A new Ball game

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music Reviews -

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

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