren't touched or blown away by 2012's epic Searching for Sugar Man your internal circuit board may need some rewiring. My instant reaction when I saw the title of the remix was 'uh-oh, this might not work', but it does, and it's pretty great! Here's the low-down on South African duo, Goldfish;

'Themselves one of the most successful recording artists in South African history, live electronic band and MTV winners Goldfish have chosen to celebrate Rodriguez’ work ahead of their US tour by remixing ‘Sugar Man’ from ‘Cold Fact’. 

The pair’s reworking is as sensitive to the original subject as it is beautiful. For those fearing an EDM revamping, nothing could be further from the truth. The deep, dreamy remix is testament not only to Goldfish’s high-end production and composition skills, but also their close affinity to and understanding of the track. The hazy, heady, almost hallucinogenic spirit of Rodriguez’ ‘Sugar Man’ is still very much intact, in parts stripped down to a few lush piano chords, other times sweeping the listener up in a warm envelope of sound and emotion, Rodriguez’ haunting vocals guiding the single the entire time.

Dave Poole and Dominic Peters, who fly out to Rodriguez’ home country after their sold out ADE Special with Bakermat this Friday, (available to view live on spoke about why they decided to pay tribute to one of South Africa’s highest grossing artists.

"Going over to America as South Africans, it made sense to highlight the biggest connection for us between the two countries." Poole said. "For any South African, Rodriguez is as legendary as they come and we all grew up knowing his music. He’s an icon."

For decades, South African fans thought the folk singer had committed suicide. Wild rumours circulated varying from him shooting his brains out on stage, to setting himself on fire in front of a horrified audience. The truth, it turned out, was that the man Cold Fact co-producer Mike Theodore deemed "better than Dylan" was working as a construction worker in Detroit. A curious and enigmatic figure, he had absolutely no idea of the impact or commercial success he’d enjoyed thousands of miles away on another continent. 

"It’s kind of crazy thinking about just how influential Rodriguez has been on generations of South Africans – including us," Peters said, "and he never knew a thing about it. For us there was no better way to show our love and appreciation for a man that really was only about the music, than to put our twist on one of his greatest tracks. We hope people enjoy it and we hope that it introduces his music to a whole new audience in the process."

(click to enlarge tour dates)

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