Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hard Working / Bloggers

The annual new Irish alternative/indie music showcase, line-up announced today.

From Unarocks:

202's / 79Cortinaz / A Lazarus Soul / The Aftermath / Alphamono / The Ambience Affair / Angel Pier / Armoured Bear / Mark Austin / Autamata / Bats / The Beat Poets / Bravado / The Brothers Movement / The Cades / Carly Sings / Nick Carswell & The Elective Orchestra / Caruso / Chequerboard / Cian / Class Of 1984 / Ollie Cole / Crayonsmith / Cutaways / The Dagger Lees / Deaf Animal Orchestra / Distractors / Dolbro Dan / Dublin Duck Dispensary / Exit: Pursued By A Bear / Fiach / Fighting With Wire / Valerie Francis / Fred / Gorbachov / Grand Pocket Orchestra / Groom / Halves / Headgear / Heartbreak Cartel / The Holy Roman Army / Hooray for Humans / The Hot Sprockets / Hybrasil / Kill Krinkle Club / The Kinetiks / The Last Tycoons / Le Galaxie / Lines Drawing Circles / Little Xs For Eyes / Mackerel The Cat / Tom McShane / Fiona Melady / The Minutes / Walter Mitty & The Realists / More Tiny Giants / My Brother Woody / Nakatomi Plaza / New Amusement / Noise Control / Not Men But Giants / One Day International / The Followers of Otis / Panama Kings / The Parks / Pilotlight / Pocket Promise / The Rags / The Revellions / Robotnik / John Shelly and the Creatures / Sickboy / Sideproject / So Cow / Sounds of System Breakdown / Sparks Fly / The Spook of The Thirteenth Lock / Super Extra Bonus Party / Supermodel Twins / Sweet Jane / Tidal District / Tiger Empire / David Turpin / The Vinny Club / Vodkopter / Youre Only Massive

I've never been before, for the most part because I listened to very little Irish indie music even just a year ago, but assuming I do go, these artists I'll be trying to catch: A Lazarus Soul (because there's plenty to build on the last time I saw them), Bats ('cos I need to seem them for a fourth time), Chequerboard, Crayonsmith, Fighting With Wire (as much from what I've heard of their music as for the fact that the bassist was wearing a Future of the Left t-shirt in a video I saw of them), Fred, Grand Pocket Orchestra (seen them once before, supporting Fight Like Apes the first time I saw them - while Those Geese Were Stupified reckons they're up to supplant the newly slickened headliners), Halves, Hooray for Humans (hopefully this time with a drummer), So Cow and The Vinny Club. Amongst others. And of course, the point of the festival is to discover new acts as well.


On a slightly different note, some new like-minded hardcore/alternative-type blogs which have been added to my blogroll recently:

failing the rorschach test is a cretinous curmudgeon from Canada with a liking for Bats and their Cruel Sea Scientist EP. Only a handful of posts so far, but they're detailed and well-written and as well as posting Mission of Burma, Streetlight Manifesto and Pg.99, there is also the excellent Please Inform The Captain This Is A Hijack - Defeat Or Humiliate The United States Of America.

One of Mike Kirsch's numerous bands, it takes the sampling approach of the preceding project Bread And Circuits and amplifies it. Bread And Circuits used Fela Kuti, while Defeat Or Humiliate... samples Stokely Carmichael - amongst others - and separates the album into brief hardcore tracks and ambient spoken word/instrumental samples. Anyway, follow the link to read about it more and download it.

Computers That Breathe is a blog of a guy called Brooklyn Bill, which has also only been around for about a month and has about a dozen posts up. Mostly 80s-90s post-hardcore and alternative rock with Unwound, Shudder To Think, Chavez and a bizarro-universe version of Husker Du called Moving Targets which is actually really good. Or as he says,

"Listen, I'm not trying to ruffle any feathers or piss on anyone's gods but in my humble opinion MOVING TARGETS' RECORDS BURNING IN WATER AND BRAVE NOISE ARE AS GOOD AS HUSKER DU'S ZEN ARCADE AND NEW DAY RISING. There. I'm glad I got that off my chest because its been eating a hole in my stomach for 18 years".

The Art Beats the Thing Itself is not really a music blog (it's an art blog, pretty much - but hey, I've got one of those myself too) but the guy who runs it, Zack Thrower, is in a band. And not just any band, but a quite awesome hardcore/screamo band of the original late 90s/mid-00s style we all know and love - their myspace cites Shotmaker, Spirit of Versailles, Frail and Kaospilot amongst others under 'sounds like'. Anyway, they're called Nationale, they're from Georgia in the US, and they have a four-song CD demo quite excellently packaged available via their Myspace. Check it out, and the blog which follows the production of their flyers and demo artowork.


And finally, to return a little way to the beginning of the post, The Indie Hour has been on blogroll for a while but with the last mixtape on this blog a reminder is probably in order. The Indie Hour blog is run by Aoife MC who also presents the show of the same name on 103.2 Dublin City FM every Thursday 9-10pm (I'm listening to it right now, which is kinda weird). Bats, Terrordactyl, Adebisi Shank from that mix have all been featured on the show - the second two artists coincidentally starting off tonight's show - as well as bands I've written about myself like Fight Like Apes, Hooray for Humans and Halves (I'm about to write about them, anyway). Each show usually features an interview with and live performances from an artist - tonight is Heathers, who have just returned from their US summer tour. And the best part is that the shows are available to download as a mp3/podcast after they've been broadcast.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Fugazi - Margin Walker EP

Fugazi's second release, first released as Dischord 35 and then as the latter half of the 13 Songs album along with their first EP, 7 Songs (posted here). I'm almost exclusively a fan of Fugazi's earlier works (Steady Diet of Nothing and before) and as often is with such predilections, the very first record is the one which retains the most immediacy. That said, Margin Walker is clearly an artistic step above 7 Songs, a further progression in the early Fugazi sound. The FLEX discography sums it up as "Similar to the first 12", but noisier and less catchy. Also great, but harder to get into."

Likewise, Allmusic state "The equally excellent follow-up to the Fugazi EP was initially released in 1989 on vinyl, and was paired with its predecessor on CD shortly after its release during the same year. Dischord continued to keep the vinyl in print on its own, even retaining the rather gross headshot of Ian MacKaye on the cover."

"The problem with this kind of "transcendence" is that's hard to isolate and explain. ... If I fumble for a way to explain why Fugazi's "Margin Walker" is so exciting, it's just too easy to latch on to phrases like "I'm going to set myself on fire," and break them down for their shock and metaphorical values.

Would I still get a charge out of "Margin Walker" if Guy Picciotto and Ian MacKaye were singing about the deliciousness of Coca-Cola? Hard to say. ... Certainly there's enough spark in the music itself that the lyrics' stammering expression of painful, possibly all-consuming, possibly criminal desire may not be necessary. But just like the right title on an abstract painting can give a museumgoer something to focus on, so the right lyrics can seem to give a transcendent song a direct purpose. It completes the fantasy: I'm not just all-worked-up, I'm all-worked-up because there's something I want, and I might be willing to hurt people to get it.

Ultimately though, even offering a detailed explanation for why "Margin Walker" gets my blood pumping won't persuade anyone who doesn't hear it the same way. If my favorite comedy doesn't make you laugh, there's no way you're going to think it's a good comedy. If The Arcade Fire's The Neon Bible doesn't make you feel panicked and fragile and a little bit angry, you're not going to buy my arguments for why it's a great album..."

Noel Murray, Popless Week 15: Taking You Higher

The title track of Margin Walker opens, attention-grabbingly, with a combination of shuddering, plunging guitar and an insistent rhythm. Lyrically, it's enveloped in the psychology and metaphysics of most Fugazi songs - "Untraceable, untranslatable, I can't explain all I ever wanted to do/Trajectory passing right through me threads my needle sends it right to you" - spat out in Guy Piccioto's furious delivery. 'And The Same' continues on with an even heavier, but calmly circular rhythm fighting with swinging guitar chords and Ian MacKaye's yearning, reaching vocals.

As it dissolves, pendulum-like, into "Action. Reaction. Action. Reaction" the next song begins, initially, in a more conventional punk style. But 'Burning Too' shifts quickly into almost heavy dub/reggae-like rhythm, lyrics half-spoken, and interspersed with increasingly frantic shouts. Here, Piccioto and MacKaye sing together, trading lines between their distinct but complementary styles, before joining in the final, visceral exhortation of 'Right here. Right now. Do it. Now. Do it'.

The second side starts with 'Provisional', a slower, more spacious Fugazi song - 'lulled to sleep under clear expansive skies' - but unwinding and winding itself into the listener, worming its speech into the ear - 'hoping every slip's not a slide'. It's a duality of tension, shaped from contrasting parts and hung together in every moment on the beat of a drum or the sweep of a guitar. 'Lockdown' is more frantic hardcore, but deconstructed and reformed into knife-cuts of post-punk noise, again over Guy's furious vocals.

From this, 'Promises' is the peak, the closure of the 13 Songs Fugazi sound; and presumably, the onward link to the style of the full-length Repeater. Part post-hardcore soundscape, part meditation, and a larger part quiet-loud dynamics. Epic and complex, it intertwines slow picking, louder crescendoes, spoken-word, and sidestepping, shifting rhythms; leading finally to the explosive fury and slowly unravelled energy of 'Promises. Words.'

Fugazi - Margin Walker (tracks from the 13 Songs CD)

Buy Margin Walker from Dischord (12", cassette or digital)

eMusic - 13 Songs

The Wire: Season 5 - tonight!

"Omar Little is the gay stick-up man who robs drug dealers for a living on The Wire..." (The Guardian Guide, July 19-25)

Monday 28th July, TG4 10.30 p.m.

It's finally here on terrestrial TV, the fifth and final series of the superb US crime drama. TG4 is the Irish language national broadcast channel, who showed the previous four series at various times in the graveyard schedule. There's nothing Irish about the Wire (except for Aiden Gillen - Carcetti - and a few other things to be mentioned below) and it's not subtitled into Irish (though that might help... sometimes). In fact, TG4 do a good line in quality US television - Cold Case, Without A Trace, a weekly Western, and a while ago now, the equally cult (and fantastic) show Carnivale.

Obviously this season of The Wire has been on HBO already in the States, and it started in the UK on cable channel FX last week, hence the Guardian TV guide. So I've had to wait a little while, which meant I wasn't able to follow the coverage in the AV Club or elsewhere. Not to fear, because the Irish Times music writer and Phantom FM DJ, Jim Carroll, is devoting a thread on his blog every week to The Wire. Best part is the Tyler Durden-esque rules he's laying down:

"The first rule of On The Record on The Wire? "Casual viewers? Fuck the casual viewers".

The second rule of On The Record on The Wire? If you’re not a fan, don’t read it.

The third rule of On The Record on The Wire? Sheeeeeee-it, you have to ask? Clay Davis for Taoiseach, of course."

So I'll be following that, as well as the AV Club TV Club, the excellent, literate Wire blog Heaven and Here, and josephlovesit on Geek Down. The Wire is nothing short of the cultural apotheosis of modern television.

But other than its incipient awesomeness, what reasons do I have for mentioning The Wire on this particular music blog?

1. Tom Waits, 'Way Down In The Hole'. This is the theme for The Wire, performed by different artists every season (including Waits himself on the second season). It's covered by Steve Earle for this season.

2. Baltimore, MD. Whence not only The Wire comes, but also (it's a big city, obviously) a wide variety of alternative music including Dan Deacon's Wham City collective, Matmos and, of course, the superb post-hardcore group Lungfish. Not just Lungfish but the various associated bands such as Asa Osborne and Daniel Higgs's Pupils, Nathan Bell's Human Bell, and the punk preincarnation of Lungfish, Reptile House.

3. Baltimore, Co. Cork. Yeah, the original Baltimore is a small town in west County Cork, on the south coast of Ireland. It's pronounced slightly differently - 'Bal-timore' rather than 'Ball-timore', and I don't think anyone's ever called it 'B-more'. I can't find anything about crime statistics, but it was sacked by Algerian pirates in 1631.

4. Did I mention it's awesome?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Wash Behind Yr Ears - An Alternative Irish Mixtape

(Photograph: Dublin at the foot of the mountains)


1. Future Kings of Spain – ‘A Place For Everything’ from Future Kings of Spain.

2. Bats – ‘These Ones Lay Eggs’ from the Cruel Sea Scientist EP.

3. Ten Past Seven – ‘No Bother’ from Shut Up Your Face.

4. Taste – ‘Blister On The Moon’ from Taste.

5. My Bloody Valentine – ‘Soft as Snow (But Warm Inside)’ from Isn’t Anything.

6. Whipping Boy – ‘We Don’t Need Nobody Else’ from Heartworm.

7. El Diablo – ‘I Still Love You, You Know’ from The Crooked Straight.

8. Terrordactyl – ‘Calabunga’ from the Terrordactyl EP.

9. Adebisi Shank – ‘Horse’ from This is the EP of a Band called Adebisi Shank.

10. NPB – ‘Kim Novak’ from The Sociables Prefer Pop Music.

11. Estel – ‘Regardez Moi (I’m Up To My Neck In Shit)(Again)’ from The Bones of Something.

12. The Redneck Manifesto – ‘The Dillon Family Dancers’ from Cut Your Heart Off from Your Head.


Words (and selection) by mr. x indeed:

The first track of Future Kings of Spain’s first album; still a classic that they’ve yet to top.

I first saw BATS supporting the Locust in Whelan’s, I was impressed but it’s hard not to be by a band screaming in unison that they will "destroy you" (I later found out that the threat was actually aimed at the Creationist Kent Hovind). Since then I’ve seen them a few times and I think it’s safe to say that they are one of the most exciting Irish bands at the moment. Their music lurches spastically from disco to metal, stopping in a few places in between. Last I spoke to the lads they say they’re working on an album to follow up the Cruel Sea Scientist EP, and if the 5 tracks on the EP are anything to go by, it should be quite astonishing. ‘These Ones Lay Eggs’ shows a broad spectrum of what they are capable of.

Ten Past Seven are an instrumental three-piece from Kerry. They appeared, released an amazing album Shut Up Your Face, and then seemed to disappear from the Dublin gig circuit for a year or two. They are probably one of the most musically adept bands I’ve seen in years. Time-signatures pass in the blink of an eye, songs come to shuddering halts before breaking into passages of free-jazz style playing.

Taste - nothing new here but it is always important to salute the masters. I personally am of the opinion that if a person prefers Phil Lynott to Rory Gallagher they should not be allowed to posses an Irish passport. Sure Lynott has a statue in the city centre of Dublin but it looks like Willy Wonka. And I could never see a big Lynott festival really taking off (

My Bloody Valentine

‘Nuff said.

Whipping Boy evokes something that seems very unique to Dublin, some sort of playful but resentful grudge against the world around oneself. The band manages to flourish under an intensely constricting atmosphere. This is something that indie music in Ireland lost many years ago. Great art in Ireland often came from oppressive surroundings, from the oppression from Britain that created purpose for Yeats’ art, to the oppression of terrorism that brought the spark for Stiff Little Fingers, to the economic oppression that created the bleak atmosphere of Whipping Boy’s Heartworm album.

Ireland now seems more comfortable and there is no spark in a lot of the music today. Musicians begin to worry about their style more than where their next meal is coming from. And although this is great for the artist in question, the art suffers because there is no drive to do something different, something that could allow them to escape.

Country music is often underrated. El Diablo created something unique; something that sounded like it was from somewhere between Tennessee and Galway.

Terrordactyl rock harder than a quarry. Their debut EP is an astoundingly diverse record. Calabunga, the track I’ve chosen here, sounds like a cross between straight up driving rock, The Locust and Primus (if Claypool would stop doing Residents impressions and just focus on rocking).

Adebisi Shank (Oz reference, anyone?) released the This Is The EP Of A Band Called Adebisi Shank EP last year and was the readers’ choice of Best Irish EP of 2007 on nialler9’s hugely influential blog. I’ve been told that they are currently recording their debut album with the guy who engineered Faraquet’s The View From This Tower. Oh, and they’re getting big in Japan.

Keep an eye on these ones.

The NPB, or National Prayer Breakfast as they were sometimes known, strayed along a strange path. Starting off a humorous group fixated as much with Karl Marx as they were with James Dean; they somehow became a weird grimy blues rock band stuck in the 1960s over the course of two and a half albums. A bizarre blip on the radar maybe, but they never had a bad song.

Estel are usually an instrumental band, but when Mike Watt asks if he can do vocals on a track you best not say "no". Estel combine the repetitiveness of Krautrock bands like Can with the bluntness of post-punk bands like The Fall, as you can imagine in a live situation they are something quite elemental. This comes off of their most recent, and strongest to date, album The Bones of Something.

They actually have completed a full record with Mike Watt and Steve MacKay of the Stooges, but accordingly there are no plans to release it anytime soon, (one annoying thing about Irish bands is that they seem to be inherently disorganized).

The Redneck Manifesto are great.

Here’s a favourite of theirs.

And finally, The Richter Collective are a new conglomerate of different Irish independent labels and promoters. They’ve got a pretty good catalogue here where you can get many of the best Irish albums and EPs of recent days.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Récherche Du Tunes Perdu (c'est-a-dire, Airs Trouvés)

Hello, and welcome back. First of all, that title isn’t meant to signify much. I’ve never read Proust (yet) so it’s just a bilingual pun with pretentions above its station. This is just a few notes on what I’ve been listening to these past few weeks.

Hopefully Hardcore for Nerds’s readership hasn’t atrophied too much in the past three weeks, and that likewise this post will be of interest at least to some.

Having taken with my only a ‘small’ mp3 player – one gigabyte, practically the smallest amount of music memory you can buy now, thank you Moore’s Law – my holiday listening consisted of a) the last three Envy albums plus their two more recent EPs, b) a broad selection of Hoover/Crownhate Ruin listening and c) all the really good new albums I’ve bought – or near enough – this year. I collected most of the latter at the end of the fourth month of the year, and I hope to do a reprise of that list at the end of next month. In addition, I brought a few books to read to have something to do while listening to music...

- Carry The Meek by Ham Sandwich is still going strong as my favourite album of the year, and I’m not exactly sure why. Obviously, it sounds really really good, stays fresh every time I listen to it, and is connected to some very good live memories. Yet I can’t help feeling troubled by issues of parochialism, originality and simplicity; three things which are in fact strengths of the band for me. Kells in Meath isn’t my parish, certainly, but they’re in the orbit of Dublin and it still seems odd to prefer this to anything else I’ve heard from the US or UK, especially when that’s where I get 90% of my music from. I can’t even claim them, at least straightforwardly, as great innovators or even treaders of any particular obscure branch of rock – they’re just an oddly named indie band somewhere between the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Smashing Pumpkins, and a little bit outside of either. There’s a good deal of complexity there that might be easy to miss in their songs, but for the most part Carry The Meek is the simplicity of the true punk-pop record.

- coming in a very close second is Triptych by Shooting at Unarmed Men, the follow-on band of Jon Chapple from the always-good-to-be-mentioned band, Mclusky. I was impressed by this album from the start, but thinking about in a more structured way for my post about it here helped me appreciate it on a whole other level, as a conceptual masterpiece of post-punk, hardcore and noise-rock that frankly puts Future of the Left, thrilling as they are, in the shade. Furthering this perception was a second – or third, I forget – reading of Nicholas Rombes’s Ramones essay for the 33 1/3rd series of music books. Rombes, an associate professor of English, opens the book with the statement “Ramones is either the last great modern record, or the first great postmodern one”. Not least for its atavistic qualities in returning to stripped-back hardcore punk, Triptych - essentially a series of vignettes in disparate but connected genres – resonates a lot with this description. Compared to Ramones, it really is just another one in a long line of great postmodern records.

One thing especially that struck me was Rombes’s claim that the first four tracks of Ramones - ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’, ‘Beat On The Brat’, ‘Judy Is A Punk’ and ‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’ – “capture the full range of the Ramones’ sound and stand as a sort of mini-album within the album” or a “self-contained mini-album” (pages 84 and 90, respectively). The premise of Triptych is of course three discs of four tracks each, and in total 13 songs, very close to Ramones total of 14.

- I don’t have very much to say about it here, but the self-titled album by Human Bell (Andy Heumann of Arboreteum and Nathan Bell of Lungfish - formerly and amongst other groups, that is) still ranks extremely highly for my year so far. It’s an incredible instrumental mix of post-rock and blues, not overlong on bombast but heavy, very heavy on texture. I’m surprised how little I’ve heard of it, even if Road Records did – and very accurately so – pimp it up as ‘if slint were more influenced by early blues music meets a bit of the explosive post rock of mogwai'.

- a new entrant to my 2008 canon is Vampire Weekend’s also self-titled debut. I took this album with me and played it more times than anything else other than Carry The Meek. Like that, it’s tremendously easy to listen to – it’s called indie rock, look it up – and if my feelings aren’t quite as strong for it in comparison, the album still has some fantastic and unique qualities . It’s not so much in the much-touted African influences although they are there and to good effect. Just as they have been done before, as the BBC Culture Show illustrated pretty neatly last night in a segment on Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen, when they showed these two videos in immediate succession (although admittedly only a brief clip of the latter):

Talking Heads - 'Once In A Lifetime'

Vampire Weekend - A-Punk

What is different about Vampire Weekend, though, is the whole mix of sounds on the album; African singing and drumming, likewise indie guitar sounds, orchestral touches - faux-baroque string sections - and a real old-sounding pop style (I originally thought 60s, my friend says 80s, and I reckon music is in a constant 20-year cycle of rebirth). They also sound bizarrely English - part of the pop archaism, I suppose - right down to having lyrics about tea; "English Breakfast is like Darjeeling". Whereas as another indie band actually from England (Oxxxford to be precise), Foals, are trying really hard to sound like they're the ones from Brooklyn.

- Antidotes, by Foals is an album I didn't bring with me, but that's not out of any boredom with it. Quite the opposite, I'm fairly confident it will hold up for the year. It really was an album with a surprising amount of depth to it, considering how far it moved from the sound indicated by the early and popular singles. Anyone who judges bands on the basis of their haircuts or the TV shows their fans watch is a real chump, but my gut feeling is that Antidotes is far beyond, say, Crystal Castles. At the moment, it feels good to swop around the LPs of Vampire Weekend and Antidotes with No Kill Beep Beep and Different Damage by Q and not U, and I don't care if anyone calls me an indie hipster for my troubles.

- other albums I didn't listen to quite as much but still enjoy were the Black Keys, Attack & Release - some of the production magic is wearing off, but it's still a good one for the band - Sinaloa, Oceans and Islands - I'm really getting into this one now, apologies to any hardcore (in the genre sense) fans who thought I was oddly lukewarm before. Instrumental Irish albums Penny Black and Spectre and Crown are likewise still going strong, the latter particularly I'm starting to enjoy more fully now. Plus the two excellent Irish EPs, Bats Cruel Sea Scientist and Halves Haunt Me When I'm Drowsy; one with a heavy math-rock kind of sound, the other with a totally opposite ethereal post-rock, EITS-and-Sigur Ros style, both very accomplished and well worth a listen. And that's all the new stuff I've bought and really absorbed so far.

- Naturally, a few other recent or not-so-recent releases need a mention. I was conscious of not having Have A Nice Life's Deathconsciousness double album along with me, which has collected a lot of praise from both Geek Down and Last Train To Cool. Shoegaze-y post-hardcore, it's very hard to explain and I've been meaning to buy the proper release for a while now. Also, I just downloaded Patti Smith's The Coral Sea from eMusic yesterday. Kevin Shields plays guitar on the whole of it, quite mesmerising. Anyone else heard it yet, or for that matter the new Grails (Take Refuge In Clean Living)?

- And finally if briefly, onto things more emo-ish. The WFMU live recordings of Hoover and Lincoln are fascinating listens; the Hoover session is very lengthy, about three-quarters of an hour with songs from both Lurid Traversal and the then as yet unreleased EP tracks; the Lincoln a good deal shorter, under twenty minutes but showing some real fire in some of their songs. I think I'll sit down and work out the tracklistings (assuming no-one has done so already?) and make a full post on them. In the meantime you can of course find the Two-Headed Coin split from the two bands here.

The Fugazi Peel Session from 1988 which I just found before I left is also excellent, with more experimental version of tracks from the 13 Songs album, especially a screamingly good closing version of 'Glueman'. I haven't always been a great fan of live or demo recordings, but the above examples, plus Zen and the Art of Face Punching's timely resurfacing of the Clikatat Ikatowi demo release and the August 29, 30 1995 live recording (you can find the latter in the comments there), have certainly made me more interested.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

(Holiday Playlist) Jolies Vacances


Holiday playlist:

Envy, A Dead Sinking Story, Insomniac Doze and Abyssal

The Crownhate Ruin, Until The Eagle Grins, Intermediate, Elementary and A Primer.

Hoover, The Lurid Traversal of Route 7 and Live on WFMU 04/13/94, (thanks to LcDP)

Fugazi, Peel Session November 11, 1988 (via The AV Club/Aquarium Drunkard)

Fight Like Apes, 'Jake Summers' b/w 'Battlestations'

Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend

Bats, Cruel Sea Scientist EP

Halves, Haunt Me When I'm Drowsy EP

Everything from Year End April (except Antidotes - no space)

and Dinosaur Jr., 'Been There All The Time' and 'I Got Lost' 7"s

Summer reading:

Charles Bukowski, Ham On Rye

Nick Hornby, High Fidelity

Don DeLillo, Falling Man

Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea (La Nausée)

33&1/3rd, Ramones and Grace (re-reading)

miscellaneous other non-fiction (including Classics of Buddhism & Zen: The Collected Translations of Thomas Cleary - Volume Four and Heinrich Boll, Journal Irlandais Zen Classics: Formative Texts in the History of Buddhism, edited by Steven Heine and Dale S. Wright, and The Great Arab Conquests by Hugh Kennedy)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

gUiLLeMoTs vs. Jurgen Habermas

Everybody likes listening to indie songs with over-the-top production and reading about political theory and/or political philosophy, right? Good.

While over in the USA you are all talking about Obama and the upcoming presidential elections (well, five months seems to count as 'upcoming' there) here in Ireland, and more generally in Europe, we're still pondering the Lisbon Treaty defeat. I originally thought the Guillemots 'Get Over It' would be an appropriate record to post after a week or so of post-referendum 'period of reflection' (and I could work in clever allusions like "in another life, I'd be drenched in sweat with you" for "enhanced co-operation" among EU member states). Alas, politics isn't that simple, and a week or so is definitely a long time.

Here's the record, on cool-as-the-bee's-knees picture disc, but I've no neatly ordered thoughts to lay out about one of the most important political events of my lifetime - certainly since I've been eligible to vote, which I wasn't at the time of the Good Friday Agreement, abortion/divorce referenda, or even Nice (the previous EU treaty) for that matter. Fellow Irish blogger (and Yes voter) No Ordinary Fool has done the sensible thing, and announced a sabbatical on the subject. But I can't quite let the itch go, not least because it's still a live issue in Europe.


Guillemots, 'Get Over It' (vinyl rip)


This weekend, The Irish Times carried an article by renowned German philosopher Jurgen Habermas, under the heading "Irish vote should be signal to call a halt to elitist European Union: More ground-level democracy in the European Union is the correct response to the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty - not less". - Full article [fixed link]

Habermas is best known for originating the ideas of the 'public sphere' and 'communicative rationality', in sociology as well as politics; in general, his theory is one of advancing human emancipation and democracy. Last year, (2nd year/sophomore) I did one of the most interesting courses of my university career so far, titled 'Power, Discourse and Political Action' and focused on the tension between the theories of Habermas and Foucault. (I aced that one easily enough, but more ominously for my discussing the Lisbon Treaty referendum, I only scored a B on 'Democratic Theory' this semester just past)

In the article, most of which I would have to agree with in broad terms, Habermas speaks of paternalism, cyncicism, and a "bureaucratically engineered" response to the institutional difficulties of the newly expanded Union, pushed forward by a political elite but come up against "the burdensome exception stipulated in the Irish Constitution" (that requires us, essentially, to have a referendum on any EU treaty. To be clear, it's not actually in the constitution, but follows from a judicial reading of it). He asserts:

"The failed referendums are a sign that, thanks to its own success, European unification has reached its limit. This can be overstepped only when the pro-Europe elites stop touting the virtues of parliamentary democracy as a way to avoid the messy business of actually listening to citizens.

A schism has opened up between the political decision-making powers that have been transferred to Brussels and Strasbourg on the one hand, and the opportunities for democratic participation that have remained in the member states on the other."

Habermas argues that the grand forces of expansion and unification operating in the European Union have brought the whole project beyond the limits of political clarity or democratic consensus; "we should expect two things from our governments: they must concede that they have run out of ideas; and they have to stop pretending that a debilitating lack of consensus does not exist". Of course, while this has translated on the ground in Ireland into much more disparate fears about the direction of the European project, it has also been reflected in the difficulty of 'selling' the complex legal treaty to the voters by the political establishment. This, in essence, was the problem with the Lisbon Treaty referendum.

Habermas's solution is a Europe-wide referendum, where

"The phrasing of the question must be sufficiently clear for voters to know the consequences of their vote. And citizens across Europe must be able to vote on the same day, on the same topic and according to the same method. A problem with referendums until now has been that debates have been held in each national context, cut off from the outside"

Also - and this is a proposal resisted with great fervour by most Yes campaigners in Ireland, on account of the influence and benefit we would lose - the possible establishment of a two-speed Union: "...for member countries that are initially sceptical, a politically successful nucleus at the heart of Europe would have a stronger gravitational pull. After all, internal differentiation, albeit legally complicated, would simplify the controversial expansion of the Union."

I don't agree with everything Habermas says, and as a letter writer to the paper pointed out, he was not directly aware of what passed for discourse on the Treaty during the referendum campaign, which would hardly match up to his standards of 'communicative rationality'. That refrain aside, there are serious questions about democracy - the importance of one person's vote, the true political progress of Europe - inherent in this current dilemma.


Guillemots, 'Get Over It', Live on Jonathan Ross

Fight Like Apes - Glastonbury 2008


Dublin "synth-grungers, electo-noiseniks and synth-violence operators" Fight Like Apes played the BBC Introducing stage on the Saturday night at Glastonbury. There's a couple of videos on the BBC website, 'Lend Me Your Face' and a fiery performance of 'Battlestations'. Watch out for singer MayKay's Mclusky t-shirt:

BBC - Glastonbury 2008 - Fight Like Apes

Check out the band's new website, above, where you can stream the new recordings of 'Something Global', 'Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues', 'Knucklehead' and 'Lend Me Your Face', see further UK and Ireland festival dates, and generally do all the things you can do on Myspace, but without the shitty graphics and web layout. (Seriously, I'm all for streaming music, but half the time I go to a Myspace page the songs fail to load the first time round, and the whole thing is as stale as soft biscuits).

Hardcore for Nerds - 'Jake Summers' b/w 'Battlestations' (7" rip)

Future of the Left, Fight Like Apes & Shooting at Unarmed Men - collected tuneage

Friday Video: Fight Like Apes, 'Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues'

Obviously, I didn't go to Glastonbury - instead I spent the weekend writing up posts for Envy and the Crownhate Ruin, neither of which respective genres were much in evidence at the festival. But I often deign to listen to other things that more people - a lot more people - enjoy, so I caught some of the live coverage on BBC. Saw Jay-Z's cover of 'Wonderwall', as well as Horace Andy appearing for Massive Attack, which was excellent. I do like me a bit of dub, and while I'm not an inordinately large Massive Attack fan ('Teardrop' is great when it's used for the House theme though), Horace Andy's Dance Hall Style is a favourite of mine. I should post it sometime. The headline sets by Kings of Leon and the Verve looked pretty good as well. I was looking, though I didn't see any, for some footage - or whatever the appropriate digital term is - of Vampire Weekend, since despite my early attempts at resisting the hype, Vampire Weekend is actually a pretty great album.

[Update - Skinxxxcore 4 Eva!]

Foals - full set

Crystal Castles - full set