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Surprise, surprise: Bono’s in the news again.

At a recent concert in Auckland, New Zealand, the U2 frontman paid tribute to 29 miners lost in the Pike River blast by dedicating two classic songs to the deceased: ‘One Tree Hill’ (itself inspired by an Auckland landmark) and, curiously and insensitively, ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.’ By all accounts, the bulk of participants took the tribute in the spirit it was intended, but many were offended by the rather crass choice of title.

Such daydreamy behaviour is not in the least unusual for our boy Paul, of course: the 50-year-old has a tendency not to see the woods for the trees in his eagerness, to put it charitably. Of more recent curiosity in Ireland has been the man’s total silence on his country’s economic woes, which have necessitated a bailout from the hated British, the dastardly Germans and the… well, we like the Swedes.

In normal circumstances, a tragedy on the scale of Ireland’s economic collapse would be Bono’s cue to hit the soapbox, but his bond with the old country has become evermore strained in recent years. His cosy relationship with Messrs Blair and Bush notwithstanding (though Ireland is more sympathetic to American interests than any other European country, barring perhaps the UK, we all have our limits), Bono and U2’s tax avoidance strategies have come in for increasing criticism at home.

Until recently, Ireland had a generous tax regime that exempted musicians (and…

(Photo: Romain Kedochim)

Time was, all the phrase “UK hip hop” brought to mind was the impossibly cool Slick Rick and the slightly less cool John Barnes. Ireland was in worse shape, almost apologetically claiming credit for New Yorkers House of Pain. Of course there were wonderful underground acts on both scenes, but they would always lack legitimacy in a genre still dominated by inner-city black Americans.

Times have changed immeasurably since: British rap acts have become a genuine force internationally, and being white and European is no longer the stumbling block it used to. Nevertheless, London-born, Wexford-raised Maverick Sabre had always struggled to define his own identity since leaving the city of his birth aged 4 to live in the land of his father, a nation where to be both Irish and English is often viewed as an oxymoron.

That struggle is one the 20-year-old teases out on his debut single, ‘Sometimes,’ and one of many fresh perspectives he offers to an already creatively thriving London scene. His style will most commonly be compared with Plan B’s – and indeed he’s already played support for his fellow Londoner – with acoustic guitar prominent in all his songs and reggae-tinged singing interspersed with his half-caste rapping voice.

Maverick Sabre – ‘Sometimes’:

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It’s a rare enough event, so we like to celebrate it, when Sputnik’s favourite Aussie pop whore Davey Boy’s tastes overlap with anybody else’s.

It’s even more unusual when two of those rare events collide, but as it happens Davey and I share more than just a name: we both have a keen appreciation of the full-on badassedness of P!nk and the slightly less full-on glamness of Idol pretty boy Adam Lambert.

Here’s the collision – Lambert’s 2010 hit ‘Whataya Want From Me’ was co-written by P!nk and recorded for her 2008 album Funhouse. It didn’t make the final cut, but Lambert gave it a key platform on his debut album For Your Entertainment. Now P!nk’s original demo has emerged and it’s virtually identical – the arrangement is the same, possibly (probably) the same exact instrumental track, but obviously with P!nk’s voice on top.

Being virtually identical, there’s not an awful lot to tell between the two tracks, yet it’s clear even from the rough mix that Lambert’s singing really makes the track – in fact, from the demo it’s pretty clear to see why it wasn’t included on the final mix of Funhouse. In any case, it’s a handy little insight into the fine margins that separate a really good pop single from just another cut on the studio floor.

Pink – ‘Whataya Want From Me’:

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Adam Lambert – ‘Whataya Want From Me’:

In years gone by, there just never would have been a debate: Snoop Dogg is black.

In recent years, however, Snoop has been seen to engage in a number of typical “white person” pursuits, such as expressing a desire to appear in Coronation Street, playing Metallica songs and continuing to use words ending in “-izzle” years long after it became annoying and everybody else agreed to stop. He may even play golf.

It took an appearance on TBS’ George Lopez show earlier to finally answer the question we’d all been asking: who’s blacker, Snoop Dogg or Charles Barkley? The results are below.

Depending on who you believe, The Room is either the most unintentionally funny serious movie ever made or the greatest stitch-up of all time. Either way, nobody who sees Tommy Wiseau’s $6 million directorial debut is quite the same afterwards.

Now, the film’s most famous line – “you are tearing me apart, Lisa!” – has its own dubstep remix, and it’s bizarrely catchy. As far as dubstep goes, it doesn’t sound all that dubsteppy (the other, filthier mix sounds more like what I’d consider dubstep), but it’s hard not to admire the way its creator has taken a couple of errant lines and transformed them into an anthem.

Note: this probably won’t make any sense to anyone who hasn’t seen the film. There’s a lesson there.

Wikipedia fanatics are almost universally regarded as creepy, pedantic weirdos whose insatiable lust for secondary sources is matched only by their desire to reference said sources in a neutral point of view (NPOV). That’s more or less correct.

At the same time, I have to have sympathy for Wikipedia editors, as they are essentially charged with enforcing a set of increasingly detailed and hard-to-follow rules on ignorant but otherwise well-intentioned people. In that sense, you could say the average Wikipedia editor is like Jom on steroids (coincidentally, Jom is actually on steroids).

The worlds of the obsessive Wikipedia editor and the average user clashed again a few months back, when a seemingly random submission to the article for Warren G’s classic G-Funk hit ‘Regulate‘  snowballed and brought dozens of independent contributors together in a quest to provide the most accurate and detailed synopsis of the song.

‘Regulate’ is essentially a synopsis of a night in LA when Warren G (the G stands for Griffin – a good, strong Irish name) is held-up by some gangsters and Nate Dogg comes to his rescue, unloading a friendly round or two in the assailants’ chests while he does. It’s a charming tune and one that translates particularly well to prose (if only for the multitude of trivial details laced among the carnage of the narrative).

The “project” went on for almost a month, with considerable improvements made to the original synopsis, before an editor noticed the high…

Were proof needed that ‘Fuck You’ is in fact the new ‘Crazy’/’Since U Been Gone’/’Poker Face,’ London singer-songwriter Eliza Doolittle is one of about a million artists (not an accurate estimate) to begin incorporating the song into live sets.

I shudder to think how many more artists would follow suit were there to be some sort of profanity-less version, but unfortunately that song simply does not exist.

Here’s Eliza’s cover recorded backstage with two awkward 14-year-olds she has charitably recruited to play in her band. Stripped down to just double bass and vocals, it’s got a nice laid-back jazzy feel, although it’s probably best not to actually watch the video because her actions and expressions are ill-fitting and really fucking annoying. I don’t think she’ll make it as an actress.

If you do watch the video, look out for the “oh shit she’s a gold digger…” line and the awkward expressions on the supporting cast’s faces as they struggle not to blurt out “nigga” at the end.

It’s no great secret that Amy Winehouse’s best music invariably comes about when she a) collaborates with otherwise nauseating super-producer Mark Ronson and b) channels the great female singers of the Spector-inspired Sixties.

With this in mind, it should come as no great surprised that Amy’s cover of Lesley Gore’s ‘It’s My Party,’ which features production from the still very nauseating Ronson, is what people who are prone to boorish sports metaphors might call a “home run” or perhaps even a “slam dunk.” Covering a genuine classic is always a risky business, but as with her cover of Sam Cooke’s ‘Cupid,’ it’s almost effortlessly brilliant.

‘It’s My Party’ is muted to appear on the upcoming Quincy Jones tribute, Q: Soul Bossa Nostra.

I know it’s unfashionable and frightfully rude to stick up for major labels these days – and goodness! I take no pleasure in doing it – but a recent post by industry litigator Gary Stiffelman on The Comet raised a number of insightful points.

Stiffelman argues for the continued usefulness (note: not essential goodness or moral worth) of major labels, making the case that while the music industry pie might be shrinking, the major labels continue to perform a necessary service that nobody else can replicate. Basically, he says that every major musical artist (measured in monetary terms) has benefited hugely from the major label model, and this is as true today as it was 20, 30, 40 and 50 years ago.

He dresses it needlessly in legal jargon (“disintermediation” is just a fancy way of saying “unnecessary” – he is a  lawyer after all) so I’ve picked out the essential points. He states:

1. [T]he supposition that the internet levels the playing field and allows every aspiring artist to launch his or her own superstar career is naïve at best, and dangerous at worst.

2. I cannot think of any music superstar that came onto the scene during my 60+ year career that didn’t benefit from the efforts and money of a major label.

3. There are always exceptions to every rule, but the labels, for all of…

English metalcore act Architects have been playing a new song entitled ‘Delete Rewind’ on tour in the UK.

The Brighton band have been performing with Norma Jean and Devil Sold His Soul in support, and will release their fourth album, The Here and Now, in January.

A second new song, ‘Day In, Day Out,’ can be heard on MySpace.

Cheers to Steve Gillespie for the tip.

Electric Owls’ 2009 debut Ain’t Too Bright was one of the year’s overlooked gems – so overlooked, in fact, that we disgracefully forgot to ever get around to reviewing it (though I did save all of our souls by putting it on my year-end list).

No such mistakes this time. On November 9, the other band led by Comas frontman Andy Herod, will release an EP Cullowhee Songs and I will not let it go by without even a casual mention. So here is that casual mention.

Lead track ‘When I Was a Flood’ sets the tone, and that tone is a little more aggressive than we’re used to from the band. Ain’t Too Bright was, ironically, quite a bright record – expansive and ebullient with rich, summery chords and tight vocal harmonies offset with broody, fuzzy guitars.

‘When I Was a Flood’ sounds just as big, but the acoustic guitars have given way to sparse, plucked banjo; the vocal harmonies remain, but they’re stretched and disconnected, while Herod’s lead vocal is a bluesy wail rather than a twee holler; the guitar fuzz has been pushed right down the mix to bare background noise. There are lots of little changes that add up to a fairly different-sounding whole, yet it’s still unmistakeably Electric Owls.

Electric Owls – ‘When I Was A Flood’

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(Photos: Loreana Rushe)

As recently as a year ago, this gig would not have been possible – at least in the order in which the acts took to the stage on Saturday night.

Local act Adebisi Shank’s career trajectory has been well-documented in these pages (though whispers of a US release in the offing may well be new), but the rise of Chicago’s Maps & Atlases has been steeper still, from a college band mixing Tera Melos-inspired math rock with freak folk to cracking the Billboard charts with their debut LP, Perch Patchwork, earlier this year. Saturday’s stop in Whelan’s was the final stop on their first European headlining tour – an event drummer Chris Hainey’s parents marked by flying over from the States (and boy did they stick out, as American tourists are legally obliged to do).

It turns out Maps & Atlases weren’t the only ones saying goodbye, though Adebisi Shank will surely be more relieved than sorry to see the back of this country: the Wexford/Dublin trio are to take on Japan for the jillionth time in support of the recently-released This is the Second Album of a Band Called Adebisi Shank. Taking to the stage around the 8.30 mark (an early start for a two-act gig), the Shank pushed all the right buttons, sounding markedly tighter than they did even a month ago when they headlined the State vs. Nialler9 gig in Dublin’s Mercantile Bar.

There’s an old football…

We all knew it would happen one day.

After clearly signalling his intent with movies like Men In Black and Independence Day (and probably others – what was Bad Boys II about? Did anybody even see it?), there’s not a person on this earth who wasn’t fully aware that “Turncoat” Will Smith had managed to breed with them and it was only a matter of time before his alien offspring descended on this planet to finish us off.

Damn it all, we just didn’t expect it to be this soon.

9-year-old Willow Smith… honestly, it’s one thing a father naming his son after himself – it’s a long established tradition – but a father naming his daughter after himself is plain weird, “alien” even. Anyway, 9-year-old Willow Smith has unleashed her first I Am Legend-sized virus on the world in the form of ‘Whip My Hair,’ a Rihanna-inspired number that’s been around all of 5 minutes but is never, ever going to go away. So get used to it.

Seriously, she’s 9. Her neck hasn’t even fully developed yet. This song is dangerous.

Here’s the video – you’re not going to be able to avoid it so you might as well just get it over with now.

Friends, family and complete strangers often ask me where the best place is to start discovering the work of Wildhearts frontman Ginger. Usually I’ll say something like “Earth vs. the Wildhearts” or “P.H.U.Q.” Occasionally I’ll throw out a “Valor del Corazon.” One time I even said “Yoni“!

There have been a couple of Wildhearts compilations over the years, and a raft of live recordings that could easily double for best ofs, but until now there’s never been an proper retrospective of the solo output of South Shields’ finest export since Phil Brown.

Celebrating a decade as a solo performer, 10 contains tracks from Ginger’s three solo albums, various singles and side-project Silverginger 5, as well as two brand new tracks: ‘No Way Out But Through’ and ‘This Too Shall Pass.’ Luckily, 16 tracks just isn’t enough, hence 10 (Two): a free digital compilation featuring ten tracks that didn’t make the cut.

Here’s my personal pick of the bunch: ‘The Drunken Lord of Everything,’ from 2005’s grammatically-dodgy Valor del Corazon.

10 is out now on iTunes and in record stores. 10 (Two) is free for download from Bandcamp.

Los Angeles indie rock quartet Warpaint will release their debut album The Fool on October 26, and record label Rough Trade have kindly made the full record available to stream in full via the delightful embedded widget below.

In addition to being a handy excuse to use the word “widget,” The Fool is a genuinely interesting record, running the line from folky indie rock to shimmering post-rock, with electronics and subtle orchestration a fleeting presence.

Warpaint have just finished a run of dates in the United States in support of The xx and will launch their first headlining tour of Europe on Thursday in Dublin, Ireland.

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