Tag Archives: Squarehead

The Year. 6. I wanna make your bed.

6. Squarehead – Yeah Nothing [IRL]

List of things I attempted and failed to do instead of reviewing this album again:

  • Study of all the Irish reviews of the album for themes and crutches (nothing interesting emerged)
  • Word cloud of all the Irish reviews of the album (same level of nothing interesting emerged)
  • Word cloud of all the lyrics (hand-typed, gave up after four songs)
  • Transcribing full 52 minute interview from August (stretches are inaudible because of some sort of extractor fan)
  • Autobiographical sketch listing all the Squarehead-related things I can remember doing in 2011 (pointless, self-indulgent)
  • What I’m going to do, then, is just repost my review from AU when the album was initially released and talk a little bit about it:

    I like that review. It says everything I would end up saying at great length here. When I submitted it, I had a conversation with Chris Jones, the editor of AU, about the score I wanted to give the record. I hope he doesn’t mind me mentioning it, but I think it might be interesting and I don’t think it reflects badly on either of us. I was pushing for a 9 initially, but he reminded that me that giving it a 9 meant that AU would have to look to stick by that, at the end of the year for example. I was speaking for the magazine rather than myself, saying that it was genuinely a great record. I suspect, also, that having heard the record himself, he felt like I was overshooting a little. He didn’t push it, either, he just raised it with me.

    I got what he was saying. I’ve been aware of the general trend towards overrating Irish music in the native media for as long as I’ve been paying attention to the native media’s coverage of Irish music. And I didn’t come to the album blind. I have all the seven inches too. I’d seen these songs live over and over again. When I heard the songs on the record, they were instantly recognisable to me. Yeah Nothing wasn’t just an album in a critical vacuum to me as I reviewed it. It was the LP that a band I’d already come to really like ended up putting out. I thought about it, and I thought, yeah, you have a point. Maybe an 8.

    Because there’s nothing particularly new or awe-inspiring about Yeah Nothing. I have friends that listened to it once, thought ‘derivative’ and then shelved it on iTunes potentially forever. I wasn’t even sure I could expect a large percentage of people to listen to it and hear what I heard, even if that was something people did. For the purposes of AU, it was an 8/10, a genre album the reviewer thought was really good and catchy. It wasn’t going to change anyone’s world view.

    For me though, it was a 9/10. It was obviously better than other Irish indie pop albums put out in 2011, even though many of them were very good in their own right. The songwriting was more rounded and more confident, the hooks were better, the songs could play with emotions and it was fun, in a specific type of way that I can’t help but love in music. It was better than pretty much every non-Irish indie pop album for me too, for the same reasons. A lot of the best American and English indie pop is plagued by either a dead-eyed detachment or an earnestness that’s a little off-putting whether or not it’s affected with irony.

    Yeah Nothing has an inner personality that insulates it from that and makes it relatable straight away. And, like I said, I’d had those songs beaten into me already. I was just happy to have them all together. At some point since August, every single track on the album has been the one I’ve skipped to while walking around. If I was worried, in that conversation with Chris, that I’d end up revising my own opinion downwards as time went by, I needn’t have been. It was an 8 for AU purposes, it was and still is a 9 for mine, and it’s the sixth best album of the year.

    And that is the end of this insight into the machinations of the Irish music press and also the way I sort music in my mind and the boring and annoying level of seriousness to my thought processes. Yeah Nothing is great, listen to it.

    Squarehead and Patrick Kelleher’s fake VH1 special and the golf-heavy video for Midnight Enchilada.

    Squarehead – I Wanna Hold Your Handhttp://kiwi6.com/file/n5o6wmrwk3

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    Them’s The Vagaries: The Vagaries So Far

    Them’s The Vagaries is still powering onwards, with occasional A-list guests and lots of talk about music and pop culture from two people who are dripping swagu. One is still me, and the other is still Seán McTiernan, presumed to be the only person in Kilkenny’s storied history who has heard of Stresmatic. We make jokes and care deeply about music, usually simultaneously.

    Catch up, or if you haven’t listened, pick an episode you like the look of.

    Follow the tumblr, subscribe on iTunes, like on Facebook.

    ARCHIVES

    Episode 12: Be Careful What You Wish For… – with Darragh McCausland of Asleep On The Compost Heap (and Come Dine With Me). Internal machinations of Come Dine With Me, sex talk, pork cheeks, Grizzly Man, anime soundtracks and some 2011 music talk. There is also a 20 minute section where we review eight types of sour sweet available in Dublin City Centre. Interval entertainment is “Dear 16 Year Old Me” by the Silly Beggar dudes.


    Episode 11: The Haunted Mask – The music of 2011 so far, taking in:
    [non-raps] Fucked Up, Drainland, Tim Hecker, Iceage, Celtic Frost, Squarehead, Grinderman, Hauschka, Hunx and His Punx, Vivian Girls, Smith Westerns, Nicolas Jaar, John Maus and Toby Kaar
    plus
    [raps] Tyler, the Creator, Kanye, Jay-Z, Jay Electronica, Envy, Kreayshawn, Elzhi, DJ Quik, Young L, Rick Ross, Meek Mill, E-40, Das Racist, El-P, Clams Casino, Araabmuzik, oOoOo, G-Side, Main Attrakionz, Spaceghostpurrp, NoEmotion, Cadence Weapon, Shabazz Palaces, Action Bronson, Rittz and, apropos of nothing, a lot of me talking shit about A Tribe Called Quest.


    Episode 10: The Ghost Next Door – with Orla Ryan, who has a secret job and was a recurring favourite on Seán’s old podcast Ah Here (which you can make him send you if you want – sean mc tiernan at gmail dot com). We talk about Battles and Aphex Twin’s riders at Forbidden Fruit, Sufjan Stevens’ spaceship live show and Jim Corr being a fucking nutcase, plus more.


    Episode 9: Welcome To Camp Nightmare – with Megan Nolan, stand-up comedienne, former DJ of a hip hop duo and general woman about town. We talk about her life as the slapsifier of a rap group, music we had forgotten about and terrible racist jokes on the underground comedy circuit.


    Episode 8: The Girl Who Cried Monster – in the only episode apart from the first one to take place indoors, we occupy the Arts Block of Trinity on a day on which it was only open so tourists could use the toilet. We talk Irish-themed punk, pro wrestling (specifically Botchamania), DJ Quik and Suga Free being god-tier, the Pitchfork movie, Anal Cunt, David Norris, Gerry Ryan and Beepy Fallon.


    Episode 7: The Night of the Living Dummy – Forbidden Fruit festival analysis, an anecdote about Sean’s dad and gigs and getting pissed on, Neutral Milk Hotel, Big and Rich, Kanye’s Monster video, Ian Svenonius, Ian Mackaye and Henry Rollins.


    Episode 6: Let’s Get Invisible – We talk about old music on the occasion of Bob Dylan’s birthday. Bruce Springsteen and Stephen Fry denounced as mark ass bitches by me and Sean respectively.


    Episode 5: The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb – Macho Man, Kreayshawn, violent films, how to recommend stuff to people, pogs, etc.


    Episode 4: Say Cheese And Die! – RZA’s movie, professional wrestling, idiots dancing to Shellac, De La Soul, Animal Collective, etc.


    Episode 3: Monster Blood – Odd Future (the week Goblin came out and thus the last time all conversation centred around Tyler), the Prince Disagreement, The Beatles, Westwood, drops on rap mixtapes, etc.


    Episode 2: Stay Out Of The Basement – covers of rap songs both good (jazz trio Odd Future) and bad (steampunk), Obama burning Trump, the freemasons, etc.


    Episode 1: Welcome To The Dead House – Earl Sweatshirt being found, Nardwuar being great, the Led Zeppelin Disagreement, etc.

    Lo-Fi Friday #4: Two Dublin Lo-Fi Things.

    This is an easy one.

    Ginnels album came out last week. Ginnels is Mark Chester, bassist in No Monster Club and guitarist in grand Pocket Orchestra. His album’s very good. A Ginnel is another term for a snicket or a flutester, according to Urban Dictionary.

    New Squarehead single’s coming out on Richter Collective. Here it is. It’s called Midnight Enchilada. Squarehead’s called Squarehead because Roy’s uncle used to call him that. He later found out it’s also a term of mild abuse for German people.

    Say I have some stilletos… take ’em off and test your mettle.

    Popical Island is without a doubt A Good Thing, in a quite important, structural way. There are a few reasons. Firstly, they are, to some degree, a label. The Popical Island #1 compilation (which is still around on Bandcamp) put a whole bunch of excellent Irish ‘bockety pop’ bands and bedroom projects in the same place and gave it to people in a form that made them take it seriously. It’s amazingly endearing, catchy and great as a collection. Stream it at least if you haven’t heard it. It opens with So Cow literally naming places on the road to Dublin on Exclusive Express Bus Service License Blues, makes Fake Blood by Squarehead available for a thousand potential future girlfriend mixtapes, and introduces a lot of cool music on the way. But it did more than that.

    It created a scene. That sounds dramatic, but stuff always sounds dramatic, so let me explain what I mean. These bands existed beforehand, it’s not like they formed just so Popical Island could exist. But they were ‘Thumped bands’ or part of different vague alignments (in my mind at least) – Hefty Horse or whoever. What Popical Island did was to draw a Venn Diagram around indie pop in Dublin and the places that contribute to its scene. Where before, Dublin had indie pop bands, now it has a scene. And that has a home now, too.

    I missed Popicalia 1, the first Popical Island club night in Shebeen Chic, but Popicalia 2’s line-up – Hipster Youth, Squarehead and the mighty Grand Pocket Orchestra – was too good to miss. So I shuffled down and got a pint of Harp, as you do. The place is the perfect size – a basement with enough space, but without being cavernous. There’s a distro table with CDs and (naturally) tapes from various affiliated bands, even if they’re not playing, like a hardcore distro or, I suppose, a twee pop one from a place with a slightly stronger tradition. Thumbs up to that, and to the money box concealed within a hardback dictionary. Twee as fuck yo.

    Hipster Youth opened in two-piece live format, all crunchy, no-fi beats from a laptop and lapgaze keyboard playing. Despite sinning cardinally and breaking kayfabe by admitting (through a heavily distorted microphone) that they hadn’t practiced in a million years, they carried the lo-fi electronics thing well. Super Fun Hipster Suicide Party’s Twin Peaksy descending melody on the Casio keyboard every suburban house grows organically when the children hit five was an obvious highlight, as was Thursday night which, despite some rust, had enough complexity and belt to work. And then, announced as a Large Mound cover, Gardenhead by Neutral Milk Hotel. Teenage Elders is sold out as a physical release, but you can download it for free if you like, and the guitar lo-fi facet of Aidan Wall’s personality Porn On Vinyl is about to put out a cassette album on his label Long Lost too.

    Squarehead came next, marking the third time in less than three weeks that I’ve been to a gig Squarehead played at. Would possibly be retreading to talk about them, but Fake Blood’s still the shit. So good.

    But now to the crux of the matter. Grand Pocket Orchestra. Sometimes when you leave a gig, especially with an Irish band you’ve seen before, you get this weird idea that they’ve ‘arrived’ in some un-solid sense. It’s not like they haven’t been good forever – their EPs were brilliant and their album, which eventually came out (on the same day as Fight Like Apes’ second album according to Mary-Kate in UCD’s newspaper) is full of ‘riot pop’ excellence. They were great as a three piece the first time I saw them at HWCH 2007 (seeing as it’s blog birthday week), but now, with Maggie ‘The Social Hand Grenade’ Fagan on drums and Bobby ‘Brain Heat Wave by No Monster Club is finally about to be released this month‘ Aherne on miscellaneous, it seems like they’ve hit the peak of their powers.

    How many crowd-surfers do you see at your average indie pop collective club night? Honestly? Well there were upwards of five at this, plus two band members. Mr. Pop-I Ruan’s tweet summarises it well:

    @Popical_Island

    Trouble deciding the best moment of tonight…the dweeb mosh-pit or barry lennon keeping them in line.

    Barry Lennon’s from Richter Collective, by the way. Footnote there.

    Anyway, GPO. It was incredible. Frantic as hell, with album songs sitting confidently as equals alongside the early EP songs. There can’t be highlights when it was so intense for the whole thing – Radio, Get Go, Odd Socks, Ballet Shoes, Basketballs, Worms, all genius. Plaintive requests for water from the band were met mostly with blankness from equally thirsty spectators. The floor got wet, people fell over. At the end of the set, evidently with no more songs to play, they got back up and played Get Go again at about 1.4 times the regular speed.

    Anyone I talked to afterwards said it was the best Grand Pocket Orchestra gig they’d ever seen. It was definitely the best I’ve ever seen. Out the back afterwards, in the company of a gypsy euphonium player who can’t actually play any further than the third bar of Happy Birthday but tries anyway, people were comparing wounds. I was wringing sweat from my hair (sorry anyone I dog-splashed), others had grapefruitesque swellings on their shins, bruises in various places, desperate thirsts for water, ill-advised internal urges to take their shirts off.

    Goes in the top tier of the memory bank, for sure.

    ++

    The head on you.

    Back to the grind in Dublin with no money, but that just means you have to be ready when opportunity knocks. Instores in Tower are to the casual Irish music fan what Marks & Spencers closing time is to freegans, and when there’s a chance to go see a band you’ve been waiting to see for free, there’s no reason not to jump at it.

    Squarehead have been around a while, floating peripherally into my field of vision at Hefty Horse gigs in Anseo, in conversation and in MySpace top 8s (in the long, long ago). They were good, too, or seemed like they had the potential to be. But it felt like they blew up (such that you can blow up in a scene that seems at times to consist of about 80 people) over the summer after their inclusion on the Popical Island #1 compilation with the obvious piece of shamble-pop genius that is Fake Blood. That’s their arc, in my head. And I hadn’t seen them since this happened, so I shuffled down to Tower from my perch in House 6.

    They’re lots of fun. I’ve said several times before in posts I am not energetic enough to find and link to that I have a soft spot for the power-trio. Mighty Atomics were one. So Cow, in various incarnations, are another. Three-piece Ted Leo is pretty much the be-all. Squarehead are a little like that, but not a lot.

    The chord patterns are simple, falling somewhere between the memory-surf-wave thing (from Girls to Wavves via No Monster Club, say) and the 1990s-Weezer-revival thing (e.g. Surfer Blood), expedited on a guitar that must be the most college indie pop thing that’s ever existed: a Danelectro that looks like a Mustang. Sometimes Roy (who was formerly Squarehead by himself) will pull off on a lead guitar break, with the crunchy chords disappearing and the focus falling on the melody. Harmonies are paramount, and they’re flawed, not like the ubiquitous Brian Wilson-Noah Lennox comparison, but more in the 60s-teen-garage-band-who-have-heard-Beach Boys-singles kind of way.

    Some songs are better than others. This is the consummate indie pop trio, and as with any band who go for The Best Indie Pop Song every time they write, it’s going to be more about melody and immediacy than variety. Many are excellent, a few seem lacking spark. But the highlight (and closer) is clear, and Paddy Power stopped taking bets on it some time in July: Fake Blood.

    With drummer (and Mr Popical himself) Ruan Van Vliet placing a tambourine on the hi-hat – literally just putting it there, not screwing it on, he’s not Larry Mullen, are you mad? – they tear into it, and it’s as sad and uplifting as a song can be. It’s the 7″ they were promoting too, and if there’s ever been a song to own on 7″ this is it, so if you don’t have it, go get it. They’re numbered, so go quickly and get a low one. Although admittedly I took a higher one than I could have just to avoid those COVER ART RUINING GIANT TOWER STICKERS.

    So there you have it. Back in Dublin.

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