The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011


On several occasions we've bemoaned the lack of good French-language pop. By 'good pop' we mean a tune you can whistle and hum and sing in the shower - and songs en français these days tend to be monotonous recitals of precious lyrics.

So, allow us to rave about a rare bit of catchy and melodic French music.

Let's get Bizet! Pascal, that is.

Pascal Bizet (right) is from Nîmes, the south-eastern city whose lasting contribution to world culture is the derivation of the word 'denim' - "de Nîmes". (The word 'jeans' is also French in origin - the earliest pairs of denim trousers were made in Genoa, which in French is called "Gênes.) Metallica fans will know of a 2006 concert DVD called 'Français Pour Un Nuit' that was filmed in the city's Roman amphitheatre.

We don't know yet if Pascal is a descendant of Georges Bizet, the Parisian who wrote 'Carmen', but he certainly has musical talent. Your correspondent has just discovered a track called 'Sans Doute' thanks to Canadian DJ Laura Leishman's excellent radio show on French indie station Le Mouv'; perhaps it takes us Johnny Foreigners to appreciate what's best in France.

'Sans Doute', with its pounding piano chords, has a touch of John Lennon's better solo songs. Changing from verse to chorus, Bizet's voice takes on some of Elvis Costello's vitriol and Joe Jackson's angst. The melody rolls along agreeably from start to finish, drawing in the listener without over-reaching for a killer hook or climax. Good work.

There we go: the first decent French-language song of the year and decade. You can hear 'Sans Doute' on Pascal Bizet's MySpace page, which also features some rather dense prose to describe the song's symbol-laden video, directed by Bizet:

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We've mentioned Emmanuelle Seigner on this blog before. The French actress released her first album in 2007 with the group Ultra Orange, and subsequently recorded a duet with Brett Anderson. Now her second album has just come out - and it includes a duet far more controversial than that with the Suede singer.

The album (right) is called 'Dingue', pronounced 'dang', which is French for 'crazy'. While her first album was heavily influenced by Lou Reed, this new record harks back to the classic '60s French pop of France Gall and Sylvie Vartan. Not being blessed with a great singing voice, Seigner never strays far from a low monotone - which is quite alright in France, because many singers do this.

The album was due to be released last November but was held back due to a dramatic development in Seigner's personal life - the arrest of her husband, Roman Polanski.

The acclaimed film director was taken into custody on a visit to Switzerland last September, as the Swiss authorities sought to extradite him to the USA to face charges of unlawful sex with a minor. Polanski is currently under house arrest in Switzerland.

Here's where Seigner's album gets controversial: one of the tracks, 'Qui Etes Vous?' ('Who Are You?') is a Bardot/Gainsbourg-style duet with Polanski - and the lyrics have an unfortunate resonance with the charges he faces.

The lyrics start with Seigner addressing an unknown man in her bed: "Qui êtes-vous, monsieur? Qu'est-ce que vous faites dans mon lit?" ("Who are you, sir? What are you doing in my bed?") Polanski's reply is "Je suis l'amour en personne" ("I am love in person").

The second verse is even more embarrassing. Seigner sings "Mais vous n'êtes pas mon type/Allez-vous-en/Vous allez avoir des problèmes" ("But you're not my kind/Go away/You'll have problems"). It continues:

Him: Tu m'as déjà dit 'je t'aime' (You already said 'I love you')

Her: Moi? (Me?)

Him: Tu as de peau douce et lisse (You have soft, smooth skin)

Her: J'appelle la police! (I'm calling the police!)

The third verse:

Him: Je ne veux que ton bonheur (I only want your happiness)

Her: Tu es un sâle voleur (You're a dirty thief)

Him: Je ne veux que ton bien (I only want you to be well)

Her: Mais je ne suis pas un chien! (But I'm not a dog!)

And the fourth verse, where Polanski's character becomes creepier:

Him: Mais enfin nous sommes fiancés (But finally we're engaged)

Her: Vous avez fumé? (Have you been smoking?)

Him: Tu m'as couru après, c'était en été (You chased me, it was in the summer)

Her: Je ne suis jamais engagée! Allez dégagé! (I've never been engaged! Go on, get lost!)

This, remember, performed by a man who fled charges of unlawful sexual relations with a 13-year-old girl. What on earth were Seigner and Polanski thinking?

The track hasn't yet been posted on Seigner's MySpace site - your correspondent downloaded it from a French online music shop. The album has just been released in France; at the time of writing, we haven't seen or heard any reaction from the French music press.

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Cluster (live In Dublin)
Cluster (live in The Village, Dublin) Review Snapshot: So-called “pioneers of ambient music” fail to light fires at Dublin venue, The Village, but perform a convincing showcase for the...

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Midlake 'The Courage of Others'
A review of the album 'The Courage of Others' by Midlake  Review Snapshot: Texan band Midlake are a rare find. The lead vocals are strong, yet haunting, mellow yet powerful....

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Posted in: Album Reviews
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Pilotlight 'The Post War Musical'
A review of the album The Post War Musical by Pilotlight Review Snapshot: The Post War Musical is a beautiful debut record from an Irish band who have aren't afraid to explore old themes with ...

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Dubliners Caruso are preparing to embark on a European tour and recently signed a European publishing deal. Since the release of their debut album, 2007's The Watcher and The Comet, they’ve ...

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Posted in: Interviews
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Firstly New Yorkers White Rabbits combine strong vocals and catchy hooks seamlessly. Switching flawlessly from piano to jagged guitars and acoustic tracks throughout their second album ‘It’s Frightening’ shows that it’s probably time to believe the hype.

The soulful vocals of Blue Roses, aka Laura Groves, show similarities to The Joy Formidable’s Ritzy and a nod to 60s girl group The Shangri-La’s.  She’s self described as “writing songs for instruments I can't play yet and making choirs out of my voice” with songs adorned with tambourines and memorable lyrics. ‘Anyone Who Knows What Love Is’ wouldn’t sound out of place in the backroom of The Cavern in the 60s. A rare glimpse of an artist whose songs may be new, but appears to hold nostalgia for the past without sounding like a distempered tribute act.

Preparing to tour with White Lies and Enter Shikari are Scottish hopefuls Twin Atlantic. At times drawing comparisons to You Me At Six and Biffy Clyro as a result of their heavy rock sound intertwined with pop rock a la You Me At Six. ‘What Is Light? Where Is Laughter?’ is a highlight, and your ears will thank you for listening to it.

Though all three currently don't have plans to tour in Ireland as of yet there's always hope! Closer to home, Irish indie favourite Fionn Regan will be touring Ireland in March and will be playing in Vicar Street on the 13th of March. The dates are as follows:


          5th March      Electric Avenue        Waterford  

     6th March      Dolan's                    Limerick

7th March     School of Music      Cork

 10th March   Nerve Centre           Derry

     11th March   The Empire              Belfast

  12th March   Roisin Dubh           Galway


Overall, this year is looking good for Irish live music. Additionally, Happy February!

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Excellent news for the French music scene from Los Angeles last night. At the 2010 Grammy Awards, 'Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix' by Phoenix won the prize for Best Alternative Album.

Best Alternative Album, Grammy 2010

The other nominees? 'Everything That Happens Will Happen Today' by David Byrne and Brian Eno, 'It's Blitz' by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, 'The Open Door EP' by Death Cab For Cutie and 'Sounds Of The Universe' by Depeche Mode.

Ironically for an 'alternative' award, this Grammy win will surely be significant in terms of Phoenix's continued progress to American mainstream success. Your correspondent finds this album to be a slight disappointment - but Phoenix are still a great band. To them we say: chapeau!

Le jour de gloire est arrivé also for David Guetta, who took home a Grammy for his remix of 'When Love Takes Over' featuring Kelly Rowland.

Other winners last night include Kings Of Leon ('Use Somebody' - Record of the Year!), Bruce Springsteen (Best Rock Vocal Performance), Green Day (Best Rock Album), AC/DC (Best Hard Rock Performance), Lady Gaga and Beyoncé. Full details of winners and nominees are available at

In Irish news, the 2010 Grammy shindig featured Imelda May's duet with Jeff Beck on 'How High The Moon' as part of a tribute to the late Les Paul. Meanwhile, U2 were nominated for three awards but didn't win any.

From their Grammy-winning album, here's Phoenix with 'Lisztomania':

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What? Three weeks without the Gainsbourg-Birkins appearing on this blog? Luckily, and coinciding with the John Lennon biopic 'Nowhere Boy', we have the release of 'Gainsbourg: Vie Héroique' - the film by esteemed comic strip artist Joann Sfar of the life of France's greatest ever pop star.

We brought you a sneak preview last November. Noting the startling resemblance of Eric Elmosnino and the late Lucy Gordon to Serge n' Jane, we worried that the film would get stuck in a rut of impersonation.

Our fears were justified - 'Gainsbourg: Vie Héroique' is a fawning and superficial treatment of a fascinating and complex man.

Serge of un-enthusiasm: the disappointing 'Gainsbourg: Vie Héroique' by Joann Sfar

It starts well, establishing themes and motifs. Young Lucien Ginsburg is insolent, artistic, charming, indulged by his mother - and Jewish in 1940s Paris. With the clever device of marionette-like alter-egos preying on Lucien's vivid imagination, Sfar captures the latent creativity and volatility of the future artist-provocateur. Lucien avoids the worst of Nazi occupation (i.e. deportation and death) by leaving Paris for a provincial boarding school and feigning non-Jewishness - at one point hiding in the woods for three days to avoid a local round-up. A key early scene has Lucien almost charming the clothes off a still-life model from his art class - here is the charisma that would make Juliette Greco, Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin fall for a man who was far from being a hunk. Seducing the ladies, evading the Nazis - he charms the viewer too, as do the rich colours and Lucien-esque energy of these opening scenes.

But suddenly Sfar jumps ahead to the adult Ginsburg and soon-to-be Gainsbourg (played by Elmosnino) who is now clumsy around women, troubled by dark thoughts and insecure about his art. What happened to charming young Lucien? Sfar offers no explanation and thereby breaks the narrative thread.  He seems overeager to finish the hard work of character exposition and get to the good stuff: Serge playing his hits and frolicking with naked babes. (Sfar repeatedly makes the sexist faux-pas of showing Serge fully-dressed while his lady friend is nude. Perhaps to - ahem - redress this, during the later Birkin years there are some full-frontal shots of Elmosnino.)

From here on in, the film is reduced to variety-show impersonation that will please French audiences but bore the rest of the world. (Even Sfar is at it - he makes a cameo as balladeer Georges Brassens.) Anna Mougalis, as a smouldering Juliette Greco, has an appealing few minutes but is essentially a plot device to push Gainsbourg into leaving his wife and children for the pop star life. Former model Laetitia Casta struts on as Brigitte Bardot as if simply because we're at the point in the film where Gainsbourg writes 'Initials B.B.' (Rather witlessly, this is the music that plays as she enters.) Likewise, Gordon as Birkin appears on cue but personality-wise is as flimsy as her dresses. All the female characters in this film are one-dimensional and serve only to signpost certain points in Serge's life.

Speaking of signposts, too often Sfar hastily moves the film along with clunking story-marker scenes that reveal his background in attention-deficit cartoons. You should write an innuendo-laden song sung by an innocent young girl, fellow artist Boris Vian suggests to Gainsbourg - cut to Serge slithering up to prissy France Gall and proposing 'Les Sucettes'. On a beach in Jamaica a young boy sings 'La Marseillaise' to Gainsbourg: next thing he's recording a reggae version that incites violent protest from French ex-paratroopers. Most ridiculous of all is when old Mr Ginsburg, almost face-to-camera, breathlessly informs his wife (and us): 'He wrote a saucy song for Brigitte Bardot but her husband won't let them release it so now they must split up!' Potentially interesting episodes like the reaction to 'Je T'Aime (Moi Non Plus)' are left to wither on the vine.

As for the portrayal of Gainsbourg himself, Elmosnino is engaging and exact. However, with Lucien now grown up as Serge there's no further time or space allowed for character development. For instance, we never get any insight on Gainsbourg's creative vision or processes - he just heads over to the piano and starts playing fully-hatched 'Comic Strip' or 'Le Poinçonneur Des Lilas'

Worse than that, Sfar clearly idolises Gainsbourg so much as to present his most unappealing moments as mere character colour or even as virtues. Every time Serge does something bad, Sfar rewards him. Serge walks out on his wife and two young children: this is his doorway to stardom while his young family are never heard of again in the film. Gravely ill from years of abuse, Serge calls the press to his bedside and chainsmokes triumphantly while on a drip. A drunken Serge fires a gun in front of young Charlotte and makes poor Jane lose the rag: next thing he's single and pulling a sultry young model in a nightclub. (Birkin and Charlotte also immediately disappear from the movie.) Right away Serge bullies this new girl: she just cosies up to him as a sugar-daddy and lovingly bears him a son called Lucien.

The original Lucien reappears in the film's climax, a concert disrupted by those reggae-hating ex-soldiers. The young boy had sung a few bars of the French national anthem earlier in the film - its reprise here, as French people young and old sing as one before turning on Serge, is heavy-handed symbolism. Yes, yes, they love him and hate him, he's both French and an outsider: Sfar seems to think this vignette will suffice in capturing the complexity of Gainsbourg and continuity of Ginsburg. In fact, it just feels like over-compensation for an hour of French pop star impersonations.

In summary, 'Gainsbourg: Vie Héroique' is an entertaining half-hour drama about young Serge that's spoiled by the 90 minutes of plastic telefilm tacked onto it. Go see it only if you're as uncritical a Serge fan as its director.

Here's the trailer:

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CLUAS on the move from Arizona to NebraskaTwo weeks ago I undertook one of the biggest tasks in the last 4 years of CLUAS: I moved the entire website to a new hosting company.  It's a move that sees us abandon the arid desert of Arizona for the flat plains of Nebraska... 

For the last four years we were hosted by the Arizona-based company Crystaltech and they served us well. However in the last 6 or so months I have seen that CLUAS needs a hosting company that really understands the Content Management System we use ("DotNetNuke", also known as DNN). DNN is a very sophisticated piece of kit and is simply becoming more and more critical to CLUAS and its operation. 
There is one hosting company - PowerDNN - who are fully focused on hosting just DNN websites. Their tech support team know DotNetNuke inside-out, which is exactly when I need to ensure our website is maintained in the right environment and, when problems crop up, that I can contact a support person who knows DNN. PowerDNN - based in Nebraska - fit the bill and are now, I am pleased to say, the new home of
They are a bit more expensive than our previous company (and we even get less diskspace and database space than we had with Crystaltech, something that has been debated elsewhere) but I think the benefits will outweigh these factors that are less critical in our case.
I got to see the expertise of PowerDNN almost immediately during this move: there were a few problems that reared their head in the migration but all was soon solved thanks to the excellent help of Joe, a senior engineer at PowerDNN, who dropped all tools for a period to ensure some rough spots were ironed out and that CLUAS was soon up and running with PowerDNN.
Moving the site to these DNN experts in Nebraska brought some immediate benefits. For example, an utterly head-wrecking problem that I have been trying to fix for 6 or so months is now fixed. The problem was that since August 2009 CLUAS users who, during login, clicked the 'remember me' option (which should keep them logged in to CLUAS on that computer for 7 days) would instead find themselves being logged out after a really short period of time, sometimes even minutes. This was a major frustration for writers publishing new articles, or users posting entries to the discussion board, as sometimes they'd be logged out before they 'd finished writing their content and their work would be lost. Thankfully this problem is now a thing of the past.
Another benefit I am seeing is a pretty big reduction (it could be as high as 50%) in the load time of pages on CLUAS. I'll wait another week to see if these fast speeds continue to hold up. If so one of Ireland's fastest music websites will have just gotten even faster. Look out for a blog entry from me about it next week with nifty nice graphs and stuff.
So, in the meantime can you step aside for Bruce Springsteen and his homage to Nebraska,'s new home...

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Nuggets from our archive

2007 - REM live in the Olympia, by Michael O'Hara. Possibly the definitive review of any of REM's performances during their 2007 Olympia residency. Even the official REM website linked to it.