Totes Dub Music Reviews

March 18, 2010

Here’s a sprinking of my music reviews for Totally Dublin from April to September of this year.

The Enemy

Music For The People


Dorothy Parker once said, “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown… with great force.” I feel a similar, if somewhat more crude sentiment towards The Enemy’s “Music For The People”. Not only do they wear their influences on their sleeve, they’ve crafted the entire shirt out of aping Cool Britannia’s “finest” producing an album that’s so chipped of an old block it makes Liam Gallagher look like our very own Amadeus.


Brett Dennen

Hope For The Hopeless


There isn’t enough here to warrant much attention, positive or otherwise. Lyrically, musically and vocally Brett Dennen threads the path well traveled and has nothing new to say about the attractions he passes along the way. It’s shoe shop music, designed not to offend the soccer moms who will lap it up between school runs. It never changes tempo, plodding in an out of existence, careful not to leave behind any kind of impression at all.


Valerie Francis

Slow Dynamo

VF Records

Your enjoyment of this album will hang upon your tolerance for kooky singer songwriters exorcising their past love through glacially tempered ballads. For me this lacks the dept and the diversity of a Joanna Newsome or the warmth of a Jenny Lindfors and despite being lovely and all a lot of the tracks sound like never ending adverts for 02. All that’s missing is the voiceover from Dumbledore.


Wallis Bird

New Boots

Columbia Records

I sometimes wonder what some critics are smoking when they come up with their comparisons during critical show and tell. Wexford’s Wallis Bird has been compared to Janis Joplin and Ani Di Franco. Fiona Apple would be nearer the mark. Too near. You can almost hear Apple’s fingerprints leaving their imprint on Bird’s brain. It’s nice to have an Irish woman on the musical front who isn’t bat shit crazy or a keening, Celtic darling but whilst New Boots these may be they weren’t  made for walking on any new territory. There’s not much here that warrants more than a second listen. She does some nice things with a guitar, but then, so do a lot of people and the multitude of instruments are only noticeable for what little, of interest, she does with them.


Dolores O Riordan

No Baggage

Rounder Records

Speaking of bat shit crazy, lock up your nanny’s Dolores is back and while not quite reaching No Need To Argues brilliance it’s nice to see she hasn’t lost her ability to write a ridiculous lyric or raise a smile with her vocal idiosyncrasies. The first four tracks skirt dangerously close to Sporty Spice’s territory in that there is nothing particularly wrong with them other than their complete lack of memorability. Though I never once wanted to turn No Baggage off,  Stupid is the first time I wanted to turn it up. A gorgeous ballad similar to When Your Gone it’s the albums highlight. The rest is pretty much what you’d expect. It lacks teeth, but unlike many convalescent rockers, she’s not without her charms.


Rory Grubb

Sketches From The Big Sleep

There’s certainly no dearth of singers, songwriters and tossers in Dublin. To stand out you have to have something that will help you rise above the shit. Rory Grubb has a haunting set of pipes and a way with a melody that does just that (and what he does with a bike during is live shows has to be seen to be believed). While Rory possesses the ability to be huge, he also has the ability to be brilliant. I hope one doesn’t cancel the other out. Rather than throwing the kitchen sink at his songs he should let them stand alone.


Funeral For a Friend

Your History is Mine

A singles collection, which unimaginatively trots out Funeral For a Friends back catalogue in chronological order, if you have any interest in this act you’ll already have the best and the rest of what these Welsh wailers have to offer while the new tracks see them perfect the knack of spoiling some clever riffs and decent vocals with shit fit drums and vocals that are just begging for a strepsil. Spend too much time listening to Funeral For a Friend and you’ll need one for yourself!



Don’t Stop

Smalltown Supersound

There are few things that piss us off more than trying to put an acceptable face on pop music. Pop tunes are glorious, glutinous escapes from the pretensions and innovations of “real” music and the bang of wank that comes from its chief sycophants. Annie is one such artist who has been elevated to indie queen status by proxy of her not flashing her gash at every inappropriate moment. OK, she writes her own tunes but there is little here that exceeds the brilliance shown by producers Xenomania with their principle puppets Girls Aloud.


The Swell Season

Strict Joy

This album is shockingly dull. I don’t know if it’s the tragic, breaking voice Hansard adopts to show his bleating heart, the turgid music that marinates in the same mediocrity from which this countries music scene derives its flavor or the fact that it just never seems to end. One thing is certain though. While he may have pulled his head out of his arse long enough to accept an Oscar he clearly didn’t stay around long before scuttling back to the musical rut he calls home.


Bob Dylan

Together Through Life

Columbia Records

I was born without the gene that causes most music critics to erupt into a fit of hyperbole whenever some one mentions Bob Dylan. If you can appreciate his latest releases without pissing your pants and proclaiming it his best since Highway 61 Revisited or Blonde on Blonde then you’ll be able to accept Together Through Life for what it is. An appreciative tipping of his crown to the Sun and Chess record labels, who laid the foundations for early rock and roll and rhythm and blues.

You’ll enjoy his more graveled than usual vocals, his sunnier than usual disposition and his collaborations with long time Tom Waits guitarist Mike Campbell and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter who, despite being more deeply involved than any Dylan collaborator since Jacques Levy  (from ’76’s Desire album), ticks all the usual Dylan boxes. And you’ll also recognise that, after a few more listens, Together Through Life will find its way out of heavy rotation and disappear amongst all the other perfectly fine, but not fantastic, albums that drip from Dylan’s cannon. Because not every album is going to be a Blonde on Blonde. Hell, they’re not all going to be a Modern Times, which is no shame. They are what they are and they don’t deserve to drown under the weight of critical exhalations.



Crimson & Clover

Sometimes an artist will do something which excuses the fact that they are still hogging their pensionable wares around the globe when far finer artists have long since been taken out behind the garden shed and put out of their(our) misery. Patti Smith, Lindsey Buckingham and Grace Jones are three such artists whose latest work can count amongst the strongest of their career.

Prince meanwhile has turned his knack for acting like a prat into sounding like one on his cover of Tommy James and the Shondells “Crimson and Clover”, the first single from forthcoming album Lotus Flower. Massacring a classic, more memorably and sexily covered by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Prince sounds like a puerile old fart, lurching from riff to riff, sacking the song of its heart and soul and leaving it a sad, sexless shell of its former self.

Having reignited his career with the Musicology and 3121 albums, Prince stalled with Planet Earth, given away free with the Daily Mail. Here it implodes, with music so lame it’s not even worth the price of a paper.



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