Friday 23 February 2018

Good rock, ye merry gentlemen

There may not be too much festive cheer in the air right now but one thing which should lift the spirits of indie rock fans of a certain age is the prospect of seeing three of the most popular Irish bands of the 1990s on the same bill in a venue near you.

The Reverberation tour brings together Cork heroes The Frank And Walters and The Sultans Of Ping as well as Dublin shoegazers The Power Of Dreams for a nationwide Yuletide jaunt that rolls back the years to a time when our domestic music scene was in the rudest of health.

Hard to believe it's 20 odd years ago but the debut albums of each band created a splash not just here but across the water, and in some cases as far afield as Japan.

The Franks appeared on Top Of The Pops (ask your father) with singer/bassist Paul Linehan sporting a retina-burning orange shirt and made the cover of the then influential NME when their album Trains, Boats And Planes came out in 1992.

Though they wore their hearts on their (record) sleeves, the Franks had a sense of humour that was missing from some of their more po-faced peers (they were famously named after two local down-and-outs).

Signature song 'After All' still gets played at indie discos throughout the land, but frontman Paul Linehan can remember a time when he had to struggle to get heard.

"When we started initially, there weren't as many venues in Cork city as there are now," says Paul, who currently lives outside the town in Crosshaven. "We used to have to go to the outskirts of the city to get gigs. We used to have to pretend to be a cabaret band. We'd throw in the odd cover version . . . and then pretend that our own songs were cover versions -- just obscure ones! We got away with it at the time."

But The Frank And Walters are not merely mining a seam of nostalgia for the good old days, they have just released the last in their series of four seasonal singles and have a new album ready to go in the new year.

"Starting last spring, we released one single for every season, with a song called 'The Parson'. Then in the summer we released 'Let It Out'. Our autumn single was a song called 'The Clock'. And now this month we've a Christmas single, 'Song For A Future Love'. We're hoping it's more 'Fairytale Of New York' than 'Jingle Bells'!"

Oh not another Christmas song!

"Well, I didn't write it to order," says Paul. "It's not stereotypically about Christmas -- it doesn't mention sleigh bells or anything like that."

The Franks's fellow Leesiders, Sultans Of Ping, around the same time turned heads with their provocatively-titled album Casual Sex In The Cineplex. A heady mixture of cartoon punk and swamp rock, the band were a campy, southern concoction of The Ramones and the New York Dolls on a bubblegum high. Their geansai-seeking hit 'Where's Me Jumper?' gave them cult status and is also still a staple of Irish indie club DJs.

Lead Pinger Niall O'Flaherty, who's been based in London for some years, is looking forward to hooking up with his old muckers again.

"It'll be great to share a stage with these bands on this new tour. We're going to alternate who gets to headline each night, so no-one's nose gets put out of joint.

"To be honest, I get so nervous before playing gigs, I prefer to get our set out of the way early so I can then relax and enjoy watching the other bands."

Aside from paying tribute at the altar of Johnny, Joey and Dee Dee, Niall also reveals one of his seminal influences to be a lot closer to home than Rockaway Beach . . . "I adored The Golden Horde. I thought Simon Carmody was the coolest dude on the block and their sheer energy on stage was something to behold. There was no one doing what they were doing at that time in Ireland."

The Sultans' first new material in 11 years is the song 'Girlwatching', which comes with an appropriately steamy video featuring sex shops and prancing babes.

Finally, flying the flag for the actual capital city on the bill are the Power Of Dreams, who reformed last spring for the 20th anniversary of their breakthrough debut album Immigrants, Emigrants And Me and a new compilation out, 1989: Best Of was released yesterday.

The band, led by Craig Walker, were greeted with Beatlemania-type fervour when they played Tokyo way back when, and also received rave reviews in the NME.

There was a real sense that they represented the future of Irish rock when they signed to major label Polydor at so young an age -- Craig was still a teenager in school.

Craig -- who also released a solo album, Siamese, this year -- says he was overwhelmed by the reaction to the band's reformation.

"The POD shows in March went really well and the band was really touched by the genuine warmth shown by the fans," says Craig.

"What about the Franks and the Sultans? Yes, I really liked both bands and particularly the great singles they produced. I saw both bands live many times."

So there you have it -- three reasons to be cheerful this Christmas.

The new Frank And Walters single 'Song For A Future Love' is out now on FIFA. The Power Of Dreams' 1989: Best Of is out now. The Reverberation tour takes in The Academy, Dublin, December 23; INEC, Killarney, Co Kerry, 28; The Savoy, Cork, 29; The Royal Theatre, Castlebar, Co Mayo, 30; and Dolan's Warehouse, Limerick, 31.

Irish Independent

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