Private underground residence (All pictures by Brid O’Donovan)

Dynamics of Idealism has been seven years in the making, or as singer Paul McNamara said at Private Underground Residence‘s gig in Cyprus Avenue, Cork, on Saturday night: “Thanks for coming to our launch – it’s only taken seven years.” Completed by Kevin Blake and John MacHale, PUR put on a masterclass of a rock show on Saturday night, a 50ish-minute set that was never anything less than enthralling.


Supported by fellow Cork band Lamp and Dublin punks Ginola, this gig was probably the strongest that I’ve been to so far this year, something with which I’m sure a lot of the small, appreciative crowd would agree. Ginola were stunning, a short blast of riotous, unrelenting energy that probably left a few scared.

Ginola drummer

Ginola

But everybody was here for PUR, friends and fans who have followed them since they formed in 2007. The trio all live in Dublin now, so this represented something of a hometown gig for them. It helped that in Dynamics of Idealism, they had something so good to showcase. Clocking in at around 43 minutes and eight tracks long, much of PUR’s debut screams protest album. “Your idealism is beautiful,” McNamara shouts (there’s very little actual singing on this album) on ‘Your Idealism’, before knowingly adding, “but fundamentally flawed.” In an interview published last August, McNamara told We Are Noise: “A lot of the tunes are of a political nature. ‘Snuff Box’ is about the ignorance of systemic risk by financial types, and ‘Car Crash’ is about the general lack of bravery and thinking that exist in the legions of people who run countries (well our country anyway). Many more though would be about general observations on life and that. Things like the interactions of our thought processes and how they affect our decisions and the album has been structured to be about the way in which people’s idealism and idealisms in general change over time in the face of reality. The centre point of the album is the tune ‘Your Idealism’ which is about the point at which someone realises an ideal which is central to their outlook in life is at odds with reality and the way that this realisation generates a crisis for the individual in question.”

There’s very little within Dynamics of Idealism to make you feel optimistic about mankind, that offers any redeeming features. It could have been called We’re Fucked, and you’d hardly disagree once you listen. It’s a big rock record, with parts that you might file away with early Muse – ‘Snuff Box’, for example, features a huge metal riff that sounds right at home with ‘Cave‘ or ‘New Born‘. Thankfully PUR stay away from what Muse sound like now. Kevin Blake is a name you might recognise from posters for electronica/techno shows. There are elements of those genres in this release, with the repetitive guitar lines becoming mesmeric, the lyrics, though few, are repeated ad nauseum until they almost take on a difference meaning. Second track ‘Car Crash’ features Tom Vek-esque vocals that ruminate on how governments don’t care about their people – they’re only interested in their own survival, about reaching their protocol. One of the lines we hear throughout is “we will be happy, we will be OK”, which sounds like something that you might hear from the people of Oceania from 1984, something they keep telling themselves as the world around them falls apart. The songs are math-rock in places, hitting on the likes of Battles, and verge into Joy Division/New Order elements as well, most obviously on ‘I Know’. I love the way McNamara gets his tongue around the line: “We pay for our constant delay to pursue action.” It’s a simple acknowledgement – not shouted at us – of our lack of action. It’s a comment on Ireland in 2013: we’ll accept whatever the government throws at us. We’ll moan about it, but we won’t protest. We won’t seek to change the course of our politics. Why, because they’re all the same. We can choose between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil; we’re stuck in a political rut, and Private Underground Residence show us why our idealisms just don’t compute with what our leaders want.

Dynamics of Idealism is an important album, one that is not afraid to say big things, that doesn’t what its message beneath the apocalyptic guitars. The gig in Cyprus Avenue was more celebratory than wallowing in depression – it was the night before St Patrick’s Day after all – and there was a new album to showcase. Hopefully Private Underground Residence press on with playing more gigs over the next few months. Come the end of the summer they might have started a revolution.

Private underground residence

PURIMG_0536

Private underground residence

Private underground residence

Private Underground Residence’s debut album Dynamics of Idealism is out now on Resettled Records, and can be purchased from their Bandcamp page for just €5. The trio play upstairs at Whelan’s in Dublin on Friday night. If you can go, you should. You won’t regret it.