The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Album Reviews

16
Day One 'Probably Art'
A review of the album 'Probably Art' by Day One Review Snapshot: Day One could have taken two paths: one was interesting, based in the trip hop Bristol sound, the ...

[Read more...]

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

A review of the album 'Kill The Messenger' by Home Star Runner

Home Star Runner - Kill The MessengerReview Snapshot: This debut album will certainly please Home Star Runner’s loyal army of fans, but whether they can use this release to broaden their fanbase and enjoy mainstream success, remains to be seen.   .

The Cluas Verdict? 6 out of 10

Full Review:
‘Homestar runner’ are a four piece pop punk band, based in Dunboyne, Co. Meath. Following on from their well received ‘Close to Home’ EP comes their debut album, released on Blastspace records.  They’ve built up a loyal fanbase, over the past couple of years, by playing Blastspace all ages gigs with legendarily energetic live performances.

The energy of those live performances certainly sounds as though it’s been harnessed into the album, along with the influence of Jimmy eat World and ‘Greenday’.  In particular, Stephen Arkins lead vocals are reminiscent of Billie Joe Armstrong.

The first half of the album, although showcasing impressive musicianship, suffers from a lack of variety, with songs that quickly start to sound too similar.  ‘Pulp Friction (Skin)’ offers a welcome lighter, poppier diversion with a sound not unlike Blink 182 and the witty lyric, ‘I think I’m drunk enough to fall in love, tonight it’s me versus every guy in the room’.         

This is followed by the first single released from the album, ‘Photogenic’, which demonstrates the band’s pop sensibilities, whilst managing to maintain a punk edge.  However, for me, the standout track on the album is ‘The boy who saved the world’, with its imaginative use of strings and vocal harmonies.  If any of these tracks can offer the mainstream crossover and radioplay the band are presumably hoping for, then this could be the one.  Overall, a well produced debut album from the band.  Give it a listen, or even better, catch them live.   

Máire T. Robinson


More ...

[Read more...]

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

REM live album coverA review of the album 'Live' by R.E.M.

Review Snapshot: I’ve never been a R.E.M. fan, and, after listening to this I don’t think anything is going to change. It’s a solid performance for the fans, and a lively best-of for the Christmas stocking and that, I’m afraid, is about it.

The Cluas Verdict? 5.5 out of 10

Full Review:
R.E.M. and I don’t really have a history. A long time ago, back when I was young and impressionable, and hormones were doing crazy things to my face, “Everybody Hurts” seemed to be a beautiful tune. But that was a long time ago and, like I said, strange things were happening.

I am not really a fan of live albums - Dylan and The Band being obvious exceptions - I usually prefer to watch the show. R.E.M. have their merits, though creativity and an infectious live pulse are hardly two of them, and so the prospect of a live album of theirs (and a double CD at that) didn’t really instil a sense of anticipation. It was with some weariness and a sense of purgatory that I loaded up the CD player, hit play, and headed off on the two hour trip to Dublin. 

“I Took Your Name” opens the set and, to be honest, it set me back a little. There was a growl, a touch of attitude, perhaps even a trace of charisma, in Michael Stipe’s voice. Had I been wrong, had REM been rediscovering themselves in my absence? Well, no. This is the sound of a working band, one who have found a formula and stuck to it. Religiously.

That’s not to say the band aren’t good, or on form, the songs are tight and well performed, and the emotion of what was clearly a good performance (by R.E.M. standards…), really carries through the set. If you like R.E.M., and are looking for a live album, then look no further. If you’re looking for the sound of a band in their stride, at the gig of a life time, then get The Last Waltz, because quite honestly Michael Stipe is drier than a dehydrated shite. “This is a song from Ohio,” “This is a song from New Jersey,” “This is a song from the beautiful state of…” yeah, yeah, yeah

R.E.M. Live has all the hits, it even has a guest appearance from those other stalwarts of excitement, The Thrills, and if that’s your thing, then this is your CD. If you’re looking for something else, something decent, something invigorating, fresh or challenging, well, keep on looking.

Dinner party comfort music… no wonder the middle classes are getting hooked on cocaine.

Daragh Murray

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


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Album Reviews
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
13

A review of the album 'All The Lost Souls' by James Blunt

Review Snapshot: Alright. At least let's give this album a fair listen, okay? (A fair listen later) Ummm... it's conservative, unimaginative and over-polished M.O.R. soft-rock that takes strange pride in sounding 'classic' (i.e. old). We'll just have to accept that this is how the vast majority of people like their music. Good luck to them.

The Cluas Verdict? 1 out of 10

Full Review:
James Blunt All The Lost SoulsIf we are to go by the evidence by record-sales, the majority of music fans like their tunes to be reassuring, uncomplicated and familiar. They listen to music in order to unwind after a stressful day at work, a frustrating traffic-jam coming home, a final notice from the building society through the letterbox. Which is fair enough.

(And before indie fans start getting all superior, this is also why alternative radio stations have to fill their daytime schedules with endless Nirvana, Pixies and Smashing Pumpkins from 15 years ago. Feeling better now?)

Anyway, over 11 million of Mr and Mrs Tense-Nervous-Headache have already reached for 'Back To Bedlam', the first album by the erstwhile Captain Blount (who covers 'Where Is My Mind?' live, Pixies fans! He's one of you!).

A lot of those eleven million were hooked by the histrionics of 'You're Beautiful', but new album 'All The Lost Souls' features nothing as blatantly manipulative as that mystifyingly popular single. Instead, most of the tracks (like first single '1973') are content to just snuggle under the warm blanket of soothing nostalgia and not disturb anyone in doing so. The arrangements (mostly mid-tempo piano) are anodyne and risk-free. This album is impressively single-minded in its pursuit of M.O.R. soft-rock/ballad fans, as if trying to win some sort of bet to be the most '70s-daytime-radio-sounding. We've no problem if people like this sort of music. To us it sounds shamefully conservative and cravenly unimaginative - but that's just us.

Blunt's lyrics are of the sub-Dylan angst-and-allegory variety - you really should look up the words to 'I Really Want You'; they're memorably bad (It starts "Many prophets preach on bended knee/Many clerics wasted wine").  But there are always people who'll find this poetic.

Strangely, he only ever makes passing reference to a potentially fascinating subject: Captain Blount served in Kosovo in 1999 and apparently led the British forces into Pristina. Yet he only ever offers tantalising glimpses of his experiences before lapsing into cliched, maudlin 'war is bad' dirges, with 'No Bravery' in his first album and this time around in 'Same Mistake': "And so I sent some men to fight / And one came back at dead of night / Said he'd seen my enemy?" / Said 'he looked just like me"'. Has the man really experienced war and come back as an artist who has absolutely no original insight to share with us?

What really puzzles us, though, is how anyone could love Blunt's high-pitched, whinnying voice, which by now just sounds like self-parody. But you know best, Blunt-lovers. Sincerely, perhaps one of you could explain his appeal to us...

Aidan Curran

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


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Album Reviews
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
09

Review Snapshot: The balladeering Dubliner distinguishes himself from the singer-songer crowd with a second fine album of charming melodies, intriguing lyrics and a sincere, likeable approach to songwriting that's worthy of the Salmon Of Knowledge (ask your primary school teacher).

The CLUAS Verdict? 8 out of 10

Full Review:
Mumblin Deaf Ro Herring and the BrineRonan Hession's nom de rock suggests that he's some sort of gnarled old Delta bluesman, when in actual fact Mumblin' Deaf Ro writes acoustic pop tunes. "So far, so what?" says you - Ireland is fairly well stocked with singer-songers; no fear of a sudden shortage. And if you should lose one, well... the next one will do just as well; they tend to be interchangeable. Can Hession be any different to the mass of Tanglewood-bashers in Eire?

"Yes" is the answer to that, thank God. Mumblin' Deaf Ro's 2003 debut, 'Senor My Friend...', received enthusiastic notices (the CLUAS review prominent among them) for its witty, catchy and thoughtful songs. The album made Hession something of a cult figure, and its follow-up should consolidate that - 'The Herring And The Brine' is a fine record.

For many, Hession will be an acquired taste. His style is that of a balladeering minstrel - simple tunes arranged sparingly, sung with the plain, innocent voice of a poor Dickensian orphan. Opening track 'The Drowning Man', for instance, is not so much sung as recited sing-song-style like a primary school poem.

The simple, naive delivery is in contrast to the craft and complexity of his lyrics. Characters (a doubting clergyman, a Central American ex-president, a fish-packing "reformed rake") tell their sories and reveal their thoughts and fears. This may all sound pretentious to some, and Hession certainly risks Julian Gough-style smug showing-off. But Mumblin' Deaf Ro never falls into that trap - his lyrics wear their learning with good humour and genuine sincerity.

One example will suffice. Even from its title 'What's To Be Done With El Salvador?' looks like trouble and when Hession (as the deposed president) sings "Don't let the country that I loved but let down / Fall into pieces / Splinter in the hands of a confederation" it all sounds clumsy and forced. Then the song changes up a gear and floors you with the catchiest economic dissertation this side of David McWilliams: "If you don't protect the currency / The people can't live / But the foreign trade suffers / And the country goes adrift". All served on a lovely little melody. It's thrilling stuff, and this album is full of such charming moments.

"All very well for the words, like", says you again, "but what about the choons, man?" Well, fortunately Hession crafts melodies that are just as lilting and likeable as his lyrics. Admittedly his voice is a wee bit limited in range, which probably holds him back from writing stronger hooks. That said, the voice he has is perfectly suited to the intimate, conversational stories he tells. And the arrangements are fresh and lively, shown to the best effect by Peter Sisk's fine production job.

'The Herring And The Brine' is a charming and accomplished acoustic pop album, and Mumblin' Deaf Ro has a refreshingly good-humoured and thoughtful approach to making music. He may yet make Irish singer-songers respectable again.

 Aidan Curran


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Album Reviews
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
09

A review of the album La Radiolina by Manu Chao

Review Snapshot: A stonking new album from the multi-million selling music revolutionary, Manu Chao.

The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10

Full Review:
Manu Chao - La Radiolina'La Radiolina' is Manu Chao's first studio album in 6 years (and is my first experience of this French-Spanish performer). The record is the follow-up to Chao's three million-selling 'Roxima Estacion: Esperenza'. Chao grew up in Paris but now lives in Barcelona. Fronting anarchic genre-bending Mano Negra (Black Hand) until the band split in 1995, Chao has been travelling the world releasing the odd album to support his travel bug.

Over the course of 21 songs (stuffed into 52 minutes of solidly infectious music), Chao sings in (to my ears) four different languages and numerous styles. Of course, the flamenco styling of Latin music is to the fore, but 'Rainin in Paradize' is a full-on rock song with a lovely fluid guitar motif and driving drums (a la Tom Petty's 'Runnin' Down a Dream'). And it's just great. Especially his lyric rhyming 'atrocity', 'hypocrisy', 'democracy' and 'crazy' - imagine a serious political song sung by Manuel from Fawlty Towers. But in a good way!

 

But there is much more here. Evocative reggae (reminiscent of Exodus era Marley), sparse ballads, Calexico-style desert folk mixed in with some strident political sloganeering makes for an indulgent treat. I love the Mariachi guitar and trumpet on songs like the melancholy 'Mala Fama' and the more exuberant 'La Vida Tombola'. Indeed, like many of the tracks, it fades out after less than two minutes. Manu's tunes never out-stay their welcome. Most of the time this works, but sometimes the album feels like the listener is surfing the radio dial, dipping in and out of the tunes on offer. Maybe this is deliberate, hence the album name?

 

Manu Chao was a hero of the sadly departed Joe Strummer and the reggae stylings, mad laughter and Man-of-the-People rants are very reminiscent of the Clash. In recent years, both men became firm friends and I can imagine they had a shared view of the world. This album can't fail to enhance Manu Chao's reputation. 'La Radiolina' will make you pine for the rapidly disappearing summer season (at least for you guys north of the equator).

Stephen McNulty

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


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Album Reviews
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
04
Neil Young 'Live At Massey Hall'
Review Snapshot: The second disc to be released from his Archives file, this live set, captured in front of an adoring crowd in Toronto in 1971, shows Neil Young on top of his game. With a set conta...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Album Reviews
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
03
Animal Collective 'Strawberry Jam'
A review of the album 'Strawberry Jam' by Animal Collective Review Snapshot: The Animal Collective- they'll always call a spade a frog. "Strawberry Jam" is a collection of le...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Album Reviews
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
08

Review Snapshot:

Atmospheric chillout electronica that's chilled out to the point of being boring, and which also sounds like no more than the sum of its influences (Sigur Ros, David Sylvian). Gemma Hayes pops in to sing a track.

The CLUAS Verdict: 5 out of 10

Full Review:

Anti Atlas - Between VoicesChris Hufford, the man behind Anti-Atlas, is Radiohead's manager. He is also part of the management team of that other famous (and, for this reviewer at least, more enjoyable) Oxford band, Supergrass.

'Between Voices' sounds nothing like either band. It's a chillout album of lush strings, ambient layers and easy-on-the-ear female singers - including Lady Marmalade-Voice of Ballyporeen herself, Gemma Hayes (also managed by Hufford), on 'It's A Shame'.

To add a Sigur Ros-style chilly atmosphere (as Radiohead sometimes do) there are plenty of Scandinavian and Icelandic contributions: for instance, Norwegian singer-songer Kristin Fjellseth performs 'On The Bottom Of The Sea (Paa Havsens Bunn)' in her native language.

And as no slowcore electronica album these days is complete without some existential angst from Japan, Yuki Chikudate sings 'Spring Lullaby (Haru No Komori Uta)'.

The record is also built with brief samples cut from hand-to-the-brow Romantic composers like Mahler (who, we can assume, unwittingly contributed the Mahler-esque droning string sounds that drift like mist around this album), Debussy, Dvorak and the like.

All of this put together results in an album that shares a lot with the arty slow-motion electronica of David Sylvian and Perry Blake, as well as the bleak soundscapes of Hector Zazou and the aforementioned Sigur Ros - and fans of those acts should find in 'Between Voices' much they will like (or will find an outrageous rip-off - one or the other).

However, for non-fans of the above, the overserious pretentiousness of Sylvian and Blake is also evident here - and try as they might, Anti Atlas can't match the superior work of Zazou and Sigur Ros.

'Between Voices' is not a bad album - one could call it harmless in its way. It's just not very interesting or original, has little in the way of personality, and gets a little boring long before the end.

Come to think of it, maybe their manager's music has a lot in common with Radiohead after all. Start hanging out more with Gaz Coombes, Mr Hufford.

Aidan Curran

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


More ...

[Read more...]

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

Review Snapshot:
A band living off an old song and a stale image, Alabama 3 hit the photocopy button one more time. Bland songs plastered in cliched sounds; the only refreshing thing is the unintentional honesty of the album title. Someone, put a cap in their ass.

The CLUAS Verdict? 2 out of 10

Full Review:
After eight years, Alabama 3 are still trading on their debut album, 'Exile On Coldharbour Lane'. That 'Sopranos' theme, 'Woke Up This Morning', was its best-known song and on the basis of their tired new album they'll be depending on that old track for a long time yet.

The album's name is meant to be ironic but, as usually happens when a band jokes about sounding uncool, is completely accurate. The title track of sorts, 'Middle Of The Road', pays tribute to The Eagles. By this we mean that the lyrics are about The Eagles and the music sounds like The Eagles too (to be specific, 'Take It Easy'). Hardly the stuff of the Deep South honky-tonk good ol' boys that Alabama 3 seem to admire.

 But then everything about this band - the preacher-man stagenames, OTT 'American' accents and cut n' paste  blues, soul, country and '70s rock - is a tiresome, unconvincing gimmick trying to distract you from the blandness and unoriginality of their songs. Whether they're straining to act like hoodlums ('Lockdown And Loaded'), barflies ('Monday Don't Mean Anything') or free spirits ('Are You A Souljah?') they just sound irritating and ridiculous.

All of which wouldn't be a problem if the songs had any bit of spark or muscle to them. Instead they can only muster up lame cliche-riddled pastiches like 'Fly' and 'Work It (All Night Long)'. Even an appearance by The Proclaimers on album-closer 'Sweet Joy' fails to lend any bit of personality - you'd hardly know they're there.

Anyone who still finds the Sam Snort column in 'Hot Press' wild, daring and hilarious might like this album while driving home from the office or fitting kitchen cabinets. Otherwise, keep in by the side of the road and let this  manure truck roll by.

Aidan Curran

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


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Album Reviews
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
Page 19 of 22First   Previous   13  14  15  16  17  18  [19]  20  21  22  Next   Last   

Search Articles

Nuggets from our archive

1999 - 'The eMusic Market', written by Gordon McConnell it focuses on how the internet could change the music industry. Boy was he on the money, years before any of us had heard of an iPod or of Napster.