Maggie ,

Tracey Pepper meets the Hothouse Flowers. Also Deborah Harry, The Chimes, Andy Irving and community project Call ThatSinging?


Home sweet home

Tracey Pepper uncovers the heart of The Hothouse Flowers’ appeal.

After a while, I begin to wonder what I, an American, am doing in London interviewing an Irish band for a Scottish magazine. Such confusion can only herald new activity from Dublin’s Hothouse Flowers in the shape of a British tour and the forthcoming second LP entitled Home.

The band were last sighted in the UK at the 1989 Glastonbury Festival. Since then, not a peep. Home is long-awaited, and the band took their own sweet time on it, choosing to record whenever the mood struck and wherever they happened to be at the moment. As a result, the album was recorded in Dublin, London, Rockfield,’ and one track in New Orleans with Daniel Lanois. ‘We’d just basically start recording somewhere, spending about three weeks in a particular place, when tours and gigs would come up, and we’d go off,’ explains lead singer and keyboard player Liam O’Maonlai.

Home is a pure delight. It stomps (‘Hardstone City’), it sweats (‘Give it Up’), it aches (‘Sweet Marie’), it sighs (‘Christchurch Bells’), it grooves (‘Movies’), in fact, folks, it does everything but your washing-up. Searchineg honest and introspective lyrics are set to an amalgam of R&B, folk, rock and blues rhythms. each song uplifted by Liam’s rich and expressive vocal delivery. While their successful debut album People (which yielded the hits ‘Don‘t Go’ and ‘I’m Sorry’) was nothing to sneer at, Home is a


step forward. It‘s a grower. not as immediate as its predecessor, but you can hear the sound of a band that has come into its own.

They tell me that during their sabbatical they spent a lot of time together as friends, not as bandmates. regaining the camaraderie that made the music such a joy to play in the first place. Or, as Liam puts it, ‘We‘re clicking together a lot more these days.‘

‘And we’re a lot more sympathetic towards each other’s playing than playing for ourselves, which used to happen sometimes,‘ adds guitarist Fiachna O'Braonain. ‘Paul Barrett. who produced some of the album, taught us an awful lot about that. He got us to play more sparsely.‘ All five members are skilled musicians and it is easy to envisage scenes of limelight-hogging.

But The Hothouse Flowers live isn‘t like that at

all. Rather it’s a celebration of life, love, music and friendship, alternating between joyful, upbeat moments and hushed, reflective ones. O'Maonlai is a gifted, natural performer, easily drawing the crowd into his mood. whether it be buoyant or pensive. His infectious charm and the .- band’s good-time spirit and obvious sincerity are the heart oftheir appeal. Not out to make grandiose, sweeping statements like Ireland’s other major band, Hothouse Flowers prefer to explore universal themes such as love, grief and forgiveness with a personal eye. As Liam sings on ‘Eyes Wide Open’, ‘Be loving/Be wholesome/Be strong/And for God’s sake be true.’ Perhaps the band’s credo? Words to live by. The Hothouse Flowers play the Playhouse, Edinburgh on Wed30 May and The Big Day on Sun 3June. Home is released on Mon 4June.

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His Latest Flame. Baby's Got a Gun and Keltlc Storm will be playing, and other attractions include street theatre, lire eaters. clowns. street painters and audience participation sculpture. whatever that be.

The List 18—31 May 199041