Monthly Archives: October 2013

‘Two chords are pushing it.’

'Here he comes, all dressed in black.' Lou Reed, 2011. Pic: Man Alive!

‘Here he comes, all dressed in black.’
Lou Reed, 2011.
Pic: Man Alive!

I WAS in a garage band once: a band of guys crammed into the dusty garage.

Once a week we’d meet up and bang out whatever we could.

I’d like to say there was a highly refined aesthetic to our efforts. There wasn’t.

The four of us played the only way we could and let the missed cues, bum notes and false starts look after themselves.

This is the point where I quote Brian Eno’s line about everyone who bought the first  Velvet Underground album forming a band.

It’s the sort of tired aphorism that Lou Reed might’ve eventually despised, probably, despite it being – in our case at least – partly true.

One of the first songs we rehearsed and recorded was I’m Waiting For The Man. I’m sure we tried Femme Fatale or Sunday Morning at various stages, before attempting our own material.

But even after we’d dropped Velvets’ songs from our warm up (we never tried to write like them, strangely enough) Reed’s ‘one chord’ sonic DIY advice remained.

Not least when it came to recording. Idling online on the morning after his death I landed on a track we’d recorded in that garage one winter a decade ago.

Reed was all over this effort, in spirit at least.

As I remember it the song was cut on a single Sennheiser vocal mike, hung from a roof beam. I think there was a second track for the vocal but I can’t recall (though we certainly mixed something afterwards in ProTools).

My main memories are trying to keep enough blood running through my freezing fingers to hit the blink-and-you-miss-it lead solo.

We always regarded the recording as rough, about as scuzzed out as anyone’s ears could tolerate. But didn’t White Light/White Heat sound rough as hell too?

'One chord is fine'. Rehearsal, 2012.

‘One chord is fine’.
Rehearsal, 2012.

This was the Lou Reed Effect, for me. Just play it. If it’s raw leave it raw.

Listening to Four Miles ten years later I’m glad we applied that. The just-within-our-grasp beat, whatever pedal mix that was, the lo fi drums, even the solo, all sound just dirty and distorted enough to work.

Praise – or blame – Lou Reed for that. RIP.

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Taste another little pizza my heart

Clogherhead. It's all about the seafood. Pic: Clare Kleinedler

Clogherhead. More fishing than flatbread.
Pic: Clare Kleinedler

How far would you go for a slice of pizza?

Eighteen miles across pot-holed country roads in a taxi to a small fishing village perched on the edge of the Irish Sea?

That’s where I found myself last Saturday night, clinging to my seatbelt, en route to La Pizzeria in Clogherhead, Co Louth.

Clogherhead’s more renowned for fishing that flatbread. It’s also the home of Captain RedMan, a headless sea captain’s ghost who reputedly spends his time wandering the area.

If it’s primo Italian cuisine he’s after the RedMan’s in luck – a chef named Jian Carlo has set up there. A local legend on foot of his erstwhile trattoria of the same name in nearby Drogheda (and, er, ‘direct’ customer manner) Jian Carlo opened his new operation in Clogherhead a few months back.

His previous oven produced some of the best pizza I’ve had in Ireland. Eighteen months had passed since we last had a slice there, so my wife and I undertook a pizza pilgrimage last weekend.

My frutti di mare – with added anchovies – was very good. Thin, dry crust, less rather than more mozzarella, just enough tuna.

Bon anchovy! Jian Carlo's finest.

Bon anchovy! Jian Carlo’s finest.
Pic: Clare Kleinedler

It wasn’t as I remembered it, though. But that may have had nothing to do with the dish itself.

Thinking about it afterwards it occurred to me that memory – the context of place, time, company, weather – influences my palate as much as my tastebuds themselves.

A madeleine-dipping Frenchman realised this long before I did, of course.

Swapping French biscuits for Italian flatbreads I asked myself: what were my most memorable slices?

Here’s my top five, in no order and with taste just one of the ingredients:

La Pizzeria (the original): the punch is the base and the crust, which could be eaten with just a slather of sauce. Thankfully Jian Carlos added that tuna, prawns and those anchovies (if you asked). For two years we couldn’t visit Drogheda without eating it.

Pizza Stop: a go-to staple in my single days this alleyway bistro boasted a seafood pizza with the saltiest anchovies (detect a trend here?) of any I’ve had in Dublin. Calamari a go-go too.

Capri - no salad. Frutti di mare at Verginiello. (Pic: Clare Kleinedler)

Capri – no salad. Frutti di mare at Verginiello.
Pic: Clare Kleinedler

Steps of Rome: back in my 20s this Chatham Street joint sold €2 slices to go, which often fortified my buddies and I on trips from Neary’s to gigs in Whelan’s. I can still taste the crumbly base – I suspect semolina.

Ristorante Verginiello: Capri’s overpriced and blinged up. This pizza was neither – I can still taste the mussel juice mixed with the melting cheese. The fact that we tasted it on our honeymoon made it even better. Jackie O, you missed out.

Artichoke Basille’s: on a 2010 work trip to NYC I hit their original East 14th Street outlet. Eschewing meat I opted for a crab slice. Perfect seafood, incredible mozzarella, this was the best pizza I’d ever had. The following day I wrapped up my morning run by breakfasting on another couple of slices. Next time I’m in town it’s a taxi direct from JFK to 14th Street.

Now that's a pizza crustacean - Artichoke Basille's crab slice.

Now that’s a pizza crustacean – Artichoke Basille’s crab slice.

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Always, in all those places

I imagine peace
I imagine sun
I imagine her garden in May
I imagine her hiking into the blue on Curra Hill above Rossbeigh Strand
I imagine her underneath a row of cypresses by a Tuscan chapel
I imagine her always saying ‘I hope the weather holds’.

As for the rest, that can look after itself.

I just imagine she’s there. Always, in all those places. At peace.

Rossbeigh Strand from Curra Hill, Kerry, June 2009.

Rossbeigh Strand from Curra Hill, Kerry, June 2009.

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Let it rain. Somewhere else.

Come on in, the weather's lovely.

Come on in, the weather’s lovely.

I’m Irish; therefore I know rain.

The Gaelic word for the phenomenon, ‘baisteach’, is pretty close to my own reaction when I pull open the curtains on an October morning to be greeted by dripping leaves.

Rain. Vast soggy swathes of my youth were soaked in the stuff. Summers swept away, winters seeping into one single drenched grey mass.

In a part of my brain – call it the Celtic cortex – it never stops pouring down. Showers that struck on holidays in Galway at the age of 12 continue still; the deluge that I swam through the first time I climbed Carauntoohill continues to pour down its sodden flanks.

As an Irishman for me rain is as much a state of mind as a natural phenomenon.

Great Recent Downpours I Have Known: The 72 hour burst that drenched our American visitors on their first trip to Ireland in September 2012; the mist that soaked my wife and I as I proposed under Mweelrea mountain seven months earlier; the torrents of a single night that flooded our block’s garage in October 2011.

Magnificent falls all.

—–

After a dry (by Irish standards) summer the rain returned to Dublin this week, three days of grey skies and damp air, broken only by dreary deluges and spot flooding.

At least in the west of Ireland they had an unlikely distraction, an apocalyptic ‘black cloud’ attacking gravestones and a church tea room.

'Travellers surprised by sudden rain'. Utagawa Hiroshige

Soft day? ‘Travellers surprised by sudden rain’.
Utagawa Hiroshige

The only memorable airbourne event I encountered in recent days was a lightning strike over Dublin Bay early on Tuesday morning which – I later discovered – struck an Aer Lingus plane.

Other than that it’s been raincoats, umbrellas and the sodden, sinking feeling that Autumn is here, with winter (read: same rain, just colder) to follow.

This persistent feeling that, regardless of how pleasant it might be today, rain is just around the corner, likely accounts for the outlook of the Irish pessimist class.

The fact that I – figuratively at least – approach many of life’s challenges with an umbrella in one hand and a dripping macintosh in the other is often remarked on by my other half.

Hailing from Southern California, where rain is seen as some quaint Old World folk memory, her usual outlook is a progressive optimism.

Guess whose approach works better?

As I write this it’s…. well, let’s just say that it’s not dry outside. But it will be tomorrow, they say. And there may even be sun, we’re promised, ‘in parts’.

Until then I’ll be – like Christy Moore – cursing this cold blow and the rainy night.

Let it rain. Just elsewhere.

 

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