The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

19

FeistI think we’ve probably all seen the Discover Ireland ads with the catchy Tegan and Sara-esque song with the lyrics “I need to go/I need to get away from everything.” This song is of course ‘Remember When’ by Heathers. It seems that adverts are the perfect launch pad for indie artists, let’s not forget Feist’s adoration after her track ‘1234’ was used on the iPod ad.

This method causes the song to beam into both peoples homes and hopefully their consciousness. When Gossip’s ‘Standing In The Way Of Control’ was used as the main song for the first series of teen drama Skins it shot up into the charts.

And of course The Fray and Cold War Kids owe a lot of their popularity and success to Scrubs for frequently using their songs. The Fray’s ‘How To Save A Life’ and Cold War Kids’ ‘Hospital Beds’ were used to regularly in both the show and the accompanying promo ads for the programme.

FlorenceFlorence and the Machine’s ‘Cosmic Love’ has recently been renamed as ‘that song from the O2 ad’. A song which people who are only familiar with it from the ads only know a portion of, and we all know how dreary it is to listen to the whole song when you know five words absolutely perfectly and the rest may as well be yodelling.

This does cause me to wonder if this gives some bands a restricted shelf life, if they’re destined to be ‘that band from that [insert company name here] ad’ and that all of their future work could pale in comparison.

After the major success of Gossip’s ‘Standing In The Way of Control’ their following singles and album can be described as mediocre as best. But who knows, maybe had I not heard ‘Standing In The Way Of Control’ so many times that my ears began to bleed I might appreciate their music more. Or, alternatively, they didn’t let their song be used on Skins and I would never have even been aware of their existence.

The use of relatively unknown artists’ songs being used in the media is no new phenomenon. Now many companies are trying to appeal to a younger, more bohemian demographic. And being inhabitants of the information age means all of this is more accessible, and more predominant than ever.

Is it really much of a dilemma though? Yes, using a song of yours on an advert (assuming it gets chosen) could mean that you’re only remembered for one song and the rest of your music could be ignored, or you could forever play music and write songs while getting almost no recognition and make no living from it. Who came blame a band for having ambition, and getting an enviable amount of money in the process?

As long as Bonnie Tyler stops appearing on screen advertising credit cards while looking like a ghost from the netherworld then I generally find advert music to be pretty good. Certainly the less songs by Johnny Logan afflicting my ears and more by relatively unknown bands the better.
 


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15

At first glance, Parisian four-piece Gush seem like a French equivalent to Kings Of Leon. The band members are all related - brothers Xavier and Vincent Polycarpe plus their cousins Mathieu Parnaud and Yan Gorodetzky. Also, their fashion sense is more back-woods than Left Bank: shaggy hair, vintage leather and the sort of long-sleeve, round-neck, three-button T-shirt that Grizzly Adams would wear as an undergarment.

Gush

But soundwise Gush (right) don't follow the Followills down the road of southern-fried blues-rock. The four French lads are certainly retro, but their thing is post-Beatles pop and folk-rock - say, the very early Lennon or McCartney solo stuff, later Beach Boys or a bit of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The storming semi-acoustic rocker 'No Way', reinforced with steely harmonies, shows the strength of those influences to best effect. Still, don't discount the novelty of Frenchmen who actually sing and write melodies.

Gush are starting to make a stir in France. Recently they released their first album, 'Everybody's God' (Irish music fans may remember a Donegal band called Georgia who had a record of the same name in the early '90s) and an upcoming Paris show at the sizeable Cigale has already sold out. Now they're picking up airplay with a strange and distinctive single that's a little different to the rest of their tracks.

On paper, 'Let's Burn Again' promises to be vastly uncool - it has the upper-register backing harmonies and staccato keyboards of mid-Atlantic, middle-of-the-road '70s pop. Fortunately, music isn't made on paper: 'Let's Burn Again' sounds so odd and unhip that it's almost fascinating, especially when you try to match the sound to the look of the band.

You can hear more on the Gush MySpace page. Make sure you listen to both tracks we mentioned, 'Let's Burn Again' and 'No Way' - quite different but each charming in its way. Which one will we choose for our video? The strange, unhip one with keyboards, of course! Here's 'Let's Burn Again':


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13

French summer music festivals tend to be smaller than their international counterparts. There's certainly no Gallic event that compares in size to Roskilde, Sziget, Werchter or Glastonbury. La Route du Rock, for instance, only ever has around two dozen acts.

Eurockeennes 2010

Perhaps the biggest summer music festival in France is Eurockéennes, which takes place on the first weekend of July near the eastern city of Belfort. This year's four-day event will have around 80 acts - plenty of whom are top-quality marquee names. And the festival's spectacular lakeside setting guarantees a memorable experience.

The first day, Thursday 1 July, is a starter ahead of the main course. To serenade punters as they arrive from all round Europe, those enjoyable Icelandic electropoppers FM Belfast will play in one of the festival campsites.

Real business begins on Friday 2 July. Jay-Z and Missy Elliot bring the bling-bling of genuine rap/R n'B superstars, while Charlotte Gainsbourg supplies some home-grown glamour. Also on the bill that day and night: Hot Chip, Foals, Kasabian, Patrick Watson, The Black Keys and our own Two Door Cinema Club in what seems to be their now-fortnightly French gig.

Saturday's notional headliners are The Hives but the real draw that night will surely be The Specials, The XX and Broken Social Scene. A strong French side for that day's line-up features Vitalic, Emilie Simon and General Elektriks. Further down the running order are Memory Tapes, also worth catching.

A quaint Eurockeennes tradition is to make the last night's headliner a real stinker, to cater for those who need to skip out early for the last bus or train. Last year it was Slipknot; this year it's Mika. But the rest of Sunday's line-up is stuffed with quality. Massive Attack and Martina Topley-Bird are on trip-hop duty; LCD Soundsystem and Empire Of The Sun serve up electro-pop, an Ethiopiques show should sound blissful on a summer afternoon, and there are some indie gems like Health, Fuck Buttons and The Middle East to be found here and there.

A weekend pass costs only €95 and a single day's ticket costs just €39. Camping on the festival site is free for ticket-holders to a limit of 12,000 people. If you book early enough to get a cheap Queasyjet flight to nearby Mulhouse, you could be lucky enough to secure your entire festival weekend in sunny France, travel included, for less than the price of an Irish festival ticket. (In addition, there are special bus + ticket packages to bring punters from most major French cities.)

Full details in English are available on the Eurockeennes 2010 website. Here's 'The Songs That We Sing' by this year's biggest French name, Charlotte Gainsbourg. Neighbour of ours, don't you know:


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12
Villagers 'Becoming A Jackal'
A review of the album Becoming A Jackal by Villagers Review Snapshot: Despite the huge weight of expectation, Conor O'Brien delivers possibly the finest Irish record you'll hear this year ...

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12
Craig Walker 'Siamese'
A review of the album 'Siamese' by Craig Walker Review Snapshot: Fifteen years after the demise of his former band - the brilliant Power Of Dreams - frontman Craig Walker returns with...

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10

A review of the album 'High Violet' by The National

The National High Violet

Review Snapshot: High Violet is the fifth album from the National and the group's most eagerly anticipated record yet. This time around the Brooklyn based band have the added burdens of worldwide exposure and greater critical scrutiny to deal with, though it appears that such pressures have either been openly embraced or actively ignored, such is the confidence with which this record is approached and realised. The result, a poignant exploration of 21st century anxieties, carefully crafted and delivered with an admirable sincerity.

The Cluas Verdict? 9 out of 10

Full Article: Few bands it seems take the long road to success anymore. What with the information super highway and the like, an outrageous hairstyle, an investment in treadmills, or even a spirited Paul Weller impression (yes, that’s a swipe at The Enemy), might just get you where you want to be. The National however, adopt a more old-fashioned approach to making music. Their incremental ascension to indie-rock stardom has been the product of hard work, strong albums and touring the arses off themselves. After Boxer (2007), the group have made their way to the precarious summit of alternative music. Those who may have feared how Berninger and co. would handle such dizzying heights need not have bothered.

High Violet is the most assured album from these guys yet. It is dark and brooding from the offset, with ‘Terrible Love’ exhibiting Matt Berninger’s sombre baritone over the inimitable guitar duelling of the Dessner twins. ‘Sorrow’ follows, beginning with the line “sorrow found me when I was young. Sorrow waited, sorrow won”. And on in such a dark vain the album continues. It might be gloomy, but it is never dull. There is a refreshing honesty about the songs which makes them entirely absorbing. The National’s albums always have a deeply personal feel to them, probably since the anxieties Berninger communicates aren’t exclusive to the front man of a rock band. He sings about tenuous relationships, financial woes and feelings of alienation and paranoia.
 
The tracks on this record are meticulously constructed. You can just tell that the lanky lead singer has wrestled with every word he sings, every lyric written and rewritten until deemed suitable. Similarly the music is complex and bittersweet. The instrumental arrangements are the most delicate and evocative from the band to date. ‘England’ in particular showcases their musical strides, building slowly to a stirring refrain. ‘Afraid of Everyone’ and ‘Conversation 16’ are further musical triumphs, with Matt lending his signature self deprecation to the latter, muttering “I was afraid, I’d eat your brains…..because I’m evil”. Lyrics like this are not unfamiliar to fans of the band, but whereas on Alligator that line might have been a guttural roar, on High Violet there is an uneasy restraint to both the vocals and the music.
 
There has been no effort to radically venture a different course on this album. The band tackles introspective matters in the same way they have always done, channelling feelings of disillusionment and fear, with their distinctive voice. Instead the emphasis has been on refining the sound that has taken a decade to form. And they do it with flying colours on High Violet. It is perfectly paced, getting the balance just right between slow paced growers (Runaway, Lemonworld) and instant toe tappers (Anyone’s Ghost, Bloodbuzz Ohio). They have managed to once more improve on their previous album, which is an incredible feat considering how good Boxer was. Unrelenting in their quest to push the boundaries of their talent, it remains to be seen just how far the National could yet go.
 
Kevin Boyle

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10

In the ever impressive line-up of bands coming over to perform in Dublin the most recent additions are Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s Gorillaz who’ll be playing their first ever Irish show (finally!) in the 02 on the 22nd of September, and hotly-tipped Mancunian electro duo Hurts will be playing in Whelan’s on the 20th of May. While I’m sure they’ll get the obligatory comparisons between themselves and Joy Division, chiefly due to the fact that they are from Manchester and are musicians with a fondness for synthesisers, their music isn’t quite that easy to read which makes it all the more interesting.

Lately I’ve been search through my CD collection to find some hidden treasures that I’d forgotten about in the intervening years since I bought them, and started listening to PJ Harvey’s ‘Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea’ again. Very rarely can anyone make what appears to be quite vicious and intimidating singing sound equally as endearing as it is confusing.

After listening to the album and reminiscing I decided to look up what she’s doing now, and found a recent video of her performing her new song on The Andrew Marr Show. While I’m not too sure about the song, I was oddly pleased about the fact that Gordon Brown was watching from one of the monitors. I wonder what he thought? The song is called ‘Let England Shake’.


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08

Back in 2007 we introduced you to Tender Forever, a Bordeaux electro act based in Oregon, USA.

Melanie Valera, a.k.a. Tender Forever

As you might recall, Tender Forever is not a group but the nom de pop of Mélanie Valéra (right) - yes, a mere 'de' short of sharing her name with the dominant public figure of 20th century Ireland. (Our non-Irish readers will know Éamon de Valera as the baddie in the film 'Michael Collins'.)

The PR opportunities in Ireland would have been wonderful - an electronica version of 'Amhrán na bhFiann' to close the next Fianna Fáil Árd-Fheis; a residency at Áras an Uachtaráin; a photo op where she symbolically defends a packet of Boland's cream crackers against an English stag party. (As she's now domicile in the States, her American connection would grant her immunity.) And she's tall, skinny and dark-haired - are we sure they're not related?

Alas, Mélanie Valéra will have to rely on her music to make an impact in Ireland. Fortunately, her music is good. 'No Snare' is the third Tender Forever album: another likeable collection of idiosyncratic alt-folk-flavoured electronica.

The title may suggest an animal trap but is actually inspired by an absent drum sound, according to the Tender Forever MySpace page:

NO SNARE is less a rejection of things that have been, as it a reconfiguration. Take away the snare and there isn't a loss, just a new song. As we pass through the flood of moments that is our lives we make a constant stream of decisions as to what to hold on to and what to let go of.  But it is always our life, even as it changes radically.

Valéra's lyrics tend to be as heartfelt, contemplative and personal as that teenage-poetry blurb suggests. And her pick n' mix of pounding rhythms creates a sense of emotional urgency, which gives her songs a human warmth not always evident in electronic music.

Check out les chansons de Valéra at her MySpace page. Here's our favourite of her new songs, what has all the comely maidens dancing at the crossroads -  the excellent 'Like The Snare That's Gone':


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02

One of France's bona fide pop legends has just released a new album. 'La Pluie Sans Parapluie' (in English, "the rain without an umbrella") is the twenty-sixth studio album by Françoise Hardy.

Françoise Hardy

You might recognise the name from her 1994 collaboration with Blur on 'La Comédie', a reworking of 'To The End'. However, like with Serge Gainsbourg (of whom more later), there's a lot more to Hardy than a sole Franco-English duet known in the U.K. (For one thing, she had a UK Top 20 hit in 1965 with 'All Over The World'.)

First, though, some vital Françoise Hardy trivia for your next pub quiz:

Factoids aside, we reckon Hardy was one of the first female singers to become successful with her own compositions - her 1962 debut single 'Tous Les Garçons Et Les Filles' sold half a million copies. Her early style was somewhere between US folk and French chanson, often played simply on an acoustic guitar or piano.

Rare for a pre-electronica French act, Hardy made a concerted effort at success in the UK - she released three albums of songs in English, mostly containing translations of her original French songs. The third of these albums, 'If You Listen' from 1971, captures the late-'60s-early-'70s pastoral-folk-pop vibe: it's quite good. (You can picture students of that time listening to it in their bedsits.)

As for her best ever song, you might know it as a cover version. 'Comment Te Dire Adieu' was a 1990 hi-NRG disco hit for Jimmy Somerville and June Miles Kingston. Hardy's version was a French chart success in 1969 - and was itself a cover version.

Before 'Comment Te Dire Adieu' there was 'It Hurts To Say Goodbye' - a typically maudlin and manipulative slushfest by Vera Lynn. Apparently, Hardy heard an instrumental version, liked the melody and asked for some French lyrics from none other than Serge Gainsbourg. Words done en français, Serge then decided to sort out the music.

Even by the dizzyingly high standards of Gainsbourg's work at that time, 'Comment Te Dire Adieu' is magnificent. Like all great pop songs, its apparent simplicity hides a satisfying depth and complexity. The original's slushy melodrama is replaced by clipped arrangements that have an edgy sang-froid; listen just before the first verse for the pedal cymbal that hisses like a cobra. Serge's trademark symphonic strings infuse the song with glamour and a slight hint of feeling - but only a slight hint. Hardy remains impeccably poised and aloof throughout - even her spoken-word middle section is delivered matter-of-factly, like a dispassionate voiceover. (Compare it to the except of dialogue from Charlotte Gainsbourg used as the intro to Madonna's 'What It Feels Like For A Girl'.)

Just as remarkable as Gainsbourg's arrangements were his new lyrics. Already known as a provocateur, and with pop's most notorious single soon to follow, Serge had the ingenious idea of making nearly all the lines rhyme with '-ex'. As the '-ex' rhymes become more imaginative, the song progresses towards a seemingly inevitable encounter with the most taboo '-ex' word of all. (Even today, how many mainstream English-language pop songs feature the word 'sex'? Not the meaningless 'sexy' but the blunt 'sex'?) What's more, in French 'sexe' is the word for the reproductive organ. One can imagine the listener (and the censor) of the time wondering where this song would go.

(Had this song been released in the UK, it would have been banned by the BBC for an unacceptable '-ex' word: a piece of product placement in the third and final verse.)

'Adieu' is something of a definitive 'goodbye forever', where 'au revoir' means 'until we see each other again'. In English, of course, we can use 'goodbye' to mean both 'adieu' and 'au revoir'. Here in glorious colour is the ultra-cool Françoise Hardy of 1969 with 'Comment Te Dire Adieu'. Goodbye:


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29

Nasal mucus - British and Irish people know it as 'snot', while our north American friends speak of 'boogers'. Note how the European term is a collective noun while the US/Canadian word is countable; this suggests that-

CLUAS gaffer: What are you on about, you eejit?

Your correspondent: Why, it's the intro for a post about a French singer and his cracking new tune. Our readers will want to know the cultural and linguistic backgrou-

CLUAS gaffer: Just post the bloody tune, alright? And keep it respectable - I'm staying at Silvio Berlusconi's villa this weekend and I don't need you embarrassing the site!

Boogers

Right. Umm... Stéphane Charasse is from Tours in the picturesque Loire region of central France. A former DJ on local indie radio station Radio Béton ('béton' is the French word for 'concrete'), Charasse makes idiosyncratic indie music under the nom de pop of Boogers. His second album, 'As Clean As Possible', is out now.

The lead-off track from 'As Clean As Possible' is a real charmer. It's called 'I Lost My Lungs'. The happy-go-lucky vocalising at the start might remind you of 'Widths and Heights' by Manchester electro-folkie Magic Arm. Charasse's monotonous spoken-word verses - so typical of French male singer-songers - are outweighed by the snappy, melodic arrangement around him. In particular, the guitar parts - funky clipped chords in the verses and a fizzy rising scale in the middle section - are positively joyous.

Charasse has found a novel way to promote his new album - concerts on the train. Boogers will perform on the TGV from Paris to Nîmes on the afternoon of 27 May and on the Paris-Lyon service on 2 June. Both appearances will be followed by a showcase at the local FNAC record store, depending on the timely arrival of his train.

You can find more info and tracks on Boogers' MySpace page. Here's the video for 'I Lost My Lungs', set on a train station platform:


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Nuggets from our archive

2003 - Witnness 2003, a comprehensive review by Brian Kelly of the 2 days of what transpired to be the last ever Witnness festival (in 2004 it was rebranded as Oxegen when Heineken stepped into the sponsor shoes).