The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Entries for 'Celine O'Malley'


The Swell Season (live in the Uptown Theater, Kansas)

Review Snapshot: The music was great, the stories were not. Glen and The Frames were as remarkable as ever in their performance and still have what it takes to wow new audiences. Marketa added texture and a breath of fresh air to to the proceedings. Unfortunately Glen's involved stories and self indulgent ramblings detracted from what was otherwise a stellar Frames performance.

The Cluas Verdict? 7.5 out of 10

The Swell Season liveFull Review: I’m a long-time Frames fan, I admit it. I first saw them in Dolans in Limerick, circa 1995, during my halcyon college days. I’ve interviewed Glen and Colm and been to my fair share of Frames gigs in the intervening years. My slavish following has waned in recent times, so it was an unusual pleasure to find myself in Kansas City, Missouri on a Monday night with tickets to see Glen and Marketa, aka The Swell Season.

Upon walking into the Uptown Theater in Kansas the brawny voice of Damien Dempsey was echoing around the auditorium. I only caught his last two songs but he seemed to get a warm reception. The Uptown Theater is something like The Olympia after a colour explosion; embossed orange wallpaper, Grecian statues and urns and an almost Mexican feel to it. The crowd was diverse, plenty of soccer moms and dads, and every age from babes in arms to Grandma and Grandpa.

The show opened with ‘Say it to me now’ with Glen at his acoustic best, all alone on the edge of the stage, no need of a microphone. He went on to introduce Marketa and the two of them launched into, ‘All the Way down’. I have to admit I had goose bumps; their voices combined produce a hauntingly beautiful sound. Glen invited the guys from The Frames out on stage and then characteristically got a little carried away with a shout of “Yeah F*ck Yeah” which shocked  the politically correct American massive. But he recovered and explained the inspiration for their song ‘This Low’. It involved finding and reading a self-help book left behind after the breakup of a relationship. They seem to enjoy his talking here; maybe it’s the lilting Irish accent. It’s a stunning love song and built up to a crescendo of heartfelt emotion, with Marketa harmonising during the chorus.

Next up was ‘Drown Out', again preceded by a long and rambling introduction, far too long to go into here. Suffice to say it’s inspired by a story of religious persecution in the 1400s and a ghost speaking through the husband of a reiki healer that Glen knows. I’m not sure even the Americans were getting it. The song sounded good though, with Colm’s fiddle adding power as did the piano accompaniment.

Finally some beats and energy. The whole band got involved on ‘When Your Minds Made Up’and the place rocked to the strong drum beat. Colm was sterling as ever on the fiddle. This was much nearer to The Frames magic of old. Marketa adds sparkle and lightness to their overall sound and she sounds so charming with her Irish accent. For her next melodic offering, possibly entitled ‘Forgive me lover’, she introduced Graham Hopkins (Therapy? and Halite) as her accompaniment on drums.

‘Falling Slowly’, Glen and Marketa’s Oscar winning song got a great reception. Typically Glen expanded on his Oscar glory. He used a metaphor of kicking a ball which goes way beyond where you expected it to. “You just wanted it to go over the wall but it kept going and now you want your ball back”. He told how he was sad because of everything he’d been for 20 years (in The Frames) and now he’s singled out as the “successful guy”. His language throughout the evening was smattered with expletives and his excuse? He blamed the 800 years that the English had beaten our language out of us, so he believes it’s now our job to corrupt the English language. At this point I was almost ready to leave.

I didn't, and next up, appropriately enough, was ‘Leave’. It’s a heart wrenchingly, aching love song. Glen sang it alone and built it up until he was almost spitting out the words. You could feel the genuine heartache on it. This was followed by ‘What happens when the heart just stops’, another sad relationship song.

Marketa took to the stage again and they delivered one of their favourite busking songs ‘Just wishing that I had just something you were’ by the Pixies. The glorious ‘Your Face’ was all Glen with gentle backing music and harmonies; it brought me right back to all those nights in dark, packed venues around Ireland, mesmerised by the songs and overflowing emotions. To finish the show it was Marketa with ‘If you want me’. It’s almost a Lisa / Damien phenomenon. The rapt audience barely exhaled as Marketa’s poignant voice filled the theatre. She sounded so strong with Glen on backing duties.

The encore started with ‘The Blue Shoes’ Colm Mac Con Iomaire’s masterpiece on the fiddle. Some people started to leave but he entranced the remaining spectators. The whole band came back and Glen commented that it was his favourite night of the tour. Then into ‘Fitzcarraldo’, I couldn’t believe I knew all the words and even found myself singing along. It’s hard to beat the Frames fan out of me. Next up the strummed opening bars signalled the start of the tender ‘Star, star’ which, as always, moved into ‘Pure Imagination’. Glen gave Joe his time in the limelight.

If there’s one thing you can say about The Frames they never stop giving, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a lacklustre performance from them. Next another ‘Frames’ classic and one of my favourites ‘Red Cord’. I’m lost to them again. All the talking and throwaway comments from Glen forgotten in the passion of their performance.

I ended the night with mixed emotions, varying from pride at the positive reaction they got from the crowd to embarrassment at some of the comments made during the evening. But I’m a lifelong fan so it’s hard to detach myself. This may be the time to really introduce the music of The Frames to the wider world, I just hope Glen manages to let the music speak for itself.

Celine O'Malley

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A review of the album 'The Tiny Pieces Left Behind' by Joe Chester

Joe Chester Tiny Pieces Left BehindReview Snapshot: The album overall left me cold. I was disappointed because it's always good to hear a new album from an Irish artist that is fresh and has the potential to wow, but I'm afraid that didn't happen for me here.

The Cluas Verdict? 5.5 out of 10

Full Review:
I admit, often to others' disdain, that I am a singer-songwriter fan. Rufus Wainwright, Sam Beam, Glen Hansard, Ryan Adams, Sufjan Stevens and many others count among my favourite singers. All have different styles but  they each have a unique, strong voice and the ability to speak through their music. They're my trusted voices, and I'm always happy when I go back to their albums, any of them. Unfortunately Joe Chester is not going to find a place up there with them just yet, not with this album.

I came to Joe's new album with eager anticipation. I enjoyed 'Murder of Crows', Joe's 2004 debut, but I found there was too much going on with this album. The move away from the acoustic sound of his earlier stuff just didn't work for me. The songs blended together and save from a few highlights the album didn't leave too much of an impression.

The album starts out strong but to my mind doesn't deliver after that. There is sameness to it, I'm not sure if it's his voice or the melodies but I found myself skipping some of the songs as I listened to it for the third or fourth time. 'Maybe This Is Not Love' opens the album. It's a catchy track and sounds like it could be a possible summer single, I imagine it would get radio play. It's upbeat and to my mind the best track on the album. 'Something is Better (than nothing at all)' follows and doesn't quite measure up; there's not enough variety in it and the repeated chorus just crawls along.
'The Bodies Start to Move' sounds more like Joe from his earlier work so I was disappointed when the music took over and all but drowned out his voice. 'Fluorescent Light' showcases some nice harmonies with Gemma Hayes. Their voices work well together but again I don't know if there was enough there to sustain five minutes. 'To Hold Onto Melting Love' has a melodic, piano tinkling intro and a simple arrangement. It veers towards a traditional air as the track progresses and it actually works well.

'Why Things Break' never rises above its lacklustre beginnings, nor does'Long Distance Friend' where again I found his voice competing with the music. 'Alarms' unfortunately is my least favourite song on here, I actually found it difficult to stick with it for the entire five minutes 25 seconds. It's repetitive and the least melodic song on here.

The album is one to have on in the background but I don't think the songs jump out at you, save for a couple. I think the length of the tracks also had something to do with it. Four of the tracks are over five minutes long and it's hard to sustain a good melody for that length. 

Celine O'Malley

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Nuggets from our archive

2005Michael Jackson: demon or demonised? Or both?, written by Aidan Curran. Four years on this is still a great read, especially in the light of his recent death. Indeed the day after Michael Jackson died the CLUAS website saw an immediate surge of traffic as thousands visited to read this very article.