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1. Because MCA has survived the cancer that put the band on hiatus and the Beasties are back, with their long-awaited new album Hot Sauce Committee Part Two (the album’s original release was put on hold after his diagnosis). And after the disappointment of To The Five Boroughs, it’s brilliant to have them not just in fine health but back on musical form. ““Oh my God, just look at me / Grandpa been rapping since ’83” raps Ad-Rock, but he still sounds as fresh as ever. Hot Sauce Committee is a gloriously funky, funny mix of yappy, fluid rapping, great samples, innovative sounds and filthy beats that will have you shaking your booty around your kitchen and put a strut in your step as you listen to it on your iPod. At least, it will if you’re me. You can listen to it here and dance around at your desk.

Oh, Ad-Rock *sigh* Your yappy rhyming skills are only equaled by your attractiveness

2. Because they’re living proof that being a sexist idiot in your youth (the on-stage cage dancers etc) doesn’t mean that you can’t grow up and learn something. In fairness to the Beasties, they were already rapping against domestic violence (“Why you got to treat your girl like that?”) on Paul’s Boutique, back in their ‘To All The Girls’ and ‘Hey Ladies’ days (I love ‘Hey Ladies’, by the way. It is awesomely funky, it’s more silly and fun then sleazy, and how can anyone not like a song with the line “Beatnik chicks just wearin’ their smocks”? It’s one of my favourite Beasties songs) but as time went on they became more and more actively engaged with spreading a feminist message, both in their songs  (“I’m gonna say a little something that’s long overdue/The disrespect of women has got to be through/ To all our mothers and our sisters and our wives and friends/ I want to offer my love and respect to the end” rapped MCA in the fantastic ‘Sure Shot’) and in their public appearances – Ad-Rock used their 1999 MTV Award win to speak out against sexual violence at music festivals rather than engage in the usual industry backslapping. Oh, and he’s married to Kathleen Hanna, one of the most significant American feminist voices of the last two decades and an awesome musician in her own right. Funny feminist boys FTW!

3. Because Ad-Rock is still ridiculously attractive. I’ve fancied him since I was about 12 and saw him in Smash Hits, back in the Licensed to Ill days. Of course, I’d love the Beasties even if he weren’t so very easy on the eye and would never reduce anyone to their physical charms alone etc etc, but still, I’m only human.

4. Because they are genuinely, properly cool, in a way today’s Morrissey-circa-1987-haired hipsters can only dream of. This is because they are unafraid to be both very smart and very goofy. They may be in their 40s now, but they have no interest in trying to be (sigh) down with the kids – they’ve stayed confidently true to their own idiosyncratic tastes. They’re also keen to share their ridiculous jokes and passions with the world, rather than hoarding them up for themselves in a poncy elitist fashion.

5. Because, as part of this sharing of the love, they gave the world the word mullet to describe the horrendous haircut that previously had no real name. Having written a song about the infamous ‘do and its fans, ‘Mullet Head’, they expanded on the topic in the second issue of their sadly shortlived magazine, Grand Royal. I still have my copy of this issue, and the mullet piece is very, very funny.

6. Because, as the promotional video they made to celebrate their return shows, they still don’t take themselves very seriously.

7. Because they created, with Spike Jonze, what is still possibly the greatest music video of all time. I’ll never forget you, Nathan Wind (as Cochese).

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In today’s Guardian, several music critics write, sometimes very movingly, about the songs that can bring them to tears. It’s a subject most of us can relate to, including me. Many songs have made me cry over the years; I’ve cried to Nick Drake, Tim Buckley, the Velvet Underground, REM, Palace, Bonnie Prince Billy, Mazzy Star, Johnny Cash, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Kristin Hersh, and countless others – indeed, there are few artistes who haven’t made me bawl at some stage. But the ones that stick in my memory at the moment are the ones that got to me last year, just after an old friend who was just a few months older than me died very suddenly of what was either an aneurysm or a heart attack (the post mortem couldn’t reach a conclusion). Everyone who knew him was stunned by his death, which didn’t seem quite real, like all sudden deaths. A day or two after he died, I was trying and failing to work so I went for a walk in my local park, listening to Hot Chip’s then recently-released album One Life Stand. And less than a minute into the third song, I found myself crying.

A pulsating dance song doesn’t seem like the sort of thing to bring on sobs, but this song did. It was the lyrics, particularly this section: “Nothing is wasted, life is worth living…There is a day that is yours for embracing, everything’s nothing, nothing is ours…”

I think what set me off was the “nothing is wasted” line, the idea that even if someone is gone there was a point to them being here, that their lives weren’t wasted, that everything goes to nothingness in the end but that’s okay. Anyway, tears started trickling down my cheeks as I walked along, but I didn’t stop walking. As the synthy strings soared, I somehow felt uplifted as well as sad, as if all that was needed was just to keep marching along to the beat. The combination of the bittersweet lyrics and melancholy dance music was, it turned out, just what I needed.

It wasn’t the only song that made me cry around that time. The day after my friend died I was listening to Charlotte Gainsbourg’s IRM on the bus on my way in to meet fellow stunned and bereaved friends for a drink, and half the songs on it made me tear up. ‘In The End”s sweetly sad melody combined with the words “who’s to say it’s all for the best in the end?” had me turning away from the person sitting next to me so he wouldn’t see how red my eyes and nose were.

It says something about both those songs that when I was checking those Youtube links and listened to them again, they still both made me cry. And yet, in a weird way, like a lot of the songs that make you cry, they made me feel strangely better afterwards.

What about you? What songs bring you to tears?

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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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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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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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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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It’s a very sad day when one of Ireland’s finest independent record stores, Road Records, announces it is to close down, its valiant fight against the recession and digital music sadly having come to an end.

And it’s also sad (but in a rather different way) when some of its own customers use a post on The Irish Time’s On The Record blog about the demise of the much-loved shop to comment about the fact they “never saw any girls in there”.

“There are always as many under 20s flipping thru the vinyls down the back as there are older beardy blokes. road, unfortunately, wasn’t as enticing for the non-beardy, huggy student types. or girls. only girls i ever saw in road were julie and my girlfriend who stood at the door looking bored on record store day.” – Peter

“Peter – have to agree to an extent with you, I think Julie was the only woman I ever saw in Road Records and my wife for example loves music but hates record shops.” – part time punk

Road Records was a welcoming place to men, women and children – any Saturday I ventured in there I’d see at least one parent with a cute sticky-fingered child in tow – and it was never a shop that made you feel you were ‘just a girl’ when buying records.

But this sad and sexist attitude that some of the commenters on On The Record hold about Road, and the apparent lack of female customers it (and other record stores) attracted, is thankfully an outdated one.

I’m a woman – I don’t think I can call myself a girl now that I’m inching closer to 30, can I ‘boys’? – who, like many of you reading this, has been ‘properly’ shopping in record stores since I was a teen. When I first started buying in Plugd in Cork, I used to get nervous before I’d go in, a little worried about my purchase, wanting to look ‘cool’. A positive comment from one of the staff members would have made my day. I knew as a girl I was in a minority there, but I was never made to feel like I was ‘just a girl’, or that girls were not welcome. As I got older, and as Plugd’s Jim and Albert became friends, I’d ask them for recommendations and go to the shop to meet other friends and see what they were buying. When Plugd closed last year, Cork lost a little bit of its soul.

I worked in Redlight Records in Galway for a little while and got to see things from the other side of the counter – and loved getting to recommend albums to people.  I loved even more having albums recommended to me. Because that’s what independent record stores are for – they’re for learning about music and salivating over new finds, badgering the staff for recommendations and teasing your friends about their choices.

But there are some people who may feel a little intimidated going into independent record stores – especially when they’re young and don’t feel they know much about music. And this attitude that ‘women don’t go to record shops’, even if held by a small minority, needs to be quashed – because it certainly doesn’t encourage more young women (and yes, girls) to go to them.

It ties into the patronising, sexist assumption that women just don’t know enough about music, that we’re not interested in back catalogues or rare records, that we’d rather listen to Lady Gaga than Throbbing Gristle (hell, some even listen to both), and that we’re more interested in being groupies than listeners.

But the truth is,  we’re just as devastated to see another independent record store go – and wondering what can be done about it.  So why not silence those who assume women didn’t shop in Road and add your voice here?

(And as for sleeping with a band member? Some of us would rather rifle through his record collection.)

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