The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Entries for 'Host Account'

21

A review of the album 'Post Electric Blues' by Idlewild

Idlewild - Post Electric BluesReview Snapshot: One could be forgiven for thinking that this latest offering portrays Idlewild growing old gracefully, but realistically this is the sound of a band who are trying to reinvent themselves. It doesn’t come close to the indie rock genius of the “The Remote Part” and the happy-go-lucky “Make Another World”, or the intrigue of the confused “Warnings/Promises”, but rather depends on several different influences to produce a fresh sound. Does it work? Yes, but only just. 

The Cluas Verdict? 6 out of 10

Full Review: As the album opens with “Younger Than America”, you instantly notice this is truly & recognisably Idlewild, a vicariously riffed tune, and one that will once again accuse them of being, albeit in a good way, influenced by REM circa the Document era. Add to that, an effective backing vocal by our own Heidi Talbot (who aided and abetted Roddy Woomble’s 2006 solo country-ish effort “Secret Of My Silence” to magnificent effect, more on that later). 

More of the same on “City Hall”, classic Idlewild. Baring in mind this is their 6th album, it still works in so far as the song exudes their undying zest for what they do. “Dreams of Nothing” echoes sentiments of “Century After Century” from the “The Remote Part”, picking on what made them underground greats while avoiding overdependence on it.

Nevertheless, the album is not without its pitfalls, “Readers & Writers” is chart-popped up to an ultimately ineffective extent with oversold bombast on its chorus; it’s only the album’s second track and in early listens, you worry that Idlewild may be trying to become commercial - which just isn’t them. The same could be said of the late-on “All Over the Town”. It would sound great live but forces little effect elsewhere. Another poppy effect on “Circles in Stars” features a distorted doubled up vocal that asks "why, why, why?" Woomble’s vocals have always been charismatic enough without having to resort to this sort of thing.

Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of this album is the alt-country influences evident from Woomble’s solo effort that are breaking & entering their way through here – it doesn’t work on “(The Night Will) Bring You Back to Life”; it’s lyrically weak and the music doesn't sounds like anything like the Idlewild we’ve come to know and love. It improves on the album’s outro though as “Take Me Back in Time” features jangly guitar and a hum-drum backing vocal that possibly betrays the album as a whole but nonetheless remains a pleasing ending.

While the album’s blessing is that “Take Me Back To The Islands” is undoubtedly one of the best tracks on offer, the fact that it sounds like it was hand-picked from “Secret Of My Silence” is also a distant curse - you can’t help but wonder if these contrasting influences are pulling the sound of this band and its lead singer in opposite directions.

All in all, there’s enough here to satisfy dedicated fans and a lot of experimentation and credit to them for that; after all, bands who don’t reinvent themselves inevitably fade into the background or fade away altogether (just ask any Strokes or Garbage fan).

Definitely Idlewild’s weakest offering since the Remote Part, but a satisfying listen at the end of the day.

Jimmy Murphy


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Album Reviews
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
16

Joshua Radin (live in The Academy, Dublin)

Review Snapshot: It was always going to be interesting to see if Radin’s quiet yet absorbing melodies along with his whispery vocals could translate well to the stage. Unexpectedly but brilliantly, it transcended into an appreciated and intimate gig as you could hope to see, in a criminally underrated venue. 

The Cluas Verdict? 9 out of 10

Full Review:
Like many others, I discovered Joshua Radin’s music playing in the background of the more touching scenes in the TV show Scrubs. (Hey, good music can be found anywhere, right?) And good music is exactly what I found; some say the answer to Elliott Smith’s sad departure in 2003. But Radin is a breath of fresh air on his own with an addictive folk ethic on debut album “We Were Here” which is now improved by a pop-rock element on his more recent release “Simple Times”. It was quite a happy coincidence recently getting hooked on his music to discover only a couple of weeks later he’s playing in the Academy.  

As “Simple Times” demonstrated a surge in Radin’s confidence, it’s fitting that he looks thrilled to be here, playing with vigor and opening with “One of Those Days”, the opening track to his latest offering. That’s soon followed by new material not due for release till next year, (unfortunately). Obvious highlights include “Closer” and “Winter” along with “Brand New Day”. 

As so many of his songs would suggest but never quite confirm, Radin is a storyteller and every song is preceded by a story, the crowd charmed no doubt by his tale of playing in Doyle’s pub on Fleet Street some years ago. Quite often, Radin’s whispered, wistful vocals so commonplace on his records remain just that playing live but he has an audience to appreciate it, some being told to shut up while he’s playing when all they were doing was ordering a drink! To prove the point, he compared the audience to a New York audience, who are never quiet during a performance, but he enjoyed the attention so much, he had his band unplug all the instruments and descend into the middle of the crowd for a song. No electrics, no mics, and the crowd never missed a beat.

Radin’s influence by Dylan also plays a part as the show goes on as new material and “Free of Me” are played with a more upbeat tempo and acoustic ring before finishing off with the entire band semi-circling 2 microphones, jamming and loving it. 

Those of you don’t know should get to know Radin’s music, its delicious melodies, catchy finger-picking and unassuming lyrics are enough to capture the imagination of any serious music lover. To witness this performance in front of such an appreciative audience (not to mention the staggeringly cheap ticket price of €17) in such an intimate setting was nothing short of a thrill.  

An immersive, intimate and above all else, essential gig. 

Jimmy Murphy


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Gig Reviews
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
28

Frank and Walters live in CorkReview Snapshot: Cork's finest take to the stage in their home city and quite literally blow the pants off the punters and the roof off the venue...not sure if that's legal, but it's mighty craic!

Full Review: Well, what a night! Murphy’s! Magic! The Mrank and Malters! Everything began with an M! Remember M for Michael later on!

In a hothouse sauna renamed The Brog for the night, the Murphy’s Nice ‘n Nasty season continued with “Cork’s favourite sons” (© The Frank and Walters) allowing us to enter their world. Indeed, even in their 20th year, the Franks have never seemed as relevant to the masses who are force-fed Lady Gaga, Peter Andre and the Continuity Wolfe Tones (or whoever they are this week)!

Take a string quartet, 2 original Franks, a new Frank and part-time Frank, lashings of free Murphy’s and music, sweat Fred West would have worked up. Mix it all together with a touch of madness. Ta-da! A night to remember, that’s for sure!

Divided into two parts, "Nice" and then "Nasty showcased the Franks at their best – Engaging! Edgy! Entertaining! Extravagant! Excellent! The 4 lassies that made up the Murphy’s Quarter (string quartet) provided superb support to the reworking of seven of the Franks' most appropriate songs for the night. For those who attended last year’s Speigel tent celebration of the Grand Parade album, this was second helpings with Landslide, Little Dolls, Russian Ship and How Can I Exist all being reproduced to a staggering high quality. The evening kicked off with Miles and Miles and it was great to see the lead single from A Renewed Interest In Happiness being well received. Throw in the obligatory After All, the reaction of the crowd (and look on the Quartet’s faces) was classic as the anthemic choruses raised the roof! The Nice element ended with This Is Not A Song and as I queued at the bar, it was clear the crowd was in good fettle for the next half of the performance. Again, the punters went in full voice here and took the interval to have a healthy cigarette and kebab at the 4* Istanbul restaurant.

The "Nasty" session kicked off to the sound of THE best version of Fast Anthony the reviewer has heard – bar one. The one fault with the prior "Nice" set was the sound on the left of the stage was poor; methinks down to trying to keep 15 microphones in check. The second half sound never waved as Cian Corbett gave a rasta/indie keyboard effect to the speeded up Tony Cochrane. Fashion Crisis and Country Boy followed, both book ending the 20 great Franks year so far. With Darren Mullin standing in for Kevin P who was attending a wedding (calm down girls, not his own) in Italy, we knew Fight would be on the set list – and so it was! A rip-snorting animal which couldn’t be tamed was unleaded and the explosiveness of Mullin’s geetar playing mean we tripped over nicely into Colours and Indian Ocean, further proof of the greatness of the Grand Parade album. A special song then made its way onto the list and the sound of Underground completed Flood’s engineering from all those years ago – who remembers the video for this one???!!!

The last song could only be Time To Say Goodnight. There is only one song to end with Len Cremin remarked – and I agree. Again with pounding sticks-works from Drum Keating and Paul giving it all, we knew the evening was nearly at a close. The shout went up "we are... we are... we are the Frank and Walters..." as the band returned for a well deserved encore. What could it be? Remember at the start? Yep, it was Michael and with the man whom this song was written about being in the audience, I can assure you that Paul, Ash, Cian and Darren brought down the house with a fantastic version of the classic!! We Care!!

So, the DJ came on and we all carried on. A great night. Lots of regular Franks with folk coming from as far away as Manchester, London and Limerick for the concert. One fan dressed head to toe in Franks gear summed it up, "it’s before payday, I borrowed a tenner from my ma, I am going to have 10 free pints of Murphy’s this evening, I am here with 400 friends and tonight I got to see my favourite band free! Where else would you get that?" I don’t know either but it would have to be special … so f**king special!

After note: Geelong beat St Kilda to win the Australian Football League Final, and Michael and I made our ways into the sunlight sometime on Saturday morning! We care Michael, we care!

Dan Foley


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Gig Reviews
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
14

A review of the album 'Here Come the 123s' by They Might Be Giants

They Might Be Giants - Here Come The 123sReview Snapshot: Grammy-winning quirky, melodic fun from 90s indie icons. Not just for kids!

The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10

Full Review:
They Might Be Giants had a succession of indie hits back in the late 80s/early 90s. Their best-known album was "Flood", released in 1990, on which you'll find the indie disco staple "Little birdhouse in your soul". People took music pretty seriously back then (when rock music fans were the goodies and rave music fans were the baddies) and they suffered a little bit in the eyes of the Serious Music Fan on account of being too much, well, FUN compared to the other bands that were hip at the time, but I guess it didn't phase them much as they've released 10 studio albums since, with the most recent albums featuring music for kids that adults too could love.

Their music had a kind of kiddishness to it even early on - there was a song on "Flood" called "Particle Man" that described battles between Particle Man, Triangle Man and Person Man and was made into a Tiny Toons video. It wasn't until 2002 though that they released their first full album for kids called "No!", which they followed with "Here come the ABCs" (2005) and then this album.

Like their grown-up music output, the basic template is American alternative rock, but very quirky, very melodic, and fun fun fun! Most of the songs have some kind of number-related theme - from "Zeros mean so much" to "813 mile car trip" - but this isn't an educational record in that it doesn't make any attempt to teach, rather it just uses numbers as jumping-off points for goofy (and somtimes amazing) lyrical ideas, like "9 bowls of soup" in which an ichthyosaur uses bowls of soup to construct a Very Large Array with a view to communicating with aliens (and inviting them for lunch). Stylistically it's pretty eclectic - "There's only one Everything" is danceable indie pop, "The number two" is reminiscent of 70s Elton John, "High five" is faintly disco-y, "Days of the week" is a march - but it's all distinctively They Might Be Giants, and every single song has a hummable tune. So hummable, in fact, that it's damn hard to get some of them out of your head - in my house you can regularly hear "One dozen monkeys" being sung as you pass the shower door.

Don't let the fact that this is aimed at children put you off, though if you have kids/nephews/nieces/younger siblings this would make a brilliant present (and they'll love the accompanying DVD, complete with the band as woollen puppets). Obviously it's neither earth-shattering nor profound, but it's entertaining in the best sense of the word, and it'll put a big grin on your face.

Cormac Parle

  • Cormac is in Stoat and recently launched kids-tunes.com which sells CDs for kids (such as 'Here Come the 123s' by They Might Be Giants).

 


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Album Reviews
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
27

Neil Young (live in The O2, Dublin)

Review Snapshot: Neil Young and Co. pulled no punches during their June 21 show at Dublin’s O2. Now 63 years old, Neil Young still puts on an exciting and visceral show. Ripping through crushing riff laden classics such as Cinnamon Girl and Hey Hey, My My, Young made no effort whatsoever to show his age. Even in the quieter moments of the show, Young was still all blood and guts, singing every line like he still means it.  Once upon a time, Young sang that “rock ‘n’ roll can never die”. It certainly won’t as long as he’s around.

The Cluas Verdict? 9.5 out of 10

Full Review:
The opening act on the night was Villagers, who set up in the cramped space between stage front and Neil Young's mammoth set-up of amps, pianos, organs and various other noise making devices. They seemed comfortable in front of such a massive crowd, Conor O'Brien howling and crooning with a passion that was soon to be echoed by Ol' Shakey himself.  The crowd themselves were appreciative, which only fed the band’s enthusiasm.

Young and his band pulled no punches, opening up with the crushing Hey Hey, My My. Rock 'n' roll will never die indeed. I envied those who were standing up front getting the full force of Neil's sonic maelstrom, especially from the gigantic Baldwin Exterminator amp (an 8 foot tall monstrosity, surely a Health and Safety nightmare). 

The band showed themselves to be multi-talented, with all but the drummer and bass player shifting around to various instruments and vocal duties. 

The two hour set consisted mostly of older material, with just one nod to his more recent work. Neil is clearly in his element on stage, stomping around firing off screeching, rumbling guitar solos with a ferocity you rarely see in bands forty years younger than him. Age is clearly not an issue for Young. 

When he wasn’t beating the living hell out of his trusty electric guitar, Ol’ Black, he gave tender and fragile renditions of his acoustic material. The classic Harvest Moon was particularly beautiful, with Young’s band capturing all the sweetness of the original. 

The highlights of the show were Rockin' In The Free World (he must have played it for about 20 minutes), the beautiful and slightly bizarre Neil and organ solo Mother Earth and his raucous cover of The Beatles' A Day In The Life, which ended in him tearing the strings off his guitar and making the most unholy noises you've ever heard in your life. 

A Day In The Life seemed to me to be a realisation of John Lennon’s original idea, totally bombastic without being ridiculous. Young’s guitar more than made up for the lack of the orchestra in The Beatles' cut. 

Having been to Bob Dylan in The O2 earlier in the year, I was a little apprehensive about the gig, but Neil was as passionate and fiery as he has ever been. Think about THAT Bob!

Nick Appleby


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Gig Reviews
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
12

The Gaslight Anthem (live in The Academy, Dublin)

Review Snapshot: Pop instincts wrapped in a ragged cloak. The Gaslight Anthem played their first Irish Gig in the Academy, March 4th, supported by Frank Turner. High energy and enthusiasm was the essence of the night. Live renditions of tracks from the critically acclaimed The '59 Sound were certainly done justice. Expressing tales of family, love, life, loss and youth reeling in the audience all driven by this four piece's taut muscular rock n' roll rhythms. The Gaslight Anthem are as tight as any band I've seen this, or even last year.

The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10

Full Review:

"The songs, the best of them, are adventures in the dark, incidents of wasted fury. Tales of kids born to run who lose anyway.…taut rock songs about people crushed by family, by lust, by living in this world every day…The promise and the threat of the night; the lure of the road; the quest for a chance worth taking and the lust to pay its price; girls glimpsed once at 80 miles an hour and never forgotten; the city streets as the last, permanent American frontier. We know the story: one thousand and one American nights, one long night of fear and love…there are no idle thoughts about how nice true love might be."
Rolling Stone magazine, various Springsteen reviews 1972-1981

Gaslight Anthem Live

So now that we’ve the mandatory Springsteen references out of the way, let’s get on with reviewing The Gaslight Anthems gig in The Academy. I first stumbled upon The Gaslight Anthem with the release of their album “The ‘59 Sound” and was surprised to learn that this was not a new band with a debut album. In fact, they had already been around for 2 and a half years with their debut album Sink or Swim under their belt. The success of this band is not unexpected. Combining old school clean-cut rock n' roll spiced with definite elements of hardcore, pop-punk, rockabilly & classic soul certainly gives them commercial appeal which is catching up with the (justly deserved) critical acclaim of The '59 Sound.

The night began with supporting musician Frank Turner, armed solely with his guitar and microphone. Do not be fooled by the sheared down, no-frills approach Turner takes to his music. His presence immediately impregnated the venue and he engaged the audience with his punk melodic laments telling of life's hardships.

The Gaslight Anthem kicked off their set with Great Expectations from The ‘59 Sound. Their simple songs of small-town, blue-collar America immediately brought to life with high energy and enthusiasm. Their own brand of crisp anthemic pop cloaked in precise yet fuzzy, ragged sound, primed to stomp through the venue, driven by hardcore punk and melodies. In particular leading man Brian Fallon, whose neck with veins like ropes plunging out in all directions, urgently delivers a tale of hopes and dreams. It is blatant that this band are passionate about their music. Every song off album The ‘59 Sound was featured in their set with a few choice tracks of Sink or Swim and their recent EP Senor and the Queen.

Being the first Irish gig The Gaslight Anthem have performed, they certainly were well received on this sell out night by their youthful adoring crowd, although some of the crowd seemed to only more than vaguely familiar with the singles. However this didn’t seem to deter the band, least of all Brian Fallon who spent much of the nights show with an incredulous smile on his face. Those who cannot hear farther than the lazy "Springsteen-clone" comparisons would have been surprised to witness them begin Senor and the Queen with their rendition of  'This Is A Man’s World', just one of tonight's ventures into classic American soul.

Towards the end of their set, Fallon pondered out loud about his working class New Jersey upbringing speaking of his hardworking Irish Father and Polish Mother with unmistakable pride before launching into Backseat where enthusiastic clapping engulfed the audience. An encore ensued featuring a song each from both albums and their EP, with the band further reveling in the American songbook through the brief charming snippet of  Stand By Me which prefixed I’da Called You Woody, Joe. The highlights of this gig included Boomboxes and Dictionaries, The '59 Sound, The Old White Lincoln, Even Cowgirls get the Blues and The Backseat, all fantastic live performances. A dip in the tempo came with The Navesink Bank which certainly didn’t falter the audience.

A question of whether this band can in fact step out of the Springsteen shadow that has been cast over them to become a band in their own right is debatable. Their music perhaps lacks some particularly unique element. However, if you can stop yourself from staring at this band through Springsteen shaped glasses they are certainly one of the brightest around at the moment, and definitely worth a see.

Clare Shanahan


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Gig Reviews
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
14

Aimee Mann (live in Tripod, Dublin)

Review Snapshot: An occasionally shambolic but enjoyable night, culminating with a great set from one of the best American songwriters in the world today.

The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10

Full Review:
Aimee MannThe evening started off with Los Angeles husband and wife team The Submarines, who I knew nothing about before tonight but proved to be a pleasant discovery. It wasn’t hard to see why Aimee Mann picked them to support her on her current tour, as their music is precisely the same kind of catchy melodic rock that the likes of Crowded House, Squeeze and Aimee Mann do so well. The couple, with a drummer filling out their sound, powered through a hook-laden set that impressed me enough to pick up one of their albums at the merchandise box afterwards.

Next up was Sharon Shannon’s Big Band, who lived up to their name with ten of them cramming on to Tripod’s stage. Not being a great fan of Irish trad I had planned on skipping her set, but the sheer love of music that came through from ten first rate musicians vibing off each other was impossible to resist. At one point they dragged one of their roadies on to sing a cover of the Thin Lizzy classic Dancing in the Moonlight. This probably sounded like a great old laugh backstage before the gig but was considerably less fun for the audience as the guy hadn’t a note in his head.

Inevitably, this part of the night ended with Mundy being dragged on for a spot of shameless crowd pleasing with, surprise surprise, Galway Girl. I got the impression that Mundy is already tired of this particular millstone around his neck and even the audience didn’t seem to be singing along with the type of gusto one might have expected.

And so to the headliner. I’ve long been a huge fan of Aimee Mann and her live shows are always a joy. In a similar fashion to Crowded House, she always makes a point of bantering with the audience, taking requests and peppering the set with the stories behind her songs. Tonight’s show started with a batch of songs from Smilers, her most recent album, including the single Freeway which got the first big cheer of the set. This was followed by songs from the Magnolia soundtrack, one of her most successful releases and included one of my favourite songs, Save Me. If you had to pick one song to represent Aimee Mann’s lyrical worldview, this would probably be the one, with it’s chorus of “Well, can you save me / from the ranks of the freaks / who suspect they could never love anyone?

It was at this point that people started shouting requests and Aimee duly responded, granting some and joking with the audience about not being able to remember her own songs. This part of the show can be great fun for the most part but can occasionally lead to some idiot who loves the sound of his own voice deciding to yell constantly at the band. There was one such yahoo in the audience tonight but thankfully Aimee managed to keep the show on the road diplomatically without having to tell him to shut up (the idiot in question wanted to hear It’s Not, the final song on the Lost in Space album, and got it).  A mix of old and new songs completed this part of the show, finishing with a brilliant performance of 'How am I Different'.

For the encore  we had one of the funnier moments of the night when a few people requested 'I Should Have Known', the very wonderful opening song on her debut solo album, Whatever. After a quick consultation with the rest of the band, she decided to give it a shot. All went well until the bridge, when Aimee forgot the chords. There followed several shambolic attempts to work it out until eventually they managed to finish the song. For the finale we were treated to Pavlov’s Bell, also from the Lost in Space album, and a wonderful extended version of Deathly, one of the key songs from the Magnolia soundtrack, with Aimee’s two keyboard players performing a great jam which brought the show to a satisfying close.

All told, a great night that’ll make my list when the inevitable “Best Gigs of 2008” lists are compiled.

Paul Brosnan


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Gig Reviews
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
06

A review of the album 'Snowflake Midnight' by Mercury Rev

Mercury Rev Snowflake MidnightReview Snapshot: One-time experimental mavericks from upstate New York return with a departure in sound, but find themselves stuck on repeat, peddling their same optimistic and wide-eyed view of the world. Dressed up in a shiny new electronic suit it may be, it’s merely ‘The Secret Migration’ with beats. Where has the magic gone?

The Cluas Verdict? 2 out of 10

Full Review:
This is not Mercury Rev. That much we know since the overwrought pomposity of a least half of 2001’s ‘All Is Dream’ gave way to the epic folly of 2005’s ‘The Secret Migration’ - the sound of a band convinced they were pushing sonic boundaries whilst, in reality, they were merely elbowing The Verve aside from their pedestal of overblown epic rock. It is impossible to reconcile the band who made ‘Snowflake Midnight’ with the band who unleashed ‘Yerself Is Steam’ to such a cathartic effect on an unsuspecting audience still knee deep in Madchester and shoegazing way back in 1991.

If for many ‘Deserter’s Songs’ is their touchstone record , for me it’s ‘Yerself Is Steam’ – an obscene mélange of bad drugs, indecipherable lyrical content and a wacked-out flautist thrown on top of a rabble of musicians collectively intent on musical deviance. It’s a remarkable, malevolent masterpiece.

Sonically, ‘Snowflake Midnight’ most closely resembles 1995’s ‘lost’ album ‘See You On The Other Side’, which was sound of a band content with the fact that the world had largely forgotten them after the excesses of ‘Boces’ (which happened to be the, er, unbalanced - and much missed - David Baker’s last record with the band before Jonathon Donahue took complete control of their vision). Yet the euphoric psychedelia of that record stands in stark contrast to the relentlessly mawkish sentimentality of ‘Snowflake Midnight’.

I’ve never quite understood bands who, in search of a change of direction, invariably decide upon augmenting their sound with ill-suited faux-electronica – this, it seems, is the default approach for bands in transition. ‘Snowflake Midnight’ repeatedly showcases this change in the band’s sound and it’s one which is as ill-fitting as it is unnecessary - ‘Butterfly’s Wing’ is backed by inane computer generated beats and bleeps, and accompanied by Donahue’s, by now, customary optimistic whine. Some four minutes long, the song is an exercise in futility and showcases the dilution of Mercury Rev both musically and lyrically.

‘Senses On Fire’ - the album’s one stand-out track - with its electro-doodle intro builds into a glimpse of what 2008’s Mercury Rev could have been: the title repeated throughout and Donahue’s vocoded voice menacingly intoning ‘Ready or not, here I come’. Wonderful stuff, yet thoroughly out of place with the dross surrounding it. Otherwise, only ‘Faraway From Cars’ merits a positive mention, if only for the fact that it could well have been lifted from ‘See You On The Other Side’.

Lyrically, Donahue still resides in a dream world invariably populated by mysterious female figures; “In the green grass a young girl dreams she’s a flower in the field, But in my dream, you are real”. He’s not saying anything new – hell, he doesn’t have to – but it would be nice if he’d say it all in a different way.

Where once the band thrilled with the incandescent menace of ‘Chasing A Bee’ or beguiled with the simple beauty of ‘Holes’ or ‘Tonite It Shows’, today the band evoke nothing but half-arsed mysticism and a nauseating fixation with the natural world populated by ethereal figures of Jonathon Donahue’s imagination. With song titles such ‘Snowflake in a Hot World’, ‘Runaway Raindrop’ and ‘A Squirrel and I Holding On (And Then Letting Go)’, they have, alas, become Barney on acid.

This then is the sad sound of a band running on empty. Dear God, this is Mercury Rev.

Confucious


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Album Reviews
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
05

A review of the latest Sigur Ros album

Sigur Ros Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust Review Snapshot: Sigur Ros do branch out somewhat but in my eyes it's not in a bad way. I've seen some indifferent reviews but I challenge anyone to listen to Ára bátur and not be moved. Get the album, on CD not mp3, stick it on in a darkened room and enjoy.

The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10

Full Review:
Sigur Ros, a favourite band of mine for quite some time, captivated me with Ágætis byrjun, lost me somewhat on () and hooked me right back in with Takk... (despite Match Of The Day trying to hijack it!)

Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust is their 5th studio album and, before it even get's played, it has a lot to live up to. Takk... was such a massive album for the band, any subsequent work will find it hard to live up to those expectations. So to hear that the band had enlisted the help of Flood, English producer so named for his tea making prowess, suggests that they might indeed be steering away from the the 8 minute opuses and more towards 4 minute rock songs. Gobbledigook, track number 1, seems to reinforce that theory. With chants and stomping percussion that wouldn't go amiss on most contemporary British indie albums these days you'd be forgiven for thinking you bought the wrong album, except for the Icelandic lyrics of course. In saying that, it is a cracking tune and a perfect foil for those 8 minute wonders. Inní mér syngur vitleysingur, Track 2, takes the same road. This jaunt into accessibility may indeed upset some of their more hardcore fans but, frankly, I'm loving it and by the time you get to Góðan daginn you're in classic Sigur Ros territory. A beautiful song with lush sounds.

The album on the whole is filled with typically beautiful Sigur Ros songs and punctuated by those songs bordering on indie rock. Festival and Ára bátur are two of those 8 minute + wonders that take you on a journey through wonderful soundscapes. Indeed Ára bátur finishes with an immense orchestral and choral crescendo that had yours truly reaching for the Kleenex (to wipe the tears of joy that is).

Part of the charm of Sigur Ros, for me at least, is the incomprehensibility of the lyrics. I'm not a lyrics man, more of a mood man. That is to say when I listen to a song the voice is just another instrument that should sit with the song as a whole to create that mood. So I was a bit taken aback by the final song, All Alright, which is sung in English. As of writing I'm undecided if I like it or not. That indecision is brought about, I think, by the fact that I can understand what Jónsi Birgisson is saying, barely mind you, but I feel that some things in life should remain a mystery. If I understood Icelandic this album could mean something completely different.

Last track aside, I like this album. Sigur Ros do branch out somewhat but not in a bad way. There have been some indifferent reviews but I challenge anyone to listen to Ára bátur and not be moved. Get the album, on CD not mp3, stick it on in a darkened room and enjoy. That's what music is supposed to be about.

Andy Knightley


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Album Reviews
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
29

Jape - 'Ritual'A review of the album Ritual by Jape

Review Snapshot: Things could have gotten very quiet for Jape in the last few years, but Ritual will be banishing any barren times for Richie Egan. Not a perfect album, but a magnificent one nonetheless. If music was food, Ritual would satisfy more tastes than most.

The Cluas Verdict? 8.5 out of 10

Full Review:
It’s been four years since Richie ‘Jape’ Egan cemented his place amongst Ireland’s new breed of gifted songwriters with second album, The Monkeys In The Zoo Have More Fun Than Me. In the meantime, with his third album nearing completion, he signed to V2, and promptly saw his new home go belly-up. The Monkeys…, meanwhile, bore fruit to ‘Floating’ covered by The Raconteurs, itself leading to more questioning of just where Egan would go next. Irish music might not have undergone any seismic changes in the last four years, but it’s certainly taken enough detours where old dogs need to learn new tricks.

Put simply: if an album could have been custom-made to bridge this gap between notability and glory, Ritual wouldn’t be very far off it, opening with a voice loop on Christopher And Anthony that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Mylo album, before settling into a light, insightful and relaxed yet upbeat path.

I Was A Man, the album’s lead single, opens with a memorable hook that could well have kicked off a chart-botherer but for the slightly obtuse instrumental later in the track. If it won’t be bothering the charts you’ll probably hear it soundtracking another short-lived sports series on RTE in the not-too-distant future. Replays, its sequel, a slightly grimy faux-future opus with a few too many repetitive High E synth taps pushing it too close to the boundaries of bearable.

The album then takes a turn into a slow-burning but gorgeous interlude duo. On Graveyard, Egan shows that while the previous songs are built on melody, his lyricism is worth an exposure too. “It’s just a short, short distance from the nipple to the soil”, he sings, over a lush, deep, layered euphony of minor synthesis. This lyrical strength then hits astonishing new high gears on Phil Lynott. In a truly seanachaí mode, Egan tells an initially acoustic story of a night at a gig under a lunar eclipse, as the rockers around him say “look / at / the / fuckin’ / moon” in a staccato so perfect you can’t help but be smug even listening to it. The mortality of the occasion hits him to the point where he realises, “One day I’ll be a dead man / who plays the bass from Crumlin / like Phil Lynott” in an interlude of honest-to-God beauty. It says much about Jape’s output that it’s only on the word “Crumlin” that you’re aware you’re listening to domestic produce; you’d easily think you were listening to something that had been well-respected enough on the other side of the Atlantic to make the leap to these shores.

Streetwise is the spiritual start of Side B, with triadic vocals underpinning a electronic masterpiece of booming chords. The Hibernian references are kept up with tributes to Jackie’s Army among others, before At The Heart Of All This Strangeness appears as a musical aberration; a sole acoustic guitar atoneing a beautiful, fragile melody augmented by silences placed to pinpoint perfection, as Egan is overwhelmed by how “there is nothing but hate in every dictionary” with gripping pathos.

The closing triplet almost echo the openers: Apple In An Orchard gets back into the form of the earlier tracks, with Egan borrowing from the Morrissey school of sing-as-you-think storytelling; Strike Me Down opens with another repetitive – but upspeed – synth hook leading into syncopated semiquavers in both vocals and score that sounds like a GameBoy on LSD; while Nothing Lasts Forever ends the album with a virtual scan of the radio channels before settling on a sibling track to Radiohead’s All I Need. That the album produces similar opuses as In Rainbows is a tribute of which not much higher order could be paid.

In short – after a four year break where things could have gotten very quiet for Jape, Ritual will be making sure that the next couple of years will be busier for Richie Egan. A masterpiece, not quite; a potential Album Of The Year, very much so.

Gav Reilly


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Album Reviews
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
Page 2 of 3First   Previous   1  [2]  3  Next   Last   

Search Articles

Nuggets from our archive

2008 - A comprehensive guide to recording an album, written by Andy Knightly (the guide is spread over 4 parts).