Outkast – Electric Picnic Preview

EP

Earlier this year when it was announced that Outkast would be reforming to perform a series of summer shows in honour of the 20th anniversary of their debut Southernplayalisticadillacamuzik, the music community at large completely lost their shit. And then when they were announced as headliners for Electric Picnic, I think it’s safe to say that many of us at Belfield FM lost our shit again (quite frustrating really as it taken us forever to find it after the first announcement). Perhaps the most original, entertaining, and creative Hip Hop groups of the last 20 years, the duo of Big Boi and Andre 3000 taking to the main stage on an as yet undetermined day (although realistically it’ll definitely be the Sunday) with what is sure to be an energy packed set of past classics? I think we were more overjoyed than the day we were allowed to swear on air again.

Judging from their setlists from shows they’ve already played this summer, we’re sure to see cuts from all of their 6 varied and consistently brilliant albums. From the high energy ‘B.O.B’, to the spaced out psychedelia of ‘Aquemini’, the Southern-fried hip-hop of ‘ATLiens’ to their earliest hit, the laid back ‘Player’s Ball’, Outkast have a wealth of tracks at their disposal to draw in the crowds at Stradbally. And yes, ‘Roses’ and ‘Hey Ya’ are going to draw in the masses as 2 of the strongest pop tracks of the last decade look set to bring the entire festival to a joyous sing along climax, but if you don’t know ‘Rosa Parks’ from ‘Ms Jackson’, remember that this is a band with more than one album, and there’s still a month for you to explore one of the strongest back catalogues in Hip-Hop history (and where better than this playlist I made during my stint as host of The Alternative Lunch on this very station, which you can find right here.

For fans it is a shame that Outkast have been so quiet since the relatively underwhelming film/album combo ‘Idlewild’ in 2006. While Big Boi has been producing consistently excellent hip-hop as a solo artist and Andre 3000 has stayed relevant with a string of guest appearances on Gorillaz and Frank Ocean tracks (as well as playing Jimi Hendrix in the upcoming biopic ‘All Is By My Side’), what makes the reunion so exciting is that the duo work much stronger together than apart, Big Boi’s tough gangster persona perfectly complementing the hyperactive sex-obsessed odd ball Andre 3000. Even after such a long hiatus, reports from festivals such as Coachella and Lollapalooza suggest that this is half hearted cynical attempt to cash in (no Eagles reunion be this), and that the duo are delighted to be back rapping together and wooing crowds to the ways of their Southern Fried Hip-Hop. If anything, EP being at the end of the summer means attendees will likely get one of the strongest performances out of the Atlanta band as they’ve had all summer to perfect their set.

Are there any surprises we can expect? Well other than the as usual bonkers outfits worn by Andre (my personal favourite is a turban, ice hockey jersey and short shorts combo), I have a hunch that with Kelis also on the bill for the 3 day festival, the queen of milkshakes herself may join the band onstage to perform her guest vocal on perhaps the silliest (but also awesome) track from The Love Below ‘Dracula’s Wedding’. Of course this is mere baseless speculation and supposition (unlike my opinion that despite what the chorus of ‘Roses’ my tell us, the toilets of EP will leave no-one arguing the fact that our shit does indeed stank), but one thing we can say for certain is Outkast are likely to be one of the best sets of Electric Picnic 2014.

Paddy O’Donohoe

Tickets for Electric Picnic (29th-31st August) are available now from Ticketmaster priced at €229.50

He’s a Loser Baby, So Why Should You See Him? – Electric Picnic Preview

EP
Bek David Campbell, or just ‘Beck’ to you and me, is one of the most highly regarded and highly rated artists to come out of the 90’s. At a time when Nirvana was showing the world the meaning of ‘meh’, Beck came along and twisted this grungy style into a more quirky meaning of ‘meh’. He also happens to be one of my favourite artist of all time, and I stress the word “artist”. So naturally, when I heard that he would be playing Electric Picnic in the summer, I needed to lay down for a few minutes and weep tears of joy.

The best thing about Beck’s style of music is just that. He doesn’t sound like anyone else ever did before and ever will. He has his roots in both country blues and folk style ‘Americana’, while also injecting whatever style of music is popular at the time. He got his big breakthrough in 1993 with the release of the Mellow Gold album, which would feature the smash hit single, Loser. Loser managed to capitalize on the grungy feeling that existed in America at the time with its chorus line “I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me?” becoming something of a slogan for the movement. But Beck never really liked to settle in with one ‘music scene’ and tried to change up his music as time went on. He would drop the song Loser off his set-lists, like Radiohead did with Creep, and went against the norm by releasing songs such as MTV Makes Me Want to Smoke Crack. Many at the time believed this to be noting but a marketing ploy, and many denounced Beck as a poser. He set out to prove them wrong.

His biggest album is arguably the 1996 album, Odelay. This album had a bit of everything. It had the left over of the sounds of Mellow Gold, mixed with some reggae, hip-hop infused folk. In short, it sounds like noting else. One of the best things about Beck is that none of his albums really sound the same, with a couple of exceptions, but you always know that it’s him. Something about his style just rings through each album. The big hit of the album, Where it’s at, remains one of my favourite songs, as does the hauntingly beautiful closing song, Ramshackle.

Beck would go on to work with famed Radiohead producer, Nigel Godrich, on his next two albums, Mutations & Midnight Vultures, the latter of which being the album that splits most fans. I for one think its one of the most fun albums to listen to, and proves, like some other of his songs, that you can just write a bunch of nonsense, and have it be an absolute cracker of a song, with the right beat.

Next, Beck would go on to write what is, undoubtedly, the greatest ‘Break up’ album ever written in Sea Change. This album will rip the very heart out of you. Every note, every word, has such pain behind it, yet it also leaves you with a hint of hope. It was so unexpected of Beck, yet it is often considered his greatest work. He would return to his more upbeat albums, with some excellent songs emerging in this period, such as my favourite Beck song, E-Pro, in which he samples the amazing beat to the Beastie Boys So What Cha Want. His newest album, Morning Phase, feels like a sequel to Sea Change, and captures the feeling and tone of the pervious album perfectly, with some stunningly beautiful tracks coming off it.

At Electric Picnic, it can be expected that the set list will be made up of mostly Sea Change and Morning Phase songs, which will probably make it the most sober and tear jerking show of the entire weekend. This may annoy some of his fans, who just want to jump around to New Pollution, but I’m sure that he will be busting out some of his older tracks, and maybe putting a new spin on some of them, which he tends to do. No matter what he sings, I’m sure that Beck will be the highlight of the weekend for me, and many others.

Rob Mangan

Tickets for Electric Picnic (29th-31st August) are available now from Ticketmaster priced at €229.50

22 Jump Street

After the overwhelming success of 21 Jump Street, it has come as no surprise to anyone that a sequel would come our way.  As always with a sequel, there is a risk of anti-climax. Thankfully, 22 Jump Street delivers as much comedic substance as the first.

Taking us back to the first movie, the comedy of the film is down to the main characters reliving their youth.  We find our two cops Jonah Hill, 30, and Channing Tatum, 34, being thrown back undercover, this time as a couple of University students.  Naturally this setting will be enjoyable and relatable to all University students out there. However it is more of an American frat house college there are still lots of enjoyable relatable moments for us all to enjoy.

As far as action movies go, 22 Jump Street has it all.  Explosions, guns, fast cars, and beautiful girls.  Nothing too cheesy, but totally enjoyable from start to finish. 22 Jump Street is one large, on-going gag about the idiocy and expense of sequels, and within that framework is a dazzling display of gags based on the brain vs. brawn divide of our heroes. That means thrilling action sequences full of exuberant nonsense — Tatum is like Spider Man for a couple of stunts — matched by wit and repartee that take no prisoners.

Tatum and Hill are in good company for this return engagement. Ice Cube is back as Captain Dickson, king of anger mismanagement, and fellow college students are played by Wyatt Russell, Amber Stevens and Jimmy Tatro, with stand-out turns from identical wiseacres the Lucas Brothers and psycho roommate Jillian Bell.

Overall, it must be said that 22 Jump Street was very enjoyable, funny.  At the same time, let’s hope we won’t be seeing a 23 Jump Street any time soon!

4/5

Sean Hanratty

Jack White – Museum of Modern Art

The Museum of Modern Art, located at Kilmainham in Dublin, has started to host gigs recently. Having a museum of modern art located in a building rooted in Dublin’s past, the Royal Hospital of Kilmainham, essentially means that when one visits they witness a mixture of the old and the new, looking at a present that is surrounded and informed by the past. In many ways these are traits that one might apply to Jack White, formerly of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather, whose sound incorporates multiple styles and genres, and changes regularly, yet is always rooted the delta blues of times past. In the Museum of Modern art he could not have found a more appropriate setting.

Before White and his band took to the stage British duo The Kills, consisting of guitarist Jaime Hince and singer Alison Mosshart, warmed up the crowd with a set consisting of guttural blues based grooves. The Kills normally use a drum machine, and while this wasn’t totally eschewed, they where backed by two drummers for last nights show. This added an almost tribal element to their already visceral sound. Between Hince’s feedback laden, noise rock solos and Mosshart’s banshee wail, The Kills made sure that they didn’t go unnoticed, and they where well received by the large crowd that had turned out, despite the weather. By the time they left the stage, the crowd was suitably primed for what was about to follow.

A number of people where quite anxious before White took to the stage. When White last visited our shores he was touring behind his solo debut, Blunderbuss. This was a taunt and relentless album that was driven by his then recent divorce, and it had a haunting effect on the listener. His most recent solo effort, Lazaretto, released about three weeks ago, is a more bloated and self indulgent affair, and one might fear that this could spill into his live show. White is preceded by his band on stage, who immediately start jamming. White then made his entrance, staring down and the crowd as he slowly put a tie on. This entrance didn’t exactly allay fears. White immediately launched into High Ball Steeper, a blistering instrumental from his most recent album. As the crowd stated to chant the guitar lines back at him, a smile started to appear on his face. This continued during the second song, the White Stripes Dead Leaves on the Dirty Ground, and midway through the third song, the title track from his most recent album, the tie came off and White thanked the crowd for being so enthusiastic despite the abysmal weather. He then launched into a Tom Morello influenced solo (the first of many throughout the evening), and the gig kicked off properly. White clearly appreciated the crowd’s enthusiasm, and seemed to channel that into his performance, attacking his guitar with an abandonment that was truly astounding. Backed by a five piece band one might feel as though White runs the risk of lacking spontaneity, of being too structured, but thankfully this was not the case, with White and his band being as raw and aggressive as the White Stripes where in their heyday.

On Saturday White will sub headline the Glastonbuy festival in England, bridging the space between Robert Plant and Metallica. In many ways his performance in the Museum of Modern Art illustrates why. He can comfortably shift between heavy garage rock (High Ball Stepper, Old Enough, You don’t know what love is, you just do what your told), but he’s also a dab hand at country and blues. In a move that shows both a willingness to take risks and to provide a genuinely unique experience, many of his classics are worked to sound as if they where country songs. This was a bold move, but Hotel Yorba, Fell in love with a Girl and Missing Pieces are all the more memorable for it. The sheer musicality of his band was something to behold as well. This was highlighted during the White Stripes Ball and Biscuit and the Raconteurs Top Yourself, both dropped relatively early in the set. Ikey Owns, Fats Kaplin, Daru Jones, Dominic Davis and Lillie Mae managed to turn these songs into thrilling ten minute blues jams that risked verging into chaos, but remained tight and interesting. Elsewhere songs like Just One Drink and Hello Operator, a solo song and a White Stripes song, sound like how the Stones and AC/DC must surely have sounded back in their heyday. White even finds time to pay tribute to other artists, performing a snarling cover of I Wanna Be Your Dog by garage rock heroes The Stooges just after Icky Thump and incorporating a verse of Where It’s At, by that other great postmodern bluesman Beck, during Steady as She Goes.

Though White constantly talks about wanting to create a spontaneous and unpredictable performance, certain aspects of the gig seemed inevitable. When Alison Mosshart joins him on stage it felt almost obligatory (they where in the Dead Weather together). Although the crowd erupted as the iconic riff to Seven Nation Army, it felt as though the song was only being featured because its impossible to imagine it not being preformed. Despite that, White managed to keep things fresh. As the riff faded, many though the gig was over, but this was not the case. The Kills came back on stage, and the audience was treated with an acoustic version of the old blues standard, Good Night Irene. About halfway through the PA was cut off, which prompted White to stand as far forward as he could on stage and to serenade the final few lines to the crowd. It was at this point that the physical toll of the gig was noticed, with the rain, wind and each other having battered the audience for nearly two hours. Well played Mr. White, well played.

Adam Duke

Black Coffee – Bord Gáis Energy Theatre

Black Coffee Agatha ChristieThe Agatha Christie Theatre Company

23rd to the 28th of June

€17.50 – €45

Bord Gáis Energy Theatre

“I was brought up to always suspect the least likely person” says the play’s flighty Barbara Amory, niece of the victim, while speculating upon the death of her uncle. These are wise words when approaching any work of Agatha Christie’s, where red herrings abound, but the quote may also aptly describe one casting decision by Black Coffee’s producers.

Last year David Suchet, the Poirot of our generation, sleeked the famous Belgian detective’s moustache for a final television outing. Having played the role for 25 years he dominates the current understanding of what Poirot should be and any actor now stepping into the part, be it on stage or television, will be aware that they need to break with any preconceptions held the audience. But as demonstrated by Suchet himself, who came in on the heels of Peter Ustinov, change can come and can be wholly welcomed.

In this touring production by the Agatha Christie Company it is Jason Durr, the Heartthrob from Heartbeat, who portrays Poirot. At first I was thrown by his appearance – handsome, lean and not at all what I thought the detective to be – but the audience was quickly won around by his charming and masterful performance. Durr shows a real talent for engaging the viewer and making them feel as if they are in on the joke with him, whilst remaining haughtily above the shenanigans surrounding him on stage. His calm style and wry humour work perfectly against the heightened dramatics of the rest of the superb cast.

So while not physically what one would presuppose to suit Poirot, Durr shows remarkable flair and creates his own wonderful version of the detective. Perhaps Durr is as he describes himself – “a character actor in a leading man’s body.

The play itself is everything you would expect from Agatha Christie. Prior to both the act of murder and appearance of Poirot, intrigues saturate the art deco style salon where all the action takes place. Lucia, the beautiful, young and naturally mysterious young Italian wife of Richard Amory comes on stage in a state of distress, the apparent cause of her unease being the arrival of a “friend” from her home land. Concurrent to this Sir Claud Amory, her father-in-law and a famous inventor, has discovered that a formula he was working on has gone missing and has called upon one Hercule Poirot to investigate the theft (a poor decision given Poirot’s role as a Herald of Death).

The Black Coffee of the title provides the audience with both dark humour, as characters morbidly joke about poisoning one another, and a clever murder weapon. The coffee, which has apparently been poisoned, changes hands so often that, while taking place before the eyes of all, no one can be sure who did what and why. Leads are pursued in a puppy like fashion by Poirot’s hapless English friend Captain Hastings, played with aplomb by Robin McCallum, while other characters such as the quiet Raynor offer seemingly sensible possibilities, leaving the audience in doubt of motives and causing coincidental happenings to appear more meaningful.

The entire production is slick and enjoyable, with a beautiful set, eerie suspenseful music and gorgeous costuming. The tension of investigation is punctuated by wonderful comics moments, notably those involving Liz Goddard’s gossipy maiden aunt Caroline Amory and Felicity Houlbrooke’s flippant Barbara Amory, a girl with who delights in the sensational and who takes a shine to Captain Hastings, temporarily leading him astray.

If you are looking for easy entertainment and a cast that seems to be having as much fun as it gives to the audience then get yourself to the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre this week.

Una Power

“No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance State” – Glenn Greenwald

Glen Greenwald, free lance journalist and blogger, was intimately involved in the publishingof N.S.A files by the Guardian on the fifth of June 2013. In his book “No Place to Hide Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance State”, he combines a recital of his gripping story along with considered meditations on privacy and the role of the media in today’s world resulting in a worthwhile read both for those with an interest in the Edward Snowden leaks and for those whose interest has not yet been sparked.

The book begins as a real life tribute to a classic espionage thriller. Code names, secrecy and encryption abound. Greenwald recounts how his relationship with Mr. Snowden began and developed and how this culminated in an abrupt trip to Hong Kong and the publishing of top secret N.S.A material. The story is, at points electric; filled with suspense and novelty reminiscent of cold war tales like “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”. In Hong Kong, for example, Snowden inconspicuously held a Rubik’s cube to identify himself as the party met at a statue of a crocodile. Recounted in a pithy manner, such antics necessarily illicit enthral. However as the book progresses, the true gravity of the situation becomes clear. The released files to which the second of four chapters is dedicated are disturbing. The mammoth scale of N.S.A surveillance is a modern phenomenon, unprecedented in its breadth.

Given the intricate nature and depth of the material, it is hardly surprising that Reading through the compilations of data proves cumbersome at points. Though not as friendly to the casual reader, this low down on the intricacies of what has been revealed is one of the more rewarding aspects of the book. The secret data collection programmes exposed by Snowden are inspected in a meaningful and meaty way with illustration from leaked N.S.A graphs and slides.

Greenwald devotes the latter half of the book to a discussion on the philosophical and practical repercussions of the revelations. Meta -data collection is an unresolved and contentious issue. The critics face an established, strong wall of defence from politicians, senior civil servants and broad sections of the media, not to mention a large portion of the American public. The defence contends that allowing vast programmes like these to continue in secret is pivotal to national security and global stability. Greenwald’s two cents on the matter provides thought provoking arguments as to the illegitimacy and inefficiency of such practices. Arguing that the balance between national security and intrusion of privacy is askew, he recommends that a new balance must be struck where individual privacy is attributed more weight. Perhaps these are the ramblings of an idealistic college student who is a little too forcefully smitten with the concept of power in non-cooperation but personally, I found the refined passion and shrewd disparagement of the establishment to be rousing.

When Snowden was initially interviewed by Greenwald, Ewen Macaskill (a reporter for the Guardian) and Laura Poitras (a documentary maker) he claimed that his biggest fear was apathy, that the world would nonchalantly shrug and there would be no concrete results to his actions. However, this possibility did not materialise and today there is an active debate taking place all over the world. The lens through which we interpret privacy is being refined and reconsidered. Does the reality of internet communication today encroach on our traditional understanding of privacy? What do we expect of our Governments with regard to transparency? There is a sense that a hiatus has been reached wherein these questions, both relevant and pressing have space to be addressed. A future timeline which seemed to be determined has splintered and that in and of itself is invigorating.

There is a possible argument to be made that perhaps this book attempts to do too much and in the process lightens its blows. However, it is a journalistic piece and in its intended purpose, that is to provide a considered overview of the effect and significance of the Edward Snowden files, it is triumphant. A reader need have had no previous exposure to the controversy to glean value from it. Stirring, here is a book that informs and if you’re not careful might just inspire.

Bróna Ní Chiaráin

Clean Bandit – “New Eyes”

Clean Bandit A-SideYou know Clean Bandit, but you don’t know them. Maybe you were at their recent gig in Dublin, or you saw them at the UCD Ball. Still, the group are relatively unknown, having exploded onto the music scene in February with their chart topping single “Rather Be”. Though “Rather Be” isn’t their first single, it’s certainly their most successful scoring them Number 1 in 15 countries and topping the European charts. The follow up single “Extraordinary” has failed to perform quite so spectacularly but nevertheless is a solid example what you’re going to get from the group’s first offering New Eyes.

The album opens with “Mozart’s House” a synth infused classical belter with lyrics stemming from the groups days playing together at Jesus College, Cambridge. As openers go, this is about as good as it gets when it comes to setting up the listener for what’s to come. “Extraordinary” the previously mentioned second single is up next. The album version of the track opens with a string intro which feels contrived and unnecessary before trademark synths lead into soaring choruses. “Dust Clears” slows things down a little with more sombre lyrics and a groovy disco bass line. The synths here get a little trippy, but not so much as to detract from what’s going on around them.

Onto the big gun, “Rather Be”. You’ve heard this tune, you know it, you love it. Put it on and it’s about the hookiest thing you’ll hear all day. Pure radio gold. As a follow up to the chart topper, we get “A+E”. Again, the group have chosen to include a brief string intro which doesn’t particularly add anything to the piece, bar taking your mind off the powerhouse that came before. “A+E” has a pronounced Caribbean feel with bouncy synths and a solid disco undertone, this is a great example of Clean Bandit working closely with heir guest vocalist and making them feel at home. This can be heard again in “Come Over” which is more of a poppy number with a reggae infusion. Synthy strings and descending chromatic scales make for a catchy tune.

Cologne” fires up the second half of the album with fast-paced, dissonant lyrics which come together for a massive, soaring chorus. These soaring choruses are a big stylistic win. “Telephone Banking” is by far the most personal track on the album. A broken hearted love letter from vocalist Love Ssega to Grace Chatto, the group’s cellist, there are layers and layers of vocals with synth accenting strings for a big sound. Definitely one of the catchier tracks here, don’t be surprised if you see it released as a single in the near future. Clean Bandit shows their hospitality once more with “Up Again”. There’s a pronounced RnB feel here with synths chasing vocals and all building up to powerful choruses.

Heart on Fire” is a pumping dance track with synths taking pride of place. This track has cracking potential as a club anthem, expect remixes. Lots of them. “New Eyes” takes a lot of liberties. If there’s ever an opportunity to get a bit weird, it’s with the title track. The group have taken this on board and run far, far away with it. Pounding bass, dissonant synth and fast vocals have this track standing miles apart from anything else you’ll find on this record, and that’s not a bad thing. “Birch” draws us to a conclusion with big vocals building up into a ghosty ballad. Off beat drums accent the basic vocals for a powerful finish. “Outro Movement III” ties up New Eyes with a trippy 8-Bit-esque mix of “Telephone Banking” fading to soft strings and then to nothing.

New Eyes is a solid first album. A recent interview with Clean Bandit in The Guardian went to great lengths to point out that overdoing the string thing and pumping out rehashed versions of “Mozart’s House” would do them no favours. The finished product is anything but, and Clean Bandit has seemingly gone the way of Damon Albarn with his approach to Gorillaz’ Plastic Beach. Guest vocalists are the cornerstone of each piece, making for a varied and creative record. It’s worth noting that Clean Bandit has a relatively DIY approach to what they do. The group have self-produced music videos to accompany many of the tracks on the album, and the majority of them are impressively well made. Definitely worth a look if you want to get more of a feel for what they’re up to.
8/10

Seán O’Reilly