- 21 Jul 18
Manic Pop Thrill: The Academic Purvey Pure Pop To A Packed Park. Pat Carty Feels It Too.
Thanks to traffic/parking/the dog ate my homework/etc. I managed to miss nearly all of Sorcha Richardson’s opening set, which was unfortunate. A mate recommended her after she opened a rainy main stage on the Sunday of this year’s Longitude Festival. What I did catch was her closing song, ‘Midnight Whistle’, which starts off as a pulsey lullaby before the drums kick in. I was humming and tapping my toe before I realised it’s a song about someone dying in hospital. If a singer/songwriter can get you nodding along to a lyric like that, then she’s on to something.
London four-piece Flyte – the name comes from an Evelyn Waugh character, dontchaknow – got their break when a video clip of them performing Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’ went viral, and you can certainly hear the influence of that West Coast sound, filtered through bands like Cosmic Rough Riders and The Feeling. They’ve got that four part harmony thing down too, on opener ‘Victoria Falls’ from last year’s debut album, The Loved Ones, and ‘Closer Together’, which attempts to mix it up with some quasi 80s keyboards. ‘Moon Unit’ wouldn’t disgrace Teenage Fanclub, ‘Archie, Marry Me’ is performed a cappella, bravely, and ‘Cathy Come Home’ and ‘Faithless’ strive for that magic that the best solo McCartney records have. They probably own a copy of that first Jellyfish record too. Now, I’m not putting them in the same bracket as those artists mentioned, but they’re at least heading in the right direction, although some of it sounded a bit samey, they could take it easy with the shiny keyboards, and they need to learn how to work an audience a bit more. The bass player has lovely hair though.
The Academic walk on to a disco version of the Star Wars theme, which is really what every band should do. How many po-faced chancers would have their “serious performances” vastly improved by such a move? I could name a hundred. Straight into ‘Bite My Tongue’ but there’s a problem with Craig Fitzgerald’s guitar. Fuck it, take it off and engage the crowd instead. Good move, and a mark of the confidence earned from a few years of non-stop work. ‘Permanent Vacation’ is falling over itself to get to the chorus – New Order after an ennui-ectomy, and during the Strokesey ‘Television’ Fitzgerald goes into an ill-advised kicking “dance” that’s somewhere between the auld lad in The Treasure Of Sierra Madre and your aunty throwing shapes to Garth Brooks. He does it with a huge grin and the crowd – tonight’s show is properly sold out - eat it up. I have to slap the smile off my own face.
My twelve-year old daughter– a big Academic fan – and I are both singing along to ‘Mixtape 2003’ – Jaysus, what age were you lads? Two? The thing is neither of us had heard it before and she reckons, quite correctly, that’s the sign of a good song. ‘I Feel It Too’ combines new wave verses with the big, big chorus – the winning blueprint to this year’s impossibly bright Tales From The Backseat debut album.
There was plenty of online grumbling when The Academic got the nod to support the Rolling Stones in Croke Park a few months back – why wasn’t it someone more “rock’, etc. All jealous bollocks of course, they more than merited their selection. When Fitzgerald talks about it, you can tell he still finds it hard to believe. He jokes about blowing them off the stage, which they didn’t, of course, but they gave a bloody good account of themselves. We get a chorus or two of ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ in tribute, and it warms the heart of this ancient Stones fan to see this mostly young crowd singing along. Just like the band themselves, the audience are far too busy having a good time to worry about anything. They’re waving phones in the air, up on each other’s shoulders, and singing and shouting along with every word, exactly the way it’s supposed to be. Fantastic.
Most of them can probably identify with the dilemma at the heart of ‘Fake ID’ – Craig, who does indeed look about twelve, can’t get into the club – but the song makes being left outside sound like much more fun. Dean Gavin gives it his best Clem Burke on the drums and the pinched guitar riff from Matthew Murtagh, who seems to be taking hairstyling tips from Robert Smith, is so simple, it’s perfect.
During ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends?’ I’m stood beside the beaming Carl who manages the band with his wife Mary. He’s laughing when he remembers the band playing to twenty people in a pub in Mullingar just a few short years ago. He tells me they left the next song, which might be called ‘Smalltown Lover’, off the album as they didn't need it – other bands would sell their Ma for something half as good. ‘Northern Boy’ might be their “serious” song, but they still casually drop an epic chorus into it, and a run at The Buzzcocks’ ‘Ever Fallen In Love’ has my mate Danny M. and other “mature” audience members jumping up and down. The main part of the set finishes with the big single ‘Bear Claws’ – the one that they made that brilliantly simple Facebook video for, which got them properly noticed in the first place - but a song this insanely catchy doesn’t need any gimmicks to sell it.
They encore with ‘Girlfriends’ and ‘Different’ thanking everyone for all the support on their – Mullen Jr. alert! - “musical journey” and then, just to show how amazed they really are at what’s going on, they insist on having their photo taken in front of the crowd before they call it a night.
“Why aren’t we playing the Iveagh Gardens?” longer-in-the-tooth bands might protest. The reason is pretty simple. Brilliant pop songs that would knock the frown off the most miserable of mugs, bursting with infectious choruses, performed with the pure joy of being young and alive and getting to play. There’s no staring at the floor, no moaning, and no – the downfall of so many bands – worrying about what’s “cool”. Onwards and upwards.