The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Entries for 'Aidan Curran'

02

Review Snapshot:
An ambitious 'organic dance' album that lets itself down with bad production, outdated dancefloor sounds and a basic misunderstanding of what an eclectic record should sound like. 

The CLUAS Verdict: 4 out of 10

Full Review:
Straight outta Cornwall, Rairbirds have been active in the UK for most of the last decade with their brand of organic dance - no samples, just live instrumentation. Unfortunately, this long-time-coming first album has all the hallmarks of being sat on and fiddled with for too long.

Fair play to them, it must be said, for their ambition in gathering a variety of sounds and influences: dancefloor-fillers, jazz-style workouts and late sixties rock (including a cover of Dylan's 'It's Alright Ma I'm Only Bleeding') are all thrown in there.

However, there's a basic conceptual flaw with this record: as can be clearly heard on 'Unknown', these different sounds are just stuck together like Lego bricks of different shapes and colours. What this means for the listener is that the tracks cut sharply from chilled to bangin' and back again, wrecking every buzz it creates. Being eclectic like a radio show (lots of styles presented separately one after the other) is no model for making an eclectic record (lots of styles mashed together to create one new style). 

And the dance parts - Hacienda-style anthems with naff titles like 'Lo 2 Hi' and 'B Sum 1' - sound dated compared to more accomplished contemporaries like Justice and Digitalism, both of whom make real-deal eclectic dance music that's fresh in both composition and production.

Speaking of which, the production on this record is terrible: can that really be an actual orchestra (the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, seeing as you asked) sounding as flat and tinny as a keyboard setting?

There are lots of good intentions and plenty of energy on this record, but little in the way of anything exciting, memorable or well-made. Maybe Volume 2 will be the one.

Aidan Curran

 To buy a new or (very reasonably priced) 2nd hand copy of this album on Amazon just click here.


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01

Groan. Let us never speak about rugby again (at least until France v Ireland at the Stade de France next spring).

It's Fashion Week here in Paris. Now, although your blogger cuts a suave and well-tailored figure, it's hardly an event to get us excited on the scale of, say, a month-long sports tournament. But then again, neither are we enthusiastic about the imminent release by everyone's favourite over-rated and cantankerously obscure band.

Still, we know that the CLUAS readership are a fashionable bunch, and they expect their Foreign Correspondent (Paris) to report on the rag-and-bone fest going on all around him.

So, having swanned around the centre of Paris this morning, here's what your F.C. (P.) can EXCLUSIVELY report:

  • Number of fashion shows attended: zero
  • Number of celebs spotted: zero
  • Weather: bucketing down
  • Number of tall, glamorous models hailing taxis in the middle of the street: loads
  • Number of soaked and overweight Irish fans who succeeded in getting a cab this morning: zero
  • Origin of metro-seeking rugby-supporting compatriot at Place Saint Michel who (sl-ow-ly) complimented your blogger on "speaking English very well": Cork
  • Sartorial event, focus of much admiration on the metro line 1 eastwards (10:15 a.m.): your blogger's cord flares
  • Use of 'admiration' in preceding sentence: ironic

This whole fashion show hullabaloo reminds us of Carla Bruni, the Italian-born supermodel who is now forging a new career as a popstar in France.

Her two albums of quiet, acoustic ballads have been big sellers in France and beyond. This year's bland 'No Promises' had her crooning poems by the likes of W.B. Yeats, Emily Dickinson, Christina Rosetti and W.H. Auden.

However, her first record, 'Quelqu'un M'a Dit', was a much better album - a collection of mellow, dreamy folk-pop (in the style of some of Françoise Hardy's early '70s songs) that the CLUAS reviewer at the time called a 'subtle and charismatic record'. Here's the title track:


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28

France's biggest music star, Manu Chao (right), is playing at the Big Top in the Phoenix Park on Sunday 4 November.

Tickets, costing €35.60 plus 'booking fee' (i.e. the cost of shoving them in an envelope) have just gone on sale on the Ticketmaster website and at those famous 'usual outlets'. Tough luck if you're hoping to grab some for you and your seven mates: tickets are limited to six per person.

Chao's current album, 'La Radiolina', is currently doing great chart-topping business across Europe, and his live shows are renowned for being energetic and exciting. He may not be a household name in Ireland, but Chao is a million-selling artist across the world, with huge support in South America and continental Europe.

Expect this gig to sell out very quickly...


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27

Thanks to Merrill from French Friday for letting us know about this: cult '80s French popstars Les Rita Mitsouko are playing at the newly-refurbished Whelan's in Dublin on Wednesday 17 October.

The duo - singer Catherine Ringer and instrumentalist Fred Chichin - are currently promoting their most recent album, 'Variety', released in April of this year in both French and English versions. Whichever language you listen to it in, though, it's a fairly unspectacular collection of jangly MOR guitar pop.

However, most punters won't care about this, as they will probably be there to hear the French band's fantastic 1980s material. Colourful, brash, bizarre, kitsch, eclectic - singles like 'Marcia Baila' and 'Andy' sound like pop music à la Jean Paul Gaultier. This is a compliment.

In an earlier post we told you all you needed to know about Les Ritas: the explanation of their strange name, the story behind 'Marcia Baila', and Ringer's now-legendary TV clash with Serge Gainsbourg.

We definitely recommend that our Francophile Irish readers check them out. Tickets are available from those usual outlets you know and love.

However, all the French people in Ireland will want to be there - and as there are a lot of French people in Ireland, we reckon that (a) tickets will sell out in Arcade Fire-style time, or (b) it'll all get moved to somewhere bigger.

(We've already mentioned the Dublin promoter who booked Manu Chao - million-selling global star - to play a 2004 show in... Whelan's. The concert eventually took place in... The Point. It doesn't look like today's promoters are any more clued-in to non-Anglophone music and the potential market of non-Irish audiences in Ireland.)

Anyway, here's Les Rita Mitsouko with their hit single 'Andy'. As we said before, only French people can make music like this:


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26

Zach Condon of BeirutHere's another gem from the Take Away Shows/Concerts A Emporter, the Paris outdoor-session series by Vincent Moon on French music blog La Blogotheque which we featured recently.

Named after a city not exactly conducive to street performance, it's Beirut performing (almost appropriately - right country, wrong town) 'Nantes', from their new album 'The Flying Club Cup'.

Our trendier Paris readers will recognise the mural wall as the gable end of Café Charbon on rue Oberkampf, one of the city's hippest bohemian café-bars.

You can also watch Beirut playing 'The Penalty' (also from the new album)in a bar further down the rue Oberkampf (we recognised the Hotel Luna Park), and read about the background to this session.

Make sure you check out the full archive of performances in the Take Away Show series, each accompanied by a short article in English or French. And if your French is good enough, La Blogotheque is quite good too.

Anyway, as we were saying, voici 'Nantes' by Beirut live on a street in Paris:


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25

Marseille is the Cork of France. Both cities are ports on the south coast. The two have a very independent attitude and distinctive mindset (exemplified by Eric Cantona and Roy Keane).

And both share an intense rivalry with the capital city (the terrace scenes during PSG v OM games look terrifying and insane even just on television).

[If we were to extend our Ireland-France analogy, that would make Kilkenny equal Lyon (cultural city, always champions of their sport), Limerick = Bordeaux (the latter a recent temporary home to Irish rugby), Tramore = Saint Tropez (glamorous coastal resort) and Clones = Paris (self-explanatory). And Dingle would be Biarritz. But we digress.]

Having swatted away the hapless Irish in Paris last Friday, the French rugby team will be in Marseille this weekend for their final group match on Sunday, against Georgia (while expecting - DEMANDING - that Ireland beat Argentina at the Parc des Princes later that day so that Les Bleus can avoid a dreaded Cardiff quarter-final against the All-Blacks).

One well-known Irish rugby fan will, to his misfortune, be in Marseille rather than Paris this weekend. Neil Hannon and his Divine Comedy are playing the Marsatac festival on Saturday night.

Neil HannonNow in its ninth year, Marsatac 2007 also features Architecture In Helsinki, Kill The Young, Simian Mobile Disco, The Cinematic Orchestra and many others.

Hannon is an unlikely figure to be seen in the southern port city. The foppish Fermanagh man is adored by the intellectually-élite Parisian bobo (bourgeois bohemian) community, and belongs more in Le Marais, the capital's bobo quarter, than Marseille, home to some aggressive Paris-hating French rap. He may need a Scarlet Pimpernel to get him out of the city after the show.

The Divine Comedy's set in Marseille is unlikely to feature their most French song. At their Paris show last year 'The Frog Princess' wasn't played, perhaps omitted diplomatically.

Now your blogger has plenty of love for his French friends (and yes, the occasional Frog Princess) - but after last Friday's result, the triumphalist gloating we've had to endure, and the danger to us if Ireland don't do France a favour on Sunday, who could blame us if we reach for the guillotine? Here's 'The Frog Princess':


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24

Chapeau to our Icelandic friend Ulfar for tipping us off about this ages ago (and reminding us this weekend): French music site La Blogotheque has a brilliant feature called Take Away Shows (in French, Concerts à Emporter) where indie bands visiting Paris are filmed playing an impromptu live set in unusual locations.

A typical Take Away Show usually (but not always) features the act performing on the streets of Paris before a handful of bemused onlookers. It's a great opportunity to see acoustic or stripped-down versions of great tunes by your favourite indie acts.

Since starting in May 2006 the series has featured the likes of Arcade Fire (live in a freight elevator: how scarce were tickets for THAT?), Andrew BirdThe Divine Comedy, Tapes N' Tapes, The Shins, The National (in Perpignan in southern France), Beirut and any hip alternative act you care to mention.

La Blogotheque's posts and articles are only in French - but the Take Away Shows come in French or English with a short text describing how each performance came to be staged.

The Take Away Shows are unmissable: take some time to browse through the archive. To whet your appetite, here's the aforementioned show by Arcade Fire (backstage before their Paris Olympia show last April) performing 'Neon Bible' and 'Wake Up',  where everybody ends up in a freight elevator:


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21

As per Jim Carroll over at the journal of record: Justice, latest off the never-ending production line of brilliant French dance/electronica duos, are playing at the Phoenix Park on 1 December as part of the Live at the Marquee series of gigs-in-a-tent. 

JusticeAs Jim points out, the venue is especially appropriate given the title and cover of their album. Perhaps Phoenix can play there too.

This Dublin show will be the pair's third Irish appearance of the year, following their set at Oxegen last July and (as fazwaldo reminded us below) before that the Trinity Ball in April.

The rest of the line-up has yet to be announced, but it'll probably be other dance-type stuff. Or maybe not.

Tickets go on sale this Saturday, 22 September - they should probably sell very well regardless of the hammering the French will probably give us in the rugby the night before.

BTW, December is a chilly time to be in a tent, no? Not to worry - you can keep warm by breaking wind inside your sleeping bags, like the scouts taught you.


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19

Your blogger's life is revolving around the rugby this week, so much so that we almost forgot about the return of the Champions League. The vast hordes of Irish who were in Bordeaux for the first two games (and let us never talk of them again) are arriving in the capital, as are those supporters flying in just for the two Paris games. By coincidence, the cold weather has arrived too.

So, France v. Ireland in the Rugby World Cup -  your blogger is pessimistic to the point of depression. Being away from home makes a person depend all the more on their national team, and these days both the Irish football and rugby sides are making a show of themselves (only the Kerry team are lifting your blogger's spirits). And our record in Paris is terrible.

Even so, the French media and fans are being very sympathetic to the Irish team - if only because they need us to beat Argentina so that they can avoid their nightmare scenario of a quarter-final against the All-Blacks in Cardiff. 'At least you won both games', French fans say, without them having to experience the wierd horror of last-minute try-line defending against the mighty Georgia.

The Rugby World Cup really isn't capturing the general imagination in France. Down south is the game's heartland; places like Toulon and Toulouse and Biarritz where people talk rugby all day anyway.

In Paris and elsewhere, however, it's met by a typically Gallic shrug. There are desperate efforts by both TV and organisers to create a cult of Chabal, the long haired and bearded French forward. Apart from him, most French people only know their rugby players from the nude calendar that Stade Français bring out every year.

But should France get closer to the final, that will change. The 1998 football World Cup in France began with similar apathy, but as Zizou and friends edged towards the final the French public's strong sense of patriotism went wild.

From a Frenchman-on-the-street perspective, the Rugby World Cup only starts with the semi-final, the real business end of the tournament.  Anything less will be a disaster - which is why the French team will make no mistakes against Ireland on Friday night.

This month's French Friday club night at Thomas House happens to coincide with the match (it being the third Friday of the month) - so you can watch the rugby on the big-screen before the music starts. Entry is free, the match kicks off at 8:00pm - and the victory dance will start soon after. Groan.


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18

The good people of Radio France Internationale (RFI - pronounced 'air eff eee') were kind enough to invite your blogger along to a recording of their live music show 'La Bande Passante' at the Flèche d'Or last night.

Invitation was accepted gladly. In truth, we almost snapped their hand off at the elbow; top of the bill was the brilliant Emily Loizeau. Sure enough, she put on a great show. The programme will be broadcast on Saturday 22 September and available to hear on the RFI website soon after.

All of which reminds us that we listened to RFI in Dublin while learning French and planning The Great Leap Forward (i.e. the move to Paris). How come? Well, all thanks to an eclectic local Dublin radio station.

NEAR FM is a community station on 90FM which serves the north and central city area (the name stands for North East Access Radio). It has a diverse range of music and information shows - and every morning at 8:00 it carries the international news in French from RFI.

Many's the morning that your bleary-eyed blogger-to-be would fall out of the leaba and tune in for half an hour of French over breakfast. Even if the word-for-word comprehension wasn't great to begin with, the ear got attuned to French accents and very soon the understanding increased greatly; we definitely recommend it as a language learning technique.

At the more manageable hour of 5pm on Saturday there's another French language programme on NEAR FM. 'Quartiers Francophone' is a news and information programme presented by Robert Cuthbert.

Even if you've no intention of learning French, NEAR FM has a fantastic range of eclectic music shows. Pick of the bunch for Irish alternative music fans is The NEAR FM Sessions on Thursday evenings from 7 to 8, featuring live studio sets from local acts.

Check out NEAR FM by podcast on their website, or tune in to 90.3 FM if you're in the northside or central Dublin.


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Nuggets from our archive

2002 - Interview with Rodrigo y Gabriela, by Cormac Looney. As with Damien Rice's profile, this interview was published before Rodrigo y Gabriela's career took off overseas. It too continues to attract considerable visits every month to the article from Wikipedia.