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Gold-digger Amnesty

Thoroughly depressed with the state of the nation, I decided to cheer myself up yesterday by listening to some nice, brainless pop music. I feel the qualifying adjective is important here, because there’s also very clever pop music out there, but that’s not of any use to me when I want myself opium’d up by dithering beats and sugarsnap lyrics, is it?

If there’s one thing stupid pop music has taught me, it’s that if there’s one career group more maligned than Fianna Fail politicians or IMFites, it’s gold-diggers. Yes. Young women (I calls ageism, for it appears biddies are disqualified from rushing men for the moolah) who are attracted to men more successful than themselves are terrible hussies altogether. Perhaps even responsible for a portion of our current economic woes! Gold-diggers: breaking bankers, one suit at a time.

See, I was bopping along to Cee-Lo Green’s wonderfully catchy “Fuck You” (“Forget You” to anyone still relying on the radio to get them their aural jollies) when I paused, took a breath, furrowed my brow. Cee-Lo’s complaint is that his ladyfriend left him for a much more affluent gentleman, one who owns a car and has no problem taking the lady for the odd spin in same. Seeing them spinning about the place makes Cee-Lo feel most disgruntled. If only he had the kind of money that could buy him a car! Then he could still be with the gold-digger, whom he still loves, but also really resents because she’s not turned on by penury.

At first I felt for Cee-Lo. As a wurkin’ class ladette, I understand how difficult it is to get by in life without a pot to piddle in. There’s, let’s see … underpaid jobs, holes in the arse of your pants, running out of restaurants without having paid and having to resort to getaway bicycles to avoid arrest. It’s a hard-knock life. I also know that there’s no law requiring a woman to get hot under the collar for a partner who’s just not cutting the wholegrain organic mustard when it comes to ambition and success. I’m much more likely to fancy a motivated, educated bright spark than a couch potato with a grudge; does that make me a gold-digger? I think not! Take that, Mr. Green!

Likewise, I am perplexed by Timbaland’s hip-pop song “The Way I Are”, which in a lyrical sense comprises of a gruff man barking out all of the reasons no one should touch him with a bargepole. “I can’t even buy you flowers!” he snaps, though without adding that he’s happy to grow or pick some instead. He is then mollycoddled by a husky female telling him that it’s grand, that so long as he’s got his mojo in the bedroom he can do without it in the real world, hinting that it’s more than his ego she’d like to massage. And this is just preposterous. You can’t reward the useless like that! Sure they’ll never learn if you keep telling them that despite their barely being able to afford the chips on their shoulders, catches of either gender will be only too happy to cast their kecks aside for a hop off them. Did I miss the memo about drive, integrity, and fiscal independence not being aphrodisiacs after all? No, I didn’t. Because they are. Huge big ones. Pulsating ones. Oh yes.

Hip-pop girls have retorted these points more melodiously than me, of course. Fado, fado (in the 90s), TLC, in their song No Scrubs, told layabout boys that they were going to have to do a little better than be roaring out random compliments from their mates’ cars if they wanted to pitch woo successfully; yet t’was far from gold-digging they were reared.

The funny thing is that hip-pop boyos have long rapped, yodelled and purred out the characteristics of their ideal ladyfriend, and having economic savvy, her own career, and half a brain were never on their To Do lists; gold-diggers are ok if you’ve got the money for them, but a right slap in the testicles if you’ve recently become a victim of the worldwide recession. Well, lads; reap the whirlwind. The gold-diggers have become accustomed to a certain level of achievement from their life-partners; there’s no point complaining about it now, not when she had to spend all that money on implants to impress your shallow arse in the first place.

Back to Cee-Lo, who pouts that his gold-digger’s new friend is “more an X-Box” while Cee-Lo himself is an “Atari”. I suppose he realises that Ataris were made redundant back in the dark ages. Certainly no amount of dewy-eyed sentimentality will convince me to trade in my next-gen console for one of them dinosaurs. And that doesn’t make me a gold-digger (or even a Digger T. Rock).

It makes me a prudent, prudent lady.

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The current issue of The Wire

As an admittedly somewhat infrequent reader of The Wire (the magazine, rather than the cult Baltimore-based TV show) I could empathise with much in this article by writer Anwyn Crawford about why she won’t be subscribing to the music magazine again.

In her opening paragraph, Anwyn tells us

I haven’t been shy about my growing discontent with The Wire over the past few years: with its bloodless writing, dull obsequiousness to a small gallery of icons (perhaps the magazine’s sub-masthead should be A Lee Renaldo Bulletin Board), and above all, its alarming gender imbalance. I had already made up my mind not to re-subscribe, and December’s new issue is an unfortunate justification of my reasons why.

I’ll leave you to read the entire piece yourself – it is fantastically written, with a great dose of humour scattered throughout the scathing critique of what Anwyn perceives as The Wire‘s imbalanced approach to women artists and writers – but for me it echoed so many of the reasons why I am an ‘infrequent’ reader of The Wire.

Unlike other music magazines (or websites), I feel I have to be very deliberate when reading The Wire. It’s not a mag that you can just flick through while drinking a cup of tea on a Friday evening. No. For me, it requires time, space and focus. It brings me back to the UCC library and poring over academic texts in an attempt to formulate an answer for an essay due the next day; the feeling that out of the dry sentences I have to pull something tangible that makes sense to me.

I do love the fact that The Wire is not an advertiser-driven, chart-focused magazine; that I can pick up an issue and only have heard of a small handful (if any) of the artists mentioned within its clinically laid-out pages. It is an education for me, and learning about music is something that I relish. But reading certain articles is like reading a menu in Dutch when you know nothing more than the word for waffle. You won’t get far and you probably won’t learn much in the process.

Music, for me, is about emotions, feelings, the stirrings inside you when you detect a change in beat or when two voices swell in harmony; it’s about the hairs on your arms lifting when a particular lyric strikes you where it hurts.  It’s not a dry element. It doesn’t always have to be about chord changes, soundscapes, or middle eighths. Yes, writing about music is like dancing about architecture but there can – and should – be emotion invested in both. Reading The Wire, sometimes it feels as though all the emotion created within and by the music has been sucked out, leaving an arid landscape strewn with rusting, unfamiliar, instruments.

The now defunct music magazine Plan B (you can download the PDFs of all the issues at that link) generally struck a great balance between po-faced deconstruction of musical texts and expressing exhuberant joy at the discovery of fresh, new music. Like The Wire, I learned a huge amount from reading it but never felt I wasn’t intelligent/knowledgeable/prone-to-beard-stroking enough to really ‘get it’.

Unlike The Wire, Plan B (which was created by Everett True of Careless Talk Costs Lives and edited, and later published, by Frances Morgan) clearly attempted to have a gender-balanced approach. I subscribed to it for a year and each time I saw another woman pictured on the cover my heart leapt. There were lots of female and self-described feminist writers of both sexes and so female and male musicians were treated as they should be: equals.

Sure, Plan B wasn’t perfect (some articles could be a bit too self-congratulatory) but it was a sad, sad day when it folded.

Of The Wire, Anwyn says:

Since 2006 The Wire has put seven female artists on the cover, and that’s if you count Trish Keenan, one half of Broadcast, who shared the cover with her collaborator James Cargill in October 2009 – the only woman to appear on a Wire cover that year. 2006 was a seeming high point in gender parity: three female cover stars, and only one for each year since. Seven out of forty-eight covers really isn’t fucking good enough.

Here’s a link to those covers so you can see for yourself.

This under-representation of female musicians on the covers of music magazines is nothing new – next time you’re in a bookshop, take a look at the music magazines (usually housed beneath the ‘men’s mags’ such as Zoo or FHM) and see if you can spot a woman on the cover. (On that point, when I first started buying music magazines and realised they were housed in the ‘men’s lifestyle’ section in Eason I knew that embarking on my dream career of music journalist would be an ‘interesting’ journey for a feminist.)

Why not count how many women you can see on the covers of Q magazine this year (two solo covers: Cheryl Cole and Lady Gaga – and two group shots: Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen together in a group shot; and Lady Gaga again in a group shot). The reason I mention Q is that the response to ‘there aren’t enough women on the covers of music magazines’ is often ‘but that’s because it reflects the amount of women working in music‘.

This is not true – particularly in the case of Q, which covers mainstream rock, indie and pop music. In fact, the female musicians it covers are usually from the pop arena. And you cannot argue that the pop realm is oestrogen-free.

Our own Hotpress is actually one of the better magazines for featuring female cover stars but there is still not an equal balance.

Then there are the magazines aimed at bassists, guitarists and other musicians. You could learn how to play the entire Led Zeppelin back catalogue on guitar in the time that passes between the appearances of women on the cover of Total Guitar or Bass Guitar Magazine, for example.

The first woman to appear on the cover of Total Guitar was Brody Dalle, then of The Distillers, in the February 2004 issue.  On the cover was written:  “The 50 Guitarists You Need to Hear this Year (and yeah, she’s one of them…)”.

The strangely apologetic editorial read:

“Yeah, that’s a woman on the cover. And it’s the first time TG’s had a female guitarist as its cover star (we suspect it may well be the first time any guitar mag has had a female as its cover star). She’s not on there ‘cos we’re doing a feature on ‘Women in Rock’, or because she’s got her tits out. She’s there for the same reason all our other cover stars are – because she rocks…And if it makes you feel better, next month we’re back to hairy blokes who play really fast.”

Phew! She wasn’t there because she was getting her tits out – but if you’re offended, there are plenty of men to focus on instead. Brody was one of two women in the ‘Top 50 Guitarists’ list. The other woman was Ani Di Franco. What did the writers have to say about her? “The words ‘bisexual’, ‘feminist’, ‘acoustic’ and ‘protest-singer’ might strike fear in the hearts of many, but not us (in fact, they give us a hard-on.)”

There may not be a great ‘conspiracy’ to keep women off the covers of music magazines and give them minimal coverage on the inside pages. But there is an acceptance in most quarters that is just ‘how it is’; that putting a woman on the cover of Q or Uncut or Mojo or The Wire or Rolling Stone or the NME a few times a year, or for the ‘women in rock’ issue is good enough.

That showing Lily Allen in her knickers and Muse in their suits is somehow unproblematic and should not raise questions about how female and male cover stars are portrayed in overtly sexual/non-sexual ways.


Sure, there have been magazines solely dedicated to female musicians but the ideal would be male and female musicians on an equal footing. If women are seen as the ‘minority’ or the ‘outsider’ in music magazines then does that encourage women to create music? If women are relegated to the minority in writing for and editing these magazines (notably, Krissi Murison is the first female editor of the NME, while Louise Brown is the first female editor of Terrorizer) then does that encourage young women to write for these magazines?

One thing this lack of women – or invisibility of women – in music magazines has done is ensure women will try to fill the gaps in the music world by writing zines or starting websites themselves (like Pink Noises, dedicated to women and electronic music).  So, no, women don’t sit back with a resigned sigh and accept things as they are – they rail and revolt, they enthuse, write, rant and blog. They write about Riot Grrrl and female singers and feminism in music, all things that are rarely, if ever (with the exception of Plan B and The Guardian‘s music section) covered in the music press. They create their own space and give previously mute women an unwavering voice.

Yet, still, equality is not there in the mainstream press.

After reading Anwyn’s piece, I am not going to stop reading The Wire. But I hope that the editors of the magazine read her incredibly thorough and impassioned article and analyse their approach to gender (im)balance in their publication. They owe that to their readers.

For all music publications – both online and off – alienating female readers is not a smart move. We are readers, we are writers, we are musicians, we are creators. We deserve an equal space in the music world and we deserve representation in all arenas.

Why? Because we rock too.

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Tripod. November 6 2010. Soul-funk singer Sharon Jones tells us it’s the last night of a European tour she and the Dap-Kings started on April 6. From the power in her voice and the way she’s shaking her moneymaker on-stage, it’s not obvious.

Last here two years ago, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings are back in town with a new album, I Learned The Hard Way. All kinds of soul and blues legends – Charlie Musselwhite, for one – tour the US of course, and if they get as far as London, they don’t always make it to Dublin. Little wonder a few hundred 20 to 70-somethings are dancing and swaying for all we’re worth.

Ms Jones is 110 pounds (we know this thanks to bandleader Binky Griptite!) of energy, fun, guts and likeability. Born in Augusta, Georgia, hometown of James Brown, 50-something years ago, she has all the soul, the storytelling craft of someone who grew up singing in church.

100 Days, 100 Nights

Whether she’s talking present-day hard times, setting up the mini-narrative in each song or re-enacting why she loves to dance – it’s in her blood literally, a combination of West African and Native American ancestry – Jones can weave a story, all the while working her way through a stunning setlist from Mama Don’t Like My Man to Window Shopping.

How Do I Let A Good Man Down?

And then there’s the legendary Dap-Kings, aforementioned Griptite, Dave Guy, Thomas Brenneck, Neal Sugarman, et al, houseband for Brooklyn-based, indie label, Daptone Records, whose funky tones you’ve heard on Amy Winehouse’s album Back to Black in 2008.

Welcome to the Saturday Afternoon Dance Party here on WDAP… Tell Me

Jones’ route to success was anything but overnight. Advised to lose weight, even bleach her skin, she got her break when recording backing vocals for funk maestro Lee Fields and The Soul Providers, the first incarnation of the Dap-Kings. She was 40 years old. She’s certainly made up for lost time since. The European tour may be over but the indefatigable Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings are back on the road in December to New Zealand and Australia.

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I was tempted to start this post with an explanation of who Katie Waissel is, “for those of you living in trees”, but then it occurred to me that not even the most moss-choked canopy-dweller could have escaped the X Factor 2010 convoy. X Factor updates are, at this point, like Brian Lenihan’s financial discrepancies – all over the place. The front covers of newspapers. The home pages of news sites. The stream of witticisms on Twitter. Your teenage sister’s Facebook status, with your granddad’s comments just below. Simon Cowell has created a monster, but it’s a monstrous guilty pleasure, and the entire global neighbourhood’s been feeding the bloody thing.

Katie Waissel is one of the finalists. She’s in the “Girls” category – female soloists under the age of twenty-eight. She’s blonde, ambitious and ballsy. And everyone hates her. She’s the pantomime villain, the air-kissing personification of all that is wrong with tabloid culture. Katie is not so much this year’s Marmite; she’s this year’s Festival Of Painful Inoculations.

All of this stems from the fact that X Factor 2010 is not her first stab at fame. Katie has previously appeared in an online reality TV show, following her adventures trying to “make it” in the US. She has released an album in the US, and was set to release a second before appearing on X Factor. This does not endear the public to her; no one wants seasoned grafters on X Factor. They want humble, simpering, tearful newbies who shuffle in, cap in hand, singing for a supper they never knew they were hungry for.

Katie is not the only contestant who’s clocked up a bit of experience in her chosen profession; Treyc Cohen, Mary Byrne, Matt Cardle, John Adeleye, and Liam Payne (of cobbled-together boyband One Direction) have all been beavering away diligently at their music careers, from fronting indie bands, to having their own merchandising lines, to winning MOBO awards. Yet none of them have taken the same flack as Katie Waissel.

Let’s take Matt Cardle as an example. The “painter and decorator” fronts indie four-piece Seven Summers, whose album is enjoying chart success on the back of likeable Matt’s X Factor performances. To my knowledge, Matt has said that he could yet return to Seven Summers after his X Factor experience (provided, I assume, he doesn’t win outright). Yet there was no mention of Matt being an experienced singer during his original audition; he was sold to us as a doe-eyed chappie with no idea of how good he really was.

Katie’s original audition was similarly sugar-coated. After Simon Cowell disagreed with her prepared piece, she began to sing We Are The Champions, but forgot the lines, and begged to be given a second chance. She was cute, a bit eccentric, and that was enough of a persona to present to the viewing public. Now we realise that both Katie and Matt have recorded albums, performed in front of crowds, written their own music … why, then, is only Katie sprouting devil horns?

Perhaps it comes down to acting skills. Katie never really came across as modest, and there was always something self-aware about her quirkiness. Matt has the mannerisms, the cheeky grin, and the self-deprecation to tickle our awwww reflexes, not to mention a wavering falsetto that makes him sound like he could burst into tears at any given high note. He is a bunny-rabbit of a man, non-threatening … we feel it possible that he doesn’t even know the meaning of the word “obnoxious”. Katie is far from obnoxious, but there’s nothing fluffy about her, either. She comes across as a girl who’s quirky for the sake of being quirky, and boy, do we hate cynicism in our lassies.

“Simple check-out girl” and shrinking violet Mary gets away with her performing, single-releasing past, because she’s humble and good-natured and piteously overweight. John, because he’s got watery eyes and a thankful smile. Treyc because she’s got a big bum and an even bigger voice (and make no mistake on X Factor – the voice will out). Liam because he seems unassuming and dear God, he’s all big eyes and cheekbones. Katie’s terrible error is that she seems to have a strategy. We find her “irritating” – her clothes, her hairstyle, her poise, even her low, jazzy voice. Katie Waissel simply … doesn’t hide her motives well enough.

And perhaps we still feel that that’s no way for a young woman to behave.

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There are songs that seem made for certain seasons. As I commented back when Sinead posted about the songs of summer, Tim Buckley’s ‘Buzzin’ Fly’ always makes me think of lazy summer days and smoky summer nights. The legendary 100% Dynamite albums that collect some of the best Jamaican ska, dub and dancehall tracks of the 1960s and ’70s sound best when the sun is splitting the stones. And this summer I found myself listening to Best Coast’s hazy indie-pop and Sleigh Bells’ raucous noise. But as Autumn has, slowly but surely, started to seep its way into this year, I’ve found myself listening to music that seems made for falling leaves, cold, bright skies and woolly blankets. There’s something about this time of year that makes me want to listen to music that’s a little bit melancholy, but still sweet. Recently I’ve been slightly obsessed with the recently released debut album by the British duo Smoke Fairies, which begins with a song called, aptly, ‘Summer Fades’, which is a perfect Autumnal song. You can hear and see a (pretty good) live version here:

My other current musical obsession is the forthcoming debut album from another all-female band, Warpaint, which is absolutely amazing but not exactly jolly. I can’t find any videos for the new stuff, but here’s a typically forlorn yet lovely song from last year’s Exquisite Corpse e.p.

Nor can I stop listening to Danish singer-songwriter and pianist Agnes Obel’s gorgeous debut album, full of Satie-esque piano lines and chord progressions so beautiful and perfect they almost hurt. I have to ration my listens to this album because every time it finishes I want to hear it again.

And as well as those new releases, I’ve also been craving Shirley and Dolly Collins’s legendary early ’70s folk albums, which I tend to listen to a lot during the colder months. The gorgeously spectral Love, Death and the Lady is one of my favourite albums ever. If you like weird old folk music with strangely modern piano arrangements, you will love it.

That said, I’ve also been doing a lot of booty-shaking around the kitchen to the new Mark Ronson album, so it’s all not wistful ladies around here. Sometimes you have to deal with the impending winter of our discontent by dancing like a loon. And ‘Bang Bang Bang’ is pretty much a perfect pop song, if, like me, you love old school hip- hop (Q-Tip!!!!) and electro-pop with minor chords.

What are you listening to this Autumn, and do you find yourself craving different music at different times of the year?

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Babybeef is the name of the electro pop solo project of multi instrumentalist Sarah Carroll Kelly. Her music combines pure hyper-coloured unashamed 1980’s influenced FM plastic pop with darker driven sounds & undercurrents that references A-ha, New Order, Devo and the more contemporary, fresher sounds of LCD Soundsystem, The Juan MacLean, Daft Punk & Yeasayer. In 2009 she was invited by Sligo’s The Model Niland Gallery to perform as part of their New Spaces For Music programme and this year, she played a special show at The Science Gallery in Trinity College Dublin as part of their BIORHYTHM exhibition. This month, she releases her debut album on After The Quake Records. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/babybeefmusic

What’s the first record you ever bought?
Technotronic’s Pump up the Jam single on cassette.

What’s your favourite smell? Fresh cut grass (makes it seem like there’s an endless teenage summer ahead, and I’m about to drink some mi-wadi and try to ready a comic without the glare of the sun bouncing back in your eyes, on a tartan blanket).

Have you ever had a nickname? Jackie (after Jackie Stallone).

What is your favourite room in your house? The sitting room. It’s full of Flea Market and vintage finds and has a gorgeous painting over the mantelpiece by Chris Jones.

What are your guilty pleasures? eBay, vintage furniture, sad stories (with happy endings), Judge Judy and Tayto.

What would people be surprised to know about you? Four songs from the album were written in two weeks. Stephen Shannon, my producer, convinced me to turn my then EP into an album.

Who is your closest female friend? My sister, Joyce.

Do you have any tattoos or piercings? Yes, several.

Where would you most like to live? Am happy where I am on my street in Kilmainham (but in another life,  I’d live in New York or Berlin).

Who was your first kiss and where did it happen? With DG in the French classroom after school.

What’s the most unusual question you’ve ever been asked? “What’s your favourite smell?”

What’s the best Christmas present you’ve ever received? An electric guitar from my parents when I was 15. I nearly lost the plot. Still have it and it has a great sound.

What is your favourite word? ‘Pucleimnach’ (only the Irish language could come up with a word that describes perfectly the crazy jumping and frolicking of lambs).

Who was your first love? Had a huge crush on Macgyver. I tried to watch him when he started on Stargate but he wasn’t half as hot… must’ve been the bombs made out of apples and chewing gum that impressed me.

If you weren’t doing what you do, what might you have become? I’ve been lucky enough to have worked as an artist and designer, a tutor and a musician. As long as I’m doing something creative, I’m happy.

Is there a book you’ve bought several times as a gift for someone? ReadyMade: How to Make [Almost] Everything. It’s an amazing book I got in the IMMA bookshop. It’s full of things to make out of rubbish like a recliner out of water bottles, mats out of clothes pegs and clocks out of chopsticks. It sounds lame, but it really makes you want to start a make-and-do session.

What happens after we die? Hopefully your mates and family have a good cry and chat about how great you were!

What female historical figure do you admire most? (Not sure if this counts: This person is relevant to me in my history) Cindy Sherman had me in a spin in art college. The constant invention and portrayal of characters and scenarios broadened what a female artist could do in my eyes. Her work helped me find my ways of working and thinking and pushed me towards performance and video. That in turn got me started on Multimedia and digital sound so without it, Babybeef wouldn’t exist.

Sum yourself up in three words: Creative, quirky and hard-working.

And finally… what are you anti? Getting unprovoked hassle from chavs. Makes me want to turn into Clint Eastwood in Gran TorinoWhat are you pro? Using empty spaces and units for pop up exhibitions and gigs. Dublin has reverted to its creative roots out of necessity. It’s the best thing to come out of recession.

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The concept of the cover version has been around for nigh on a century now, although the term was only coined in the 1960s as the practice became more prevalent. Several of the Beatles’ early hits were covers, and it was common at the time for record labels to have artists on their roster record each other’s songs. Nowadays, thanks to the likes of Jedward and Glee, the pop charts are once again flooded with cover versions, albeit of hugely varying quality. Done well, though, there’s great pleasure to be had in hearing a song reinvented.

I have soft spots for Johnny Cash’s take on Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt (and indeed most of the covers he tackles on American IV), Feist’s version of Ron Sexsmith’s Secret Heart, the Futureheads’ Hounds of Love (a world away from Kate Bush’s original), and, most recently, this cover by Cee-Lo Green of Band of Horses’ No-One’s Gonna Love You:

On the flipside, I’d happily live without ever hearing Florence & The Machine’s version of Beirut’s Postcards From Italy ever again, and Atomic Kitten’s woeful The Tide Is High. I’m sure there are far worse offenders, but I’ve either managed to avoid them, or blocked them from my mind.

What are your favourite covers? And what cover versions set your teeth on edge?

Catherine Brodigan

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Today, at least six Anti Room women are sporting inexplicable bruises, sore legs and achey bones after last weekend’s Electric Picnic. We just wanted to say a big thanks to everyone who came along to our talks on Saturday and Sunday at the Speakeasy Tent. Also a huge thanks to Naoise Nunn from Leviathan who invited us to take part. The funniest moment of the weekend was waiting to start the Saturday talk and seeing John Waters hovering outside the tent entrance. Second funniest moment was the Diet Coke ads (which were present for every event in the Speakeasy Tent) which depicted those creepy puppets from the TV ads, with one opining:

“Eleanor says a woman should be two things: fabulous and fabulous”

Er, right Eleanor.  Highlights included MUSIC: Caribou’s post-midnight gig in the sunken stage of Body & Soul; The Antlers, Janelle Monaé, Foals, Marc Almond, Hot Chip, Eels, LCD Soundsystem and Jonsí. FOOD: Divine pies and mash from Pieminister; Chicken burritos from The Flaming Cactus; mojitos, from well, anywhere they could be found. OTHER: Arlene Hunt bringing my forgotten wellies from Dublin on Saturday, The Daily Ticket, put together by Jim Carroll and his music elves; Janelle Monaé saying “hi” over at the RTE Roadcaster (what amazing hair!), the two drunk guys who came to the Saturday Anti Room talk to heckle, but were won over enough to ask an interesting question at the end.

Lowlights included missing the Savvy Women talk, John Byrne’s Comics panel, Chaos Thaoghaire and Jon Ronson.  The National, Fever Ray;  not getting to see June Caldwell being chauffered around on a golf buggy: a bloke IN the crowd (outside the tent) randomly peeing at LCD Soundsystem; and of course the rain…

How was your weekend? What did you see? How many Pieminister pies did you have? Was it more than Anna Carey? Probably not.

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It’s the last weekend of summer yet again and this year, Electric Picnic have invited The Anti-Room along to share their many views over the festival weekend. Hosted in the Mindfield Arena between 3 to 4 p.m on both Saturday and Sunday, the opinionated women of this blog will engage in debate over female stereotypes and the role of women in the media, both topics, as we have seen on this blog and elsewhere recently, subjects of great interest. There are also talks from Channel 4’s Jon Snow, Leviathan‘s political cabaret, the Science Gallery and of course Chaos Thaoghaire‘s storytelling and games. With such a wide array of music and activities spread across the entire weekend, it’s a fantastic opportunity to take a break from the live music experience to participate in discussion and so do feel free to drop by, get involved and share your thoughts or merely hang back as the banter flows.

However it’s impossible to talk about Electric Picnic without mentioning the music on offer and so here are some tips to consider amongst the hundreds of acts over three days. It’s no easy task to choose the best of the billing this year as as 2010 boasts one of the strongest-ever Irish festival line-ups. That said, if you’d care to join me on a virtual jaunt around Stradbally, here are the most exciting guests in my estimation and hopefully there will be something to interest just about everyone.

(more…)

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Maybe it’s because one of the first bands I really loved as a teenager in the late 1980s was REM, whose frontman Michael Stipe spent most of the ’80s singing in a barely comprehensible murmur, but I’ve never had a problem with listening to music whose lyrics I couldn’t understand.

The usually jolly Wir Sind Helden, meine Lieblingsgruppe, in somber mode for their new album

Yes, song lyrics have been hugely important to me over the last 20 years or so, but I don’t think you need to understand what someone’s singing about to appreciate music (otherwise most English-speakers wouldn’t get much out of opera). So I’ve always liked non-English-language pop music. Despite never having learned French (I did German and Latin at school and then German at university) and not really understanding very much of it at all, I’ve long been a big fan of old-school French stuff, worshiping at the altars of Serge Gainsbourg, Francoise Hardy and Jacques Dutronc. In fact, once upon a time I loved it so much that my friend Claire and I ran  a one-off club night called Bon Bon devoted to French pop of all kinds, with a bit of Northern Soul, Tropicalia and random ridiculous fun stuff thrown in. And yes, I played this song. I love you, Jacques!

Of course, we can’t forget Jacques’s one-time ladyfriend Francoise Hardy, who, along with ’60s-era Marianne Faithfull and Mary and Rhoda from the Mary Tyler Moore Show, was my fashion idol for most of college. I adored her music and thought she was the coolest woman ever. Behold:

I discovered Francoise Hardy thanks to my dad’s vinyl copy of Francoise Hardy Sings In English, which is an awesome album, even though it was responsible for an extremely embarrassing few minutes back when I was 20. Having snogged one of my best friends, I was trying very hard to get things back to normal and so invited him over to my house. Things were going pretty well and I was thinking “Okay, our friendship isn’t ruined after all! We’ll just pretend it never happened!” I had put the Francoise album on but had forgotten about one particular song until it came on during a brief pause in our conversation. Just imagine these words ringing out as two people try very hard to think of something innocuous to say:

I was going to say that this wouldn’t have happened if I’d played the French version, but actually he was doing French in college so it probably would.

Anyway! As well as my love of all things French (I strongly recommend tracking down all the albums in the Ultra Chicks series, compilations of the finest yé-yé girls from Paris), over the years I’ve loved everything from Japanese pop to the delights of the awesome Komeda, who recorded their first album in Swedish before moving on to English. But I know that lots of Anglophone folk don’t want to listen to pop music that isn’t in English, which is why lots of international artistes, from A-Ha to Air, have made so much Anglophone music. And which is why I salute those who would rather write decent lyrics in their native tongues, even though it obviously limits their international appeal.

This goes especially for German band Wir Sind Helden. Now, I can actually understand frontwoman Judith Holofernes’s sweet, smart, funny lyrics, and I’m pretty sure that this is part of why I like them, but their jaunty, ridiculously catchy yet bittersweet indie-pop crosses languages barriers.  The long-awaited (by Germans, and me) new Helden album Bring Mich Nach Hause (trans: Bring Me Home) came out on Friday, and I was possibly the only person in Ireland who was really excited about it. And rightly so, because it’s great, if a lot more folky and melancholy than their previous work.

Speaking of which, here’s their very first self-released single ‘Guten Tag’, a perfect slice of jittery electro-pop:

And ‘Gekommen um zu Bleiben’ (trans: Here To Stay) which is unashamedly goofy but which I’m including because I love the video and it always cheers me up (possibly because I wish I could take part in a video like this):

And speaking of cool videos, I love this Tin Tin-inspired one too (I often find myself singing this song while pootling around the kitchen):

So surely I’m not alone in my defiantly uncool affection for non-English-language pop music? What are your international favourites? Do you prefer people who sing in a language that you can understand, even if it’s not your native tongue? Or do you, like me, rather like the layer of mystery that comes with complete incomprehension of the lyrics?

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