The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Entries for 'Aidan Curran'

07

Air will play two nights at the Olympia in Dublin, on 23 and 24 February. The shows are part of the French pair's European tour to promote their latest album, 'Love 2'.

We're not really encouraging you to go, of course. This post merely fulfills our commitment to telling you about French acts playing in Ireland. (It's in writing over on the right, just above the blog roll.) 'Love 2' continues Air's recent form in churning out the same old soft-focus retro-futuristic loungecore that you heard and fell asleep to on 'Talkie Walkie' and 'Pocket Symphony', and why would you want to hear more of that? Only continued goodwill towards 'Moon Safari' and the soundtrack to 'The Virgin Suicides' will bring people to these shows.

There are plenty of other more interesting and productive things you can do on those nights instead. The second leg games of the first knockout round of the Champions League fall on 23-24 February, so there'll be decent football on television. If you're not into football or television, you could always read a book or go to the cinema or even do some cleaning. (Did you know that vinegar is great for removing water marks and grease from your kitchen and utensils? Meanwhile, a newspaper is very effective for cleaning windows, but make sure your old fella has finished reading it first.)

You can hear some of 'Love 2' on Air's MySpace page. Here's the 'Sexy Boy'-esque animated video for the new single, 'Sing Sang Sung':

 

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05

It's been a while since we told you about Irish acts playing in France. Were you of such a mind, you could accuse us of neglecting our remit and write a sternly-worded letter to the newspaper. But we'll make up for it now by featuring our gallant boys and girls who are coming to Paris in November.

The Swell Season played the intimate Maroquinerie this time last year but have now graduated to the larger Bataclan on 9 November. You might remember how 'Once' got a warm reception in France, so it's good to see Glen n' Marketa building on that success. From Marketa Irglova to another duo and more adopted Irish: Rodrigo y Gabriela are also going well in France. The Mexican pair have sold out their show at the Casino de Paris on 12 November.

The following night Bell X1 play at the Batofar - one of several boats on the Seine that have been converted into music venues. By coincidence, the Batofar is a former Irish lightship and still painted bright red. That night is Friday the thirteenth so let's hope the boat doesn't sink or isn't haunted by the ghosts of sailors lost at sea.

A few days after that, on 17 November, Dublin retro-rocker Imelda May comes to Paris. She's playing at a venue near Bastille called the Reservoir - we've never been there but presumably it's smaller than the O2 in Dublin she'll try to fill before Christmas. More luck to us: a cosy venue will be a great place to see her.

(On 18 November, of course, there'll be plenty of Irish in Paris. For fear of bringing down the jinx, let us move along swiftly. We'll just add that U2 will play at the same venue, the Stade de France, in September 2010. Apparently the show is already sold out.)

This busy season of Irishness in France begins this weekend with Two Door Cinema Club (right), who are signed to hip Paris-based label Kitsuné.

The three Down lads are on the bill of a high-profile, sold-out touring festival organised by French music magazine Les Inrockuptibles, visiting Lille (6 November), Paris (7 November in La Cigale), Nantes (8 November) and Toulouse (10 November - so they've a day off on the 9th). They'll be supporting Passion Pit, Florence And The Machine and Boy Crisis: La Roux were supposed to be appearing too but have just cancelled due to 'medical reasons'. If La Roux had been there, and at such a small venue, it would possibly have been the greatest line-up in pop history (even though Florence leaves us cold).

Anyway, Two Door Cinema Club make brash and melodic indie-pop; they're very good at it. Their next Irish appearance is a free Mandela Hall concert in Belfast on 17 November - no Free State shows lined up for the moment. Check out their choons at the Two Door Cinema Club MySpace page, and watch the vidjo for 'Undercover Martyn':


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03

The Prix Constantin, France's equivalent of the Mercury and Choice music prizes, will be presented at a ceremony in Paris on 9 November. The winner will be selected by a jury chaired this year by icky-voiced chanson française singer Olivia Ruiz.

A quick recap of the rules: to qualify, an act must have made their album in France and never have attained gold sales status, which in France is currently 75,000 units. (No fear of that these days, says you the cynic.) You don't have to sing in French or even be French: Asa, last year's winner, is Nigerian and sings in English and Yoruba. That said, her victory bucked past form: the winner is usually a solo artist performing a rather unadventurous album that's mostly in French. And this blog's favourite artists never win - non-runners this time round include Emilie Simon, General Elektriks and Kim, while the disappointing albums by Phoenix and Plastiscines didn't get a call-up either.

So, here's a look at this year's shortlist of ten, in reverse order of likely winner.

Sorry, Birdy Nam Nam and Diving With Andy - there's more than one of you, you don't have a word of French on your album and you got great praise from us. Don't go clearing space on the mantelpiece. Facetiousness apart, the pleasant '60s pop of Diving With Andy might be a good long-odds bet but it's hard to see this prize going to BNN out on left-field.

Controversial rapper Orelsan made international headlines during the summer festival season. Local politicians objected to him performing his track 'Sale Pute' (which translates as 'dirty whore'), allegedly glorifying violence against women, at events supported by public funding. His name on the shortlist will gain media attention for both Orelsan and the Prix Constantin and that'll probably be that.

This leaves us with the depressing fact that seven of the ten shortlisted albums for the Prix Constantin can be filed with the coffee-table folk-pop that's popular these days among the Paris bourgeois bohemian set.

Amazingly, there are THREE male English singer-songers on the list. The likeable Fredo Viola brings electronica and a slight indieness to the table. Piers Faccini, drawing on world sounds, also has his charms, while Hugh Coltman's acoustic jazz-pop is fairly bland. But the French will hardly give the goodies to an Englishman... right?

Back to the home contenders: Babx and Yodelice - it must have been a windy day at the baptism font - are up-and-coming male artists in the chanson française genre that prizes wordplay over melodies. Their more established peer Dominique A, familiar to Stephin Merritt fans from his appearance on The 6ths' 'Hyacinths And Thistles', ploughs a deeper furrow of dark, poetic expression that does without fripperies like catchy tunes. Hugely popular and respected in France, he's worth a few bob down the bookies.

And so we come to the only other woman included, besides Diving With Andy's singer Juliette Pacquereau, on a list featuring a rapper accused of misogyny. Now, Emily Loizeau is someone your blogger has raved about fairly often so you'd think she'd be a no-hoper. Ha! In a move of daring ingenuity, she made 'Pays Sauvage' - a rather ordinary album of bandwagonesque folk-pop mostly in French. Solo artist; mainstream sound; lyrics mainly en français - isn't this exactly where the Prix Constantin tends to go? Genius!

So, Emily Loizeau for the win, which would make up for her fantastic 'L'Autre Bout Du Monde' losing in 2006. Each way bets to cover your derrière: Diving With Andy and Dominique A. But we'd really like to see Birdy Nam Nam somehow win this.

The full list of runners and riders, with MySpace links for each, is:

Babx  - 'Cristal Ballroom' [sic]
Birdy Nam Nam - 'Manual For Successful Rioting'
Hugh Coltman - 'Stories From The Safe House'
Diving With Andy - 'Sugar Sugar'
Dominique A - 'La Musique'
Piers Faccini - 'Two Grains Of Sand'
Emily Loizeau - 'Pays Sauvage'
Orelsan - 'Perdu d'Avance'
Fredo Viola - 'The Turn'
Yodelice - 'Tree of Life'
 

And here's Emily Loizeau, the favourite in the parade ring, with 'Sister':


 

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29

You might recall, if you've been around here long enough, that in 2006 we featured the 'Paris Calling' compilation of new young French garage rock bands. A surprisingly high proportion of them seemed to have attended the 2003 Paris concert by The Libertines and copied the London band's scuzzy retro-punk sound. Mainly middle-class teenagers from comfortable suburbs, they were lumped together by a cynical French music media as 'babyrockers' - which betrays the middle-age status and mentality of many in the music press here. ("Young people being in bands! Not in my day they were!")

PlastiscinesOne of these bands actually met and formed at that Libertines gig. However, Plastiscines (right) immediately distinguished themselves from their Doherty-worshipping peers. For one thing, they were a group of four girls: the other bands were mostly young lads in thrall to the immature and cliched Ramones-style gang image. Also, they were happy to play at being glamorous pop stars, appearing in photoshoots for fashion glossies as well as music mags. And they sounded nothing like the other bands - their reference points were The B-52s, Sleater Kinney and such U.S. punk-pop, with a hint of '60s Frenchness for local colour.

Most importantly, Plastiscines did it very well: their 2007 debut 'LP1' was crammed with snappy, catchy, charismatic songs befitting independent-minded young people. Unfortunately for them, heavy promotion for the record's French release seemed to weary the mainstream public and embolden the band's humourless muso critics. Their drummer quit and so did her replacement. This bad luck at home was tempered by well-received shows in North America, naturally more receptive than conservative France to girls playing electric guitars.

So, their second album has just come out and feels like it's aimed at a U.S. market: 11 of the 12 songs are in English and the band recently appeared in two episodes of hit series 'Gossip Girl'. However, 'About Love' is seriously disappointing - it feels like merchandise rather than music and that's always a symptom of the dreaded second album syndrome.

Many songs here sound like formulaic rehashes of familiar alt-rock. For instance, first single 'Barcelona' has hints of The White Stripes' 'Seven Nation Army' about it. Other tracks are half-ideas and quarter-ideas stretched beyond breaking: a song called 'Bitch', where singer Katty Besnard lists various ways in which she is the eponymous disagreeable female, is particularly dumb and depressing in this regard.

But the most unpleasant surprise about this record is how lifeless and boring it sounds. The charm, personality and swagger of their debut songs have disappeared. This could be any band, any uninspired or derivative guitar group: Plastiscines seem to have come down to the level of their 2006 babyrocker peers.

Oh well. You can check for yourself on Plastiscines' MySpace page. Here's the video for 'Barcelona':


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25

Another day, another post about Serge Gainsbourg. But how can we help it? The man still exerts a profound influence on French and international pop music. Besides, even almost two decades after his death, he's still making news.

The poster for 'Gainsbourg (Vie Heroique)' by Joann SfarWhile exclusively revealing that the former Gainsbourg-Birkin residence lies in the shadow of Chateau French Letter, we mentioned in passing that a film has been made of Gainsbourg's life. Well, the first brief trailer has appeared in French cinemas, so we'll take the opportunity to tell you more.

'Gainsbourg (Vie Heroique)' - the part in brackets means 'heroic life' - will be released on 10 January 2010. It is directed by Joann Sfar, and is an adaptation of the director's own graphic novel about Serge. (By 'graphic novel' we mean a long-form comic book, not a saucy piece of prose.) The story begins with young Lucien Ginsburg, a Jewish boy in Nazi-occupied Paris, and ends with Gainsbarre, a drunken boor making a show of himself on '80s TV shows. Most importantly, though, in the middle it features Serge Gainsbourg, who made some of pop's most thrilling records.

The lead role is taken by theatre actor Eric Elmosnino, who has transformed himself into an uncanny double of the great man. Other parts go to more recognisable French screen players: award-winning young actress Sara Forestier plays France Gall; Laetitia Casta plays Brigitte Bardot and Anna Mougalis plays Juliette Greco.

As for the role of Jane Birkin, that's a story in itself. Gainsbourg's most famous creative and romantic partner is played by Lucy Gordon, an English actress who appeared in Spiderman 3 and a few lower-profile films. However, on 20 May of this year, two days before her 29th birthday and shortly after the final cut of the movie was screened privately, Gordon hung herself in her Paris apartment. Unconfirmed reports suggest that she had been deeply affected by the suicide of a friend.

Of course, mere impersonation isn't going to make for a good movie. Gainsbourg's complex nature and extraordinary story provide a considerable challenge for Sfar and his first film as a director.

Here is the 40-second trailer for 'Gainsbourg (Vie Heroique)'. Elmosnino, wreathed in smoke, perfectly captures the surprising effeminacy of late-'60s Serge. (This 1965 TV interview shows similar flickers of campness in Gainsbourg.) Gordon, for her part, does a good take of young Birkin the doe-eyed ingenue and improbable scandaliser of a generation. No prizes for guessing which piece of music soundtracks this clip:


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22

Much has been made here in France of Phoenix and their growing popularity in North America, with reference to two sold-out shows in New York's Central Park at the end of last month. However, these weren't huge outdoor events on the scale of, say, Paul Simon's legendary shows in 1981 and 1991 - the French band's gigs were in an area of the Park called the Rumsey Playfield as part of a cultural series called SummerStage.

Similarly, you may also have seen Justice and their 2008 documentary 'A Cross The Universe', which chronicled their eventful U.S. tour. (Highlights include a quickie marriage and an arrest for assault.) That pair's spiritual forefathers were celebrated in LCD Soundsystem's fantastic 2005 single 'Daft Punk Is Playing At My House'. And celebrity blogger Perez Hilton has taken under his wing a French singer called Sliimy, a cross musically and physically between Mika and Prince. So, pop from France has found a niche in the American music scene.

Ooh La L.A.!Attempting to build on this, while Phoenix were rocking New York a dedicated French music festival called 'Ooh La L.A!' took place in Los Angeles. As reported by Les Inrockuptibles, three shows took place over the weekend of 23-25 September at the Henry Fonda Theater on Hollywood Boulevard.

(And yes, French people really do say "ooh la la!" - though it seems to us that the most common users are irate drivers and excitable sports commentators. At the risk of destroying your image of France, it's not really something a pouty Parisian model or extrovert Breton villager would utter.)

The first night's bill featured Sebastien Tellier, still telling the unfunny joke that is his 'Sexuality' album. (However, as we reported last February, his live show is worth the ticket price just to hear him play the wonderful 'La Ritournelle'.) Also playing were a French Letter favourite - Cocoon, the Clermont-Ferrand folk-pop duo who've become hugely successful in France. (How could you not be charmed by an album called 'My Friends All Died In A Plane Crash' and released on a label called Sober And Gentle?)

And then there was piano-pop artist Gonzales. Real name Jason Beck, he's actually Canadian but following a few years in Berlin he's now resident in France. He produced both 'Let It Die' and 'The Reminder' for Feist. On 18 May he set a world record by performing a solo concert that lasted 27 hours, 3 minutes and 44 seconds. And his piano-playing hands were cast as those of Serge Gainsbourg in the forthcoming biopic on the great man, though we read that his contribution hasn't made the final cut.

Unfortunately his recent music is nowhere near as interesting as those little pieces of trivia. But back in 1999 and 2000 he released some catchy tunes on the Kitty-Yo label, the best of which was a slinky single called 'Let's Groove Again'.

Rather appropriately, the second night of the festival starred Hollywood Mon Amour (the '80s movie theme version of Nouvelle Vague) and Franco-Finnish indie duo The Dø, whose singer Olivia Merilahti is quite irritating. Sadly, French Letter favourite Emilie Simon had to cancel for personal reasons (a bereavement, apparently) and she was replaced by Soko, the acoustic singer-songer whose track 'I'll Kill Her' became something of an internet hit.

The final night of 'Ooh La L.A!' was dedicated to French electronica. Brodinski and The Shoes are both from the north-eastern city of Reims, also home to Yuksek, while Jamaica are a Parisian duo formerly known as Poney Poney (not to be confused with fellow French bands Poney Express, Poni Hoax or Pony Pony Run Run).

Aside from the electronica/Reims clique, you'd be hard pushed to construe any kind of coherent French scene from the 'Ooh La L.A!' line-up. For one thing, none of the artists currently perform in French, apart from the absent Emilie Simon's previous album, 'Végétal'. Still, it's a good time for French bands to head for America. And, combined with annual global Fête de la Musique celebrations such as Let's French in Dublin, world domination seems to be on the agenda.

We've already raved at length about Cocoon and Emilie Simon so here's that Gonzales song we mentioned earlier, 'Let's Groove Again':


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21

You might remember that the top album in our Best French Music of 2008 list was 'Don Lee Doo' by Kim.

Kim live at the Maison Aquitaine in Paris, 21 October 2009Well, the Bordeaux electro-popper has just released the follow-up - his 18th long-player in only 15 years and he's still a young man. Fortunately, in the case of Kim Stanislas Giani, quality is quantity: 'Mary Lee Doo' is another cracker. (It even has its own charming little video trailer.)

You may have guessed from the title that this new record shares a theme with its predecessor - apparently it's the second part of a trilogy. And there's certainly some continuity in sound; Giani clearly still loves classic Prince and Kate Bush and, says you, what more recommendation could you want?

 Well, there's even more reason to check out the new Kim album. 'Mary Lee Doo' isn't just a tribute to '80s electro-pop - there's a more romantic and wistful feeling created with non-electronic instruments like bass and acoustic guitar. 'Solid Rock' has a breezy '60s feel and the excellent 'Solenn' shares the driving '70s groove of Fleetwood Mac's 'Rumours'.

And it's not all retro influences: 'Never Come Back 2 U' may have a Prince-ly title but it sounds more like contemporary U.S. R n' B, as does album closer 'Move On'.

Kim recently played a special show at the Aquitaine tourism and cultural centre in Paris. (Bordeaux is in the Aquitaine region, you see.) Starting off behind a table of small vintage keyboards and electronic devices (including one that seemed to be just a random array of grey plastic buttons), he then moved onto acoustic guitar (above right) and eventually even shunned the microphone. Point being: his songs work without electricity, which is handy in the storm-battered south-west of France. But then he hopped over to the retro synths again for the smashing 'Radio Grady'.

You can check out Kim's tunes, past and present, at his MySpace page or website. No video for any of the 'Mary Lee Doo' tracks yet, so here's something off 'Don Lee Doo' to give you a flavour of Kim - 'When The River Turns Around':


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19

Your blogger has just become the CLUAS War Correspondent (Paris).

With sickening inevitability, Ireland have been drawn to play France in the World Cup qualifying play-off, which leaves us deep in enemy territory. Our local baker insists to us that he has no croissants left, despite the smell of freshly-baked bread. The metro won't stop for us, just speeding by the platform as the driver cackles madly. And waiters are even more obnoxious than usual, taking our order with a sneery 'Fais chier, putain d'irlandais!'

Mindful of our prestigious position as your representative in France, your War Corr. (P.) will not descend to their level, though we're no longer tipping the waiters.

This blog has featured French football on many occasions. Just last week we told you about a song of love for irritating French coach Raymond Domenech - 'Je Kiffe Raymond' by Catherine Ringer (that's "ran-jay" to you), singer with Les Rita Mitsouko. The title is a slang way of saying "J'aime Raymond" ("I Love Raymond"), not a phrase ever used by a good 99% of French people.

Still, we can learn from this so start practising: "zhe keef Trap"; "zhe keef le Duffer" and (if you're feeling controversial) "zhe keef Andy Reid avec la grande derriere. Où est Andy Reid?"

What can you expect French fans to be singing in Croke Park on 14 November? Fortunately, there won't be any of the PSG ultras with their bizarre mix of stiff-arm salutes and the drum roll from 'Bolero'. Your ordinary Jacques le Frenchman will be singing 'La Marseillaise' before, during and after the match so you'll need a bit more than a half-hearted "shinnafeenafall" to match that. As we explained here, in remembrance of France's 1998 World Cup win you'll hear a chorus of the trumpet break from the Hermes House Band's cover of 'I Will Survive'. (In the same style, the riff from 'Seven Nation Army' also gets sung.)

As for chants, a favourite is "Qui ne saute pas n'est pas Français! Hey!" ("Whoever doesn't jump isn't French! Hey!", sung while bouncing up and down.) Should the worst happen and we ship three goals at Croker, our visitors will celebrate with "Et un, et deux, et trois-zéro!" Win, lose or draw there'll be plenty of "Domenech, démissione!" ("Domenech, resign!")

As we said, we won't lower ourselves to snide and uncharitable attacks on France and its football community. On a completely unrelated note, here are former Marseille duo Chris Waddle and Basile Boli with their single 'We've Got A Feeling'. Incredibly, the video is even more cringeworthy than the song: 

 


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15

The major French music news these days is the return of Charlotte Gainsbourg. The Palme d'Or-winning actress is currently working on an album called 'IRM' in Los Angeles with Beck, and this week the title track has been made available on her website and by promo copy.

Charlotte GainsbourgYou may recall that Gainsbourg's previous album, the excellent '5:55' that came out in 2006, was made in collaboration with Air, Jarvis Cocker, Neil Hannon and Nigel Godrich. And the strings on that record, evoking those on the classic singles by Charlotte's old fella, were arranged by David Campbell, who is the father of Beck Hansen. (The Frenchwoman surely wins any 'my da's more famous than yours' debates that spring up in the studio.)

With a new collaborator comes a new direction. Where the lush and melodic '5:55' sounded like a Serge tribute album, with all parties repaying their debt to the great man, 'IRM' seems to tip its hat to The Beatles and their more experimental moments. Like 'Tomorrow Never Knows' or George's Indian-influenced songs, it's mainly in one chord and features a mantra-style vocal delivery and pounding basic rhythm. The lyrics are Lennon-esque in their visual quality and even drop in a reference to 'Glass Onion': as Charlotte explains in this short preview video the song was inspired when she was having MRI scans (in French, IRM) during treatment to remove a brain tumour in 2007.

Unfortunately, the track is boring, self-indulgent stuff. At times Charlotte lapses into a nagging whine that sounds like Dolores O'Riordan, which is a low point in any singer's career. And God rest poor George but everyone always skips over his Indian songs and with good reason. (Has anyone ever listened in full more than once to 'Within You Without You' on 'Sgt Pepper'?)

The first single, 'Heaven Can Wait', will be released on 19 October, and the album is down for release before the end of this year. We still think Charlotte is ultra-cool so let's hope the rest of the record is better than its title song. She's a neighbour of your correspondent: it'd be embarrassing to not like her album and then run into her in the queue at the bakery. (It's a better class of problem than having badly-dressed Rathmines bedsit singer-songers corner you in Whelans.)

You can listen to the track 'IRM' on Charlotte Gainsbourg's MySpace. Should you wish to buy it, head over to her website. Here's a homemade video for 'IRM':

 


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09

We're down to the final World Cup qualifiers and you in Ireland are wondering if we can pip Italy for the automatic place in South Africa. Italy blowing their run-in isn't too fanciful - France had a famous last-furlong collapse in their final two games to reach USA '94. Needing only one point from two home matches, Gerard Houllier's side conceded dramatic late winners to both Israel and Bulgaria, thus missing the finals.

If the Irish end up in the play-offs, we could be drawn to play France, who are also likely to finish group runners-up. Serbia seem to have the top spot secure, and a win for les bleus against Brian Kerr's much-improved Faroe Islands tonight in the Breton town of Guingamp would secure a play-off with top seeding.

Your correspondent was at the Stade de France for the home team's recent game against Romania, which finished 1-1. France couldn't muster up any spirit or fire to seriously test their lightweight visitors, and most French fans were appalled at their side's insipid performance. The wisdom of the crowd held one man to blame: coach Raymond Domenech. The chant 'Domenech, démissione!' ('Domenech, resign!') could be heard by the TV audience.

Watch your back, monsieur DomenechIn an extraordinary achievement, Domenech (right) has managed to make himself more hated than Nicolas Sarkozy. Such is his unpopularity that his image is no longer shown on the big screen at the Stade de France during games, to avoid provoking a cacophony of boos and jeers. By turns arrogant and ingratiating in press conferences, the former Bordeaux and PSG midfielder combines personal unlikeability with professional incompetence. His belief in astrology resulted in Robert Pires and David Trezeguet being frozen out of the national squad for the heinous crime of having the wrong star signs. On being interviewed live post-match after France were easily knocked out of Euro 2008, his first reaction was to propose marriage to the show's presenter back in studio - his partner, journalist Estelle Denis. And France's march to the 2006 World Cup Final is credited to Zinedine Zidane, who is believed to have staged an internal coup to take over team affairs following a poor start.

But now, in this crucial last week of qualifiers, Domenech has found a rather improbable ally.

Step forward Catherine Ringer, pronounced 'ran-jey', singer with colourful '80s pop duo Les Rita Mitsouko. (Her creative and romantic partner in the group, Fred Chichin, died two years ago.) Ringer has written and recorded a song of support for the much-abused Domenech. It's called 'Je Kiffe Raymond', a slang way of saying 'I love Raymond', and apparently it's sincere on her part.

There's nothing special about the tune, a whimsical little ditty that would attract no attention were it not for the subject. The lyrics are fairly tame too: "I love Raymond/Not bad, this guy!/He has the effect on me of a really handsome guy, this Domenech/A great look/he doesn't give a damn what people say about him..." And so forth.

The song is available on Ringer's website to download, though goodness knows why. You can listen to it below while staring at a photo of this unlikely pairing. It's been a long way down since 'Marcia Baila':


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Nuggets from our archive

2008 - A comprehensive guide to recording an album, written by Andy Knightly (the guide is spread over 4 parts).