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Made In Dublin
THE PUNDITS tend to get all sniffy about Aslan, but the fact is, there ain’t that much difference between the Northside quintet and the likes of Ocean Colour Scene or Cast or even Oasis – working class traditionalists specialising in whitebread Beatles values, an old fashioned adherence to live work, and a melodic but inarticulate speech of the heart.
Peter Murphy, 29 Sep 1999
THE PUNDITS tend to get all sniffy about Aslan, but the fact is, there ain’t that much difference between the Northside quintet and the likes of Ocean Colour Scene or Cast or even Oasis – working class traditionalists specialising in whitebread Beatles values, an old fashioned adherence to live work, and a melodic but inarticulate speech of the heart. Not that this writer is a fan of any of those acts, but you see what I mean: it’s all in the context.
Christy Dignam’s Bowie fetish aside, this lot have often been miscast – as far back as their overproduced but muscular debut Feel No Shame – as scouts capable of probing pop’s peripheries. For better or worse, they’re actually staunch song-men, strapping meat-and-potatoes buckos who could never fit in with the Kool Kids (apart from maybe Christy, who enjoyed his season in bloom before the disastrous firing ten years ago, thus embodying the very “fallen idol” figure so accurately cast in the ‘This Is’ video).
Both Pink Floyd’s hymn to Syd, ‘Wish You Were Here’ and the Stones ‘Angie’ are tackled at the end of this live Unplugged-style album, recorded at Vicar St. Both choices are convincing enough arguments for Aslan as classicists who’d have us talking out of the other side of our mouths if James Cameron elected to use a tune like ‘This Time’ at a key point in one of his blockbusters.
But that’s academic. Made In Dublin is a respectable, but never rip-roaring record, stocked with a lot of fair-to-middling tunes and a couple of great ones. The ear inevitably gravitates towards the titles with history: the evergreen ‘This Is’ (enhanced rather than handicapped by a two-tiered crowd participation passage), the defiant ‘Down On Me’ and ‘Crazy World’, which would remain as handsome an anthem whether attempted by Elton John, The Orb or a ragged-trousered busker on Henry Street.
But on that subject, you gotta question the acoustic set-up – this listener always preferred the five-piece at their fieriest, and while the strings ‘n’ tings are beautifully integrated into the band structure, particularly on ‘Hurt Sometimes’, one inevitably recalls Suzie Diamond’s killer line in The Fabulous Baker Boys: “It’s just parsley”. Aslan have always wanted for a strong musical voice to counterpoint Christy’s plaintive wail, and for the most part this format only amplifies that need.
In the end, we’re left with a baker’s dozen of curate’s eggs. Bet the gig was a laugh, though.