Tuesday, March 8, 2011

This Far, and No Further

Last night, I feel like I came to a grim realisation about the success paradigm in Irish music. What made this epiphany even grimmer was the fact that it took place at a Fight Like Apes gig, a band that I have enjoyed, immensely, for a number of years.

If Quentin Tarantino joined a punk-pop band with a hermaphrodite Karen O and an aspiring Mexican wrestler, they would be Fight Like Apes. Fight Like Apes are two parts fun and three parts pop culture and the other parts come and go as they please. In 2009, they released their debut album Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of The Golden Medallion and every 20-something in Ireland promptly fell in love with them. They didn't sound like anything the Irish indie scene had come out with before, and that was exciting. They gigged anywhere and everywhere, and everywhere they went the same excitement seemed to surround them. These guys are gonna be huge one Hipster would passionately whisper to another. I know, would whisper back the other, now let's talk about Broken Social Scene some more. 

With FLA there was always this sense of gathering momentum, that they were just on the brink of something massive and they were going to take us all with them. Eventually they released a second album, the brilliantly titled Body of Christ and The Legs of Tina Turner. And well, basically it was the same sort of thing. The fun and pop culture was still there, but something was missing. When people talked about the new album, they agreed it was good, but something was strangely amiss about how they were talking about it. No-one was really willing to admit how even though it was everything the first album had been, something about it was profoundly unsatisfying.

It wasn't until I saw them last night in the Bróg that I finally realised what was going on. Irish bands are only ever cool when they're on the cusp of being great, because after that, there's simply no place for them to go. Snow Patrol went on to great things, but let's face it, if every Irish band that we swear are going to break through actually broke through, then Director and The Delerentos wouldn't still be playing the Mitchelstown festival every year. So instead of having their big NME moment, Irish bands spend their entire careers being "up-and-coming" but never up-and-leave. And that is why last night's Fight Like Apes gig was so sad. Because for years now, they've been touring the same circuit, to the same fans and somewhere along the way the energy that made them so potent became kind of lifeless and fake.

The odd thing is that I wasn't the only person who felt this way. The atmosphere was strained an uncomfortable, despite the fact that at the exact same gig a year previously, there'd be a room full of twenty-two year olds thrashing around like it's the apocalypse and there's a shortage on beans.  Now, I found I was comfortably able to roll a cigarette two feet from the stage. Despite how hard the gig tried to be light-hearted, I felt completely bummed out by it. This band had become as cool as they ever were going to be, basically hitting the roof of the Irish indie scene and were now floundering with what to do next.

So let's for a moment, take a moment for Fight Like Apes.

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