building a causeway
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


In Ireland everything was white and green. Belfast was battered and somehow happy, Bangor was cool and twinkling, the Giant's Causeway was a marvel - oh, the list goes on. Except for Cork. I didn't like Cork.

In Northern Ireland we stayed with the kind and wonderful Ross, whom I first corresponded with when he sent me one of his band's tunes - "Wait for Me". When I posted it last May, I said that it reminded me of Idaho, that it was taunting. Listening to it today, it's Grandaddy I hear, and I hear dressed-up desperation.

Five Dollar Soul (Ross' band) recently released a collection of all their demos and lofi recordings. "Wait for Me" is on it, and so is "You'll Never," or at least it sort of is - it's tagged on at the end as a hidden track.

Five Dollar Soul - "You'll Never". Sooner or later they're going to get around to releasing a Nuggets 3, and I have the feeling that there are hundreds of songs like this from the turn of the twenty-first century, songs that run in a direct line from those first comps, from early garage and proto-ponk, through the Kingsmen and into grunge. "You'll Never" is messy and childish, poorly recorded and full of off-key yells. But it's grand, it's great - it's a joyous chain of guitar riffs, of repeated chants, classist put-downs shouted back in the authorities' faces. It's not the Sex Pistols, it's just kids with a melody and their fists in the air, with goofy half-laughs and grins, with rage amongst their kindness, with a soaring silly song that they can bellow at the top of their lungs.


The Frames - "Trying". 2004's Frames release, Burn the Maps, is a tough one. After the intimacy of For the Birds, it's jarring to come up against such an alienating record, one so sparse with its hooks and its catchy. I've heard it compared with Kid A, but I think Amnesiac is a much better touchstone. Electronics have been mixed into the band's folk and rock, but unlike Kid A, where the bleeps seemed the most human thing about it, on Burn the Maps and Amnesiac the electronics are confrontational, splintering, intimidating. (Of course, let's not go overboard: The Frames don't exactly play drill-and-base, they don't even get as noisy as Wilco on Ghost is Born, and everything's always pretty mellifluous.)

Furthermore, the album's full of knotty little half-songs, vignettes of frustration or disappointment, one twisting into the next. Burn the Maps is like a bad night's sleep, all that wasted energy, that squandered feeling, those tangled sheets. The nightmares hardly get started before they wisp away, so hard to hold onto. And in those few moments of rock single, of articulated anger, it's only that hopeless fury of waking from a dream - of finding the reality to be something other than the somnambulist fantasy.

It's a better album than it is a collection of songs, so I struggled choosing one as a sample. But -- here.

"Trying" is for me all about when the drums, the tom or timpani, come on. The acoustic guitar and Hansard vocals are just the treading of water, like someone saying in long, run-on sentences that they're stuck in a pool of dark water, waiting for torrents, waiting for some kind of change. I wish it went on ten times longer, a hundred times longer, that stormy shriek with its banging drums, that we really could get flooded out and pushed into some new landscape. But we don't - isn't that the point? And like all the album's other songs, it fades away and into something else. (On the album, this "something else" is a blast of melody called "Fake," the first single.)


Posted by Sean at March 30, 2005 9:50 AM

hey sean. haven't emailed you in awhile, thought i'd drop an ickle note on here since my email account has been less than accomodating lately. how nice it is to unexpectedly encounter words about ireland. i shall again be in that white and green country in one week's time, and my excitement is building.

great review of the frames album. did you pick up declan o'rourke's ablum while you were there? if not, let me know; i plan to purchase it while i'm there, and i can rip a few tracks for you if you'd like. i'm also looking forward to buying the trad album by bronagh (can't-remember-last-name). she was one of the girl singers from The Commitments -- a film i never saw until a few weeks ago! and glen hansard is in it!

finally: there was a volume 2 of irish artists doing acoustic covers of pop songs. one of them tackles "these words" and it's nothing near the orginal, but the cover of sugababes' "hole in the head" is brilliant. if you're interested, i can try to put together a whole cd of mp3s to send over (using dropload takes aaaaaages with a dial-up!)

i'll try to check back here, or you can email me. i can read all my emails just fine, but about every 3rd email i try to send, hotmail will close out and lose the email, so i've given up sending them for awhile. hope all is well and you're gainfully employed!

take care

Posted by liz at March 30, 2005 6:30 PM

i love your posts.

Posted by anne at March 30, 2005 9:48 PM

Thanks, Anne.

Liz, it's great to hear from you, and I'd be keen to hear all of what you speak of. Email me from whatever address you're using, and I'll give you a postal address. I really hope you have a wonderful trip 'back'!

Posted by Sean at March 31, 2005 8:06 AM

Great review of The Frames. When I think of Ireland's music scene they are number one on my list. Declan O'Rourke is awesome, Liz. I saw him open for Paddy Casey at Whelan's when I was in Ireland two years ago. I've been searching for a way to get his CD ever since, but so far have had no luck. Do you know if it has the song "Love is the Way"? Though I only heard it that night when he sang it with Paddy, I still find it stuck in my head every once in a while.

Posted by Lucas at March 31, 2005 10:17 PM

Great review of The Frames. When I think of Ireland's music scene they are number one on my list. Declan O'Rourke is awesome, Liz. I saw him open for Paddy Casey at Whelan's when I was in Ireland two years ago. I've been searching for a way to get his CD ever since, but so far have had no luck. Do you know if it has the song "Love is the Way"? Though I only heard it that night when he sang it with Paddy, I still find it stuck in my head every once in a while.

Posted by Lucas at March 31, 2005 10:17 PM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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