A new Ball game
Several years ago, 8 Ball was compared with early 1990s rave duo Altern-8 because of their penchant for wearing chemical warfare suits on stage. It was a shame: whatever spark the Dubliners had was muffled by their distracting apparel. Three years later, a shake-up has come just in time for 8 Ball’s second album, with nary a gimmicky costume in sight.
Handled by Sugarcubes and Tricky producer Ian Caple, With All
Your Friends marks a huge progression from the sextet’s likeable but somewhat patchy debut. Fans of Jim Noir and Super Furry Animals will love these eclectic tunes, swaddled in inventive pop melodies, groovy electronica rollicks and a tweeness that’s simultaneously gloopy and defiant. Immediate standouts include Dig It, a series of clinks, clatters, squiggles, spirals and squeaks wrapped up in a happy little pop tune, and the twinkling indie strum-and-groove of Trust Me.
Rooftops lends a warm skitter to proceedings while 21st Century
Man throws elements of The Divine Comedy and David Bowie into a cauldron and adds a sprinkling of soaring Arcade Fire atmosphere.
Thinking of You strips back the numerous bells and whistles, allowing Allen Monaghan’s dreamy warble to glide over a strummed acoustic backing track.
Perhaps the album’s offbeat ambience and indie sensibility makes the Super Furry Animals comparison an obvious one, but that’s certainly no crime. The sense of melody and understatement strewn through these 11 tracks is top-notch, and like most of Gruff Rhys and co’s material, it works best when listened to from top to toe, rather than in instalments. Like Jape’s Ritual, too, this is an electro-tinged album with a bucketload of soul and a generous helping of imagination.
One of this year’s best Irish albums? If we had a magic 8 ball, signs would undoubtedly point this way. www.myspace.com/ 8balltheband LAUREN MURPHY Download tracks: Trust Me, Rooftops, Dig It