North Dublin rockers Aslan have been together for almost 20 years, but international success has eluded them. The band take it as a sort of compliment that they have managed to stay together and make a living out of music even without achieving the kind of success that U2, The Cranberries or even JJ72 managed in a much shorter space of time.
Unlike rich kids JJ72, however, Aslan were born out of the working class areas of Finglas and Ballymun on the Northside of the Liffey, a fact that the band make clear in the documentary footage interspersed with the live tracks. Some of the band members had to give up their jobs to concentrate on being in Aslan, while others didn’t have jobs to give up.
This unplugged set, recorded live at Dublin’s Vicar Street, is a far cry from the rocky, rowdy affairs that make up Aslan’s usual rounds of the Irish live circuit. The ubiquitous drunken brawls and Celtic jerseys are nowhere to be seen.
Not that the band themselves are much better behaved. After lead singer Christy Dignam descended into heroin addiction, the other members of the group decided to fire him from Aslan. They briefly tried to carry on with another singer, but ultimately did nothing of note until they decided to reform with Dignam five years later.
The band reformed to greater success in Ireland than ever before, but success across the water still eluded them. The British arm of their record company, BMG, just wasn’t interested.
Made in Dublin is effectively a live greatest hits package, with Lucy Jones, Crazy World, This Is and This Time all given an unplugged outing, with the backing of a string quartet to boot. For anyone unfamiliar with the group’s music, this serves as a good introduction to their earthy, gritty, urban poetry and raw sound.
Crazy World, perhaps Aslan’s most famous song, has been re-released in the UK to coincide with the release of this live record. It’s probably safe to say that this is the band’s last chance to crack the British charts, and no song sums up Aslan better than this track. Having conquered the Dublin live circuit, Aslan seem to be saying to Britain, “Take us or leave us.” Either way, they are sure to survive to tell the tale.