LET’S be honest, Ash were the biggest ringers on the Slane bill last week — standing out from the earnest dude-rock of Foo Fighters and Hozier’s sullen blues. We’re not denying they can get tens of thousands of heads bouncing to catchy rock hooks, but they’ve always side-stepped rock posturing and sloganeering peddled by the Foo Fighters — happier to play the indie clubs than the mucky fields.
On the go since 1992, the Downpatrick trio took their early cues from Dave Grohl’s first band Nirvana, with early noise-pop tracks influenced by Nevermind, Husker Du and the catchiest end of Belfast punk like Stiff Little Fingers. Catchy lo-fi singles like Jack Names the Planets, Petrol and Uncle Pat set them apart from fellow Northerners Therapy?, who were digging deep into their dark hearts on Nurse and Troublegum — but the two bands were complementary touring partners at the time.
Casual fans will bang on about their mid-90s noise-pop classics — and we’re sure Girl From Mars, Goldfinger and Oh Yeah started the pogoing at Slane last week. But Tim Wheeler, Mark Hamilton and Rick McMurray have never been afraid to take a few chances and not join the retro greatest hits brigade.
Their new album Kablammo! is another punky collection that lives up to its slap on the face title. Coming eight years after they gave up on albums following Twilight of the Innocents, it’s slotted in along their strongest albums. It falls short of their calling card 1977, but tracks like Cocoon, Let’s Ride and Go! Fight! Win! show they’ve still got that a load of their youthful vigour bottled up somewhere. While it’ll hardly win any awards for trailblazing, it’s proof they can knock together a cohesive collection, after they ditched albums in 2007 for their 26 singles themed A-Z.
Before Kablammo! emerged, Tim Wheeler released his most intensely personal album, the solo LP Lost Domain. Written as a tribute to his late father George, the songs chronicle his dad’s battle with Alzheimer’s, as well a celebration of his life and the closeness of his family.
It’s another case for Wheeler’s sometimes under-rated songwriting ability. Ash were often lumped in with the Britpop set — on account of the era, their NME covers and knowing their way round a festival beer rider. But they’ve proved they’ve got way more staying power, with plenty of soft spots still reserved for the trio.
TWINKRANES, Grand Social, Dublin, tonight, Friday
DUBLIN duo Twinkranes head up this 80s night with a darker edge — playing a live set followed by hours of guest DJs on new wave, Goth and post-punk. To pin down Twinkranes sound, you have to go back a few decades to the experimental analogue synth acts of the 60s and 70s, from Silver Apples to the droney krautrock of the 70s, touching on Neu!, La Dusseldorf and Kraftwerk at their most psychedelic.
It’s not all retro analogue fetishism though — check out Hi Tekk Train Wreck for one of the most insistent motorik beats you’ll hear this side of the Rhine Valley.
Veteran cult Dublin act Pony Club have just been added to the bill, with a rare chance to see one of Ireland’s unsung heroes Mark Cullen make a few more fans. He’s already got Morrissey in his fanbase for starters.
CUJO FAMILY + MICK PYRO (with screening of O Brother, Where Art Thou?), Sugar Club, Dublin, tonight, Friday
GET your best chain gang Delta blues croon on tonight, with a showing of one of the joyous Coen Brothers folk odyssey.
As well as following Ulysses, Pete and Delmar’s capers, there’ll be sets from Bray hard folk four-piece the Cujo Family, as well as former Republic of Loose frontman Mick Pyro, who’s on a loose blues journey these days.
YOUR OLD DROOG, Twisted Pepper, Dublin, tomorrow, Saturday
YOUR Old Droog is a leftfield prospect in New York hip-hop — coming at the scene with a head full of blues, rock and punk. From the cover of his Kinison album with its mocked-up Fender guitar head, to his mixtapes that reference Sonic Youth, Sex Pistols and Rage Against the Machine and Faith No More, he’s an odd one out who still sounds as ‘real’ as the classic old school MCs.
SUMMER RISING: The Summer Party, IMMA, Dublin, tomorrow, Saturday
THE people at IMMA have been giving the place a good clean after Forbidden Fruit last week, ready for this year’s Summer Rising festival that runs from June 4-14. The museum and grounds are hosting “a series of art, music, performance and food events”, with day and night-time events for all tastes. Tomorrow’s Summer Party has an emphasis on electronic music, with a night curated by Peter Maybury (Thread Pulls) and Dennis McNulty. There’ll be sets from Rainfear, Das DJ, Press Charges (Sunken Foal, left), Simon Conway, Andrew Fogarty and loads more, from 8pm onwards.
LATE NIGHT TUFF GUY + YOUNG MARCO, Twisted Pepper, Dublin, tomorrow, Saturday
WITH the exception of the true originator Greg Wilson, there aren’t many DJs who can resurrect an old disco or funk track as well as Late Nite Tuff Guy. The Aussie edit expert has a knack of unearthing rare and obscure album tracks from charity shop corners, as well as shining a new light on silly karaoke classics like Toto’s Africa, on his Bless the Rains cut. With a never-ending supply of edits of Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Fleetwood Mac and the like on his Soundcloud page, expect plenty works in progress at the Twisted Pepper.
There’ll be plenty of disco, house and italo from late night Dutch guy Young Marco too.
THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM, The Limelight, Belfast, Sunday & Olympia, Dublin, Monday
THE Gaslight anthem have been tipped for arenas for years, so it’s no surprise that their Limelight gig sold out in no time, and the Olympia only has a few pockets of seats left. It’s easy to see why — their propulsive rock’n’roll has the emotional punch of The National, along with the unashamed life-affirming sense of catharsis they’ve learned from fellow New Jersey son Bruce Springsteen.
They can’t shake off the Bruce comparisons, and the Boss has even appeared on stage with them on occasion, but the comparison does them no damage. Songs like 1,000 years, The ’59 Sound and Old White Lincoln are like widescreen Bruce B-sides, fist-pumping anthems to soundtrack clocking out on a Friday.
Original version in Irish Daily Star