DUBLIN, Ireland (www.irishunsigned.com) - Republic of Loose are by far the most high profile, and by far the most original band currently doing the rounds in Ireland. No question remains about their potential. Selling out all but the biggest venues in the Country, top ten singles all over the place and a Number 2 album (kept off the top only by a new release from the legendary Christy Moore) currently making waves, Republic of Loose are not only Ireland's *next* big thing: they are also Ireland's *current* big thing. They may well have what it takes to be the UK's and the US's next big thing as well. With their originality, talent, on-stage personality and charisma and (OK, I'll say it) 'balls-on-the-table-this-is-what-we-are' attitude, nothing would surprise me.
Radio loves them, even the less-palettable lyrics in some of their songs, and Joe Punter absolutely adores them when they hear or see them. Unusually, even when Mr and Ms Punter discover that this seriously cool band are actually *Irish*, they still love them: not common, as many of you will already know. Even Industry, at the recent launch of the Industry Bible known as "The HotPress Yearbook" seemed to love them (despite the band haranguing those who were paying too much attention to their beers or the evening's conqusets than good music demands from a listener). It would seem that Republic of Loose can do no wrong. Unless, of course, you are easily offended by questionable lyrics, themes of a sexual nature or Irish bands being excellent at using legendary grooves to back their tracks onto.
From the ridiculously catchy "Comeback Girl" which was the first single off the current Album "Aaargh!", via the even more ridiculously catchy barebones "Na Na Na Na Na Na", with detours to (my personal favourite) "Break", plus the unusual lyrical nature of the parental guidance warning needed for "I'm Greedy" there is a wide spread of talent, influences, abilities.
The basslines across the entire Album are reminiscent of the Sixties, of Motown, of Seventies disco/funk, of The early Rolling Stones, of... Well, just about everyhting that was cool in the 60's, 70's and 80's funk arena, which is odd, because I doubt the band consider themselves a funk type of band. From what I can gather they see themselves as a band, and that's it. In a way, this is a good approach to take when listening to the Republic of Loose album because if you go into it, as I did, with a preconceived idea of what you are going to hear, you'll instantly be wrong.
From the opening title track "Aargh!" (disregarding the intro) you are instantly thrown off the intitial idea of placing R.o.L in a category. They need one all of their own. Take the walkalong bassline from "Harlem Shuffle" and wrap it around Mick Jagger doing an Irish accent telling you to kiss his ass and you're halfway there. Then, in the middle of all this you get a "La la la la la la la" followed by a chant a la Springer's "Go Jerry, go Jerry" but without the words, quickly followed by "Afghana-Banana" and soon you're left (or at least, I was) wondering "How the hell do you write this stuff up?" and, more to the point "How did they get here, from there?". Pyschedlic tripping, without the chemicals.
Quarter of the way through the album you egt to "Comeback Girl", their hit single from 2005. This song got so much radio play that people began to insist that there was *no way* it could be by an Irish band because Irish radio stations simply do not play an Irish act that much. More to the point, it is *still* getting tons of airplay and will probably get even more when the Summer - that's two weeks in July if we're lucky - finally arrive to these shores. It's another of those songs wrapped instinctively around a groove that makes the listener think of Summer, of Disco/Funk, of The 70's, of "chillin out" (man...). It's easy-going, it's catchy, it's easy to learn the lyrics (and even the lyrics build a picture of lazy days and even lazier nights to complement the bass and melody). Occasional (short) crescendoes remind you that R.o.L can do more than walking-pace groove-and-bass but this is where their nature tends to take them.
The next single due for release, "Break", starts off with a rhythm that instantly has the feet tapping, the head bopping and a Commitments-like backing vocal that is actually the main vocal at the start. Mick Pyro, the lead singer pours an Irish-rap over the top (there's no other description for it, although it's not really Rap either) that makes him sound like a character you'd be afraid to meet in a dark alley. He sounds like a lunatic which compliments the nature of the track by being it's opposite. "Break" is a mellow, summery, acoustic-guitar-led Latino-type groove with smooth (almost Gospel-like) backing vocals in places. Pyro, over the top, makes it sinister. On the other hand, sinister-plus-catchy is good in my world. Definitely. The final decoration for the track is a guitar break that puts me in mind of that infamous theme from "Pulp Fiction", if it was played on the high end of a high note on a steel guitar, and then speeded up a la The Chipmunks. Of course, that description sounds bizarre. In fact it sounds contrived, but - again - that's the thing about Republic Of Loose: you have to contrive new ways of describing what they are doing. The only complaint about the song, if complaint is the right word, is that the PG nature of the lyrics are going to prevent widespread exposure on radio, unless there is a cleaned-up radio version made available for sensitive commercial/daytime radio. My personal complaint is that neither the song itself, nor that Pulp-Fiction-guitar-break are long enough. I've turned it into my ringtone on my cellphone
Later in the album, "Shame" provides a track that is instant-radio-just-add-water. "Young Girl: shame on you", sings Pyro and the rest of the band in such a way that you can almost see their fingers wagging. Into the chorus, there are hints of 'Motown' (no, I haven't been drinking) in the way the arrangement is put together. Like many of R.o.L's tracks, it is tricky trying to make out what they are trying to say, lyrically, and then you come to the conclusion that whether it is because of Pyro's enunciation, the rolling nature of the backing vocals, the choice of words themselves or simply the fact that you're too busy listenting to the multilpe layers of the music, it doesn't really matter. As one of those music fans who is more interesetd in lyrics than musical arrangements, I continuously find myself trying to analyse the meaning inherent in a track's lyrics. I started to think that Republic of Loose's "Shame" seems to be about the nature of an Industry (the media Industry, it appears) that preys on young and impressionable girls, turning them into moulded two-dimensioanl products with which to sell more shallow products and shallower ideals to more young and impressionable girls. I base that premise almost entirely on the lyric "If you can tell the difference 'tween a mirror and a magazine, well, then, you know what I mean", and I'm probably wrong. The point is that before I could bother to spend too much time analysing the lyrics, the track takes me away to a place where I actually sing along to it. Out loud. And I don't do that.
In the absence of the usual obstacles (work, wife, kids, bills, the real world etc) Republic of Loose's "Aaargh!" is an album that would almost be enough to make you consider jacking in the real world and becoming a surf-bum, or a tattooed-and-bearded roadie. R.o.L seem to inspire that sort of reaction even in the most conservative of us (which would include me, actually). Then the CD switches off and you are, in a way, glad because it is a little bit disconcerting that a handful of simple songs (because there's nothing complicated or 'arty' about Republic of Loose's material) could possibly influence the normally clear-minded of us to such lengths.
- Written by Ron Healy, IrishUnsigned.com. This text may be reproduced in whole or in part provided this line is included somewhere in the text.