Enough Cranberry sauce

 

THERE was an irritating buzzword in the air, and it sounded something like Britpop. It invaded the media like a swarm of midges, stinging everyone into blind acceptance, and creating a mythical Little England, far removed from the realities of rock.

Those who fought the patriotic wave were left with few alternatives from elsewhere across the Atlantic, the rock scene was dominated by such faceless AOR fodder as Blind Melon and Hootie And The Blowfish, bland successors to the legacy of Grunge which Kurt Cobain bequeathed by bloody self sacrifice.

The stateside sycophants continued to fawn over Dolores and her Cranberries in 1995, and the band's execrable single, the whooping, yodelling Zombie, won a bunch of industry awards which it did not deserve. Most Irritating Piece Of Irish Blarney might have been a more acceptable accolade. Meanwhile, Dolores had apparently decided that the media was a snake in sheep's clothing, and when some journalists began to stray from the simpering script, they were given short shrift by La Riordan. Strange how people forget all the good press which smoothed their way to the top, and strange also how they forget the very qualities which got them to the top in the first place.

The Cranberries were adored for their shimmering, ethereal songs and the achingly beautiful vocals of their singer as Zombie, Ridiculous Thoughts and Ode To My Family have shown, the shine has been changed to a glare, the ache has been replaced by an itch, and the melancholy has been smothered by mawkish sentimentality. They may well be the biggest thing since U2, and Dolores may well have piles of dosh, as, reported in all the financial columns, but, musically and ideologically, The Cranberries in 1995 have not lived up to their promise.

With the muscle bound mainstream still dominating the music scene in 1995, it was becoming more difficult for indie bands to make a big splash with the public, and unless you rallied under the Britpop banner, then you were in danger of riding a lonely trail to oblivion.

One band which rode rough shod all over our consciousness this year was Ash, a young three piece from Downpatrick which knocked off some of this year's best singles in the form of Kung Fu (complete with cover photo of Eric Canton a delivering that kick), Uncle Pat (lapped up by Heineken for their ad campaign), Girl From Mars (the band's UK Top Twenty debut) and Angel Interceptor. Ash got rave reviews for their songs, they got ecstatic audiences for their gigs, they got nominated for awards, but most of all, they got their A Levels. No rock `n' roll dropouts around here, pal.

Meanwhile, the whole Britpop hype threatened to collapse in a heap of media created rivalry thanks to the bogus "Battle Of Britpop". The main adversaries ink this toothless conflict were Blur and Oasis, and the battle lines were drawn when both bands' released new singles on the same day, going into direct competition for the Number One position. Blur won the race with Country House, pipping Roll With It at the gate post, but it was a short lived victory and Oasis walked all over Blur in the album stakes, (What's The Story) Morning Glory becoming the fastest selling album of 1995 and outstripping The Great Escape by ever increasing lengths.

Oasis also proved their superior pulling power, selling out two nights at the Point for next March doubling the draw for Blur's disappointing gig at the same venue last month. The war of words, however, threatened to undermine the Gallagher brothers' waning integrity and the whole thing reached its nadir with Noel Gallagher's ill advised AIDS outburst. While the Britbrats were busy bickering, a Mr Jarvis Cocker of Pulp rode in on his rusty old bike and snatched the Britpop crown from under everybody's stuck up nose.

On the Irish front, the rot continued to set into the rock scene, as numerous bands, still living in the past, tried desperately to get attention in the same old fashioned ways. Showcase gigs still abounded at every venue which hadn't yet closed down, while battle of the bands contests were held every other week, the winners naturally assuming that they had achieved godhood.

Second rate bands banged on in interviews about how good their record deal was and how their, A&R man lets them do their own thing and how "everybody else is getting good reviews, so why can't we?" Some bands, however, got over this lingering hangover from the post U2 era and practised the, true indie ethos of concentrating on the music and not on the record deal.

Luggage, Mexican Pets, Jubilee and The Sewing Room among others released records on independent labels like Blunt and Dead Elvis, but the Irish airwaves were still dominated by more accessible acts like The Devlins, The Corrs and Brendan Keeley. Some things never change.

The biggest Irish act outside Limerick in 1995 was a tailor made, teen pop act who purvey second hand songs borrowed from the dusty corners of the rock `n' roll attic no, we're not talking about Oasis, we mean of course Boyzone, who, despite their continued chart success in the UK still haven't shown themselves capable of following Take That and East 17 into broader horizons. Let's give them another year they've still got time on their side.

Ireland's first rock star, Rory Gallagher, died this year and the tributes came pouring in for the man who was once voted the world's greatest guitarist. Also going to that great gig in the sky was Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia, the man who inspired a million hippies. Meanwhile, Richey Edwards, the troubled guitarist, and lyricist with the uncompromising Welsh band, Manic street Preachers, went mysteriously missing and all but the most defiant fans now believe that" Richey is dead.

Event of the year was File `95' in Cork's Pairc Ui Chaoimh, which suffered the ignominy off being shunted around the country like an unwelcome family of travellers but finally found a halting site by the Lee. The festival proved well worth the bother, since it brought us superb performances by Tricky, Black, Grape, The Prodigy, Blur, Terence Trent D'Arby and Paul Weller, not to mention the long awaited second coming of The stone Roses. Gigs of the year included Sinead O'Connor's triumphant return to form at the Tivoli, Gavin Friday's glittering gig at the same venue, P. J. Harvey at the Olympia, and R.E.M. and Oasis at Slane Castle.

Big hopes for next year Mundy out spanning Glen Hansard as Ireland's new guitar strumming guru Bawl following Ash and Therapy? into the UK Top Twenty and onto the covers of NME and Melody Maker, A Woman's Heart finally retiring to do a bit of embroidery Boyzone covering a Charles Manson song Dolores getting that whooping cough seen to all Cranberries clones being arrested and held in detention for a minimum seven days Brendan Keeley dyeing his moustache blonde The Corrs and The Devlins making a steamy videos together for MTV Feile finding permanent home Courtney Love officially changing her surname to something more appropriate to her personality Ger Whelan and Christy Dignam learning sign language so they can put their over expressive limbs toe good use Michael Bolton and Tina Turner charging the same admission fee as Blur and Oasis MCD letting me bring 10 people in on the guest list for Oasis (a bit pie in the sky that last one).