The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

18

Jeff Tweedy WilcoThe latest email newsletter from Wilco has had me a bit perplexed ever since it hit my inbox.

A few lines in we’re told we can expect a “slightly serious tone (in) this note”. Okay. I put down the cornflakes. These guys now had my attention.

Reading on they invite us to listen to a stream of their new album ‘Sky Blue Sky’ and then to “take a moment to reflect” on the “dynamic” between themselves and their fans. There follows a riff about how some fans have lamented the “somewhat sad state of the music business” and have been asking Wilco to “consider changing the way (they) do things” and the band tell us they have refused to do so.

With that out of the way they then ask us to “go out next week and do the right thing for Wilco… and buy the record”.

I don’t know about you but I simply don’t know why a band as well established as Wilco with a solid, passionate - often obsessive - fan base thought it necessary to basically beg their fans to go out and buy their latest release. It’s true that some reviews of advance copies have varied from less than gushing to 'good but not their finest hour' but that’s not something likely to scare off your typical Wilco nut, someone who will be fully aware of the many layers a Wilco record typically has that need repeated listens to reveal.

The most likely explanation here is that Wilco fear MP3s of the album floating about the place will impact the sales. But it is that very scenario that really throws me. Hear me out.

A few years back Wilco put free downloads of the complete Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album on their website while they sorted out which label was going to release it. Tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of fans downloaded the album and – when it was finally released - many of us (myself included) went out and actually bought the album. And before you could say “I am trying to break the bank” it was the biggest selling album of Wilco’s career.

Roll on 2007 and Wilco seem to have done a complete U-turn and are - if we read between the lines of this begging letter - now in fear of MP3s. What’s going on? Why the shift? Maybe pressure from the record company (the quite excellent, often adventurous and in-for-the-longhaul Nonesuch label) to massage their fans into action in this way? Personally, I doubt it (and if there was such pressure Wilco surely would have resisted, if you think back to the ‘Our way or the highway’ attitude they took with their former record label when they asked for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot to be re-recorded).

So all things considered, I for one am perplexed as to why they thought they needed to do this. If any one has insights into or ideas on this do please throw them into the comments below.


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17

Following on from the success of ‘Diary of a Debutante’, broadcast on TV3 in 2006, Paradise Pictures are now producing the ‘Diaries’ series and they are looking for a surfer to feature in their sports star episode. According to their press release,"Our aim is to capture the unique atmosphere of the surfing world in Ireland through the eyes of an Irish surfer. If you are a surfer in Ireland with a talkative personality and wouldn’t mind being on TV then We Want You! You don’t have to be the best surfer in the world but you do need to be working towards a specific event or competition this year."

For further information:

E-mail info@paradisepictures.ie Or Call 01-6610234


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17

The 60th Cannes Film Festival opened last night with the premiere of 'My Blueberry Nights', the film which marks the acting debut of jazz chanteuse Norah Jones.

Irish musicians will also be present at cinema's most illustrious shindig. Duke Special will play at the Irish Film Board's showcase reception, and John Carney's film 'Once', starring Glen Hansard, will be screened at the industry market.Bullet the big screen: U2's new concert film will be premiered at Cannes 2007

Most notable of all will be the premiere of 'U2 - 3D', a concert film chronicling the band's Vertigo tour as it travelled around South America in February 2006.

As the title suggests, the film is in 3-D - it will go on general release later this year. Let's just hope that it's better than 'Rattle And Hum'...

Here's the cinema trailer:

 


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16

We'll always have Paris: The Immediate

The Immediate, recent visitors to Paris, have split up. There's not necessarily a connection between the two events - although, mind you, The Doors were never quite the same after Jim moved here.

Anyway, courtesy of French music magazine Les Inrockuptibles and their regular Inrocks Indie Club concert nights, you can watch the band performing 'A Ghost In The House' live at La Maroquinerie in Paris on 19 April last. You need Real Player to see it - if you're at work, tell your boss you need it for a really flashy presentation or something.

Just follow this link, click on the song title and voila  - you don't even need to understand the French bits.


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15

1995: Newly-elected French president Jacques Chirac decides, as a first show of authority, to carry out nuclear tests in the South Pacific. The tests are met with worldwide protests.

Dropping the bombshell: Bono at the 1995 MTV Europe Music AwardsIn November of that year the MTV Europe Music Awards are staged in Paris. U2 are named Best Group, and Bono uses the occasion (see picture, right) to address a live TV audience of millions about the topical issue of the moment:

"What a city! What a night! What a crowd! What a bomb! What a mistake! What a w*nker you have for President! What are you gonna do about it?!? Tell me you're gonna do something about it!"

The crowd start boo-ing. You can just make out The Edge's gaping astonishment. Behind them, Adam is asking someone to explain it to him.

Since then, Bono's improved his manner of talking about world leaders.
 


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14

Number one in the singles charts in France this week is a track by French-born basketball star Tony Parker.

Don't give up the day job: Tony Parker - basketballer and rapperBy any standards, "Balance-Toi" is a fairly ordinary rap single. However, such is Parker's hero-status here that he could be reciting the Paris phone book and it would still sell metro-loads. Basketball, especially the NBA, is huge in urban France, tying in with rap's popularity here to create an identity and way of life for French teenagers from ethnic backgrounds.

The video for Parker's single is heavy on the bling-bling, but is probably more notable for the appearance by 'Desperate Housewives' star Eva Longoria - Parker's girlfriend.

Personally, from an Irish perspective we'd like to see Colm Cooper rapping about winning Kerry's umpteenth All-Ireland (video featuring, oh, Glenda Gilson or someone like that - and the bling-bling Sam Maguire trophy, of course).

Check out Parker's video here, rap/basketball/showbiz gossip fans!

 

 


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14

When Michael Flatley, Jean Butler and the entire Riverdance troupe came stampeding out onto the stage during the 1994 Eurovision, they heralded in a new era in Irish life. They gave Irish people a reason to be proud of their Gaelic culture and heritage and this pride somehow, in a karmic way, partly led on to Ireland's remarkable economic boom.

That's what an increasing number of economists and social commentators have opined at any rate. It's grist for the mill in many Irish corporate DVDs although, strangely, its not given as a reason on the official website of the Irish State which lists a high standard of education, a commitment to open markets, the return of skilled emigrants to Ireland and good co-operation between Government, Industry and Trade Unions with regard to economic policy as some of the contributing factors. On the other hand, it is certainly valid for historians and economists to study the cultural life of a country as part of a wider study of its economic and social development; as Professor Simon Schama has shown in his recent BBC series, “The Power of Art”.

I don't know, I'm not an economist and I may be missing the bigger picture here but surely an economic boom needs more than a few photogenic hoofers on television to help get itself off the ground, or am I just being naive? Ok, let’s just say for a minute that there is such a thing as a Eurovision Theory of Economics. Where does that leave the future of Ireland's economy in the aftermath of Ireland's last place disaster in the 2007 Eurovision and the ongoing failure on Broadway of the "Pirate Queen" which is brought to you by the producers of "Riverdance"? Not too good I would imagine.

I, for one, feel genuinely sorry for John Waters, Tommy Moran and Dervish. If they went array anywhere it was in thinking that the Eurovision is actually about the songwriter's craft. In fact, the Eurovision was originally conceived not by the music department of any European television station but by a collection of broadcast engineers belonging to the EBU (European Broadcasting Union) in the 1950s. The EBU is focused on helping its members in regard to technological advances in radio and television broadcasting and in the 1950s the idea of a pan European live broadcast was floated by these guys at a conference. After all the technological issues were ironed out the last question to be asked was, "So, what shall we broadcast?". "How about a song contest?" came a reply from one of the techies. "Fair enough, we'll go with that". And so a monster was born.

Now, according to John Waters, the Eurovision is about "desire" and whilst that may seem a bit off the topic, he is actually right because if there is one thing that the host broadcaster of any Eurovision desires, it is to show how superior they are in their broadcasting skills. As a result, money is thrown at the contest. Engineers get the chance to buy all kinds of systems and equipment that, up until then, they had been denied in annual budgets and the top above and below the line talent available to the broadcaster is drafted in to deliver the show. Certainly, the appearance of “Riverdance” as the interval act for the 1994 contest demonstrates the very high level of desire the producers had that year to show RTE and Ireland in a good light. So great was the pressure on RTE to deliver a top show year after year during the early Nineties and so good were Irish acts at winning it in the first place, 1992 to 1994 consecutively, that many of the people drafted in to work on the shows went on to stellar intenational careers in entertainment elsewhere, such as Michael Flatley and Declan Lowney who went on to direct "Father Ted".

Meanwhile, back at my theory...I should say that I am something of a fan of John Waters. He is a formidable man with a formidable intellect who has fought and won battles in this country that; given Ireland’s legal and social framework, I thought were impossible to win. As a result I read him on a regular basis and thus I have noticed that he, on occasion, queries a subject on two levels and to demonstrate what I mean I will give you an absurdist example of this intellectual tactic. Let's say you were to ask me about a bottle of milk, I could answer you as follows, “There are two questions to be asked of the bottle of milk. Firstly, what is it? Secondly, what does it mean?”

So, if we apply that approach to our 2007 Eurovision loss, firstly we might say that it is a loss for a group of Irish musicians who drew on Irish culture to create a song that they hoped would win a song contest. Secondly, we might say that it represents a general failure of Irish culture to translate or connect with other countries within Europe. It means that Irish culture and society, just as it was virile and relevant in a wider context in the early 1990s, is now impotent and irrelevant in the early 21st Century and that this has deeper economic implications for us in the future.

In other words, we are now where Finland used to be; they came last in 1963, 1965, 1968, 1980, 1982, 1990, 1992 and 1996. Perhaps future Finnish economists will look back and talk of 2006 as the beginning of the Lordi generation, when Finns saw their love of, eh, heavy metal turn them into winners just as the economy was looking up after 16 years of recession.

So, in the event that the above is, in some oblique way correct, what do I then propose, dear reader, to solve our imminent economic demise? Well, given the Eurovision’s recent appetite for Sturm und Drang, combined with a tasteful display of female flesh, I propose that next year we send out the legendary Irish punk band Paranoid Visions along with a crack team of Leeson Street lap dancers to do battle on our behalf. That should put the wind up the Serbians.

 


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13

While 2006 was a cracking year for French pop, 2007 has been a bit of a let-down so far. New albums by Air and Carla Bruni were disappointingly dull, while most of the guitar bands in Paris are stuck in a Libertines/Strokes fixation.

But we've searched long and hard and finally we've found some hidden treasures that merit your attention.Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, sharing their name with a James Bond soundtrack (a Dionne Warwick song from Thunderball) and a 2005 Robert Downey Jr film, are a four-piece Paris-based band. They make the same sort of epic heartfelt pop as under-rated Limerick band Woodstar, although they themselves describe their sound less romantically as "The Strokes f*cking with Wendy from Prefab Sprout".

They are currently rehearsing material and playing shows in Paris, but have yet to release material.

However, you can listen to some tracks on their MySpace page - we recommend "I'm In Love With You".


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12

Take a good look at the advertisment to the left. It's a recruitment poster for the US Marines and I doubt you would have seen it in any American music magazine that you care to read. However, if you read American surf magazines, adverts like this are becoming more and more prevelant with video commercials for the army also being tagged on to the start of the surf movie trailers that are accessible on 'SURFING' magazine's website.

Advertisments of this kind, to say the least, leave me cold. They play on the machismo that young men like to display in what should be their salad days. "If you have what it takes to make it", the poster dares the reader without telling them that having what it takes might involve being wounded or not coming back at all.

I had thought long and hard about what to write concerning why I am so opposed to this advert; it appeared on page 81 of the June 2007 edition of "TRANSWORLD SURF", but I thought that, since a picture is worth a thousand words, I would instead show you a photograph of former Marine Casey Owens, in his dress blues, after he returned from active service. The woman in tears standing to the left is his mother Janna Owens. Casey is one young man who will never surf again and this image of him could have been taken straight from the Bob Dylan song, "John Brown", which ends with the stanza:

"As he turned away to walk, his Ma was still in shock
At seein' the metal brace that helped him stand.
But as he turned to go, he called his mother close
And he dropped his medals down into her hand."

I

 

 


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10

Duke Special's show at the Nouveau Casino in Paris on 9 May was extraordinary - a resounding success. We can base this on empirical data: wild cheering, a second encore, the hungry queue to buy CDs after the show. But ultimately it's the emotional evidence that seals the verdict: the heart-thumping, soul-soaring, head-spinning, blood-rushing thrill that makes you want to go home and make your own music so that you could possibly move people in the same way.

In her review of the Duke's Dublin show in March, CLUAS's Anna Murray accurately lauded Peter Wilson's "entire package of performance, affecting honesty and offbeat entertainment that leaves you amazed in its wake". Is there anything finer in Irish pop today than the climax of 'Freewheel', when Wilson builds up power ("come on, come on, come on...") and then simply takes off with a soaring cry of "my soul"? At that moment in Paris last night people cheered, embraced and quite a lot seemed to get dust in their eye. The bare words in cold print just can't do justice to the feeling.  

There were three of them, all in 19th-century vibe - the Duke and drummer Temperance Society Chip Bailey dressed in cavalry jackets like stragglers from the Charge Of The Light Brigade, while Rea Curran on trumpet, accordion and backing vocals modelled the tweed-jacket and bushy-red-beard-with-no-moustache combination of a Punch caricature of a belligerent Irish peasant. Their show had the fresh quirkiness of a music hall act - especially the Harpo Marx-esque Bailey, switching between drums, cheese-grater and an indescribable hurdy-gurdy pole adorned with bells and shakers.

Even as they simply stood on stage, lit by chandeliers in this intimate Paris back-room, they were strange and thrilling to behold. Before each song Wilson stood wild-eyed like some Dickensian parlour-conjurer above his keyboard-draped-in-red-velvet, as if he were about to levitate Lilly Langtry or hypnotise a lord.

The eminent Victorians were joined for a few French verses of 'Portrait' by the wonderful Emily Loizeau, whose magical 2006 album 'L'Autre Bout Du Monde' shares much of Wilson's approach to melodic and heartfelt piano-pop.

Most of the highlights off 'Songs From The Deep Forest' got a play although, such is the abundance of jewels at Wilson's disposal, there was no room for the poignant 'This Could Be My Last Day'. But at least he sang our favourite lyric from 'Salvation Tambourine': "I could go to Paris, I could jump from the Tyre". A reference, of course, to every Belfastman's favourite pneumatic Parisian monument, the Eiffel Tyre. New song 'Careless Heart' (last night a stripped-down piano ballad, tomorrow night probably a revivalist gospel psalm) promises well for more brilliant material from Wilson in the future.

However, he has already fulfilled all of our great expectations.


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Nuggets from our archive

2001 - Early career profile of Damien Rice, written by Sinead Ward. This insightful profile was written before Damien broke internationally with the release of his debut album 'O'. This profile continues to attract hundreds of visits every month, it being linked to from Damien Rice's Wikipedia page.