"After 11 years and two critically acclaimed albums which have sold in excess of 650k worldwide, spawning a series of UK and Ireland chart hit singles including Snow, October Swimmer & Oxygen, JJ72 have announced they are to split up with immediate effect due to record company issues. Mark Greaney is currently in the studio working on a new project with more details to be announced shortly." JJ72 Press Release - June 22, 2006
Following this very sad statement nearly a year ago, like all JJ72 fans, I have been eagerly awaiting news of Mark Greaney's impending return, and although Fergal's current situation is unknown, Sarah is now playing bass for the heavy rock outfit, Lluther.
Yet whilst Mark's future still remains unclear at this point in time, he has just embarked on a 10 date jaunt as tour support for fellow Irish troubadour, Simple Kid. And for those of you unaware of Mark's MySpace page (www.myspace.com/markwgreaney), he has been regularly posting new blogs, with his most recent one reading
Thursday, May 10, 2007
"ALL MOANDAY, TEARSDAY, WAILSDAY, THUMPSDAY, FRIGHTDAY, SHATTERDAY TILL THE FEAR OF THE LAW"
Monday, Monday, Monday. If someone had told me when I was 12 that at some point in the future I would be relishing the prospect of a Monday, I would have thrown my cheese and chutney sandwiches at them. But those sweet yet savoury days of cheese and chutney sandwiches and wasps chasing me for said sandwiches are long gone. Monday = first performance for the humans since December 2005! Uh-oh.
I have played marathon sets for the cats in the front garden on many a drunken night since then. But people are not cats and cats are not people as far as we know.
I have been revisiting songs on my music map that I have not played for five years. Five years! Wow, time has become fitter, it has increased muscle mass, and has switched disciplines - no longer a mid-distance runner - it is now a sprinter. The bastard.
The point of this is I am really looking forward to playing my simple songs in an extremely simple way (just me and a guitar). I have played gigs on my own in the past, the most memorable of which is probably when I opened for Muse in Dublin as all of the JJ gear was left in Heathrow due to a snow storm. Yes, that is correct, it was because of snow. How we laughed. There was also a solo Paris show (Hilary tonsillitis), a solo Glasgow show (Fergal broken ankle) and Tokyo, I think (general drunkenitis). Stop rambling Greaney!
Every message received on this page has been read and truly appreciated. I'm not sure if I would be doing this if it wasn't for you lot. I would say "fans," but I don't like that word. I think "friends" is more appropriate. You are my friends. For those who will get to listen to me play live over the next couple of weeks, I hope you will enjoy it. And hey, even if you don't enjoy it, I still expect a pint after the show for turning up;-)
Ok, time for me to pick up the six string and decide whether to play "City" or not. That reminds me, I should probably go to the city and get a haircut it's all gone a bit Pat Sharp Vs Barry Venison.
Judging from this, Mark seems to be in high spirits, even if these low-key comeback support slots are designed to test the water again. Armed solely with an acoustic guitar, and dressed in a white shirt, black jacket, trousers and boots, Mark coolly strolls on stage at 8.15pm to the strains of claps and cheers.
After acknowledging everyone with a smile and a soft Irish "Hello," he begins by strumming the opening chords to October Swimmer, before his entrancing and instantly recognisable vocals, "The dreams of dying mothers, I awoke, my insides shuddered " hush the room. With the song's self-assured chorus of, "And I don't need anyone, and you don't need anyone" complimented by crisp, resonating notes, it's a classic. And you can tell that Mark's admirers at the Bristol Thekla Social are all thinking the same thoughts - it's fantastic to see and hear the heart of JJ72 again!
In truth, there are only a small number of people in attendance at the moment, with Mark joking, "It's a full house, huh?" But those fervent fans who are here tonight, more than mirror Mark's enthusiasm for his craft. The set continues apace with the first new song of the evening, In Blue, which has an almost folk feel / vibe to it, and partly nods towards one of Mark's biggest inspirations, Nick Drake.
Brother Sleep which follows (once rumoured to have been considered as a potential JJ72 single), is one of my most favourite tracks ever! And even when stripped of I To Sky's opulent production, it remains equally as beautiful, with the unforgettable line, "Is it this sleep that is the brother of death?" Rivalled only by the sheer emotion of its chorus, "I'm gonna see you through this my love, my love."
By now, the audience has grown dramatically, as many of the people who were drinking in the warm evening sun on the good ship's upper deck, have made their way down to the lower deck stage area. Mark briefly mentions, "For those of you who don't know, I used to be in a band called JJ72." We are then greeted with Lost And Found, a slightly heavier new number, which has Mark chopping away at his guitar with expressive playing, whilst singing, "Realise as time goes by, I'm on my own brother, on my own," and movingly, "Nothing on this planet like the touch of your hand." Before he later bellows, "Lost and found, can you hear the sound brother, from the underground?" Everyone is suitably impressed.
In contrast, Improv is fragile and delicate, and hints at what you can expect from Falling, which is perhaps why both songs have been placed together. Featuring aching self-reflective lyrics such as, "Something's changed that you can never mend" and, "Please come back, I need to talk to you tonight, stop me from falling can you hear all the words? I am falling," it infiltrates your heart, mind, body and soul. And with a composition that also recalls The Smashing Pumpkins' Thirty-Three, it's a delectable song that you can't help falling in love with from first listen!
Abigail meanwhile, has a grinding, unrepentant rhythm, and again, shows the light and shade of Mark's songwriting skills / musical vision. As with the other new tracks premiered tonight, it will be interesting to hear what instruments, arrangements and embellishments the studio versions may have, as this will most likely have a noticeable effect on the overall characteristics of the songs.
Radio was set to be on JJ72's unreleased album, and you can't help but think, that if it had been issued as a single, the band may well have enjoyed another run of chart and commercial success. The melody is so catchy and pure, and it's one of those tracks that you just can't get out of your head. For all intents and purposes, it is a pop song, and certainly has 'great lost single' written all over it. Mark's impassioned voice, sounds particularly angelic throughout this live rendition as well, which is something that can shift-shapes from soft to spiky in a second.
Originally featured as a b-side on the Algeria Promo CD, It's A Sin is indeed a cover version of the Pet Shop Boys '80s classic, and to my knowledge, was scarcely performed live by JJ72. But Mark has dusted it off for us to all enjoy again here, and in doing so, makes it his own! Notably, Mark's eyes remain closed throughout the duration of most songs this evening, and you can tell that he's feeling every moment, often throwing his head back and stepping away from the microphone, as if he's lost in music.
Nothing In This World, I believe, was also intended to be a part of JJ72's unreleased album, and is a superb set closer. On record, it's most likely an epic, due to the way it starts life as a slow-burner, and the heartfelt way in which Mark sings, "Nothing in this world that I love like I do you," deserves a special mention as it's so touching. As the track peels away, it also sees Mark promising, "Yeah, I'd die for you," after which he screams, "Will you die for me for me, for me, for me?" Before he bends over, and ceaselessly strikes his guitar with every drop of energy that he has left in his body.
When he's finally finished, he slowly raises his head and lifts himself back up again to embrace our cheers, then smiles and says, "Thank You Bristol." With the lights dimming, Mark then leaves the stage walking into the shadows.
Though short and sweet, and over far too soon at a mere half-an-hour. Tonight's gig proves beyond all doubt, that the mark of any great song is something which translates just as well acoustically. And, that it's not what you say, but how you say it, as of all the cherry-picked tracks that Mark plays for us, even in such laid-bare form, they each sound divine! However, I'm certain that there are plenty of people who would still love to hear full band versions one day, and of course, a lot more songs from Mark's recent body of work, as well as from his breathtaking back catalogue!
In terms of musical direction and subject-matter, it would seem that Mark is still pursuing a similar path / tapping into timeless and universal sentiments, due to his natural gift for integrating rich melodic music, with multi-layered poetic lyrics. And with JJ72's third LP (thought to have been named either On or Heaven City Falls), unlikely to ever be released / remaining a great lost album, fans are understandably desperate to own new material.
But whether Mark, a performer of rare individuality, decides to continue as a solo artist or to put a new group together, we will have to wait and see, as he's currently unsigned. Either way, there are a large number of devoted, dare I say hardcore fans who are overjoyed to have him back, and like myself, who await his next move with baited breath.
Just don't stay away again for so long this time!
More of Steve's pix Mark Greaney pix here