The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Entries for 'Aidan Curran'

03

We had been trying to take a break from featuring French indie-folk, seeing as how most of our posts this year seem to have featured gentle Gallic strumming.

Herman DuneBut then out comes the new Herman Dune album, 'Next Year In Zion'. The New York based Franco-Swedish folksters (right) are following up their relatively successful 2006 long player 'Giant', a rather charming (if slightly same-ish) collection of shambling anti-folk.

The new album isn't a radical departure or new direction, that's for sure. 'Next Year In Zion' is just as full of lovelorn acoustica and happy-clappy melodies that'll entertain both grown-up soirées and children's parties. 

Were we to be cynical we'd say they were sticking to the formula of their gorgeous 2006 single 'I Wish That I Could See You Soon' - but their childlike joie de vivre makes it hard to be cynical around them.

If you're a newcomer to the world of Herman Dune, new single 'My Home Is Nowhere Without You' is fairly representative. The rhythm and percussion remind us of Jonathan Richman's 'Egyptian Reggae', and the brothers Herman Dune certainly share the great man's current taste for romantic strumming.

Herman Dune will be touring the UK in December, so perhaps they'll pop over to Eire around then. You'll find all the latest HD news on their MySpace page. Here's the video for 'My Home Is Nowhere Without You'. Paris-spotters; that's Montmartre in the video:


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28
Your Paris correspondent went to the Parc des Princes for the first time on Saturday night. It was to attend our first ever French league game – Paris Saint Germain against Grenoble. We went with a group of grenoblois living in Paris and who had bought tickets not through the club but online.
 
The Boulogne BoysAlmost inevitably, the tickets weren’t for the away end of the stadium but the Boulogne end, home of the PSG ultras and one of the most notorious terraces in European football. So there we were, right behind the Paris Brigade – a group of young men with the pinched, rat-like faces of right-wing youth. (The real hardcore fans, the infamous Boulogne Boys, were to the left of us on the other side of a fence I loved like no other fence before.)
 
Fortunately, our Grenoble group weren’t wearing their gang colours. Besides, what away fans would be dumb or mad enough to go up the Boulogne end of the Parc des Princes? The subversive element was innocuous and went unnoticed.
 
Now that the World-Cup-winning 4-5-1 formation fad is dying out, French league football has improved a lot this season. Saturday’s match was relatively open and flowing. Grenoble had seemed happy to hang on for the away point, but after an hour they twigged that PSG weren’t much of a threat and started coming forward. Still, a scoreless draw looked probable.
 
Then with 13 minutes to go, Grenoble’s Nassim Akrour chanced a shot from just outside the PSG box. The ball floated gloriously over PSG keeper Mickael Landreau and landed softly against the back of the net like a baby being laid down in its cot to sleep. It was Grenoble’s only shot on target all night, and it proved to be the winner.
 
Deep in the heart of PSG territory, our group of Grenoble fans started celebrating.
 
PSG versus GrenobleFortunately again, the Paris Brigade had been concentrating on stiff-arm salutes and drill-sergeant chanting when the goal was scored, so they were taken by surprise. Either that or they really didn’t give a damn about who was up the stand behind them.
 
Anyway, your Paris correspondent spent his Saturday night as an away fan taking the home end of PSG’s ground. Who’ve have figured this hooligan streak in us? Next visit to Dublin, we’ll be hanging around Doyle’s Corner looking for Bohs fans.
 
Aside from our wanton acts of football aggression, we had an ear out for what music would be played in the stadium. Five minutes before the teams emerged, the PA was playing ‘Champagne Supernova’ by Oasis – a fitting band for the tedious and anticlimactic PSG. There was no music for when the teams came out, not even the French version of ‘The A-Team’. And for the song that’s played whenever PSG scored… well, we believe it’s on a wax cylinder in someone’s attic.

For their chants, the PSG fans took terrace favourite ‘Go West’ and made it “Paris, Paris Saint Germain”. They also sang their version of ‘One Man Went To Mow A Meadow’. But the most surreal moment was when they broke into a chant to the air of… ‘Flower of Scotland’.

Almost as strange was the drummer accompanying the Paris Brigade, who would occasionally strike up the rhythm of ‘Bolero’. Paris, where even the football ultras are cultured.

So, to celebrate our little victory over the forces of darkness, here's Sergiu Celibidache conducting the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra in a stirring version of 'Bolero':


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23

La Dame de Canton, formerly the Cabaret Pirate and the Guinguette PirateYou might remember that we told you last year about the floating music venues of Paris - boats docked on the Seine by the quay near the Bibliotheque François Mitterand. Being at a gig in the hold of a boat is a strange experience, but one we definitely recommend. (One of these boats, the Batofar, is actually an old Irish lightship still painted fire-engine red.)

The most popular of these venues was the Guinguette Pirate (right), more recently known as the Cabaret Pirate. As the name suggests, the boat had a pirate theme to it, although the music could be anything from electro beats to salsa rhythms.

As the more astute of our readers will have guessed from our use of the past tense, the Guinguette Pirate is no more. The boat still exists and will continue to host a busy programme of concerts and clubs. It's just that the owners have decided to change the name back to that of when it was a fully-functioning boat. So, from this day forth it's La Dame de Canton.

The Mighty StefThe Oriental flavour to its name is due to the fact that the boat is actually a Chinese junk. (The South China Sea was, and still is, a popular spot for pirates.)

Of the upcoming events on board, the one that catches our ear is the Spectaculaire festival this Sunday 28 September. We hear that one of the performers on the bill is The Mighty Stef (left, on a previous Paris trip). Stef's MySpace confirms the gig, but the venue's programme doesn't mention him.

(We also believed that French singer PacoVolume was on the bill. Again, the venue doesn't list him.)

Your blogger will head along on Sunday to find out, safe in the knowledge that he will not now risk having to walk the plank.

With a tenuous link to walking the plank, here's the video for "Death Threats" by The Mighty Stef, where he finds himself beside the sea:


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14

The cultural heart of Paris is la rive gauche, the celebrated Left Bank of the Seine. Its beat comes from the district of Saint Germain des Prés. 
 
Saint Germain has impeccable arty credentials. After the Second World War, existentialist writers like Sartre, de Beauvoir and Camus debated in Les Deux Magots and the Café Flore. A half-century before that, Oscar Wilde passed away in his final home, a room at the Hotel Alsace on the rue des Beaux-Arts.

A fat, bearded Jim Morrison would get raucously drunk in those same cafés. Continuing on his tourist trail, he sought out and stayed for weeks in the very hotel room where Wilde died. Morrison died soon after; rumour has it that he expired not in his apartment tub in Le Marais across town, but in a Saint Germain nightclub and was unceremoniously dumped back at his flat.

(There’s no connection between this area and Paris Saint Germain football club. PSG are named after Saint Germain en Laye, an affluent town west of Paris where the club still train.)

Today the Boulevard Saint Germain still buzzes with activity. In front of the street's large old church, especially on Sundays, there are exhibitions and happenings and street performers. You're sure to find musicians there, but they won't be playing 'Wonderwall' or 'Hallelujah' - not on those clarinets and double-basses. Saint Germain is the traditional home of jazz in Paris.
 
Saint Germain jazzThe Saint Germain jazz boom happened in the '40s and '50s. True, before the Second World War Django Reinhardt had been playing successfully around Paris with Stephane Grapelli and their group, Le Hot Club de France. (Trivia: the Hot Club de France were one of the first music groups to have a lead guitarist supported by a rhythm guitarist. Today most four- or five- piece rock bands line out in this formation.) But Django's greatest popularity came with his 1951 residency at the Club Saint Germain on rue Saint Benoît. 

Saint Germain was where bebop first hit Europe. The sleekness and melancholia of the new U.S. jazz sound was mother's milk to the dark-dressed, Gaulois-smoking, hip young artists in the clubs of the area. Local singers and artists like Boris Vian and Juliette Greco became French icons.
 
Miles Davis ruled here when he stayed in the French capital in the late 1950s. The monument to his Paris reign is his mournful soundtrack to Louis Malle's 'Ascenseur Pour L'Echauffaud'. One of the greatest and best-loved recordings in jazz history, Davis wrote and recorded it in a couple of days. The film's most famous scene and the score's best known section, when Jeanne Moreau wanders aimlessly along late-night streets, is the essence of Paris.

Around this same period, a jobbing piano player called Lucien Ginsburg started appearing in the smaller Saint Germain bars. Already in his early thirties when he went in, he emerged from those bars as Serge Gainsbourg, one of pop’s most influential figures. Gainsbourg lived in on rue de Verneuil, between the Boulevard Saint Germain and the Musée d’Orsay, and today his daughter Charlotte plans to turn the former family home into a Serge museum.

Those intimate jazz bars of Miles and Serge and Django have become imitation supper clubs and chic restaurants. Traipsing along the Boulevard Saint Germain today, Malle's heroine would find designer boutiques strung like rosary beads the length of the street.
 
Tourist by Saint GermainBut Saint Germain is still synonymous with jazz. Music shops and souvenir stands sell cheap compilations that bear the street's name and trade on its image. A jazz festival takes place here every year, but it feels more like a nostalgic ritual than an organic gathering.
 
However, there are still fresh sounds here. French musician Ludovic Navarre makes records under the name Saint Germain. You probably know his 2001 album 'Tourist' (left), which took familiar old Left Bank jazz and revitalised it with contemporary electronica and reggae rhythms.

Ironically, around the world it has been played to death in exactly the sort of wine bars and boutiques that have smothered the music's heartland.
 
But 'Tourist' still sounds fantastic. In Dublin your blogger-to-be, living with French flatmates, listened to it late at night while wondering about a move to Paris. The album still reminds us of the expectations and dreams we had about The Great Leap Forward.
 
Here's the best-known track from 'Tourist' - the Marlene Shaw-sampling 'Rose Rouge'. Oddly enough, the video is filmed around the Moulin Rouge, Pigalle and Montmartre in the north of Paris, far from Saint Germain in the south city centre:



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13

A review of the debut album by The Gorgeous Colours

Gorgeous ColoursReview Snapshot: The debut from the Dublin-based four-piece is a solid, likeable indie-rock artifact. There’s nothing that’ll frighten the horses and it’ll sound satisfactory from a summer stage.

The Cluas Verdict? 6.5 out of 10

Full Review:
Many Irish indie fans first came across The Gorgeous Colours as the support act at shows by The Immediate, now-defunct next-big-things of season 2006-07. The two Dublin bands shared an alt-rock sound that will be classic for some, unoriginal for others. One can imagine how inconsolable Immediate fans, clutching their tear-stained ‘In Towers And Clouds’, will find much solace in The Gorgeous Colours’ debut.

In general, this record is a throwback to two familiar indie strands. You have the jaunty jangling of ‘Holey Moley’ and weak opening track ‘Means To An End’, where the band don’t quite pull off the breezy, cheeky-chappy attitude they seem to be aiming for.

By contrast, there’s a serious, emotive alt-rock side that’s emphasized by the mid-Atlantic twang to Geoffrey McArdle’s singing voice. The Gorgeous Colours sound surer of themselves on this ground – which is not to say that they’re always convincing; ‘I Don’t Know What To Do’ may mean well but it comes across as a exercise in writing something poignant (“All I know about hope/It don’t hang from no rope”) in minor chords.

Still, it’s no great leap of the imagination to figure that The Gorgeous Colours could build a strong live following on the back of this material. Neil Smyth’s guitar hooks on the likes of ‘Miss You’ and ‘Hunting Something’ have the ring of what would sound good at a summer festival or outdoor show. And the rhythm section – Tim Groenland on bass and Glenn L’Heveder on drums – is as sound as you’d demand from a decent live band.

However, this album’s recurrent dad-indie-rockness makes it sound a bit jaded in parts. The rolling country-rock of ‘The Rails’, for instance, will please fortysomething punters who reminisce about seeing The Fat Lady Sings in The Baggot Inn back in the day. Like a lot of this record, it’s pleasant and well-made but never catches fire. (This reviewer has the quaint notion that records should have catchy bits you sing in the shower and whistle on the way to work. We found none of that here.)

Ultimately, this is a solid debut but we reckon it may be a better experience live than on record. The Gorgeous Colours: the new Something Happens?

Aidan Curran


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07

A review of the album 'The Hare's Corner' by Colm Mac Con Iomaire

The Hare's Corner by Colm Mac Con IomaireReview Snapshot: The solo project of trad-meets-world from the Frames violinist is well-played and thoughtfully crafted throughout. But you yearn for a spark of electricity to liven up the unrelenting politeness of the whole affair. By no means a bad record – just uneventful and ultimately featureless. Let this hare sit.

The Cluas Verdict? 6 out of 10

Full Review:
The first cinemas put a piano-player at the foot of the screen and he would plink-plonk along to the action in the film, enhancing the onscreen sentiment and prompting us how to react. Today, we almost invariably describe instrumental music as ‘cinematic’. It doesn’t exist independently, but serves to soundtrack something. We expect it to evoke epic landscapes and hyperdramatic situations.

Regardless of this, Glen Hansard’s nixer, as uncinematic as cinema music can get, has earned him an Oscar. Now here’s his Frames colleague Colm Mac Con Iomaire with his own solo project, eleven instrumental tracks that will no doubt have listeners judging it against the movies in their heads.

The titles and sleevenotes to ‘The Hare’s Corner’ are bilingual, half Irish and half English. The record itself follows similar lines, mixing traditional Irish influences with a fashionably cosmopolitan range of classical and world sounds. As you’d expect from the Frames fiddler, violin is prominent in the arrangements.

However, the VU/Bad Seeds avant garde screeching of his band work is replaced by tastefully melodic lines. As a result, this record is unfailingly polite to the point of near blandness. There’s little in the way of personality or character on show here. Most of the airs are slow to mid-tempo, with only the jaunty ‘Thou Shalt Not Carry Timber/Ná hIompar Adhmad’ jarring things up a bit. Trad arrs like ‘The Cuckoo Of Glen Nephin/Cuachín Ghleann Néifin’ and ‘The Court Of New Town/Cúirt Bhaile Nua’ are played with safe hands.

Back to our opening proposition: instrumental music always being reduced to soundtrack work. In this light, ‘The Hare’s Corner’ can be called incidental music. Not in the sense that it’s packed with incident, but that it stands unassumingly in the background while something more interesting grabs your attention.

Aidan Curran


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06

It seems that every second French act is playing folk-tinged acoustic indie-pop. It's something of a fashion here.

So far this year we've featured Syd Matters, Barth, Cocosuma, St Augustine, Poney Express, The Rodeo, The Dø, Roken Is Dodelijk, Da Brasilians and adopted Frenchie Micky Green. All of them are clearly in thrall to the likes of Nick Drake and Elliott Smith, which is no bad thing.

PussydelicNow, lest you think we only have ears for soft-spoken strummers, here's something loud and swaggering.

Pussydelic (right) are a self-styled "girls' rock n'soul band" from Limoges in central France. An all-female six-piece, the group clearly take their lead from Beth Ditto - they make a Gossip-esque punk-funk racket that's high on attitude. Three of the six - Natty, Mayhia and Myriam - are singers, and the band's three-up-front line-up certainly goes for power. But the vocal trio can also harmonise to good effect.

In the often macho world of live gigging, their sense of sisterhood is all the greater - they augment their line-up with Justine the second bass player and Caroline the sound engineer. 

The band's most noticed song to date is called "Dick For A Brain". While it could never reach the dizzyingly high expectations you have of a song called "Dick For A Brain" by an all-female rock band called Pussydelic, it's still enjoyable. They also do a rocked-up version of Nancy Sinatra's "Bang Bang".

You can visit Pussydelic's MySpace page to hear tracks from their recent EP, "Six, Sex And Fun" (a pun on a Serge Gainsbourg hit called "Sea, Sex And Sun"). Here's the band live, playing a song you won't hear on that EP - the raucous "I Don't Need This":


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19
Around 30,000 French people have decided that their home country is just not wet or expensive enough. So they moved to Ireland, and now our French community is one of the largest non-national groups in the country.
 
After a hard day of teaching the passé composé, importing croissants and laughing at our rugby team, our French neighbours like to let their hair down and dance. But when they go to their local Irish disco, they’re expected to dance to traditional Irish music like Cascada and Kid Rock. “Alors, où sont-elles les bonnes tubes?” they say to themselves philosophically. “Que French Friday revienne!”
 
Well, we hear that Dublin’s regular French club night is starting up again after a few months out of action. French Friday returns on 31 August.
 
Yes, 31 August is a Sunday. But, with Sarko-esque disregard for Irish public opinion, they’re still calling it French Friday.
 
The new home for French Friday is the Bia Bar on Stephen’s Street, just off Grafton Street. Your evening of Parisian electro, Riviera floorfillers and Johnny Hallyday starts at 6:30 p.m. and goes on until 11 p.m. Admission is free.

Another interesting statistic from the 2006 census: 71% of the French people in Ireland are single. Here’s some exclusive footage of the last French Friday night:


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18

Remember how we told you about La Route du Rock, the French indie music festival that was in danger of financial meltdown?

The story so far: Last week’s three-day event at Saint Malo in Brittany needed to attract at least 14,000 paying punters to break even and guarantee the festival’s future. However, mere days before the kick-off, it was rumoured that only 8,000 tickets had been sold. The festival director told the media that La Route du Rock was in financial trouble. The festival’s website featured a begging letter asking fans for donations. Now read on…

La Route du Rock took place in Saint Malo on 14-16 August, as scheduled. And what do you know? The festival welcomed over 16,000 fans! Despite unseasonably cool weather, at least 5,000 fans came for each of the three nights.

The attendance was healthy enough to ensure the survival of the bi-annual trip to Brittany. “There will be winter and summer shows in 2009,” declared festival director François Floret, who only days before had been downbeat about the event's future.

Sigur Ros onstage at La Route du Rock 2008Floret and his team will surely be toasting Sigur Ros (left, onstage at the festival). Promoting their much-fancied new album 'Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust', the Icelanders drew fans from across Europe.

“All their English shows are sold out,” festival-goer and Sigur Ros fan Andrew Dowset from Bristol explained to local newspaper Ouest France. “We looked for a date in Europe that wasn’t too far from where we live, and that’s how we found out about La Route du Rock.”

Cynical readers will probably wonder if the festival organisers were overplaying their poor-mouth act just to generate extra publicity. However, painting your festival as a dead man walking is hardly going to attract floating voters. That said, 6,000 extra punters don’t just walk up to a geographically-isolated festival at the last minute, as we’re lead to believe here. 

Whatever the reasons, France’s much-loved indie festival seems set for a stable future. The sea air obviously works wonders.

From La Route du Rock 2008, here are festival saviours Sigur Ros with 'Hoppipolla':
 


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16
Should you have been reading the Sunday Independent’s magazine section this morning and weren’t completely distracted by the Caroline Morahan feature, you’ll have noticed an article on another ambitious young lady who’s just as photogenic and cool.
 
Regular readers of the Irish music blogs will already know Carly Blackman from features by Sinéad Gleeson and Aoife McIndieHour. Blackman trades as Carly Sings and deals in the sort of dreamy acoustic pop you should be consuming.
 
The Glove Thief by Carly SingsShe has just released her debut album, ‘The Glove Thief’, and it’s lovely. Her thoughtful, playful way of juggling genres and mixing influences reminds us of the marvellous ‘Jet’ by Katell Keineg. Other times her hushed delivery and atmospheric arrangements recall Stina Nordenstam’s ‘And She Closed Her Eyes’.
 
If you find Carly’s blend of bossa nova shuffling, ‘60s popness and sultry cabaret crooning somewhat Parisian then you’ve hit the mark. Blackman moved to the French capital as a teenager and studied in the Sorbonne. Now back in Dublin, her music still has a French touch – not least in some songs en français.
 
Bien sûr, there’s a song called ‘L’Amour’ and we won’t spoil the romantic mood by translating Blackman’s French lyrics: “Tu es mon rayon/Mes medicaments”. Her English songs are just as abstract, and the effect is quite beguiling. ‘George Emerson’ begins: “I want to meet you on a tightrope/High above your hometown” and there are plenty more moments just as poetic as this.
 
Carly Sings will be at Electric Picnic, Hard Working Class Heroes, the Dublin Fringe Festival and Cork’s Festival Of World Culture, so if you’re out of the house over the next month you’re sure to catch her in concert. No news of any French shows in the near future, though. Bad news for your blogger but good news for possessive Irish pop fans.

Before dashing out the door to your nearest Carly Sings show, you can sample the merchandise at her MySpace page. And here's the video for 'Eyes Closed':


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Nuggets from our archive

2004 - The CLUAS Reviews of Erin McKeown's album 'Grand'. There was the positive review of the album (by Cormac Looney) and the entertainingly negative review (by Jules Jackson). These two reviews being the finest manifestations of what became affectionately known, around these parts at least, as the 'McKeown wars'.