New Music From Derry (Winter 2018)

Last Summer friend of the blog Emmet Brown put us all on to TOUTS, in his opinion & many others, the best young band in Derry. Self-described as “a singer that can’t sing, a mod that can’t play bass and a drummer that can’t see” the three piece have been consolidating their reputation with quality support gigs for Paul Weller & Liam Gallagher. In October they released “Lit”, their second four track EP, which featured this great racket.



Image result for touts band“Bombscare”, Pure Punk-Pop for Now People eh! TOUTS are maybe too young to have experienced bombs & scares but those things are part of the collective Northern Ireland experience in a way that those of us on the UK mainland find difficult to imagine. Matthew, Jason & Luke have an energy & aggression which we have heard before from that country’s bands but this is no retread/revival. When it’s done right, which it is here, this music is fresh & relevant. I have a friend who is a major fan of Stiff Little Fingers & I know that she will love TOUTS. The 2 EPs were collected on 12″ vinyl in January but there are only 100 copies of this around & I’m sure that we’re too late for one. Get on over to their Soundcloud page where you can hear some gloriously loud music.


A return visit to Derry is overdue. I’m waiting for better weather, global warming can’t come quick enough. When that does come around I’m hoping that it collides with a gig by the Barbiturates. My first experience of the Barbs’ music was a suite inspired by Jodorowsky’s kaleidoscopic, brain-scrambling visionary film “The Holy Mountain”. That’s ambition of Himalayan proportions, something to be admired in a young band. Singer Amytal Gnostic is an e-friend of mine, Everyone’s social media feed needs a sprinkling of random substance-influenced ramblings & Amytal is my guy. Shoot, if the Internet had been about when I was his age capricious & erratic would have been all you got from me & everyone I knew. I like him.



Image result for the barbiturates derryThe Barbiturates don’t compromise & I like that too. “Only Folkin Jokin”, released this week, is their new musical/video project. The only bite-sized chunk for the 21st century attention span is “The British Political Disaster”, a serious, truthful, moving reflection on the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre. It’s not an easy watch. The 25 minute video mash-up above plays fast & loose with continuity, copyright & musical styles. I’m guessing at Psych-Folk. The Barbiturates are direct, honest & give them a chance. You will not see or hear much like this anywhere else & it will get you in the end. Head over to Bandcamp where you’ll find & can buy the whole shebang, 24 tracks, for just 5 of our British pounds. I look forward to a live encounter with the band.



Image result for damian o'neillLastly, certainly not leastly, it’s back to where it all began, a new track & video by Damian O’Neill & the Monotones. When Damian was a teenager he got his kicks by playing in the Undertones, the Derry band that rocked the world. The band continue to tour for part of the year & I really must stir myself to catch a set full of perfectly crafted Punk-Pop (hang on, I used that term earlier). Damian continued to impress with That Petrol Emotion & with his current band The Everlasting Yeah on hiatus he has recorded a solo LP “Refit Revise Reprise”.


His contribution to the ‘Tones is probably undervalued. With bassman Micky Bradley he wrote “My Perfect Cousin” & “It’s Gonna Happen”, singles good enough to be ranked alongside the songs of his big brother John. For “Sweet ‘n’ Sour” Damian has dug out his platform boots & made a T-Rexstatic, rifftastic slab of Glam Rock. I’m sure that there will be more of the same on the LP which currently is available to buy on Pledgemusic. You shouldn’t have to wait, the records are pressed, I’ve seen the photos.


Hear That Distant Love Song When The Wind Blows Right (Low Anthem)

This week sees the release of a new LP by the Low Anthem & that’s a good thing. I’m not sure yet whether I’ll be sending some of my hard-earned the way of “The Salt Doll Went to Measure the Depth of the Sea” but it’s coming close to payday, give me a couple of days with their new song & video “Give My Body Back” & it will probably be nailed on that I will be contacting Joyful Noise records.



Image result for low anthemIt’s been almost 10 years (well, that went quick) since I became very close to “Oh My God, Charlie Darwin”, the Low Anthem’s third LP. The mellifluous “To Ohio” found its way on to our UK radios, the group found itself part of a wave of beardy American Neo-Folk. You know em, Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Midlake & others I’ve forgotten. I liked Midlake while I was cooler about the first two. “To Ohio” was a little sweet for my taste but live sessions on their visit over here displayed a greater range & “…Charlie Darwin” was soon on heavy rotation round our end. The Low Anthem could do those harmonies &, on songs like “The Horizon is a Beltway” could rock out . I found songs like “Ticket Taker” to be particularly affecting & this, “To the Ghosts Who Write History Books”, remains, for me, one of the songs of the century.



Image result for low anthemOh yes, “And when you go, where the winds are strong. When you go where flowers bend. Please take along all the best of my luck and come back unchanged”. Those lines still hit the spot. I saw the Low Anthem play live & they roused a restrained Folk festival audience to be the highlight of a fine day. Their multi-instrumentalism, swapping & changing for every song was impressive, the music confident & intelligent. The band injected energy into their version of the Jack Kerouac/Tom Waits hook-up “Home I’ll Never Be”. A great romp through “Cigarettes, Whiskey & Wild, Wild Women”, a Sons of the Pioneers song from the 1940’s & a favourite since Peter Sellers performed it with the Muppets, displayed the sense of humour which attracted me & set them apart from those other serious boys.


I didn’t really connect with the follow up LP “Smart Flesh” (2011), the band seemed less visible, the songs less immediate. I get the feeling that the Low Anthem would not be happy getting caught in the cycle of recording, releasing, promoting then touring successive records. They played prestigious support gigs & built up a following but the Rock & Roll treadmill did not suit such a creative group of people. When first Mat Davidson then the charming Jocie Adams left the band it did seem that something was lost from the sum of the parts & “Eyeland” (2016) passed me by.



Image result for low anthemRobin Knox Miller & Jeff Prystowsky regrouped in Providence, Rhode Island where they have built their own studio in an old vaudeville theatre (I don’t think that there are any new ones!). There are 4 of them again, Bryan Minto & Florence Grace Wallis have been around for some time. I don’t know if the recorded version of “Drowsy Dousing Dolls” is similar to the live one here, the band do tend to experiment with different arrangements, tones & instrumentation. I do know that I do like a musical saw & that the 2 tracks here from “The Salt Doll Went to Measure the Depths of the Sea” have the delicate beauty & imagination that first attracted me to the Low Anthem & it feels like the time to give them more of my consideration.