Noise Annoys: Neil Brogan, The Dangerfields, Ash, Gung Ho, The Bonnevilles and The Killing Spree

Neil Brogan, impatiently waiting for Spring
Neil Brogan, impatiently waiting for Spring

:: Neil Brogan – Christmas EP

IT'S the last Noise Annoys before Christmas so there's no better way to begin than with a Christmas-themed collection from a local artist who has started to build up a rather unlikely repertoire of 'festive' favourites.

Yes, that's 'festive' in inverted commas, because Belfast indie popster Neil Brogan usually finds himself expressing/exploring conflicted emotions about The Season To Be Jolly in his jangly Christmas fare.

The new Christmas EP compiles a trio of seasonal songs from the past couple of years in one easy to wrap up and place under your virtual Christmas tree digital package. Regular readers will already be familiar with his bittersweet Covid Christmas anthem Christmas (With a Difference) which was the catchy, synthpop soundtrack to our enforced isolation back in December 2020 – "a year almost over, where did it go, a year of dystopia, a year of 'go slow'" – and featured church bells in the mix for a touch of semi-ironic Christmas tune class.

For 2021's offerings Rolling In The Snow and I Wanted To Believe (in Christmas), Brogan was "inspired by classics such as The Pretenders' 2000 Miles and Greg Lake's I Believe In Father Christmas, imagining a more cynical Pet Shop Boys take for the B-side."

The wistful, deceptively jaunty Rolling In The Snow finds Neil crooning about potential white Christmas scenarios and blurry memories of Christmas lockdowns past on a chiming/rolling number based around an infectious descending bassline and some pretty guitar work, while the melancholy synth-powered I Wanted To Believe (in Christmas) finds him getting nostalgic for the childhood excitement of 'the big day'.

"Try to breathe some life into the fantasy, but I don't feel Christmassy at all", he sighs. Right there with you, sir.

However, you'll be most excited to hear Neil's brand new soon-to-be seasonal fave, christmas (with a small 'c'), for which he notes that "the reference to figures and imagery from the nativity story is not intended as an endorsement of organised religion".

Consider yourselves forewarned before giving this excellent peppy surf pop-informed indie rock nugget a digital spin via neilbrogan.bandcamp.com/album/christmas-ep, where you can purchase the entire EP for a 'name your price' amount of your own choosing.

I would suggest that paying anything less than £4 might earn you a visit from some Christmas ghosts – though those Scrooges who have already experienced their own A Christmas Carol-esque conversion to unfettered generosity may prefer to avail of Neil's current value-for-money offer of owning his entire virtual discography for a mere £19.50.

The Dangerfields have cancelled their gigs at the Belfast Barge this weekend
The Dangerfields have cancelled their gigs at the Belfast Barge this weekend

:: The Dangerfields cancel Christmas (shows)

IF YOU were looking forward to some Belfast Barge-based punk rock mayhems in the company of The Dangerfields this weekend, be advised that unfortunately both Saturday and Sunday night's shows have been cancelled.

No, the Barge has not been 'mysteriously' dislodged from its moorings – but it seems that one recent booking must have been too darn loud for the onboard sound system to cope with.

"The venue's PA blew and that's that," grumbled Dangerfields captain Andrew Griswold in an official statement via the band's anti-social media.

"We've looked at all the workarounds – replacement PAs, replacement venues, playing acoustic – but alas, the show cannot in this instance go on. Full refunds including fees will be automatically issued through Eventbrite.

"Our Dublin gig scheduled for tomorrow night has also been cancelled by the venue due to recent poor attendances at some of their events. It's tough out there."

As if that wasn't bad enough, it means that tonight's show at the Atlantic in Portrush has also been pulled.

"With Dublin and the two Belfast gigs cancelled, it would have been insane to ask Rob and Bryan to drive through blizzard conditions from Aberdeen and Glasgow to play one gig in Portrush," explains Griswold.

"Full refunds will be automatically issued through Eventbrite. Apologies to all who have been put out by these cancellations. It's not how we wanted to end 2022.

"All we can say is Merry Satanmas and we'll see you in Hell!"

Keep your eyes glued to FB.com/thedangerfields for further important announcements.

:: The Killing Spree reunion

WHILE The Dangerfields may have been forced to cancel, those still hankering for a Belfast-based musical nightmare before Christmas would do well to make themselves available for the return of the mighty Killing Spree.

The early-00s lo-fi post-hardcore/post-post rock faves are back for their first show in 17(!) years on Thursday December 22 at The Deer's Head – which I think was actually still trading as The Deer's Head (prior to the whole Aether & Echo/Berliner re-branding nonsense) when they last graced a stage – as part of The Thin Air zine's Christmas 'do'.

It's not quite Giros or upstairs at The Front Page, but it will have to do.

If you're too young to remember the entertainingly pummelling herky-jerky noise feasts peddled by Michael, Ricki and Bernard, toddle on over to thekillingspree.bandcamp.com/album/six-hands and crank up the volume.

Tickets cost £11.37 in advance via Ticketbrite.co.uk and support comes from Blue Whale and Black Triptychs.

Ash are at the Ulster Hall tonight. Picture by Alex John Beck
Ash are at the Ulster Hall tonight. Picture by Alex John Beck

:: Ash – 30 Years of Ash, One Night in Belfast at The Ulster Hall

IF THE fact that it's been 17 years since the Killing Spree's last show makes you feel ancient, how about a reminder that this year marked Ash's 30th anniversary?

Downpatrick's favourite former 'guaranteed real teenagers' will be celebrating this major milestone in style at The Ulster Hall tonight, where you can expect a tune-packed blast through their hit-riddled back catalogue, from Jack Names The Planets to Buzzkill and B-sides.

By the time you read these words, Tim, Mark and Rick will have already treated their hometown to its very own 30th anniversary performance at Down Arts Centre, where they played some of their earliest shows as young indie rocking whippersnappers – so the trio should be nicely warmed-up for a long-overdue headliner at The Ulster Hall.

Tickets are already sold out, but if you missed out then be advised that Mark will be DJ-ing at the Limelight afterwards, so he might play Kung Fu for you if you ask nicely (and bribe him with booze). Tickets for that are £5 or free entry for those lucky enough to have already secured a ticket for the main event.

Gung Ho are back
Gung Ho are back

:: Gung Ho-Ho-Ho tonight at The Pavilion

IF YOU missed out on Ash tickets or just fancy a night of rock cover-versions, you could do worse than to catch Gung Ho in action this evening at their spiritual home, The Pavilion on Belfast's Ormeau Road.

Featuring ex-members of Dirty Stevie, Rodan and The Evangelists, this lot are a veritable live jukebox of hits who perform a couple of times per year to raise money for charity. Tonight's Christmas caper is in aid of NI Chest Heart and Stroke – admission is £5 and doors are at 9pm.

The Bonnevilles have a Belfast show at Voodoo next week
The Bonnevilles have a Belfast show at Voodoo next week

:: The Bonnevilles and Exhalers, December 22, Voodoo

FINALLY for this week, a reminder that the north's finest garage blues rock 'n' rollers The Bonnevilles return to Belfast for a show at Voodoo next Thursday night.

As an added incentive to spend money on leaving your house so close to Christmas, Chris and Andy have roped in newcomers Aqua Tofana and Exhalers as their opening acts. This will be a live debut for the former turn and Exhalers' second ever show, so if you missed Exhalers' superb rock show at the Black Box a couple of months ago now is the time to catch up with what Alan 'ex-LaFaro' Lynn and co are at. Tickets are £13.08 via Ticketbrite.co.uk

That's it for this week, so until next we meet, do try to have a great Christmas – hopefully Noise Annoys will see you on the other side.