Archive for April, 2008

Apr 30 2008

Especially For Grannymar

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Because she asked so nicely (or threatened so well, one or the other):

Following on from I Got My Head Chopped Off

8 responses so far

Apr 30 2008

I Got My Head Chopped Off

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Well, after a year long follicle cultivation project, I finally got a haircut yesterday. Gone are the long, flowing, Celtic, curly locks and in their place is something that resembles a plastic wig you might see on a lego man.

I knew it was a mistake. I liked my long hair, it was the first hair style I ever had that felt like ‘me’, but I stupidly bowed to the pressures of those around me and now I look like Jack Bauer’s wife in the first series of 24. And while it may be cool in some circles to look like a member of the cast of 24, it is never cool for a 26 year old man to look like Jack Bauer’s missus.

I remember I had a teacher in my first or second year of secondary school (I think she tought me Irish or maybe History). She was in her early forties and I remember her as a pleasant woman. I look like her now.

There was a woman who worked in Tesco when I was 16 or 17. She usually worked the day shift but was put onto the night shift one too many times and decided to quit. She ended up working in Xtra Vision (or was it Movie Magic?). Well, I look like her now.

The cut does make me look like one bloke I used to know. He was a few years older than me and not very cool at all. He liked to wear dresses and call himself Barbara. I wonder if he still does!?

Note to self: no more haircuts…ever!

11 responses so far

Apr 29 2008

Sunday’s Child Is…Not In Print

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I rarely click onto any of the ads around the sites and blogs I frequent. Sorry to anyone who has google ads as a revenue stream, but I’m afraid I’m not great with the click-throughs. But today I clicked onto an ad for the Irish Times Front Page Sales service (okay, so it was an ad on Shane Hegarty’s blog, so I’m not sure that really counts as advertising).

The service allows you to get a framed printout of the front page of the Irish Times on almost any day. I personally think this would make a great gift for many people. To test it out, I thought I’d check out my birth date. It turns out I was born on a Sunday, and the Irish times is in print Monday to Saturday. A little disappointed, but otherwise unphased, I tried Lottie’s birth date……yep, a Sunday. Argh!

Still, it seems like a good service. I’m sure I’ll get to use it eventually.

5 responses so far

Apr 29 2008

How Do You Say “shame” As Gaeilge?

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Oh the shame. The shame of it all. I’m an Irishman through and through, I love my country, I am proud of our fair nation, I adore our flag (ok, I have a passing interest in the tricolour, but I have a theme going, so let’s not ruin it), I rejoice on our patron saints day and I drink the black stuff like it’s manna from heaven…and yet, I cannot speak our language.

I’m embarrassed every time I go to the shop to buy milk, and struggle to muster “bainne”, I near tears as I queue for tickets at the train station and am unable to form a sentence beyond “ticéad Na Clocha Liatha”, and when I am in the pub and I hear all the people around me actively engaged in conversations as gaeilge, I weep inside. How come everyone in this country can speak Irish except me?

Well, I’ve decided to correct this egregious error on my part and get some Irish lessons. On and off over the past few years, I’ve picked up books and tapes and CD’s on learning Irish and I usually lose interest fairly quickly. Well, this time I’m sticking with it (maybe).

I’m looking at a few classes at the moment, but if anyone knows of some course that would be worth doing, let me know. GaelChultú have a class running from May 26th, which looks good.

So wish me luck and I may even start using Firefox as gaeilge.

11 responses so far

Apr 28 2008

What Ever Happened To Baby Natascha?

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This week sees the newspapers knee deep in the latest Austrian kidnap story, that of a woman who was held captive for 24 years by her father who repeatedly and routinely abused her and fathered her 7 children. The woman, known as Elisabeth Fritzl was locked in a tiny basement for many years and systematically raped by this evil man (am I supposed to stick the word ‘allegedly’ in here somewhere?).

It’s hard not to think of the story of another Austrian, Natascha Kampusch, who escaped on 23rd August 2006 after being held by Wolfgang Priklopil for more than eight years. Priklopil kept her stowed away in his tiny soundproof basement from age 10 until she had the opportunity to run away aged 18. On a day when he had allowed her access outside, he turned his back to take a phone call and she ran. Climbing over fences and banging on doors, her pleas were ignored until she reached the home of an elderly neighbour. Before the police could locate him, Priklopil jumped in front of a train in Vienna, committing suicide before he could provide any answers or explanations.

I remember when this story broke, it was very big news, all over the newspapers and television, but I thought it odd that as quickly as the story broke, it seemed to fade back into obscurity. Presumably, much of the drop-off in media interest was Natascha’s understandable refusal to talk to the media, despite being offered large sums of money for her ‘exclusive’. But it was a story (I hesitate to use the word story, as I acknowledge it is a person’s life I’m talking about), it was a story that I was eager to hear more of and over the past year and a half I have spotted small headlines and updates on what Natascha has been saying and doing.

She firstly agreed to do an interview with ORF, a respected Austrian broadcaster. The interview was given without payment (although the sale of the interview to other broadcasters did net her a fee). Further newspaper interviews were granted in exchange for housing and the payment for her education. These interviews, in September 2006, showed a well educated, surprisingly confident and articulate young woman who would not, perhaps, be the imagined picture of a victim of 8 years of serial abuse. She told of how he would give her books and teach her, how he would share meals with her, how he ‘allowed’ her to play in his garden and how he had taken her on holidays with him. She also spoke of the beatings and sexual abuse. She told of her abduction eight years previous but could not recollect a second man, although a witness claimed to have seen her bundled into a minivan by two men.

There was speculation that she was suffering from Stolkholm Syndrome, where the victim identified with and grows to appreciate, need and in some cases love their captor. She strenuously denied this, describing Priklopil as a “criminal”. It’s impossible to imagine what she went through for all those years, and the fact that he had a ‘nice’ side, a side that provoked Natascha to light a candle for him in the morgue, a side that had her say she felt “more and more sorry for him – he is a poor soul”, probably made it worse. It must be psychologically destroying to have someone act kindly towards you some of the time while beating you and raping you and locking you in a tiny room the rest of the time. It would not be surprising if there was an element of Stolkholm to it.

The Natascha Kampusch story did not end there however. I recall a side piece buried in the newspaper that revealed she was being kept away from her mother for her own safety. No more details were given and I had to go searching to find that her mother had been officially charged last May for aiding in the abduction and in covering up abuse. If guilty, she would have been responsible for helping Wolfgang Priklopil to kidnap her 10 year old daughter. What is more disturbing is that she further sought to gain from the ordeal by releasing her own book detailing her “Frantic Years”, as it was called.

In the past few months, Natascha has added a further obscure chapter to her life’s story. She has taken a job fronting a chat show on Austrian television, entitled “In Conversation with Natascha Kampusch”. I am all in favour of the girl getting her life together and finding a path for herself that she has been denied for so long, but a career in the celebrity spotlight seems odd. Well, I look forward to the subtitled version.

Which brings me to my point. I’m not sure why this story gained my attention, but it truly has and it did from day one. Perhaps the slow leak of details and the still as yet unanswered questions, maybe the fascination with a good mystery (whatever happened Priklopil’s supposed male accomplice), or I wonder if it’s just my morbid curiosity that has me ask, when will she bring out her own book about her eight years of imprisonment? I’ll buy it.

I don’t mean to be flippant, but while it is a sad story, it is also very fascinating. Fascinating and frightening that this could go on for so long in today’s world, in a developed country. So too, it is fascinating and frightening that it is not a one off. The arrest of Elisabeth Fritzl’s 74 year old father will do little to ease the minds of his poor daughter, abused for 24 years, or her children, who cannot possibly know normality. I make no apologies for it, but this is a story that I will continue to follow. Yes, it is unsettling and yes, it makes me angry and sick, but it is better to be informed and angry that to ignore it and turn a blind eye, allowing ourselves to live in ignorant bliss.

Update: Bock has more on the Fritzl story

2 responses so far

Apr 28 2008

Donnie Darko Reminder

Published by under Blog,Movies

If anyone wants to go see Donnie Darko on the big screen at Cineworld Cinemas tomorrow (Tuesday 29th April) at 6.30pm, please let me know.

It’s part of Cinemagic’s Screen Festival, running until May 1st.

FREE TICKETS to the Delightfully Deranged Donnie Darko

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Apr 26 2008

Great Movies To Look Forward To…

Published by under Blog,Movies

Slashfilm have been talking about two movies that are going to be huge. Bigger than the Dark Knight, more exciting that Iron Man and with more nostalgia than Indiana Jones:

Firstly, I’m sure we can all agree that there is nothing more exciting that Speed 3: Ignition!!

And if that’s not enough, here is the trailer for the awesome Tetris: The Movie

Okay, thankfully these are both fakes, but it’s amazing the length people will go to these days for a bit of humorous parody. Speed3 even has its own website. The brilliant Tetris trailer was made by Black20.

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Apr 25 2008

Caterwauling And Other Awful Sounds

Published by under Blog,Music

Continued from Dodging Bullets in Donegal

Back in our hosts’ house, as our tension ridden group nursed our bruises and plotted revenge and the systematic demise of our once close friends, we prepared for dinner. Two taxis collected us and brought us to some kind of industrial estate. There were factories and warehouses, open expanses and open plan offices, but there was no obvious sign of a restaurant. I had heard stories of people travelling into the heartland of Donegal only to be abducted, brought to a secluded location and tickled to death. Up until this moment, I had assumed the stories were nothing more than urban legends.

At the moment I was ready to scream (like a big girl) for help, we pulled over to rest beside a new building which had no signage over it, but its big windows did show us that there were people dining. I felt somewhat secure and ventured in.

La Fantasia – yes, it’s a restaurant and not a sex shop – was surprisingly nice. The food was very good. While some of the group moaned about the varying degrees of rarity in their respective steaks, I happily tucked into my veal in wild mushroom sauce. While the veal may not have been the most flavoursome I’ve had, the sauce more than made up for it. Delicious!

Thinking about it afterwards, I think everyone in our group would have happily taxied straight back to the house after dinner rather than go to the club. We looked rather stoic (a mixture of stuffed stomachs and mangled muscles), especially when compared with the five separate Hen Parties that surrounded us. A boost to my ego came when I was bestowed with a garland that apparently signified that I was a ‘cute guy’. Okay, garland is probably overselling it. It was a pair of ‘L’ plates with string through them, and, as one of my good friends pointed out, probably stood for ‘Loser’.

After an exhausting one pint, we legged it back to the house (is this a sign of old age setting in?). We relaxed into beanbags and armchairs and began our long night of drunken revelry. Retrospectively, I’m not sure any of us should have picked up those microphones (with the exception maybe of Stella and her beautiful voice). I’m sure the neighbourhood curdled as our caterwauling commenced.

Singstar on the Playstation is actually a fantastic idea. Anything that can unite a gang of drunken louts and not result in a fist fight must be a good thing. Again, we teamed up and took on challenges far more gruelling than paintballing – we had to sing Mariah Carrey songs.

Always at a disadvantage going up against the might of Stella and Darragh (Darragh was less ‘might’ more ‘shi……nevermind), our team of Niamh, Gary and myself were ready for the challenge. Well, we thought we were. Had it not been for Niamh’s management of the medleys and Gary’s laudable love of Lavigne, our result would have been even more dismal than it was. My only achievement of the night was a decisive win, singing Time After Time, and I’m not sure that’s something I should be entirely proud of.

As the evening grew on, the croaks and wails (and puppy dog tails) became croakier and wailier(!). We murdered No Woman No Cry, we eviscerated Africa, we lampooned Chains and completely obliterated the song formerly known as Gold. Spandau Ballet we were not.

The following morning…… I can’t actually tell you much about it. While everyone else arose and had breakfast, I steadfastly refused to step out of my slumber. I love my sleep. Shortly after I got up, we hit the road again towards Dublin and Wicklow…and I slept during the journey too.

Anyway, thank you very much to both Stella and Nicky for your hospitality. Thank you to Darragh for the use of your photographs and a huge thank you to Liz for driving to Donegal and back (and for putting up with me on a constant basis).

Dodging Bullets in Donegal

My Brief Absence

6 responses so far

Apr 24 2008

FREE TICKETS To The Delightfully Deranged Donnie Darko

Published by under Blog,Movies

I remember watching Donnie Darko for the first time (about two hours before watching it for the second time). It was on DVD after the initial spate of interest in the movie. Being that I am as superficial as Paris Hilton at a Beauty Pageant, I don’t tend to rush out and watch these arty movies, especially when they are described as oh-my-god-you-have-to-see-this-movie-it’s -so-weird-and-really-great-oh-my-god. But we were down in cork at there was a special offer in HMV or Virgin or Tower or whatever it is they have down there. We bought a bunch of €3.99 DVD’s, one of which was this off the wall semi-sci-fi drama with Jake Gyllenhaal.

I was immediately disappointed. Disappointed that I hadn’t bought it sooner, disappointed that I didn’t believe the hype, disappointed that I didn’t take the time to see it in the cinema. Well, as part of the Cinemagic’s Festival of Film and Television for (and by) Young People, I have the opportunity to see it on the big screen in Cineworld.

I have no intention of giving any credit to Darragh Doyle, who has provided tickets for the Tuesday 29th showing of Donnie Darko in Cineworld Cinema on Parnell Street. Nor do I plan on thanking him for giving me the opportunity to share a number of tickets with readers of this blog.

If you would like to join me to see this wonderful movie, please drop me a mail or leave a comment requesting tickets. They’re free!!! The film starts at 6.30pm on Tuesday 29th April and I would love to drag people into Keating’s Church, the bar on Mary’s Street, for drinks and chattery afterwards.

Donnie Darko

Set in the small town of Middlesex, USA at the end of the Reagan era, it tells the story of a disturbed teenager, Donnie, who has visions of Frank, a man in a fake-fur suit and rabbit mask.

Frank leads Donnie to commit crimes while he is sleepwalking and tells him that the end of the world is fast approaching.

At school Donnie makes friends with new girl, Gretchen, who is trying to escape her abusive father. Together they try to understand Donnie’s neurosis, however both their futures are changed forever when Donnie, following Frank’s instructions, takes drastic actions against local self-help guru Jim Cunningham.

A series of events are set in motion that are only disrupted further by Donnie’s traveling back in time.


Please check out Cinemagic’s website or Darragh Doyle’s blog for further information about this great festival.

11 responses so far

Apr 24 2008

It’s Never Lupus

Published by under Blog,TV

I love this show!!

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Apr 24 2008

Dodging Bullets In Donegal

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The plan to head to Donegal on Friday evening after work was slightly delayed. We hit the road at 8.15 Saturday morning.

Picking up a friend of mine, Gary, in Dublin, we met the rest of the gang beside Tesco in Letterkenny. Wrecked tired, hungry and thirsty, having traveled 232 kilometers, we just wanted to sit. The prospect of running around in the mud, carrying heavy guns and dodging bullets did not sound particularly appealing. But we pulled ourselves together (Mary and I needed a pint before being able to pull ourselves together, naturally) and headed towards The Old Foundry to risk our lives, to dare to be bold, to step once more into the breach, to……okay, it’s just paintballing, but it hurts!

I was surprised they allowed us to do it, as our group consisted of just six people (a certain blogger and another member of our group, Niamh, were too chicken to be shot repeatedly and endure pain and bruising – wimps).

The day was broken into a number of missions or objectives, and we were broken into two teams (they wouldn’t allow boys vs girls – is that some sort of sexism?). Our team, Mary, Lottie and myself, took on Stella, Gary and Nicky. The first mission, Capture The Flag, was triumphantly won by our team. My genius girlfriend legged it for the flag and took cover before the enemy had even left their base.

After we gained a 2-0 lead, our Nazi-esque opposition clawed back to 2-1, forcing us to pull out all the Gary & Stellastops and regain our 2 game lead. It’s fair to say, at 3-1, our near saintly side was feeling confident, and their satanic, evil and fairly ugly side were dejected and lost. How then, HOW could we let them get those last two games to make the day a draw? Grrr argh!

We finished the painball with a free-for-all which was undoubtedly the most barbarous part of the day. Pellets flew in every direction. There was no triage – everyone had to die!! With only Mary and myself left standing, the result was inevitable. I strode confidently in her direction as I heard her screams and cries. She was out of bullets, her gun spouted gas and nothing more, the small bale of hay was not sufficient cover, as I demanded her surrender and claimed victory as king of all! The small amount of guilt I felt at reducing Mary to tears quickly subsided as I accepted my crown.

8 responses so far

Apr 18 2008

Portishead’s Third

Published by under Blog,Music,Music Review

PortisheadI was first introduced to Portishead by accident about 9 years ago, by a friend of mine at the time, Peter. It was via an unlikely artist, Tom Jones. Knowing that I was (am) a big Divine Comedy fan, Peter pointed me at Tom Jones’ album, Reload, which included a track with Neil Hannon, a cover of Portishead’s All Mine. The album also included a cover of Motherless Child with Portishead. I immediately ran out to buy Portishead’s two albums, Dummy and Portishead (it’s possible my memory is a little iffy on this – I think it more likely that I copied the albums from my friend, but let’s not dwell on that).

On the 25th of April, the band, consisting of Beth Gibbons, Geoff Barrows and Adrian Utley, will release their third album, ingeniously titled Third. Ten years after the release of their self-titled second album, this is one of the most eagerly anticipated albums in recent years.

So, I sit here, excitedly listening to the new album and I am not disappointed. Often, a build up and an elevated air of anticipation can lead to a monumental let down (see Damien Rice’s 9), but Third is a wonderful piece of musical engineering.

From the word go, we are sucked back into a musical landscape which only this band can create. The first track, Silence, is an epic adventure that begins so slight and builds to a cheeky finish that had me checking my iPod batteries. This track gives us a mere tease of Gibbons’ vocals which are as stark as ever.

There are maybe only two tracks that feel as though they were written minutes after the release of their second album, but this is not wholy a bad thing – Machine Gun is an excellent tune but it seems to contrast with the rich freshness and modern edge of Third. (On third and fourth listening, this ‘negative’ point fizzles away – I cannot find fault with this album).

Hunter is a track that paints a picture. It feels like listening to two tracks at once. Perhaps we are, through the music, hearing the points of view of the hunted and the hunter. Superb! Equally, The Rip is a ripping track (sorry!). It’s shows some growth in Gibbons’ vocals, where we hear a more romantic, slight sound (don’t worry – the edge is still very evident). A slow starter, the synth sound hypnotises and pulls us along to a sleepy ending. Portishead’s version of a lullaby maybe?

Plastic and We Carry On show the band’s love of percussion. The helicopter blades of the drum beat in Plastic are just as important to the track as the seething vocals, while the rhythm of We Carry On makes me want to march (but I’m very tired, so I don’t think I will).Portishead Third

The biggest surprise on the album comes in the form of the ukelele led Deep Water. I wonder if this was a track they made to amuse themselves, but was too good to be left off the album? The harmonies are silly, the melody unoriginal, but somehow this sounds great. It’s a bit of light relief after the heavy We Carry On.

Machine Gun is old style Portishead. Explosive drum and bass beats, almost metalic, mixed with Gibbons’ piercing vocals. Did they head down to the local steelworks to record this one? Perhaps, but the result is brilliant.

Small is a truly beautiful track, just beautiful. It’s looking to be my favourite track on the album. The sensual sound of Gibbons’ voice carries this song through the first minute or so before being joined by a long, deep organ sound. The synthesised, almost 70’s sound, makes me wonder if this is what The Doors might sound like had Morrison stuck around a while longer. This track quickly becomes as anthemic as the second album’s All Mine.

Magic Doors is a hectic mix of vocals and drum beats in disarray. It’s a tough listen, more suited to a late night and a few beers. There’s a rawness to it that sounds like it may have been lifted from Dummy, their debut album. The closing track, Threads, too sounds like vintage Portishead, though it is one of the strongest tracks on the album. Sweeping synthesised sounds, almost whale-like, help this tune crescendo into a big foghorn finish, perfectly closing the album.

I’ve listened to it in full four times now and a few tracks more than that. As much as I enjoyed their debut, Dummy, and adored the follow up, Portishead, Third is likely to be my favourite Portishead album. Haunting, moody, intelligent and modern, this will be big and rightly so.


The Official Website of Portishead

Third’s MySpace Page

Beth Gibbons’ MySpace Page

Geoff Barrow’s MySpace Page

Portishead on Wikipedia

5 responses so far

Apr 18 2008

I Guess You’ll Do

Published by under Blog

Does this sum up relationships?

It’s a funny video but only for cynics, I think.

From RunawayBox.

2 responses so far

Apr 17 2008

Planet Of The Apes

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Okay, it’s less a planet, more a peninsula, but Gibraltar is a strange place. At the southern tip of Spain, this British colony is more quintessentially English than England itself. There’s Fox and Hound pubs, mushy peas and toffy accents. It’s almost possible not to notice the gorgeous weather and the heavily guarded entrance-by-airstrip. Oh, and did I mention the monkeys?

The Rock of Gibraltar is home to hundreds of Barbary Apes, and while the humans and the animals can generally live in harmony with each other, a revolution is stirring. According to reports in the Daily Telegraph, a pack of 25 macaques have staged an uprising and are terrorising tourists and townies alike. They have been breaking into hotel rooms, vandalising property and stealing from passersby. Apparently they are running riot on the beach.

Barbary Apes from Spanish holiday 2007

The response from Ernesto Britto, Gib’s tourism minister: “Kill, kill, kill”! Okay, I admit he didn’t quite put it like that, but there are plans afoot to cull the rioting faction and Ernesto defends the decision saying, “children are frightened. People cannot leave their windows open for fear of the monkeys stealing. Apes can bite and contact with them runs the risk of salmonella or hepatitis”. I don’t recall that being in the tour brochure when I visited last year.

I do understand the fear though:

Yes, that is me in the video, cowering away from the tiny baby monkey. But what you don’t see is his fat furious father off camera, heading my direction.

I’m sure there is a better way to deal with this problem that culling, but I’m no animal rights activist and if it has to be, then it has to be. It just seems somewhat excessive. Anyone else any opinions on that?

6 responses so far

Apr 17 2008

Sentimental Heart

Published by under Blog,Music,Music Review

Do you know who this is?

Zooey Deschanel

She was the love interest, Trillian, from Garth Jenning’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; she acted opposite Will Ferrell in the hillarious Elf; she played William’s sister in Almost Famous; her sister, Emily, is the star of the TV show Bones.

So, I was surprised to hear Zooey Deshanel deliver an album with the quality of Volume One with the band She & Him, a two piece with M. Ward. It’s soft pop set, with some nice easy listening tunes such as Sentimental Heart and Swing Low Sweet Chariot.Volume One

While one or two tracks sound like they may have been add-on’s to Ringo Star’s 90’s album, Vertical Man (which is not entirely a bad thing), much of the album, particularly I Thought I Saw Your Face Today, sounds as though Deschanel has communicated with the dead to channel Karen Carpenter, mixing the cheerful melody with heartbreaking vocals. Her voice is gripping.

At other times, She & Him fits nicely into the recent trend in favour of jazzier, 50’s and 60’s RnB grooves, á la the edgy Amy Winehouse or the softer Duffy. The duo are not going to ask us ‘what kind of fuckery is this‘ – they are ‘nicer’ than Winehouse and this in itself is quite refreshing. Their soulful cover of the old Smoky Robinson hit (there was a great cover by The Beatles), You Really Gotta Hold On Me, is beautiful and was the first track that I immediately went back to play again.

She and HimThere is a strong Country and Western influence in Deschanel’s voice at times, which goes against her somewhat. It feels forced on tracks like Black Hole and Got Me, which makes me think she isn’t entirely behind every track on the album. The opposite can be said of Take It Back which is a haunting tune which could fit just as neatly on an Ute Lemper album, recalling the smoky cabaret scenes of wartime Europe.

This album is not going to tear up the charts, there’s too much variety in the tracks (is this a bad thing?), but with songs like Sentimental Heart and Take It Back, it may do very well on the download market.

Please check out the duo’s MySpace page, where you can hear a number of tracks from the album, Volume One.

5 responses so far

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