The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Entries for 'Aidan Curran'

16

The most important Irishman in the music industry these days isn't Bono or Paul McGuinness or even Louis Walsh. It's Charlie McCreevy.

Our former finance minister (right, listening to his fave tunes) is the European Commissioner with responsibility for the internal market and services - in other words, how we in the EU trade amongst ourselves.

What has this got to do with the music biz? Well, while you were canoodling with your significant other on Saint Valentine's Day, McCreevy really did the dog on it, and gave the record industry their heart's desire. On February 14 he announced his intention to extend the duration of copyright for a performer's recordings, from 50 years to 95 years.

Under current legislation, a composer enjoys seventy years of copyright protection, while the interpreter's rights lapse after fifty. While composer-performers like The Beatles were not due to lose their writing copyright anytime soon, use of their recordings would have been up for grabs. The situation was even bleaker for non-writing singers and musicians active in the early-'60s and before, who were fearing severe loss of income in the coming years.

French record companies, for instance, are surely fuming that some rights have lapsed on many recordings by Edith Piaf, especially given the renewed interest generated by the current Oscar-nominated biopic. Similarly, there's no copyright on many performances by Maria Callas, still the world's most popular diva, and Django Reinhardt.

Piaf's version of 'La Vie En Rose', for instance, is in the public domain and now appears on many of the cheap Paris compilations touted at tourists nostalgic for pre-war Paris or post-war Saint-Germain. Those compilations also feature tracks by the likes of Josephine Baker, Charles Trenet and Lucien Boyer - perennial favourites who could still make loads of money for record companies were they still in copyright. Those tourists buy the compilations more for souvenir value than listening pleasure, but it still represents a considerable spend on music. Understandably, French record companies are unhappy at the idea of losing the copyright income of ever more established stars.

Imminent on the public-domain horizon (from a French perspective) were lucrative back catalogues by Johnny Hallyday and Charles Aznavour. McCreevy's announcement ensures that Hallyday (still recording and touring to enormous success) and his generation, not to mention their record companies, can continue to reap royalties from a lifetime of recordings.

The extension to 95 years follows the lead of the United States, where the Copyright Term Extension Act (popularly known as the Sonny Bono Act, after the late singer/senator) of 1998 already guarantees a near-century of rights.

Europe's music industry has been lobbying on the issue for some time. On the European Commision website you can even watch a video of a 2006 meeting between Commissioner McCreevy and Lucien Grange, CEO of Universal Music.

Any mention of profit from art and music is always a sensitive and emotive subject, and the music industry's line is usually something like 'we're protecting the rights of smaller artists'. In this regard, McCreevy is certainly on-message: "I am not talking about featured artists like Cliff Richard or Charles Aznavour," he said in his announcement. "I am talking about the thousands of anonymous session musicians who contributed to sound recordings in the late fifties and sixties. They will no longer get airplay royalties from their recordings. But these royalties are often their sole pension".

True, no doubt, but you can be sure that it wasn't nameless sessioners that Grange was seeing McCreevy about. The references to Cliff Richard and Charles Aznavour indicate something more than the Commisioner's listening habits: one English and one French star to (subconsciously, perhaps) represent the biggest record markets (and thus, strongest lobbies) in Europe - if we count out U2 and ABBA, English and French acts sell more internationally than acts from any other EU states (the internal market, as we saw).

McCreevy's proposal is expected to be adopted by the Commission before its summer recess. Cliff Richard can then go on his summer holidays, no more worries for quite a long while.


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15

On their first two albums, Parisian trio Cocosuma (not to be confused with Canadian duo CocoRosie) were plugging away at the loungecore end of the electro-pop spectrum. They achieved minor success in France, got on a few soundtracks and compilations (the way most loungecore electro acts do) and could be overheard in hip cafés (likewise). So far, so-so.

CocosumaHowever, the departure of singer Kacey seems to have shocked the remaining pair, Chab and Michel (who spells his name Michelle! What a gas character, etc!), into changing their style. And the change has done them a power of good.

In comes an English singer, Amanda, et voilà! The new and improved Cocosuma (right) now make sunny pop anglaise à la Peter Bjorn and John, latter-day Belle and Sebastian and 'Revolver'-era Beatles. We also reckon they like Brian Wilson, perhaps own the first Badly Drawn Boy album - and definitely some Nick Drake, what with the wistful acoustic sound of many of their new tracks. And the fair Amanda and her gentle voice might remind Irish music fans of Carol Keogh from The Plague Monkeys, Automata and The Tycho Brahe.

The band themselves say they're somewhere between Joy Division and Take That, but that might just be more of Michel/Michelle's gasness. You never know with that fella!

The new line-up's first long-player, 'We'll Drive Home Backwards', also continues the current fashion for intriguing album titles by English-language French acts (the reigning champs are French Letter favourites Cocoon and their 'My Friends All Died In A Plane Crash').

It's a fine album of breezy indie-folk-pop tunes, some of which you can hear on Cocosuma's MySpace page. And for your tired eyes, here's the soothing video for 'Cinders'. No doubt our readers will instantly recognise that it features Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn performing an extract from 'Swan Lake'. Following on from our jazz and folk-trad mini-sites, let this be the first part of the new CLUAS Ballet Section:


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14

All year round, Paris is considered the city of romance. It's no surprise, then, that lovebirds flock here from around the world for Saint Valentine's Day. There are English-speaking couples everywhere at the moment: strolling along the Seine, kissing in cafés, maxing out the credit card at Louis Vuitton.

The lovey-dovey couple still need to tread carefully down those boulevards, though. Restaurants and hotels, predictably, have upped their prices. And the male of the species would be best advised not to book a table at the Crazy Horse, the famous burlesque cabaret - the current star attraction is Pamela Anderson.

If you live in the French capital, it's unfairly easy to treat your chérie on Valentine's Day. Simply take him/her outside the door, and voilà! You've whisked them off to Paris! The brasserie on the corner where you have your lunch: an intimate little restaurant in Paris! Look up: the Eiffel Tower is glittering - just for you, mon coeur! And so forth.

Cynicism aside, the cinematic grandeur of the place is what makes it so conducive to romancing. Even after years of living here, you can still find Paris dramatically beautiful. Just a glimpse of that beautiful Haussmannian architecture or those art deco Metro signs can transform the dullest working Wednesday. On the streets of Paris, skipping and fluttering is a natural condition of the heart.  

And the city has a history of epic romances, from the ill-fated Abelard and Heloise of medieval times to the costume drama of Napoleon and Josephine up to the existentialist passion of Sartre and de Beauvoir. 'Amélie' (left) defined the modern image of the Parisian love affair - tour guides bring couples to the key locations of the movie, such as Sacré Coeur and the Canal Saint-Martin. And even the current Sarko-Carla soap opera, long tiresome to most people here, seems to the rest of the world so romantic, so glamorous, so... Parisian.

Love affairs, of course, are often doomed and tragic. Strolling down the boulevard, you may step in something (a constant hazard in dog-infested Paris). That little restaurant rips you off like the dumb tourist you are. And what's that eyesore on the skyline, that lump of metal like a vinegar bottle?

Such a sad ending seems to have been the experience of one Irish lover in Paris - here's Neil Hannon singing about 'The Frog Princess':

 


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10

Your Paris correspondent was at the Stade de France (a.k.a. The Killing Fields) yesterday for what has now become the Irish rugby team's annual defeat in the French capital. Yes, we know it was a close-run thing (why did Eoin Reddan turn away from a gaping hole in the French defence with only minutes left and metres to the line? The French fans near us were incredulous) - but your blogger hates moral victories more than trouncings.
 
The French team singing La Marseillaise in 2007Even before the war, we had already lost an important battle. As the teams lined up, both anthems were sung a capella by a military choir. The setting emphasised again the weakness of 'Ireland's Call' (erroneously introduced by the stadium announcer as 'the Irish national anthem') - a song which completely fails to fill the role of an inspirational rallying cry. Of the Irish fans in the stadium, few sang the verses. Only the chorus seemed to inspire us to join in, albeit self-consciously, as if our mammy was kissing us goodbye outside the school gate while our mates were watching. What's more, nobody sang it during the game.  
 
By contrast, 'La Marseillaise' was as stirring as ever. As is their custom, French fans sang it on numerous occasions during the game - both to celebrate the good times and to encourage their team during the difficult passages. It worked; even as France's disastrous substitutions handed the initiative to Ireland, there was always a sense that les bleus would still do just enough to win.

'La Marseillaise' just happens to be a cracking tune, as evocative and quintessentially French as the songs of Edith Piaf. Unlike many anthems, it's instantly recognisable - we all know it from the opening bars of 'All You Need Is Love'. More recently, our fellow Irish rugby-loving Francophile Neil Hannon worked the same intro through 'The Frog Princess'. And the anthem of Springfield has exactly the same air, according to 'The Simpsons Movie'.

None of those international borrowings caused any serious offence in France - unlike versions by French-based artists. Django Reinhardt's sprightly jazz manouche reworking, which he called 'Echoes Of France' was tut-tutted by post-war Paris.

But that was nothing compared to the venomous reaction to Serge Gainsbourg's 1978 reggae version. Its title, 'Aux Armes Et Caetera', was initially interpreted as a provocatively disrespectful dig at the anthem's rousing call-to-arms: "Aux armes, citoyens!" But Gainsbourg, with the air of a card sharp playing a trick ace, brandished a Revolution-era document - apparently a manuscript of the original lyrics - which featured the line as "Aux armes, et caetera". This argument didn't sway a certain group of veteran paratroopers, who made death threats against Gainsbourg and stopped him from performing his version in public at a concert in Strasbourg - home of the song's composer, Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle.

So why is it not called 'La Strasbourgoise'? Well, the song, written in 1792, was the anthem of a troop from Marseille who sang it as they marched up to Paris that summer, thus spreading it throughout France. It was adopted as the French national anthem on Bastille Day in 1795 and has remained so virtually ever since, although it was briefly banned during the Restoration.

Ironically, the anthem was originally written in honour of a German - to be precise, a French officer called Nicolas Luckner who was born in Bavaria. What's more, the luckless Luckner travelled to Paris in 1794, at the height of the Reign Of Terror, to resign from his post - and was promptly sent to the guillotine by Robespierre's beloved Revolutionary Tribunal. There's gratitude for you.

We hope that no Irish fans whistled or booed the French anthem yesterday; technically it's an offence to disrespect 'La Marseillaise', with a penalty of €7,500 and six months in the modern-day Bastille. This isn't some archaic law in a dusty tome, but a modern piece of legislation from 2003, introduced by none other than future President Nicolas Sarkozy (we believe that you in Ireland may be familiar with his work of late).

However, a subsequent ruling by France's constitutional council limits the law's application to official events and allows for an exemption in artistic or private circumstances.

So, there you go: no messin' with the 'Marseillaise'. Here's further proof - the famous anthem duel from 'Casablanca'. And to think we sent 'Ireland's Call' out to compete with THIS:


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06

The ThrillsThe Thrills (right) are currently enjoying some much-needed TV exposure and interest in France; 'Santa Cruz' is the soundtrack to an advertisement by French credit institution CetelemIt follows the Blackrock Beach Boys' contribution to another French ad of late: 'Big Sur' was the jingle for a tourism campaign for the Midi-Pyrénées region.

CreditoThe Cetelem ad features the company's mascot, Credito (how do these marketing guys do it?) - a small green chappie who seems to be made from someone's front lawn. Did some Parisian ad agency guy make a subconscious link between the leafy green man (left) and a band from Ireland, land of leafy greenness? Credito has his own website, if you're interested. 

Anyway, the ad: to the hoarse whining of Conor Deasy, small green chappie is seen helping target punter (scruffy indie guy) make his dream come true by financing his new drum kit. And the little fella's so nice that he even carries the drum kit home, and the guy also wants to buy a piano, and it's gas really.

Of course, the Thrills soundtrack would have made more sense if the indie punter wanted to purchase singing lessons.

And the band themselves could do with a bit of support; EMI dropped them after poor sales for their 2007 album 'Teenager'. Let's hope the bank isn't repossessing their drumkit.

Here's the ad, with music from The Thrills. Small green fella, carry their gear for them!


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04

At last, Irish music buyers will have the chance to pick up the best French album of recent years.

Emily LoizeauVia Sinead Gleeson, we understand that 'A L'Autre Bout Du Monde' by Emily Loizeau (right) is coming out in Ireland on 11 February.

Regular readers will be familiar with this fantastic collection of dark, dreamy cabaret-pop. Originally released in early 2006, we've been raving about it ever since and it was our top long-player in our annual Best French Music list that year.

If its Irish release seems a bit tardy, it also proved to be something of a slow-burner in France. Word of mouth made it a cult favourite here, and a timely re-issue last autumn (along with a well-publicised Paris show at the Grand Rex) saw Loizeau finally break into the mainstream market. She has now been nominated in the French music industry's annual Victoires de la Musique, equivalent of the Brits or Meteor awards.

Loizeau has close ties to one Irish artist who shares her piano-driven cabaret sound. She joined Duke Special on stage at his Paris show last April, and recorded some tracks with him around the same time. Since then, she supported him in Belfast last August and he returned the favour at her aforementioned Grand Rex gig last November. No news yet of any Irish shows in 2008.

Loizeau is half-English and often sings en anglais - including album track 'London Town' with Andrew Bird (in French, l'oiseau means 'the bird'). Trivia: her maternal grandmother was actress Peggy Ashcroft, who starred the original version of 'The 39 Steps'.

Her second full-length album is due for release later this year, but you can catch up by listening to tracks from 'A L'Autre Bout Du Monde' on Emily Loizeau's MySpace page. Here's the video for 'Je Suis Jalouse':


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03

We've previously remarked on the trend of female French singers influenced by Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground.

On the boys' side, however, the heroes seem to be Nick Drake and Elliott Smith. There's a notable surge in French English-language acts who draw on the pastoral folk of the former, the gorgeous melodies of the latter and the tragic melancholy of both. We've already featured the marvellous Cocoon, for instance, who were prominent in our 2007 end-of-year polls.

Syd MattersNow there's an early runner for our 2008 version who's clearly in thrall to Drake and Smith. His name is Jonathan Morali (right), but he trades as Syd Matters. Apart from the early-Floyd allusion of his nom de rock, Morali cites Radiohead's 'OK Computer' as a profound influence on his music, and his singing voice certainly has a touch of Thom Yorke's quieter moments.

That said, his overall sound is closer to Drake's 'Pink Moon' and Smith's 'XO' - intimate acoustic ballads that bypass the navel-gazing introspection of lesser singer-songers.

Syd's third album, 'Ghost Days', has just been released - and it's lovely. First single 'Everything Else' is a good representation of the album; crisp and clear writing in a warm, intimate folk-pop setting. Lyrically, it marries nervous introspection with self-assured smartness: "I thought I was dead, oh / Shot in the head, oh".

You can listen to snippets from 'Ghost Days' on Syd Matters' MySpace page. Here's the charming video for 'Everything Else', whose flying red house makes it strangely similar to the psychedelic opening credits to 'Wanderly Wagon'. Shine on, you crazy diamond!


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01

We were poking around on various video-sites trying to find for footage of a certain Irish popstar being cringeworthy on French TV (acting like an eejit, murdering the language - stuff we all like to see). Unfortunately, we haven't found it yet - and it's worth it, so we won't spoil the surprise for if/when we eventually dig it up.

Neil Hannon(And no, it's not Damien Rice, who generally gives good French-language TV interviews which have all, alas, been removed from the interweb. Is there a conspiracy?)

What we DID come across, though, was the video for The Divine Comedy's 1996 French version of 'Alfie'. It's called 'Comme Beaucoup De Messieurs' (translation: Like Lots Of Gentlemen), and it's a duet featuring the Francophile Neil Hannon and a well-known French comic actress called Valérie Lemercier.

The French lyrics tread similar ground to the English original, though Hannon's character is chided for being bookish ("You quote Boris Vian, Camus / Your nose stuck in your songbooks"). There's an Alfie reference thrown in too.

Now, your Francophone Paris correspondent doesn't like to look down on the language problems of others - but we'll just point out that Hannon's French really isn't good enough to sing without cog notes (just like the ones you used in your Leaving Cert). We know this because at the Divine Comedy's 2006 Paris show he had trouble getting past 'bonsoir' and his terrible French was the running joke of the night.

Valérie Lemercier(Hannon currently features in another Franco-Irish duet: a version of 'Favourite Song' with Vincent Delerm, from the latter's live album of the same name. Hannon, struggling with the French lyrics, loses the plot halfway through and the pair burst into laughter.)

Lemercier (left) had her own album, the kitsch-pop 'Chante', out around the same time as her duet with Hannon. More recently, she wrote and duetted with TV talent show winner Christophe Willem, runner-up in our Best French Songs Of 2007.

She's a fine comic actress, though she tends to appear as the same slightly deranged character in a lot of her work. That said, her typically frenetic perfromance stole the show in a gentle 2007 rom-com called 'Fauteuils D'Orchestre', for which she won a César film award during a ceremony she was actually presenting.

No awards here for quality of the footage - or of the singing:


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29

One of the newer pleasures of being a music lover is following in greater detail the goings-on in the business side of the industry. Who'd have thought that record company execs, with their end-of-the-world-is-nigh public statements and their loveably deluded sense of what their target punter might actually like to consume, would be such gas fun to watch? And often just as entertaining as their employees, pop stars?

But there they are, jumping from the arts to the business to the news sections of our press like clowns working a children's party. Meanwhile, the likes of Jim Carroll keep a Skibbereen Eagle-eye on the evil empire's every move and interpret it for our entertainment. It's great stuff altogether.

MIDEMAnyway, this week Guy Hands (we can't read that name without thinking of Guy Smiley, greatest gameshow host EVER) and his colleagues have gathered in Cannes, conference capital of France, for the annual MIDEM music industry conference. As the event's brochure succinctly puts it, "delegates from the recording, publishing, live, digital, mobile and branding sectors will gather in Cannes to do deals, network, learn and check out new talent."

Jim recently gave a typically perceptive commentary on what may go down on the business side of things. But that last part of the event description above, the bit about 'new talent', made us very curious. What exactly will the music executives be listening to? And are these the acts they are no doubt plotting (with a mad cackle and hand-rubbing gesture) to foist upon our daytime airwaves and commercial breaks in 2008?

Yael NaimWell, the concert programme features an admirable geographical spread of pop, rock, electronica, classical and jazz acts. Irish and UK music fans will recognise the names of Richard Hawley and Reverend And The Makers, playing in a special British showcase concert. Despite the welcome development of Music From Ireland, the brandname for the Irish contingent at this year's SXSW festival, there's no Irish showcase concert at this year's MIDEM.

But if we were to pick one act from the line-up who's probably going to receive a massive corporate push to global stardom out of the MIDEM, it'd have to be Yael Naim (left). The Franco-Israeli chanteuse's photo is splashed all over today's Paris papers (yes, even edging out the Sarko/Carla photo-romance) as being the smash hit of the conference.

Our regular readers will remember that we featured her back in November 2007 and asserted that her marketing-friendly single 'New Soul' would be the soundtrack to ads the world over. We thought this happy-clappy new age folk-pop tune would be ideal for a bank or building society, but we understand that Apple have picked it as the jingle for their new MacBook Air.

The track is taken from Naim's eponymous debut album, and both have been chart-toppers in France. While she can certainly write catchy choons, she tends to spoil it all with her innate drippiness: 'New Soul' sounds great on first listen but quickly gets all icky and naff, especially on the fade-out when she gurgles and babbles like an infant. Perhaps that's a shout-out to France's lucrative infant demographic.

Still, there's little doubt that the song and its photogenic singer will be hugely successful worldwide in 2008. The music execs are no fools. Here's the video for 'New Soul':


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28

The first Irish band to announce a French show for 2008 are... [drum roll] ...The Dubliners, playing the Olympia in Paris on Saint Patrick's night.

But the second Irish* act to confirm a Paris gig are the reformed My Bloody Valentine (right), who have just announced a concert at the Zénith on 9 July.

The Zénith is a 6,000+ capacity indoor venue at the north-eastern edge of the city. As Kevin Shields and co. are something of a cult band here in France too, and given the likelihood of MBV trips to Paris by eager Irish and UK fans, we reckon this'll sell out toot sweet.

Tickets have just gone on sale and cost €42.80 from FNAC (in French) and the French equivalent of 'usual outlets'.

Start planning your summer holidays, MBV fans!

*The FNAC site calls them 'irlandais', so that settles that, then.


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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.