“I get all the odd jobs in this band”

In his spare time Northern Irish poet Paul Muldoon, and critic of the M3 route through the Tara-Skryne Valley [which An Bord Pleanála has given the nod to – Ed], plays rhythm guitar “(read: who’s indulged by the others and allowed to tote a Telecaster onstage as a sort of thank-you for his inimitable lyrics)” in the “3 car garage rock band”, Rackett. And, sponsored by Triskel in association with the Irish Times and the Arts Council of Ireland, the 3 carred outfit are about to start a tour of Ireland – starting on 26th in Cork and, via Listowel, Galway, Sligo, Navan and Belfast (Crescent Arts Centre on 31 August), ending in Dublin on 2 Sept – to promote their second album, Resistance – MP3 files available here. Fittingly today’s Irish Times features an interview with the band. [subs req]From the featured interview

THE LINE BETWEEN poetry and song lyrics is a fluid one for Muldoon, who sees the song, in any case, as belonging to the world of poetry; the old Irish tradition made no distinction between the two, he says, so nor will he. Which is not to say they draw on the same energy, or even follow the same rules; surprisingly, he believes that song-writing is an even more demanding task than the battle to give form to an emerging sonnet or villanelle. He was staggered, he says, by the things he learned in the course of his collaboration with Zevon. “I had no idea, and most people who haven’t tried it will have no idea, I think, of how long a song is, for example. Or of what it looks like on the page. Basically it’s a very, very short medium. And you’ve got to get a lot into it. And that’s true of course of many poems also, but it’s just a fascinating structure, it’s a kind of revelatory structure. It seems very fixed but in fact one can do so much with it, it’s a fascinating formula. Because it corresponds to some very profound aspect of how we are in the world, of how we think. And I’m endlessly intrigued by what can be done with that. It’s so much fun.”

Smith agrees. “Paul’s lyrics are quintessentially Paul,” he says. “They have these complex levels of allusion, but they’re also enormous fun. Very witty. And if you take a bunch of them, they interconnect in a variety of ways, with little sub-themes in there.

“They’re very inspiring, and very easy to write music to, because the music just comes. I think that’s because he invests a lot of attention in what you might call chiming. He gets the sounds right as well as the conceptual content and ideas.”

“The seam fights shy of the seamstress along the inner thigh,” quotes Matthew, by way of illustration. Muldoon looks bemused. “There’s so much wordsmithing going on in rock’n’roll,” says Allen. “And I think the great asset we have is that our lyrics are well beyond that. It’s not just a matter of finding words that rhyme in some way.” By now, though, Muldoon is looking a little uncomfortable at this stage with all of this chat about his lyrics.

“At the end of the day, it’s only one component,” he says. “It’d be nice to think that it held its place, but it is, after all, a combination of words and music. And they have to be working together.” As for his guitar playing, which, he maintains, has long been so “basic” that the others have essentially been allowing him to stay “on sufferance”; well, that’s coming along.

“Nobody’s going to pretend I’m a great guitarist,” he says, shrugging with a smile. “But I plug away.” “He does his thing,” says Allen. “What happens to that thing I brought you back from my holidays?” says Smith. “The thing that makes a snake noise?” “I get all the odd jobs in this band,” moans Muldoon.

And another rock’n’roll argument is underway.