- 16 Apr 01
How was it for you? The assembled Hot Press writers offer their own opinions on 1994 over the next five pages.
It is now undeniable that, collectively, the Irish Catholic clergy are a bunch of whoring, degenerate boozehounds. However, it would be wrong to tar every individual priest with the same sleazy brush. To be fair, the child molesters aren’t always drunks and most of the womanisers draw the line at sodomy.
1994 was yet another year of momentous upheaval in Ireland. The excrement has been meeting the air-conditioning with alarming regularity. At times, the prevailing atmosphere was reminiscent of nothing so much as that scene in The Birds when the schoolyard is silently but suddenly invaded by a portentous army of ravens. All manner of chickens, crows, parrots, hawks, doves and vultures have come home to roost during the past twelve months. Caws and coos fill the air, feathers flutter skyward and there’s a very nasty stain on the windscreen.
As ever, the banalities barked by our monkey-spank politicians consistently fail to address the changing realities. There’s always a dull moment with these people. Whenever they appear on TV, chanting their new mantra of openness, accountability and bags me the window seat on the government jet, most of us need regular calls from a paging service just to stay awake for longer than two minutes. And, another thing: why the hell is disgraced former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds forever banging on about the great strides that are being made in Northern Ireland? Is he doing PR for the tailoring industry up there or something?
Infinitely more unsettling than any of this, though, is the apparent inability of most of our artists, and specifically our rock artists, to engage themselves with the changes that are taking place in this society. This is a time of considerable excitement and flux in Ireland but you wouldn’t suspect that to listen to most of the rock albums released by homegrown acts this year. There are obvious and formidable exceptions but there’s also been far too much of the same old same old. Competent, solid, functional stuff but hopelessly derivative and irredeemably second-hand.
And, in so far as there is evidence of vitality in the so-called musical underground, it seems to bubble forth from a seething vat of resentment about other rock groups and the media, rather than from a genuine fomentation of anything more radical.
I’m not suggesting that bands should start writing songs called ‘Smells Like Hume/Adams’ or ‘What’s The Frequency Of Tax Fraud In The Beef Industry, Kenneth’. I also happily accept that there is always a place for the dumb, the depraved and the downright self-obsessed in any generation’s rock canon. I simply believe that at least some Irish songwriters should strive a little harder to reflect even scant flashes of the extraordinary national electrical storm that they must surely see all around them during these long, strange days.
Vision may be a little too much to expect from rock musicians but we are at least entitled to hope for eyesight.
P.S. The worst wounds of 1994 were not self-inflicted. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The year’s biggest artistic tragedies were the death of Bill Hicks and the demise of That Petrol Emotion. R.I.P. both.