While the history of the band started years before this lineup – Davy and I formed it back in first year of college – this is the line-up we most fondly remember. Unfortunately, lack of opportunities and money as well as the same problems that plague any up-and-coming promising band led to our break-up shortly after the recording of our EP — which I like to look at as a proper album, Evidence of Decadence.
Unfortunately, the events surrounding the break-up left us discouraged to the point where we really did not know what to do with the final product, which we essentially shelved and never truly did anything with. After recording a podcast interview with Davy, documenting memories of Lexington 125 in an attempt to preserve them somehow, we decided to share them with the world at last.
Evidence of Decadence is a title I came up with because it summed up the punk rock vibes that we were really digging at the time. It was also lifted directly from a line from George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck. Most of the songs were written by me and developed with the rest of the band.
Our guitarists complemented each other with their different approaches – Martin more melodic, James more fierce. Cian had a penchant for playing bouncy, funky harmonies and Davy’s metronome-like drumming served as the gelling factor providing the stable backbone for our tight sound.
“The Morning After”
When we played in bars, we used to have to come up with three-hours worth of material on average, with one break in-between. So, I thought we should have two songs that would open each half of the set, the second of which should be more powerful than the former so that we could grab the audience, waking them up from their boozy drowsiness, and picking up where we left off.
The simple, power-boost of the song is inspired by The Hives and Oasis, whose tunes were part of our “repertoire.” The start-stop at the beginning of the song was something I liked and was part of our style – we had already used on “Staying Inside.” The lyrics aimed to represent the morning after a gig, most of which were disappointing in terms of turn-out and money, and our tendency to get quite intoxicated after it, which led to a feeling of frustration the morning after.
I actually took out references to “the pill” from an early draft of the lyrics, which accounts for the relative meaninglessness of the second verse. The telephones never calling refers to bar and venue owners. The addiction is more tied to a disconnect to the real world – we were all fairly broke and flunking our college courses, favouring music instead of real life but seeing no light at the end of the tunnel.
I view this as the first song of the new era of Lexington 125 in its definitive lineup. This was the first original we played together as we were growing increasingly comfortable in our roles within the group and a tight-knit unit of great friends. It was also the song with which we opened our set throughout our “career,” with which we declared ourselves a band of originals rather than one of Galway’s many cover bands – whom we hated, as well as DJs, for making more money and getting more gigs than us.
The music is clearly influenced by my love of The Smiths and Morrissey, especially such songs as “The Headmasters Ritual,” with its extensive instrumental intro. But it owes as much to the melodies of Buddy Holly, plus a reference to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” thrown in at the end for good measure. For the lyrics, I was inspired by a chapter from Marie-Claire Villefranche’s “Amour, Amour,” a vintage erotic novel I once stole. The term she used there, however, was “doglike devotion,” which I didn’t think sounded as good.
Listening to it now, it makes some early references to sexual misconduct before it became a topic that was openly discussed across all medias. Also noteworthy is the fact that Davy used a high-pitched snare drum exclusively for this song, which was the third most-hated piece of his kit after the China cymbal and the hand cymbal. Meanwhile, Martin opts for a guitar sound that echoes that of Arthur Lee’s on “No Matter What You Do.”
During a songwriting session, James showed me a song he had written. I suggested to quicken its pace and changed its lyrics, while keeping the core theme in mind, which was essentially a love story James had been feeling nostalgic about as well as his general tendency to become deeply infatuated with the ladies – a tendency that was a great source of hilarity to us.
My influences from the vocal parts came from Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger” – which explains the vocalese interlude – while for the bridge, James revealed he had been influenced by Blur. For the rhythm of the piece, I viewed The Smiths’ “Handsome Devil” as a blueprint. It’s also worth noting that while I sing “Elenoire,” the title of the song was misspelled and I thought it would be funny to keep it that way. I also appreciate Cian’s bass, which gives a rockabilly kick to the chorus to the tapestry of influences that make up the song. The guy knew how to add groove.
I think we had planned for this to be our radio single before the break-up of the band, despite me not being happy with the final mix-down. My vocals feel to isolated. During the recording session, one of our tense moments came when I added Bowie-ish overdubs in the vocalese part, after James had specifically asked me not to that same morning. I still feel this mix-down is a bit bare and lacking in a bit of oomph but when we played it life, the people took to it quite easily.
One of the things I loved about The Smiths was their ability to mix upbeat music with sad lyrics about frustrated youths. Martin’s jangle pop guitar tone and work complements these vibes. But the melody of this song also owes as much to the influence of Buddy Holly and the structure of songs by The Strokes. I feel Cian delivers the best bass-line on the record on this tune. On the other hand, my vocal work is so dull on this recording that I can hardly listen to this song at all.
The inspiration for the lyrics is once again related to frustration and standstill. At the time of writing this song, I had landed a factory job and saw the band as my only hope for escaping the threat of living an ordinary life. I remember the first time we played it in Davy’s shed, where we practiced, his parents sent him a text saying that they liked the song.
Also, at the band had become increasingly frustrated with a lack of visibility and remuneration. Martin had started playing with another band and in the bridge, I am singing directly at him, telling him to trust me and that if we work hard, we can make it. Martin actually officially left the band shortly after the recording and we haven’t really talked since. It’s kind of sad to look back on that whole moment. Things could have been handled differently.
“It’s Over Only When You Say It”
Davy refers to this as “The Philly Beat Song,” because he plays a philly beat it with his metronome-like precision that, looking back, was really the thing that held our different creative personalities together. I had originally planned for the song to have a “Rebel Rebel” beat, which would have given it completely different glam rock vibes, but soon learned to love it this way.
This is essentially the spacey counterpart to “Staying Inside,” with a nice start-stop bit that was one of our defining traits. It also has some really nice, previde arpeggios by Martin and twangy guitars countering the distortion of “Staying Inside.” Davy was particularly upset when on the day of the recording, I decided to change the lyrics for the song without telling them.
Originally, I had been singing lyrics I had written for another song, and some of the words just didn’t make any sense. I had always wanted to change the words but never got around to until that day, when I wrote them on a piece of paper. They revolved around a three-way relationship dominated by one of the three’s obsession with astrology, which I have always been fascinated with. It’s odd that my vocals sound so tender on this recording, as I had always been singing it live in an Ian Curtis-like way.
“Smell Your Flowers”
I wrote this song shortly after our infamous Festival of the Valleys experience, which we thought would be a big showcase for us but in the end was nothing short of disastrous. The sound found us spewing hatred for the guy who had produced the event and I had borrowed this concept from “Death on Two Legs” by Queen. Donal, who recorded the album, heard the track and turned to us saying, “Boy, you must really hate this guy!”
This was one of the heaviest songs and possibly one of our tightest numbers. Really cool solo by James, featuring a riff that I liked to call “pirate rock.” I always enjoyed playing it also because it was relatively easy on my vocal chords despite me putting on some Liam Gallagher-esque chops on. Once again, Cian provides some amazing groove on the chorus. He could easily have played the notes of the chords – but he was just never interested in doing that.
Before recording, we had hoped for the album to sound like a cross between The Strokes’ Is This It and anything by The Stooges. I feel this track comes closest to that sound that we had hoping for, plus a cool overdub on vocals, adding some real nice harmony. When we had recorded our demo in Wicklow the previous year, we had played all together as if we had been performing a live set. Here, we had to record all our instrument separately, which meant the record sounded more polished than possibly we too would have liked.
This was the first proper Lexington 125 song that we collectively wrote. By the time we recorded it, we were terribly fatigued by it from playing it together for years. I think this particular recording suffers from that. But its sound showcases some of our characteristic traits – including multiple start-stops to fire up the audience. Here, they are complemented by a Bruce Springsteen-esque “1, 2, 3, 4” (I really do love “Born to Run”) and we really relied on Davy for queues here.
We had been playing this song for years by this recording date. We were definitely fatigued by it and I think this recording reflects that feeling. For the same reason, we had decided against recording some of our earlier originals. Yet, the sound of “Staying Inside” actually replicates the Buzzcock-like punk sound that we bonded over during our earlier practices. It was a song full of attitude with which, again, we hoped to establish our identity as an original band that played covers rather than the other way around.
I think the song originated from a riff that James started playing during a band practice. James had this incredible gift for coming up with simple riffs on guitar that were just the right kick we needed to expand into new songs. We had a similar one we built off this concept called “Underground” that we played a lot. A fun tune with some chord interplay by Martin and James that we never recorded, “Forgot,” also didn’t make the cut. Not to mention “Round Round,” “Never Been Out Late” and many others.
“She Had Her Gun All Ready”
By far my favourite song on this set. All of our personalities shine here. My vocals are on point and I even turn into some type of ’70s funk diva, reaching heights most my peers would have killed for. Davy is at his most expressive I’ve ever heard him. Cian provides incredible emotive groove to the piece, menacingly lurking in the background. James provides the opening chords and riff and the kick ass, improvised solo in the middle. The dramatic riff of the chorus, which adds psychology to the paranoid vocals, come from Martin.
While James and I wrote the song, the final piece became quite a different piece that somehow reflected all our divergent and personal musical interests. The mess that emerged from this recording would possibly have fueled more complex pieces where further evolution of our musical skills would have led to an interesting whole. It almost sounds like blasphemy when I say that, in fact, I immediately saw the piece as a half-humorous tribute to B-movies (the protagonist is haunted by a transvestite killer) and a tribute to No Wave filmmaker Vivienne Dick, who was one of my teachers in college.
I still get chills listening to this song. It is a piece of bottled up chaos that in a way represents the years when we spent huge amounts of time together – practising, setting up for gigs, playing on stage, travelling, recording or just hanging out, watching movies and listening to records at James’ house almost every day. Shortly after this recording, we lost sight of Martin. Cian further alienated himself from us. James moved back to Dublin. I started travelling extensively to different places. Davy’s drum-kit remained mostly un-played and rusting in his shed.
As mentioned, Evidence of Decadence remained hidden and I only recently was able to listen to the entire thing properly. Yet, this recording is only part of the story. In fact, we were only part of that story. Lots of other people were part of Lexington 125; friends of ours who came to our gigs, lovers, haters, enemies. Venues like The Lantern, Roisin Dubh, places like Bellmullet, the Aran Islands… Our only acoustic gig at Bar N.8. Our inside jokes, lines from the Beatles movies, Ricky Gervais shows. Controversial antics involving black clothing…ahem…
In the end, all of this was PURE DECADENCE!!!!!!