Conversations of Interest

Conversations of Interest – Episode 1

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Revolution? In ‘Homage to Catalonia’

George-Orwell-001Revolution exists only as an ideal in Orwell’s ‘Homage to Catalonia’, true revolution of a Socialist nature that Orwell idealizes exists only in the slogans and banners which Orwell describes in the romantic opening of the first chapter. There are three variants of the word ‘revolution’ in this book, the Socialist revolution, the Fascist revolution of Franco, and finally the communist revolution within the ranks of the socialist government, none of which are synonymous with Orwell’s idealised version. Revolution to Orwell was black and white ,good versus evil,  a revolution of, “The New Statesman version of war, as the defence of civilization against a maniacal outbreak by an army of Colonel Blimps in the pay of Hitler”(197), and one which Orwell himself admits in his reflection as being ignorant of the true politics of the situation.

The first form of revolution, the Socialist revolution was one which really only existed through informalities and propaganda, which could as Orwell himself admits only exist in a time of war. This revolution was the ideal of Orwell, the POUM and the anarchists forming a political zeitgeist which represented the egalitarian society that the bearded fruit juice drinkers could only dream of existing in. This revolution logistically, was how one may have imagined such an idealistic movement to be, ill equipped with ancient rifles and bombs which were so rusted that they would be given nicknames after being fired from one side to the other without ever exploding. One could argue that this combination of idealization and dysfunction could be surmised in the paradoxical anger of an officer towards a soldier who had just called him ‘senor’, “Are we not all comrades?”(8), a scene which gives an almost ‘Dad’s Army’ feel to the shabby war machine of the socialists.

The standing government of Spain at the time had entered into the Socialist faze of a pendulum form of politics, which would swing in favour of conservative government should support from the major cities of Spain commanded it. In resistance to a revolution led by Franco the country-side Fascists were pitted against the city dwelling socialists who, this essay would imagine fought on either side only by geographical placement. Orwell describes the blurred lines of the revolution of the Spanish people against the Fascists as deserters would ‘trickle’ across the lines, hearing the calls of propaganda, “why fight against your own class”(45). Orwell also describes the again strange calls of “Buttered Toast” which were used to coax the opposing fighters, a tactic which not only must have had genuine but slightly humorous effect on the Fascist fighters but one which exemplifies the true nature of the war. It was not a socialist revolution but rather a scarring civil war which left the Spanish people themselves hungry and dying.

The Fascist revolution as a result was clearly one facet of a proxy war between the powers of Italy, Germany and Russia. Franco’s army propped up by Italian and German support was not a revolution of the people, rather, “His revolution was a military mutiny backed up by the aristocracy and the Church….it was not so much an attempt to impose Fascism as to restore feudalism”.(199) Orwell here understands more-so than before the political realities of the ‘Fascist revolution’, namely that is not a real revolution, as it would imply a movement led by the people, rather as a military coup d’états.

This contrasts greatly with Orwell’s almost boyish fantasy of ‘killing his first Fascist’, a view which is humanised following his sprint after a soldier who, comically to Orwell manages to stay out of reach of his bayonet. The attack of chapter six exemplifies this almost foolhardy hunger for gunfire which Orwell longed for in the boredom of inter-battle periods, but this can almost be understood. Orwell was not baying for human blood, rather he was looking for a physical attack on the ideals of this ‘Fascist Revolution’ a black-shirt scalp which would make him feel like that the misery of the trench was worth it. We however now understand that even as Orwell was chasing a fleeing man around with a pointed gun blade, a revolution of different sorts was occurring in the cities of Spain.

The Communist revolution was a reaction to the aforementioned proxy war, with Soviet and Stalinist control being asserted upon the previously independent fractions which had been united in the ‘Orwellian’ version of socialist revolution. Soviet and Russian control had propped up the otherwise weak cities of Spain against the tide of Fascist dissent coming from the east, and now it had begun to sanitize and regulate the previously disorganised Leftist government. Andrés Nin the POUM leader had been arrested on the 15th June that year, militia men of the POUM were being arrested and control was being asserted from Moscow onto the ranks of the Independent socialists and anarchists. Orwell at the time says, “But it is a different matter to send men into battle and not even tell them that behind their backs their party is being supressed, their leaders accused of treachery, and their friends and relatives thrown into prison”(170). Here we see Orwell’s dream handshake with the Italian anarchist fade, one revolution is being usurped for another. The Comrades of the trenches; POUM, anarchist, PSUC, FAI, CNT, UGT etc. all of whom had been brothers in arms had now become fractured acronyms, either you were aligned with Stalinist or a “Spanish Trotskyists [plotting] With Franco”(244), as one newspaper headline read.

Thus we can see that no real revolution existed, not in the Orwellian sense, only an air of it was carried through the songs and flags of the POUM. The communist usurping of the genuine left had been supressed in order to make way for a revolution which mirrored the Fascist totalitarianism, the Fascist revolution was merely military muscle flexing of the darker sides of European totalitarianism, and the great socialist revolution that Orwell had come to Spain in search of was only brief handshake which had left him with a hole in his neck.

Did the Italian Fascist party rule by consent or coercion?

Hitler_and_Mussolini_June_1940“Others will conquer with sword and fire, perhaps, but certainly not with consent as I did…I have made a dictatorship noble” – Mussolini(230-231 salome)

The question of whether Mussolini’s fascist party ruled by either consent or coercion is one which cannot be answered with an outright conclusion. The question addresses one of the most debated areas of the Italian historiography on Fascism. It implications reach deeper than an analysis of the Fascist party itself, instead it burrows deep into the heart of the Italian people. Ultimately the question is asked in order to gauge the moral culpability of the Italian people, asking how heavy should history weigh the evils of fascism on its people? Could it be said that they were consenting in the actions and evils propagated by their Totalitarian state or was it the case that they had been manipulated, threatened and coerced into accepting their despotic fate? This essay will attempt to look at a variety of periods of this nation’s history, and its relationship with fascism; from unification in 1870 until the liberation of Rome in 1944, if only to examine an the intricacies of Italian pre-fascism socio-political  structures which, when understood would help to our explain the rise and fall of fascism The time period is vast but we hope to focus our greatest attention on the period between 1922 beginning with the march on Rome and ending in 1943with the death of Mussolini.

This essay will look at Gramaci’s theory on Hegemony which outlines how the Fascism believed it could transcend party, state and culture in a dictatorship of ideas, rather than violence, noting that in order to so consent would have to be achieved. We also be addressing areas contested areas in relation to the consent or coercion of the Italian peoples; such as the failure of the left, Fascist youth groups, the reclamation of the Pontine Marshes, the cult of the Duce and finally, public guilt and the political vacuum left after the fall of fascism.

The failure of the left

Following Versailles Italian politics was in the doldrums, a power vacuum had been created after the collapse of faith in the Risorgimento government and it was widely accepted that the socialist left were going to step in and take power, “This was diciannovesimo, a pre-revolutionary yearning for change and a utopian faith in a better world, to be born”(511 watson). However the left failed to seize the moment, the air of passivism that surrounded Italy’s socialists condemned itself to impotence, forfeiting a chance to take reign of the country. Leftist ostracisation of the returning soldiers due to a combination of elitism by the petty-bourgeoisie (which made up the majority of the left) and their reactionary condemnation of the any nationalist leanings saw the left shunning the very people which could have brought about the realisation of their socialist republic. It is within this small space that Mussolini and the Fasci de Combattimento marched on Rome in 1922 and met with little resistance one could claim that consent, if not sheer indifference of the Italian people allowed Mussolini take reign of the country.

That’s not to say that Fascism had come completely out of the blue, Gabrielle d’Annumnzio’s occupation of Fiume acted as the litmus test for Fascist rhetoric and ideology, both influencing and confirming Mussolini’s own belief that the Italian people were ‘yearning’ for a drastic shift in the political landscape, “Fascism had come out of the social conditions established under the previous regime. It did not come out of nowhere.”(236 rome fascist capital).  Following the emasculation and perceived injustice as regards Italy’s rights to lands in Africa and Yugoslavia, grand political gestures, jingoistic in nature were the allures which bred the Italian people’s acceptance of Mussolini’s Fascist party. As a result when attempting to analyse the question of consent or coercion it is important to note that the apathy, or non-intervention displayed by the Italian people is indicative of their attitudes to the fascist party throughout its entire twenty year governance, a societal conditional acceptance, or rather, ‘conditional consent’. It is this culture of ‘conditional consent’ which gave way to the popularly uncontested rise of Mussolini and his party, and which allowed the Fascist party to create a ‘political’ hegemony in Italy.

Conditions had been similar in pre-Nazi Germany with a very real power struggle being fought on the streets, The Spartacus uprising of the left and the reactionary right wing suppression of it by the Freikorps displayed in violent carnage the ideological battle being fought on the ground. In pre-Fascist Italy however the political environment was very different. One only has to examine Mussolini’s own involvement with the socialist newspapers Avanti, as well as the relatively peaceful strikes of the time to understand that the political ‘warzone’ of Germany was one which was being forged through violent conflict, while Italy’s politics was being debated in the chambers of the Intellectuals. The Fascist party had simply been the party which chose to act quickest and with the most amount of aggression, opportunism

Fascist Youth and Covert Coercion

The political hegemony, as recounted by Gramasci was the very embodiment of the Fascist youth groups. Fascist ideology believed in the ‘consent’ of the people, as the epigraph to this essay would suggest, Mussolini in his deluded narcissism genuinely believed in the full consent of the Italian people, thinking that they too had been moved by the same hyperbolic hero-rhetoric which he himself so deeply believed. The truth lies in the cultural and societal manipulation by the Fascist youth groups. This is what one could call, ‘covert coercion’, the creation of a political and socio-economic landscape where favour was given to both children and families who had signed up as members, without eliciting direct threat or violence against those who joined, “Membership was not obligatory until 1939 but in practice social and political pressure pushed the children in the direction of conformity and not resistance, belonging and not separateness”(96 koon).

Rather the direct and tangible violence which would usually suggest coercion, a quasi-cultural or economic hegemony was being created by the party. Membership of the Fascist youth would have determined, or even been a necessity for Italian children’s access to viable careers, especially in the civil service. The Fascist party had sought about creating and moulding a state where socio-political decisions were based on party membership, coercing the Italian middle class into becoming party members. However this does differ greatly from violent or threatening coercion as can be seen with the introduction of ‘mandatory membership’ in 1939, a fact which is symptomatic of the falling numbers of member attendance nearing the latter half of their reign. In fact many Italians of the South had passively resisted party membership by joining the remaining right wing parties of the time in order to meekly resist Fascist control.

The educational system which had under the authority of Gentile attempted to further homogenise the Italian youth by increasing drilling and military standardisation in place of academic works, expanding the bellicose agenda of the fascist party. The failure of the gentile reforms are exemplary of such a political landscape, in which ‘conditional consent’ or even ‘covert coercion’ existed, “As the years past, [Gentile] realised that the fascist regime had failed in the task and that the national consensus, if broad, as also superficial-motivated by opportunism and not faith”(93 koon). The ideological delusion that total political and cultural homogeny could be achieved through ‘consent’ is what left the almost half-hearted ‘coercion’ of both education and culture void of any real impact.

The Pontine Marshes

As part of the cultural reimaging of Italy, socially and structurally the Fascist party had hoped to augment and finely tune its population and its landscape in order to complement its cultural and political hegemony. Bound to this concept the fascist party began attempting to reclaim land for its citizen by draining the marshes of Lazio in central Italy, believing that the ‘decline’ in birth rates was as a result of couples not being able to afford the enough children in the confines of the industrialised north. The forced migration of tens of thousands from the north to the reclaimed land is outlined by Caprotti as being an example of the hybrid form of ‘consent’ and ‘coercion’, and which creates an impasse for those attempting to give a static answer to the question proposed. Capprotti notes, “potential colonists were meant to migrate voluntarily”, however as a result forced migration had to be implemented. They attempted the olive branch, then used the sword, failing a consensual migration the Italian northerners were then coerced into occupying these ‘newly reclaimed marshes’( Caprotti 21).

 

Sound Effects are a Universal Language

eggs funny gamesSound Effects are a Universal Language

`Sound effects are the sonic language of our world; they communicate to us the speed of a train, the force of a kick or simply the presence of another around us. Anthropologically sound acted as the feelers used by humans in attempting to navigate the unknown. It is the intention of this essay to show how sound effects pray on that very same sonic-safety mechanism which gave us the ability to survive. The genre of Horror uses sound effects greater than any other genre. It does this by infiltrating the emotional response systems of the viewer, engaging on both a conscious and subconscious level. Sound effects are used in horror to; 1) establish the reality of the world in order to consciously infiltrate our psyche,  2) manipulate our emotions, 3)  pander to the darkest part of our imagination and finally 4) subvert the way in which we sonically understand and navigate the world.

Establishing reality in Horror

In Tobe Hooper’s 1974 ‘Slasher’ film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre the infamous sound of the chainsaw is a reality that immediately strikes fear into the listener, be in wielded by the monstrous Leatherface, or by a landscape gardener, the effect of such a loud dangerous machine is one which we instinctively identify as being something to fear. As Jerry (Allan Danziger) enters the parameter of the house the drone of the engine powering the electricity tells us some reasonably obvious information, namely that the house is occupied and, given that it is still running and that they have gas that the protagonists need. Thus this sound effect drives the plot using ‘localizable’ sound which, “shares with the un-identifiable noises the quality of bringing the material aspects of reality into focus”.(Kracaucer,124) However as he enters the house the sound of pig screams over the din of the machine indicates to us an element of danger is clearly beyond the door. The sound of the engine is later mimicked by the roar of Leatherface’s chainsaw as Sally (Marilyn Burns) is chased through the woods. The sound effect has sonically engaged us literally, carrying the narration, giving reason for Jerry to have entered the house, but it has also engaged is on an animalistic level. We now associate the sound of the engine with danger, the sound of the house with danger and very obviously, (unless one is emotionally stunted) the sound of Leatherface’s chainsaw, with danger.

The Emotional Level

Sound effects do not simply speak to us in a narrative manor by establishing certain realities they also have the ability to engage us emotionally. Walter Murch in his rule of six identifies emotion as the paramount criteria in editing, and in horror no effect speaks to our subconscious with the same depth as the language of sound effects. Take the speech by the two eerie twins of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, as the camera follows the push cart of Danny ,the words resonates with our subconscious when they are said in unison carrying more weight than any scream can, toppling the clichéd scream as the classic sonic indicator of danger. Here it is not the dialogue which makes us shudder but rather the combination of cuts between the images of the butchered girl, mimicking the uniformed speech of the two. This is what Siegfried Kracaucer called ‘pure dialogue’, when dialogue is removed from having simply a narrative effect (Kracaucer, 107). We can see the diegetic presence of their voices carrying the shot, as the non-diegetic soundtrack as well the camera shots take their lead from the sound effects.

Robin Hardy’s 1973 The Wicker Man also makes use of diegetic sound in the same way, with the on screen sound dictating the shot. As Edward Woodward sings his prayers inside the bowls of the human effigy, the conflict between his own fear and fruitless defiance is drowned out by the song of the pagan villagers. The scene’s harrowing final shot as the camera pans to the setting sun shows us that the song of the villagers has won. This terrifying scene relies totally on the sound effect of the singing villagers whose celebration not only acts as a sound effect but also as the soundtrack to the scene, where one can only look on in helpless terror as Woodward is sacrificed for the crop. Emotionally it is hard for any film of any genre to live up to that level of emotional engagement, as the sound effects of the voices create a harrowing realisation that our hero will not be saved.

Fearing What We Cannot See

To return to the anthropological understanding of sound, fear of the unseen or un-known will all ways resonate louder with our subconscious than any on screen effect, we will all ways fear what we cannot see. As a result where eyesight fails, our hearing then acts as our tool of navigation when assessing danger. Daniel Myrick’s horror film The Blair Witch Project uses an acute understanding of these animalistic truths about our own ability to sense danger. The sound effects used by Myrick in the ‘found footage’ style were used knowing that the power of our own imagination can never be surpassed by special effects, and rather than focus on the visceral violence of previous ‘found footage’ films such as Cannibal holocaust, the films directors knew that the most eloquent language of horror was to avoid such blatant depictions of horror and to allow the language of the sound effects narrate the terror. It plays on a kind of ‘individualistic nightmare’ which only we ourselves can conjure; the effects merely act as a trigger to that nightmare. The final scene, as we hear the crew screaming in terror to one another never shows us the root of the terror but allows our imagination and our empathy for the screaming crew to create the nightmare.

How Horror’s Sonic Language Subverts

Thus far this essay has shown how the universal language of sound effects can be used to manipulate our understanding of the world, our emotions and our imagination. We have however yet to come to what this essays believes to be the most interesting function of sound effect in Horror, i.e. its ability to subvert our animalistic understanding of the world. In no film does the language of sound effects manipulate such understanding as Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. The sparse if not absent use of non-diegetic sound, other than possibly the opening soundtrack leaves a void of space to be filled by Haneke in order for the audience to navigate, empathise and imagine the horror that falls upon the family at the hands of ‘Beavis’ and ‘Butthead’. The dropping of the eggs scene turns what would have been simply a narrative sound effect into what could be argued to be one of the scariest sound effects used in the film. Not only does the crack indicate an ambiguous refusal of the killer to leave but also mimics the crack heard as the father is rendered incapacitated. Here is a language we are not familiar with, a sound effect which not simply drives narrative but which is a precursor to the violence we are about to witness.

The same could also be said about the rolling of the golf-ball which signals the killers return to the house with the wife captive, or even the drone of the television as their decapitated son lies dead. These sound are not the traditional sounds with which we could understand the world, but in the ‘ultra-violence’ of Haneke’s world, these have become the new scream, the new rustle of leaves subverting everything we knew about the sonic language of sound effects.

The language of Sound Effects is universal, and each category we have discussed only acts as a microcosm of the overall effect sound effects have upon an audience. In particular, as this essay has chosen to focus purely on sound effect’s ability to engage our fears we understand that we have not been able to show how sound effects can evoke feelings of joy, of ecstasy or of love, but in the genre of Horror sound effects affect our most basic level instinct, survival. Thus we would believe that we have shown how sound effects play the greatest role in a horror films ; narrative, in establishing its emotional engagement, in evoking the demons of our imagination and by subverting what we once thought to be safe.

Works Cited

Ed. Cook, Pam The Cinema Book 3rd ed. British Film Institute ( London, 2007)

Boggs, Joseph Petrie, Dennis The Art of Watching Films (McGraw-Hill Education, 2011)

Kracaucer, Siegfried Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality Princeton Paperback (Oxford 1997)

Funny Games Dir. Haneke, Michael , Film Fonds Wien .1997. Film

The Blair Witch Project Dir. Myrick, Daniel Sanchez, Eduardo. Haxon. 1999. Film

The Shinning Dir. Kubrick, Stanley, Writ. King, Stephen. Warner Bros, Hawks Films. 1980. Film

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Dir. Hooper, Tobe. Vortex. 1975. Film

The Wicker Man Dir. Hardy, Robin. British Lion Film Corp. 1973. Film

Personal Statement

‘This is the personal statement I wrote when entering into the DIT MA in Journalism program.’ 

I have spent the last ten years of my life writing in one capacity or another. My facility for language, or interest in its use and manipulation began though nightly readings of various ‘Darren Shan’ novels, leading me to believe that a life spent writing would be an admirable, even necessary one. My father’s endless pursuit for the world’s most eclectic book collection gave me no choice but to pick up dog eared editions of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and Patrick McCabe’s The Butcher Boy, as well as lengthy conversations and discussions (which would inevitably lead to argument) over whose caption of the American spirit was more accurate, Steinbeck or Hemmingway’s. It was hard not to develop a love for writing in this environment.  Noting at the time I was more interested in joining the fantasy world of Vampires and Werewolves than understanding the ‘American Spirit’; thankfully such aspirations have since subsided.

As a final year student of a joint major in History and English at University College Dublin I believe that in retrospect my degree has helped me further my understanding of not only the literary world but also given me context and structure to such an understanding. It feels as though it had been the natural progression from my earlier interests in historical politics and writing. Modules such as ‘Orwell’s 20th Century’ allowed me enter the mind of a writer I have come to respect and admire, moulding both my ethical and moral interpretation of what it means to express myself and my awareness of the world through writing. Other modules in the History section of my degree such as ‘International History’, ‘Islam and Christianity’ or ‘Land Religion Identity’ gave me a keen interest in world/domestic politics  and perpetuated my constant belief that the investigation into the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of history and the manner in which one receives it, is of critical importance.

My English modules dealt with a broad spectrum of genres and forms of thought, ranging from the motley crew of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, in ‘Chaucer in Context’ to the violent truths of Hunter Thompson’s ‘Gonzo Journalism’ in ‘Contemporary American Literature’. Modules such as ‘Reading Joyce’ gave me grounding for studies into Post-Colonial, Queer and Racial schools of critical thought which I had acquired during the module, ‘Critical Theory’. The broad basis of differing areas of criticism really allowed me engage with some of Joyce’s more labyrinthine texts such as, Ulysses and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, allowing me to use the works of Michelle Foucault and Edward Said to investigate that which would not have been apparent to me on first reading of any of the texts.

I had only late in my academic life realised that journalism would be something that would both offer me new challenges and a new skill set, as well as believing it to embody my accumulated interests in writing and research.  I had heard about the Masters in Journalism offered by DIT through numerous meetings with my careers advisor who had on the basis of my expressed interests suggested Journalism to be a relevant area of study, and following my research I chose DIT on the back of its record for practical application. I was enthused by the modules offered in ‘Investigative Journalism’ as well as ‘Broadcast Journalism’ both of which conjured up a perception I hold of my future-self that, with the aid of this MA, would certainly be a feasible career path to embark on.

Super7aiyan –East City Vixen EP review

super7-200x200Both band name and E.P title are as misleading and as confusing as each other, giving the impression of a band comprised of ‘1337’ gamers who somehow wandered into music.  Thankfully Super7saiyan are relying on enticing potential fans using a short tapestry of math rock, rather than a nostalgic throwback to 90’s Japanese cult shows. The E.P is comprised of a meagre two tracks which is quite a gamble for such a fledgling band, although the decision to cull those tracks which were not fit to represent the band could be seen as a wise choice.

The first and shorter of the two tracks Vixen opens with soft delicate strings muddled together, before opening into the bass and full drums which mimic the light riffs of the track. The bass is warm, and the drums are kept compressed as not to drown out the clean crisp sound of the guitars talking back to one another. The track as a whole is comprised of pleasant riffs which, as stand-alone pieces are quite impressive. However the complete track lacks any real bursts of satisfaction, the tone of the song sails continuously through stops and starts by the bass and drum without deviation. It becomes the musical equivalent of a daydream, pleasing, fleeting but soon forgotten.

East City on the other hand truly is a track which promises as much oddity and interest from the band as its name would suggest. The song wears more layers then a cold pensioner as it jumps from the placid and tame, to the downright heavy. Piano interludes which could have been lost amidst the catchy riffs and motifs of the song are done exactly right, building the track to an almost ‘Avalanches’ crescendo. Unlike Vixen the only reason a riff may be forgotten in this six minute exercise in ‘how to keep an instrumental satisfying’ is because it is usurped by another even more interesting riff.

Although only two tracks appear on this E.P, it gives a pretty palatable taste of this bands potential. The band’s craft and precision on both tracks is pretty indisputable, but it’s the sheer complexity of the textures which appear on East City which promise a future for the band. It seems as if the best way for Super7aiyan to avoid obscurity is to pump their music full of it.

 

Tupelo – Ballerina’s Call EP review

ballerina-200x200Tupelo’s four song teaser E.P, ‘Ballerina’s Call’ is sure to offend just about no one. It’s the musical equivalent of Father Ted’s Eoin McLove, or an oversized jumper knitted by your ‘nan’. That’s not to say that Tupelo have missed their mark, nor does it say that they don’t know how to play their motley crew of instruments.

What it does say however, is that the band are more content being played over the ‘wireless’ then being blared into a small room full of sweaty, over-sexualized youths. It’s a perfectly legitimate road to go down, but one which might see ‘Ballerina’s Call’ lost on a generation hungry for sex, drugs and all things exciting.

The title track, Ballerina’s Call begins with jumpy down-stroked guitar and a forced American inflection on the singer’s voice. The song’s linear pattern rises and lowers in pitch as you might expect a straight folk song to. The fiddle which features following the lyrically bland chorus is soft in tone and acts as the only respite from a sea of pastiche and mediocre Bruce Springsteen idolization.

The song’s lyrical narrative, which is a staple of all good folk, is pretty shallow and lacking in any real meaning. The supposedly uplifting story of a ballerina who suffers from mild depression when not dancing isn’t as metaphorically interesting or as endearing as the band may have originally thought.

The second track Patagonia falls prey to the same lyrical problems, lines like ‘A blanket of snow will smother you just like your mamma did’ don’t manage to evoke the nostalgic, comforting image that the band would hope. Rather it brings up images of a survivor from the movie ‘Alive’ with an abusive childhood.

The jaunty guitar, bass and banjo is upbeat and relaxed, but refuses to deviate from the tried and tested conventions of ‘upbeat and relaxed’ country. It will neither make you want to visit Patagonia nor make you care where it was, even if you are told it’s on the ‘tip of South America’.

Then comes the comforting, yet persistently familiar banjo tones of Old County. Thankfully this song moves away from the sickly sweet major key of the first two tracks. The soft spoken lyrics are this time slightly more intriguing, and the bluesy feel of the song is complimented by a conventional, but nonetheless satisfying, fiddle solo.

A quiet banjo refrain builds to a climax of what sounds to be uillean pipes, and marks the best part of the album. The song is drenched in traditional instrumentation and manages to stay within the boundaries of folk music, without venturing into the stagnant world of ‘pop folk’.

Sadly the album reverts back again to a tired mesh of country, pop and terrible lyrics with their closing track When the Night Falls. The repetition of the line, ‘when the night falls’ only hammers home the band’s inability to craft a solid, meaningful song and stands in glaring contrast to the competent playing by the band.

The line is flat and manages to turn what would have been a solid vocal performance into an audition for a terrible ‘naughties’ RTÉ talent competition. The type of song Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh would adore, thus making it one you should avoid.

Tupelo have effectively thrown their lot in with a sub-section of the music industry where everyone still buys album; where the weather can be described as ‘fierce mild’; and where bedtime comes after the Late Late show. That said, is it the case that Ballerina’s Call might actually make some money, and that they’ll wrangle a large lemming like fan base? The answer is yes, they probably will.