Dublin 1978 - 1983; 1985 - 1986
John Borrowman Vocals & Guitar (R.I.P.)
Chris Greene Keyboards & Vocals
Alan Finney later replaced by Dick Conroy Bass
Hughie Friel Drums
Alan Finney was in "School Kids" while Borrowman & Green were in "Berlin" before joining The Atrix.
The Atrix also played concerts in all the main Dublin venues, Dandelion Market, Project Arts Centre, McGonagles, Baggot Inn etc and London on at least two occasions in 1980, May and November dates have been found so far.
The Atrix supported some of the leading lights of the British punk movement on their tours of Ireland, including The Stranglers, Lene Lovich, Penetration. They also supported the Boomtown Rats on their 1981 tour of the UK.
See the Recordings and Demo's page for the recordings by The Atrix
Once upon a time there were three great bands in Dublin: U2, the Radiators and The Atrix. Many preferred The Atrix: their magic swirl was an adjective for the emergent colours of the new wave. They were a momentum-gaining kaleidoscope at a 1980 gig at the Magnet Bar in Pearse Street, supported by a young Microdisney. Later again that year - at an anti-toxic dump gig in Finglas - the chorus of their 'Treasure On The Wasteland' reached out in school yard yearning: OOeOOeOOeee.
John Borrowman on stage: elfin, a northside Rumpilstiltskin whose name you didn't need to know, for he was the front man of The Atrix, a band that looked like a loving family as they played richly-woven songs such as 'Statues', 'I Wonder Why', 'The Moon Is Puce', 'Procession' and 'Wendy's In Amsterdam'. Sudden changes of tempo would take a song back in on itself; reverse thrust would equip it with a melody or elegant variation of a riff that a meaner, less inspired band would save for a second song. They made darkly joyous psychedelic pop. As their singer, John was a mischief-maker on the epic scale. His spiky guitar and Bisto Kid antics gilded by Chris Green's defining keyboard and Dick Conroy's bass, made him the lion-tamer of lost moments in that band's late '70s/early '80s Dublin cabaret.
Back then, recording contracts were gold dust: Irish media were watchwords for mediocrity; and the path out of this mess was still to be paved. Yet, perhaps born of this difficult quagmire, The Atrix laboured to bring out their Procession album (a multi-format groundbreaker, it came simultaneously with a free cassette copy) and the three-track EP of Triad/Circus Tragedy/She Moves. They made inventive videos that testified to the theatrics behind their name.
The band made a brief comeback around 1985 when they played in the Project Arts Centre. Later again, maybe in 1990, there was the Dublin City Arts Centre gig where an energized and always poetic John Borrowman wore a mocking T-shirt with the word "Manager" on it and shared the stage with two heavy metal guitarists. But that was Hughie Friel hitting the bodhran, summoning back the magic of the great songs. Chris Green was there too: in the audience, no longer playing keyboards, but sipping wine and still part of it all.
I ran into Chris and Hughie in a bar some three years ago. I thanked them. The Atrix wrote songs from a now almost-forgotten Dublin, one with fewer veneers of success than today. Their music soared above it all.
Put it down to limp management, fickle luck or the time not being quite right: The Atrix never transcended the obscurity of the early '80s. That obscurity finally engulfed them but gave them their place in history. John Borrowman as their singer has left behind an unforgettable album and batch of singles that stand among the best: John may now be dead but he sparkles evergreen with his band in a timeless and holy cult.Gig Guide
19/08/1978 Carnsore Point, Wexford Anti Nuclear festival with Christy More, Midnight Well, The Sinners, Scare Bleu
16/02/1979 Trinity College, Dublin with Penetration
17/02/1979 "Dark Space Festival" Project Arts Centre, Dublin
28/08/1979 Baggot Inn, Dublin Hot Press review by John McHugh A Tuesday night in August and The Baggot smelt of people and sweat crawled down the walls, an ideal setting for a rock n roll gig.
The lights were on the Atrix and they knew how to use them - local actors make good musicans. The stage was their's, the show their own. Out front John Borrowman was boppin' like a demented pixie on speed.
The Atrix have a sound which is unique - unlike a bunch of other bands in Dublin, they don't try to sound like the Boomtown Rats MK V (Hello Brian) or Dr Feelgood MK XXXIX. On tape and on television they sound like a rock n roll band with sleazy music hall overtones.
But live, this aspect of their sound seemed to get lost somewhere in the mix. Still they were tight and the net effect was satisfactory; feet shuffled, heads swayed and bodies bopped, the audience enjoying themselves to the end.
Three of their songs remain embedded in the back of my skull; "Treasure in the wasteland" has a magical "Oh ee, oh ee, oh" line, which lifts it above the average - as does the "I, I, I wonder why" line for (surprise) "I wonder why?".
And lets not forget their fab hit single "The Moon Is Puce".
The names of other songs float around in my head, "Graplite Pie", "Sweet Memories" and so on - but they're got a decapitated quality about them, in that though I remember the titles, the substance totaly eludes me. Maybe next time the sound will let the same sence come through more consistently.
02/10/1979 Downtown Kampus, Cork with The Stranglers
03/10/1979 Zero's, Dublin with The Stranglers
04/10/1979 Ulster Hall, Belfast with The Stranglers
01/11/1979 Ballyraine Hotel, Letterkenny with San Quentin. This concert was part of the "White Heat" New Wave festival. The other bands taking part in the festival are Berlin, The Blades & The Tearjerkers. San Quentin are the support band for each concert.
Atrix Rule OK Last Thursday night in the Ballyraine the rock public finally came face to face with a great band that are destined to go places. The Atrix play a set which, for variety, courage, intelligence and unaffected musical polish leaves any other group years behind. They must rank amongst the more exciting groups of post punk era. The group were slick and fresh in their approach, playing a first night they did not conform to cover versions except once, with a great rendering of a disco song, “Light My Fire” by Amii Stewart.
They managed to capture the imagination of the audience through their sharp, witty, sensitive style. They capture frustration, anxiety and apathy but with their energy and exuberance they lift the audience rather than let them wallow. John Borrowman was great, communicating with the crowd, while producing quite unique vocal and guitar styling. With the rest of the band. Chris Greene on keyboards, Hugh Friel on drums and Dick Conroy on bass, the Atrix were very exciting to watch and great to listen to.
If you want to catch the Atrix on T.V. your only chance at the moment will be tomorrow night on the Late Late Show. Further Atrix fax: 5,000 copies of their “The Moon Is Puce” single has been sent by request to independent distributors, Spartan in England.
31/12/1979 McGonagle's, Dublin Hot Press Review
If someone were ever to attempt an 80’s remake of the “Keystone Kops”, the Atrix would be the perfect band to supply the music. They don’t, strictly speaking, play rock music at all; instead, they’ve created a new circus/vaudeville sound, due in large part to the idiosyncratic keyboards of Chris Green.
Probably Ireland’s most keyboard dominated band ever, they would merit attention on that basis alone. Happily, however, there’s plenty of substance behind that initial talking point. Guitarist/vocalist John Borrowman makes a beguiling frontman and has more than a touch of Ray Davies’ whimsical and vulnerable clown about him, and Hugh Friel seems to delight in performing complex gymnastic feats with his arms to produce what seems to be a relatively straightforward jerky drum beat.
In general, though, the theatrics are left to the music itself, which contorts and gyrates itself through all kinds of acrobatics. But they’re definitely not deliberately a “fun” band a la Fit Kilkenny like all the best comedians, they’re serious about their humour. Firmly rooted in no tradition at all, with the exception of English eccentrics such as Caravan (then) or Punishment of Luxury (now), and possibly having learned something from pre- war European cabaret, they blithely assailed the thin new year’s night crowd with fragment after fragment of highly structured music; some may find it a little too “clever”, their sound is never less than interesting and, more important, original and at the same time fun.
22/01/1980 Olympic Ballroom, Dublin with Lena Lovich
23/01/1980 Seapoint, Galway with Lena Lovich
24/01/1980 NIHE, Limerick with Lena Lovich
25/01/1980 St John's Hall, Tralee, with Lena Lovich
26/01/1980 Downtown Kampus, Cork with Lena Lovich
02/03/1980 Leixlip Castle, Dublin with The Boomtown Rats NME review by Niall Stokes Not so the Atrix, who came across best among the support acts; their fine showing before a crowd of this size can have done their standing nothing but good, forming just another step in their measured ascent to national success. It's as well that someone obviously benefited from an occasion that was otherwise so besotted with contradictions.
Coming on late to face a half empty Venue, D.C. Nien's jumble of ideas and ideals at first clashed and grated, but eventually entertained as required. The guitarist behaved live a 2-Tone refugee, while the singer danced like a drunken Ian Curtis after a few lessons from Ian Page. The music was similar grab bag, working on a hit and miss basis, mixing modern pop and absurd bop with rash new rhythms.
Sometimes it was quite heady, other times it looked like collapsing disastrously, but the band battled on gamely throughout, the singer doubling on sax to squeeze a few new textures onto the ska and/or synth pop forms. Once they rationalise what they want, we'll all find it easier, but in the meantime it's fun watching them do it.
The Atrix's aims are a lot more clearly defined; a highly engaging new dance, based on compulsive piano/organ figures held down by a clutching drumbeat, giving their music a sharp jig feel. Plenty of quirksand lots of character, too, to get them across.
The band also introduce a few nice theatrical touches without letting them intrude, like opening with a showstopper called "Feel The Need", in which all instruments drop out to lead a drum chant around the tittle, before they all re join for a swirling conclusion.
They were great. By the time they'd finished I'd forgotten I'd missed the last bus home. If anybody takes the Sence of Ireland Festival any further, Atrix will.
To tell the truth, although the Atrix were very good, the wide open spaces don't necessarily suit them, especially in contrast to their recent weekend of concerts in the Project, which showed them at their very best - taut, dynamic and wholly integrated. A complete band in full flight, captured at one of the crucial moments of their development.
The moment when you hear a band and feel... that's it, they've done it. The ball is rolling all the way now. In particular, the engine room of bassist Dick Conroy, and drummer Hughie Friel reached maturity, meshing with the controlled power and multicoloured expressiveness needed to underscore John Borrowman's jerking vocals and Chris Greene's keyboards. The project's Brechtian ambience and the band's ability to secure one of the best sounds I've heard from a local unit provided the last links in a major success.
The new material on show seems more complete - less idiosyncratic perhaps, but more powerful, a factor dissipated somewhat on the windswept plains of TCD, and not just by the breeze. The sound was not contained - up and out and over the heads of those lying on the green or shaping through the throng.
There's only one thing to do, though, play on. "The Moon Is Puce" not necessarily their best, but so far, as a successful 45, the most recognisable, kicks off at puppeteer pace, the keyboard leading the dance and the rhythm changes they are so fond of Into "City Syndrome" - the music is... landscape... from fairground to wasteground, black and white to the other side of the night, to the other side of life to the other side of the city. And Borrowman dances twitching and pigeon-toed, jerking like a mad marionette in the grip of a darkened vision...
"What's Your Answer", "She Moves"..."In The Back Of Your Head/She Grows, She Knows She Grows" "The Life I Lead"... "For In Me Is A Breakaway/It's Only Fair To Say"... "Don't Be So Vain"... Chris Greene is impassive, yet mobile. Dick Conroy roams the stage pounding the basics... "I Don't Think That Happens Anymore" - deep riffs and fast action, "Nobody wants to see the other side of the night" Borrowman sings a passion play to the midday cloud. "Statues" rolls and drives - the drums are great. "I Wonder Why"... OW OW OW OW OW.
A treasure on the playground. Dermot Stokes
Just who the hell do the Atrix think they are, anyway? Some people I know are of the opinion that they are merely a bunch of “more mature” (ho ho) musicians who picked, kicked, and licked up on the business of playing “clever music” for anybody with a reasonable level of intellect to listen to.
Some other people I know are of the opinion that the Atrix play “damn good” music, but why they went to the length of re recording “Treasure On The Wasteland”, they’ll never know. And some more other people I know, think that I know too many people, and that those people should keep their opinions to themselves. All of which could be true.
The Atrix rhythms roll, cajole. Circulate round the room like rumours at a wedding. Shifty, loud whispers, just between you and me.
The sound mix is appalling – nobody can win, except the music. And it does, because the Atrix don’t use the formalised tactics of formal music. They use their own tricky treatments, their “Cabaret” ambience, and their play ground barrel grinding monkey markings. They distinguish themselves by having their own sound in exactly the same way that U2 extinguish everybody else with theirs. They are both units, have their own visions, and are answerable only to themselves.
Their image might lose its flavour on the bedpost over night but their music will stick to that same bedpost for as long as you want it to. One can only hope that they don’t bite off more than they can chew, because the excess could pull the bed down.
For the moment, though, The Atrix in Drogheda; Treasure on the wasteland, obviously. Oh ee oh eeoh eeoheeoh ee etc, etc.
08/11/1980 Project Arts Centre, Dublin
17/11/1980 101 Club, London with 720
18/11/1980 The Greyhound, London with The Blinders
20/11/1980 Hope & Anchor, London
22/11/1980 Half Moon, London (Herne Hill)
23/11/1980 Waves, Kingston Upon Thames
Where Are They Now?
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