jump to navigation

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… CMAT August 13, 2022

Posted by irishelectionliterature in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
trackback

Am off with my son and daughter to Electric Picnic next month, have yet to check how to put up the tent nor indeed many of the artists playing. There’s quite a number I’d be unfamiliar with, so have been listening to a selection over the last while. One that caught my ear is CMAT, such a great talent, sing along tunes all whilst coming across as a lovely person with a good attitude to it all. Delighted in her success to date. The videos are wonderful too and I love the Country tinge to a number of the songs.

Comments»

1. yourcousin - August 13, 2022

Hate to agree, but can’t argue. It’s legitimately infectious.

Liked by 2 people

2. mal - August 13, 2022

I like “I Don’t Really Care For You” meself. There was an interesting interview with CMAT in the Irish Times where she said that she wanted to break the mould for Irish women musicians.

“…Specifically in Ireland, there’s a very acceptable form of femininity when it comes to alternative music, or, indeed, even mainstream music. If you think of Irish women musicians, you think either Dolores O’Riordan or Sinéad O’Connor – there’s a bit of make-up but it’s specifically androgynous or blurring the lines.” This is all well and good, she adds, but “in order to get to a point where, as a woman, you’re successful at making alternative music in Ireland that’s how you have to present yourself as.”

I think she has a point about the stereotype of Irish women singers as “lovely girls”. Although of course Sinéad O’Connor in particular has cheerfully pushed back against being stereotyped…

Liked by 2 people

WorldbyStorm - August 14, 2022

ROIsin Murphy comes to mind as someone who cuts across that but it’s like you were saying about fibbers – the market shapes or enables or just allows the stereotypes to come through. And the counter examples tend to be at the less mainstream levels – pillow queens et al.

Liked by 1 person

mal - August 14, 2022

Róisín Murphy would be a good counter-example. I’m sure there are others – Mary Coughlan?

For a lot of women who were involved in the mostly-male world of indie bands I’m sure there was a lot of pressure and scrutiny. I imagine that it would be difficult to be taken “seriously” in the 80s or 90s if you dressed like CMAT, no matter how good your songwriting was.

I read Ferdia Mac Anna’s memoir about being in Rocky De Valera & the whatever whoevers last year. Some bits of it were quite unusual, like his explanation of what happened when the Rockies hired a female singer. She was very competent and a lovely girl, but they sacked her after a few months. Why? Because all the men in the band had designs on her and her continuing presence was spoiling the harmony of the band. Apparently she was “very understanding” about it. Obligatory disclaimer that I may be misremembering some details of this as it’s been a year since I read the book.

Like

WorldbyStorm - August 14, 2022

Urghhh that’s terrible that re Ferdinand Mac Anna. I wonder though why the punk and post punk era didn’t see more woman artists here because in the uk that seemed to allow for some more and certainly presentation / appearance wasn’t a massive issue in that respect (though I also think of Bernie Furlong from the Golden Horde and Noreen O’Donnell from the Frames both who had distinct images in the 80s and 90s respectively, gay woods in Auto DA Fe, but this is really interesting how few there were).

Like

mal - August 14, 2022

I think relatively less advanced gender equality in Ireland + relatively less advanced music industry in Ireland = few regularly touring or recording bands with women members.

Like

WorldbyStorm - August 15, 2022

I have wondered about less advanced gender equality in Ireland. Obviously in big ticket items / abortion, divorce p, contraception and to a significant extent lgbt true but having lived and worked in Britain in the 80s and early 90s my sense was that in general women in Ireland were more autonomous – small things perhaps but for example drinking pints in pubs – more mixed groups etc whereas in the uk particularly as one moved away from self consciously political or cultural circles it could be profoundly misogynistic- another example would be at trade shows. Irish ones had next to none of the (vile term) ‘dolly birds’ draped across cars or whatever compared to the UK. This isn’t to in any sense deny the repression here but perhaps the place bypassed to a degree some pernicious aspects of that (no Irish paper bar the Sunday Workd iirc came close to page 3). Not ab argument for Catholic sexual repression but differences nonetheless. Or perhaps the levels of repression were equal but expressed differently.

Like

3. sonofstan - August 15, 2022

Rushed response, but not sure I agree: when I’m home, I generally struck by the greater gender inequality in many areas compared to here and a fortiori in the 80s, and particularly in the music business then.

Like

WorldbyStorm - August 15, 2022

Absolutely agree it’s subjective (though the music side in indie etc as was was as mal says horribly imbalanced in Ireland but then reading about C86 the other day saw it was stated this was an opening for women groups etc – there were two female bands on C86).

Like

WorldbyStorm - August 15, 2022

Btw just to say v conscious as a man how problematic my offering an assessment of this is – on the other hand thought it worth giving an impression.

Like

mal - August 18, 2022

I’m glad to hear your impressions. I wasn’t alive at the time so my perspective is limited.

For young women to take part in music culture, they needed to be able to lifestyles fairly similar to those of their male counterparts – independent & without dependents. The sexual liberation or “permissive society” of the UK, while it allowed for fairly gross depictions of women, was part of broader social changes that allowed women to become more independent, choose when and whether to marry, and avoid unwanted pregnancies. In Ireland, the strong family ties many Irish women had, the lack of any contraception or abortion, and the social emphasis on “the role of women in the home” – to the point that married women had to retire from civil service jobs – all restricted the roles women could take. “Booth babes” & other similar practices create an unpleasant environment for any women entering those workplaces and the women who are hired as “decoration” are often abused or harassed. But while Ireland might not have had Page 3, the social pressures on women to stay out of the public arena – get married, have kids and support your husband, don’t work outside the home – were greater.
I read Viv Albertine from the Slits’ memoir recently. She comments that she, Ari Up and I think Tessa Pollitt too were all raised in fatherless households by single mothers. She wondered whether they could have done the same things – going out dressed like that, making music – if their dads had been around. So that’s another factor…

In the book “cranked up really high”, Stewart Home suggests that the reason lots of women were involved in UK punk was because punk didn’t emphasise virtuosity, skill or expertise. This meant that the entry requirements were lower, and that meant that girls who hadn’t gotten guitars as Christmas presents when they were kids, or who’d grown up thinking that bands were for boys, could suddenly join bands if they wanted. That lowered requirement for virtuosity or traditional music skill was common between punk & C86 so I’m not surprised that there were women in C86. When I think of C86, I think of Tallulah Gosh…

Like

WorldbyStorm - August 18, 2022

Thanks, though I suspect my perspective is perhaps even more limited by functions of where I lived and where I was and I do think that considering things retrospectively tends to be more objective.

I think things did change fairly much in the 80s as distinct from the 70s which I can’t speak to really in the same way. I was 15 in 1980 and certainly the repressions while far from lifting became much much more questioned. Ironically the abortion referendums by doubling down on that issue made everything else both more spoken about and I’d think probably made it easier to push for change on those fronts. Contraception for a start was legalised in fits and starts from 1978 onwards but key was 1985 when it really did gather pace. This interestingly fits in with your point re lack of availability stifling creativity and the space for women to produce music (and given it really because available in the UK for unmarried women in 1967 iirc that timeline fits because it takes time for the changes to filter through – 1970s in the UK to an extent, building through the 80s and so on, 1990s in Ireland building through to the current time). But stepping back to the 70s joining the EEC led to the end of the marriage bar – first in the public sector/civil service in 1973 and then in the private sector in 1977. These must have had some impacts in terms of assisting a growing sense of autonomy and I wonder did they lead to growing support for contraception services etc or was there a generalised liberalisation of the society? My own mother worked from her early twenties on until retiring in the 2000s so for me that would have been the norm, and my Gran who lived with us had been a nurse so it was kind of a surprise to me to realise in the 70s that most of my friends mothers didn’t work outside the home.

My critique of C86 is not that there weren’t women involved, but that on the actual tape there was just two female fronted bands – We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use it and the Shop Assistants I think. I suppose the thing is that C86, if one ignores the shoutier groups on it, The Wedding Present, Stump and the like did open a space for the sort of proto twee pop groups that were about. As you say Tallulah Gosh. But then, then again, what about Pillows and Prayers from Cherry Red? That too arguably and four years earlier did precisely the same thing (albeit that female representation was erm represented by Tracy Thorn and Thorn adjacent groups alone! I really like EBTG etc but that’s not great). I have a bit of a sub-Marxist view of these things that there are movements in music at various times and that compilations like these really just reflect them so throughout the 80s there were increasing numbers of people playing shambolic pop and increasing numbers of women groups or women fronted groups doing so and C86 or Pillows and Prayers reflected this but imperfectly. Agree completely by the way that the DIY stuff was key (similarly with grunge which sort of was a cul-de-sac but saw a space open for riot grrrl etc which I don’t think has ever closed and frankly led to far more important groups than Nirvana and all the earnest check shirt wearing crew at the turn of the 90s).

Like

4. sonofstan - August 16, 2022

On a more general but related point: as CMAT says, the options for self-presentation for female Irish artists are constrained, but it’s also part of a more general suspicion of display and artifice within Irish popular music – we don’t do glamour or camp, both of which have been central to British pop since the 50s. Instead we do authenticity and acoustic guitars.

Like

WorldbyStorm - August 16, 2022

Very true. I guess country and western and to an extent show bands had a bit of that or a lot depending in a fascinating way which almost didn’t own up to camp or glamour intentionally – but agree again it’s more that trad and what became indie shied away from it into so-called authenticity (though oddly U2 had a dose of it and arguably the Virgin Orunes and Gavin Friday weren’t averse – exceptions proving rules?). But given how popular imtnational acts were that were camp or giamourous it says something about expected norms (I know we are focusing back and forth on macro and minor but look at how popular Bowie was and remains in Ireland).

Speaking of women and marginalisation there’s a woman designer who did album covers for Philomena and Red Hurley and others called Diana O’Donnell, this would be the 1970s. They were visually really striking and idiosyncratic but there’s no history of her. Telling isn’t it?

Like

sonofstan - August 18, 2022

That last bit is fascinating – might follow it up with you at some point?

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - August 18, 2022

That’d be great.

Like

WorldbyStorm - August 18, 2022

Just on camp/glamour and Ireland. Bowie really is instructive. I knew in the 90s people who worshipped at the alter of punk who loathed any artifice – these would be the people who had been around during that period of the first and second wave of punk and maybe my age or a few years older. Yet they idolised Bowie in a way that was fascinating despite to me Bowie being kind of brilliant but inauthentic (it was almost his brand) but somehow he had embedded as a token of punk adjacency that was its own legitimation. So if framed in the right way camp/glamour worked grand with Irish audiences.

Like

sonofstan - August 18, 2022

A colleague here suggested to me recently that one thing outsiders don’t get about the north of England is how camp male culture is here – nothing to with sexuality: gay/ straight/ whatever all the same.
Not sure if it’s entirely confined to the north, though I wouldn’t argue with someone from Manchester about this, but he’s onto something. You see a level of dandy-ism, even in people with quite ‘serious’ jobs and in quite serious contexts that would scandalise an Irish audience.

Liked by 1 person

mal - August 18, 2022

That’s an astute point – camp, glamour, artificiality, posing, were all right out for most Irish bands. Which still kind of stands today.

A while ago I tried to figure out if there were any 70s Irish glam rock bands – not really, as far as I could tell, although I assume plenty of showbands were playing the hits. I did find out that according to foclóir.ie the Gaeilge for glam rock is “rac péacach”.

The U2/Virgin Prunes glam influence seems fairly strong. Which is kind of interesting since a lot of the members of those bands seem to have had fairly devout Christian beliefs.

Like

mal - August 18, 2022

Also the campiness in British culture is good point. Drag, panto, Carry On films, whatever you’re having yourself.

I have a book/oral about 60s mods (“Mod: The New Religion” by Paul “Smiler” Anderson), and some of the contributors to that mention the early gay influence on British mod culture. Which is interesting considering how influential mod was for the next 20-odd years of youth culture and subculture.

Like

WorldbyStorm - August 18, 2022

Horslips! Well, not really, but the shirts they wore were pretty glam in an Irish context at one point in their career. There are some interesting points around post-colonialism and a sense of cultural endeavour as being quite serious, as representing the nation in some way. You get a fair bit of that around trad music but it’s everywhere too.And with that would be a suspicion of that which emanated from the old colonial power?

There’s a huge gendered aspect as well to this, to bring it back too to the original points, male bands, doing ‘serious’ work at the cultural political coalface, not a lot of laughs (I was always entertained by the Joy Division and later goth clones in Ireland for whom the campness of goth, the sheer silliness, seemed to completely pass them by). Though speaking of goth it did tend to bring a bit of ambiguity to the feast in terms of gender and sexuality which was no bad thing. But again terribly terribly serious in the Irish iteration.

I can see a gay influence in Mod, didn’t all British non-mainstream pop music had that (even metal – Judas Priest’s singer Rob Halford, a gay man himself, though not out until much later, has said how he was entertained to see how the visual imagery of metal that he promoted locked right into gay visual discourses).

Like

sonofstan - August 18, 2022

“There are some interesting points around post-colonialism and a sense of cultural endeavour as being quite serious, as representing the nation in some way”

Yeah, think there’s something in that.
On Joy Division – was thinking about them earlier, and even, deadly serious as they were, they were also stylised to the nines: U2 has a bit of visual suss, mostly thanks to Steve Averill, but they were a mess in comparison to JD.
And re the Prunes: first time I went to Leeds, for Futurama in ’79, we were standing in the queue, feeling a bit awestruck and provincial, when who should walk by in a kilt and lurex top but Gavin. Who cut us dead, despite knowing full well who we were 🙂

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - August 18, 2022

Bold of him, but funny too! JD definitely style conscious. The sense of dressing up, of looking ones best – a very working class approach really but with added inflections of stylishness, coolness, or anti-cool.

Like


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: