'songs of innocence' ~ u2 ~ why we need the biggest band in the world more than ever

by 16:59

It's New Years Eve, 1989 and the world is a very different place. The rock and roll renaissance is in full swing and finally the teenagers of a whole new era have been given something to believe in. The biggest band on the planet have reached the end of one of the single biggest tours of all time, where they find themselves back in the arms of their home city, Dublin, Ireland. Their frontman looks into the adoring crowd and announces they must go away for a while. "It's not a big deal...we just have to go and dream it all up again" he insists. With that, U2 went out and cut down the Joshua Tree, emerging with a string of albums and tours that would see modern pop music redefined alongside it. Since then, much has changed, but one thing which has remained constant is RTE's veteran local music legend Dave Fanning, still the most respected musical voice on the wireless since the late great John Peel. Fast forward to September 2014 and the release of 'Songs Of Innocence', U2's 13th studio album, where once again Dave Fanning is given the world exclusive right to spin each and every glittering track. Though many still argue that the band's best days are over, suggesting they may only be in it for the money. Some have went as far as to suggest that in a world as instantly forward thinking as ours, that they may be, dare we say, irrelevant? 

Having sat through Fanning's entire broadcast and listened intently to each track, it seems it's now time for Bono and the boys to once again step into the ring. Did they manage another great album, or will 'Songs of Innocence' be confined to history's dustbins? Here's our case for the defence your honour.

        1.  The Edge remains the worlds greatest guitar player on this record.

Okay, so on a technical level he may lag behind the likes of Joe Satriani or the dudes from Dragonforce (allegedly), but there is no denying that The Edge cannot be rivaled on a melodic scale. As a songwriter he has clearly written some of the greatest accompanying riffs ever (‘Where The Streets Have No Name’, ‘Bad’ and ‘Walk On’ to name but a few) and on ‘Songs Of Innocence’ he shows no signs of slowing down.

2.    Poetry is timeless.

Love him or loath him, ‘Bonovox of O’Connell Street’  (as he was once known) is an undeniable poet. From the sweeping cries of a blood red sky, to the teenage angst of Stories For Boys, it seems the born performer's way with words has not yet deserted him. Here we find tales of a man who still hasn't found what he’s looking for, that longing continuing to inspire. “I’m a long way from where I was and where I need to be…”

3.    They can still put on a show.

Despite the cynics who claimed so callously that the 360 Degree tour would surely be their last, the Dublin lads only went and put on arguably their greatest performance in the record breaking tour. The critically panned ‘No Line On The Horizon’ album was given space to breathe, alongside acoustic performances of ‘Stuck In A Moment’, ‘Stay’ and the fabulous ‘Electrical Storm’. It was proof that the fire still burns and what an unforgettable fire it is.

4.    A new generation deserves a chance.

As a teenager my Father and his friends saw U2 multiple times. They flagged down a stretch limo with an ‘incredibly chilled’ Larry Mullen Junior and Adam Clayton in the back seat and swapped gig stories with them before and after the show. This was, admittedly, a simpler time, but also scarily commonplace. Witnessing the biggest band on planet Earth was a rite of passage and one any music lover the right side of The Joshua Tree had to experience. In the 60’s, a number of factors stopped a Beatles generation from seeing their idols, as they slowly ended their touring cycle. While U2 can, they must not deny a new generation that same privilege.

5.    The world’s in a mess.

In a world witnessing increasing horrors on a daily scale, it’s refreshing to see a band discussing world peace, rather than sexual conquests. Whether the new album contains songs of the same lyrical content as ‘Peace On Earth’ and ‘MLK’ remains to be seen in future, more detailed listens. Though you can be sure there’ll be a lot of love at the live shows.

6.    They deserve the chance to defend their crown.

Since their emergence to the worlds stadia, U2 have been the undisputed kings of the arena tour. From ‘Pop Mart’ to ‘The 360 Degree Tour’, they've successfully proved and reinvented themselves time and time again. With Alex Turner’s Elvis impersonation (though we still love you Alex) and One Direction’s screaming pop-army doing the rounds as the current blueprint for live electricity, Dublin’s finest deserve a chance to remind the world what rock and roll is all about.

7.    ‘Songs Of Innocence’ sounds massive.

At first listen, Dave Fanning’s optimism seems delightfully well judged, as the album in it’s entirety opens a new chapter in the ever unfurling tale of four best friends from Ireland. ‘Every Breaking Wave’ sounds particularly promising, but don’t rule out the raw energy of ‘Volcano’ just yet.

8.    The love remains.

Finally and most importantly, despite what the cynics may claim, U2 would never release music for the sake of it. Rest assured, Bono, Larry, Adam and The Edge have more than enough money to live a comfortable retirement 100 times over. It’s obvious from their enthusiasm and the delight in their voices in recent interviews, that time cannot stop U2 from feeling the same way they did back in October 1980. The release of this new album will feel the same as their first and while the passion remains, long may it continue.

Taylor Johnson

U2 ~ 13 down...

track of the week ~ robocobra quartet ~ 'spring rounds'

by 06:02

Ian Curtis, Sylvia Plath, Kurt Cobain.

Each a tortured soul and troubled genius, beloved and adored by anyone but themselves. They're most abiding connection? Their art and world view was never truly appreciated, until long after their deaths. In Cobain's case, it can be argued that his poetry is still not fully embraced, as the nightclub throbs of remixed 'hits' will tell you. Ultimately the world was not ready for these remarkable individuals, their disenchantment with this planet and humanity's evils all to prevalent for those who would rather ignore it.

In Robocobra Quartet and their lyricist Chris Ryan, Northern Ireland may have found a modern equivalent to this long forgotten paradigm, and more importantly a voice to remind the nation that it's okay to criticise the status quo. Which brings us to 'Spring Rounds', the second track on the bands live recorded double a-side release. Utilizing the psychedelic orchestra that makes up 50% of the band, (Tom Tabori and Jamie MacKenzie on Soprano and Tenor Sax respectively)  frontman and drummer Ryan's new wave poetry is given the flamboyantly, doom laden backdrop necessary to hook the listener to every truth laden-fable.

"I should mention, that human nature is a bullshit conception, we have a long standing tradition of genocidal intentions"   

Tearing up the rule-book and re writing it within a song seems more of a moral duty, than convenient conclusion. Musically, Robocobra take their listener on a grandeur tour within the confines of abject mental instability. The artistry within their off kilter sax solo's only contribute to the menace, as the growing ripples of uncertainty continue to grow. Bassist Nathan Rodgers funk driven bass lines float amongst the madness, allowing the bands more classical contingent to lead the charge.

If one band are capable of making you question everything, then question it further, it's this one. Having said this, for every considered analysis of the lyrics at hand, their full political and social significance will never be fully understood by anyone other than their author. For this reason, it would make a  welcome addition to a University course as source material. Whether it would be an English or Psychology degree is hard to say.

There is so much more to Robcobra Quartet than meets the eye. Be it the quiet nods to Stephen Patrick Morrissey ("I take trains, there's no Vauxhall and I within") or their 'Meat Is Murder' admittance to the parts of life we'd rather simply not consider.

Addictive and pure, here we have the results of a humanity in quiet turmoil since convention began.

Taylor Johnson

"Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are now. Happily, some of them keep records of their troubles. You'll learn from them - if you want to. Just as someday if you have something to offer,someone will learn something from you. It's a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn't education, it's history. It's poetry." ~ JD Salinger.

For all official Robocobra Quartet news, follow the links below⁞►

live review ~ shizz the fest 2014 ~ limelight 1, belfast ~ part 2

by 16:21

Despite their youth, Belfast's The Late Twos already possess a legacy greater than even they realise. Through the release of their two EP's and subsequent tours, the band have amassed a mod army of followers reminiscent of 90's Mancunia. Tonight, they once again supplied a flawless performance of relative ease. Ryan Costley's bass lines hold an endless swagger, Ryan Bennentt's solo's shimmer like Johnny Marr, while David McMaster's backing vocals and sheer stage presence speak for itself. Ross Bickerstaff remains an unsung hero behind the drum kit, allowing Matty Legge to uphold the rigorous showman mold he's mastered from day one. It's genuinely becoming difficult to know where they can go next. In fact this may prove their greatest challenge. Opener 'Spies' remains a highlight.

The Greased Palm are a band of curious intrigue. Clearly beloved by the considerable crowd which had by now gathered, it was a solid, or rather, a strong performance from the Maghera locals. Which begs the question as to why it took them so long to relax into the situation at hand. In a set which saw them alter between borderline country and bluesy jazz, The Greased Palm seemed slightly unnerved by the size of the event and indeed by their own identity. Perhaps this is no fault of the artist, as it was this reviewers first time witnessing them in a live setting. On the contrary, the audience at hand clung to every riff and lyric right until their final track. There is also no doubting the groups musicality, particularly after the array of well executed saxophone solos...a nice touch indeed. Whether this awkward tension was a result of one off nerves or something only sensed by a handful of non-blues purists remains to be seen. Ask anyone hanging onto that barrier however, and they'll likely suggest the latter.

Gascan Ruckus' own brand of alt-rock has been carefully constructed to resemble a train wreck. Through slight of hand and intense head banging, you could be forgiven for assuming the freshness of the riffs are simply down to improvisation. Though rest assured, Gascan Ruckus is a controlled demolition of heavy rock, with dark undertones assigned to accompany their genuinely melodic roots. The anger of the young men on stage is given it's chance to flourish in a riot of sonic abuse, justifying their high bill position alone. A surprise and welcome inclusion.

Finally came headliners Pocket Billiards, a nine piece-ska collective that have been creating dancefloors for over ten years and show no signs of slowing down any time soon. Fusing the clean cut reggae vibes of The Specials with the tireless swing of Madness, Pocket Billiards seem about as likely to alternate from their three chord orchestral party as they are to spring an assault on the UK top 40. Though this doesn't make them any less enjoyable. In fact even those not dazzled by the geezer appeal of songs like 'Belfast Town' can't help but join in with the occasional 'Oi, Oi, Oi!'. Aside from their stage show, which was greatly enhanced by a full brass arrangement, stopping mid song early into their set in order to berate a drunken punter demands major respect. Even more so when it became apparent that a woman was being victimised. It was a small act of selflessness (and one unlikely to be remembered) by their frontman Chris Savage, but ultimately a snapshot into just why this city have adopted this ska-punk juggernaut into their hearts.

Shizznigh Promotions MD Jonny McKee deserves a lot of credit, once again pulling off an incomparably eclectic bill to great effect. If the mission was to send Summer 2014 off in style, Shizz The Fest accomplished this and more.

Taylor Johnson

For all official band news, follow the links below⁞►

The Late Twos ~ For fans of: The Libertines, Arctic Monkeys

The Greased Palm ~ For fans of: Eagles, Kool & The Gang

Gascan Ruckus ~ For fans of: Weezer, Radiohead

Pocket Billiards ~ For fans of: The Specials, Madness, The Beat

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