Sunday, 5 July 2015

Album: Cactus World News - Found

Cactus World News Found Album

Cactus World News, 'The Great Divide' (video by Pete Cole)

(N.B. - This intro is reproduced from my interview with Frank Kearns on 28th March, 2015)

Intro: Cactus World News were formed in 1984 when founding members, guitarist Frank Kearns and front man Eoin McEvoy, met up in a flat in Cabra and wrote 'The Bridge' (below) together. Shortly after their inaugural jamming session, Wayne Sheehy (drums) and Fergal MacAindris (bass) would complete the band's line-up and Cactus World News were ready to set off on an incredible musical voyage together. It could be said that the seeds of this journey were planted years before however, Kearns attended Mount Temple school in Clontarf at the same time as U2, who needless to say, had a shared passion and whose musical paths would cross time and time again over the coming decade in particular. All four band members already had 6-7 years experience in various bands behind them before CWN got together which prepared them to a degree for tours of the United States, supporting The Cult on their U.K. tour in 1985 and their appearance at the epic 14 hour long, 1986 Self-Aid concert at the RDS in aid of the 250,000 unemployed in Ireland at the time. 

Info: Following the near-collapse of punk in the mid-80's record labels sought to push new wave pop in order to create another 'movement' within the music scene, this resulted in many bands scrambling to add synth players and electronic drumming to their line-up and sound. Some bands however were not happy to abandon their musical background and stuck to their rock and punk roots, one such band was Cactus World News. Their debut album Urban Beaches (1986) was almost 2 years in the making when it was released, the band built up a significant fan base at home and in the U.K. before they toured the United States, this ground-work would lead to record sales of over a quarter of a million and propelled the band to the forefront of the Irish music scene. Sadly, as is quite common, outside forces conspired to halt what was hoped at the time would be a temporary interruption to their voyage. The follow up to the hugely successful Urban Beaches, No Shelter, had its release cancelled in 1989 and the Cactus World News story seemed to have come to a shuddering halt, that is, until now. 

The band, in particular McEvoy and Kearns, endeavoured to re-introduce the music of CWN to the world on a new album taken from archive material from 1989-1991 with the original line-up, this album, Found, has just been released on Red Coral Records (more info below) following a successful PledgeMusic campaign.

Cactus World News

If you're unfamiliar with the music of Cactus World News Found is the perfect place to start, a lot of 'previously unreleased' compilations by big artists nowadays provide little or no genuine insight into a bands back catalogue, but Found is chock full of a very interesting mix of demos of singles, live performances and a b-side which were recorded between the years of 1986-1991. The album will also provide a great insight into Irish music of the era for younger music fans and will particularly appeal to fans of early U2 and quality rock song compositions in general. 

Having picked up a first press of Urban Beaches from an online seller in Denmark a couple of months back, I was familiar with some of the tracks, as well as some other well-known numbers I'd familiarised myself with previously. Similar to the opening track on that album, Found begins with swagger with the superb '1975', the opening line of 'On the night General Franco died, I felt blue...' precedes a lovely hazy strum of the electric guitar, punk traits evident in the songs political reflection of Francisco Franco's dubious reign which only ended with his death that year. Next up is the bands third single from their debut album, 'Years Later', lighter and more optimistic in it's tone, it feels like a snapshot of 1986 Cactus World News, standing on the precipice of their boyhood rock n' roll dreams, reaching skyward, ready to take their mantle. The album features the 12" version of the single (radio edit below) and it's as fine a piece of rock song writing from the era as you are likely to hear, thudding bass and drums with beckoning acoustic guitar create a punchy anthem.

Cactus World News, 'Years Later'

The first live track on Found is 'Streetwalker', an atmospheric acoustic driven performance at London's Mean Fiddler in 1990. This one casually stands the test of time and a band releasing a song like this today would be a breath of fresh air, the harmonies are great and you forget you're actually listening to a live set until you hear the audience again at the end. 'Beautiful Propaganda' took me back a bit, I instantly heard The Frames' 'God Bless Mom' from 1999's Dance The Devil... at the 17 seconds mark, maybe a coincidence...McEvoy sounds every bit the established front-man here as well, clean vocals backed with meaning. The seventh track on the album 'The Great Divide' will appeal particularly to fans of Talking Heads, and has a real Rolling Stones feel about the intro from their honky tonk days. 

Another live track on the album, also from The Mean Fiddler gig (that must have been some show), 'Song of Love' packs a punch yet again, evidence of CWN's ability to traverse both studio and stage with ease. The album closes with two of the later recordings, 'No Time' and 'Riversong' which maybe provide a glimpse of where Cactus may have been heading at the time, mixing their traditional rock sound with slightly more experimental instrumentals. Either way I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to hear these recovered tracks. It got me thinking how great it would be if other bands from the era and beyond could do the same, how many master tapes and demos are sitting in damp boxes gathering who knows what. While my preference will always be for phyiscal music over .mp3, the advantage of getting it digital is that it will live forever in a way we can't guarantee with physical copies unfortunately, kudos to Frank Kearns and Eoin McEvoy for having the foresight to conceive Found and make this wonderful collection immortal!

You can pick up either a digital or physical copy of Found on Cactus World News' PledgeMusic page here 

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