“You are not as attractive as they are, but you can overcome your ugliness with your wit and intelligent conversation”
If you ever become a rock star and escape with berating the audience for their ugliness, then you know you are both loved and a master of stage craft. What is more, if you become the lead singer of a post-punk ska influenced indie rock band and pit one half of the audience against the considerably less attractive other half, and that audience screams louder, then you know you have a license to revel in the mundane. Neil O’ Flaherty, lead singer of the Sultans of Ping, has already arrived at this point relieving us of the pressure to fill any gap in the indie rock tongue-in-cheek market. However, for lessons in the celebration and jovial insulting of the ordinary, Neil is your go-to man.
Blending irony and exaggerated performance, this 1990s band has weathered the twisting, turning tastes of popular culture to continue wooing contemporary 21st century crowds. Hailing from Cork, their first album, Casual Sex in the Cineplex, is now over 20 years old. In camping up the mundane, O’ Flaherty and his intrepid Sultans have produced classics such as “Where’s me jumper?”, “Give him a Ball (and a yard of grass)”, “You talk too much” and “Let’s go Shopping”. Drawing on the everyday and engagements with the transitional maturation of teenagers and early twenty somethings, the Sultans of Ping challenge the serious face of punk rock, ska and the romance of 1980s soft rock.
In “Where’s me Jumper?” the Sultans immortalise the intellectual hippy claiming to be Karl Marx “eating mushrooms in the People’s Park” and an awkward nightclub moment when the potential dancing presents is dashed by the loss of a jumper. “Where’s me Jumper?” chronicles an identity crisis marked by a lapse into disappointment and the quashing of titillation “dancing bumper to bumper” initiates. The connection audiences at the recent Indiependence festival in Cork made with O’ Flaherty during the rendition of this classic reflects the continuing love and enthusiasm for these absurd chronicles of the mundane. O’ Flaherty’s provocative performance and emphasis on broad ‘a’ sounds and screechy ‘e’s teases the audience into chaotic shapes vaguely resembling dancing. The Sultans of Ping are, in short, tremendous fun!
Where The Streets of the early noughties wallow in the emotional upset caused by the everyman break up of romantic relationships, the Sultans luxuriate in a camp parody of laddish culture and relationships more tender boring moments. Admitting to liking Veronica, that two pints makes a great night out and that a couple, no longer able to endure the drug fuelled chaos of their youth, should put on their flip flops and just “go shopping” together “dear”, foregrounds the ordinary in jilting melodies familiar to us all. Presenting the mundane in the new clothes of ironic wit does not change it, but when O’ Flaherty strides with Mick Jagger confidence in white faux fur, the cathartic celebration of the ordinary lets us laugh in the face of it . Our subjection to it’s perfunctory pedestrianization becomes an hilarious moment. Next time you need to be cheered up try revisiting the Sultans, and if O’ Flaherty takes liberties by describing your half of the audience as noticeably less attractive than the other half, forgive his arrogance. The smile he will leave on your face will be worth it!