Archive for the ‘Black 47’ Category

henrySOUNDTRACK: THEE SILVER MT. ZION MEMORIAL ORCHESTRA-Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything [CST099] (2014).

99Aside from the dance remix single of “Hang on to Each Other,” this is the latest Silver Mt. Zion record to be released.  For those keeping score, GYBE has released an album more recently than SMtZ.  This album is full of punk piss and vinegar (as if the title didn’t give it away).  It’s mostly represented by a heavily fuzzed out guitar that runs underneath nearly all of the songs.

The album begins with a child saying, “We live on the island of Montreal … and we make a lot of noise … because we love each other.”

This first song is called “Fuck Off Get Free (For the Island of Montreal)” and the music starts with scratching noisy guitars and everyone else playing a simple ascending and descending riff.  The vocals kick in right away and it feels like the whole group is singing along too–everyone is involved in this noisy song.  It works great.  Even when the song shifts to a more singable part it retains the intensity of the pacing.  Around 4 minutes we get a return to the chanted vocals that lead into a kind of hurricane of a solo section.  And when they come out of that the chorus sings the chanted title.  The biggest change comes at 6 and a half minutes when the whole song shifts and a slower, heavier and deeper guitar chord (unlike any they have played before–it feels unearthly) drives the remainder of the song.  As I’ve noted in other songs, I love when the choir sings by itself (the female singers in this case singing “pull me under”), and they all sound much more “professional” than the kind of loose choir they were a few albums ago.  This choir sings to the end of the song as the instruments all drop off leaving only voices.  It’s pretty fantastic.

“Austerity Blues” is 14 minutes long and opens with a flat sounding scratched acoustic guitar and sing along vocals.  While the scratching  guitar is going on a cool bass line begins.  Things quiet down which leads to a noisy one-note distorted guitar that adds a layer of noise to the melody line.  The song shifts to a louder section with scratchy violins and big pounding drums (David Payant has really added a lot to these songs with his powerful drumming).  Around 6 minutes in, a distorted echoing guitar plays a kind of Middle Eastern-sounding guitar solo.  When the solo settles down a new faster section begins–lots of drums and group singing.  By ten minutes, the song feels like it’s fading out as the music gets quieter.  But a new set of vocals resume more quietly this time, and they sing their melodies quietly until the end.

“Take Away These Early Grave Blues” opens with a girl with a very thick British accent wondering why “people think like that” as a noisy violin kicks in with a see-saw riff and shouted vocals.  This song sounds like a pretty standard SMtZ song with the big exception being the really noisy drums that dominate the track (Payant again).  At around 2 minutes, the music drops away leaving just a buzzy bass introducing a noisy drum and guitar solo.  When the vocals resume the music becomes a fast pounding drum fill and more distorted violins and guitars.  The song is intense and while only about 7 minutes long, it really packs a lot in.  It ends with a fast riff (that’s almost an Irish jig) followed by crashing drums and chanting lyrics: “Love each other that’s all.”

“Little Ones Run” is only two and half minutes long.  That’s unusual in itself for the band.  But even more unusual is that the song is like a lullaby.  It’s a quiet piano melody and lyrics sung by the female members of the band.  It hearkens back to their first albums which were all piano, but this is a much updated version of that early sound.

“What We Loved Was Not Enough” opens with quiet violins and deep bass notes.  The relative quiet is shattered by Efrim singing (this is the first instance on this album where his polarizing voice stands out–on the rest of the album it’s pretty well mixed in with everything else.  But I think he’s won us over by this time and we can accept it, especially since the musical melody is so pretty.  There’s also a lovely violin solo that runs through the middle of the song.  In fact, the whole song would be really quite pretty except for the distortion that permeates it–a noisy guitar underpins the whole thing.  But at 6 minutes, everything drops out except for the pretty violin and the vocals,  “And the day has come when we no longer feel.”  That refrain is picked up by the beautiful choir voices (they really sound great).  As they repeat this section, Efrim sings a harsh lead vocal (he sounds a bit like Larry Kirwan from Black 47).  There’s an instrumental section that scorches with noisy guitars for about a minute and then at 9 minutes the song returns to that beautiful chorus (with male voices added) and that delicate violin.  It goes on like this until the end.  It’s really lovely.

The final song “Rains Thru the Roof at Thee Grande Ballroom (For Capital Steez)” is also rather different for the band.  It is “introduced” by an interview (in English and translated into French) from an unnamed musician who is talking about how being in a band is more than a part time gig … it’s what you devote your life to.  When the music comes in it’s floor toms and an unsettling distorted and scratchy strings or keyboards or sampled voices and keyboard which slowly growing louder.  There’s stabs of piano and vocals which are far back in the mix.  The melody is nice but mournful and it continues for all of the four minutes.  [Capital Steez was a rapper from Brooklyn who committed suicide in 2012.  I honestly can’t tell what this song has to do with him].

I’m not sure which band we can expect to hear from next, but both GYBE and SMtZ have released really strong records in the last few years.

For this album, the lineup stays the same as on the previous album (and the band name has remained the same, too).

Thierry Amar: Upright bass, electric bass, plucked piano, vocals
Efrim Menuck: Electric guitar, acoustic guitar, mellotron, vocals
Jessica Moss: Violin, plucked piano, vocals
Sophie Trudeau: Violin, plucked piano, vocals
and David Payant has taken over for Eric Craven on drums, organ, piano and vocals

[READ: March 15, 2016] “Confessions of a Humorist”

I only found out about this story from reading The Fate of the Artist.  I have always vaguely liked O. Henry, but can’t say that I’ve read much by him.  I found this story to be simple and fairly obvious, although perhaps it was obvious because he introduced this style of storytelling to the world one hundred years ago.

The narrator is a bookkeeper in a hardware firm.  We learn a bit more about him and his family.  This line delighted me for some reason, “Naturally, we lived in a vine-covered cottage.”

On the occasion of the senior partner’s 50th birthday, he was selected to give a speech.  And it was a hit.  People laughed and suddenly his reputation as humorist was established. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 4, 2014] Black 47

b47logo I was a fan of Black 47 when they first came out (even though my Irish friends dismissed them out of hand.  What with the “Bridie!” and the “Fiddlee diddlee deidely dee!” and, yeah, Larry Kirwan’s voice, they were just too much for actual Irishmen.  But Irish-Americans loved them.  And now 25 years after they burst onto the scene with “Funky Cieli,” they are calling it quits.

As far as I can tell Kirwan is the only original member left in the band (I’m not inclined to do the research on that).  Actually, I didn’t even realize they were still together.  But they have been releasing albums over the years–some of which have been lauded and other not so much.  (Kirwan has also published some books and is a host on Sirius FM).  They have a brand new going-away album called Last Call, and if the live versions of the songs were any indication, they sound quite good.  And Kirwan is just as political as ever: “If you’re Irish you have to be political.”

I actually saw Black 47 back in, oh, 1993.  I remembered the show, but had misremembered the venue.  It wasn’t a concert, it was a small club in Allston, Mass.  I don’t seem to have any photos.  The bar was packed, I could barely see the band, and I’m not even sure if the people there were there to see the band.  I don’t even know if there was a cover charge.  So it only seems fitting that this concert, one of their last on their farewell tour, should also be free.  As part of the Princeton University’s Fund for Irish Studies, the band played a free 90 minute set in the tiny Berlind Theater.

I have seen a few theater shows there, so I was a little surprised that the sound wasn’t great (well, mostly Kirwan’s lyrics were hard to understand, but that may be a common problem for him), but my seat was great–a few rows back in dead center. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BLACK 47-ep (1992).

The name Black 47 comes from the Irish famine (and it’s mentioned in Episode 12 of Ulysses.  I saw Black 47 on tour in Boston just before this EP came out.  They played a fantastic live set and had a ton of energy.  I was really excited to ge the EP.  And I liked it very much.

Then I got a new roommate who was from Ireland, staying in the US for school.  And man did he hate Black 47.  He hated the “fiddle dee diddle dee” and the “Bridie!” and oh so much about the band.   And now when I listen to it I hear all of his complaints and I like the disc a bit less.

It’s true, the single “Funky Ceili” is pretty over the top with the Irishyness, and having a chorus of fiddle dee diddle dee didley dee is kind of obnoxious.  But the song still stands pretty strong.

I am much more taken with “James Connolly” a rousing rocker with historical awareness.  I can do without the over-earnest bit about “Lily” but the rest is pretty great.

Overall the disc has a bit too much in the wailing saxophone department.  I don’t dislike the saxophone in general, but there’s a bit too much of it on here.  Larry Kirwan’s voice tends to veer into some weird whiny territory (once or twice I thought he sounded like Robert Smith), but his main singing voice is just fine, especially when he’s rocking out.

The band is still playing today and in fact released an album this year, although I haven’t listened to them much since the 90s.

[READ: Week of August 2, 2010] Ulysses: Episodes 10-12

Much like last week’s reading I really didn’t enjoy this week’s very much on the first read through.  On my second skim through the chapters, I got a lot more out of it.  It feels like there’s a lot of “noise” in the chapters–he’s including little bits of everything–but if you can cut through the chatter, you can find the meat.

Episode 10, which was from many different perspectives, was a nice break in the stream of consciousness.  But Episode 11 was a dry slog about music and Episode 12, while often kind of funny was (I assume deliberately) long-winded with many man lists and all kinds of esoterica about Ireland. (more…)

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