Friday 15 November 2019

Radio: All aboard for the magical mystery tour of music

Tony Fenton
Tony Fenton
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

Songs in the Key of Life celebrates its first year on Today FM (Sun 9pm), which makes this as good a time as any for a little shout-out to an enjoyable show. It's a music programme with a difference: host Nadine O'Regan hands over the playlist reins to a guest, generally someone in arts or entertainment.

They pick out the tunes that have been important to them down the years, or meant something, or stuck in their memory banks for some particular reason. Then they use this as ingress to discussing the guest's life, work, thoughts and perspectives. Like many great ideas, it's a simple one - and works well.

Music is literally a soundtrack to your life (I know I always hum 'Ride of the Valkyries' when getting psyched up for a crunch foosball match at the local leisure centre). It's interwoven with our existence, whether we consider ourselves huge music fans or not. Music, really, is part of the human DNA, figuratively or (I suspect by this stage) literally.

There's a good spread of guests: everyone from Joanne McNally, Johnny Marr and Irvine Welsh to Neil Hannon, Cathy Davey and Alison Spittle. And as a former fixture on the now-defunct Phantom FM, O'Regan knows her music, which makes these conversations informed and informative, from both sides.

So happy birthday to her baby. (By the way, toddler years can get pretty gnarly, so brace yourself.)

Something similar was done a while back by The Tom Dunne Show (Newstalk, Sun-Thur 10pm). 'My Life in Music', which received a welcome rerun this summer, begins with Dunne playing whatever song was number one when his guest was born, then into their choice of tunes and general thoughts.

Again, a good selection of guests - it was poignant to hear the unmistakable voice of the late Tony Fenton again - and, as with Songs in the Key of Life, the idea is so simple and excellent, it can't fail.

And Dunne, as a former musician, understands music better than anyone. He gets why it means so much.

For all the genius of Callan's Kicks, one thing missing from radio comedy in Ireland is a sense of absurdity and even pointlessness (that's meant as a good thing, incidentally). Irish comics like doing satire, on stories in the news, big names making headlines or making an ass of themselves.

Which is fine and dandy, but personally, I get a bit tired of comedy that's "saying something" about current affairs. Sketch, a new show on Dublin City FM (Wed 3pm), is attempting something different - and doing a pretty darn good job of it.

Creator and writer Michael Cullen says he wants to "get away from what I'm seeing in Irish comedy at the moment: cliché, lack of imagination and the reliance on crudeness for easy laughs." He cites surrealist legends including Monty Python and The Goons as inspirations.

So we get trippy, funny set-ups such as the bratty entitled Millennial giving out to her parents in a 19th century hovel, the "Dubbalin in the rare oweld times" bore who insists there was a different word for everything back in the day, a sci-fi version of The Riordans and Glenroe in some bizarro alternate universe, and - my highlight - the Jane Austen-esque lady and gentleman haggling in a genteel manner over bootleg cigarettes on Moore Street.

Not all the gags land a direct hit, but most of Sketch is daft, clever, inventive, well-played and, ultimately, very amusing - the sort of comedy I'd write myself if I had the talent and/or could be bothered. The show runs for five more weeks.

Indo Review

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment

Back to top