The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Album Reviews

12

My Brother Woody 'It's a Long Way From That Sort of Thing You Were Raised'Review Snapshot: At its heart this is a happy album, full of innocence and charm, with some excellent songs and catchy hooks. Everything you want in a disposable summer album, but little more.

The CLUAS Verdict: 7 out of 10

Full Review: 
Cute is not a word I’d often associate with albums, but it’s one that just keeps recurring when I think about My Brother Woody’s 'It’s A Long Way from That Sort of Thing You Were Raised'. I don’t know if it is how they were raised or something they picked up along the way, but this album is all honest charm and good nature. Even the long-winded title is apt… in a totally unusual and inimitable way.

It’s all in the inescapable Irishness of this album: although gladly lacking in fiddles and faux-celtic-air melodies and although much has been made of it’s good vibrations, Californian overtones and ‘bops, oohs and aahs‘, lyrically and sentimentally, My Brother Woody’s hook-driven tracks are inescapably the product of the modern Irish humour and lifestyle.

With songs like 'Getting Old Goes With Getting Fat', 'Wish I Was a DJ 'and 'Super Serotonin Girl', this album shows a complete lack of the pretensions and self-consciousness of other musicians, while displaying a superb song-writing talent and well-developed musicianship almost hidden beneath its sweet cheer.

Anna Murray


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12

A review of the album 'Carry The Meek' by Ham Sandwich

Carry The Meek by Ham SandwichReview Snapshot: We could say that Ham Sandwich's debut is filling while having no filler, but that'd be very laboured and boring and 'Carry The Meek' is neither of those things. It's catchy and confident, drawing on '90s US college alt-pop and featuring an impressive performance from co-singer Niamh Farrell. With several radio-friendly singles already to its credit, this is the first of 2008's great Irish albums.

The Cluas Verdict? 8.5 out of 10

Full Review:
Ham Sandwich, a terribly bland name for a band? Au contraire! What other Irish act is getting this much attention just for their name? And it's surely no worse than calling your group something lame and unoriginal like Nirvana or Oasis.

At the other extreme, it's unfortunate that Podge McNamee's perceived wackiness has coloured many people's reaction to the band and their music. However crucial he may be to the band's visual image and live show, on record he couldn't be said to hog the limelight - he has few lead vocals, no epic guitar solos and there isn't any song here called 'My Name Is Podge'.

Contrary to those expectations, then, the Kells group's debut album is neither blandly boring nor irritatingly wacky. If anything, 'Carry The Meek' could have done with a bit more idiosyncrasy - it depends greatly on the familiar chugging rhythm of US indie bands of the last decade, and the slower tempo of the closing tracks (especially 'Sleep' and 'Thru The Grass') ends the album on a relative downer. That said, the anthemic 'Sleep' is a fine song, and second-last track 'Ashes' has an epic touch to it too.

The first half of the album has more character about it, thanks in no small part to the impressive Niamh Farrell. She swoons and soars her way through the charming 'St Christopher' and 'Keepsake' before turning on some serious rock n'roll attitude for 'Click... Click... BOOM!!!' The latter's thuggish bassline intro and triumphant chorus make it the album's standout track.

McNamee and his deep rumbling voice, as noted above, keep a relatively low profile and generally confines his vocals to backing or repeating Farrell's lines. Only in the middle of 'Never Talk' do the two sing different lyrics, and the song is all the more exciting for the dramatic tension it suggests. Perhaps this pair can capitalise on their strong personalities to greater effect in future, playing off each other more in their lyrics and arrangements to capture the two-up-front strike force of their live shows.

As for the album to hand, it's radio-friendly and well-produced by Karl Odlum, and the time devoted to recording it has paid off handsomely. And with all the attention lavished upon the band's two singers, let's not overlook main songwriter and bassist Johnny Moore, who has contributed some expertly-crafted pop songs (like 'Words') full of wistful romance and broken hearts.

Quite simply, this record sounds great. 'Carry The Meek' is a marker that other Irish albums of 2008 - and beyond - will have to match.

Aidan Curran


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23

A review of the album 'No Shouts, No Calls' by Electrelane

Electrelane No Shouts No Calls

Review Snapshot: The final offering from the superb quartet, departing to focus on their private lives while leaving us begging for more. Who said life was fair? Better put this one on repeat and start praying their "hiatus" is just a phase...

The Cluas Verdict? 9 out of 10

Full Review:
Within a week of what I will admit was constant rotation, I knew this album going to be a favourite of mine. It has the components I’m completely biased towards – an all-girl band, organ, pretty songs – precisely my bag. But that was only the beginning. Repeatedly pinned down by comparisons to the Organ, Sleater-Kinney, and a host of other female groups, Electrelane don’t have a definitive list of influences, and more to the point, a list of comparable bands. I’m a fan of good song writing, be it simple or otherwise, but it is the former that always leaves the more lasting impression, wondering just how it is a band does it. And I have wondered extensively how it is Electrelane does it.

“No Shouts, No Calls” is what became the originally Brighton-based band’s final album, announcing “indefinite hiatus” in November 2007 – a dark day in this reviewer’s diary. Released in May last year, it is their least experimental, displaying singer and keyboardist Verity Susman’s instinctive tendency towards memorable hooks and melodies, with just a bit more user-friendly song structure than seen in previous releases. Their previous album, Axes (2005), indulged the band’s desire for extended jam sessions and generous, yet melodic, instrumental rambles.

This time, however, you’ll find clear-cut single material in the form of  “To the East”, though with the odd throwback to the constraint-defying compositions of yore, in “Five” and “Between the Wolf and the Dog”. Some melodies here are at first, a little better hidden than others, but a little bit of digging will go a long way. Before long, and after the more immediate effects of opener “The Greater Times” and ukulele-based “Cut and Run” start to fade, fragments of songs that once seemed intangible will be circulating in your mind all day long – and I speak from experience. Of course, no review could be complete without special mention to the unnaturally beautiful “In Berlin”, a personal favourite. Combining icy guitars with the warmest of choral arrangements of Verity’s voice, complete with strings, spot-on harmonies, and all the right chord changes, it’s like the soundtrack for a sad dream. “Saturday” and “Sea” are similarly flawless examples of how together the band create something more perfect than the sum of its parts. It’s an idea often applied to other collective masters of the song-writing craft, but the aesthetic and atmosphere Electrelane synergistically create, is definitely all their own, and the element I admire most.

Although they have gone their separate ways, and the live experience no longer possible for the unlucky late convert, there is a substantial back catalogue from their short life to keep any fellow enthusiasts enthralled. “Singles, B-sides and Live” (2005) is a must.

In short, Electrelane can do no wrong by me, and if you like all-girl bands, organs and pretty songs, listen to “No Shouts, No Calls” which has left this reviewer - and I can’t credit for this one - Electre-fied! Ahem.

Christine Cooke

 To buy a new or (very reasonably priced) 2nd hand copy of this album on Amazon just click here.


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23

A review of the album "Let Me Introduce My Friends" by I'm From Barcelona

Im From Barcelona Let Me Introduce My FriendsReview Snapshot: Let me introduce bubble indie-pop at its finest, complete with kazoos and treehouses. Though the lyrics of this album (originally released in 2006) may be quite cringeworthy at times, the Swedish happy vibes make this a vibrant album to dance around the bedroom to.

The Cluas Verdict? 7 out of 10

Full Review:
Remember the time when you would spend a full day eating tubes of Frosties, packets of Meanies, bags and bags of ten penny-sweets and Woppa Bars until your tongue turned red? Well, now imagine you had gathered up a group of your hyper sugar-happy mates and decided to make an album: the result would be very close to the colourful, huggy, snuggly, bubble-gum indiepop album "Let Me Introduce My Friends," by I'm From Barcelona.

Don't be fooled – this band is not in the least bit Spanish (and would sound silly being Spanish anyway, with member names like Frida Öhnell and Cornelia Norgren). Instead, their name is an ode to Fawlty Towers' Manuel, who claimed to be from Barcelona.

The 29-strong Swedish group mixes and mashes banjos with kazoos and trumpets lending an oomph to the general frolics provided by their debut album. It's not often that making an album with your friends works, but lead singer Emanuel Lundgren proves that a few happy-go-lucky songs about treehouses, chicken pox, and stamp-collecting can enthuse his Swedish mates so much that they go and do harmonies and fluffy 'oohs' and 'aahs.'

Why would you not want to spend your day swinging your hips and jumping about on a bed of lollipops and whipped cream, singing lyrics like "Feeling like a tape recorder / stuck between rewind and forward"; "I have built a treehouse / Nobody can see us / it's a you and me house"; and "Damn! Oversleeping again / Damn! I can't believe I did it once again"?

While the album can be too childish (aka Europop) at times, it does bring out wee fairy-like thoughts from within your regular serious Radio head, and brings you back to those sweets-filled days.

Niamh Madden


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23

A review of the album 'I'll Tear My Own Walls Down' by 'Bill Coleman'

Bill Coleman Tear My Own Walls Down

Review Snapshot: I’m not going to blame my lengthy absence from this site on this album. That would be slightly harsh. It most certainly did not fill me full of inspiration and enthusiasm for writing though. An insipid debut effort.

The Cluas Verdict? 3 out of 10

Full Review:
Bill Coleman is an Irish singer-songwriter. Yes, another one. This, his debut, is a typically unoriginal effort. Coleman’s voice appears sweet but by the third track will simply irritate the listener. His lyrics are that of a bored 14 year old who thinks he can be the next great poet. The songs limp by. I despair.

‘Say It Like You Mean It’ starts off with simple and such catchy pop riffs that one could mistake it for being Rilo Kiley for a moment. However, Coleman’s voice combined with lyrics such as “I want you to want me, and I want to want to want you back” ruin any chances I thought I had of finding a gem on this album.

‘The Pull Of The Pint’ is the standout track on this album. It’s a simple track in which Coleman ditches the annoying whine from his voice. But it’s not enough to redeem this album.

I don’t know what it is about singer-songwriters that annoys me so much. I hate trash metal for example, but those bands don’t annoy me nearly as much. These guys go through a break-up and decide that the only way to get over her is to pick up a guitar. They exorcise their demons by exposing the public to their uninventive playing and awful lyrics. Their existence simply riles me. 

It’s not necessarily a bad record, just utterly mediocre and forgetful, like so, so many.

Garret Cleland


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23

A review of the album U.F.O.s at the Zoo by The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips U.F.O.s at the ZooReview Snapshot:
Although guilty speculations of animal cruelty creep sidelong into the back of your mind with this gig in an Oklahoma Zoo, it’s far too easy to ignore them. This is as good a recording of a gig as you’re likely to find, especially when energy and surprise are that gigs main assets; if nothing else, with this DVD The Flaming Lips again prove themselves masters of gimmickry and sheer entertainment.

The Cluas Verdict? 7 out of 10

Full Review: 
A zoo, a UFO light-rig, giant orange balloons, confetti launchers, armies of dancers in fancy dress, little laser lights and Wayne Coyne’s now infamous plastic bubble antics are the stuff that great gigs are made of, apparently: they appear at each Flaming Lips gig – including last November in Dublin – and every Flaming Lips gig is, without a doubt, a great gig. But their effect is somewhat lost when the energy and immediacy of these shows is removed, and what normally seems quirky and on the lovable Lewis Carroll/Dr. Seuss side of fantastic now smacks just a little of desperate. Still, a Flaming Lips gig is a Flaming Lips gig, and so fans, especially those who missed out on last years gig, will be glad to see this.

Wayne Coyne’s band – as, let’s face it, the others are quickly becoming minor parts to the Wayne Coyne/Flaming Lips experience – have yet to produce a recording that fails to capture their audience in some way, usually going for the heart straight through the imagination. With production that borders on perfect, it’s easy to wonder how a lot of their songs would translate into a live setting. However U.F.O.s at the Zoo proves how little the band really need to worry about it, for even when their performance is not perfect, that inimitable humour and light-heartedness carries each song through, from their early She Don’t Use Jelly, to Do You Realize??, to the now-infamous Yeah Yeah Yeah Song. You just wish it was easier to hate that chorus…
 
There are only two major flaws to be found in U.F.O.s at the Zoo, aside from the inevitable jealousy and unspecific animosity it evokes towards the lucky people who were there. The first is the disc itself – an MVI which stores audio, only for transferring to an MP3 player, and video which can be watched on any normal DVD player. Except that it can’t, so you’re left with a CD/DVD that can only be played on a computer. But that’s ok, because there’s enough computer-based bonus material to be found there in the form of free downloads etc to make the hassle of staring into your PCs small screen well worth it. The second problem is in the show itself: clips of the concert are interspersed with clips of fans queuing and talking about nothing very much interesting. In other words there’s a lot of material added that appears to be doing nothing much other than beefing up the time, material that would be much better suited to a bonus or making-of type disc.

Anna Murray

 To buy a new or (very reasonably priced) 2nd hand copy of this album on Amazon just click here.


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05

A review of the album 'Situation' by Buck 65

Review Snapshot: The tenth album by the Canadian rapper, Feist's occasional dancing partner, is an unremarkable collection of same-old-same-old beats coupled with dense social-commentary influenced by 1950s seediness. By no means a bad album, but it will only excite that small Venn diagram segment where 'Public Enemy fan' overlaps with 'James Ellroy fan'.

The Cluas Verdict? 5 out of 10

Full Review:
Situation by Buck 65Not to be confused with Buckcherry, Buck Owens or Eiffel 65, Buck 65 is one of the many aliases of Canadian rapper Ricardo Terfry. If you're not well up on your Canadian rap, you may have seen him dancing romantically with Feist in the video for her breakthrough single 'One Evening'.

'Situation', Terfry's tenth album in twelve years as Buck 65, is a concept album about 1957 - according to a post by Terfry on his MySpace page, "the year that created a legacy that affects the way we live and think fifty years later". So, we have a track called '1957', with others whose words evoke the spirit of James Ellroy's sleazy paparazzi ('Shutterbuggin') and crooked policemen ('Cop Shades'), as well as Betty Page's underground starlet ('Lipstick').

Buck 65 has previously laced his rap with folk and blues sounds, but from start to finish 'Situation' is just old-school socially-conscious hip-hop. 'Old school' means that there's nothing really new or innovative about the sounds on offer here; the beats and instrumentation are fairly run-of-the-mill stuff. You're left listening to 'Situation' purely on the strength of Terfry's rapping - but his deep voice has little personality or variation. He's obviously put a lot into the lyrics in order to create his '50s demi-monde, but that's not enough to sustain interest for a whole album.

Fans of literate, thoughtful rap may like it - but they'll still find that the likes of Jurassic 5 and The Roots do this sort of thing far better.

Aidan Curran

 To buy a new or (very reasonably priced) 2nd hand copy of this album on Amazon just click here.


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03

Review Snapshot:   At many points throughout 'The Sentinel' Swedish post rock merchants Aerial threaten to join the heirarchy of post rock, yet a lack of clarity and the vision to take a song to the next level leave them floundering in the 'what might have been' category. There are plenty of great moments for sure, but it becomes clearer as each track goes by that no song will take the necessary step that will mark them out as extraordinary. Instead the majority of the songs fizzle out with endings that are interchangeable with any other song on the album.  

The CLUAS Verdict?  6.5 out of 10 

Full Review:
In the last decade or so 'post rock' has become the most critically lauded musical genre of them all. Certainly, it has been the most uber-hip outpost on the musical landscape, with many of the major players enjoying as much success as is possible for groups who play, for the most part, awkward, mostly instrumental, lengthy pieces.

However, as with any other area of music there are those who excel and others who are content to plod along. Any band looking for direction in terms of post rock can go down either of two roads; set out your stall and continually build upon it ( see Isis from 'Celestial' to 'In The Absence Of Truth' ), or become creatively stagnant , as Explosions In The Sky have proven by turning out basically the same record for the last few releases. Can Swedish post rock merchants Aerial avoid the pitfalls on their new record?

Well...not entirely. Sure, there are plenty of moments which make 'The Sentinel' a worthwhile listening experience. 'My God It's Full Of Stars' sets the ball rolling, with sweet vocals, a lovely melody and Explosions style guitar work that dissolves into a crashing crescendo. 'You Will All Die, All Things Will', meanwhile, is perhaps the standout track on the album. It opens with liquid guitar lines and a fantastic, shoegazing type vocal. There's a lull in the middle of proceedings before a furious flurry of feedback that wouldn't be out of place on a Sonic Youth record. Aerial don't just deal in sweetness and light though. '46th Street' contains the kind of gargantuan riff that Isis or Cult Of Luna wouldn't turn their noses up at.

However, despite these positives 'The Sentinel' lacks a certain cohesion which would pull the whole record together. Though the bands use of vocals ensures that things never get too predictable, there is a definite feeling of deja vu at plenty of junctures. Sure, each song by itself is very pretty and lovely, but on 'Walk With Me' they get a bit too close to post rock-by-numbers, while 'The Youth Star Deleters' and 'Secret Godess' are interchangeable with each other. The link tracks only serve to make the record feel even more disjointed.

There is definitely enough going on to suggest that Aerial will make their 'Oceanic' or 'Spiderland' at some stage, but they will need to add something to the mix to avoid joining the list of instrumental also rans.

Alan Morrissey

 To buy a new or (very reasonably priced) 2nd hand copy of this album on Amazon just click here.


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03

A review of the album Yesterday Is No Tomorrow by Stalkers

Stalkers Yesterday Is No TomorrowReview Snapshot:It is almost a prerequisite in listening to this album that you not have a problem with uncomplicated music. Stalkers are a straightforward hard rocking band who write fantastically singable rock songs: this album may not change the face of music as we know it, but it’s a lot of fun.

The Cluas Verdict? 6 out of 10

Full Review:

The most remarkable thing about this album is its sheer relentlessness. Stalkers don’t concern themselves too much with the finer points of harmony, melody or subtlety, but they do hammer out rough rhythms and roars of vocals, tripping over their own squealing guitar solos, chunky riffs and remarkably hooky choruses in an effort to push it through the speakers with as much power as possible. Wasting no time, the band launch into opening track Yesterday Is No Tomorrow as if there’s a giant hand pushing forward from behind, and they simply can’t help being forced forward.

What follows typifies each track on the album: you have your early rock/12-bar-blues-based riffs piled high with simple, innocent overdrive, your half-shouted vocals, and your standard driving backbeat, low in the mix but pinning everything down. Through songs like I’m Feeling Alright and Sun’s Coming Up, Stalkers create an irresistible atmosphere of joyous abandon and carefree fun with an edge of nostalgia, both lyrically with their honest and unassuming stories, and musically with some pleasantly surprising references to the guitar solos of early rockers and even the melodies of the Beach Boys. There’s even a little Frank Black in there somewhere.

Every song, whether it’s about stalking someone, having a great time, circus girls, or wanting to ‘do as we may!’ in what must be one of the most strangely grammatically correct choruses ever written, is utterly singable – albeit a little manic – and totally infectious. However, the album fails to stand up to repeated listening: there’s only so much happy, carefree rock you can listen to, without feeling a little manic yourself. This is an album for specific occasions, rather than regular rotations. With such frothy –light-hearted tunes and subjects, it’s more suited to sunny afternoons than the rain and wind of a November release. 

Anna Murray

 To buy a new or (very reasonably priced) 2nd hand copy of this album on Amazon just click here.


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16
Land Of Talk 'Applause Cheer Boo Hiss'
A review of the album 'Applause Cheer Boo Hiss' by Land Of Talk Review Snapshot: Land Of Talk waste their bountiful talent on formulaic Indie rock - only some moments save it fro...

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Nuggets from our archive

2006 - Review of Neosupervital's debut album, written by Doctor Binokular. The famously compelling review, complete with pie charts that compare the angst of Neosupervital with the angst of the reviewer. As you do.