Firstborn ‘When It Hits You Feel No Pain’ (Independiente)

Music moves in mysterious ways, as do, I’ve discovered over the years, the people who work in and around it. Back in the mists, I was at the War Child charity as Editor of music download site The idea was to harvest exclusive tracks and sell them as a monthly download EP complete with an online music mag. Yeah, yeah, old hat right? Today, maybe, but it launched pre-iTunes music store in 2004.

We enlisted the help of some serious online early adaptors, three companies: web hosts Net UI, download boffins 7 Digital and online music video hub, Video-C, who kindly built us a website of our own.

Our project manager at Video-C was a charming Irishman called Oisin Lunny. Without his know-how and infectious enthusiasm wouldn’t have happened. The project culminated in 2005 with the ‘Help!: A Day In The Life’ album and a £500k cheque, spent pretty much overnight getting kids off the streets in war-torn Iraq.

One day, Oisin mentioned our paths had crossed before. Seems I’d commissioned a piece about him when I was at Melody Maker, for which he always meant to say thank you. His name didn’t ring bells, panic set in.

Formerly of London-based Irish folk-inspired hip hop outfit Marxman, Oisin’s 2001 solo album, ‘When It Hits You Feel No Pain’ appeared under the name Firstborn and spawned a track that was hard to avoid.

“Hearing ‘The Mood Club’ in [1999 clubbing flick] ‘Human Traffic’, and as Pete Tong’s tune of the month was a huge buzz,” he says, “I heard that David Holmes played it twice at a New Year’s Eve party in Dublin, that was beyond awesome.”

‘The Mood Club’, a tribute to the Dublin-based Northern Soul club of the same name that Oisin frequented in the 80s, was a corker and was picked up for release by small Irish label Chuillean. They played it to all the right people and Oisin was soon signed to Independiente by A&R man turned author John Niven and Tony Crean, who these days manages the likes of Goldfrapp among others. It was Tony (his Go! Discs label released War Child’s original ‘Help!’ album in 1995) who introduced Oisin to Video-C. The tangled webs we weave.

‘When It Hits…’ is a wildly eclectic record which nails that sought-after retro sound of the time, think Justin Robertson, David Holmes and John Carter. The “what happened to…” refrain from opener, ‘I Close My Eyes’, is a lick lifted from The Stranglers’ ‘No More Heroes’ and grabs you immediately. The vocalist? 70s soul legend Linda Clifford, who is joined on the record by fellow soul notable Mary Love. Other guests include Dublin poet and childhood friend Bennan Murphy (the highlight of his contribution is a techno cover of ‘Hey Mister Tambourine Man’), while the closing track, ‘Lifeblood’, sees a guest appearance from a man responsible for all this, the legendary Irish folk music Dónal Lunny… who yup, you’ve guessed it, is Oisin’s dad.

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