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Three new compilations document the rude health of Irish music, past and present.
Ed Power, 05 Oct 2012
Typical. You wait an eternity for a truly compelling Irish alternative pop compilation and then – presto – three pop over the horizon at once.
Chronicling the criminally overlooked Irish post-punk scene of the early ‘80s, Strange Passions juxtaposes such forgotten stars of independent rock as Chant! Chant! Chant! and Choice with the better-known Virgin Prunes and SM Corporation.
Meanwhile, The Shortest Night sees contemporary artists such as Jape, Pugwash and Villagers covering classic soul standards such as Marvin Gaye’s ‘Mercy, Mercy, Me’, demonstrating, along the way, that, with the lights dimmed and the beers uncorked, pasty-limbed Irish people can be as funky as anyone else (the project was overseen by the Sound Training Centre, Temple Bar, with proceeds going to charity. STC will also be in action soon putting together the second very fine and very free Genre Free download album in association with Hot Press).
Bringing the shutters down on 20 years of remarkable history, Orchestral Variations, for its part, is to be the last ever release on London-Irish label Setanta Records. Curated by Setanta founder, Dubliner Keith Cullen, it witnesses Bell X1’s Paul Noonan and others delivering string-soaked readings of alternative staples like Talking Heads’ ‘Once In A Lifetime’.
“The post-punk scenes in London and New York have been pretty exhaustively chronicled at this stage. Now people are starting to look further afield,” says Darren McCreesh, the Dublin promoter and DJ who compiled Strange Passions for the international label Cache Cache. “It isn’t as if these bands were forgotten. It’s just that it was quite difficult for them to sustain careers even though they were popular at a local level. They had a hard time making money.”
He cites one of his favourite groups of the era, Dundalk’s Choice.
“They had a following locally. Then they came up to Dublin, played loads of battle of the band competitions and were voted Hot Press ‘Emerging Act of the Year’, in 1981, I think. From there they went onto Youngline, the youth TV programme produced by [early ‘80s scenester] Dave Heffernan and were offered a record deal. However that didn’t quite transpire and three, four months later they were still unemployed. So two of them emigrated.”