The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Entries for 'Aidan Curran'

02

Bullet the blue sky: U2 at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, 2000, by Anton CorbijnYour blogger is back in Eire for a few weeks to recover from a hard year of working, marathon running and swanning around Paris.  We flew into Dublin this morning, and the city looks well - the Famine seems to have cleared up, and we didn't see any Black and Tans on the streets. Next stop the Kingdom - but the French-connected pop reports will continue.

Flying out of Charles de Gaulle Airport (or Roissy, as every French person still calls it) this morning reminded us that U2 shot the video for 'Beautiful Day' there in 2000. This was in more innocent pre-9/11 times, of course. Were the video to be filmed there today (based on our experiences this morning) it would feature Bono in a long queue for passport checks and Adam getting a good hard frisking (although perhaps that latter video already exists in someone's private collection).

Anyway, here's U2 acting the eejit in CDG. And keep an eye out for your blogger around Ireland over the next three weeks!


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31

The name of Pugwash, the Dublin power-pop heroes led by Thomas Walsh, is causing some intrigue here in Paris.

Pugwash's Thomas Walsh, international man of mysteryA recent edition of French cultural mag Les Inrockuptibles reported on Neil Hannon's current movements - the Divine Comedy man being one of the musical heroes of the Parisian bobos. Anyway, the magazine reports that Hannon is currently working on an album by "his obscure compatriots Pugwash".

The piece continues: "But that's not all: Pugwash has, and it's perhaps even more amazing, also succeeded in securing the services of XTC's Andy Partridge, who co-wrote two tracks on the album, entitled '11 Modern Antiquities' and to appear later in the year. Andy Partridge and Neil Hannon on the same record: the dream of every normally-constituted pop lover" (translation mine). 

To pass the time while waiting for this mysterious new album, you can test your French by reading the original article. Otherwise, you can listen to some classic tracks on Pugwash's MySpace page. And if that's not enough, here's 'It's Nice To Be Nice':


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27

Paris offers the tourist everything - except the sea. In this regard, Paris always loses out to Ballybunion and Bray. However, every summer the city hall tries to remedy this - et voila! The beach comes to Paris!

'Paris Plages' (now in its fifth year) is a temporary beach on the right bank of the Seine, starting below the Louvre and running upriver past Chatelet and Notre Dame as far as the Gare de Lyon. From mid-July to September a riverside road, the Voie Georges Pompidou, is closed to traffic (as it is every Sunday, to facilitate walkers and rollerbladers). Tons of sand are dumped on it, and the improvised beach is then garnished with palm trees, sun loungers and so forth. This being France, there's also pétanque, or bowling.

The beaches are enormously popular and always packed - despite the obvious drawbacks. For one thing, there is a busy road up above at street level, so there's no escape from noise and pollution. Also, there's no privacy - tourists take photos of sunbathers from above on the street and from the decks of the bateaux-mouches (river cruises). Still, some people may like having that paparazzi feeling.

Another problem is the strangeness of being on a beach but unable to swim in the nearest body of water - i.e. the Seine. Now the old river is no longer as polluted as it was centuries ago when it would actually go on fire. Your blogger lives down the river from Paris and there are anglers on our nearest bank. There was also a swimming race recently (similar to the Liffey Swim).

But despite former Paris mayor Jacques Chirac's 1987 pledge to make the Seine fit for swimming, it's still completely forbidden to swim in the central Paris stretch (there's the old joke that if you fell off a Paris bridge you'd be dead before you hit the water). The city fathers have therefore set up floating swimming pools on the river. We presume that surfing is not allowed either - sorry, Jules. However, Juliette Binoche is allowed to go waterski-ing. Who could refuse her?

'Paris Plages' really comes to life at night, when there are free events such as the 'Indétendances' series of concerts featuring new and established acts (including the fantastic psychedelic pop of Izabo, who we featured recently). One of the joys of summer in Paris is going down to the river at night and sharing wine with friends. So far the French summer has been a bit cool (still better that the Irish one, of course) but last weekend we went to the canal at La Villette, where there are also 'Paris Plages' activities. Life is good in Paris.

So that you can share some of the 'Paris Plages' vibes, here's Serge Gainsbourg singing 'Sea, Sex And Sun':


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26

1) The video for 'Double Je', the first single by Christophe Willem, winner of 'Nouvelle Star' (France's version of 'Pop Idol'), comes on television and I immediately zap elsewhere before hearing a second of it. After all, no talent show winner has ever made a decent record (Girls Aloud being the exception that proves the rule), and the video - singer sings his woes to a self-help group - looks about as funny as Monday morning. Zap!

2) A wonderful cut of stomping '80s disco-pop is playing on the radio of every shop and café I visit, but I keep missing the title. 'What', I ask myself, 'is that fantastic song? Who sings it? And how come I never see it on the telly?'

Naturally, the song in question is 'Double Je', the first single by Christophe Willem, winner of 'Nouvelle Star' (France's version of etc etc). So much for your eejity blogger's pop snobbery (just to be sure, we listened again to Rhianna's 'Umbrella' - still a boring song, as we've always thought. Get over it, English-speaking world!).

Tall, gangly and square-spectacled like Jarvis, Willem is nicknamed 'La Tortue' (the turtle) for his strange way of hunching up his shoulders when he sings, often while wearing a turtle-neck sweater (i.e. a polo-neck jumper). He's clearly a Michael Jackson fan, right down to the moves and the falsetto voice - and 'Double Je' is as good a pop single as those by Justin Timberlake, that other Jackson-influenced pop idol.

The video is still crap, though, so here's Christophe Willem singing 'Double Je' on a French TV show recently. Yes, that's his real voice:

 


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24

Lauren Guillery is from France - and don't forget it. You see, the Dublin-based singer is so fed up with people asking her where she's from that she's written a song about it. The title? 'Rude'. Hmmmm - personally (as an ex-pat too, here in Paris) it seems like a perfectly reasonable question.

In fairness to Lauren, though, if you've heard her being interviewed recently on Phantom's Access All Areas or Anna Livia's Indie Hour you'll have found that she's a lot friendlier that song's story suggests.

In any case, Irish music fans have taken a liking to Lauren and her band The Claws, who were recently voted (bizarrely) 'Best World Music Act' by viewers of Balcony TV - no doubt just pipping Panpipe Moods and the Mongolian throat-singer quartet.

Playing the sort of energetic indie rock that will always appeal to a wide audience, the three-piece band are currently looking for a fourth member. If you fancy the job, you can find out more by reading Lauren's no-nonsense Musicians Wanted ad on the CLUAS discussion board.

Lauren Guillery and the Claws will be at many of the fun-sized festivals that seem to be popping up all over cash-to-burn Ireland these days - Knockanstockan in Co. Wicklow on 28 July, Indie-pendence in Mitchelstown on 4 August and Eurocultured at Thomas Read's in Dublin on 18 August. Go on, check them out.

Over on her MySpace page you can also listen some tracks from Lauren's first EP 'Listen', as well as the aforementioned Phantom interview with Edel Coffey. Stick around here, though, and you can watch Lauren performing 'Rude' live on Balcony TV:


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23

Israeli band Izabo begin an intensive month-long French tour this week, including a semi-residency at our favourite Paris venue, La Flèche d'Or.

The Tel Aviv-based four-piece play an addictive blend of psychedelic '60s rock and idiosyncratic '90s Britpop, all sounding like a mix of Talking Heads and Space (that much-underrated Liverpool band of a decade ago), and spiced up with some distinctive Middle Eastern vibes.

Their first album, 'Fun Makers', is appropriately titled - it fizzes with energy and (as they say in these parts) joie de vivre. The band are currently preparing their second album, to be called 'Superlight'.

Izabo's French tour comes at a time of Parisian interest in modern Israeli society. Eytan Fox's movie 'The Bubble', currently showing in French cinemas, depicts the life, loves and partying of a group of Tel Aviv's bright young things. Its depiction of inter-ethnic and same-sex relationships has inspired much curiosity and comment among the French cultural media.

You won't find any overt political comment or social reflection in Izabo's music - just good-time pop that subverts the common western perception of Israel.

No news of any Irish dates for the band as yet, but you can check out some of their tracks on their MySpace page; here's the appropriately cartoon-style video for the catchy 'Morning Hero':


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23

It's an understatement to say that France and Germany have 'history' - and that's even just thinking about football (for all of Zizou's heroics in 1998, Seville in 1982 still touches a raw nerve here in France).

All of which makes it surprising that the current idols for French teenage rock fans are Tokio Hotel, a four-piece band from Magdeburg in Germany. Even more amazing is that this is a group that sings in German.

Tokio Hotel trade in the same teen-angst nu-metal as Linkin Park, and we presume they're also singing much the same type of self-pitying lyrics. The group's image centres around singer Bill Kaulitz's distinctive hairstyle and heavy make-up. All around France, parents are asking the time-honoured rock question: C'est un mec ou une fille? (Is that a boy or a girl?).

Singing in German has so far not hindered the band's success in France. Their first two albums Schrei and Zimmer 483 have both gone top ten in the French charts, and the videos for their singles 'Durch Den Monsun' and 'Ubers Ende Der Welt' enjoy heavy rotation on French music television. They recently appeared before 600,000 people at the massive free Bastille day concert on the Champs de Mars (the park beside the Eiffel Tower) in Paris.

With a heavily-mascara'd eye on world domination, the band has just recorded their first album in English: 'Scream' is a compilation of tracks from their first two records, and it's due to be released in the UK in August. You may be hearing more about Tokio Hotel very soon.

In the meantime you can watch the video for 'Ubers Ende Der Welt' and learn how to say in German 'I hate you!', 'I won't do my homework!' and 'Daddy wouldn't buy me a pony':


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23

White Stripes 'Icky Thump'Review Snapshot:
The new White Stripes album shows off its blues and folk influences the way a pre-pubescent boy wears a fake moustache. An uninspired and uninspiring rock trudge that's not half as odd or interesting as it seems to think it is.

The CLUAS Verdict? 5 out of 10

Full Reviews:
In the sleevenotes to 'Icky Thump', Jack White admits to being an impressionist. Fair play to him for his honesty; this record sounds like one long Led Zeppelin homage - blues-rock guitars and little else.

White's songs are as flat and unremarkable as ever but this time around there's no 'Seven Nation Army' killer riff to carry them off. Like with Morrissey, his titles are more interesting than the songs themselves - 'You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do What Your Told)' and 'A Martyr For My Love For You' are unmemorable plod-rock.

Only the mariachi-style 'Conquest' is quirky and appealing - but that's a cover version.

The low point is 'Prickly Thorn (But Sweetly Worn)' a hilariously bad (but apparently serious) attemp at Celtic folk-rock. Also good for unintentional laughs is 'Saint Andrew (This Battle's In The Air)' - "Saint Andrew, do not forsake me", squeals Meg White with her schoolgirl-voice. Even twenty years from now, street urchins will be taunting her in public over it.

 If Jack White were to put into his songwriting at least half the imagination and energy he devotes to his imitation of a Deep South bluesman/medicine show huckster (as on the irritating 'Rag And Bone'), then The White Stripes might yet make music that lives up to the hype and mythologising they seem to inspire.

On the evidence of 'Icky Thump', however, they seem to have hit a creative dead-end.

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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23

Review Snapshot:
A fine work of Cohen- and Reed-influenced lo-fi folk-pop from a globetrotting chanteuse. One to put alongside Feist as this year's coffee-table albums of choice, perhaps?

The CLUAS Verdict? 7 out of 10

Full Review:
Keren AnnBorn in Israel, raised in the Netherlands, matured in Paris and domicile in New York, Keren Ann Zeidel is a successful chanson francaise singer in France. This, her fifth album, is in English and it's good enough to get attention as international as its recording (in studios in Paris, Tel Aviv, New York, Rekjavik and Los Angeles).

Keren Ann's music is not as eclectic as her globetrotting - she sticks mainly to intimate folk-pop, a lo-fi Feist, if you will. For the most part, most noticably on 'The Harder Ships Of The World', she seems heavily influenced by Leonard Cohen's world-weary writing style and murmuring delivery.

Other times, as with many Paris-based female singers these days, Keren Ann also draws heavily on Lou Reed - first single 'Lay Your Head Down' features a 'New York'-style spoken word verse and a blatant VU guitar drone. Her sweet chorus (and some well-placed handclaps) saves the song from being a complete Lou parody, and throughout the album Keren Ann manages to flavour her borrowings with her own personality.

Vocally she barely rises above a low croon, though sometimes with a touch of Beth Gibbons' soulfulness and Stina Nordenstam's quirkiness. Instrumentation is minimal but with enough subtle layers to keep the listener engaged to the end.

The whole package is that of a quiet, thoughtful musician writing melodic and intriguing songs. Definitely worth a listen.

Aidan Curran


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23

CLUAS Rating: 3 out of 10

Spidey finds his inner dark side: cue rather predictable 'alt'-'rock' mixum-gatherum. Of the new songs, only Yeah Yeah Yeahs sound vaguely motivated. Snow Patrol parody themselves; The Killers photocopy U2. Apart from YYYs and 'The Twist', not worth the listen.

Plot summary of 'Spiderman 3' (as deduced from the soundtrack):

He can save the world (U2-soundalikes The Killers) but Spiderman just can't tell his feisty girl (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the only interesting new track here) his real feelings (Snow Patrol, sounding like a 'Gift Grub' version of themselves). Instead, he spends his evenings spurting out icky white gunk (Jet, The Walkmen).

Suddenly he's faced with a mutant villain who irritates innocent victims to death with his nuclear-powered smug wackiness (Flaming Lips, irritatingly 'wacky' as ever). There's a surprise plot development ('The Twist' by Chubby Checker, sounding as fresh as tomorrow's bread), a tearful hospital bed death (Snow Patrol; see above) before Spidey finally prevails and saves the world to the sound of cheering from citizens/random nobodies (Simon Dawes, Rogue Wave, The Wyo's, and lots more)

Meanwhile, the real heroes (Jason Falkner plays keyboards on two tracks here)go about their daily grind with no fanfare...

Aidan Curran


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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.