Chart Attack #4 - Back to School

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Paul McClean | 21:02 UK time, Friday, 21 August 2009

You can almost smell it. The summer *guffaw* is almost over, a certain crispness creeps into the evening air and an undefined sense of dread fills us all, whatever age, conditioned from all those years of dreading the inevitable. School is back soon.

So, if you're celebrating A or AS level success, fair play, you found the escape hatch. For those about to make the dreaded trip to the local tailors for some interesting charcoal coloured attire, commiserations and don't worry, its only another ten months before next summer.

Here are ATL's top five educationally-themed tracks to help us all bear the stress.

5. Deftones - Back to School (Mini Maggit)
Claustrophobic and dark, as one expects from the Sacramento five-piece. While so-called rivals Limp Bizkit were sniggering about boobies and farts, Chino Moreno and his buddies were fusing a genuinely fresh sound between hip-hop, grunge and metal on the album White Pony. This tune was as close to a mega-hit as Deftones had come, and because it was a re-worked album track, some fans thought it tantamount to a sell-out. Moreno himself says he penned the song to prove just how easy a hit single was to write. Either way, oil up your nuts (the skateboard ones) and get the headphones on while you bust some ollies on the way to the bus stop. Awesome.

4. The Boomtown Rats - I Don't Like Mondays
Yes, we all know it's about Brenda Ann Spencer, a girl who really, really didn't want to go to school one day. Obviously, we would very much rather you handled any apathy towards your educational establishment in a more constructive manner, such as tutting loudly when the homework diary starts to fill up. By far Bob Geldof's defining moment as a songwriter, I Don't Like Mondays is an old school epic pop song complete with sweeping piano, bashing timpani (yes that's plural, grammar fans) and quiet/shouty bits. It also enabled the Live Aid guru to put his kids through college. Money well spent...

3. Pink Floyd - Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)
Oh how successive generations have delighted in singing "We Dont Need No Education" to hapless stand-in teachers since 1979 and the release of Pink Floyd's seminal ode to scholastic life. In reality, we would find it very difficult to function in a modern world without at least a basic education. An inability to read traffic signs, restaurant menus and instruction manuals for household appliances would lead to all kinds of embarrassing and awkward situations. Great song, nonetheless. This track provides good air guitar solo material too, so extra kudos point.

2. Belle and Sebastian - We Rule the School
From the now much sought-after debut album Tigermilk (worth gazillions of pounds to certain lonely, lonely men) this is like every single song by Belle and Sebastian. They are the Bovril of indie - you either love them or you wish a death upon them. "Do Something Pretty While You Can" is the general gist of this song and not a bad mantra, in fairness. If so inclined, you could attempt air flute (see above) but do not do this in a public place or your chances of pulling anything except a Christmas cracker with your ma will be greatly hindered.

1. Wheatus* - Teenage Dirtbag
No matter how cool you actually are to everyone else, inside your little brain you feel like an awkward loser. This is our national anthem. Raise your puny fists to the sky and proclaim proudly that yes, I AM a teenage dirtbag, baby! It has twee nostalgia-inducing references to the prom and tube socks but, more importantly, features Mena Suvari in the video. All you haters who think we should only be listing obscure DC hardcore B sides, think on. Joyful cheese ftw!

*The fact that Wheatus were actually in their late forties (by the looks of it) when they had a hit with this should not detract from its status as our top school tune.

Chart Attack #2 - Songs About the Sun

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Paul McClean | 15:36 UK time, Monday, 1 June 2009

Well last week it seemed that everyone in NI had their own personal rain goblin, but this week? Yowsah! It's positively balmy and the ATL office can finally open the window and get rid of that hard-to-shift, lingering odour that only boys can produce.

In honour of that rare golden sphere that has appeared in the sky above Northern Ireland we blog the top five songs about sunshine. It would be ten, but we're off to get white lemonade and make ice cream floats.

5. Wham - Club Tropicana

Well if a brass section falling into a swimming pool mid-parp doesnt tickly you, then we feel bad for your soul. This is the ultimate 80s cheesey Club 18-30 single. And they were airline pilots the whole time!! Sorry, did we reveal the intelligent plot twist?

4. Bob Marley - Sun is Shining

Ah Saint Bob. He stopped a civil war you know. He also smoked more than Ivor the Engine and occasionally like to be very factual about the weather. Not a lot of people know this but he actually ghost-wrote 'Snow is Falling' for Shakin' Stevens. One of the previous sentences contains fibs.

3. Roy Ayers - Everybody Loves the Sunshine

This one is a no-brainer for anyone who has ever even flirted with the smooth world of jazz, but it still never quite became a mainstream classic. The plinky riff, the right-on vocals and the swirling synths totally catch the blue sky feel. Obviously, Roy is incorrect with his sweeping generalisation. Albinos, the morbidly obese and vampires are among the small but significant amount of groups who actively dislike the sunshine.

2. Weezer - Island in the Sun

Hip hip. Rivers Cuomo, we would follow you to your mythical Island in the Sun, or indeed the very centre of the sun itself, such is the spellbinding force of your whimsical indie manner. Top marks for having a beautifully pointless guitar solo. Presumably it was just too sunny to bother writing any more lyrics. You beautiful, lazy man - we would salute you, but that seems like so much effort right now...

1. Nina Simone - Here Comes the Sun

She may have resembled a prune, and by all accounts could be as prickly as a cactus but my word she could sing. Not with one of those shake you fillings style soul diva voices, but a fragile, emotionally charged vocal that could open you up in a heartbeat. She makes George Harrison's sense of wonderment take on a wholly more pained and frail quality. Take a bow, Ms. Simone!

Let us know your thoughts and alternative charts...

Beard Science

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Paul McClean | 13:10 UK time, Tuesday, 26 May 2009

It began as a barely discernable scruffiness. A trickle of facial hair that has become something like a flood. The much talked of surge of talent coming from Northern Ireland is undeniable, with each week bringing more great news about European tours, signings, releases and publishing deals. The thing is, we think it is more than coincidence that this is occurring in tandem with a rise in the sporting of facial hair. The local unsigned beard scene has never been stronger.

fightingwithwire2313.jpgCase In Point #1 - FWW

Fighting With Wire are one of the most exciting live acts to come out of NI. That's a full stop there. But, we moot, would their relentless backline be anywhere near as impressive were in not for Craig McKean's chin warmer? We think not. Cahir's babyfaced urchin look needs to be addressed before world domination. 

Cutaways.jpgCase In Point #2 - Cutaways

Obstinately quirky, but in the good way. If ever a beard summed up a band then surely it would be Paul from Cutaways. Drummer Ryan also is no stranger to facial fluff. Grace, however, has let the side down something terrible but according to this ATL interview, she will try harder... 

Case In Point #3 - Kowalski

The crowning glory of the local beard scene, Paddy Kowalski. The Hanging Face Gardens of Babylon. It has become an independent being from its nominal owner and now has its own facebook, Bebo and Myspace plus a pay-as-you-go contract cellphone. 

Thumbnail image for Kowalski.jpgWe can cast our minds back through the mists of time and applaud the founding beardfathers of NI music such as Andy Cairns and Rick Ash whose goatees first introduced the notion that in order to fully rock, one must first dispose of the disposable razor altogether. Honorable mentions for Herb and Jonny Lafaro (Midwest Gas Station attendant beard), Black Bear Saloon (hi-octane, fully leaded beards), Ed Zealous (variety pack party beards), Ben McAuley (fierce, intellectual  Marxist beard), and the likes of Heliopause, Six Star Hotel, and Desert Hearts.

Smoothies take note, if you want to get ahead, get a proper face.

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