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The Unknowns Whelans 6th November 2006

Photos by David Barry

I’d heard a lot about The Unknowns, how they were making waves, the next big thing. And then I realised, they weren’t that unknown, I know the lead singer; we sat through six hours of physics a week together for two years. I began to have horrible flash backs of school talent shows, disco lights and bad acoustics. The night was looking grim.

But, then the Mosley’s came on with a penguin shuffle and a cover version of Baby Spider by the previous band (SpiderBaby) that really got my attention. Unlike the previous band, the lyrics were understandable, the musicians knew exactly what they were doing and looked calm and confident doing it. They were a band very much in control and sure to have an impact on the Irish music scene. This I thought was going to make up for The Unknowns.

I had a chat with The Unknowns lead singer, Shane Reilly before the gig. When asked how he would describe them, he said; “We’ve been called the dirty Beatles?, my heart sank. No one could live up to such a title, surly?

Photography by David Barry

The lights dimmed, the band was set up, he took the stage and blew all of my preconceptions out of the water. Not as energetic as the first group, Spider Baby, whose lead singer ended up on his back, but he had a charisma that drew the eye even before you could focus on the music. He had ‘presence’, that much sought after elusive gift given to but a few and he wore it proudly, parading around the stage like it was his. It was.

Perhaps you think I’m gushing, that they can’t possibly have been that good. Then let me draw your attention to the music.

Totally fresh, intelligent lyrics well put together with guitars and drums to make you move, this was just the beginning. The guitars melded perfectly with his voice and lyrics fusing to create a new sound. His voice, a masterful mesh of Robert Plant and Jeff Buckley was a wonderful contrast to the faster paced music. The Clash seemed to blend with the Killers meeting the Zutons and Thrills in a bizarre new sound that rocked the room. If You Come Late is a prime example of this bizarre, wonderful sound that puts a smile on your face and makes you feel like you’ve known it all of your life. There seems to be an updated 60s vibe to it as well, What’s Me And What’s You epitomises this, the electric guitars make it sound fresh and new. For most new groups hitting the high notes, especially coming to the end of a set with a lot of high notes can be difficult, nigh on impossible, but not for The Unknowns. Shane seemed determined to take the ‘oooh’s back from the Christina’s’ of the world.

A great set list (which I now have in my possession) showcased the many talents of the band, but for one song, Smile, the band left the stage and Shane took over with a single guitar and his voice. The late great lamented Buckley returned for a performance, closing my eyes, forgetting his face I could almost picture Jeff holding the mike then carelessly tossing it to Robert Plant. My peepers opened, it was just Shane on stage giving his all.

The playful camaraderie that the band obviously enjoyed came to the fore in the encore, Twist and Shout, a Beatles classic. Although still fun, making everyone laugh and dance (including the band) it had a harder edge, a faster pace and more grit. They proved that they are indeed a “dirty Beatles?, however they are also much more, a band that held me ensorcelled (captivated, but prettier) and will no longer be unknown. Rock and Roll is fighting back in the form of The Unknowns and it seems determined to kick ass.

Check them out at: http://www.myspace.com/the5unknowns
Track to Download: Only Darkness / What’s Me And What’s You
Review written by: Grace Larkin -- reviews@irishunsigned.ie

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