The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Entries for 'Aidan Curran'

06

You may remember that we told you about 'le loi Hadopi', France's proposed legislation to punish those who illegally download copyrighted cultural works such as music and films. The bill, named after the acronym of a state agency that it would establish and empower, featured a 'three-strikes' policy where repeat offenders would have their Internet access cut off. The Hadopi body would track down offenders and administer the penalty. After an initial defeat in the Assembly (France's lower house) on 9 April, the bill was passed in a second reading on 12 May. The Senate subsequently approved the bill, which was then sent to France's Constitutional Council to address accusations that it was unconstitutional.

On 10 June last, the Council ruled that the bill was repugnant to the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and therefore unconstitutional. The major problem with Hadopi, the Council decided, was the idea of a state agency accusing and punishing a person and thereby assuming the power and authority of a court of law. Another difficulty for the Council lay in the notion of cutting off a person's means of communication. Such actions by the Hadopi body, said the Council, would violate freedom of expression and the presumption of innocence.

But President Sarkozy and his Government are persisting with their efforts to pass the Hadopi bill, which is due to be read in the Assembly for a third vote during this month. One presumes the unconstitutional elements will have been addressed, and it remains to be seen if the bill will have changed in any other ways.

Passing Hadopi has now become a high-profile objective for Sarkozy. Why such an effort? Well, it's no secret here in France that one of the main proponents of such a law to punish illegal downloading is none other than Carla Bruni, his wife. Bruni, you may recall, has released three albums of acoustic folk-pop ballads (the first of which was favourably reviewed here on CLUAS by your blogger) and so can claim that as a recording artist she is directly affected by this issue.

Her influence seems to extend even further. On the rejection of the bill by the Constitutional Council, Sarkozy decided to replace the Culture Minister with responsibility for the legislation, Christine Albanel. Her replacement, sensationally, was one F. Mitterrand - Fréderic, nephew of the former President. A regular on French television and in cultural circles, Mitterrand has the higher and more positive public profile needed to sell a controversial measure to a sceptical public. He was heretofore a socialist like his late uncle, in the same way that Bruni was considered to be a political leftist before her marriage to the centre-right Sarkozy.

Bruni and Mitterrand were not strangers to each other. Mitterrand is a friend of Bruni's mother - and it is rumoured that Bruni encouraged the appointment of Mitterrand last year to the prestigious position as head of the French Academy in Rome. And now Bruni seems to have got a capable and sympathetic minister to finally get Hadopi passed into law.

The Bruni connection doesn't stop with Mitterand. As part of the effort to address the question of illegal downloading, the new Culture Minister has set up a working group to examine ways of reinforcing legal methods of downloading copyrighted material and better rewarding composers and creators. The head of this group is Patrick Zelnik, president of Impala, the European association of independent record companies and producers. Zelnik is also head of Naive - the record company of Carla Bruni.

Not even the debate on downloading music can escape the Bruni-Sarkozy soap opera, it seems.


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04

In recent years France has had a strange relationship with its Mediterranean neighbour Italy. You'll remember the 2006 World Cup Final when Zinedine Zidane was outwitted by Marco Materazzi and the azzuri won the trophy. But now that the First Lady of France is an Italian, everything seems to be all lovey-dovey between the two countries again.

The Sophia LoreniansHere, then, are a Parisian trio who seem to be in thrall to another famous Italian woman. The Sophia Lorenians (right) consist of Bruce Sherfield (who we believe is originally American) on vocals, Julien Taillefer on guitar and Yannick Dahms on keyboards and mixing and stuff. Signed to Paris-based label Dialect Recordings, the group have just released their first single, available either on limited edition vinyl for the traditionalists or digital download for the kids.

The song is called 'Locomotion' and has nothing to do with the Little Eva song covered by Sylvie Vartan and Kylie Minogue. Instead it's a fabulous bit of soulful pop that features Sherfield's falsetto croon, some glittering shards of guitar from Taillefer and a retro-tastic '70s soul arrangement - vocal harmonies, old-school keyboards and a hint of Philly strings. The lyrics are about a girl fleeing domestic violence to start a new life, and the music's sincere warmth makes the whole thing sound quite beautiful.

Ultra-hip Parisian station Radio Nova has picked up on the song and given it the round-the-clock airplay it so deserves. Only from checking Nova's website to find out the song details did your correspondent discover that The Sophia Lorenians are French, such is this song's accurate recreation of pre-disco U.S. soul-pop.

If you like Curtis Mayfield and 'Got To Give It Up' by Marvin Gaye (i.e. if you have a pulse and a decent taste in tunes) then you'll enjoy this. Check out 'Locomotion' on The Sophia Lorenians' MySpace page. Here's the video:


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03

A few months ago we got hold of 'Blacklist', the debut album by Toulouse duo Kap Bambino (below right). Because of the electroclash sound and boy-girl line-up, this pair - Caroline Martial and Orion Bouvier - are usually compared to Crystal Castles. And 'Blacklist' certainly follows a similar line in chassis-shaking beats with industrial-strength techno distortion and electro danceability. Longtime live favourites for the intensity of their sound, the record has been getting great reviews too - we see that Flohic over at Swing Your Soul has been raving about it.

Kap BambinoBy contrast, your blogger finds it alright, no more than that. It has plenty of energy and attitude, but most of the sounds are almost cartoonish. And Martial's vocal style is quite irritating at times - like some spoilt, stroppy teenager she shouts and whines and sometimes finishes her lines with an upward question inflection. If she thinks she's being individual or innovative... um, no. Just irritating.

But 'Blacklist' has one track that we find to be fantastic - it's called 'Bluescreen'. Rather perversely, it doesn't sound like the techno-punk of the rest of the album. Instead it's like a throwback to post-punk new wave synth-pop, with a thudding bassline and icy keyboard parts and a melodic, un-irritating singing performance from Martial. And the song is a million times catchier than everything else on the album.

So, it'll be a sure-fire hit single, then? Well, probably not. Kap Bambino haven't posted it on their MySpace and there's no video for the song anywhere on the web - not even a home-made version or a camera-phone film from the back of their concerts. Could it be that your correspondent is the only person who likes 'Bluescreen' and that Kap Bambino and their fans are somehow embarrassed by this different-sounding and catchy tune? It wouldn't be the first time that your correspondent has been out of step with the musical tastes of the entire nation of France.

You can - and you should - listen to 'Bluescreen' by Kap Bambino here on Deezer.


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29
Discovery 'LP'
A review of the album 'LP' by Discovery Review Snapshot: Vampire Weekend + Ra Ra Riot = Kanye West. The collaboration between a member of each of those bands comes up with a sort of indie ...

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28

We should take it with a fairly large pinch of salt, perhaps, but it seems that Noel Gallagher has left Oasis for good. Just before their scheduled appearance as headliners at Paris festival Rock en Seine, there appears to have been a backstage fight between Noel and Liam Gallagher in which a guitar was broken. The upshot was that Oasis cancelled their show and subsequent European tour, and several thousand fans who had come to the festival to see them were left disappointed.

Oasis cancel Rock en SeineIt was Kele Okereke of Bloc Party, on stage just before Oasis, who first told the crowd of 30,000 what had happened - but most people assumed he was joking. Confirmation came with an official announcement by the festival (right) stating: "Following an altercation within the group, the concert by Oasis is cancelled".

To be frank, it's been fifteen years since Oasis made a decent album ('Definitely Maybe', their very first) so whether they wind up or continue without Noel should be of little concern. It's a bit galling for their fans, who bought expensive tickets and must now also pay the price of the Gallaghers' immaturity and lack of responsibility.

The organisers of Rock en Seine must be feeling particularly jinxed by now - this is the third year in a row that a headliner has cancelled at the last minute. That said, the previous two years it was Amy Winehouse both times: no surprise there.

It remains to be seen whether the festival will take legal action against Oasis, or whether fans are entitled to a partial or full refund of their tickets.

Update: each ticket-holder will be entitled to a refund of 15 euros, according to the festival organisers. Precise details of this reimbursement will be announced within the next week.

Rock en Seine continues this weekend with Faith No More, The Offspring and The Prodigy topping a '90s-flavoured bill designed to appeal to punters in their thirties. Also due to appear are Bloc Party, Madness, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, MGMT and Eagles Of Death Metal.


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27

It's la rentrée, the return to school and work and normal life for the entire country of France. Your correspondent is back at his post in Paris, scouring la hexagone for the best tunes. And, first day back, we've found a cracker: if only it could always be so simple.

MataharieAnnecy is a town in the Alpine foothills of France and a candidate to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. (Its rivals are Munich and Pyeongchang in South Korea, neither city a winter sport stronghold.) But our interest is in cool music rather than chilly sports - Annecy is the home of a duo called Mataharie.

The pair, a girl called Bibie and a guy called Nico, used to be in a band called Goblins but have now struck out with this new project. Bibie writes and sings the lyrics while Nico writes and plays the music. We can't find any photo of them - just the rather pretty image on the right.

When a girl with a high, haunting voice sings enigmatic semi-electro songs called 'O Oak' and 'Lady Of Shallot', the reflex is to think of Kate Bush. Certainly the chorus rhythm of 'O Oak' tips its hat to 'Cloudbusting'. Fans of My Brightest Diamond, Bat For Lashes and the last Goldfrapp album will find that Mataharie's music fits nicely into their collection.

You'll find four tracks on Mataharie's MySpace page, and all four are wonderful. Our favourite is the Bush-y 'O Oak'... or is it the jazzy rhythm and soaring folk-inflected vocals of 'Diane'? And then 'Tambour' has an inventive mix of glacial electro-pop and traditional French accordion... We just can't decide. They're all so good.

No video for any of their songs yet - so head over to their MySpace page and be seduced by Mataharie.


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20

Bonjour from Ireland! Your French correspondent needs a break from French corresponding, especially after our action-packed weekend at La Route du Rock. So we’ve left the stale heat of Paris and headed back home to the wind and rain of Kerry.

But, as we pointed out during a previous trip home, it seems that France always follows us to the Kingdom. Here in Tralee there’s a French deli/café and this weekend a French market will set up in the town centre as part of the Rose of Tralee festival. (There’s also a France Rose, Melodie O’Neill from Brittany.) And there are plenty of French tourists around Tralee and Dingle and the rest of the county.

Jane BirkinThe weekend after this one, someone else will travel from Paris to Ireland. Jane Birkin (right), our erstwhile neighbour and France’s favourite Englishwoman, is performing at the Festival of World Cultures in Dun Laoghaire. Birkin will be at the Pavilion Theatre on Saturday 29 August, with tickets costing €30-32.

We’ve already written at length about Birkin and that duet, and it’s impossible to talk about her without mentioning Serge Gainsbourg, her late former romantic and creative partner. Since the great man’s death in 1991 she has curated his legacy by re-interpreting many of the songs he wrote for and about her. On stage she sings his songs and talks about him, as if recognising that he has defined her adult life and their relationship is now a cultural artefact in the public domain.

But it would be unfair to reduce Birkin to a mere supporting role in her own life - the woman is an icon in her own right. True, many of her acting parts have been as up-for-it sex kittens – but her intense and brave performance in the bleak Gainsbourg-directed 1976 film ‘Je T’aime (Moi Non Plus)' remarkably prefigures her daughter Charlotte’s award-winning role in Lars von Trier’s ‘Antichrist’.

And recently she has started painting a broader canvas of her pre- and post-Serge life. ‘Boxes’, her first film as a director, is a semi-autobiographical look back over her live and loves. (Before Gainsbourg she was married to another legendary musician, film composer John Barry.) And her latest record, ‘Enfants D’Hiver’, is her first to be entirely self-composed and continues the bittersweet nostalgic theme of her movie.

On a previous album, Birkin sang a song written for her by our own Neil Hannon. The track, ‘Home’, touches on Birkin’s momentous life and has her wondering about the other paths she may have taken. It’s a catchy little thing, relatively sincere for a Hannon composition, and while never the world’s greatest singer Birkin handles this song with a sure touch. The video, where Birkin’s native London blurs into her adopted Paris, is a smart and witty take on the long-term ex-pat’s complex and conflicting feelings when the heart is in two places at once. (Your correspondent knows the feeling all too well.)

Unfortunately we can’t embed the video, but it’s definitely worth a view and a listen – watch the video for ‘Home’ by Jane Birkin here. And if she sings it in Dun Laoghaire next weekend don’t be surprised if the songwriter pops up beside her on stage.


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17
Grizzly Bear, Telepathe, Bill Callahan (live in St Malo)
Grizzly Bear, Telepathe, Andrew Bird and Bill Callahan (live at la Route du Rock, St Malo, France) Review Snapshot: Telepathe's cracking NY electro gets lost in a large theatre; all hail Bill ...

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16

We're back in Paris after a great weekend at La Route du Rock in Saint Malo. Check out our reviews of day one, day two and day three. Our highlights were St Vincent, Bill Callahan, Telepathe and Deerhunter. There were also good performances from Tortoise, Camera Obscura and Papercuts, but Grizzly Bear and My Bloody Valentine were a little disappointing.

Organisation-wise, we can't fault La Route du Rock. We laugh at how Irish festival-goers, having already paid hefty prices for a bloated line-up that guarantees time clashes and missed favourites, must then pay for a bus to the site AND a programme to find out what time the bands are on. La Route du Rock has a free regular shuttle service between the site and Saint Malo. The bus even stops at a hypermarket to allow campers stock up on provisions (i.e. booze). Speaking of which, the campsite seemed to be in neat condition (no rain this weekend) and we heard no reports of any trouble.

If you don't know Saint Malo, it's a large town on the north Breton coast that's famous for its cité corsaire, an old walled town surrounded by the sea. The cité corsaire is quite touristy, though - the old stone streets are lined with restaurants and bars, and on Saturday afternoon there were two stag parties doing the rounds. Yes, the old city is the Temple Bar of Saint Malo. In France, 15 August is a public holiday (La Route du Rock traditionally takes place around this date) and so a lot of shops and businesses were closed this weekend. We didn't find any local record store, and so had to do our music shopping on the festival site where small French labels had a marquee to display their wares.

There wasn't even one tricolour or GAA jersey to be seen in Saint Malo all weekend - it seems that the only Irish people at La Route du Rock were Kevin Shields, Colm Ó Cíosóig and the CLUAS Foreign Correspondent (Paris). And after MBV's anti-climactic run-out on the first night, we reckon your correspondent was all alone in representing Ireland for the remainder of the weekend. (Don't worry: we didn't embarrass you.) While it was certainly easier for the large numbers of UK indie kids to cross over to Brittany, Irish travellers can come by air to nearby Rennes, by ferry to Roscoff or even hit Paris first and then take a three-hour TGV ride directly to Saint Malo. And if you get homesick, there's even an Irish shop in the city that sells essential provisions like Barry's Tea and McVities Caramel Digestives. Mark it in your diary: mid-August in Saint Malo.

The attendance at this year's festival was down slightly on last year's turnout - about 5000 people for the Friday and Saturday night but only 4000 on a Sunday night without any big international act. Nonetheless, La Route du Rock will go ahead in 2010 for the festival's twentieth birthday. François Floret, the festival director, has spoken of how he wants Portishead and Arcade Fire to headline next year's event, but he admits that his meagre budget may not allow this. The wealthier Rock en Seine in Paris at the end of August this year nabbed Faith No More, an ideal act for La Route du Rock's target audience, so the battle for an attractive headliner is fierce. Even with just one big name to feed, Floret was complaining about My Bloody Valentine's proposed fee, which he claims to have negotiated down to a half of the original figure. Last year the festival's website featured an open letter begging for support.

How come La Route du Rock is always in such financial trouble? Well, it has a tempestuous relationship with the local government, who don't seem to be as generous or co-operative as those of other regions. The cost of bringing full festival gear to a remote and inflexible location is quite high - and this year the site had to be drained pre-festival at considerable expense. Indie music isn't as fashionable or popular in France as in the UK, US or Ireland, so there's less chance of persuading French businesses to hand over large amounts of advertising-revenue cash.

That said, La Route du Rock has an ambiguous relationship with the notion of corporate advertising. Traditionally the festival has been regarded by French rock fans as being independent of the business shilling, a last bastion of the punk spirit. But at the same time there were prominent concessions around the site this year to a certain soft drinks maker, telecommunications company, sneaker brand, French bank and French beer. And the telecommunications company even got to re-name the festival's secondary venue back in Saint Malo. We understand how many French people, especially young rock fans, are vociferously left-wing and anti-capitalist (in public at least) - but will we soon see the day when La Route du Rock is made financially secure by allowing one of those concessionaries to fly a banner over the site entrance or put their logo on the wristband? Or is François Floret's annual poor-mouth routine simply part of La Route du Rock's tradition by now?

We might have figured out a solution to both the lack of Irish and lack of money problems. La Route du Rock should advertise in Ireland, just as Sziget and Benicassim do in the Paris metro. As the success of Irish festivals and indie music media (including CLUAS) testifies, there's a considerable alternative music audience in Ireland. Many Irish indie fans also like to travel abroad on holidays, but the recession has nixed all those trips to Asia and South America. There are already healthy Irish contingents at Glastonbury, Benicassim and other European festivals - La Route du Rock may be smaller but certainly offers great value and acts to the discerning indie fans. The low cost of a weekend pass (under €90 to see an excellent line-up) offsets travel expenses which can be further reduced by booking the TGV from Paris at least two months in advance.

La Route du Rock could even look for partnership with a friendly airline. If there's sufficient interest (e.g. by counting online sales to Irish computers) the airline has a flight from Ireland to a nearby Breton airport, say Dinard or Rennes, that it promotes as a special all-in travel/festival package. (The Jersey ferry companies did something similar this weekend.) La Route du Rock gets an adrenaline shot of extra fans, who all spend their money in Saint Malo and thus sweeten the local government into writing a bigger cheque. With a bit of on-site advertising, the airline can attract young French people to Ireland. Et voilà: without having to support sweatshops or stockbrokers La Route du Rock can sell some extra tickets and look the bank manager in the eye again.

So, we might see more of you in Saint Malo next time.


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16
St Vincent, Papercuts, Camera Obscura (live in St Malo)
St Vincent, Papercuts and Camera Obscura (live at La Route du Rock, St Malo, France) Review Snapshot: A sensational performance from Annie Clark is the highlight of day two and perhaps eventually ...

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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.