Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

MY SMITHS PILGRIMAGE

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Anyone who knows me in person knows that I’m a big fan of The Smiths; the title of this very blog is taken from the name of a compilation of theirs. Earlier this year, my lovely other half arranged a surprise trip to Manchester for my birthday, knowing that I’ve wanted to go for years and traipse the hallowed paths that Morrissey, Johnny Marr, Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce once did.

There are guided tours for this sort of thing, but they didn’t seem to be running in February, or else you needed to have a group in order to book – so we took it upon ourselves to make our own way around the city to see some Smiths-related sites. Manchester isn’t that big and the public transport is great, so it was relatively easy to get around to a few places over the course of a morning. Maybe this post will come in handy for other people planning a similar trip, because there’s not that much sensible info out there.

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TORI AMOS: SONIC SELFIES

Originally published in The Irish Times, May 7th 2014

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SAY WHAT YOU like about Tori Amos, but you can’t accuse her of coasting through life. Having established herself as both an enormously successful and exceptionally diverse alternative songwriter in the 1990s with albums like Boys for Pele and even dance remixes like Professional Widow, the warm, slightly eccentric musician’s more recent projects may have flown under the mainstream radar. They include a Christmas-themed album (2009’s Midwinter Graces), a classical album released via Deutsche Grammophon (2011’s Night of Hunters) and composing for a musical stage adaptation of 19th century fairytale The Light Princess last year. But make no bones about it: she has been a busy woman.

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WHEN DID CAVAN BECOME COOL?

Originally published in The Irish Post, November 2013

ImageActual graffiti spotted on a wall in Belturbet, Co. Cavan

 

IF THERE IS, as they say, something in the water in Cavan, then it has taken one band slightly longer than usual to fully ingest its magical ingredient. Twenty-four years, to be exact. The Strypes may have blazed a trail over the last year, making fans of Elton John, Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller and creating Beatlemania-like scenes in the tents of Glastonbury and the airport terminals of Tokyo alike – but they may have inherited the mantle of ‘Cavan’s most famous exports’ from a different band, if things had turned out differently.

The Would Be’s, the band initially formed by brothers Paul, Eamon and Matt Finnegan in Kingscourt, Co. Cavan in 1989, became the could-have-beens when their fairytale story turned sour. A brilliant debut single (‘I’m Hardly Ever Wrong‘) saw the quintet compared to The Sundays and The Smiths; John Peel played it on his radio show and invited them to London to record a session; Morrissey invited them on tour as his support act and they had A&R men from multiple major labels clambering for their signatures. The future looked promising – until a combination of bad decision-making and youthful naivety saw them sign to an independent label, Decoy Records, who failed to nurture their talent. The dream became a nightmare when media interest dwindled at the band’s failure to progress and release an album.

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JOHN GRANT: ELECTRIC DREAMS

Originally published in The Irish Times, March 1st 2013.

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THERE ARE confessional songwriters, and then there is John Grant. The Michigan-born, Colorado-raised musician had been celebrated as a lyricist throughout his tenure with The Czars, the band he fronted for ten years until their split in 2004. Yet it was the release of his astounding solo debut Queen of Denmark in 2010 that his propensity for pouring his heart and soul – metaphorical warts and all – brought his music to a wider audience.

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DOMHNALL GLEESON: THE TIME IS NOW

Originally published in The Irish Post, September 3rd, 2013.

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Domhnall Gleeson creases up, eyes widening and shoulders shaking as he tries to suppress a bellyaching laugh and avoid spraying the room with the mouthful of water he’s just gulped back. I have just asked the young actor whether he is ready to be hailed as the next big rom-com dreamboat – what’s so funny about that? – but a line in his new film About Time may go some way to explaining his mirth. By modern standards, Gleeson is, perhaps, “too pale, too skinny, too ginger”, as his character puts it, to be your stereotypical leading man. Continue reading

IN MOZ WE TRUST

The Entertainment Editor of The Irish Post recently asked me to write about my longstanding and occasionally irrational love of Morrissey, to coincide with the release of ‘Morrissey 25: Live from Hollywood High’. Sometimes, you just have to put your journalistic impartiality to one side and allow your inner rabid fangirl to run rampant. 

Originally published in The Irish Post, August 28th 2013.

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A KITCHEN sink may sound like a strange place to fall head over heels in love with a band, but in a way it is the perfect setting for a love affair with The Smiths, who drew so much of their imagery and lyrical inspiration from the ‘kitchen sink’ dramas of the 1950s and 1960s.

I still remember the moment clearly; it was 2001 and I was in my parents’ house, washing the dishes and listening to the Very Best Of CD that I’d bought earlier that day. The music shop that I was working in part-time had been playing this new collection on a daily basis, and I like to think that even as I went about the monotonous task of stickering CDs and answering inane customer queries, the music was subconsciously seeping into my brain.

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IRELAND’S BIGGEST YOUTUBE HITS

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Yikes, I’ve been a terrible blogger this year. Sorry. Will definitely try harder in 2013. In the meantime, here’s a feature I recently dug out from the bowels of my MacBook, which was commissioned for a magazine but never published. (Grrr). It’s from two years ago, so my selections probably aren’t very up to date – but it was fun to hear their backstories. Merry Christmas!

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IT ONLY TAKES five years to become a cultural phenomenon. Nobody is more aware of that than Steve Chen, Jawed Karim and Chad Hurley, the three former PayPal employees who founded YouTube in 2005. These days, YouTube is as much an integral part of the internet as Google, Facebook and Wikipedia; it has made stars out of keyboard-playing cats, lightsaber-wielding teenagers and was even where one of the world’s biggest popstars, Justin Bieber, was first discovered.

But that doesn’t mean that our little kooky corner of the world wide web has been forgotten about; Ireland’s internet stars are just as noteworthy as their international counterparts. Here’s a selection of rising and established YouTube stars; and nary a Riverdancer in sight, either.

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