The FREQUENCY-IRELAND Music Alternative

An independent voice on choice sounds from the alternative/underground music scene in Ireland.
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Sunday, August 27, 2006

STAR BELGRADE

This is my third time writing about Star Belgrade this year. In retrospect, I find it hard to believe that back when I reviewed them for Lostmusic webzine, as recently as last March, they had yet to even play their debut gig. A lot has happened in the intervening six months. They have become the most downloaded unsigned Irish band of all time on Irish music website cpu.ie. They have headlined a number of gigs around Ireland, and have just returned from performing at Festivals in the UK and Germany. They have also evolved their sound a lot, with the addition of keyboards and electronica beats to the often full-on fuzzed guitars which were more prominent in their earlier recordings, and segments of the press have started to take serious note, with some extraordinary predictions of success being made recently by both Metro and Drop-D magazine, extrapolating to talk of Grammy Awards and eventual Coldplay-like status (sic).

This is all quite phenomenal for an unsigned band that have yet to even record their debut EP, and whose demos have all been made using just 4-track recording equipment. Actually, they are to enter the studio for the first time this Autumn to start recording their debut EP.

I received a promotional demo from Star Belgrade earlier this week. The opening song 'Disconnect' is a fine example of the distinctive sound they are now carving out for themselves. It uses some rather unusual percussion as its backbone; a sparse loop which sounds quite mechanical, yet with a funky off-center beat, and while it didn't appeal to me at first, after a few listens has started to become quite infectious. The soft vocals as ever are of the highest order, but it is not until the guitar noise finally weighs in bursts, that the song can be fully appreciated for the counter-balances within it. Up next is the familiar early flagship song 'Red Arc', a song which I have before likened to U2, with vocals comparable to Bono's at his most heartfelt - granted I'm not a huge fan of U2, to say the least, but I can appreciate the quality in this song, particularly as it holds back from the need for a catch phrase chorus. Next up is a live recording of them performing 'Refugee' which does more than enough to prove they are very competent as a live act, although the song itself does not inspire me all that much. The rest of the demo tails off rather disappointingly however, with a quite pointless live performance of Simple Minds' 'Theme for Great Cities' and then closing with 'Broken Words', interesting as a concept-song, adopting a broken vocal delivery, but which is ultimately unsatisfying to listen to.

It seems Star Belgrade are gradually evolving away from the promising sounds which had interested me at first, where their MBV and Sonic Youth influences were more prominent in earlier songs such as 'All This Noise' and 'Checkmate' - as far as I am aware they still perform these live, although neither appear to be available for download anymore. Regardless, there is no doubting this band are fast-tracking towards success, and by all accounts are a must-see live act with a reportedly massive full-on sound. A number of their songs are available for download from their myspace and CPU space, with 'Disconnect' and 'Red Arc' the recommended listens.

They return to the UK for two further gigs in October, playing Moshulu in Aberdeen (9th) and 53 Degrees in Preston (10th). They perform at HWCH Festival in mid-October, followed by an appearance at Limerick Boatclub (28th) and later in November play Crawdaddy in Dublin (25th). Further dates are to be announced, and full details of all their gigs can as ever be found on their cpu.ie space.

Related Links:

http://artists.cpu.ie//bands/1193

http://www.myspace.com/starbelgrade