I haven't been too kind in my appraisal of Hot Press over the years. I guess I'll never be a fan of the magazine and its propensity to over-praise local music, and sometimes my criticism has extended to some of the title's better known journalists.
But it's time for some redress now. I've just finished the debut novel from Hot Press staffer Peter Murphy -- someone I've met the odd time on the beat -- and this is probably as good a forum as any to say how hugely impressed I was with it. John The Revelator is as assured a debut as I've read in years and Murphy has created a cast of characters that will live long in the memory.
The book is set in rural Ireland in contemporary times and centres around the relationship between the narrator, a sensitive, clever teenager with an unhealthy interest in parasitic life, and his Bible-spouting, good-hearted mother suffering from fading health. Their relationship is brilliantly captured, often movingly so.
Clearly, Murphy has been heavily influenced by the world created by Patrick McCabe and one of the characters, the nosey, creepy Mrs Nagle isn't a million miles away from The Butcher Boy's sinister Mrs Nugent. But the novel has a singular quality too and Murphy's hyper-real rural Irish world is captivating.
Fellow Wexford writer Colm Toibin and Roddy Doyle donate generous quotes on the dust jacket, so Murphy is in exalted company indeed. And the praise isn't misplaced -- this is a startling first novel, a remarkable statement of intent. It's published by Faber and well worth investigation.
- The horrendous war-mongering sanctioned by the Israeli Government in recent months has inflamed most right-thinking members of society. Thousands of innocent Palestinians have been killed.
Next weekend sees an eclectic collection of local musicians playing a pair of shows in Dublin's Vicar Street with all proceeds going to Tuesday's Child, the Irish-based charity which is helping children affected by the bombing in Gaza. Among those playing for free are Neil Hannon of Divine Comedy, Lisa Hannigan, Liam O Maonlaoi, Mary Black and Kila.
Here's Neil Hannon on why he's getting involved: "The all-out war waged by Israel on the men, women and children of Gaza has been utterly horrific, wholly disproportionate and tantamount to a war crime. When will the world's leaders stop talking and start acting to prevent the needless deaths of more children."
Tuesday's Child founder Orla Sheehan, who was instrumental in bringing out the Tuesday's Child fundraising album last year, says: "We are devastated by the recent conflict and the slaughter of so many innocent children and young people. I visited the strip in September 2008 and have never witnessed a violation of human rights like Gaza.
"Since December 27th, some of the children we were feeding have been killed; others have died slowly of starvation and dehydration. Hundreds of others are seriously injured, many are orphaned and have lost siblings and thousands have been left homeless. No child in this conflict will be left unscarred."
Tickets cost €25.
- Those fine purveyors of the classic pop song, Pugwash, have signed a five-year UK deal with Ape, the label run by XTC mainman Andy Partridge.
Partridge and the Dublin band, led by the irrepressible Thomas Walsh, are no strangers, having collaborated together frequently in the past.
The first fruits of the union will be Giddy, a career-spanning collection of songs, which Partridge is selecting. That will be followed later in the year by the cross-channel release of 2008's Eleven Modern Antiquities (the band's consistently strong third album), which will include bonus tracks and new artwork.
- RTE's new digital and internet rock radio service, 2XM, has added two new shows to its schedule: Making Waves, airs every Monday at 7pm (repeated Thursday at 11am), offering "guaranteed Irish content"; BalconyTV Radio Hour, more intriguingly, will broadcast on Tuesdays at 8pm and boasts a wireless version of the live web sessions that have become legends in their own lunchtimes.
For those not in the know, BalconyTV is the brainchild of Stephen O'Regan, Tom Millett and Pauline Freeman. Over the past few years, the trio have coaxed a huge number of local talents to play acoustic shows on their titular balcony which can be found in Dame Street, in Dublin's city centre.