The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Entries for 'Aidan Curran'

17
A classic French breakfastHow did your blogger spend his morning? Well, first we picked up today’s edition of Le Monde (‘All Quiet, Nothing Happening, Call Back In September’, says the front page headline), then bought some galettes in the local French market and eventually passed the morning with both newspaper and sweetbread in our favourite little café. Yes, you’ve guessed it – we’re still on holiday in Tralee.
 
A recent TV report on the French community in Dublin estimated that there are at least 20,000 French people living and working full-time in Ireland – and if you factor in Erasmus students, tourists and frequent business visitors then that bumps up the total considerably. No surprise, then, that there’s more and more Frenchness on view in the country – especially restaurants and delis, given France’s reputation for excellent food.
 
Coq of the walk - one of France's national emblemsA homesick French exile freshly-landed in Dublin, for example, can start today (Friday 17 August) by buying real pains au chocolat and croissants (not the awful Cuisine de France stuff in your local breakfast-roll shack) in the French bakery next to Grogan’s pub behind the George’s Street arcade – and then eating them in Café en Seine on Dawson Street.
 
Our ex-pat Pierre/Georgette can then pick up Le Monde, Marianne and France Football at the kiosk across from the GPO and read them over lunch at the Alliance Française café on Kildare Street. There’s usually an afternoon screening of some French film at the IFI or the Screen. Spoilt for choice when looking for a French restaurant in which to be fed and watered, he/she can then dance away the mal de pays tonight at French Friday on Thomas Street with a full house of compatriots. And TV5 is on digital.
 
There’s no less Frenchness in Ireland’s provincial centres. In Tralee, to take the example closest to hand, there’s a French deli and wine shop called French Flair – and the French market we mentioned above is the one that travels around Ireland every summer. It’s in the Kerry capital this weekend for the Rose Of Tralee Festival*, which opens tonight.
 
A rose(On which point, it’s disappointing that there’s no live music on the streets of Tralee for this year’s festival. Last year, bands like Republic of Loose, Delorentos, Dry County and loads others came to Kerry and played free outdoor concerts over the festival weekend. This year, all the live music responsibility rests with Richie Kavanagh. The organising committee plead lack of resources, as well as increased competition from festivals in nearly every Irish town – for instance, the recent music events in Mitchelstown, Portlaoise and Birr.)
 
French stamp featuring Marianne, another French symbolOf course, most French people living in Ireland are well integrated here and aren’t trying to cocoon themselves in their own Paris-sur-Liffey. Similarly, your blogger isn’t really involved with the Irish community in Paris (approximately 10,000 ex-pat Pats in the greater Paris region) – nearly all my friends are French and I only venture into Irish pubs to watch football, GAA and rugby on TV.
 
Returning to Ireland this summer, it’s good to see the growing number of ethnic shops, French and others, in every town – not least because it gives Irish people a chance to experience new tastes and aromas and colours and sounds. (This weekend’s Eurocultured festival in Smithfield is another opportunity for discovery.)
 
Of course, not all Irish people are so enthusiastic about these new arrivals. But then, not all Irish people have lived away from home, like some of us have. Lend them some sugar – they are your neighbours.
 
*There’s a French Rose. Madeleine Barry is a 23-year-old law student who was raised in Paris (i.e. French-bred). According to her official bio, “she enjoys good conversation with friends around the dinner table and would love to meet Mary Robinson.” No mention of whether she enjoys Premiership football or second-hand-bookstores or watching obscure indie-kid bands at the Fleche d’Or, or whether she’d love to meet a marathon-running Kerryman. However, if we read on, she’s “a fan of Edith Piaf, Charles Aznavour, Serge Gainsbourg, Sinead O’Connor, U2 and the White Stripes”. Ah! – that final hurdle may be insurmountable.

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16
So all of France is on holiday (and we’re not exaggerating: there really are loads of French shops and businesses that close for three weeks every August) and Parisians have deserted the city. Families are in holiday camps, the bobos are backpacking round Asia and South America… and the privileged (both old-money and nouveau riche) are in the south of France. More accurately, they’re just off it, on their Nightclubbing on the Cote d'Azuryachts.
 
But even the rich need to dance. And they’re dancing to the same floor-fillers that you lurch and stagger along to at your local peasant disco or French-themed club night. Except that on the French Riviera the superstar DJs themselves are there to spin their own chart hits. In July and August the Cote d’Azur becomes the most star-studded and exclusive disco strip in the world.
 
The summer season of the Palais Club Discotheque in Cannes, for example, is hosting every well-known mixmeister and larging-it-upper you can think of – including international stars like David Morales, Benny Benassi, Erick Morillo, Eric Prydz and Pete Tong. We were intrigued to see Fedde Le Grand on the bill; after the Palais Club in Cannes in July he played last Thursday night (10 August) at a club called Fabric in that other exotic dancefloor capital, Tralee Co. Kerry.
 
Laurent GarnierHowever, the Palais Club’s programme illustrates France’s current supremacy in the superstar-DJ arena. There’s Laurent Garnier, arguably the originator of the current Parisian dancefloor scene. In our local library in France there’s a book by Garnier on how he got involved in DJ-ing, recounting his youthful ‘80s experiences in the Hacienda in Manchester, where his American house sets were a vital early influence on both the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays. Your indie-kid blogger knows that he needs to broaden his musical experiences a good deal (and Bob Sinclarstart reading more books in French), so it’s on our to-read list for la rentrée.
 
Another Frenchman on the club’s line-up is Bob Sinclar (note the spelling: not ‘Sinclair’ with an ‘i’), pseudonym of a Paris DJ called Chris The French Kiss, which we suspect may not be his real name either*. Bob has been enjoying great chart and airplay success over the last couple of years with some of the most irritating singles ever released, usually accompanied by videos starring smug stage-school brats gurning and back-flipping like circus chipmunks. David GuettaHis 2006 hit ‘Love Generation’ is particularly inescapable in France because it’s the theme music (la generique, as they say in French) of TV talent show ‘Star Academy’.
 
David Guetta (left) is also representing the home team – seemingly forever trading as ‘F*** Me I’m Famous’. And another superstar floorfiller who we hadn’t realised was French is Martin Solveig (below). His Scandinavian-sounding surname is actually just his nom de disco - his real name is Martin Picandet and he’s fromMartin Solveig Paris. You’ve probably seen Solveig’s irritating videos, where he smirks self-contentedly while starring in the same ‘I’m not the star and this is a witty video parody’ format repeatedly.
 
If you hate their music, then their politics are not going to make you change your mind about them - Guetta and Solveig are supporters of conservative French president Nicolas Sarkozy. During the Putin-drinking-buddy/Bush-friend/Ghadafi-supplier’s recent election campaign both DJs performed at fundraising shindigs for Sarko’s UMP party. Given their support for the champion of France’s right-voting elite class, it’s little wonder that Guetta and Solveig are spending their summer as Punch-and-Judy-show for the Riviera jet-set.
 
*It’s Christophe Le Friant

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15

Eurocultured is a free festival taking place this Saturday (18 August) in Smithfield in Dublin. Now in its second year, it's part of a series of events that also visits Manchester and Berlin. The music acts range from indie to electronica to hip hop to world sounds, and there'll also be food stalls, performing arts workshops and (most importantly) face-painting!

The festival brings together acts from Ireland and across the continent. Among the acts on the main stage outdoors you can cheer for local heroes Fight Like Apes and Hybrasil, enjoy the Portuguese fado of Raquel Tavares and flee in terror from Lithuania's Metal On Metal.

Meanwhile (of relevance to this blog's remit), Thomas Read's in Smithfield will become a departement outre-mer for the day, as it is hosting the festival's French contingent. Lauren Guillery and the Claws are on the bill (she's also in Crawdaddy this Thursday), hopefully featuring that elusive new member she's been looking for. The French Friday team feature too - if they'll have recovered from their monthly Thomas House appearance the night before. And Yann Dovi will also be Dj-ing there, as he does every Sunday evening with his Sunday Groove of soul and reggae.

More info is available from the festival's MySpace page.


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14
Two robots who may or may not be messieurs Bangalter and de Homem-Christo of Daft PunkIf you managed to catch Daft Punk’s show at Oxegen in July then you’ll have seen the trailer for their new movie. ‘Daft Punk’s Electroma’ is currently showing at the IFI in Temple Bar in Dublin.
           
It’s not a film for everyone – ‘Electroma’ is closer in execution and spirit to an art installation than a traditional cinema release. There’s no dialogue, yet it tells the story of two robots who try to become human but are banished to the desert by their robot community. ‘Transformers’ it ain’t.
 
(Incidentally, Daft Punk conspiracy theorists will be interested to learn that the two robots are not played by Thomas Bangalter and Guy Manuel de Homem-Christo themselves)
 
As you can imagine for a film without dialogue or human faces, the film depends greatly on the visual power of its photography and sequences. In this it succeeds – ‘Electroma’ is gorgeous to look at.
 
A rare helmetless photo of two men who definitely are messieurs Bangalter and de Homem-Christo of Daft PunkThe soundtrack also plays an essential part in shaping this faceless, speechless story. Daft Punk fans may be disappointed to learn that the film doesn’t feature any music old or new from the helmet-wearing pair. Instead, the choice of tracks ranges from classical pieces by Chopin and Haydn to more modern sounds from Brian Eno, Curtis Mayfield and Todd Rundgren – all scrupulously selected to serve the narrative.
 
There’s no news at present of any new music from Daft Punk. Their last album, 2005’s ‘Human After All’, was received with relatively muted critical reaction and disappointing sales (it scraped into the French top ten). 2007 is the tenth anniversary of the release of their revolutionary debut album, ‘Homework’, a record whose punk attitude and rock/electro soundclashes continue to exercise a huge influence on acts like Justice and LCD Soundsystem.

You can watch some scenes from ‘Daft Punk’s Electroma’ on YouTube – the Burning Man sequence, the film’s climax, is especially powerful. As for the duo’s music, here’s Michel Gondry’s video for ‘Around The World’:


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13

France usually shuts down for the month of August. The local boulangerie closes for three weeks and you've to search for a bakery that's still open. Families clog up motorways as they head for massive campsites and holiday villages, and the president goes nuclear-reactor-selling in Libya and paparazzi-hunting in the USA. Even the usually-invincible Lyon still seem to be en vacances, losing to a late late Toulouse goal in the second weekend of the Ligue 1 season.

Luckily for Dublin's Francophiles, there's no summer holiday for French Friday. The Gallic-flavoured club night keeps its regular third-Friday-of-the-month appointment at Thomas House on Thomas Street in Dublin this Friday night, 17 August.

If you've never been, you can expect to hear the creme de la creme of French music (as featured on this blog) and party hard with Dublin's huge French community. As usual, entry costs zero euro and rien de centimes.

To get you in the mood, here's the single remix of 'Cassius 99' by Cassius:


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10
Late at night, when you’re at home and it’s quiet and dark, try tuning your radio to medium wave and going up and down the stations. Radio always sounds magical and intimate late at night - and on the MW/AM band in the small hours you’ll find strange accents and foreign languages that conjure up faraway places and dreamy escapism.
 
Here in the south-west, where the FM band is sparsely populated compared to Dublin (although Spin South-West has some great shows), medium wave is especially rich and evocative. BBC World Service, Scandinavian music shows, Spanish talk-radio… and French stations too, of course. Only a week back in Kerry and missing Paris already?
 
Anyway, last night while surfing the megahertz we picked up France Bleu (an oldies station we never usually listen to) just as they were playing a classic French hit, ‘Marcia Baila’ by Les Rita Mitsouko. Sacre Bleu! Now we already know and love this song – it’s a daytime radio favourite – but last night, far from France, it sounded so fresh, so exotic, so… French!
 
Les Rita Mitsouko have an interesting story in their own right. A duo (and couple) comprising singer Catherine Ringer and instrumentalist Fred Chichin, they emerged in the mid-‘80s with an eclectic sound of dancefloor-pop mixed with punk attitude and various world music rhythms and styles. Visually they were colourful and eccentric, and Ringer’s voice was strong and soaring. As for their strange name, ‘Rita’ is a reference to Rita Hayworth and an allusion to her fiery character in South American-set noir classic ‘Gilda’; ‘mitsouko’ is Japanese for ‘mystery’ and was the name of a popular perfume in the early 1980s.
 
They soon became France’s biggest pop act and were popular across the continent – however, the London music weeklies would only mention them sneeringly while mocking the French scene (in this regard I remember seeing their name in the Melody Maker during Britpop).
 
However, apart from their music they will always be remembered in France for a notorious TV incident in the '80s. Ringer was a guest on a chat-show, and beside her on the couch was none other than Serge Gainsbourg. It was common knowledge that Ringer had appeared in porn movies as a young actress, and that night she was discussing the experience calmly and dispassionately. At that time, though, Gainsbourg seemed to be making a determined effort to be as boorish and unpleasant as possible in public, and in an unforgivable lack of gentlemanliness he began repeatedly calling Ringer a ‘pute!’ (‘whore!’).
 
To her eternal credit Ringer refused to be intimidated by France’s pop legend and she retorted by pointing out how far the scruffy, drunken and ungracious Gainsbourg had fallen from his late-‘60s-early-‘70s peak. Game, set and match to Ringer. The clip is still shown regularly on the best-clips-ever shows that seem to dominate primetime French television schedules.
 
Due to serious illness on the part of Chichin, Les Rita Mitsouko were inactive for most of a decade until they finally released an album called ‘Variety’ earlier this year. It’s a collection of MOR guitar-pop that would be impressive from any ordinary denim-over-denim dadrock group but is disappointing for an act with Les Ritas’ colourful and inventive back catalogue. It’s been a huge hit nonetheless and the pair are headlining festivals around France, including Rock En Seine in Paris at the end of August.
 
Their biggest hit and best-loved song will always be ‘Marcia Baila’, a wild and flamboyant Latino-disco-pop tribute to Ringer’s late dance teacher. If you’ve spent any time in France in the last two decades then you’ve surely overheard it in some café or bar. Kitsch but stylish, free-spirited but aloof, naff but cool – only French people could make music like this:
 


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10

With some of Dublin's live music venues closed for reconstruction, it seems that every tent, marquee and big top in Ireland will be mobilised into active rock n'roll duty. But what if it's a windy night and, just as Arcade Fire walk on stage, the tent blows away? Can you take that chance?

Well, in Paris there's a neat line in alternative venues: barges on the Seine. We went to one, the Alternat, for a punk night a while back. The boat was moored at Bercy, just upriver from the Gare de Lyon and Austerlitz, and the gig took place in the hold of the barge. It's a strange feeling to be a a concert and literally rock and roll with the music - looking left we could see out the portholes as police boats cruised up and down and their wash lapped against the hull.

The barges are extremely popular as nightspots. Perhaps the best known among Paris music fans is the Batofar (above) - a fire-engine-red former lightship which actually comes from Ireland. It was restored in the nineties and opened as a venue in 1999. Docked at Tolbiac (not far from the Alternat), it can hold 300 punters in its venue space and hosts French and international DJs and electronica acts.

Another much-loved floating venue is the Cabaret Pirate (left), known to all Parisians by its former name of La Guinguette Pirate. As the name suggests, it looks like a pirate ship - and just like the Batofar it regularly hosts top DJs and dance acts. However, the old Guingette's most popular shows were always its dance nights - salsa, zouk, reggae and so forth. The new venue's programme seems to feature less world sounds, which is a shame - discos and electro nights in Paris can be intimidatingly hip and cool, whereas dance nights are licence to dance and flirt shamelessly (so we're told).

In Dublin there's a distinctive red barge moored near Patrick Kavanagh's statue on the Grand Canal - it serves as a French restaurant. There was also U2's video for 'Gloria', where the superstars-to-be played on the deck of a canal barge. Perhaps some old boat can be spruced up, moored at the Docklands and used as a small venue? It would surely be a lot less leakier than a tent in a park in October.


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09

French music fans talk about ‘la pop anglaise’, by which they mean the classic English indie sound of melodic Beatlesy songs. Amazingly, some French people of our acquaintance use this as a pejorative term for what they see as the frivolous frothiness of the pop we know and love – for example: “Peter Bjorn and John? Oui, pas mal… mais ce n’est que la pop anglaise!” But then, for a lot of the French rock/pop audience a song’s melody is much less important than its words. Some Irish singer-songers would approve, we feel.

 

Just our type: RhesusRhesus are a three-piece from Grenoble in the east of France, and they make music which is pop anglaise all the way down to its English lyrics. In 2004, on the back of their early EPs, French music weekly Les Inrockuptibles named them as winners of their annual CQFD (Ceux Qu’il Faut Decouvrir, or Those You Must Discover) prize for most promising new act. They made good on this expectation with their 2005 debut ‘Sad Disco’, a fine collection of melodic indie-pop.

 

Their second album, ‘The Fortune Teller Said’, will be released on September 24 in France (no news of any UK or Ireland release or concerts), and the first single taken from it is called ‘Hey Darling’. It’s not up to the high standard of the songs from the first album, so there’s a serious risk of second-album syndrome here. Having said that, it’s still miles more enjoyable than current French indie heroes Kaolin and Mick Est Tout Seul (the latter being the solo project of the singer from a band called Mickey 3D), neither of which are our thing.

 

God save Rhesus and their pop anglaise, and let's hope that second album is a cracker. Check out their website and MySpace page for more info and tracks. In the meantime, here’s ‘Hey Darling’:


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06

'Rock n'Roll 39-59' is a fascinating exhibition at the Fondation Cartier in Paris. The show traces the roots of rock n'roll and presents this new music as a revolutionary moment in modern culture. Best of all, it brings to life a sound and attitude long taken for granted by today's music fans.

For sure, the exhibition is laden with 1950s memorabilia - guitars owned by the stars, vintage Wurlitzers, even a 1953 Cadillac that symbolises the postwar consumerist explosion which gave '50s teenagers the loose change to spend on records.

But it's much more than an exercise in 'Happy Days' nostalgia. Listening posts and displays trace the heritage of rock n'roll. Blues, gospel, jazz and country are presented in family trees and interactive maps where you can listen to the music of a certain city or region. Acts as diverse as Rosetta Tharpe, Bob Wills and Duke Ellington are given their dues for influencing (in their own ways) the new sounds to come. And there are hidden treasures to discover: obscure or forgotten acts like Wanda Jackson and Professor Longhair who deserve to be listened to again.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is a 50-minute documentary on the early days of rock n'roll as we know it. For the honour of 'first rock n'roll record' the film suggests Fats Domino's 1949 song 'The Fat Man', with 1954's 'Rock Around The Clock' (sounding amazingly fresh) by Pennsylvania country-rocker Bill Haley and his Comets as being the genre's first commercially-successful single.

But the first cut of rock n'roll modern-style was 'That's All Right' by "a nineteen year old truck driver" who would change the world. Given our knowledge of the Fat Las Vegas caricature he would become, it's both poignant and thrilling to see Elvis Presley as young, fresh and energetic - the definition of rock n'roll. Everything after him feels like an imitation.

The documentary shows how the record companies mass-market this new sound by (take note, Coldplay and Snow Patrol fans) extracting the sex and danger - sterilised crooners like Pat Boone and Paul Anka loosen their ties and sell homogenised rock n'roll-lite to a middle America still unwilling to buy records by black artists. And the film ends bleakly with the two events that mark the end of true rock n'roll - Elvis entering the army in 1958 (thus conforming to The Man) and the 1959 plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper.

All visitors to the show receive a free four-track CD featuring four defining tracks from 1956, rock n'roll's greatest year - Elvis singing 'Hound Dog', Chuck Berry performing 'Roll Over Beethoven', Little Richard's 'Good Golly Miss Molly' and Carl Perkins version of his own 'Blue Suede Shoes'. These songs are part of rock's subconsciousness and listening to them today you're struck by their continuing vitality and promise of excitement. You know these songs - but have you ever listened to them? Bringing this fantastic music back to indie-kids like me is a measure of the exhibition's success.

The exhibition continues until 28 October: if you're in Paris you must visit it. Mona Lisa can wait - after all, she belongs to Nat King Cole and the crooners.

Are your old people out of the room? Good. Here's the corrupting influence of Elvis Presley, singing 'That's All Right' - gyrations included. Is this the greatest rock star ever or WHAT?:


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04

The annual Festival Interceltique takes place this weekend in Lorient, on the west coast of Brittany. Celtic acts from around the world will perform at the event, now in its 37th edition. This year the theme is Scotland, so there's a Highland flavour to the 2007 festival.

The Irish contingent at this year's festival includes Sharon Shannon, The Dubliners (or what's left of them), Donegal fiddle-player Theresa Kavanagh, folk group Coscan, a punk-folk outfit called the Mahones (hmm, wonder which two bands inspired that name?), The Colman Irish Dancers and the New Ross Pipe Band. There will no doubt be plenty of tributes to the mighty Tommy Makem, who passed away earlier this week.

We did a double-take, however, when we thought we saw a certain Californian funk-rock band on the bill - but in fact it was just the Red Hot Chili Pipers, a gang of Glaswegian pipers who are sure to win Best Band Name if there's such a prize.

The biggest genuine star name of the whole festival, though, is Sinead O'Connor, who has just released her trad and reggae influenced album 'Theology', her first collection of new material  since 2002's 'Sean-Nos Nua'.

Your blogger has a soft spot for Sinead ever since hearing her sing 'Peggy Gordon' a capella at a small fundraising concert in Dalkey a few years ago. It was a mindblowing experience - she has a voice made for traditional Irish ballads.

Here's the great lady singing a live trad-rasta version of  'Óró, sé do bheatha 'bhaile': 


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Nuggets from our archive

2003 - Witnness 2003, a comprehensive review by Brian Kelly of the 2 days of what transpired to be the last ever Witnness festival (in 2004 it was rebranded as Oxegen when Heineken stepped into the sponsor shoes).