The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Entries for 'Daragh Murray'

03

Mr. Scruff (live in the Black Box, Galway)

Review Snapshot: Galway city, June Bank Holiday weekend, a sky full of sun, a bottle of bucky, Mr. Scruff and a couple of friends; the winter is over, and life is good again.

The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10

Full Review:Mr. Scruff
Last time I saw Mr. Scruff was at the Tony Allen gig in Crawdaddy last year, but because of Mr Allen’s afrobeat sensation, and the free mojitos outside, I didn’t really get to see much Scruff. What I had seen, however, had been something fresh. As we sat in the bar about nine o’clock sipping our drinks, he was playing soft chill out, laid back beats perfect for the start of the night. When I came back in a couple of hours later, buzzing off the closest I will ever be to Fela Kuti, he was spinning funk, klezmer and afrobeat to a room full of the demented. Hot damn. This weekend I was looking forward to five hours of solo-scruff loving.

As a DJ, Mr. Scruff is damn impressive. The breadth of his musical palette is phenomenal, and he manages to own all genres. Not dipping in and out, with the ebb and flow of fashion, but appreciating them, owning them, and moulding them into his vision. From funk to reggae, trance to ambient, to soul and indie, nothing seems forced, nothing is quirky for quirkiness’ sake. The ability to keep a crowd in the palm of his hand for five plus hours, while building a set from chill out to full on hoolie… I guess its easy when you know how.

I’ve never been to the Black Box, and God knows what it would be like for a band, but for a DJ it is perfect: A huge cavernous space, plenty of room to throw yourself about, and cheap cans at the bar. For the black hole that the best sets can be, it couldn’t be better.

Something that got me about the night was the difference to a traditional gig. This was an all night show, much more like a club with great tunes than any live spectacle, and it was one of the best nights I’ve had in a long time. I don’t know why, but it seems much easier to just turn off and enjoy without the visual attraction of a band to distract you. There were only two problems with the gig, some uncharacteristically dodgy visuals (Galway, Oranmore, Spanish Arch… eh a little lame?) and a virtual, and equally uncharacteristic absence of the funk.

They are minor quibbles though, and the set was so good, it is hard to nitpick. In fact the only let down came right at the end, in the overwhelming oddness of the last, encore, tune. After whipping the crowd into a mad trad-infused climaz, the encore was The Cure’s Love Cats, a great tune, sure, but not for the time and place.

Eclectic, enjoyable and ridiculously infectious, Mr. Scruff puts on one hell of a good show, and five hours of solid bogey is better than any gym.

Nice.

Very nice.

 Daragh Murray


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16

Battles (live in Vicar St, Dublin)

Review Snapshot: More boring than bawlah.

The Cluas Verdict? 5 out of 10

Full Review:
Battles Last night, apparently, Vicar St. was the place to be; three bands, a sell out show, and more people than I’ve ever seen packed into this venue. The Red Neck Manifesto took to the stage shortly after nine o’clock, an expectant crowd wound up… and waited.

The Manifesto are a hard band to pin point, they play a super tight no nonsense style of instrumental indie jazz that is easy to appreciate, but apparently a good deal harder to enjoy. I can’t explain why - all the ingredients are there - but it just ain’t funky. Somehow, amidst all the finesse, between the precise licks and subtle changes, life is lost. The gig, and the tunes, never kick off, never pull in the audience, never really get under your skin and make you wanna get up offa your thing.

A packed venue, a crowd in the mood to party, an electric, expectant, atmosphere and most were left merely nodding their heads in appreciation. It's good music, technically flawless, but without the spark to grab you its nothing more than quirky background music, unsuited to the stage.

Battles I had never seen before, but had heard good, good things. Their name alone drew excitement, and from the crowd’s reaction it is evident that they have tapped into something. What that something is though, beats me. A few weeks ago, my most cynical friend described them as “a bunch of indie blokes with too much time and technology on their hands, trying to sound different.” After last night, I couldn’t agree more. There were good moments, sure, where everything meshed, the band tapped into the energy of the crowd, and it all somehow, miraculously, worked. Those were the good times.

The rest of the time was spent on loopers and style. Exaggerated emotion, tossed scarves, and sweaty, meaningful stares. Some people see the beats as something amazing, something new, something primal. But this seems to be a band trying to slavishly recreate the sound of a rave DJ. Except a DJ has all the tools at his hand, can meld the beats, and tweak them in any direction the mood points to. Battles are stuck in replication. They never seem to make the music their own, to add spark, or flare, and just go with it. Music at its most primal, is simple, an effortless mastery of sound that infects. The technology, or the rhythms themselves need not be simple, but they do have to be intrinsic, elemental to the player, to really allow them come to life. This just didn’t happen last night, it was as if the technology took centre stage; instead of being the medium, it became the message.

Passing the bouncer on the way for a pint, he tossed his head inside, raised an eyebrow and said “what the f**k is that?” Well, who the f**k knows. There is something there, when it hits, it works. Quite nicely. When it doesn’t it seems boring, forced and, well, just a little bit pointless.

Daragh Murray


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14

REM live album coverA review of the album 'Live' by R.E.M.

Review Snapshot: I’ve never been a R.E.M. fan, and, after listening to this I don’t think anything is going to change. It’s a solid performance for the fans, and a lively best-of for the Christmas stocking and that, I’m afraid, is about it.

The Cluas Verdict? 5.5 out of 10

Full Review:
R.E.M. and I don’t really have a history. A long time ago, back when I was young and impressionable, and hormones were doing crazy things to my face, “Everybody Hurts” seemed to be a beautiful tune. But that was a long time ago and, like I said, strange things were happening.

I am not really a fan of live albums - Dylan and The Band being obvious exceptions - I usually prefer to watch the show. R.E.M. have their merits, though creativity and an infectious live pulse are hardly two of them, and so the prospect of a live album of theirs (and a double CD at that) didn’t really instil a sense of anticipation. It was with some weariness and a sense of purgatory that I loaded up the CD player, hit play, and headed off on the two hour trip to Dublin. 

“I Took Your Name” opens the set and, to be honest, it set me back a little. There was a growl, a touch of attitude, perhaps even a trace of charisma, in Michael Stipe’s voice. Had I been wrong, had REM been rediscovering themselves in my absence? Well, no. This is the sound of a working band, one who have found a formula and stuck to it. Religiously.

That’s not to say the band aren’t good, or on form, the songs are tight and well performed, and the emotion of what was clearly a good performance (by R.E.M. standards…), really carries through the set. If you like R.E.M., and are looking for a live album, then look no further. If you’re looking for the sound of a band in their stride, at the gig of a life time, then get The Last Waltz, because quite honestly Michael Stipe is drier than a dehydrated shite. “This is a song from Ohio,” “This is a song from New Jersey,” “This is a song from the beautiful state of…” yeah, yeah, yeah

R.E.M. Live has all the hits, it even has a guest appearance from those other stalwarts of excitement, The Thrills, and if that’s your thing, then this is your CD. If you’re looking for something else, something decent, something invigorating, fresh or challenging, well, keep on looking.

Dinner party comfort music… no wonder the middle classes are getting hooked on cocaine.

Daragh Murray

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


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09

Live at the Awer IDP Camp, Gulu, Uganda  (July 2007)

Awer IDP Camp UgandaReview Snapshot:
This gig was nothing like any I have ever been to before. I’ve been scratching my head trying to come up with a frame of reference, and all I’ve drawn are blanks. Was this a great gig? Well though was nothing like Toots & The Maytals in Vicar St, it was a different type of good. It was one of the most memorable gigs I have ever been to, the atmosphere was amazing, (the music more often than not wasn’t!), hell, it was probably a once in a lifetime experience.

The CLUAS Verdict? 8.5 out of 10

Full review:
We had arrived in Gulu two days previously, hot, sweaty and sore after a seemingly never ending bus ride from Kampala, a journey broken only by infrequent stops either to allow half the bus time to piss against its back tyre, or chain smoke in petrol stations.

Gulu itself is a relatively small town in the north of Uganda, and for the last 20 years it has been largely inaccessible. It was from here that the LRA rebellion really took hold, and some of the worst violence, in one of Africa’s most brutal conflicts, took place. We had come, taking advantage of a tenuous ceasefire, to visit the IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps, to experience life in what is still officially a war zone, and to sate some unexplainable, magnetic, fixation. The last place I expected to find myself was in the middle of a crowd, in the middle of an IDP camp, bopping my ass off to the “cream” of local Ugandan talent.

The concert was organized by “Invisible Children” an NGO set up to care for the child victims of the civil war. “Fallout Boy,” an America band, have become involved with I.C. and were over to shoot a video in Awer camp. As a token of gratitude, and to relieve the monotony of camp life, I.C. were putting on this free gig, where local artists would perform. I don’t think Fallout Boy’s brand of punk is quite in touch with the average Ugandan’s tastes…

We arrived an hour and a half late for the gig (this being Africa!), but (eh, this being Africa again!) it turned out that we were actually an hour and a half early. The stage was set up at the corner of the main square, and a couple of hundred kids, as well as a few token alcoholics (banana beer breath smells BAD) were milling around the stage, grooving away to the Top of the Uganda’s Pops, which was booming from the speakers. Being brutally honest Ugandan pop music is dire, consisting of pre-fabricated synth drum tracks, and Casio preset keyboard lines. In the rush to modernity the people seem to have forgotten their rich trad history and the drumming that can fire up any hoolie.

Most acts here don’t have backing bands, and cost must have been a factor for the gig, so all the acts sang over their CDs, or tapes. This is the first time I had seen something like this outside of a kids birthday party, but given the occasion, the enthusiasm of the crowd (which had by now swollen to well over a thousand), and the performers exhilaration, it all somehow worked.

Five acts in all played, though the language barrier kept me from getting all but one of their names, Lady Jane. In a tantalizing brush with celebrity however, the headline act did get changed into his stage gear in the back of our car. Some of the tunes were great, some were awful, but the crowd responded to them all energetically, and the day was a memorable, bizarre, and ultimately feel-good experience. The undoubted highlight came when one of the rappers pulled a group of children from the front row, only for one of the kids to grab a microphone and rock the crowd, and the mic, like a bad ass pro. They did have to cut him off when it all got just a little too raunchy, but it was something you just don’t see everyday.

The acts will probably never hit the big time, or even make it out of Uganda, and hopefully the situation that gave rise to the camps will never occur on these shores, but should you get the opportunity, you will never forget it!

Daragh Murray


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Nuggets from our archive

1999 - 'The eMusic Market', written by Gordon McConnell it focuses on how the internet could change the music industry. Boy was he on the money, years before any of us had heard of an iPod or of Napster.