The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Entries for 'Aidan Curran'


Les Rita Mitsouko: the late Fred Chichin (right) with his partner Catherine RingerFrench music fans were saddened to hear of the death yesterday of Fred Chichin, one half of cult pop act Les Rita Mitsouko.

Chichin, 53, succumbed to cancer and had suffered recurring health problems in recent years. Many shows on their current tour had already been cancelled due to Chichin's illness; he missed the group's Dublin concert on 17 October last.

Chichin is survived by his partner and collaborator Catherine Ringer, vivacious and combative in contrast with Chichin's more de
mure and cooler persona.

The duo were one of the most inventive and entertaining bands in France, combining eclectic musical influences with an energetic and colourful image. In their late '80s heyday they sold millions of records and worked with influential international names like Tony Visconti, producer of their 1988 album 'Marc et Robert'.

Their biggest hit was their 1985 single 'Marcia Baila', which topped the charts across mainland Europe.  The song is a tribute to Ringer's former dance teacher, who - by coincidence - had died of cancer. The chorus goes:  "Mais c'est la mort qui t'a consumée, Marcia / C'est le cancer que tu as pris sous ton bras" (but it's death that consumed you, Marcia / It's cancer that you took in your arms).

he single, rebellious and life-affirming, is a staple of French radio and a standard at French parties, wedding receptions... in effect, wherever two or more French people come together to dance to pop music. The joy and energy it inspires will be Chichin's legacy:

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Johnny HallydayWe told you a long time ago about how the new album by Johnny Hallyday (right) would feature a song called 'I Am The Blues' written especially by Bono. Some of our readers couldn't believe it. Others wondered if this were part of some mutual tax loophole they found.

Well, France's rock idol has just released said long-player, 'Le Coeur d'Un Homme' - and sure enough, the last track is 'I Am The Blues', sung in English by Johnny, written by Bono and... Simon Carmody!

BonoThe Golden Horde singer (below right), Dublin's greatest rock ligger, is sure to coin it from such a lucrative contribution - Johnny stills sells loads of records in France. Simon, make sure the two lads give you some tips on keeping as much of the royalties as possible.

As for the song itself, its lyrics feature a cri du coeur from the two ageing accountant-friendly rockers: "Falling through the cracks / The ticker tape and tax". The brazen chancers!

Simon CarmodyThe rest of the song aims to capture Johnny's Frenchness (even while the man himself is busy looking into his Belgian/Swissness). "I'm as blue as the Cote d'Azur", Bono has him sing, forgetting that the Cote d'Azur is grassy-green and sandy-brown and that the Mediterranean would be better for a bit of blueness.

Eventually Johnny decides that passport-shopping isn't for him: "I stood up to dance / I lost my balance / But my faith in France / Some things you can't lose". True; but other things you can lose, e.g. up to 60% of your earnings under the French tax system. Maybe it was his bank balance that he lost?

No video yet, but thanks to the magic of home-made YouTube you can listen to 'I Am The Blues' while you stare lovingly at the cover of Johnny's new album. There are rumours of tour dates in Monaco, the Isle of Man, Andorra, Switzerland and Bermuda:

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So your blogger's long march is over; France's train drivers are finally back on the rails and Parisian commuters can get back to their beloved metro-boulot-dodo routine. And dear old CLUAS seems to have surmounted the techie problems that knobbled us for the last couple of days (if anyone can sort out techie problems, it's the gaffer) and we're back blogging again. Yay! 

Jesus! It's Sebastien Tellier!Similarly, one of France's cult pop stars is shedding the stripey pyjamas of inactivity and slipping on the working clothes of music-making.

Sebastien Tellier's lovely 2004 single 'La Ritournelle' (from the equally fantastic 'Politics' album) received overwhelming critical adoration, loads of airplay and steady employment as a soundtrack to ads, promos, television reports, fashion shows and the like. Since then, Tellier has been conspicuous by his low profile, apart from performing the occasional small-scale Paris show.

A time-filling B-sides/odds n' ends album, 'Universe', came out last year, as Tellier was reported to be having difficulty in finishing the follow-up to 'Politics'. He collaborated on the soundtrack to (and had a cameo role in) a French comedy called 'Steak' directed by Quentin Dupieux, who in a past life was known as Mister Oizo and had an unlikely UK Number 1 in 1998 with a tuneless jeans-commercial jingle called 'Flat Beat' (both ad and video featured a yellow hand-puppet called Flat Eric. Remember?). Apart from that, no news of a new record.

The word in Paris was that Tellier was suffering something close to a nervous breakdown. Indeed, your blogger was witness to one act of bizarreness from Tellier - during a concert broadcast live on French radio station Radio Nova last year he revealed that his mother had died earlier that day. The shock and unease of his fans was nothing compared to that of Madame Tellier, alive and well and listening to her son on the radio.

Now, however, Tellier seems to have got himself in order. His new album, 'Sexuality', produced by Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo of Daft Punk, is due out in February of next year. The first single off it, 'Sexual Sportswear', has just been released.

On first listen, it's a disappointment. Swooshy synths, 'vintage' production (dig the whip-crack snare effects! The Kraftwerk-y keyboard riffs!) no vocals - all in all, it sounds like Jean-Michel Jarre. In other words, monotonous and boring. The SebastiAn Remix on the 12" has a bit more life to it, but it's still no great shakes. Let's hope it starts that mysterious process of 'growing on us' very soon, and that the album is better.

You can listen to 'Sexual Sportswear' and its remix on Tellier's MySpace page. There's no video yet, so here's Quentin Dupieux's video for the album version of 'La Ritournelle'. We're not asking Tellier to make exactly the same record again - just something new which is as entrancing as this:

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If Sky Sports had the rights to show live French industrial action, then Richard Keys would surely be calling today 'Super Grand Slam Strike Showdown Tuesday'. The striking transport workers will be joined on the streets of Paris today by the civil service. Many schools are closed today; communications and electricity employees are also being called out by their unions. Workers in all sectors are being invited to join the industrial action.

Parisian commuters push for a rare metroHowever, there's a general feeling that today will be the last day of France's current strike. Popular support for the transport workers is low (perhaps due to consistent anti-strike mainstream news coverage), and many of the smaller bus and rail unions have already gone back to work on the basis of negotiations offered by the government. There are enough trains and buses for people to move around with only slight delays and discomfort. And the civil service strike is just a one-day stoppage which happens to coincide with the transport workers' ongoing action.

Nonetheless, for today at least the stoppages and walkouts are continuing - and there are interesting repercussions. Many journalists and broadcasters have joined the industrial action. Quality broadsheets like Le Monde haven't been published today, and last night radio and television stations were warning their listeners and viewers of possible disruption.

Striking workers protest in ParisMost people, on hearing that news, probably saw the advantages to the strike at last. Today our favourite alternative radio station, Le Mouv', has no DJs - as a result it's playing non-stop music, with the only interruption being the occasional public service message to apologise for the disruption to regular programming. No need to apologise, monsieur! Let there be strikes every day! Your blogger will bring soup to the barricades if needs be! (Cultural difference: French workers on strike don't stand in picket lines outside their premises.)

It reminds us of the RTE strike in 1991, when the TV and radio schedules were filled with loads of movies, brilliant repeats (Sports Stadium that weekend featured the epic France-Brazil 1986 World Cup quarter-final in full), and wall-to-wall music.

Your blogger is resting in Château French Letter today, the day job being indirectly affected by the strikes. Sitting at home, listening to non-stop great music on the radio and watching football highlights on Eurosport (too essential to be allowed to go on strike), we are in complete solidarity with our fellow workers who are marching to Place de la Bastille this afternoon. Wrap up well, mes comrades - it looks freezing outside.

As a big shout out to our beloved transport workers, here's the Blondie/No Doubt power-pop of Superbus (honoured in our Best French Music Of 2006) and their current single 'Travel The World'. Like the Yael Naim song we featured recently, this song's chorus is a no-brainer for an ad campaign:

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Have our Dublin readers been along to the French Film Festival at the IFI? Seen anything interesting? Looking over the programme online, we saw that there's a screening of 'Ensemble C'est Tout' starring the lovely Audrey Tautou (Ah, if only everything in life were as lovely as the lovely Audrey Tautou). Also showing is petulant French footballer Vikash Dhorasoo's 'Substitute', where the ex-PSG player filmed (from the bench) les bleus' epic 2006 World Cup adventure.

Boxes by Jane BirkinNot forgetting romantic comedy 'Prête-Moi Ta Main' (here given the bland English title of 'I Do'; surely the literal translation - 'Lend Me Your Hand' - would have been better, given the film's storyline of a woman pretending to be a man's fiancé?) with the über-cool Charlotte Gainsbourg.

As it happens, Charlotte's mammy has a film at the festival too - 'Boxes' is Jane Birkin's directorial debut. It's autobiographical; Birkin stars as an Englishwoman looking back over her French life and loves. The film features John Hurt, Geraldine Chaplin and model/actress Lou Doillon - Charlotte's half-sister and Birkin's youngest daughter. Despite the mixed reviews it got from French cinema critics, it may still be of interest to Francophiles.

Birkin is, of course, famous for being the collaborator, muse and partner of Serge Gainsbourg. Regardless of how her directing career unfolds, her most celebrated contribution to popular culture will probably always be the long orgasmic groan that fades out 'Je T'aime (Moi Non Plus)', still pop's most notorious single.

The BBC banned it, the Vatican condemned it; unsurprisingly it shot to number one across Europe in 1969 and 1970. Apart from Birkin's suggestive sound effects, the lyrics are surprisingly unerotic - the most offended were probably ultra-Catholics ("l'amour physique et sans issue" - physical love without offspring, or without exit) and consultant proctologists ("je vais et je viens / Entre tes reins" - I come and I go between your kidneys). Gainsbourg wrote the song as a glib throwaway, and later regretted that outside France his entire career and work was reduced to this one single.

We've been told that the strange title - I Love You (Me Neither) - was apparently inspired by a French politician, perhaps Georges Pompidou of the ugly art gallery in Paris today, who hit upon the phrase 'moi non plus' as a way of worming out of a difficult question by appearing to both agree and disagree with the proposition - or at least to confuse the interviewer. But we haven't found any confirmation of this theory.

The song was originally written for Gainsbourg's previous lover/muse, Brigitte Bardot, in the manner of their 1967 duet 'Bonnie And Clyde', one of the greatest pop singles of the 1960s. However, Bardot objected to the finished version's sauciness and put her foot down; the single was never released. Today, listening to it on Serge compilations, perhaps she was justified on purely musical grounds - the poppy, jangly Bardot version is vastly inferior to the lush, soulful Birkin one.

Jane Birkin in her 1969 heydayBut how did the English girl come to sing on France's most famous pop song? Well, Gainsbourg and Birkin met in 1968 when the actress screen-tested for a part in a French movie called 'Slogan'. She had previously caused moral outrage for her role in Michelangelo Antonioni's classic Swinging London film 'Blow Up', where she became the first mainstream cinema actress to appear as a full-frontal nude on screen. Once she moved to Paris and played Gainsbourg's muse, Birkin became an icon in France; Hermès named one of its luxury handbags after her.

In 1975 Gainsbourg made a film starring Birkin called 'Je T'Aime (Moi Non Plus)': a Lars von Triers-esque tale of passionless sex and confused sexuality in a dreary small town. Birkin received great praise for her performance; from that point on she seems to have been taken more seriously as an actress by the French cinema establishment.

Birkin continues to sing and act. She was a special guest of the Dublin French Film Festival in 2003, and while in Ireland she performed a concert of Gainsbourg re-interpretations at Liberty Hall. Her solo albums are also critically acclaimed in France; in 1992 she was named Female Artist Of The Year in the French music industry's prestigious Victoire de la Musique awards.

The masterpiece of Serge and Jane's collaboration is unquestionably Gainsbourg's electrifying 1971 album 'Histoire De Melody Nelson', one of the few absolutely essential and globally influential French records. That said, the wider world will probably always hear their name and think immediately of a soulful bassline, a wistful organ melody and an English girl's groans. Here's the video for 'Je T'Aime (Moi Non Plus); sorry, but it's not a 'making-of' film:

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How was your weekend? Your Paris correspondent, still living under transport-strike conditions, covered a lot of ground on foot this weekend - mainly to reach the rare metro lines that were less affected than our own.

Nina HynesNonetheless, we managed to catch Nina Hynes (left) in concert at the Flèche d'Or again (she played a gig there last April too). The Barbarella of Irish pop put on a fine show; her recent long-player 'Really Really Do' is a delicious pick n'mix of electro, glam and indie - one of the best Irish albums of 2007.

If you managed to see Nina on her recent Irish tour, you were lucky - she almost didn't make it. Her tour van broke down in Germany en route to Eire, and she had to hire an estate car (in American, a station wagon) to continue her trip. Hynes currently lives in Berlin, where there's a Paris-esque transport strike these days too. And there are no buses in the northside of Dublin either! Hmmm: she seems to be spreading bad transport vibes... next on her tour diary is Italy in December - let's hope those lovely intercity Italian trains survive the experience.

Nina's Paris concert reminded us that she lived her for a while, and her stay here obviously inspired her to write material. Her single 'Monoprix' is named after a well-known French supermarket. Your blogger does his hunting/gathering there, but it doesn't seem so astral or dreamy to us. Perhaps Nina's local Monoprix was cooler than ours...

Anyway, check out Nina Hynes' current material (with her band The Husbands) on her MySpace page. Here's the video for 'Monoprix', not filmed in a French supermarket, we're sorry to say:

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Yael NaimBy any chance, has this song reached Ireland? It's being played all the time on French radio, and since it's in English we reckon it may spread Eire-wards very soon.

Yael Naim is a young Parisian singer-songer who mixes Hebrew folk and English pop. Her single 'New Soul' is a breezy little tune about how she's communing with the world (or something). First listen, it sounds sweet and cheery. After that, however, you want to kill it for its drippiness.

Our hunch about its world-domination potential comes because it's the perfect soundtrack for a commercial. You know the type: soft-focus beautiful people tripping through the daisies all hippy-like, eyes gleaming like deep pools of water, teeth shining like bathroom tiles. Then the logo for the bank or phone company pops up. All very soothing; you're literally begging them to take your money and make your world a happier place.

So, is Yael Naim the devil? Perhaps not. We just think that you'll soon be so sick of this song that you'll be kicking in your television. Here's the video, in which Yael moves into her new apartment and starts her new life - no doubt with the help of her friendly building society and their fantastically competitive rates:

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Queen of the swingers: Daphné, Prix Constantin laureate for 2007Parisian chanson française singer Daphné (left) has won the 2007 Prix Constantin, beating high-profile nominees like Justice and Keren Ann to the honour. She was rewarded for 'Carmin', her second album.

The singer was presented with the prize by jury chairperson Rachid Taha at a ceremony in Paris last night. The presentation took place after a show featuring performances from all the nominees. The only absentees were Justice, who played their scheduled concert in Bordeaux last night.

The Prix Constantin, France's equivalent to the Mercury and Choice prizes, is awarded to the act considered to be the year's musical revelation. The two criteria for eligibility are that the act is signed to a French label and has never attained gold status in France (75,000 sales).

After last year's win by slam rapper Abd Al Malik, Daphné's success is a return to the prize's 2005 form, when idiosyncratic singer/voice artist Camille was rewarded for her quirky take on the traditional French chanson style, where a skiffly/jazzy sound is combined with Latino/manouche rhythms and carefully-crafted lyrics.

You can listen to some tracks from Daphné on her MySpace page. Here's the video for her recent single 'Musicamor':

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Having been living in France for almost three years now, your blogger has become as cultivated as any Jacques le Frenchman. For instance, like Blur's Charmless Man, we know our claret from our beaujolais. It's simple really; you blow into a claret, whereas a beaujolais has strings.

Today is the annual celebration of the Beaujolais Nouveau, the first wines of the 2007 harvest. Bottles were ceremonially delivered Harry Potter-style at the stroke of midnight to bars and bistros around the country (notwithstanding the current transport problems), and bars are offering Beaujolais to its customers. It all reminds us of our recent stay in Beaune and the Côte d'Or, where we drove through endless acres of vineyards (well, not literally - we stayed on the roads) and sampled the merchandise.

The Beaujolais Nouveau celebrations bring back sad memories for many in the Irish media community. In 1984 four Irish journalists were killed when, flying back from France in an effort to bring the first bottles of new wine to Ireland, their chartered light aircraft crashed near Eastbourne on the southern English coast. The pilot and four other passengers also died.

Anyway, less of the new wine - let's get to the new tunes.

Many French music fans were disappointed at the news last autumn of the break-up of a Nantes band called The Little Rabbits. We especially liked their 1998 album 'Yeah', a catchy and cheeky collection of lo-fi alt-pop in the same vein as 'Western Sous La Neige' by Dionysos.

The good, the bad and the ugly: French CowboyThe good news for Little Rabbits fans is that lead singer Federico Pellegrini is back with a new band. French Cowboy (left) sees Pellegrini (under the hat) continuing in the English-language lo-fi-pop line of business, but now with added country influence. The group's first album, 'Baby Face Nelson Was A French Cowboy' has just been released. Wherever it finishes in the end-of-year album polls, it has Best Album Title all sown up.

If you're curious as to what a French cowboy sounds like, you can listen to some of the band's tunes on their MySpace page. Here's the video for their single 'Shake', directed by bassist Gaetan Chataigner and featuring the Cabaret New Burlesque; there's at least one CLUAS writer who'll love that:

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La Nuit Blanche at the Button Factory on Friday 16 NovemberIn French a nuit blanche (literally, 'white night') means an all-nighter. Paris celebrates an annual Nuit Blanche every October - museums and cultural spaces stay open until the wee hours and everyone gathers outdoors regardless of the autumnal weather.

All year round there's a more familiar Paris version of the all-nighter; the last metro being at 1 a.m. (an hour later on Saturdays), you miss it by accident or design and you resolve to stay out and awake until the metro re-opens at around 5:30 a.m. To this end many Paris bars stay open until five in the morning to exploit/shelter the weary metro-lingerer. This scenario is becoming less common thanks to the Vélib' public bike scheme and the improved Noctilien ('night-link', like in Dublin) late bus service.

Dublin's French and French-lovers can enjoy their own 'white night' this weekend. La Nuit Blanche is a live music event taking place at The Button Factory (all together now: "formerly known as the Temple Bar Music Centre") on Friday 16 November.

The soirée bills itself as 'the bohemian alternative to French chic'. So, we guess that there'll be little in the way of posing, pouting, swaggering or searing electro-punk soundclashes. Instead, the menu features "an often misunderstood side of the Parisian scene, where nostalgia and folk music confront contemporary and abrasive lyrics." What this means is that there'll be Django-inspired folk-jazz from Akim and skiffle-backed slam poetry from T'Inquiète Lazare.

Now, your blogger knows that you're quite the fan of French chic and posing on the dancefloor. Never fear: France-and-dance fans will be catered for by the DJs of French Friday, which recently finished its monthly residency at Thomas House. It'll finish late, you'll miss the last Nitelink and voilà! A real nuit blanche à la parisienne!

Tickets for La Nuit Blanche are yours for 12/14 euros from and when you arrive (doors are at 8pm) you're promised a complementary glass of Mr Hennessy, your blogger's illustrious Irishman-in-France predecessor.

Further details are available at the Nuit Blanche MySpace page.

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Nuggets from our archive

2000 - 'Rock Criticism: Getting it Right', written by Mark Godfrey. A thought provoking reflection on the art of rock criticism.