Nealo: “I think it’s unfair, for a lot of people, the way society is set up”

Nealo’s debut album ‘All The Leaves Are Falling’ is a snapshot of a left-behind side of society, a kind of personalised treatise in music that highlights the difficulties of working-class creatives while exploring his own perspective.

The product of years of work, it’s a step aside from the Dubliner’s usual style as he goes for a more expansive, punchy, expressive record, drawing on his own punk-roots and embedding his protest-message in a record that’s heavily hip-hop leaning.

“It felt different making this, I wanted to make it so that people would look at it and think it’s something different. I wanted to give a feeling for what I was trying to do, and tell my story, who I am and what’s unique to me,” he explains, before going into the way the album relates to his own history.

“It’s a little about that adolescent want for leaving somewhere, and then later coming back. About the hardships, and the people who have left, and who haven’t. There’s tragedy and beauty in that. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what it is I’m trying to say, but there’s a message in there.” 

“So it’s about Clonsilla, essentially, which I love now, but when I was kid I felt like there was something big happening somewhere else, and I wasn’t there. I still get that today, sometimes, but I think I have a bit more perspective on it, too. When you’re young, everything seems like the biggest thing in the world.”

The record features a series of interludes that expand on the music, giving witty context. “I was a little worried the Interludes might be a bit long,” Nealo says, “but I put them in and they’ve been really popular. It gives context, a feeling of who I am I guess, and adds to the narrative.”

Long shots: big wins at the bottom (week 20)

They say it’s the hope that kills you, and there’s starting to be a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel for some of my weakest teams. Bielefeld and Spezia both got results against really top sides this week, while Fulham closed the gap on safety with an unlikely away win at in-form Everton. There have definitely been worse weeks…

Arminia Bielefeld 3-3 away to Bayern Munich

I loved this game. Played in the snow in a way that would often result in a game being called off, it saw Arminia looks, for a while, like they might overturn the team that win the German league so consistently it’s become boring.

Bayern were just home from winning the club world cup in the Middle East, of course, but it was a lad on loan from Anderlecht who put the visitors into an unlikely lead after nine minutes, which they then doubled.

Bayern looked useless in the snow, and a lot stronger in the opening 30 minutes of the second half once it had been cleared, with the score going to 3-1 in Arminia’s favour before the Bavaraians turned on the style, but not quite enough to win it. A valuable point for Arminia, who are now level with a fading Hertha Berlin with a game in hand. Only their third draw all season, remarkably.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKTUaUjONHU

Review: St Pauli: Another Football Is Possible

ACABAB, reads one of the regular banners in St Pauli’s famous Hafenstrasse block. It’s not a typo, but an adaptation: All Cops Are Bastards, Apart from Boll. The banner sums up the ethos of the Hamburg club: firmly anti-authoritarian, but always making room for their own. Fabien Boll, a former St Pauli star, doubled as a police inspector.

St Pauli have never been the greatest football team. While their history is spattered with short-term appearances in the Bundesliga, the German top tier, and impassioned wins against fierce local rivals HSV, it’s what goes on off the pitch that truly makes the ‘braun-weiss’ an interesting phenomenon, one that’s right at the very heart of the ‘Against Modern Football’ movement. 

In ‘St Pauli: Another Football Is Possible’, Naxto Parra and Carles Vinas explore the journey that’s brought the Pirates of the Elbe to the point where victory on the pitch is simply not a core priority.

That sense of simply being and representing rather than chasing victory seems to stand out at every game. I visited the club five years ago, and saw them play Union Berlin, their stands draped in slogans slamming Sky Sports for moving the game to a Monday night. The space outside the stadium was crammed with ghetto blasters and punk tunes and fans supping beer, and once you got inside, the fans joined in, at times, with similarly left-leaning Union fans to chant together. The ample standing terraces had a distinct smell of cannabis, and afterwards, there was a rave under one of the stands.

It hasn’t always been this way, of course, and much of this book documents how St Pauli became a bastion of anti-corporate rebellion. The club were initially a fairly conventional side, albeit based on the fringes of Hamburg’s notorious Reeperbahn, a party-hub meets red light district of some repute. Along the way, we learn that the club even had some light, though disputed, links to Nazi party members in the 30s and 40s.

We Cut Corners: “it’s about the protagonist’s psychological unravelling”

After a break of over a year following the release of latest record IMPOSTERS, We Cut Corners returned to music determined – as they have been in the past – to convert their experiences gathered away from music into art.

New EP ‘Muscle Memory’ is, perhaps, a nod to the way the duo – teachers in their day jobs – continue to function in musical ‘shifts’, returning in productive periods to bounce onto the Choice Music Prize shortlist, or deliver the most vocally beautiful, rapidly-morphing songs that bounce from White Stripes-like rock to delicate, emotional ballads.

‘Muscle memory’, string-man with the Dublin-based band John Duignan explains, is focused very much on the idea of domesticity, psychology, and absence. 

“After the release of IMPOSTORS in 2018, we took about a year away from formal band duties to dwell in the domestic for a bit,” Duignan explains. “As is so often the case, those down-times are the most fertile in terms of writing and it wasn’t long before we were back sharing ideas over email and piecing together the current EP..”

“The title track is a pretty emblematic of the collection,” he continues, “detailing the protagonist’s psychological unravelling in the face of the physical absence of a loved one. Thematically, the songs on the EP are pretty disparate but there was definitely a sense of heightened neurosis that fed into their composition. Too much domestic time perhaps!”

The four-track contains a colourful variety of styles. On the title track, ‘Muscle Memory’, Duignan describes “taking a look at the country’s institutional past and the legacy that is still culturally palpable here. It’s a rally-cry against repression really,” while ‘Mystery Illness’ another stand-out, is “an absolutely full-on, unabashed, bare-faced love song. Having resisted the urge to even use the word love for the first four albums, it seemed reasonable to pen a tune where every line begins with ‘I love you…’.”

Long shots: points, yes, but prizes? (week 19)

A good set of results this week for my sides, though they broadly remain in trouble, with exciting survival battles (except for the fans) on the horizon. With the top five European divisions well past half way now, three of my five sides look in imminent danger of the drop.

Of the four sides that played this week, though, it was the three in trouble that got results…

Elche CF 2-2 v Villareal at home, 19th place

A sign of fight for Elche? The Catalan club went 0-2 down to Villareal at the weekend, before battling back to grab a point that isn’t quite enough right now, but certainly beats the alternative.

This had the odd sensation of being played mostly at one end, with Villareal dominating the first half, in which their key man Gerard Moreno could have had four (and did score two), as they outpassed Elche.

Both of Elche’s goals had more of a ‘scrappy’ feel to them than holding marks of pure quality. It’s now been 15 league games dating back to October since they won, a really worrying stat, and one that’ll have to end in the coming weeks of they’re to survive.

August Wells: An Irishman in New York

It’s been half a lifetime since August Wells vocalist Ken Griffin left Ireland behind for a new life in the big apple, yet in many senses his music’s themes still reflect an immigrant tale: songs of hope and loss, false dawns and changing faces.

New record ‘No More Operators’ sees Griffin and musical partner John Rauchenberger, a pianist, build on their emotion-laden earlier records with stark, dark, fragile tones.

“All my songs are derived directly from my life, so maybe the theme [of the record] is simply me and my perspective,” Griffin says. “I am always simply trying to refine my ability as a songwriter. We are always working on a number of songs at the same time, I prefer to have a lot of ideas going, so I don’t get stuck on one idea.” 

“When we have 10 or 12 complete we just record an album. Because we are independent and have our own studio we can do that at any time. For a record, we just pick the songs we feel work cohesively together, and the ones that feel complete.”

“Although all the songs were written before the pandemic,” he continues, “it is strange how applicable a lot of the lyrics are to this moment. I have always used, or at least tried to use humour in my songs, even at the centre of what might be a tragic subject.” 

“We all live with senses of dread, and fear and worry. We all live with dreams and hopes and wonder, but sometimes I feel being overtly positive can actually be very sinister and lead us to naivety and delusion.” 

Long shots: Metz stand out again (week 18)

Things started well, but they often do for promoted clubs. Now it looks like there’s a real risk of four of my five teams being relegated, with Metz once again the stand out. Par for the course? Well yes, it is really. Here’s how the latest week of football for five European strugglers went down…

Fulham 2-2 v West Brom away, 0-2 v Leicester at home.

Fulham actually aren’t playing too badly at the moment, but their chances of Premier League survival have, in my opinion, slid away in the last few weeks. It’d take a massive turn around to come out of things now.

They badly needed to get something out of the consecutive games against the teams that they need to beat: Brighton, Burnley and West Brom. In the last of those at the weekend, against West Brom, Fulham were seriously unlucky, creating the chances to come out well on top in a 2-2 draw, but that seems to be the way when it’s not happening for you.

Leicester on current form was always going to be a big ask, and so it proved – very comfortable for Leicester, who might well be in with an outside chance of winning the title again this year. Fulham now a full 8 points adrift, with even Sheffield United below them coming back.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuymP13v3Z4&feature=onebox

Josh Gray: “My journeys have been amazing so far, I’m really enjoying being present in the moment”

Josh Gray’s latest single is starkly appropriate, a vibrant lockdown anthem of a cover, borrowed to suit our times.

‘Hold On’ is a 30 year old single that originally knocked Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ off number one in the US charts, and perfectly suited to the mental anguish of the coronavirus and its social impact. Gray, one of a plethora of fast-rising pop acts, is the perfect man to deliver it…

I must admit I wasn’t familiar with ‘Hold On’ as an original (maybe I’ve been living under a rock!). What made you pick it out as a cover right now?

Hey! It’s quite funny, a lot of people have been thinking that I wrote it, it’s actually an original song by Wilson Phillips! The reason I picked it out as a cover was down to the message it tries to push out, that times are hard but it will get better. I think I speak for everyone when I say we’ve all been struggling a little in the current climate. We all have our own worries that are relevant to ourselves, so I want to try my best to send a positive message to as many as I could!

How has your personal journey been over the last few months?

It’s been quite mixed, I’ve been thriving in my writing and production!  I’m excited to share! On the other hand it’s been tough at times when it’s uncertain as to when we can get back out gigging again, but I think it’s been a great opportunity to do those ‘on the long finger’ things.

Is there any way to make our current circumstances into an opportunity as a musician?

Yes, it’s a great time to be creative and grow your skills as a musician! I never thought I’d be so far into production as I am so soon, but I guess thats what 10 hour days making music does to you.

Do you find the strange social circumstances we find ourselves in impact on your music?

I won’t lie, and say it hasn’t. I think it’s been tough on everyone. It’s pushed things out a bit but, it’s hard not to be out performing and engaging with people. Online outlets are great but for me you can’t beat the real physical thing. I’ve been very lucky though with all of the support with Spotify streams and some really touching messages of support from people I really hope to meet one day at a live show or just in general. With the current situation, I’ve learned to try and adapt and I think I’m still trying to day by day!