Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

“Irish people need to be told what’s good from outside”

Over the weekend, anyone who was following Richie Egan on Twitter got a blast of strong words about something which vexes anyone who follows Irish music’s comings and goings. Egan was tweeting about how it takes international validation for many …

Wed, Jun 6, 2012, 08:45

   

Over the weekend, anyone who was following Richie Egan on Twitter got a blast of strong words about something which vexes anyone who follows Irish music’s comings and goings. Egan was tweeting about how it takes international validation for many people here to sit up and take notice of an act. “Crazy…Irish people need to be told what’s good from outside…kind of sad”, he said.

He mentioned three acts where this has happened in recent months – MMOTHS, Faws and Frankie Bingo – but he could really have been typing about any number of acts over the years. All of those acts have been written about enthusiatically by a plethora of Irish publications and websites but, as Egan points out, you rarely get the same level of noise about them until international sites pick up on them. It’s as if some of us need that foreign imprimatur for an act before we get on their side.

This, sadly, is nothing new. Anyone who has written about or talked about or enthused about Irish music at any point in the past will have come across similar instances of this anomaly. It’s not about being first or anything like that, but rather that it takes someone non-Irish to go “hey, you know what, this act are awesome” before a bunch of people will cop on to the act in question. It’s not just confined to music either, as many Irish artists will tell you about how a positive review from abroad does more than any amount of good Irish write-ups for their standing at home. Go back decades and you’ll find the same old story, with people here ignoring Irish art and culture until it gets a nod from out foreign.

Of course, there are sometimes valid reasons cited for this. Anecdotal evidence shows that many Irish music fans have become suspicious about never-ending positive coverage of homegrown acts. It’s as if there is no such thing as an inferior or so-so Irish act – it’s all good, as that last wave of singer-songwriters used to maintain. However, anyone looking at this or any other scene without the blinkers on will know that it’s not all good. Such catch-all cheerleading does not do anyone any good in the long run.

It’s also not a recent innovation (we’ve had compromised homegrown boosters for decades) and, as acts have discovered again and again, all those positive notices from your mates doesn’t really matter if you can’t produce the songs or live shows to back it up. Thus why some wait for international validation before jumping onboard, even though their own ears should have told them the tale of the tape the first time they clocked the band or tune in question.

The more interesting issue, though, is what’s behind this spot of post-colonial cultural self-loathing. I’m sure academics would have a field-day with this – indeed, there was one cultural anthropologist I bumped into at Forbidden Fruit (there were a lot of cultural anthropologists there in case you were wondering) who was hmmming already about the idea – as they try to untangle the weird mindshifts and thought patterns of the Irish psyche and this particular puzzle. Just why does the recommendation of an non-Irish arbiter carry more weight than an Irish one? And is there anything that can be done to change this? Over to you. And Pitchfork gave this 7.1, in case you were wondering.

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