With some big London dates ahead, and a busy summer schedule, these Dublin boys have a Long Live ambition.
Digging Holes is available at:
The E.P. Long Live is available at:
THOUGHTS and attentions turn slightly towards international climbs...
as a great deal of my focus, is usually reserved for English talent. I have featured a few Scottish acts, as well as bands from the U.S., Sweden, Australia, and- in the case of HighFields- South Africa, Canada, Singapore and Norway. It is true that there is a great deal of excitement and innovation to be found within the U.K. as a whole. The best and most striking sounds I have born witness to, have emanated from the north of England- there is great diversity and originality here. Aside from some Scottish and southern English stunners, a large chunk of my praise has been levied at either the northern contemporaries, or else have set their sights overseas. Historically, the best music has either originated in the U.K., or the U.S. Today there is a bit more of a shift away from our shores. If you look at the greatest albums of this year, there is an emphasis on American sounds and influences. Over the last few years, European candidates have put their stamps on the market: all of which has stolen a lot of limelight from Britain as a whole. It is s a trend and pattern that will continue, I feel, for the foreseeable future. There seems to be a different attitude and work ethic in different countries, that is dissimilar to what we are used to here. In the U.S., there seems to be that momentum from established acts whom are owning 2013- Queens of the Stone Age, The National; even Laura Marling (whom has moved to L.A.). In terms of lyricism, fervent and unusual sounds and an overall quality, other nations and climbs are leading the way at the moment. It is prescient and advised that we look to other countries, and take in what they have to offer. Too much homogenisation and copycatting exists in the U.K., and it is the freshness and innovation of our international cousins, that will inspire and bring about a resurgence and revitalisation here. I have been surprised by the large amount of strong talent that is emanating from E.I.R.E at the moment. In the same way that Yorkshire is throwing up a band of swing-cum-blues rock-cum-pop wonders, the likes of Dublin are producing some rather intent sounds. I encountered Bronagh & the Boys recently; a band awash with soothing and emotive sounds, helmed by a crystalline and stunning voice in Bronagh Monahan. Aside from the classic and well-known acts that we associate with the Republic of Ireland, today there is a change afoot. If you factor out the likes of The Script; ear-bleeding and nauseating in equal measures, then the current crop are rather strong and mobile. Raglans are a notable addition to the list of modern E.I.R.E musical joys.
I know very little of the band. Such is the tradition now (to keep aces tight against the chest) that I have to fill in a lot of blanks. I hope that more bands in the future, on their Facebook and BandCamp pages, choose to flesh them out a lot more. Kiran Leonard- the young prodigy whom I have recently reviewed- put details of each of his songs on BandCamp. Each track was given an overview and had information with it, as well as the lyrics displayed. His album was explained and some backstory was given- the overall experience was much more involving and personable. The music of Raglans intrigued me so much I was wondering what their influences were; where they come from; and some background information, so it might be something they will think about very shortly. For now, the Dublin 4-piece: Stephen, Rhos, Conn and Sean are readying themselves for a jam-packed year. A single, Natives, is released later this month. Its sleeve art features colourful jungle and floral scenes, whilst in the foreground a black and white depicting of an elderly woman, and half man-half stone-carved monster, complete the scene. It gives you an insight into their creative minds: everything is not straightforward or predictable; there is an array of movements and surprises to be detected within their landscape. A week ago, the band released their E.P., Long Live. The 5-track release demonstrates their strengths as a band: the mystical rumbling bass and guitar strides of Save Your Words For The Widow, mingles with The Libertines/The Fratellis fun-time bustle and youthful spit. There is a spirit of the groups of the '60s in a lot of the tracks. Fresh and evocative vocals, ties in influences from Liverpool and Manchester, and marries it with sing-along charm and a myriad of strengths. The band are supporting The Strypes very soon, and will be interesting to see how their sounds mix with one another. The Strypes have a hard-edged '60s Liverpool-via-modern-day bite to them, whilst Raglans have softer edges and a keener ear for melody and musicianship, perhaps.
Before then, the task of charting their sharp rise, is of some importance: to see how they have managed to climb so high, so fast. The single Digging Holes, and lead-off song from their E.P., shows the key themes and plus points from the band from the off. The video to the song has arable themes and farmyard scenery, but the song kicks off with a chorus of "Digging Holes!"; backed by rumbling boulders of percussion, and a youthful kick that tells of: "Now you know/Why the people don't love you". As soon as that line has been boisterously delivered, a shimmering and electrifying coda of percussive thuds and metal, as well as a waterfall of electronic sounds is unleashed. Scenes of an unnamed central focus watching the walls; for reasons unknown, is presented; the band asking: "What do you see?/What do you see?". The lines and themes have a simplicity, that is designed to be remembered and sung. When the words are sung, they are done so with full-voiced conviction, and sound quite unique. There is never a sense of a band trying to emulate another: their tones and vocals are theirs alone. Our boys see "the future and the past", but are very much in the here and now. The verses and nature of the delivery are very much ready-made for festivals and large venues, to be choruses by enraptured fans; but there is indie and folk charm to suggest that they will gain appeal from bigger radio stations such as XFM and BBC 6 Music too. It is unsure who the figure is at the centre of the song; the subject that is being offered little solace. Their body and mind are drifting apart; they are unloved and digging themselves deeper. Usually, or for most bands at least, romance and the uncertainty of love is normally focused upon; yet it seems that there is a more masculine idol that is being picked apart. Perhaps the most defining feature of the track is the shimmering electronics and waves. They are employed to create mood and atmosphere between the choruses and verses, and make you forget about any negativity or scorn on behalf of the band, and take you somewhere calmer, and more detached. For all of the memorable simplicity, the boys have a way of offering scenes with intrigue and strangeness dripping from the seams. In the way Bob Dylan penned a venomous poem to an unnamed woman in Like A Rolling Stone, asking "How does it feel?", Raglans do the same, instead insights such as "Like a leper on your throne" are proffered. Feelings and thoughts are key themes and topics that are dissected and examined in various ways. Backed by a tumbling and kicking musical smile- similar to Mumford and Sons only far less irritating- the question of "How do you feel" is asked; our singer feels alone, but "Alive/For the first time in my life". No matter what vengeances or turmoil are present, there is a sense of there being a turning point afoot; no matter what bitterness is reserved for the anonymous subject, the lads themselves seem bereft of any burdens. Energy and conviction never let up, and it is this commitment to creating a sustained atmosphere and regulating any negative edges, that gives Digging Holes such an edge. Its chorus, with 'uh-ohs' punched and shouted, backed by folk augmentations. It is these folk touches, that give way to indie lines. A rapid-fire and glimmering passage twists and duplicates, whipping up another layer and shade of curiosity, before it is said: "This can be the start of something new". The chorus is ridden again, and our tale comes to an end.
It is hard to fault the quality and conviction of the band. They have a knack for memorable choruses, and can mix straightforward sentiments with sharp lines, to boot. Vocally there is a unique blend and strength that few bands possess. Their native accents are present, and they haven't tried to intone American accents or distil its essence, which makes the sound more original than most bands. The abiding sense one takes away from the song, is the sense of adventure and misadventure. Fun and frivolity infuse the atmosphere and scenes, lifting you up, and imploring you to sing along; this is blended with words that speak of mixed personal fortunes and some harsh words for a common foe. The E.P. as a whole is bursting with a similar charm and authority, and Raglans are a group that can fit a definite gap in the market. Too much emphasis is placed on either harder and more feral edges, or innovative digressions along the lines of Alt-J and indie colleagues. In a scene where there are very few bands like Doves or Elbow: those that can produce big sing-alongs and anthems, but keep their words sharp and intent; it is a welcomed treat to have the Dubliners around. 2013 especially has focused itself on indie movements and riff-heavy groups, a certain sense of elemental positivity and crowd-ready awareness has been negated. The likes of The Voice, Britain's Got Talent and The X Factor are the emphasis and embodiment of fame-chasing an d copycat wannabes; devoid of any credibility and originality. For those interested in musicians whom are not wanting to chase fame, money and nonsensical aspects, it is towards the bands that one looks. Set aside the horrid boy bands and lame rejects like 30 Seconds to Mars, then a need and desire still needs to be fed. The Strypes are imbued with riffs and '60s revocations, but there is going to be a switch away from that sort of music, and a need for something more channelled and matured in the long-term. Raglans are being accepted in anticipation of this, and their blend of indie and folk styling will see them in much demand come next year. This year they have touring to do of course, taking them down south, to London as well as further north; imploring supporters and fans to take their music to heart. If Digging Holes and the associative E.P. are any evidence of what the future holds for them, then...
THEY will have a busy and productive few years ahead of them.