Tuesday, October 30, 2007

LAN of hope and glory

I’ve been a bit obsessed with wireless technology recently, due to the fact that I’ve been trying to set up a miniature Local Area Network (LAN) in my flat. And failing, quite a bit.

Basically, I realised, as I inserted and unplugged Ethernet cables like the activity of inserting and unplugging Ethernet cables was going out of fashion, the whole world should be one big free wireless hotspot.

And I also came to this conclusion: if Woody Guthrie was alive today, not only would he agree with me, but he'd be writing songs about this hot social potato. And his guitar would probably have “this machine kills dial-up” written on the side.

As he’s not around to do this, I’ve updated his classic socialist folk song 'This Land is My Land' to incorporate Guthrie’s (projected) views on the developments in wireless technology. Feel free to join in.

This LAN is your LAN, this LAN is my LAN
From the mobile IP, to the wireless tri-band
From the manual keying, to the content filtering,
This LAN was made for you and me.

As I was walking the information superhighway
I saw above me a WEP key,
I saw below me an SSID.
This LAN was made for you and me.

I've routed and scrambled and I've followed my firmware
To the subnet mask of her dynamic DNS
And all around me a secure HTTP protocol was saying
This LAN was made for you and me.

As I was wi-fiing, I saw a sign there
And that sign said: “no tresspassin'!”
But in the hotspot, it didn't say nothing.
That gateway was made for you and me!

In the squares of the city, in the shadow of the IP,
Near the internet cafes, I see my people
And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'
If this LAN’s still made for you and me.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Prom com

Two utterly cringeworthy examples of the "when I say 'x', you say 'y'" paradigm, heard in Camden's Jazz Cafe last night:

"When I say 'one', you say 'extra' - one!"
"When I say 'electric', you say 'proms' - electric!"

Previous examples

Saturday, October 27, 2007

I've got a lot on my template

Woah, check out my amazing new blog template! Ace, isn't it?

Okay, okay, it looks almost exactly the same as the old one. In fact, only Goose obsessives (you know who you are) will notice a change. But underneath, it's all Blogger 2.0, so bog off. Or jog on, your choice.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ready Steady

iTunes' FREE single of the week is The Hold Steady's majestic Stuck Between Stations. Go and get it immediately, it's a blinder of a song (provided you like REM, Springsteen and, like, music).

It also has the best opening line, nay verse, of any song this year. Well, last year - it's been around quite a while now. Which means you've probably got it already. And you're probably bored of it already. Sigh. There's no pleasing you, is there? I mean can't you just pretend to be interested even if you're not? Fine. You've got an attitude problem, you know that? And sort yourself out, you look a mess.

Anyway, that first verse:

"There are nights when I think that Sal Paradise was right.
Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together.
Sucking off each other at the demonstrations,
Making sure their make-up's straight.
Crushing one another with collossal expectations;
Dependent, undisciplined, sleeping late."

Full lyrics

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Haven't eaten yet today. Still not hungry.

Chicken overdose

Last night I went over to the Stockwell flat where I used to live. James and Jamie are moving out soon, so we thought we'd have an evening of beer and reminiscence. But then it was suggested we pay a visit to our Stockwell junk food haunt of many years, Millennium Fried Chicken, and treat ourselves to a family-sized bucket of unhealth.

All three of us leap upon the idea with the utmost relish (it's the only way to leap upon ideas involving large amounts of food) and, at around 8.30pm, we head over to MFC. Our man Raju is manning the decks; as I moved out of Stockwell in April, it's an emotional reunion for us both.

I tell Raju the news that James and Jamie are also moving away, to Tooting Bec. He quizzes Jamie, who confirms that there is no branch of Millennium or Morley's nearby. Our chicken man laughs: "Only 20 minutes from here, though." And indeed, the chickenburgers are so good here I can actually imagine my former flatmate traversing five tube stops to get his feed.

"There's an enormous Chicken Cottage, though," says Jamie. For some reason, this is a piece of banter too far for Raju and he visibly flinches.

"Please sir, no," he says seriously.

"It's almost a Chicken Mansion," I add, comedian. No one hears me. Raju turns back to the task in hand; we gather together the £17 needed to pay for this epic meal.

Anyway, with heavy hearts and a heavy bag, it's time for one last "vannakam", then we're off to the flat. Extraordinarily, between us, we eat four portions of chips, five large pieces of chicken, 11 chicken wings and three chickenburgers.

Afterwards I actually have a sensation of being physically clogged. "I feel like I'm more chicken than human now," I groan.

"I never thought this could happen," adds Jamie. "But I have a chicken headache."

Remembering MFC
The five levels of chicken shop recognition
The ill fated Tamil lessons
Meeting Shiva, the destroyer of chicken

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bad news

21 November 2014: Winter is setting in, and the freesheet distributors have intensified their reign of terror on the London streets. The chill darkness arrives earlier and earlier; each evening brings with it the pack of thirsty marauders and a new stack of damned newspapers. They thrust the fresh edition into your gloved hands and woe betide those who hesitate before accepting. There was once a time – oh so distant, now! – when refusing a copy of Thelondonpaper or its one competitor, London Lite, was acceptable, even common. But now, with over twenty different evening freesheets competing fiercely against one another, a walk home is like dashing through a forest of wolves. The old havens – tube stations, buses, coffee shops, pubs – are now patrolled heavily by vendors and it is a lucky man who reaches the safety of his home with a wad of newspaper less than ten inches thick. Some are duplicates; they do not care.

Do not accuse me of exaggerating the truth with frivolous verbal furbelows. I have seen first-hand the savagery of these creatures. Writing these words, my gnarled hand shakes as I hold the pen; mine eyes dart from side to side as I recall the events, which occurred this very day, almost to the hour, two years ago. Finishing work one dreary Wednesday evening, I deviated from my usual route for no particular reason that I can remember. Perhaps I was trying to avoid a tiresome colleague, or maybe I merely wished for a change of scenery. But how I wish I had never flinched from the safe monotony which drives us all forward! As I walked down that Fitzrovia alley – a place which lurks constant in my dreams – I espied five vendors heading toward my direction. Before they saw me, and knowing I could be in trouble if they spotted the rival newspapers I had accumulated, I quickly ducked behind a nearby bin. Holding my breath as they approached, I suddenly sensed that I had misjudged the situation. My suspicions that this was no normal distribution job were confirmed as I noticed, with jerk of panic, that the largest of them, a pale, greasy bruiser of a man, had streaks of blood on his shirt. He was silent, eyes to the ground; the others were babbling to each other in words that seemed, in my delirious trepidation, almost nonsensical. Still crouching, my hands gripped my shins in fear. Then they passed, and I was safe. This was, I am afraid, not the end of my ordeal.

After waiting a good few minutes to ensure the quintet had indeed left the scene, I continued down the alley. What I saw will remain with me until the final day of my life. The man, dressed in what I guessed to be his work suit, was lying in an odd, nightmarish position, utterly still. His clothes were in disarray: the tie pulled tight into a knot, the jacket suffering a large rip. Certain that I beheld a corpse, I suddenly understood the awful events that had transpired - he had refused to take the newspapers which had been offered him. Perhaps I am being dishonest, dear reader: there was an additional detail which helped me understand what had occurred, although the word "detail" does perhaps underplay the stark and ugly quiddity of this killing. The man's eyes had been gouged. Terrible enough, you might think. But protruding from the sockets, rolled up, were two newspapers he had refused.

At this time, in this city, just denying the vendors was a wild act of rebellion for which the deceased had paid the ultimate price. As the popular saying goes: there is no such thing as a free paper.

More on the freesheets

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Count your Lessings

While we're on the subject of grate righting, big up to Doris Lessing, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature last week.

Her reaction was hilarious, although she was clearly taken a little off guard (as was the injured man clutching onions and an artichoke who was accompanying her). "Look, I've won all the prizes in Europe, every bloody one..."

I nearly knocked Lessing over once. It was accidental, of course; we weren't going ten rounds in the ring. If we had been, I wouldn't fancy her chances - they don't call me Will "iron fists" Parkhouse for nothing. Anyway, the reason for my hurry was because I was late for a talk by the great writer herself - I was all like, "Out the way, old lady, I've got to get to Lessing!"

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Man oh Man

The winner of the Man Booker Prize is announced on Tuesday night. Here's my verdict on the shortlisted books.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Mohsin Hamid
A Pakistani man, Changez, bumps into an American in a restaurant in Lahore and begins to relate his life story, detailing his college days at Princeton, his love for a beautiful but disturbed fellow student and the high-energy graduate job in New York City that leads to him questioning his place in America. It's all told in the first person but the two parallel worlds - the eaterie of the present, as night closes in, and Changez's earlier life in the US – are beautifully evoked. Actually, the eerie style (in which we are made to become the American listener) is identical to Camus' The Fall, but I guess whether you want to take it as a rip-off or homage is up to you. Still, I thought it was excellent – the subtlety and tone of Kazuo Ishiguro combined with the storytelling finesse of [tries to think of someone with storytelling finesse]… Ian McEwan, perhaps.

On Chesil Beach – Ian McEwan
Speak of the devil. He doesn't need to win really, does he? I mean, Atonement, which he wrote YEARS AGO is back in the bestsellers charts, he's won the Booker already and everyone loves him. But, oh look, On Chesil Beach is fucking great as well. I guess there's not much new – he did the tiny minute detail thing in Saturday, he did the nifty compact novella thing with Amsterdam, he did the "skip to the end" looking back mournfully on our wasted lives thing in The Innocent… and so on. But it's still virtually impossible to dis'. Anyway, 1962: two newlyweds, Edward and Florence, arrive on their honeymoon at a hotel near Chesil Beach. Sadly, when it comes to bedroom time, Edward accidentally ***** on ********'s ***** and she's all like "Oh my God, that's totally gross". But "they lived in a time when a conversation about sexual difficulties was plainly impossible", which puts paid to any ideas of reconciliation. It would be magnificently boring if McEwan won, but no one can say he doesn't deserve it, frankly.

Mister Pip – Lloyd Jones
This, it seems, has become the favourite to scoop the £25k, ahead of the McEwan. That's slightly bizarre in my opinion: it's competent but not dazzling. The story's told by Matilda, a young girl living on the island of Bougainville (Papua New Guinea way) during a violent conflict in the early 1990s. Matilda and her classmates get through the tough times with the help of only-white-man-in-the-village Mr Watts, who introduces the children to Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. They love it, but everything starts to go wrong when rebel soldiers arrive in the village. Worth the read, but the best thing about Mister Pip is certainly the cover art, which looks like the greatest wrapping paper you ever saw.

Darkmans – Nicola Barker
Very, very strange. Eight hundred and thirty-eight pages long, it's written almost entirely in a san serif font not unlike Century Gothic, and features constant italicised interruptions in the text to indicate characters' sudden

- hey, what the…

inner thoughts. Meandering as a one-legged jogger and without any kind of discernable story arc, it's set in Ashford, Kent, and concerns the adventures of Beede (yes, Barker does do the "venerable" joke – on page two, in fact), his German friend Dory (who keeps getting possessed and doing weird things, like digging in the sand to find petrified forests), Beede's drug-dealing son Kane (phone-obsessed, constantly looking for a lighter), Dory's chiropodist wife Elen (beautiful, worried, perhaps dangerous), their six-year-old son Fleet (apparently also possessed; is building scale model of the French town of Albi out of matchsticks), Kane's ex-girlfriend Kelly (highly temperamental, breaks foot early on and spends most of novel in hospital), everyone's mate Gaffar (Kurdish wide-boy, has morbid fear of salad) and various other ne'er-do-wells. It would be totally cool if this won, but it's probably a bit too out there.

The Gathering – Anne Enright
Didn't like this much. The writing's clearly impressive, but it was hard to love. It's about a ragtag Irish family of 12, one of whose number dies, leaving the narrator, Veronica, confused, messed up and in the mood for reminiscence. Not much of it has stuck with me really – she almost becomes an alcoholic, gets annoyed with her children, drives around a lot and, as it's Irish, there's some stuff about child abuse.

Animal's People – Indra Sinha
Definitely the most FUN of the shortlist. Told by a foul-mouthed slum-delling Indian boy who walks on all fours like an animal after his back was deformed by a chemical leak from a factory in his town (the fictional Khaufpur, based on the central Indian city Bhopal), it's a compelling read, and filled with brilliant, vivid characters. The protagonist's tone slips slightly here and there and there's a dip about two-thirds of the way through which should've been chopped, but otherwise it's a cracker, with something of the Midnight's Children about it. Sadly – and I wish I was joking – the book's chances of victory will surely be massively decreased by the fact that an Indian writer won last year (Kiran Desai's so-so The Inheritance of Loss), so if the judges did decide to give Sinha the prize, there'd be loads of muttering about the, shall we say, "chutnification" of the Booker.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Like a trick card: The Thrills

[previously published in total:spec magazine August 2007]

"Yeah, cigarettes are the one thing this place doesn't have," says the Millennium Dome security guard who's just checked our bag for bombs. "The nearest shop that sells them's about 15 minutes away."

It's a week before the smoking ban is due to come into force, and only slightly longer before a clutch of terrorist attacks will hit Britain. Yesterday Tony Blair resigned as Prime Minister. And today? Something a big cheerier: The Thrills are playing their first London gig in bloody ages.

The world seems to have been dramatically bent out of shape since the Dome – now the O2 Arena – first opened its doors to a sceptical British public back in 2000. And while we're at it, a lot's changed since The Thrills first burst on the music scene in a few years later.

"Blair's greatest folly, was that the official title?" says Thrills singer and chief songwriter Conor Deasy. "It's kinda fitting we finally get to play it the day he gets thrown out the door, kicking and screaming."

"I would say Blair's 'other' folly," points out guitarist Padraic McMahon. "I might not call it his biggest..."

A blunder initially perhaps, but judging from the eager crowds pouring through the doors – most are here to see Snow Patrol in the main arena – it looks like The Venue Formerly Known As The Dome is pretty comfortable in its new incarnation. When we meet The Thrills, they've just played the arena's stupidly-named indigO2 bar, a little gig hole nestled in one of the arena's wings, as part of an AOL competition-winners night, headlined by Crowded House, another band with comeback on their mind. The Thrills' five-song set is sandwiched between Tiny Dancers and the Magic Numbers; we spot the latter's lead singer Romeo Stodart watching from the VIP area, nodding his head to the music and apparently concentrating intently – taking a few mental notes, perhaps?

Tonight the Irish quintet play two songs from their glorious debut So Much For the City and one from their not-very-well-received 2004 follow-up Let's Bottle Bohemia. But they kick off the show with the opening track from brand new album Teenager, the mandolin-led 'Midnight Choir'. It's a catchy, polished tune: "it sounds like The Thrills" is perhaps the best way to describe it. Live, it seems, they've come a long way since the days of 2003. When their reputation started to grow, the band missed much of the UK build-up because they were away in America, explains Deasy back on the tourbus. When they returned, they had a lot to prove.

"Everyone was standing there stroking their chins, sizing you up and we were still getting our shit together live," he says. "It's very hard for an Irish band to turn up in London. There's a little bit of snobbery against them because Irish bands aren't cool or fashionable. We got put in our place pretty quickly. You arrive in London and all the bands are strutting around like peacocks; they've got that whole game down to a tee. But usually the better they look, the less tunes they have."

Adds McMahon, simply: "We were so fucking clueless. Shit."

"Every night we went on to a song called 'Hollywood Kids'. This song is like the most sombre, country… dirty song. You don't open up a gig with it unless you're really trying to make some kind of point. And we would go on stage to this every night," finishes Deasy disbelievingly.

The band did, of course, receive their fair share of mockery, particularly for writing songs with titles like 'Your Love is Like Las Vegas', 'Big Sur' and 'Santa Cruz (You're Not That Far)'. For a band hailing from Dublin, some pointed out, Santa Cruz was actually quite far. "I think Irish people have a good sense of humour," says Deasy, before adding wryly, "That's something I think we've often been a victim of with the media back home."

Despite the nit-picking, So Much for the City was a huge success, in a dry year for music. Remember the 2003 scene? Nup, us neither – it was that wilderness period post-Strokes/Stripes but pre-Franz Ferdinand. Deasy recalls the band appearing on an NME cover-mounted CD which trumpeted those at the forefront of the so-called "New Rock Revolution", from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to The Datsuns. Incredibly, The Thrills were somehow shoehorned in.

"I was already really proud of that," says McMahon. "It was like, yeah fuck you, it's harmonies and banjos. I'm not sure we ever really fitted in to the indie scene. That's nothing to be ashamed of, I love it."

Deasy mentions that when it came to second albums, a lot of their contemporaries didn't step up their games. He doesn't say it, but you've gotta include The Thrills in that group. Let's Bottle Bohemia isn't a bad record, but ain't a great one either. The Americana-soaked So Much for the City was inspired by a special four months of living together in sun-soaked San Diego. The follow-up, well, wasn't; the reviews did not gush. Deasy defends the album – it got a great live response from the fans, he says, and the bands they were touring with loved it (three colossal names, REM, The Pixies and Oasis, are mentioned) – but acknowledges it was "kind of confused", albeit "in a charming, interesting way". The record plopped into the charts at number eight – not bad, but a tad disappointing if your record company has been telling you it's a guaranteed chart-topper.

"I remember the day when we found that out, we had an in-store gig to do," Deasy reminisces. "Usually, if it's the day your album's coming out and the shop's full of people, you'd be excited. And we're all beards and long faces. Our A&R guy goes, 'Yeah, I don't think they slept.' But when we wrote our first album, we never felt it was our defining statement. The odd thing is, me and Kevin [Horan, keyboardist], were both big fans of the Beach Boys and we knew the whole story about bands being typecast. Yet we still walked straight into it. It was difficult to break out of that."

McMahon is defiant. "What the fuck you gotta do on your second record? Are you going to write about the summer you had five years ago again? Write So Much for the City mark two? Of course not. You're going to write about whatever it is you're going through at the time. It would've been so fucking fake and ridiculous for us to write anything other than Let's Bottle Bohemia. That's what music is all about – it's about conveying what you're feeling at the time, not pretending."

Whatever, something fresh was called for. So for new album Teenager, the band decided to ditch LA, where they'd made the previous two. "It was definitely a symbolic thing," says Deasy. "California had become intertwined with the mythology, idea and aesthetic of the band. We really wanted to leave that behind." But where could they go? They quarrelled "like children" about the location of the record. While they were laying down the demos in Wexford, south-east Ireland, the boys would sit around the fire downing wine and shouting the names of cities at each other. "It was getting absolutely pathetic," laughs Deasy. "It was so random, someone would just pluck some city from nowhere and we'd start giving it serious consideration."

Thanks to a suggestion from REM (ooh, get you!), whom they'd toured with, they hit upon the Warehouse studio in Vancouver, Canada. Bizarrely, it's owned by Bryan Adams ("a lovely guy"). Sadly, the increasingly-grizzled Canadian was away on tour for most of the band's time there, and they didn't know the city or anyone in it. Additionally, says Deasy, it wasn't a big party city. But this was a good thing – no distractions, see? "It was an inspired choice, because it's a fantastic city," he enthuses. "Downtown Vancouver's tiny, but it's surrounded by these beaches and once you cross the bridges, there's this beautiful rich green countryside. This was the first time I could use the word 'wholesome' with recording sessions on our albums."

That's not to say the Warehouse was some kind of pastoral utopia. Far from it. "The studio was slap-bang in middle of the worst neighbourhood in all of British Columbia," says Deasy.
"No, no, it was the biggest drug concentration in Canada and America, per, like, eight blocks. It was cracktown central," says McMahon.

Deasy interrupts: "But the point that has to be made is that primarily it's very progressive drug treatment they have…"

"Free heroin, crack," says McMahon.

"No, no, they use highly progressive methods…"

"They give out free heroin in that city, I'm telling you! They do!"

"No, no, it's a myth, Macs. But I know what you're saying," says the voice of reason to his bandmate, turning back to us. "We would often walk into rehearsals and there'd be people leaning against doorways with syringes hanging off their arms. And right behind the studio, in the car park, there was a blue bin which said 'deposit your rigs [syringes] here'. You certainly don't get thrown in jail or arrested for it - we used to see cops approach addicts and they'd just tell them to shoot up somewhere private, not on the street at two o'clock in the afternoon. I don't know how effective it was, but it was certainly a very compassionate approach to the problem."
The pair sound like they weren't too phased by this. And – before you diehard Thrills fans start to get scared – Teenager is hardly the sound of grit and squalor. How did those surroundings affect the record itself?

"I don't know," says Deasy. "All I know is that it was new and interesting."

"Also the studio was absolutely stunning," adds McMahon.

"Well put it this way: it had six windows," says the singer. "Any studio that's not damp, dark or underground is a novelty for us."

"You could put down a vocal or guitar take with the wind and sun in your face," explains McMahon. "You could look out and see the mountains of Vancouver. It was a stunning, beautiful place to work. It was haunted as well."

We're not going to let that one slide. Haunted?

"It's the only stone building in Vancouver," says Deasy. "About 100 years ago, there was a great fire in the city, when it was a fraction of the size it is now, just a small harbour town. This fire wiped the whole place out apparently, because they were all wooden buildings. The studio was the one stone building, so it was used as a makeshift morgue."

"Me and Todd, our engineer, held séances down in the basement," says McMahon, unable to conceal his glee. "We put Ouija boards in there and everything. Shit was flying."
We start laughing, but he's dead serious.

"No, no, no, I'm not joking! Stuff was flying across the room, doors were slamming…"

Deasy interjects. "You say shit was flying – a pot rolled down the steps, Macs, it wasn't exactly flying."

There's no stopping McMahon, highly excited now. "There was this door that was jammed and you'd pop it open and there'd be, like, nobody there. You'd see it creaking open, like someone was pushing it…"

But the band had more to worry about than ghosts trying to lock them in the dingy basements of junkie neighbourhoods. The record has seen what Deasy calls "a whole year of last-minute tweaks". It was supposed to be finished by the end of last summer and appear in the shops just after Christmas. The band were about to sign off on the record, but they realised something wasn't right: there weren't enough songs. Not that they'd inadvertently made a mini-album – there just weren't the songs. Deasy recalls the blood draining from Horan's face as they decided to go back to the drawing board – "he's a man who lives for the road and he'd also been away from his mistress for far too long". But starting again was a brave thing to do and not just because they'd face the wrath of their ivory-tinkling bandmate.

"I have to say, that was a wracking period," says Deasy. "There's that whole 'a week is a long time in rock and roll' thing and you can feel yourself thinking 'fuck, we're spending too long on it'. You have to remember that when our second album came out, MySpace wasn't even up and running. A lot had been going on while we'd been away."

"There was a kind of urgency after being away for so long," agrees McMahon. "We got paranoid about returning and our backs were really against the wall. Until Conor came up with five or six new songs, we were really worried."

"I'm glad we held our nerve, because we got it right," says Deasy. "Ultimately, people remember a good record. They don't remember how long it took."

He mentions Ash's announcement that they won't be making any more albums; he can see the sense in it and because of Teenager's trials and tribulations, we wonder if he wishes he'd got there first. With people downloading album tracks here and there, long players, Deasy reckons, are an odd way for bands to make sense of themselves. The process is cumbersome (particularly if you're The Thrills) and you'll end up having to ditch songs along the way (they wrote around 30; there album has 11). But, as for most people in their late 20s, 'the album' is still a sacred concept.

In a scene currently obsessed by bright young things and next big things, it seems fitting that The Thrills have returned with a record that muses on the subjects of growing up. Deasy namechecks Joyce's Dubliners and Truffaut's The Four Hundred Blows as works that got him thinking about youth and innocence.

As the place where he grew up, Dublin's in there too. "The album's definitely closer to home, but not in that heavy-handed way that the first one was to California – we didn't want to do that again. Dublin's going through this strange transition at the moment. There's a huge amount of money pouring in and it's finally becoming a truly modern, impressive city. For the first time, there are people turning up on our doorstep looking for work, and it's great, because for generations, we've been turning up on other countries' doorsteps."

"I guess that got me thinking a lot about the Dublin of the 1980s. Even though I was there, I wasn't necessarily consciously aware of it. But talking to people 10 years older than us, the differences are quite interesting. This was a time when Irish people really had to emigrate out of necessity."

The extra time spent on the record widened its scope, so that, as McMahon points out, "It's not an album about being a teenager, it's about how you feel now, looking back on it, which is a crucial distinction."

"It's almost like a trick card really," adds Deasy. "Because it is a record about youth, but it's also about leaving it behind." It's also a much more personal record. Why was that? "I just wanted to do something that was very direct, that wasn't hiding behind unnecessary metaphor, and that would make sense to people immediately. For the first time in my life I began to enjoy early Beatles and Ramones." It's true, there are some remarkably unguarded lines in there, filled with simple emotion by that beautifully vulnerable yelp of his: "I envy your youth" runs one refrain. "I'm so sorry," goes another.

And there's another, very expectant, lyric that it's hard to avoid: "This year could be our year." That's the question - could it? The Thrills are certainly facing up to their battles: raging against that California typecasting, fighting their way out of "the Irish local hero cul-de-sac", getting over the disappointing second album, worrying about being away too long…

And then there's all those new, younger bands, MySpacing their way to the top. "We're the old ragdoll. The ragdoll left on the shelf," says Deasy. Looking at the rebirth of the Dome, they should take heart.

Teenager is out now
Check out www.thethrills.com for the live dates