This generation's stinger bar is a worrying sour sweet called 'Toxic Waste'. In the podcast I recently guested on with Karl and Sean, we tried out a bunch of sweets we purchased in Dublin city center to ascertain which was most sour. An overpriced but tasty American effort called Wonka Shockers came out trumps, whipping stuff like Maynards Sours and halal jelly worms right back into the mediocrity bucket.
This experiment was all well and good, but our sample wasn't exhaustive; we had failed to locate a notorious sweet that had been mentioned to us in cagey whispers on Twitter - the Toxic Waste. A mum we know bans her children from the stuff. A primary school teacher reported weeping chemical sores inside the mouths of those who dared suck more than one at once. Rough stuff, you'll agree.
Toxic Wastes: As used by Saddam Hussein on the Kurds in the 1980s
I had to buy the things, of course. A week later I spied them on display in a Kells newsagent, packaged in a little yellow barrel with fake nuclear mud spilling over the edges, and an ominous warning on the sleeve about not trying more than one at a time for fear of mouth irritation. Of course, I decided to suck more than one at a time (show me a big red button with the words DON'T PRESS under it, I dare ya). I quadruple dropped. Bad move. The peeling began instantly and lasted into the next day, where I watched with abhorrent fascination as a translucent shell of shed tongue material fell from my mouth into the washbasin as I brushed my teeth. Three days later, I felt like a ghoul from Fallout 3 as chunks of collaterally damaged cheek meat were still coming unstuck between my teeth, and, even now, when I think of how those sweets tasted, my mouth pulls this reflexive Pavlovian pucker. I thought I was hardcore when it came to sweets. Not any more. Toxic Wastes just handed my hole to me.
Album Stream: Patrick Kelleher and his Cold Dead Hands-Golden Syrup
Patrick Kelleher & His Cold Dead Hands - Golden Syrup by osakaRecords
With Golden Syrup Patick Kelleher takes a sure-footed step sideways from the eclecticism of his debut album. On it, he mostly mines deep into the type of sound that I think suits him, his voice, and his lyrical content best, a darkwave take on synth-pop that speaks of a mind well-versed in an alternative history of 80s music, populated by post Joy Division bands recording spectral mixtapes in the depths of communist Europe. This core aesthetic is fleshed out with show-stopping moments of psychedelic intensity, enhanced by the expression in Kelleher's voice - he can turn on a sixpence from benevolent troubadour to mellifluously spooky cave wizard.
While the album has its moments of lightness, the overall impression Kelleher communicates here is one of sadness and anxiety. The impression coalesces most palpably on 'Golden Syrup' which is surely going to be the Irish song of the year, a slow trip down a frozen tunnel where Kelleher, in full magician mode, conjures a lysergic slide show of heartbreak that spirals and drips across the twinkling walls.
Patrick Kelleher's back garden
Kelleher doesn't work alone. His 'Cold Dead Hands' all work individually as Cat Scars, School Tour, and Hunter Gatherer respectively, and collectively as Children Under Hoof. They are, to me, the most fascinating bunch of musicians in Dublin city, united by friendship and a ferocious commitment to experimentation and exploration. All possess an unaffected affinity towards strangeness, and all possess an understanding and appreciation of pop. This combination makes for a very fertile musical hot house, where Patrick Kelleher's new album is the current prize bloom, but where plenty more unusual things are surely germinating and sprouting.