Review: A Date For Mad Mary




Everybody knows a mad Mary. It could be the “harmless” neighbour next door whose gaze you prefer to avoid whilst taking the bins out or the general gadabout in town who everybody claims to know but in fact nobody really knows at all. Heck, they don’t even have to be called Mary or be a woman at all!

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Review: Let’s Cry Wolf Alice-Wolf Alice’s My Love Is Cool

Teasing us with gigs and EP releases, Wolf Alice’s long-awaited debut album, My Love Is Cool is finally here. Although, the London four-piece may have just missed out on nabbing the coveted UK Number 1 spot to Florence and the Machine, this doesn’t take away from the sheer brilliance of this record. A collection of haunting ballads and raging punk tracks, this debut embodies all the beautiful contradictions of Wolf Alice.

‘Turn to Dust’ is an ethereal introduction to this 12-track collection. Ellie Rowsell demonstrates her striking ability to whisper and lure her listeners in urging them to “Keep their beady eyes’’ on her. While Rowsell’s performance of signature track ‘Bros’ at Glastonbury was below belt vocals wise, it doesn’t take away from its upbeat and jaunting guitar sound. Capturing an era of love and friendship ‘Bros’ is the perfect indie-pop summer anthem.  Another standout track is the slow-burning explosion,  ‘Your Loves Whore’ where the repetition of “And when we grow older we’ll still be friends” leads into imploding guitar riffs. ‘You’re a Germ’ and ‘Lisbon’ are both heavy grunge tunes, with cooing verses contrasting with a thrashing combination of guitar and drums in the latter track.

The beautiful addition of synths to ‘Silk’ in which Rowsell chants through the chorus of “Just looking for a protector, God never reached out in time” in Lana Del Ray fashion makes this track a wonderful middle point in the album. ‘Freazy’ puts the ‘pop’ in Wolf Alice’s alt-pop reputation, while ‘Giant Peach’ ,the first single from the album to be revealed is a magnificent manifestation of screaming and suspense. Drummer, Joel Amery takes over the vocals for the poetic lullaby-like “Swallow-tail” while ‘Soapy Water’ is another lamenting track. Fans shouldn’t be fooled by the innocent title of ‘Fluffy’ as its pelting drums and supreme guitar riffs rule as in previous tracks.

The album comes to a natural close with ‘Wonderwhy’ as Rowsell shouts ‘Don’t leave me here” pointing to the band’s ability to experiment with different genres, while the concealed ‘Hidden Track’ adds to the mystery and Wonderland universe of Wolf Alice.

Album Review- Alpine’s Yuck

Following the success of their debut, A is for Alpine, Melbourne sestet, Alpine are back with their second album, Yuck. Not unlike their previous work, Yuck is a collection of indie-pop summer anthems and smooth harmonies courtesy of vocalists Phoebe Baker and Lou James.

First up is 90s R&B inspired track, ‘Come On’. Its breathy chorus chants of ‘’Come On’’ are a quirky introduction to this alt-pop album, while the next track ‘Foolish’ inspires the album’s title as the band describe their confused feelings towards love as ‘Yuck!’. Not unlike a tune that would be heard on Home and Away, ‘Crunches’ up tempo guitar hooks and charming lyrics make it an uplifting soundtrack to summer.

‘Shot Fox’ is a surprising highlight of the ten track album. Its zany synths combine with a paradoxical chorus “When you’re gone the world seems brighter/ When you’re heart beats mine beats faster” Adding to the album’s sexual tension, ‘Up for Air’ is a smooth track blended with gasping’s of “You’re the one whose gonna make me lose control”, while ‘Damn Baby’s’ swooning verses are followed by rapturous choruses celebrating love.

‘Jellyfish’’s water-dropping synths combine with the repetitive and entrancing introduction of “I wanna be the light, euphoric, stop beating myself up,” captivating listeners in a meditative fashion.  The light fretwork at play in ‘Much More’ is a beautiful contrast to previous melodies on the album, highlighting the yearning of the singer.

‘Standing Not Sleeping’s’ dazed verses are saved by its thrashing drum chorus, yet the faded out beats means the track ends too soon than many listeners may like. Final track’s ‘Need Not Be’ speak-singing intro of “I’m confused about sex and love” and whispers of “I’m holy fuckin’ free” are once again meshed with a sprinkling of synths to maintain the album’s vibrant edgy sound.

While many tracks are similar in sound and theme, Yuck’s seductive synths and sassy lyrics make it an album that both loyal Alpine fans and indie enthusiasts will revel in.

Soak Review- The Pepper Canister Church Dublin

From the exterior it is the majestic St Stephen’s Unitarian Church, but upon entering, it is the quaint, dreamscape Pepper Canister concert venue and home to Derry native, SOAK’s ethereal voice for the night. Not the first musical talent to originate from the Ulster city- Ireland’s Call composer Phil Coulter, singer-songwriter Paul Brady and Girl’s Aloud’s Nadine Coyle are all Derry-born- but Bridie Monds Watson, better known as SOAK to you and I, is undoubtedly the most exciting new act to emerge in recent times.

With the fading evening sunlight gliding its way through the ornate stain-glass windows of our venue, the stage is set for the 19 year old’s raspy Northern tones. Opening to a wolf whistle from the crowd, SOAK launches into one of her earlier LP’s after simply declaring to the audience “I’m SOAK”, in her signature unassuming manner. Her intense rendition of folk-influenced, ‘blind’, mesmerises the audience, while her easy transfer into the more upbeat ‘Blud’ is welcomed by more light-hearted fans. Paired back cymbals and fretwork allow SOAK’S voice to ring out in the spiritual venue, while the impressive bloody red lighting reflects the song’s title. As this is only the Derry woman’s second night being accompanied by a band, she urges the crowd to chant the “Come on, come on” chorus of ‘B a nobody’ and to ignore any awkward dancing she may engage in. Perhaps slightly swallowed up by the clashing drums of the band during this number, the poignant yearning of a teenager is still evident in her performance. Regularly engaging with the crowd, SOAK makes reference to our recent Marriage Equality Referendum and jokes that a journalist once said to her “If fundamentalist Catholics and fundamentalist Protestants can unite together against Gay Marriage, at least that’s peace right?”

With ‘Wait’ a stand-out performance, the 19 year old leaves the stage before returning to sing signature track, ‘Sea Creatures’. A magical and upbeat ending to an at times intense gig, the audience are awakened from their trance upon SOAK’s final departure from the stage, left yearning for her next performance in the capital.

Bill O’ Herlihy- A Legend of the Game of Life- My tribute

billoWhen someone gives you a chance at the start of your career that’s something you never forget. Last year as editor of Verge magazine I was relying on a lot of people to give me chances.  I was as inexperienced as they come, a complete novice I had to learn my craft from scratch. Acquiring interviews for our miniature magazine was my greatest challenge and greatest worry. So as you can imagine as editor of our humble publication I was always eternally grateful to any well-known face that allowed me to pester them with questions either in person or on the telephone. After 12 issues of interviewing some of Ireland’s and Europe’s best known faces, for the final issue I decided to return to my root’s and chase after one of the country’s and Cork’s most famous broadcaster’s, Bill O’ Herlihy. After all it was worth a try, it was worth a chance. Luckily for me, Bill said yes.

While on the surface I may not appear to be the most knowledgeable of sport’s experts and am the last person you would want on any 5 aside team, living with a father and brother who eat, sleep and breathe sport has meant that I have picked up my fair share of facts throughout the years. So as you can imagine the enormity of interviewing Bill O’ Herlihy was quite momentous for me.  From Champions League matches which haunted my Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s every September to May as a child, to that jovial Cork accent and smile that glittered from television screens for every World Cup and Olympics I had ever experienced, I knew this interview with Bill was special.

Like every interview I had ever carried out before this, I researched Bill’s career which lasted an astonishing 50 years and scribbled down a list of questions to ask the stalwart Glasheen man. The day finally came when I would interview Bill. Not telling many people for fear it would fall through, I dialled the number of his Dublin office with a gasping breath and not so steady hand. One ring, two rings, three rings, fours rings, five….his receptionist answered and sent me through to Bill. Here we go, it would actually happen and before I had time to reflect and gather my notes it was actually happening. His distinct Cork accent tickled the telephone lines and although he was seated in his own Dublin office and I was situated at my desk in my clinical student accommodation in Cork, it felt as if we were chatting side-by-side in the room.

My greatest anxiety before conducting any interview is that the interviewee will give short, stunted answers or shower me with abuse, this couldn’t have been further from the reality with Bill. Answering my questions about his early days in the Cork Examiner and 7 Days show controversy (questions he had no doubt answered thousands of times before) with such astuteness and charisma the interview was an absolute pleasure to hold. What was even more special about the interview was that Bill gave such detailed and meandering answers and while with another person I might have cut them off for fear of adding to my already mighty mobile costs, with Bill I couldn’t help but listen with such intentness.

What I most admired in my thirty minute conversation with Bill was his true passion for sport and journalism. Having to abandon current affairs journalism in the 1970’s due to government controversy it would have been easy for Bill to give up altogether and say enough was enough. But like the true journalist that he is he made a b-line for the sport’s department and became one of the world’s greatest broadcasters. When you look at the stilted Match of the Day panels on BBC and regular run-of-the-mill presenters on Sky Sports, Bill and his three amigos- Eamon Dunphy, John Giles and Liam Brady made the analysis of sport a truly entertaining experience. After all that’s what sport is meant to be, entertaining. Sport is better than any court-room drama or scripted soap; it’s real life. Bill O’ Herlihy is one of the people outside my family who made me realise that even though you may not be the most talented team player you still have the right to enjoy sport, learn more about it and be an integral member of the team.

Bill’s real worries about the future of sport’s broadcasting in Ireland capture his ardour for the industry.  Even in his retirement Bill was immersed in the goings-on of the industry “I saw a story in one of the papers today that the Six Nations could go to pay- for-TV. RTE can’t compete financially with BT or Sky Sports. Having it on free- to-air TV is essential for the development of sport”. These deep-rooted concerns that Bill held for the future of home-grown sport’s broadcasting highlight how journalism was much more than a job for him, it was a way of life. Sure you couldn’t stay in any area of work for such a lengthy period if it was just a method of paying the bills, it would have to be a real love, an enduring love.

Hanging up on our conversation and having the article written and in print almost two months ago, it’s only now upon his death that I can appreciate how fortunate I was to speak with Bill. Less than a year into my journalistic adventure I was given the opportunity to converse with Ireland’s greatest broadcaster. And I have Bill and Bill alone to thank for this opportunity, for this chance. You see life is all about chances and Bill realised this. If he hadn’t taken the risk to leave school at 16 and joined The Evening Echo, he may not have had the chance to be employed by RTE. If he hadn’t entered sport’s journalism, he may have missed out on the colourful career which he crafted.

Bill never forgot his roots. He never claimed to be but an ordinary Corkman yet in reality he was an extraordinary countryman; and as Taoiseach Enda Kenny penned it yesterday Bill was indeed “a national treasure” and a credit to Cork and the leafy surroundings of Glasheen, only a stone’s throw away from the UCC campus. So it’s with the lines from Rudyard Kipling’s most famous poem, “If”, a work which has become synonymous with the world of sport that I finish my tribute to Bill and which I feel describes his persona perfectly.

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   

 Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,


   If all men count with you, but none too much;


          If you can fill the unforgiving minute


       With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   


    Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   


    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rest In Peace Bill, a true legend of the game of life.

Demystifying Tommy Tiernan- The Interview

Last November I had the immense pleasure to speak with Irish funnyman, Tommy Tiernan about the risk and controversy that comes with comedy

“You’ve only one spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it”. This was undoubtedly one of the late Robin Williams’ greatest lines and is one of the reasons as to why he will be remembered for generations to come. I’m quoting this line because it resonated a lot with me while interviewing the undisputed king of Irish comedy, Tommy Tiernan. Like Williams, Tiernan’s comedic style has been deemed as off the wall over the years, but it is this madness in Tiernan’s material that makes him simply magic.

Having been in the business for nearly twenty years, Tommy is quick to brush off the idea that he ever viewed comedy as a potential career path. In fact for Tommy, a self-confessed loather of the word career, he believes it couldn’t be further away from the definition of comedy for him.

“I never really thought about comedy as a career. I used to do this joke where the word career means when a car veers off the road and ends up in a field”, laughs the Navan man.

For Tommy it is evident that comedy is as natural to him as blinking an eye or even taking a breath. It is a talent he was born with and is part of his personality. “To be able to earn a living from it was like being rewarded for walking it came that naturally to me. It felt ordinary to be up on stage throwing ideas at people and for that to end up as a way of making a living was remarkable and certainly was a surprise and a delightful one at that”

Like most comedians, Tommy enjoyed acting in his teenage years and early 20’s. Famous for his role as depressed priest Father Kevin, in hit Irish sitcom, Father Ted, where Irish comedians such as Jason Byrne and Pat Shortt earned their salt, Tommy felt acting provided him with a buzz, but was nothing compared with the exhilarating feeling that stand-up injected him with.

“As a teenager and in my early 20’s I flirted with acting, but I never really felt I had anything special”, explains Tommy. “Whereas when I stood on stage, almost irrespective of what other people thought about it, it felt to me as if something highly charged was happening and I got a great energy from that. My desire to keep doing it was almost separate from the audience’s response. But when they did laugh, whatever was charged became triply charged. It was a wonder to me”

While stage fright has been the plight of many comedians and actors out there, I ask Tommy were nerves anything he suffered from while performing at these early gigs and am surprised to find out that even after all these years and the copious awards, the comic still gets nervous before appearing on stage.

“Oh I still get nervous. I get really nervous nowadays when I’m doing television, amazingly nervous”, admits the 45 year old, who first appeared on the Late Late Show in 1997. “In the beginning, I always came offstage having forgotten all of the bad bits and only remembering when people laughed. One of my first gigs was about 45 minutes long and I’d say I came offstage intoxicated by the two or three times that I’d made people laugh. It was completely dubious in my memory to the bits that hadn’t worked. So I had that myopia from the beginning, not through any effort or mind training, to automatically cut out the negativity”

This method of Tommy’s to block out all the bad feedback he had received while on stage was surely the reason for his immediate success as a stand-up comedian. Collecting his material from everyday situations and societal issues in Ireland, Tommy remarks that inspiration for his jokes comes from anywhere and everywhere.

“It comes from everywhere. Even this morning I’m just thinking about tiredness and why everyone is so tired all the time and what’s wrong culturally that we’ve become a tired tribe. We seek energy through stimulants and exercise and I’m wondering what energy we cut ourselves off from that makes us so tired. So things that aren’t necessarily comedic, but when you go onstage you try and make jokes out of the ideas. The pressure of the comedic environment and the pressure of the situation can make those ideas funny. So I don’t write in the normal sense, I just collect ideas”

Another thing critics have deemed far from normal about Tommy’s gigs in the past were his sketches regarding the Catholic Church and Downs Syndrome.  While Tommy himself admits that material in shows can be somewhat sensitive, he believes this is a very small percentage.

“The stuff I do that can be called controversial is so small. I don’t think anybody ever comes to my show thinking it was a controversial show. They might think he was a bit mental there, but that’s not really controversy” says the funnyman

Asking him has he ever had to change his stage routine due to audience discomfort, the Meath man reflects for a moment upon diving into a story about a conversation he had with a man at a petrol station last year. “I was talking to a fellow in Carlow who started telling me that material I did on television was disgraceful and I wasn’t disagreeing with him, but I said something to him and in his answering to me he was more prejudiced about Downs syndrome than I was. It was a really odd situation. So I started telling that story onstage and a woman with a child who had Down Syndrome came up to me after the show and said she could see the point that I was making and that this guy’s reaction was prejudiced and how my material wasn’t prejudiced, but she still felt really uncomfortable with it”

So I decided I was going to drop it from the show”, continues Tommy. “Even when you talk about someone else’s bigotry it’s still uncomfortable for some people. So I said it is too confusing and left it”

However, while Tommy may have changed his material on this one occasion, his shows which have included “Bovinity” and “Crooked Man”, remain as vibrant and as hilarious as ever. For Tommy comedy has always been about taking chances and risk is probably the prime factor for his involvement in the RTE Documentary, Tommy: To Tell You the Truth”, recently. The show saw Tommy complete a series of 12 consecutive gigs across Europe with little or no material. Tommy fallen out of love with the regular stand-up format?

“Not really”, says Tommy earnestly “I was doing improvisation shows in Galway that were going well and I was very excited by the total creativity in it. So I decided to do something that was very risky. I’d never done improv at night, they were always lunchtime shows. Or I’d never done it where people had been drinking or when the ticket price had been quite high or never on consecutive nights. I wanted to be part of a documentary about risk and to demystify risk and to show something that wasn’t necessarily guaranteed work out. This would ultimately be interesting for people to see. It wasn’t just PR material, going ‘Oh look at this guy, he’s fantastic’ It was an odd one.

So after this experience does Tommy feel that improvisation shows are more organic and essentially funnier than your standard stand-up gig?

“I’m committed to the improvisation way of working”, adds Tommy philosophically. “It’s something you can improve on. The improv shows are better than the material shows, but are much more different to perfom. They’re very hard, but worth it. You’re making it up on the spot so you are automatically on the same wave length as to whatever audience you are talking to. You could do an improv show in a prison or an old folk’s home or a convent and you’re automatically in the same mind frame as your audience. Like if I did a gig in Mexico and tried to talk about Henry Sheflin that would be difficult”, laughs Tommy

“But all the signposts I’m getting is that improvisation is the way to go. It’s much riskier, but it’s much better”, adds Tommy

While Tiernan is now completing his Whirlwind tours in Ireland and the UK, the title of his new DVD, Stray Sod, is based on the Celtic Myth of a man being disorientated by his surroundings.

“Stray Sod is mainly stories collected from touring Ireland for five years. The DVD Crooked Man and Stray Sod are similar in a sense in that they draw inspiration from those travels. The Whirlwind shows I’m doing at the moment are heavily improvised, not totally, but there is a fierce amount in it”

Performing his first proper stand-up gig in Cork in 1995, Tommy will once more take to the rebel stage in February, as he graces the Cork Opera House .Having achieved so much in his comedic “career”, does Tommy feel there is still more he can give to comedy or even comedy can give to him?

“I’m keen to keep going”, says Tommy enthusiastically “I’m doing a lot more work in England and I’m keen to do a lot of European work. I’m always trying to find where the energy and sense of adventure is and if you’ve the privilege of being able to direct your own work then I think you should exercise that privilege. I’m in a position now where I feel if I’m getting more energy from doing stand-up in Slovenia than Sligo, that’s what I’ll do!”

The Irish scene has of course become more crowded since Tommy first donned the stage back in the mid-nineties, with television and social media it’s easier to get noticed, but it’s also harder.

“There’s such a fierce amount of stand-up on English TV that it’s easier to surprise people, but at the same time stuff on TV is very formulated and similar”, says Tommy “I’m doing stand-up almost 20 years and I don’t think acts now are much different to acts then. There isn’t a fierce mount of stand up on Irish TV. It’s still bohemian, it hasn’t been neutered. It’s still fairly wild out there”

Since Tommy is the hero of many up and coming comedians out there, is there anybody’s comedic style that Mr Tiernan was inspired by starting out?

“I really liked Dylan Moran”, muses Tommy, “but you can be inspired by anything”. “You can be inspired by a tree or a book you read or by musicians and the feelings they create on stage. Inspirations come from everywhere and are not confined”

As our conversation is coming to a close, I ask Tommy what advice he would give to burgeoning stand-up artists out there, a question which answer with considerable conviction.

“I’d give the same advice as I’d give to someone doing it 40 years”, says Tommy in his honest tone “You should use the stuff that makes you laugh. You can get into a thing in comedy when you know what works. It might not necessarily make you laugh, but you know it works and that is a creative cul-de-sac”

“The open road, the trip that’s full of surprises is what makes you laugh”, concludes Tommy “It’s harder going, but much more rewarding”

And as we both say our goodbyes I feel as if I’ve been at a one-to-one stand-up gig aswell as a therapy session. Perhaps that’s what makes Tommy’s humour so hilarious and thought provoking; his ability to hack into the human persona while making us howl for laughter in the process

Tommy’s new DVD, Stray Sod, is out now

Femme Factor- Feminism in the Music Industry

Being a feminist in the music industry is the most fearless fashion statement of all right now, at least that’s what 2014 taught us. Whether this love affair that stars such as Taylor Swift and Beyoncé seem to be having with feminism is just a flighty infatuation built to boost their publicity remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure is that 2015 will add another chapter to what is becoming known as the “Third Wave” of feminism in the music industry and popular culture.

Maybe it’s the fact that 2013 was such an abysmal year for the feminist cause in music that allowed 2014 to be a year that garnered support for girl power. Who can forget the stellar summer soundtrack of 2013 that was Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”? Its lyrics and likewise its video did nothing to further the cause of feminism.

While the Blurred Lines debate is ultimately a tired one at this stage, instead of reflecting on what should be forgettable, it’s best to remember the memorable leaps and bounds that feminism has taken in the last 12 months. Many critics of Beyoncé consistently claim year after year that she is not a feminist. How could someone who names their worldwide tour, “The Mrs Carter Tour” after their husband’s surname possibly be a feminist? But of course Beyoncé is a feminist. A women should be allowed to embrace her husband’s name if she gains empowerment from doing so.What better way to prove that Beyoncé has real feminist credentials by featuring author of “We should all be Feminists”, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on her track “Flawless”, which celebrates female work ethic. Her marriage to Jay Z hasn’t changed her outlook, something which she eloquently expressed in her video to mark the first anniversary of her visual album last month “’I think it’s the hardest thing to give up, but my mother always taught me to be strong and to never be a victim, never make excuses, never expect anyone else to provide me things that I know I can provide for myself,’

It seems that since releasing her album “1989” Taylor Swift has adopted similar views to Queen Bey. Instead of strumming her guitar lamenting the loss of half-hearted lovers, she has re-invented herself into a confident young women with the ability to “shake off” whatever comes her way. This year in an interview with The Guardian, Swift addressed what is arguably the greatest issue that feminism has in music and in the media as a whole and that is that to be a feminist is to mean that “we hate men”. Although Swift’s extreme stance in her “Blank Space” video may appear as if she is indeed a man hater, in reality she is just demanding respect from her male suitors and the media.

It’s not just megastar solo-artists that are flying the flag for feminism. Girl bands such GRL and Fifth Harmony are promoting the same stream of savy girl power that Spice Girls paraded in the mid-nineties, while three piece, Haim are bringing their own original brand of Indie rock from Glastonbury to Coachella.Sinead O’ Connor’s last album title “I’m not bossy, I’m the boss” highlights the true meaning of feminism in the music industry. Feminism isn’t about detesting men or dissing other women, it’s about rejoicing in the difference that exists between us all and demanding equality. There was a time in the so-called swinging sixties where women were practically non-existent in the Billboard Charts, although these days have long departed, it’s important that women continue to bond together to make sure that the glass ceiling remains well and truly shattered.