Every week HEADWARMER. will go in search of the forgotten classics; albums that merely sniffed at the success they deserved before disappearing beneath mounds of mainstream mediocrity. This week we remember a band from Dublin who once opened for U2 and a sophomore LP that should’ve been huge.
4. AN EMOTIONAL FISH – ‘Junk Puppets’
(Atlantic Records, 1993)
As monikers go this has to be one of the best. Quite why they thought naming their rock band after a gill-bearing aquatic craniate with demonstrable feelings, would bring them stardom is anybody’s guess. Perhaps it was the product of warped minds; or dangerously genius minds appealing to the peculiarity within us all. Who knows, but they were definately on to something; quite often the masses will go for the unfamiliar and aberrant. Unsurprisingly however, few would put their trust in this particular affectation and the anticipated wildfire contagion, failed to materialise.
And so it would go for this alternative quartet from Dublin – formed way back in ’88 by vocalist Gerard Whelan, drummer Martin Murphy, guitarist David Frew and bass player Enda Wyatt – they would only enjoy local rather than regional or global success. Quite how is now a mystery, as listening back to their debut from 1990 stirs the ghosts of alternative and indie U2; the days when the early recordings from the worlds biggest bands carried a true sense of humble beginnings, authenticity and charm. They had an ability to captivate with dramatically lyrical and courageous pop-rock compositions like ‘Celebrate’ and ‘Lace Virginia’ from the debut; tracks riddled with poetic fervour and confidence. And if we thought the inauguration was effective, its follow up was a stronger balance of dark and light that still resonates with crystal clarity today.
Released back in ’93 and swiftly accompanied by an opening slot on U2’s Zoo TV tour, the stage was well and truly set for the Celtic crew to take the world by storm. Junk Puppets is a masterclass in reflective, meloncholic and graceful 90’s Indie that inevitably draws comparison to Unforgettable Fire/Joshua Tree era U2, but carries so much more spit and sass. Prized fusions of shimmering production with grande instrumentation grabs from the outset with ‘Rain’, before ‘Harmony Central’ and ‘Careless Child’ intensify proceedings with real identity. The evocative vocals akin to Lou Reed, Bono and Jim Kerr trying to outsing each other, are more unique and powerful than most around us today. Its expressionist rock conveyed through terrific songwriting and if tracks like ‘Star’, ‘Innocence’ or ‘Half Moon’ don’t have you asking why it’s taken this long to catch up, you’re in the wrong place; in music and consciousness.