IT'S BEYOND THE PALE
One of Dublin's quirkiest bands are bigger in Budapest than they are at home
Why go bald?, the pale's debut album titled after Dublin's iconic neon sign, was released in 1990. A few years later the band enjoyed their biggest success with Dogs With No Tails, which became a Euro hit again in 2001 when covered by a Turkish ska band.
Perversely, The Pale's mainman Matthew Devereux was operating below rock's critical radar until the release over the last few years of two impressive albums on the excellent label, 1969 Records.
"I've been threatening to make these records for quite a while," says Devereux. "I've got OCD when it comes to songwriting. For each record I produce 40 tracks and keep breaking it down until I find a theme or family group. I like a song to be slightly like a cousin. I'm a fan of the classic songwriters like [Nick] Cave. I'll recognise a song and say, 'That's a cousin of another song because it has that gammy eye or that quintessential red hair.' I theme-ise the songs."
While Devereux was disappointed to miss a projected earlier release date for Proper Order, there's a curious serendipity in hearing songs (Lights Out Boys, Chocolate Factory and Catholic Credit Card) with such a disturbing undertow in the aftermath of the scandals highlighted by the Ryan Report.
"I've had a few weeks of people expressing their frustration that radio don't pick up on that," says Matthew. "It is a narrative on the zeitgeist."
While the group's mandolin sound and off-kilter arrangements suggest an easy European influence, in essence Devereux's poetic sensibility seems to have more in common with writers from both the Berlin Weimar Republic cabaret and the old Soviet Bloc. This may be one of the reasons The Pale are hugely popular in the Czech Republic and Hungary where they'll spend July headlining local pop festivals.
"When we went there at first they expected us to be from eastern Europe," says Dubliner Matthew. "That was until I opened my mouth. We've developed a great relationship with audiences over there."
"It's weird," he muses. "Our ability to communicate with eastern Europe is better than our ability to communicate here. I thought it was a cliche when people predicted it a few years ago because of our sound but it is happening now."
While he'd love to see The Pale elevated to the premier league of the Irish music scene, Matthew isn't losing sleep over the failure of Irish radio to big up the band.
"I thought that if you formed a band, you were supposed to stand apart," he insists defiantly. - EC
The Pale's Proper Order is out now on 1969 Records through RMG