They went away and now they’re back – after a fashion. Irish band Horslips are once again in the news with a new biography (Tall Tales, by Mark Cunningham; published by O’Brien Press). Enough has been written, quite likely, about the band itself and their highly influential fusion of rock and traditional Irish music, but possibly not about their 1970s’ album artwork.
Little problems, says Paddy McAloon, arise to put a kink in your day. The mid-50s lead everything of Prefab Sprout knows what he’s talking about, and if it wasn’t for the fact that great music is still being made, then you would direct an unsightly and admonishing finger towards the Gods for having the nerve to encumber McAloon with not one but two sensory afflictions: severe tinnitus and detached retinas.
Almost 40 years ago, the once fledgling independent UK label, Virgin Records, released a double album with the title of V; the cover was of a hand delivering Winston Churchill’s famous ‘V for Victory’ sign, but there was something about it that made you look twice: the hand had five fingers and one thumb.
He looks a surly type with his Jagger lips, ciggie slipped in between nicotine-stained fingers, 19-year-old insouciance/insolence and sunglasses perched just-so, but if you’re prepared to sift through the obvious you’ll soon discover that Jake Bugg (real name Jacob Edward Kennedy) is something very, very close to the real deal.
What’s all this, then? Music in a church? Coffee and cream backing singers, dressed in whiter shades of pale? A band made up of twanging guitarists and a banging drummer? And in the midst of it all, a middle-aged man, looking ever so slightly the worse for wear and tear, singing words we have now forgotten over a music bed of blessed, blissed-out melodies and lacerating guitar solos.
It isn’t often that a teenage band, fresh of face, wide-eyed with enthusiasm and naiveté, bunking off school, makes Irish chart history, but that’s exactly what Co Dublin quartet 21 Demands did almost five years ago, when their song Give Me A Minute reached the top spot in the Irish charts from sales of downloads alone.