- 01 Apr 01
On this, the occasion of my last Demo Parade (yes, readers, the sad truth is that by the time you read this I will be back home in the United States) I thought it would be appropriate to look back on my reviews and pick out the ten best demo tracks of my year at Hot Press.
On this, the occasion of my last Demo Parade (yes, readers, the sad truth is that by the time you read this I will be back home in the United States) I thought it would be appropriate to look back on my reviews and pick out the ten best demo tracks of my year at Hot Press. The following list includes bands that I know will make it as well as ones that have the potential to do so with some time, hard work and a little bit of luck. Best wishes to all . . .
1. VALENTINE SMITH: 'Disappointing Mary'
Over the course of the year I've been given three tapes by this New York band and if you play all ten tracks available in sequence you have the makings of an absolutely fantastic debut album - no question (or even remixing) about it. With indie pop sensibilities and folky overtones, Valentine Smith have the potential to appeal to a wide-ranging audience and could easily have filled up this top ten list on their own with the likes of 'Back On Earth', a perfectly formed pop song, 'Little December', a rousing, brass-tinged track and the emotionally far-sighted 'Better Off Blind'. I can only look forward to seeing what the band can do live upon my return to the Big Apple.
2. THE NEW BRONTES: 'What I Just Told You'
A band I have heard nothing about since I reviewing their demo, but 'What I Just Told You' is so superior that I can still sing it to myself having sacrificed the tape to Anna Livia months ago. With smooth and uplifting songs the likes of which have rarely come my way in demo-land, Belfast's New Brontes behave like Jellyfish in that they suck references in from anywhere and everywhere. Hopefully not already members of the where-are-they-now club.
3. THE GROOVYTHINGS: 'Windowsill'
Nepotism, some would say, including an outfit I managed for a while in my top ten list, but I wouldn't have taken such an active interest if they didn't deserve such a position. A band whose wealth of ideas and constant progress amazes me, the Groovythings have an all too rare understanding of what makes good pop songs work. Developing at an incredibly fast pace, this Dublin band's next recorded work is sure to be even more of a treat and will undoubtedly prove that they have at last found their own voice. Now if only someone would give them the resources to record as fast as they write . . .
4. THE HITCHERS: 'I'm Wearing My Red Mohair Jumper Today'
A testament to the songwriting skills of Niall Quinn, 'I'm Wearing My Red Mohair Jumper Today' typifies everything I love about the Hitchers. It's deceptively poppy, marked by an ironic wit that rarely makes it into pop circles these days. It's also really the only Hitchers track that allows the lyrics the prominent role they deserve; they should do more like it.
5. SISTER MORPHINE: 'Ether'
The first band to send me a demo that made me want to go and see them live, Sister Morphine have graced my desk with many a fine track over the course of the year and have come a long way on the live front. Once a visually tame, if solid, live act, the band have incorporated slides into gigs, adding an extra visual element to already image heavy, vaguely psychedelic songs. Between vocalist Mark Bourke and songwriting guitarist Colin Murray the band have an unfair share of superior talent and have yet to record a dud to my knowledge. Now complete with a new bass player, the band are particularly likely to consolidate the fandom that was reflected by their last jam-packed Rock Garden gig.
6. MR NORTH: 'Infinite Angst'
A funk/metal/rap act from Dublin who boast impressive musical training and songwriting skills. Still only in their late teens, the band have been the subject of inordinate record company interest and prove that the Chili Peppers and co. have yet to exhaust the rock/rap genre's potential. While they'll have to fight hard against being written off as a teenage version of RHCP and inherently lack the political angle of, say, Rage Against the Machine, the band show admirable professionalism and maturity for their age, in addition to their undeniable musical talent. Lead singer Colin's voice is arguably the 8th wonder of the world.
7. CANDY APPLE RED: 'What's Happening?'
In the form of a classic four man guitar band, Dublin's Candy Apple Red craft splendid indie rock with a casual feel that makes you think the band were born to do this and nothing else. Good songs come easy for Cand Apple Red and frontman Dave Dorgan has recently come into his own. Why no one has taken these guys on board yet is a mystery to me.
8. LMNO Pelican: 'Call Yossarian'
An intense indie guitar band from Cork who have found a gem of a manager in A.J. Cotter (or should that be Father A.J.?), LMNO Pelican are likely to create their own Cork mania in the year to come. Fronted by an emotional fireball, the band build an intense wall of guitar sound, equipped with jagged choruses suitable for climbing. And fair play to them for releasing singles (on vinyl!) on their own, instead of sitting on their arses and waiting for some record company to do it for them.
9. THE COLOR PARTY: 'Come Down'
A grungy outfit from Waterford, the Color Party will have their work cut out for them if they're going to ride the grunge wave any further, but the progression from their first demo to their second is significant enough to suggest that the foursome just might do it. 'Come Down' is an absolutely savage song and if the band can match it's calibre (and learn to write a slow song or two) in the future, great things should be expected.
10. DR MONKEY: 'Can You Imagine'
A more standard hard rock group who fall just outside of my own personal tastes, Dr Monkey still managed to impress with their slick demo and live charisma. Already receiving record company interest on both sides of the water, the Wicklow band (yes, they have bands in Wicklow too!) know how to write radio-friendly songs without sacrificing any of their bite. Probably the most likely borderline metal act from Ireland to make good.
Runners up: 'Close Your Eyes' by Dublin's Bliss, 'Dream On' by Waterford's Freudian Slips, 'Whale Song' by Dublin's Foreign Correspondents, and almost anything by The Pumpdwellers from Limerick.
• You can hear the Top 10 demos as listed here on a special pre-recorded show on Anna Livia Radio, Dublin 103.8, with the fetching young McCarthy featured as a guest DJ, by tuning in to the City Limits youth affairs programme on Saturday 9th October between 10am and 12 noon in association with Hot Press.