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Veteran Dublin Oddballs persist with quirky pop nuggets
Colm O Hare, 22 Apr 2009
Almost 20 years on the road, The Pale’s defiant anti-rock stance has stood them in good stead over the years and they remain charmingly unaffected by passing fashions and trends. Proper Order – the follow-up to 2007 “comeback” album The Contents Of A Shipwreck – is the sound of The Pale playing live in the studio with little or no added adornments or embellishments. The familiar sonic signatures – mandolin, violin, jerky rhythm section and Matthew Devereaux’s strangled vocals – are all present and correct making for another welcome installment from the quirky Dubliners.
Perhaps it’s down to over-familiarity with their long-established vaguely Eastern European style but on first listen there’s nothing as instantly catchy or compelling as say, ‘Dogs With No Tails’ or ‘Butterfly’ from their earlier years. However, ‘Stop It, I Might Like It’ comes close as makes no difference. A gem of a tune, it combines an infectious melody and mid-tempo groove putting it up there with their best. To put it another way it’s how Paul Weller might have written ‘That’s Entertainment’ had he grown up by the Liffey rather than in the Surrey suburbs. Last year’s single ‘Chocolate Factory’ is more classic Pale fare with the hilarious line, “never go drinking on an empty head” once again showcasing their way with words.
But don’t be fooled by the apparent levity. Beneath the cheery, syncopated rhythms there is a lyrical seriousness at work: ‘Catholic Credit Card’ pokes fun at the uniquely Irish practice of buying indulgences to get into heaven where you can, “wave in St Peter’s face and the gates will swing open for you.” Even more chillingly ‘Lights Out Boys’ alludes to the nasty goings on at a reform school with the rifle aimed squarely at one individual.
‘You Play Your Indie Music’ may or may not be having a go at a sub-section of music fans, while ‘Paris In The 21st Century’ is the nearest they come to a full-on rock sound with echoes of ‘Heroes’-era Bowie.