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Militant sounds from Civilian. Also, Camp Thunderbird - the feelgood story of the summer.
Eamonn McCann, 08 Sep 2005
"We’re better off not knowing,” sings Caoimhin Logue in 'Almost But Not Quite', but he makes good use of what he knows already and already knows most of what he needs.
Logue is singer and song-writer with Civilian, a band I chanced on a few weeks back when I wandered into the Verbal Arts Centre, Derry and caught their last song and a half, the half being a crackle and blast of ‘Sex Sells’, which is what sold me.
To say that they were somewhat chaotic at the City Walls venue is not a disservice – the chaos being partially on account of half the 50-strong audience milling on-stage (not that there was a stage), and also because they’re perhaps partial to the chaos theory of musical advancement. What mattered was that they crashed and banged and slashed and burned in a swaggery swathe through the enfolding mayhem with an evident shared delight and a devilishly-hidden discipline. Flailing abreast for the finishing chord, they hit the last note on the simultaneous instant, four-facedly flashing a single broad smile. “That’s a proper band, now,” offered Stephen from the Post Office beside me. “A proper band.“
They’ve produced an EP, Breaking Down the Barricades, to confirm their propriety. They’ll doubtless make more accomplished recordings in the stretch of time they have ahead: guitar breaks won’t always be recorded from two floors up in the house next door. Each of the four songs has palpable intent, suffused with idealism and threat, lyrically intriguing in a way that‘s either subtly poetical or fucking with your head just for the sake and the fun of it.
Songs of their age and time and place. Could mostly be about the peace process, or being pissed at too-dutiful parents, or a love-crush. Or, and more likely, none of the above. It doesn’t matter what songs are about as long as they‘re meaningful: “We’ve fallen at the feet of things that we can’t escape/We were motionless until our silence made us restless/I was confident in my ability to choose these opportunities for us/Your reassurance doesn’t reassure me anymore, yet your advice is/So hard for me to ignore…Some things we’re better off not knowing like/When we’re almost but not quite there.”
The choice of the clutch is ‘Never Too Late To Start Again’, a song to heat your ardour and razor your heart, sung in manner that manages both plaint and anger, confidently structured and melodic withal. “We owe you nothing new but picture-perfect nonsense/Talk slowly, you’re confusing me/Your politics goes right through my head.”
Caoimhin is off to study music at the Magee campus of the University of Ulster, so he can stay in Derry while Brendan Doherty, Brendan Austin and Stephen Butler finish their final year at St. Columb’s, an institution which, in the sparks of its abrasion with the material world, has produced two Nobel Prize-winners, a Glasgow Celtic manager and Phil Coulter, but never, that I know of, anything rock and roll. So they’ll all be in town for another year at least and then will have to persuade one another to stay on somewheres some more.
Who’s to say how they’ll go? Intimations of genius soar to heaven like a rocket, fall to earth like a stick. But there’s a directness here that’s daring to a degree, and matched by the spirit of the music that carries it. The auguries are set at alluring.
Are they breaking down the barricades to get at an enemy, or an enmity? “We’ve been used again, but I’m holding on/Time for one more lie before they walk right by/Stepping out of line might get us noticed/Now we’re lost again, but we’re holding on.”
Hold on tight, to whatever.
What with all the war and wickedness in the world and the rancid palaver of Paisleyites, Provos and Progressive Democrats at home, we don’t often chance upon a totally positive, spiritually-uplifting, glowing-with-good-news story. So imagine my joy when I discovered Camp Thunderbird.
Even as I write, the new owners of the attractive 70-acre Arizona property are picking up the spent shells which litter what’s left of the old firing range, removing the camouflage outfits still hanging in the bunkhouse and generally making themselves at home.
Just a few months ago, Thunderbird was the headquarters of the Arizona Guard (AG), a militia determined by force if necessary to keep illegal immigrants from sneaking across the Mexican border two miles away.” We are going to close the border with machine-guns,” owner and AG boss Casey Nethermost told a TV station.
Camp Thunderbird is now the property of two Salvadoreans, Alfredo Mancía Gonzáles and Fátima del Socorro Leiva Medina. In March 2003, they’d made it across the border into neighbouring Texas and were caught by militiamen on a ranch in Hebbronville. The militia group included Nethercott, who had travelled to Hebbronville from Arizona to support colleagues who feared that Texas was about to be overrun. The Salvadoreans testified that Nethercott had threatened to shoot them and had beaten Mancía with a pistol.
When the case came to trial last April, the jury deadlocked. However, prosecutors had meantime discovered that Nethercott had served time in California for assault. As a felon, he’d had no right to carry a gun. Caught bang-to-rights, he was banged up for five.
Mancia and Medina would have been deported as illegal immigrants back in 2003 had the Southern Poverty Law Centre not filed a damages suit against Nethercott and two other men, claiming that they were suffering post-traumatic stress. Nethercott appears foolishly not to have taken this case seriously, and entered no defence. A judgment of $850,000 was made against him – far more money than he now had hope of raising from his Fort Worth cell. What he did have was Camp Thunderbird, which the court turned over to Mancia and Medina.
Last month, the governors of Arizona and New Mexico declared a full-scale state of emergency because of the influx of illegal immigrants and an alleged rise in related crime along the border. But Mancia and Medina aren‘t bothered. As legal owners of Camp Thunderbird, they are now fully entitled to residency in Arizona, and to bring immediate relatives to live with them. I do hope they come from big families.
And talking of Texas and gun-toting extremists…A couple of weeks ago I hailed Lance Armstrong as one of the true heroes of our time, an athlete nonpareil, a charismatic leader of progressive thought and expressive of the zeitgeist of the golden epoch on the brink of which our trembling world is poised. I mentioned his opposition to the war on Iraq. Now, I see, he’s been for a bike ride with “my good friend” Dubya Bush around the war-monger’s holiday spread in Crawford.
I sincerely apologise. I now realise that Lance Armstrong is a fraud and a drug-cheat, whose so-called accomplishments in bicycle contests are, like his opinions, of no account whatsoever.