YEARS LATER - The Official Cactus World News Website

"It all started back in April of 1984 when I was playing in a band in London. It wasn't going anywhere so, after a lot of thought, I decided to go back to Dublin and start a band with some aggression - a vehicle for pushing melody to its extreme." - Frank Kearns.

This was the first quote from CWN guitarist, Frank Kearns, printed in the band's major feature for Sounds magazine in December of 1985, and, with that last turn of phrase, he succinctly described the musical synergy that sprung to life when Kearns first hooked-up with singer and fellow Irishman, Eoin McEvoy in the early summer months of 1984. A fast and furious adventure was to follow.

It was an odd period in rock and roll's history. The social fall-out from punk's revolution had already given way to a wave of synthesizer-inspired pop which, encouraged by massive record company support, sought to present yet another vision of glamour to an unsuspecting generation of innocents. Nothing wrong with that in theory, after all, it had only been a decade or so since the likes of Bowie and Bolan had succeeded brilliantly in creating their brand of highly glammed-up guitar-pop. But in this new 'commercial' atmosphere, many guitar groups struggled to assert their identity; the pressure to write hits was back on the shortlist of requirements if you had serious hopes of signing to a Major Label. Many line-ups drafted in a synth player and electronic drum pads, and thereby, many groups lost their way. The miracle was that so many other guitar bands stuck to their guns and thereby formed the roots of what came to be known broadly as "the alternative scene". In Dublin in 1984, Cactus World News were one such band.

When Kearns and McEvoy invited drummer Wayne Sheehy and bassist Fergal MacAindris to join them in December of that year, they undoubtedly held a united belief in the marriage of strong melodies with fearless, driving rock rhythms. The mixture of styles and ideas that rapidly wove their way into their first set was drawing on the classic rock dynamics invented by the likes of the Who, Jimi Hendrix and the Doors, but they were also, naturally, very influenced by the attitudes and approaches of the great bands of the late seventies and early eighties: The Clash, The Ramones, Talking Heads, U2, The Waterboys and R.E.M., to name but six big melody merchants of the era 1978 - 86. Any band with something fresh to offer needs a particular fusion between its' members. In the Cactus World News rehearsal room, it became apparent very quickly that the meaty foundation of the Sheehy/MacAindris rhythm section, overlaid with McEvoy's semi-acoustic strum and the often startling approach to electric guitar from Kearns was more than compelling enough to sustain the interest of the band members themselves. McEvoy could also sing. In short, they had 'a sound'.

The fact that Cactus World News secured a world-wide recording deal within six months of their formation, was both a testament to their powerful live performances and imaginative songwriting, as well as a climate in "the business" that had woken up to the fact that there were large post-punk audiences who were definitely not happy to sit at home listening to New Wave Pop. Live music in clubs and theatres was still enjoying a heyday, allowing many bands to create or revel in their own myths and mystique - MTV having not yet exploded into the all-revealing, all-pigeon-holing media monster it soon became. It was the tail-end of a time when, if you lived in, say, Minneapolis, all you might have seen of the latest mooted contenders from Britain or Ireland was a black & white picture or two in New Musical Express or Melody Maker. The news that 'the band' would be in town in a couple of weeks, still held a particular attraction, and attending with others of a like mind was, if you will, a very strong element in Youth's Rites of Passage.

Cactus World News believed in the value of the live performance and decided to go all-out to cultivate their audience from gig one. The occasion was everything, no matter how small the venue, or how unsuspecting the audience may or may not have been on any given night. That they were a dynamic rock act (with songs such as The Bridge, Years Later and Worlds Apart) was obvious, but the range of their ambition also became apparent when they revealed the fully-formed State of Emergency in a radio session recording for Dave Fanning's Rock Show in May of 1985. Later, they delivered album tracks such as The Promise, Pilots of Beka and Maybe This Time, music that veered from dark, introspective explorations, to adventurous imaginings of other lives in other times. In the whirlwind of activity they embarked upon during 1985 and 1986, they may have created problems of perception in some quarters, but their willingness to flex their musical imagination in unexpected ways, left many in no doubt that Cactus World News were already an exciting band, and that their potential (if a steady rein could be held) was massive.

Following a tour opening for The Cult all over the UK in November and December of `85, Cactus World News headlined their own return show at the Marquee in London. English music writer, Dave Henderson, put down his memory of the night in a piece for Sounds magazine, opening as follows - "Wednesday morning, around 8.30 and my ears are still ringing. Did I really endure the heat of London's Marquee? Were there really so many jaws hitting the floor and heads doing aerobics? Even those from the die-hard-rock-steady guest list managed to focus their bleary eyes at the latest much-touted tongue-twisters. Cactus World News have just completed 29 dates with The Cult, climaxing in a mighty guitar-blazing showdown at London's Hammersmith Palais last Sunday. Tuesday night, they brought a touch of Irish innocence and a slice of aggressive arrogance to the hallowed portals of the Marquee. Already they've got an EP out produced by U2's Bono, a deal with MCA Records and a reputation that's spreading faster than you can say pass the Mescal. Live, they're still an uncontrollable, unpredictable commodity. Four hearts beating in time under the supervision of fiery tub-thumper Wayne Sheehy and bassist - with a hint of make-up - Fergal MacAindris. But closer to the crux of things are the two untamed spirits who clash so relentlessly with Wayne and Fergal to give such a powerful, uplifting sound. Vocalist Eoin McEvoy looks fragile but sings with the spirit and style of a veteran with a range to challenge Marks & Spencer. He's constantly sparring with guitarist and fellow co-founder Frank Kearns who is an untamed quantity with little respect for his guitar. Melodic? Sure, but with an underlying kill potential that would rival Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Cactus World News are a new commodity, untainted by the cynicism of rock culture but perfectly formed in a cross fertilisation of ideas."

Like the guitarist said - "…a vehicle for pushing melody to it's extreme..."

By the time Cactus World News paid its first visit to the United States in March of 1986, The Bridge EP had already received extensive airplay on rock radio as an import item, especially in New York and Boston. As a consequence, sizeable audiences came out to see the band for their debut performances at The Spit Club in Boston, the Ritz Ballroom in NYC and other clubs in Philadelphia and Long Island. As newcomers to the home of rock and roll, the band were nervous about these crucial shows. The advance publicity had been serious, including transatlantic radio interviews and pieces in the local music press. But how would the curious music fans respond to what the band offered in the flesh? In the event, they could hardly have hoped for a more enthusiastic reaction. Audiences seemed to embrace the emotional content of the songs, and enjoyed the band's willingness to engage with them both during and after the gigs.

With this modest success giving a real boost to their confidence, the band travelled back to Ireland where, with The Bridge riding high in the Irish charts, more local gigs awaited them and the release of the debut album Urban Beaches was only weeks away. But just before the album's release, Years Later became the first 'proper' single for the British airwaves. A sonic tornado wrapped around a plaintive vocal describing a city that seemed to be disappearing before the narrators very eyes: "suddenly Dublin seems to be vanishing into the future, surging forward unstoppably," said McEvoy in one interview at the time, "and like it or not, she isn't taking many remnants or prisoners from the past." The song was a powerful reflection of Ireland's new face to the modern world and a strong statement of intent from a band who, while always proud to be Irish, increasingly realized that its broader musical identity wouldn't ever be tied to any exhibitions of 'Oirishness'. That could be left to those to whom it came more naturally. Coming out of Ireland, Cactus World News was indeed "a new commodity."

In May of 1986, Urban Beaches entered the UK Top Forty, reflecting a grassroots following from Glasgow to Southampton, and the band's big date in Ireland that month was a performance, along with many other acts, at Self Aid (a benefit concert for disadvantaged youth) in front of over thirty-thousand people, at Dublin's RDS stadium. "THAT was scary," reflected McEvoy later, "you get so psyched-up for your twenty minutes, and it's such a buzz playing to a crowd of that size for the first time. Then afterwards it felt like it was twenty seconds - like you'd played four songs in twenty seconds!"

In June, the band returned to the States for a full, eight-week, coast-to-coast tour that was to test their determination to deliver the goods every night, their ability to answer the same questions from journalists in dozens of different ways, and their tolerance for the extremes of North America's many climates. This included the incredible temperatures often generated in filled-to-capacity rock clubs during high summer. Standing onstage in clubs like Mississippi Nights, St. Louis or Wolfgang's in San Francisco, would have been a near-impossible leap of the imagination even twelve months earlier, but it was undeniable that the band had found a real audience in America. Music journalist Barry MacIllheney (who'd seen CWN in Dublin eighteen months earlier, before they had a record deal) described this vividly for Melody Maker, when he witnessed the sell-out show at Wolfgang's, as the tour was coming round its final bend in August. (See ARCHIVE section of Website for full texts of these Dublin and San Francisco reviews.)

Two sets at the legendary Whiskey A Go Go in Los Angeles sealed the band's story that summer. With the placing of Urban Beaches at a peak position of No. 1 in the U.S. national college charts confirming what had taken place, the band and their team took a well-earned, if brief, holiday, before re-convening once more in Dublin's changing streets.

Early demo recordings of a few new songs took place, and rehearsals, of course, leading to more English dates in the autumn, before the band took off for their first tour of European capitals and assorted other cities. The series of dates across Germany brought out especially enthusiastic audiences, and there were great nights in Amsterdam, Stockholm and even in Oslo before the long drive/sail journeys to get everybody back to Ireland… for even more gigs, which took them right up to Christmas and the reward of a few decent sleeps at home.

A busy twenty-four months then, but with satisfying results for the band: a huge range of performance experiences; a debut album in the can and in stores everywhere - with copies of it eventually going into about a quarter of a million record collections - and an enthusiastic audience of fans keen to hear what Cactus World News would offer next. The twenty-four months that followed would also see the band very busy, but in very different ways from what had come before. But that, as the useful saying goes, is another story.

For now, we are pleased to present this official website for your perusal, and to announce the re-issue of Urban Beaches on CD in an extended and totally re-packaged format. It's been digitally remastered to include six bonus tracks, with a 24-page booklet featuring extensive new liner notes from Eoin McEvoy, and a complete set of never-before-released photos. It's available only through the site, shipped from CWN HQ in Dublin direct to your mailbox, as speedily as human hands can organise it!

It's been a long time coming, but sometimes it takes this long to do a thing right - and we really wanted it to be right - so get an earful of the MP3 aurals after you've scanned the discography and see what you think…