National Treasures. Or Not.

For any Irish band, dipping their toe into the murky, uncharted waters of music criticism beyond these shores can be quite telling. No matter how an act styles itself, unless they have crafted their sound and image entirely within the confines of their own imaginations, they’re almost certainly going to sound derivative.  Most Irish bands seem to look to America or the UK for their influences and then, very often, state that they want to go over to the US or UK to pursue their dreams of success.  My question to them is, and always has been, “why?”   Unless you already have an unbeatable, proven track record in sales (by which I mean, you’ve perhaps run a successful business which deals in sand, and have made a fortune in exports to the UAE), why on earth do you ever imagine that the US or the UK would want their own music sold back to them by Irish musicians?  By constantly using these scenes as influences, Irish acts are already well behind when it comes to competing in a scene outside of our own.

It obviously depends on what goals any band sets itself (The Blizzards, for instance, have been quite happy to remain successful in their own country by wisely bringing their music to every corner of Ireland, almost to the exclusion of pursuing success elsewhere) but most are undone from the outset by their sheer unoriginality.  Fight Like Apes are one of the few in recent years who’ve shown that self-styling can surprise and confound outside of Ireland – whether record sales catch up is another matter but that hardly seems to be the point. 

I mention all this because I just came across a review of The Coronas’ Decision Time single by my former editor and colleague Ged McAlea over at my first reviewing home, London-based webzine SoundsXP.com. It makes for interesting reading:

“Ireland’s Coronas are claimed by some (the insane, clearly) to walk the line between Jeff Buckley and the Libertines. Jeff Buckley and Take That perhaps. Danny O’Reilly shares Buckley’s cod-soul groan of a voice and ‘Decision Time’ (3ú Records) has a horribly manipulative chorus and over-inflated construction with a hearty dash of U2’s bombast.”

The wonderful thing about this review is that it’s entirely independent.  There’s no parochial, editorial-imperative bullshit that says, “oh, man, they’re an Irish band, we can’t slate them, we have to be ‘constructive’ to the point of buddy-buddy”.  It’s a case of calling it as the reviewer sees it.  Be assured, English bands aren’t reviewed as ‘English bands’ on this site either – they’re just bands.

There’s a dreadful editorial habit in Ireland of giving Irish acts a metaphorical “one or two star head-start” on acts from outside of this country.  Either that or such a dreadful waste of valuable plastic as The Coronas’ Heroes Or Ghosts album is generally shunned by review pages, lest an honest opinion (no pinched cheeks or pats on the head) causes offence to friends and family. This has to stop; it does our music scene, and the perception of our music scene abroad, no favours whatsoever.  It’s one thing giving our bands publicity through interviews and news pages, but it’s quite another pretending, in reviews, that distinctly average or downright dreadful music should be encouraged purely on the basis that it’s local.  Just look at the Superjimenez debate over at State.

I do recommend that every Irish indie act send their singles or EPs (but not demos) to SoundsXP for review.  The editors and writers are an amiable bunch of music nerds, geeks who spend all their time and money buying music and going to gigs in a scene far larger, and more consistently experimental, than this country could ever produce. Their knowledge and enthusiasm are huge but most importantly, they’ll give an honest assessment of whatever they hear, wherever it comes from.  Whether what the writers say inspires the reviewed bands to push their creativity, carry on as normal or simply give up, is up to the bands – at least it shows them what the reaction is likely to be before they book that 25-date UK or US tour.

The Coronas are, of course, a terribly ordinary band – entertaining for a particular demographic on the college circuit but unappealing in the extreme beyond that.   Which is fine, so long as that suits them.  In a scene too full of derivative, overrated acts like The Coronas, Ham Sandwich and The Chapters, who get an utterly misguided sense of their own importance, it’s about time we did our duty to review bands as bands – not as ‘friends’ or automatic and undeserving national treasures.


34 Responses to “National Treasures. Or Not.”

  1. Such a stereotypical indie snob opinion. Is there some irony in that? probably not

  2. Hi Dara – Snob? Based on what, exactly? Do you prefer the policy of giving bands good reviews just because they’re Irish? If so, what good does it do anyone?

  3. No, not at all. Music should be reviewed as music, nothing else. I was more concerned with your opinion that she shouldnt be trying to push their music outside of Ireland? Why not? Taking into account that their music isn’t ‘indie’ in the derivative sense, they are very popular here and there’s no reason they cant be popular abroad.

  4. I don’t know which band you’re referring to specifically, but none of the bands I mentioned are in any way original. However, I’m certainly not saying she/they shouldn’t try to be successful elsewhere, I’m saying that it’s handy to get feedback from across the water first, just to be realistic about the chances. The difficulty is that, with the vast majority of Irish acts, it’s all been done before and unfortunately, it’s usually done and dusted in the UK by the time they get around to releasing a single here. Timing is everything and, if they want to be on the crest of any wave outside of this country, they need to be either something that the UK hasn’t heard before (like FLApes) or simply hurry up and get stuff out quicker (like The Chapters who are so 2003, if that). That’s not snobbery, it’s just reality. Of course, they can all dream but that applies to all of us.

  5. I think there’s a distinct whaft of musical snobbery online that breeds contempt for ANYTHING that comes out of this country UNLESS it’s something new and fresh. FLApes are the online musical community’s buddies cos they did try something “different”. In my opinion, FLApes are less original than schools of other bands coming out of the UK/Canada/US at the moment (IF you look closely enough at what’s coming out of those countries). And if The Chapters are “so 2003″, is that not a good thing that at least they’re not rowing in behind every other band that sounds the same. I mean, look what’s getting good reviews at the moment – Dark Room “Let’s put synths in everything cos it’s “trendy” Notes”. At least bands like The Blizzards, Superjiminez and The Coronas know their audience and know that they’re not going to change the face of music. Instead, they plough on and write fucking catchy music. That is why they should be reviewed FOR WHAT THEY ARE, not what online bloggers/reviewers BERATE THEM FOR NOT BEING (FLApes, ASIWYFA et al). I see it week after week, “the blizzards are crap”, I click on your state link above – “superjiminez are shite”, “the coronas are shite”. In that soundsXP review, your ex-colleague bemoans who they have been likened to. WTF??? It was hardly The fucking Coronas that likened themselves to Jeff Buckley and The Libertines (though I stand corrected if they did).
    And au contraire Johnnie, I don’t think any Irish band gets a one or two star headstart. If it’s shit, it’s shit. If it’s good, it’s good. I buy Hotpress, The Ticket, I read most reviews that pop up in the Indo, S Times, SBP and they are always fair.
    I think the unfair reviews come from the bloggers where they give bands a one or two star deduction simply for being pop or, dare I say it, commercial.
    Ireland, musically snobby? Very much so. But Johnnie, I don’t hold anything against you. You are very much entitled to your opinion. Should your opinion be given more weight than the thousands of kids that go out and buy Blizzards, Coronas and Superjiminez singles/albums/tickets?
    No mate.
    Cos they’re the ones that keep these bands going. From a pop perspective, those bands would stand shoulder to shoulder with any similar bands in their genre ANYWHERE in the world. And they should be credited for that.

  6. Hi Derek – Thanks for taking the time to comment, you’re very welcome. You do make a lot of points there so I probably won’t be able to answer them all briefly. But:

    1) I’ll declare myself as a Blizzards fan, it’s something I get slated for regularly by the sort of snobs you mention, but I have no end of admiration for those guys.

    2) I have no opinion whatsoever on Superjimenez.

    3) You can say what you like about bloggers. I don’t necessarily disagree, lots of bloggers talk to each other and that breeds its own kind of clique. However, it’s much easier to be independent of thought in a blog than it is in the press, believe me. Me, I’m simply a music fan who is constantly on the lookout for things that sound new or imaginative and that’s my position no matter what I’m reviewing.

    4) Commerciality – My point always is: why does ‘commercial’ have to equal ‘bland’? I’m a Britney Spears fan, for crying out loud. It almost sounds like you’re being apologetic to describe those bands as ‘commercial’ just because they’re bland, as if I’m going to think, oh THAT’S why they’re not employing any imagination, they’re compromising. Even if they’re not ground-breaking, every band should have something that makes them unique and too many bands, especially the ones mentioned, are ultra-conservative in their approach. There’s nothing even remotely Irish about them either. Same old haircuts, similar mid-Atlantic accents (why, why, why?), same old banal lyrical topics. The thing is, I’m not snobbish about this, I’m not interested in bands who only want to play to 20 people, I want people, fans, to take music forward and for music listeners to open their ears to new sounds. And, I’m sorry, they’re not doing that by listening to The Coronas or The Chapters.

    4.5) Re: The Chapters sounding ‘so 2003′. By that, I meant they haven’t moved on since they formed, and even then they were behind the times. Everything does come around, though – sure, if The Passions had stuck to their guns for 30 years, they’d only just be getting popular now.

    5) I certainly don’t object to these bands’ existence at all and you’re right about music fans keeping the industry going – again, it’s a point I’ve always made and am happy to support.

    6) I know what you’re saying about FLApes and how they might irritate a lot of people. But the amazing thing about them was that their sound took influential UK DJs and press by surprise because they were going against the grain of what was landing on their desks from UK bands. Like them or not, we don’t produce enough bands who make such people sit up and take notice.

    7) Seriously, absolutely ANY Irish band can get a good review in Hot Press and don’t tell me different. Ex-Hot Press writers do talk, you know.

  7. Hey,

    Firstly, I’m going to say straight up I play in the Chapters. I read your blog regularly enough Johnnie and I like it, I’m not going to change that now!

    To be honest I agree with some of what is being said and disagree with other points. I’m not going to talk about our music cos its opinion and one which you are completely entitled to, and I’m too close to it to have an unbiased view. For what its worth I think Fight Like Apes and Dark Room Notes are both amazing bands; the Blizzards & Coronas are both great pop acts, and I think they both know that too. You shouldnt feel shame for liking the Blizzards! Though I wager they would probably not, if asked, claim to be aiming to be just big in Ireland, and more power to them.

    There is just one note from our POV that we – I feel – have a right to respond to – this perceived ‘sense of self importance’. I read this and I wonder who you are talking about, cos it’s not us! We don’t believe ourselves to be more important that any other bands, we don’t feel we deserve or are entitled to anything. We work hard at music that we love (fair enough it isn’t your thing) and we are going to put it out there and hope that people will like it. We dont deserve an easy ride cos we’re Irish, and in this I totally agree – a band should only get a good review only if the reviewer likes their album. Irish or Mexican. Full stop.

    We are releasing our debut album in two months – so hopefully we’ll move on from the ‘dizzy heights’ of 2003! If not, maybe we’ll give it up and maybe you’re right. Naturally I hope you’re wrong..

  8. Good reply. Couple of things though.

    Point 3). Is there much point in you reviewing music then? Because bands are going to be treated unfairly by you straight away if they’re not “new” or “imaginative”. You review for the S. Times, yeah? One of the Sunday papers anyway, I’ve definitely seen your name somewhere. Should you not do the right thing and pass it over to a colleague if it’s not gonna float your boat? Are music journalists and journalists in any field not supposed to be completely impartial and objective? You sit down to review music with a certain/possible bias in your head straight away ie. If this is another indie band, they’re goin DOWN!

    I’m not attacking btw, I’m just interested to know if this is the case.

    Point 4). I’m only apologising for using the word ‘commercial’ because the word probably hurts bloggers eyes/ears.
    What are these bands writing about (banal lyrics) that no other band are writing about? If you want to talk about image, then why does MayKay get away with contriving the exact same image as yer wan from YeahYeahYeah’s and get away with it? Is it because she writes about smelly socks and berate the indie massif?

    Point 4.5). I understood your original 2003 remark. I don’t think The Chapters are anything to write home about but shouldn’t a band like that get credit for NOT getting bogged down in the scene and for sticking to their guns, writing the music they’re happy writing. I’m sure they could have succumbed to the same trend pressure DRN succumbed to (They were around in 2003 too and have changed dramatically since). The Coronas are a bit dumb and yer man’s a bit hard to watch live, but still, they stuck to an acoustic guitar and a pop tune. It’s bands like Delorentos, The Kinetics that should be lambasted for bringing absolutely NOTHING new to irish music. It’s why they have been completely ignored by the UK. I think bands like Blizzards, The Chapters and Superjiminez will be guaged more fairly by UK audiences/reviewers cos, (back to your image argument), at least they’re not wearing skinny jeans and playing guitars up around their necks singing songs with equally “banal” lyrics and unexciting jaggedy guitar hooks.

    Point 6). Agreed. Though it irks me that FLApes are actually taking the praise for this point.

    Point 7). You know more than me so I won’t argue with you. Though for the record, I have come across some scathing HP reviews of Irish bands. And I did mention a lot more other publications in my initial point that you haven’t addressed. Do you question Jim Carroll, Kevin Courtney’s motivations in the Ticket, John Meagher in the indo? All the others in the ones I previously mentioned???

    At the end of the day Johnnie, I’ll make my own mind up on a band, on a song, on a lyric and you will to.

    “it’s about time we did our duty to review bands as bands – not as ‘friends’ or automatic and undeserving national treasures.”
    On the money there, but do just that and don’t review the next Irish band with FLApes at the back of your mind.

  9. Couple of points? Apologies, I’ve written half a thesis there…

  10. Derek – you’re not wrong, thesis-wise, I love it. OK, here goes:

    On point 3 – no, I was trying to make a general point about me being a music fan, and not my life as a reviewer. Sorry if that was muddy. You have to keep those things apart. As in, separate what I want to play for fun as opposed to what I do for work. I can’t speak for any other music reviewer in the world, only me – I review absolutely everything without prejudice. I’ve shocked and horrified myself by the things I’ve ended up liking and been gutted by things I expected to enjoy. and then hated. Same goes for live reviews. And yet most things I listen to are just average. That’s the nuts and bolts of work. (And I review for SBP, yes)

    4) The word commercial doesn’t hurt me in the slightest – if you saw my record collection, you’d see what a Smash Hits-loving pop-picker I was back in the day and remain to this day. I just love what I consider to be great pop music. Sure, styles change from generation to generation but the mechanics of a great pop song remains more or less intact – it’s all about how it’s done.

    4.5) I don’t think bands should get credit simply for sticking to their guns, no. Music is supposed to be a creative endeavour and not simply a join-the-dots process. I just don’t like turning up to hear a band regurgitate stuff I’ve heard a million times before, only with less style. It makes no sense to me, unless they are absolutely supreme, with a faultless singer or at least SOMETHING that makes me excited within two minutes of seeing them. Bands need to be more self aware in this regard, especially if they want consistently good press. The skinny jeans thing (and don’t even MENTION Converse fooking trainers) annoys me as much as it does you. It’s pathetically short-sighted.

    7) I’m sure you read Jim Carroll as much as I do and I think you know that neither he nor John Meagher give away review stars easily – they don’t need questioning on this point either. I do know that their editors won’t have any input into the tone of their reviews or their star ratings – take from that what you will.

    I’m sure I haven’t answered all your points there but hopefully that explains my points a little better.

  11. Simon – thanks for your comment, it’s good to hear from you, particularly as this post involved criticism of your band. Fair play, indeed.

    First off, I’m not at all embarrassed about being a Blizzards fan, other people seem to think I should be but that’s ye olde clash of opinions again. The fact of the matter is, The Blizzards don’t make my kind of music at all; the fact that I enjoy a great deal of what they do continues to surprise me. Bressie is just a damned good, clever and, at times, bloody angry songwriter – something I really appreciate.

    On the point of ‘self-importance’ – what I said was that, due to reviews, bands can get a misguided sense of their own importance. It’s a small country, let’s face it. I read a lot of reviews, I’m obviously not alone in this, but I do think that some Irish bands are reviewed, in some places, with a different set of criteria than acts from other places. If I didn’t already know this for a fact, it wouldn’t take a hugely scientific study to work it out.

    Gemma Hayes is a great example. She’s a lovely girl, she’s incredibly beautiful and she’s from just up the road – it’s so easy to review someone on that basis, especially when they’re so close. However, I find her records impossibly dull – and believe me, I’ve tried hard to get into them. My point is that if Gemma Hayes was some American hick, there wouldn’t be any debate about the importance of her record, it would just be dismissed, maybe even by Hot Press. Yet the goodwill that exists towards her transcends all notion of criticism. When I said something critical about her last album, one of the most scathing people I know said I was ‘harsh’. I wasn’t, not in the least.

    So, it’s not about whether The Chapters or The Coronas actually FEEL important, and won’t continue to to try on that basis, it’s just that if all you get is good press (and I did try to temper all that praise with my own opinion some years ago – shockingly, it’s missing from your biog!) then it doesn’t really prepare you for the realities of life outside Ireland. When you go to another territory, it’s inevitably a bigger ball park – and that’s where the criticism really will get harsh.

    My point was as much to reviewers as it was to bands – to keep music alive we have to be entirely fair, even when it hurts, not just worry that we’re going to bump into people we’ve reviewed badly in Whelan’s some night. And bands, like yourselves, need to be prepared to take that criticism on the chin. Which you have proven you’re well capable of already, so, once again, fair play.

  12. Simon, I’d imagine it takes a lot of wally to confront one of your critics on their own blog – fair play. But in fairness to Johnnie, I don’t think, as he explained, that he was accusing you of having an enormous sense of self importance, he was just saying a band like the Chapters may be misguided by unjustified reviews.
    Personally, I read reviews all the time, I really don’t know where you (Johnnie) are plucking the misguided reviews from.

    Is this a bit of a personal attack on Hotpress?

    Because, you should really have specified that in your blog. If The Times and Indo, The Sunday Business Post (you) don’t throw stars at Irish bands just because they’re Irish, then why have you made your point in such general terms. After these publications, what’s left really? The Star, Sun, NOTW are not and have never been, and never will be considered expert critics.

    Can you clarify this?

    Good luck with your album Simon, I look forward to reading the reviews :o)
    I seen your new video on hotpress.com (I think). It’s good, nice tune too.

    I’m gonna go start me a band…

  13. Yknow what, as happy as I am to be Irish, my God I’d HATE to be a music reviewer in Dublin.

    To have to come forth time and time again with consistently unfettered opinions on new Irish releases while a relatively tiny, often freakishly tight-knit music scene operates all around you must be so draining. Draining, that is, for reviewers who are in it for the right reasons.

    Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? If only. Try two degrees. Max.

    So, my point is, release X lands on your desk from Dublin Band Y (which incidentally, as a band name, would be an improvement on a lot of the picnic-basket-inspired names currently floating around).
    So, this being Dublin, the odds that you either (a) know Band Y well on a Casual Friday Pints basis (b) work with the drummer’s sister (c) sleep with the drummer’s sister (d) sleep with the drummer and his sister (e) sleep with the drummer’s mother’s sister (f) go to yoga class with the bassist’s fiancée or (g) were taught Applied Maths in school by the singer’s very cool older brother, are considerably shortened.

    So then you realise you have to publicise an opinion which, if not glowing, will likely see you met with, at the very best, funny looks when you inevitably encounter the band in a social situation in the near future (or, the case of (c), (d) and (e) will ensure that you’re shot down in flames next time you try to make a casual and sophisticated booty call).

    So my point about “right reasons” mentioned above……Well, I think the point of contention that spawned the original post was a fear that there is (and at the current rate will always be) a possibility of reviewers being influenced by the lack of anonymity afforded them in Dublin. I’m only a casual reader of reviews but even at that there’s no doubt in my mind that some reviewers may be influenced either by the desire to be liked, the desire to be patriotic, the desire to ensure never-ending guest-list possibilities should the band ever make it big, a desire to be thanked on an inlay card, or a desire to hang out with the bands at the super cool unofficial after party as part of their inner circle. Or by all of the above.

    And that, conversely, those who chose to avoid being influenced by any of these factors, and who instead chose to treat release X on its own merits, as a release in its own right, are unfotunately more likely to feel the firey breath of those they’ve “wronged” on the backs of their necks when they’re ordering a pint of Stella in Hogans on Friday night…far FAR moreso than in London or Manchester or New York where criticism and praise are more easily absorbed by the scale of the scene.

    On the flip side, perhaps there are reviewers who allow themselves to be influenced by personal reasons to the detriment of the star rating, and perhaps bands have found themselves with unfairly negative reviews based on a prejudgement held by the writer.

    But I’d really really like to believe that the majority of decent music critics in this country sit in the professional middleground. And how frustrating it must be for them to be accused of being curmudgeonly or begruding or negatively biased, simply by offering what they believe, in their heart of hearts, is their honest opinion on release X.

    I think bands have to remember, your buddies will always think you’re awesome, they’re your buddies, that what they’re there for. And your mother, well, she’ll be as excited about what you’ve produced here and she was the first time you did a big toilet by yourself in your potty. Coz that’s her job. But reviewers have no duty to be anyone’s buddy. They’ve a duty NOT to be anyone’s buddy. And I think that’s the plea in this whole thing. Objectivity always, subjectivity never. Even if it does hurt bands’ feelings.

    But hey, isn’t it great that this is being talked about at all?

  14. Danny from the Coronas here. Really enjoying the discussion Johnnie, believe it or not.
    Simon’s right, we’ve no problem being called a pop band or getting a bad review for that matter. I do, however, disagree with your original point that bands like us get a misguided sense of our own importance and I can say for absolute certainty that no one in our brief history has ever heralded us ‘national treasures’!
    The reason, for ourselves anyway, is simply that there is not much to misguide us. We’ve never actually really had any critical acclaim, in Ireland or anywhere else (thankfully, for our own sanity, it’s not something that bothers us) and i think this is where you are misinformed.
    The Irish press, in general, has reviewed our album quite unfavourably. Granted we got a decent review from HotPress (I do agree that they seldom give an Irish band a bad review) but to say that this wont give us a fair perspective on the big bad world and reviewers overseas is just silly. Of coarse one review is not going to leave us waiting with baited breath for good reviews all over the world! If reviews meant that much to us we would have packed it in a long time ago.
    Perhaps the Hotpress reviewer did have a gun to his head or perhaps his editor did ask him to give us an extra star because we’re local but, then again, maybe he just liked our record!
    Either way you’ll be glad to hear that good or bad reviews will not misguide us to self importance or, unimportance, as the case may be.

  15. Derek – there’s absolutely nothing ‘personal’ in this blog post and it’s not an attack on anyone either. It’s all about awareness – and this debate is doing exactly that.

    All publications are entitled to have their own editorial agenda and if Hot Press’s reason for being is to support the Irish music scene, that’s inifinitely supportable. I do think its review pages are very uncritical, though. My point was not to attack anyone at all. Read Fiona’s comment above, it sets out what I believe to be part of the difficulty. Too many hacks are mates with bands. It’s an inevitability in a small scene and it’s actually quite sweet, but it’s not healthy when what any music audience deserves is unbiased criticism. Jim Carroll had it absolutely right when he said that the relationship between a music hack and a musician should be the same as that between a dog and a lamppost.

    And if a publication’s agenda is to wholeheartedly, unequivocally support the Irish music scene (with news and interview coverage), then it ‘might’ look hypocritical or detrimental to the editors to then slate the same acts in the review section, especially when the magazine is sold and read overseas. However, I think honest criticism is absolutely necessary and, for a fortnightly mag which I do read every fortnight, I don’t see HP being critical enough of Irish bands who bring nothing new to the table. I don’t need to be any more specific than that because I’m not being personal here at all – I’m not sure what you’d rather I said, Derek.

    I feel that I am, and my past work proves, that I’ve been a huge supporter of the Irish scene and given credit where I felt it was due and damnation where that was deserved, as well as total indifference where that’s apparently what was being asked of me. That’s is all part of my job, really.

  16. Danny – thanks for joining this discussion and, like Simon, it’s very magnanimous of you to come here in peace. I love the internet, talk about community spirit.

    OK, so, I’m sure you realise that your review in SoundsXP was my starting point for this post and not a stick (or olive branch) to beat you or anyone else with. I simply feel that we in Ireland can exist in a bit of a twilight zone, or at least a small world that’s been created for us – one we either accept or try to look outside of and see where we fit in.

    I read, with great interest, the views of Coronas fans who lambasted Lauren Murphy’s review of your album on entertainment.ie, and when I talk about ‘sense of importance’, that counts as much to fans as to musicians themselves. The outcry over a very fair and well-written piece was nothing short of hysterical. It was as if the fans hadn’t ever considered there could be anyone who didn’t feel as passionately as they did in favour of the band.

    It also suggested to me that some of them simply didn’t listen to enough music to compare and contrast with. It’s not so much misinformation on my part, as a good starting point for a debate. I’m certainly not suggesting you or any other band (well, maybe Bell X1) are walking around being conceited in this world. And I take the point about your reviews – although, I wanted to look at The Coronas’ press page on your website but it wouldn’t let me in unless I signed up as a fan. Nice one ;)

  17. Hi Johnnie,

    Following on from all the previous honesty, I will out myself as the Chapters Manager. I’m not going to comment on any of the previous posting here, people are entitled to their opinion on music. I wouldn’t be a fan of Westlife but they have sold Millions of albums and obviously make millions of people happy with their music so who am I to judge?!?!

    What I would like to do is to invite you to The Chapters Album showcase gig in Academy 2 this Thursday night? The gig is sold out but if you are free we would love for you to come as our guest. The lads have recorded what I think is a very strong album and in general it is all new material. How you review the gig or not, is up to you afterwards, if your opinion doesn’t change, that is fine too.

    Let me know.

    Cheers,

    Shane

  18. What? And face the wrath of Chapters fans? How could I resist?

    Thanks, Shane, I’d love to come :)

  19. Johnnie,

    I’ll put you down +1 in case you might need the protection :)

    Shane

  20. I have to say, I’m amazed by how involved bands actually get when they’re mentioned in articles. I don’t think I’ve come across it before. I like it and I’m impressed by what they have to say and I think it’s good that bands defend themselves when they feel they are being misunderstood or wrongly accused.
    And maybe Johnnie might be put in his place on Thursday night at L’Academy. Or maybe not.

    Fiona, are you a jounalist? You’re writing is very impressive. I think you add a lot to this debate and unfortunately I don’t think that all critics can sit somewhere in the middle and write honest reviews. It’s just the way it is. X and Y always cross at some point in Ireland, particularly in Irish music, or so it seems. But with hacks like Johnnie, at least there is some hope and he seems to be striving for that.

    Johnnie, I wasn’t accusing you of having a personal thing against HP, I hope you didn’t take me up the wrong way. I agree with most of what you say – I just don’t see the positive reviews being bandied about for Irish bands willy nilly. I see harsh reviews in HP, people like Olaf Tyrant :op seems to be quite critical when he takes on reviews.

    If editors change reviews or star ratings, then I see a major problem – that’s what you seem to be insinuating in some of your earlier comments. And you’re closer to the hack scene than I am or ever will be so you know a lot more.

    Either way, good discussion. Interesting debate. I wish The Chapters, The Blizzards, The Coronas, Superjimenez, Ham Sandwich and any others I’ve missed the very best in their musical endeavours. It seems like a hard job for Irish bands: very few breaks and then when they do put something out, they’re slated by some, loved by others. Far from being misguided, I think these bands are automatically with their backs to the walls because Ireland is a very musically snobby country.

    Cheers…

  21. Hey What about me!! I’m good too!! Goodness this Blog has attracted alot of attention JC. More than any of your other ones.. Maybe you should slag off more Irish acts! Enjoy
    The Chapters! Their a deadly band… I saw them in November. all my mates told me to go and see em! I thought they were most excellent..

    Its funny they don’t sound like an Irish band.. Maybe they have changed & developed since you have seen em.. 2003 was 6 years ago! Nice discussion…

    RE

  22. Yes, Richie, you and your band are OK, I suppose ;)

    And you’re right, too – normally my readership is made up of Countdown viewers, potato crisp enthusiasts, ‘resting’ taxi drivers, care-in-the-community day-release patients, would-be Carol Smillie spankers and people trying to find information on mortuary attendants.

    How lovely to attract musical-types with something to say. Thank you all.

  23. Oh i like Countdown too!! Not the same since Carol Vorderman left!!
    Enjoy the gig Johnnie do let us know what you think!! Incidentally what Music are you into? It might explain why you dont like certain bands!

  24. If I was to tell you what music I was into, not only would it take forever, it wouldn’t go any way to explaining why I don’t like certain bands. Or albums, or performances – sometimes you can love a band’s records and think they’re shit live – and vice versa. My mind is never closed. As I said, I’m always open to changing my mind about anyone.

    For instance: I used to work with a guy called Matthew Bolger (you may have heard of him) some years ago, just after I moved to Dublin. I toddled along to see his band in Whelans with everyone else from work and, for the life of me, I couldn’t work out what the hell the band were supposed to be. I’ve since worked it out and now my kids won’t listen to anything else at bedtime. ;)

  25. Hi Derek, nope not a a journalist of any description (would’ve towed the line and admitted at the start if I was!).

    Nah, I work with words, but in a aural capacity. Thanks for your comment, you’re very kind.

  26. Holy Crap!

    Just looking back now – lotta responses, dont even have time to look at it all. Well it would be very magnanimous indeed of you to attend our gig Johnnie! For what its worth, though, I don’t think it’s about you all of a sudden liking our music. My point is that it doesn’t matter! You don’t have to like our music, no one does – that’s just a reality we live with and a risk we take, and we’ll still do it even if everyone slates us (although thankfully for us there are at least some people who like it!). I think it’s the same with any creative endeavour, people feel strongly about music/art/film/writing, and so they should.

    On the main point I agree with you wholeheartedly, journalists shouldn’t go easy on bands because they’re Irish. I dont know many journalists, but if it actually is editorialised so that Irish bands only get good reviews, I’d be a bit worried. Isn’t that mild fascism?!

    But on the flip side there is always subjectivity to account for, some people like stuff that others hate and vice versa, and cant for the life of them understand how they gave this or that a shite/great review (eg The Coronas, have gotten a bad review or two, yet they sell out Olympia and Ambassador and have recently signed a deal in Japan).

    From a musician’s perspective it’s healthy to know you cant please everyone, if you get slated (as we have been on numerous occasions) you just move on.

    Interesting discussion.

    (By the way is there any way of guaranteeing you’ll never review our album? I joke, I joke)

  27. First off, I don’t think there is any such thing as an objective music reviewer. Every single review I write is influenced by a great number of things; personal preferences, a bands previous release, hell, even the mood I’m in the first time I hear the record or go to the gig. However, never, in 4 odd years of writing about music for various websites both here and in the UK, have I let geography influence my review.

    The music scene in this country is too small (but I’ve yet to sleep with the drummer’s sister) for me to have never reviewed a band that I have some connection with. However, I wouldn’t let friendship influence anything I write. Giving a band a positive review just because you know them does their, and indeed your, credibility, no good whatsoever. It’s the journalistic equivalent of telling your wife that her arse doesn’t look big when it is, to quote Neil Hannon, the size of a small country.

    Now, I don’t claim to be Ireland’s best music reviewer (indeed, I laugh when people describe me as a ‘music journalist’ – I’m not, I’m a bloke that likes music and is compelled to write about it) but I do try my best to write fair and balanced reviews every time I critique a band/musician.

    Sometimes you take a great deal of stick for being honest (like a review I did of an Irish band for Drop-D that compared them to the Commitments – they subsequently threw a hissy fit over several mediums complaining that I shouldn’t have reviewed their ep if I didn’t like it – hmm, I still don’t think they know how music criticism works), but if your reviews are influenced by positive things (musical knowledge, personal taste, history with the band’s music) and not negative things (geography, they’re your mates) then you can be pretty confident you’ve done your job.

    PS. I do like the Chapters and Dark Room Notes…I hope that doesn’t nullify my opinion? ;-)

  28. Hi Johnnie

    Great debate, very interesting and as you say it’s very healthy for the Irish music scene that we’re even having this debate. The fact that bands, bloggers and fans can have it in such a level headed way is fantastic.

    I’m the manager of The Coronas I just wanted to let you know that the press section of our website is actually not accessible to fans. It’s only for press, promoters and industry heads of that sort. As there is a lot of materiel that is for available for download in it we had to make it password protected for obvious reasons.

    I’m sure you know working in the media there can some times be a ‘I need a high-res photo five minutes ago’ call. I’m not always at my laptop so it’s a tool designed to make my life a little easier.

    I’d be delighted to give you access if you’d like. My email address is submitted with this comment, so just drop me an email and I’d happily give all the info you need.

    Also we’re playing in the Academy on the 4th of June. If you’d like to pop along I’d happily stick you on the guess list?

  29. [...] the people giving me ear aches and dirty looks in my general direction, I think they should read Johnnie Craig’s article: ‘National Treasures. Or Not’ before annoying me any [...]

  30. The annoying thing as I see it is that England is basically ripe for the picking now, as I think British music is in a bit of a (20 year? 30 year?) creative trough right now. Unfortunately, the bands that have eyes on that sort of thing are shockingly conservative (too many Freshers’ Balls?), while many of those that could make an impact are in a state of insular, whingey defeatism.

  31. This thread was actually quite interesting until the bands and their managers and their members started getting involved. It’s turned into a typically Irish back-slapping routine. It was fine when one member got involved, but there seems to have been a steady stream since then and it’s a bit painful to read some of it.

    Johnnie, how was the chapters gig? Are thou converted?

    An t-Ecuador, good point but why do you think these bands are in a state of insular, whingey defeatism? Do you not think they’re willing to take their chance abroad but find it difficult because there’s no one from this country willing to stand up and really champion our homegrown talent abroad. Ireland has to rely on IMRO and some other broad from one of those other music agencies (can’t remember the name) for this. Severe case of WTF?????
    At least in the UK, it’s always been done by respected DJ’s. Who do we have? I’d say the closest we ever got was Dave Fanning but he’s just too interested in how his voice sounds on radio. We can hardly rely on the incredibly reluctant Dan Hegarty. Even Tom Dunne turned his back on irish music.
    Where do irish bands turn? For an Irish band, I’d say getting their music to Steve Lamacq, Jools Holland, Huw what’s his face and every other uk dj is about as easy as getting a letter of disgust directly into the hands of an Taiseach, Brian Cowen…

    I don’t know, correct me if I’m wrong…

    • Derek, sorry for the late reply, given that I’ve only checked back on the thread now. I wish I had a single convincing, coherent answer, but elements of my incoherent answer would include: the position of the Irish media on the periphery of the Anglosphere, the difficulty of translating success outside the Anglosphere (‘big in Japan’, Royseven in Germany) to inside, and the extent to which this is a music thing (we seem to punch above our weight actor-wise and so on). Will have a think about this tomorrow. If I remember.

  32. [...] ignited by this excellent post on Jim Carroll’s blog (which was itself partially inspired by this commendably honest piece Johnnie Craig posted back in April.) The question being debated, basically, is whether Irish bands get soft treatment at the hands of [...]

  33. [...] twisted the words of fellow IT scribe Jim Carroll, who in turn borrowed a few ideas from a post by Johnnie Craig. In terms of blog-post-incest, it’s a lovely little choo-choo train. But in terms of content, [...]

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