Noise Annoys: New music from Exhalers plus news on Oh Yeah's Virtual Tour of NI

LaFaro drummer Alan Lynn is back with new solo project Exhalers. Picture by Carrie Davenport

:: Exhalers – Exhalers (album, self-released)

WHILE most of us managed to achieve the square root of frankly not much at all during lockdown beyond perhaps finally attempting the odd bit of long put-off DIY and/or gaining a few extra pounds while surfing the sofa, former LaFaro drummer Alan Lynn has put us all to shame by writing and recording an entire album.

Cheers for that, Al – as if we didn't look feckless enough already.

As mentioned a few weeks ago, this famously shirt-shy time-keeping powerhouse has a new musical project called Exhalers: their aforementioned eponymous debut album finds Lynn taking his Dave Grohl comparisons to a level far beyond their shared aversion to drumming while fully clothed: released today, Exhalers is a powerful 10-track LP of noisy yet tuneful alt-rock on which its creator sings and plays all the instruments himself.

Indeed, Exhalers is currently a band in search of a band – and no doubt local music talent will be banging down Mr Lynn's door for an audition once they get a load of these songs.

You'll already have heard the storming album opener and debut single, Trial and Error, and maybe even the current teaser track, White Nights, a pleasingly sludgy Queens of The Stone Age-informed chug 'n' groover designed to get feets a-tapping and heads a-banging.

Those two offer a pretty good taster of the album proper, which, as you might expect for a collection of catchy/crunchy tunes penned by a drums-fluent musician who has also provided backbeats for the likes of Therapy? and Ash in times of need, offers plenty of rhythmic thump and displays a keen sense of songwriting dynamics.

The tasty meat in a White Nights and Trial and Error sandwich, Bellfast (great colloquial title there) is a slightly whimsical alt-rock nugget which swells pleasantly on its surf beat-backed choruses while also delivering a microdose of big riffery just to keep listeners on their toes.

Diaries sounds to me like a potential future single, even if it is over five minutes long: a stalking slow-burn rocker with a big would-be sing-along chorus (if only we could make out the words), oodles of chugging/ringing guitars and a nice mellow eye-of-the-storm mid-song lull, this one is a definite stand-out track.

Mid-way moment – or 'side a closer', for older heads – Politics finds Exhalers cross-pollinating filthy Therapy? style fuzz bass and guitars with thunderous Bleach-era Nirvana heavy pop churn for a circle-pit friendly pummeller sporting some subversive pop smarts.

Smoked is one of the record's most deliberately upbeat moments, a sing-songy pop punky number which tips its backwards baseball cap to Nirvana, early Foo Fighters and Weezer at their most unabashedly catchy, while Marred offers listeners six minutes of highly at-mosh-pheric mid-tempo pop grunge to abrupt fade-out. Some great layered mood-setting guitars on this one.

Yellow Flower AKA Token Sensitive Ballad (just kidding) offers an overtly introspective musical interlude, a woozy, desolate affair which suggests an MTV Exhalers Unplugged performance might have been a possibility were this still the 90s – you can practically taste that cello-enhanced acoustic arrangement, man – before the album winds up in strong style with a huge one-two punch.

Middle Aged Spidey Guy might be my song title of the year, and thankfully the actual tune is a damn good one too: a shouty, stomping Therapy?-esque headbanger centred on the delights of our unique local species of work-shy hardnuts, the sandblasted vocals and general angst-propelled ferocity of this also also calls to mind Jello Biafra's exhilarating team-up with The Melvins from a few years ago. Definitely rated 100 per cent 'taps aff'.

As for epic album closer Demons, it ends things on a mighty, melodic and melancholic note, with Al's plaintive vocals setting an appropriate mood of sadness as things draw to a close – though you're likely to want another listen to the whole record pretty much straight away, which is about as good a recommendation as you can get.

By the way, a note on those vocals: it seems like Alan isn't too confident with his singing abilities just yet by the way he's slightly buried his vocals in the mix on many of the songs here. To be fair, that isn't unusual for the genre in which he's working – however, it's often frustratingly hard to make out what's actually being sung, even on songs which kind of hinge on their vocal hooks.

That's a pity, because his crooning actually sounds absolutely spot on to me. Although one listener at Noise Annoys towers did suggest that the vocals were "a bit Marilyn Manson" in places, so maybe there's a strategic element at play there. Still, I'd like to hear what an impartial mixer might do with some of these tunes – I suspect Mr Lynn himself might be pleasantly surprised with how well his vox stand up when pushed into the foreground a little more. Start Together Studio sonic wizard Rocky O'Reilly to the rescue, perhaps?

What you'll be wanting to do now, of course, is to judge for yourself. To do that, head over to right now and crank up those speakers, and be advised that there are going to be a limited number of CD copies available on there too.

Noise Annoys will have news on any Exhalers band line-up developments – here's hoping Al goes the 'singing drummer' route a la The Dangerfields, Jacob's Mouse and, er, the Eagles – and live gig details as and when they emerge.

:: Oh Yeah's Virtual Tour of NI

BELFAST music hub Oh Yeah is set to mark its 14th birthday next week by presenting us with a specially recorded 'virtual tour' featuring local artists recorded live at five venues across the north.

Their descriptively titled Virtual Tour of NI is being presented in association with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. It will be streamed on the Oh Yeah YouTube channel next week in an effort to remind us all how much we've missed going to live shows at local independent venues – and also to whet appetites (as if any further whetting was required) for the return of live music in the months ahead as Covid restrictions continue to ease.

Artists taking part in the five shows include The Wood Burning Savages, Catherine McGrath, Invaderband, Our Krypton Son, Dana Masters, Gemma Bradley, Susie Blue, Casual Riots, Enola Gay, Justine Gormley, The Organauts, Bernadette Morris, Laytha and Matt McGinn.

The tour starts on Monday May 10 with a show recorded at Oh Yeah, then moves on to the Nerve Centre in Derry on May 11, the Cornstore in Draperstown (AKA Glasgowbury HQ) on May 12 and Blakes of The Hollow in Enniskillen on May 13, before finishing up on May 14 with a gig recorded at The Rostrevor Inn.

"We just can't underestimate how important our venues and musicians are," commented Oh Yeah big cheese Charlotte Dryden on the launch of the Virtual Tour of NI.

"So, for that reason, we are using our birthday to say we can't wait to welcome you back – and when we can all reopen again, please get out there and support your local venues and artists."

Couldn't have said it better myself. In the meantime, bookmark and don't forget to tune in on Monday for the first show.

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