What does it sound like?:
Long ago and far away, there was a ‘North Belfast scene’. Most of the kingpins of this scene went to Bristol University, and begat a Bristol scene. The pre-Google / un-Google-able ME band was the band-that-nearly-made-it from this milieu. And it seems that 25 years on, the Belfast ex-pat Bristol scene all drifted back to North Belfast…
All of this was news to me until recently when, shortly after joking (as I thought) with punk/pop local legend Dave McLarnon (who hails from North Belfast) about the very idea of a ‘scene’ in the cultural desert of North Belfast, one Francis Kane O’Cathain got in touch and Delphically said, ‘ Here’s an album… give it a listen… Ludwig’s involved… ask Dave McLarnon who we are’…
I was busy at the time, but knowing the style of music played by Ludo – a sort of Southern rock/yacht rock thing (at which he is very good, but there’s no surprises in it) – I assumed that this must be a gang of old rockers recording boogie in their garage. I would give it a spin in a week or two but expected to say, ‘Sounds grand, see you in the pubs some time…’
A couple of weeks later, Francis sent me another track, ‘Soup or Heroes’, an imminent single by another of his projects. ‘I really ought to listen to this fellow’s music,’ I thought. I played the track. Bloody hell – it was brilliant!
A quirky, insistent piece of pop electronica with a coquettish female vocalist paying oblique homage to lockdown key workers. It’s a winsomely otherworldly earworm – and when it’s ‘out there’ I’ll post the link here.
At this point, I thought, I must listen to that album… Bloody hell – it was also brilliant! It’s 12 tracks/47 minutes of blissed-out pop/psych magic. What does it sound like? It sounds like Tame Impala co-writing with Neil Hannon and asking Paddy McAloon in on vocals – all of them having given ‘Piper At the Gates of Dawn’ a spin the night before. Around 20 people are involved, but it’s clearly music from one vision – one visionary. And that would appear to be Francis Kane O’Cathain – a name along the same lines as Jethro Tull’s Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond – who has brought the ‘me’ back to his old ME collaborators. It all belongs together and has such an atmosphere that it immediately brought to mind hearing the first Tame Impala album on headphones – the effect being that here was music about which, unusually, I neither wished nor needed to know anything about. It just *was* – it majestically, perfectly filled a huge hole that no-one had even known was there before – and knowing the names of who played on it, or anything biographical about the band, even knowing the names of the individual tracks: all unnecessary. All that was required was lying back and basking in it.
The digital package of the album comes with a substantial document file called ‘The Book of Otherish’. I’ve glanced through it – interviews with players, background, pics and other stuff described by its compiler as ‘unnecessary information’. As I said, I don’t need it – indeed, I won’t let it risk spoiling my enjoyment of the magic realm of the music!
Francis, and the compiler of the Book (a fan called Hugh… though I can’t helping wondering if it’s some kind of Alice in Wonderland-ish gag – Hugh and ME…), believe Otherish to be other-ish, to be unclassifiable and unique. Of course, like every artist who believes that, he’s wrong. Everything at this stage in the game sounds like bits of things that have gone before. But it’s still very singular, quirky, unusual, while simultaneously luxuriant, accessible, delightful and aurally more-ish.
I’ve read just enough of the Book to know that Ludo produced the album – and he’s done a fabulous job! Ludo was seemingly one of that near-mythical North Belfast scene (if indeed it ever existed…) who never left for Bristol, and has been a regular character in Belfast’s music pubs for 30 years. I have a feeling there’s a full-circle aspect to this album – an old gang getting back together again and doing something for the sake of it, on their own terms, utterly oblivious to the music business that they all courted in their youth.
‘Otherish’ is a triumph. It’s astounding. it’s one of the best things I’ve heard in years. I’d love to let everyone hear it, or something from it, but I can’t. Not yet. There’s nothing ‘out there’ yet – but hopefully there will be soon. 😀 And sooner than that, there’ll be ‘Soup of Heroes’. Welcome to the whimsical world of Francis Kane O’Cathain. 🙂
The image I’ve used above is from the pinnacle of Skellig Michael, seven miles off the coast of Kerry – a truly other-ish place where monks once lived in total isolation. So, not that different from modern life, really.
What does it all *mean*?
That something once happened in North Belfast, and it hasn’t gone away, you know…
Goes well with…
Lounging in gardens, sunny days, oceans of bliss, whisky by the fire, Lewis Carroll, probably those funny cigarettes…
I’ve no idea
Might suit people who like…
Tame Impala, Air, Prefab Sprout, XTC, Serge Gainsbourg