Monday 30 January 2023

Moldova 2023 - Valeria Condrea - We're Now Different


The Moldovan live auditions are a major annual waypoint for we lovers of the more esoteric end of Eurovisionia. Each year we see a handful of the same faces popping up - some significant local stars, some just plucky chancers - all hoping to get themselves and their songs onto a prime time Saturday night TV show. But it's with those plucky chancers that the pure beauty of this process lies. As they stand on that tiny stage waiting for their music to kick in, you quickly try to assess what their voices will be like by the state of their nervousness. Sometimes they surprise you and bellow out a powerful performance. But other times they just wheeze anxiously, looking like they thought it was going to go a whole lot better in their heads when they sent their submission in to the telly people. But then you get performances like this one, that kinda straddles both categories - and makes up a couple of their own while they are about it.

Valeria here might not be a singer in perhaps the way you or I would describe one, but she certainly knows her style, and emotes and grimaces her way through an eye-widening performance. It's not always clear, however, if she's remembered all the words, as she hovers between English and Moldovan passages at almost no warning. But again, that may actually be a part of her schtick, as you certainly can't fault her passion and absolute belief that she's doing a pretty amazing thing. 

These are the kinds of performances that we live for at Apocalypse - not to mock them, but to praise them for their utter self-belief and unusualness. They may be outsiders in amongst the shiny world of highly produced Europop, but they make shows like this all the more interesting for their very existence. Long may the live auditions reign, TRM!

Sunday 29 January 2023

Lithuania 2023 - Antikvariniai Kašpirovskio Dantys - Sėdi Ir Važiuoji

The AKD have got form on these pages. Their 2019 effort in Pabandom iš Naujo, Mažulė was a wonky delight, and surprisingly unlike their usual form as an arena-filling light-hearted folky-ska-rock act. So it is even more of a surprise to see their latest evolution into funtimes silly pop in last night's PiN early stages.

Stomping all over the stage in glittery trackies, like some kind of super-annuated Goldie Lookin' Chain, they mugged to camera, messed about on office chairs (and as a health and safety rep I can tell you that some of their antics are not to be encouraged in the workplace!), tied scarves around their heads, and generally looned around in what looked like part organised, but still fairly freeform style.

The song was terrible, of course, but we'll still be darned of we can't get the oo-woo-hoo-woo-hoo-hoo chorus out of our heads today. Despite their local popularity, they only just sneaked into the semi-final stages, so don't expect to be seeing too much more of them this season. But at least they've brought a little bonkers joy to an unusually over-serious set of Lithuanian proceedings this year. We would suggest checking out some of their more usual stuff though, as it's quite different thing altogether.

Friday 27 January 2023

Germany 2023 - Lonely Spring - Misfit


This time of year can be great when we start getting clips sent in with people saying "Here's one for you Apocalypsers - I'll bet this is right up your street!" And indeed many times it is. But now and again there'll be the odd song that a whole bunch of people tip us off to that suggests that they haven't quite got the gist of our silly little blog - and this morning's release of the first batch of songs for Germany's Unser Lied Für Liverpool has seen that happen not once, but twice!

And just as Lord Of The Lost give the false impression of offering a massive slab of Neue Deutsche Härte when in fact their actual song is just a pale schlager in better heels, then Lonely Spring here may give off all the apparent punk pop bluster of bands like New Found Glory, they're actually closer in substance to yer actual Busted than anyone who's actually, y'know, cool. Yep, the sneery-voiced So-Cal sound may be moderately back in vogue with the recent reformation of Blink 182, but the proper punks all thought it was pretty lame the first time round, so these lads appear top have fallen between two stools, and what must seem in their heads to be something of a snotty radical stance actually feels a bit cloying. And more to the point, how actually old are they? Hopefully it's a life well-lived that has made them look that grizzled, but it would be very unbecoming playing the teeny punk card in their videos if they were actually nearly as ancient as Tom Delonge.

In my other musical life as a barely successful punk rock star I get to see this kind of mob a lot. They're usually the second act on a four band bill that swan in late like they've just invented punk, tries to get all their mates in for free, play to nine people while moaning that nobody respects them, then sod off home before the other bands have played. Good luck to them if they're straight up in their love for the genre, and it might indeed be fun to see them leaping about on a Liverpool stage, but honestly, this isn't our flavour of punk rock at all. And sadly them Germans are more likely to go for their usual beige blando anyway. Although the hurdy gurdy lass would at least be funny.

Wednesday 18 January 2023

Finland 2023 - Käärijä - Cha Cha Cha


So there we were thinking Finland we're going to let us down. Up til now, the UMK line-up had offered us nothing but famous people with mediocre songs, or less famous people with mediocre songs. Heck, things were getting so bad that we were almost looking forward to the Portion Boys reveal for something to laugh at. Not with, at. And surely we couldn't be expecting much from a song called Cha Cha Cha, could we? How terribly wrong we were!

Kicking off sounding a bit like Rammstein with all the corners sanded off, a bare-chested hardnut stomps around a wrestling ring singing about how he loves to get pissed up and lose his mind. And just when you were expecting to shake your locks to the inevitable beatdown drop in the middle, at the 1:42 slot it gracefully slides into a chunk of turbo-fuelled J-Pop. Eh?! He's still singing about the booze drinks, only by now he's absolutely hammered and rolling around on the metaphorical floor. It's a work of pure bloody wonk genius!

It's like listening to an entry level version of Japan's thrash-pop brain-melters Maximum The Hormone - only in Finnish and with a distinctly Northern European edge. And you just know that it's going to look immense live! Obviously unless something really strange happens in the next two nights this is the one that we really, REALLY want to see in Liverpool. We've no idea if he's even got a half of a half chance up against Robin P, but the people of Finland have been known to chuck in the odd rogue bullet, so please - pretty please - make this happen!

Monday 16 January 2023

Estonia 2023 - Meelik - Tuju


The Estonian Eurovision selection competition, Eesti Laul, is usually a delight, laden with low key floaty pop marvels and the occasional slab of unhinged strangeness. Sadly this year's competitors are a little more usual, but this bouncy little indie pop shuffle is the one that's stayed with us over the weekend.

If it doesn't grab you immediately, please do stick with it though, as its awkward deadpan beginnings build and build through ever more wonky camera, and the band gradually thaw out from their stiff and almost creepy beginnings.

Thankfully it managed to claw its way into February's final, and will be a smashing counterpoint to all that over serious pop and contrived sub-rock that it's buttressed up against. It won't be coming anywhere near the top half, we fear, but we're so very glad that it's there.

Friday 13 January 2023

Croatia 2023 - Krešo i Kisele Kiše - Kme Kme


What have the put in the water in Croatia this year. Dora of late has been like a favourite old Aunt who's a bit past her best but who you still grudgingly go to see once a year anyway. But they must have upped her meds over the past twelve months, because this year's contest is fixing up to be one of the best of the lot in 2023! There's at least half a dozen songs that we wouldn't begrudge a slot in the big show - maybe even more, and although Let 3 might be the big noise to fans of more edgy alt stuff, we can't help going back to our roots and digging a bit of Kreso!

Oh yes, we've always enjoyed a bit of the old skacore in this household, but given an added stompy Balkan edge this one's floating all kids of boats for us. Like Let 3, Krešimir Burić and his Acid rain hail from Rijeka, and have been making this flavour of fine and danceable racket for donkeys years now. But we never imagined that they'd show their hand at Dora. If you're looking for stylistic reference points, seek out California's Voodoo Glow Skulls, or the UK's own Redeemon, The Filaments and The Dead Pets, because if you're unfamiliar to this sound there's a load of great stuff to discover out there.

When old man Johnny and his PiL boys first declared for Ireland, the old punks were the first one to disparage him for entering a contest they clearly hadn't seen since they were kids. They out to take a gander down Croatia way, because they'd have to admit that there's a good handful of stuff that they'd listen to at Dora this year if it hadn't been apparently tainted with the Eurovision brush - and this one in particular. It's another one we just can't wait to see done live! 

Thursday 12 January 2023

Croatia 2023 - LET 3 - Mama ŠČ!

(Click here if you can't see the above video panel…) 

A couple of months ago a Croatian pal of mine advised me to check out the history of a band from round his way called LET 3. There were stories that they were going to be having a go at ESC in 2023, and that they had something of a track record of unruly TV appearances and curious art terrorism. Obviously, my ears picked up and I started delving into their back catalogue. And boy was their history lively. Famous for their provocative lyrics and shall we say lively live performances, they're one of those polarising bands back in the home country - you either love 'em, or really really hate 'em. Already they sounded like my kinda band.

And now here it is - Mama Shhhh! It's tricky to totally translate the meaning into English, but there's a whole lot of business about going to war, and a lot of references to psychopaths… and tractors - but it's the sonic onslaught that really tips it over the edge. After a politely cacophonous intro, it slides into an edgy folksy hymn. It's fairly accessible, but to you can't help feeling that something is about to jump out of the woodwork at you. And at around 53 seconds it suddenly goes full Zappa on you and swirls your brain in all the directions.

From there on in it ebbs and flows, before building to a massive mess of chuggy pop anger and a curt sudden ending. In short, it's flipping brilliant, and going by their past history one can only assume the live visuals are going to be a bit, ahem, lively. Again, they're going to polarise, with as many people voting for anything but them rather than them themselves. But if Croatia really wants to stamp its mark back on the contest, these are the laddies to do it!

Sunday 8 January 2023

Ireland 2023 - Public Image Ltd. - Hawaii


So it finally happened - probably. Four years after it was first posited by a chancer songwriter, PiL have finally chucked in a song in an attempt to represent Ireland at Eurovision. Or at least so the rumours go at this point. Old Johnny has clearly been pondering on the potential mischief of it all, and gone rogue with one of the most beautiful pieces of music the old band have put together in years.

However, one suspects that, if this whole curious story is true, it's the kind of song that's going to fall between all the stalls and not especially satisfy anyone. All those folks who still insist on calling him Johnny Rotten with little idea of his more recent output will look at it as something of a lilting disappointment, while on the other hand, it might be just that bit too strange and meandering for all the nans who watch the Late Late Show of an evening. And you can just imagine the panel of has-been showbiz celebs trying to get their lobes around it. "It's not really the kind of thing that gets sent to the Eurovision now, is it" someone who clearly hasn't watched the Eurovision in decades will undoubtedly say, then everyone will vote for either that boyband or one of those nice girls from the counties.

The project's only potential saving grace will be if John gets to tell the story of the song. Much of what he does these days is mainly to amuse his wife Nora, who is deep into the later stages of Alzheimer's, and this song is clearly a part of that strategy. So if it only does that, then this whole thing is a success. It's probably not what many people would have expected of the band, but it's a pretty lovely thing to be doing all the same.

I just wonder what the ten-year-old me would have thought the first time I saw The Sex Pistols on a Sunday afternoon arts programme in 1976 and had my head turned to a long life in punk rock if you'd told him that in nearly fifty years time I'd be writing about their singer potentially doing Eurovision. It's not the greatest thing he's ever done, and almost certainly won't come in the top half of the voting unless something weird happens, but the intentions behind it are the most important thing here.

Now let's see if the whole Eurovision story is true!