Economics driven floor-fillers might be an outlier in terms of music genres but L/B/W (Lamont/Bailey/Wall) put the boom to bust to boom cycle under the sonicscope in Boom!, their debut LP.
When Lamont/Bailey/Wall (Ian/James/Patrick to their respective mothers) began the work that would eventually become their debut LP Boom!, the country was the the midst of the recession’s bleakest, most frigid days. As Lamont explains over a midweek pint, “Friends were forced to leave the country, or stay in jobs they hated. Houses that had cost everything were worth nothing. It seemed like everybody we knew was on the dole for the first time in their lives, ourselves included. It was shit.” Everyone in the country seemed to have money on their mind yet the zeitgeist was curiously underrepresented in the music emanating from the capital. From this climate of financial uncertainty and personal anxiety sprang Money – The irresistible single that opens Boom! and sets the agenda for the meticulously crafted, simultaneously cerebral and danceable pop cuts that follow.
“I kind of think that it’s not a concept album as much as it is a context album”, explains Wall. The holistic nature of record’s thrust came into sharper relief when Money’s companion piece – the masterfully titled We All Partied – began to take shape. “Money was definitely the first song that was explicitly about – well – what the title suggests”, expands Wall. “We All Partied emerged very quickly afterward, we used to play them back to back and kind of wrote them in that way. From the word go, they were a pair”.
It quickly dawned on the trio that their dancefloor-ready sophisti-pop was utterly sympatico with their newfound lyrical focus. Economics driven floor-fillers? It’s not as out there as it sounds. “I remember hearing Nile Rodgers talking about Good Times”, continues Wall. “That’s from ‘79, so right on the cusp of the 80s. He was saying that the Oil Crisis was in full swing and that times were shit. Dance music works well with that sort of lyric, that sound can get it [the subject matter] away from being too much of a drag, It can still be party music”.
“Look at Fonzie Thornton’s I Work for a Living or even something like Gotta have a J.O.B!” effuses Wall, betraying his passion for when big issues meet posterior-shaking grooves. “There are so many amazing dance tunes from the ‘70s and ‘80s – a lot of them sung by women too – that are talking about real money shit. But, they have an incredible beat. That was a major inspiration for me, trying to write something that kind of feels like that”.
Boom! certainly isn’t a drag, nor is its reckoning with the the financial crisis purely macro in scope. The issues might be big, but they affect everyone, and Boom! is accordingly personal in its approach. In fact, the particulars of the band’s story even furnished them with a unique perspective of this particular go-around on the boom/bust carousel.
Wall explains, “If I’m writing lyrics, I’m trying to describe something I’m experiencing and it [The Downturn] was just inescapable. Even now, the economic conditions define everybody’s lives. From the time we started, we didn’t play a gig in a conventional venue for about three years. Mainly because that was the only time when it was logical for properties to be used as art spaces because you couldn’t make a heap of money out of them. Now, it’s obviously gone the other way completely and you can sort of see it coming again.”
“I was in college when we were ‘riding high’ and it was so hard to put your finger on what had changed. It wasn’t like a crop had failed. But, you could see these forces changing everybody’s lives in what seemed like a very extreme way. It was a really deep, worldwide depression and you just knew that within the next 10 years we’d back at another peak of the cycle.” Lamont goes on “I remember discussing with Patrick, once we started talking about the album, that there would be public and private elements to the songs that reflect the pressures that exist not just economically, but personally. There should be songs about doubt and anxiety – songs that reflected personal issues as well as public sphere issues”.
Of all Boom! tracks – from the 80s maximalism of Big Time to the Talking Heads inspired, afro-inflected licks of Can’t Stop Breathing – We All Partied mines this public/personal sweetspot to particularly profound ends.
“It’s so weird to think that Brian Lenihan was dying when he said that to Miriam O’Callaghan. All due respect to the guy, but why was he even working? ” begins Wall. “But, the phrase itself packs so much in there. When he said we all partied, the subtext was we should be ashamed of it. He was talking about a period of time in which, y’know, I went to a lot of parties and I didn’t feel any shame about that. I think it was an appeal to a certain part of a lot of people’s mindset. I don’t want to be like ‘It’s totally Irish!’ but shame is a big thing here – the whole idea of penance being paid and that the penance is everybody having to bailout the banks and developers – there’s a lot in it.” “I always thought of it in terms of blame shifting” adds Lamont. “We All Partied? No, we didn’t! Not if you’re my age, you’re just locked out of ever buying a house”.
“I used to work in the world of finance” shares Wall, illuminatingly. “So, I saw a bunch of horrible shit at that time. The cataclysmic events of 2008/9, in a way, gave me an opportunity to walk away from it. For me, I’d been on this track of ‘I gotta make money, I gotta have a job’. But after 2008, I could walk away, put on gigs for nothing and just study and do music”.
Frankly, it’s striking how well equipped Lamont/Bailey/Wall are to to tackle this stuff. Aside from their nous for employing perfect genre touchstones to relate to the subject matter, the trio are also exactly the right age to have been young (yet cognisant) enough to fully take in certain realities of the downturn. Lamont isn’t so sure though, “In a sense, you could say that it’s a sample size of one that could make any record since all records are inherently personal and from some kind of position. I think we were particularly well placed to write about it. But, I think being well placed is only half the battle – you still have to be willing. I have to credit Patrick for writing Money and We All Partied because it’s so hard to write about a big topic in such straightforward terms and for it to be so effective. The success of the record is down to Patrick not shying away from writing about these things in plain but quite eloquent terms.”
Eloquent is right! We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
A limited edition 12’’ of Boom! (1/250), pressed on 180g black vinyl in Glasnevin by Dublin Vinyl, is now available for €20
Words: Danny Wilson
Photos: Andrew Conway