The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Blogs

From 2007 to 2010 CLUAS hosted blogs written by 8 of its writers. Over 900 blog entries were published in that time, all of which you can browse here. Here are links to the 8 individual blogs:

13

Welcome to La Route du Rock, France's best alternative music festival. We're at the site, an old fort about ten miles south of Saint Malo. To get here - and Irish festival-goers will love this - a free shuttle takes us from the town out to the festival location. And en route it stops at a hypermarket where one can get off the bus, load up on supplies (booze, mostly) and then hop on the next bus a half-hour later.

We've been struck by the number of English accents we've heard around us here - it seems that there's been a mini D-Day channel crossing and landing. Of course, the cheap tickets, easy accessibility and excellent line-up make this a great value indie-kid holiday for UK fans. With transport connections from Ireland to nearby Rennes (by air) and Paris, La Route du Rock is a secret that Irish fans would do well to discover.

Just like last year, festival director François Floret has been playing the poor mouth and telling the press about the financially precarious situation of La Route du Rock. That said, even he concedes that next year's festival is not at all in danger - a change in tone from the end-of-the-world sounds he made by rattling his begging bowl last summer. But the festival's unique venue is part of the problem - from a total budget of €1.3 million, a hefty €700,000 is spent on installing and customising the technical side of things.

And that leaves little in the piggy bank for paying rock stars. Floret singles out the expense of bringing the Irish headliners to the festival. "My Bloody Valentine proved to be rather demanding", he told local paper Ouest France. Eventually, he says, because of the festival's reputation "they accepted to half their appearance fee". Oh, but they're worth it, monsieur Floret.

Tonight's bill features Deerhunter, Tortoise, A Place To Bury Strangers, Crystal Stilts and headliners My Bloody Valentine - review to follow.


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11

 I spent a great few hours in London lately at the School of Oriental & African Studies on Russell Square. I’d seen a note about the onsite Brunei Gallery’s show on Kazakh carpet making – or rather, felt carpet making by ethnic Kazakhs in Mongolia. Small in scale and excellently explained and curated, complete with yurt, the exhibition also opened my eyes to the work being done at SOAS on Central Asian music. Leaflets at the Brunei alerted me to a new double CD of Kazakh music produced by the School. It’s a collection of masters of Central Asian instruments like the dombra. But they’ve also found performers of the pobyz, “the two-stringed fiddle with shamanic roots” and the sybyzghy, an open-ended flute “amplified by a vocal drone.”

The 44-track collection is intended as a musical journey across vast, sparsely populated Kazakhstan. Hence the qobyz tunes were picked up in the country’s southern and central plains while there’s “virtuoso” dombra playing from eastern and western settlements on the steppe, as the vast grasslands are known. I was happy that the Kazakh embassy in London seems to have pitched in with SOAS and the Art & Humanities Research Council to release the collection, which I’m dying to hear in its entirety. That’s good to see, because the totalitarian regimes who’ve run most central Asian states for decades have never been renowned for their preservation of traditional local culture, certainly not during the USSR years of Russification.  You can buy the CD at the SOAS bookshop, nextdoor to the Brunei Gallery.

Music from Kazakhstan


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11

If you have US$20 to spend on some chinoserie, you could do worse than a t-shirt by Plastered, a UK-owned design house in Beijing that's thrived as a cottage industry-sized producer of t-shirts bearing images of local iconic brands (like local cheap spirits maker ErGouTou) and old signage.

The firm, whose shop in the old-city neighbourhood of Nanluoguxiang, was inundated with Olympics tourists this time last year, will likely do well with its t-shirt boasting the name and doodles of PK14, one of the most enduing of Sino-Swedish joint ventures and long-term staple of the local punk scene.

 

 

PK14 on a Plastered T-Shirt


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10

Cois Fharraige, Ireland's number one music and water sports festival, returns to Kilkee, Co. Clare this September.  The 3 day event will take place between Friday September 11 and Sunday September 13.

Previous incarnations of the festival has seen performances from the likes of Seasick Steve, Supergrass, Travis and The Futureheads.  So far only a few acts for the 2009 edition have been announced but include the likes of Noah & The Whale, Doves, The Hold Steady and The Zutons.

Tickets went on sale this morning (Tuesday August 11) from the usual outlets and are available at an early bird price of 89euro (inc. booking fee) until September 1.  After that, the price becomes 99euro (also inc. booking fee).

Unlike other festivals, there is no on-site camping available but punters can check out the Discover Ireland website to see what accommodation is available in the surrounding areas. 

Doves: Kingdom of Rust


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10

Dateline early 2005, and the CLUAS gaffer has summoned your then Dublin-based correspondent to an urgent editorial meeting:

CLUAS gaffer: I have a hunch that the French indie scene is about to take over the world. As an Irish music webzine, we obviously need someone there to cover it. This would involve arduous hours of swanning around Paris with moody, hyper-intellectual French actresses who take their clothes off for art. As every other CLUAS writer is currently locked inside Whelan's, it'll have to be you.

Your correspondent: For the sake of music, I will make that sacrifice [*deep sigh, hand to the brow*]. And fair play to Art!

And so we landed Seine-side and settled into Chateau French Letter, official residence of the CLUAS Foreign Correspondent (Paris). As it happens, Chateau French Letter is near 5 rue de Verneuil, which was the home of none other than Serge Gainsbourg, perhaps France's only true great pop star. Gainsbourg lived there with his legendary partner, Jane Birkin, and their daughter Charlotte, herself known to make a fine record. The house has stood empty since Gainsbourg's death in 1991, but Charlotte lives nearby with her husband and children.

You can see what attracted Gainsbourg to the house and location. The street-side is a large wall with a double entrance, ensuring some privacy. And it's just round the corner from Saint Germain, where even today the wealthy and successful of Paris like to go clubbing.

Two bits of trivia: (1) Anecdotal evidence has it that despite his unkempt personal appearance Gainsbourg liked to keep his home scrupulously tidy and well-ordered; (2) the cover photo for his album 'L'Homme A La Tête De Choux' was taken in the courtyard of his home, featuring a statue of that name that once stood there.

There goes the neighbourhood: Serge Gainsbourg's home at 5 rue de Verneuil in ParisAs you'd imagine, the house on rue de Verneuil has become a place of pilgrimage for Gainsbourg fans. The outside wall (right) is covered in graffiti and there are tourists taking photos outside it on most days. However, there isn't a plaque or any official indication that a major figure of modern French culture once lived there.

But that may change. It's apparently the intention of his family to convert the house into a museum dedicated to the life and works of Serge Gainsbourg, with the high cost being a major stumbling block. To this end an exhibition on Gainsbourg last autumn at the Cité de la Musique in Paris helped to put the singer's legacy back into the spotlight - both Birkin and Charlotte Gainsbourg were prominent supporters of the show.

And the focus on Gainsbourg will continue next year with the release of a biopic on the man. The film has already garnered some tragic pre-release attention: Lucy Gordon, the English actress who plays Jane Birkin, killed herself on 20 May of this year, just days after the first private screening of the final cut.

There are two other must-see locations on the Serge tour of Paris - the metro station at Lilas that inspired his first hit, 'Le Poinçonneur Des Lilas', and his family plot at the cemetery in Montparnasse where visitors leave metro tickets from Lilas. (Across from Serge's resting place is the black slab of Samuel Beckett's grave, where fans leave bananas as a reference to 'Krapp's Last Tape'.)

So, in memory of our erstwhile neighbour, here's the fantastic 'Initials BB' and one of those days when Serge looked untouchably cool:


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09

Here's a tune that's on French radio almost as much as the traffic reports, and we figure there's a good chance you'll be hearing it on the Eire-waves very soon too.

Freddy McQuinnThe guy's name is Freddy McQuinn. Despite his Anglophone (almost Irish) name he's apparently a born Parisian, though he's spent many years in London. But you can hear the French phrasing when he sings.

McQuinn was a fairly popular DJ for many years, mostly as part of a collective called Marathon Men who had a soul-funk-electronica sound. (Think of Gilles Peterson's taste in tunes and you'll get the idea.) But for his first solo album, 'Exile On Brick Lane', he's become something of a jazz-soul troubadour, playing acoustic guitar onstage with a band.

Your blogger really isn't into jazz-soul-pop as anything other than aural wallpaper to have on when Chateau French Letter needs cleaning. But one of McQuinn's tunes, the one with airplay ubiquity, has us putting down the feather-duster for a closer listen.

The song is called 'Chasing Rainbows', and that rather bland title is a good indicator of the genre: coffee-table jazz pop à la  Jamie Cullum. But while this song's syncopated rhythm and be-bop trumpet line may sound familiar, McQuinn manages to put some personality into the track. His French phrasing gives the vocal line a slightly off-kilter feel, and the lyrics have an agreeable streak of arrogance in them, especially the chorus hook: "I'm better than the rest".

Anyway, it's a radio-friendly song - and McQuinn's English name should make it easier for him to appear on UK and Irish playlists. The rest of his songs are closer to funk than the jazziness of 'Chasing Rainbows', and calling your songs 'Bitch' and 'Sex Obsession' is really not good. (The songs live down to their titles.) But as we always say, one good song is one more than most acts have.

There's no video for 'Chasing Rainbows' yet, so you'll have to pop over to Freddy McQuinn's MySpace page to hear it.


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08

Here's one I saw recently on Radio Free Europe's Iran news site: Iranian singer Mohsen Namjoo has been found guilty of "disrespecting religious sanctities" for his use of Koranic verses in a song and sentenced in absentia to five years in prison. Although Namjoo, 32, apologized for the song a few months ago, some say his open support for the "green" movement around presidential candidate Mir Hossein Musavi and his appearance at opposition rallies abroad led to his being sentenced to prison. Namjoo was classically trained in Tehran music academies and excelled at the setar before teaching himself guitar. Along the way he encountered the blues, and that’s where the Dylan comparisons began. "I regret my self-censorship and condescension for all these years, like many others who do the same," Namjoo, who lives in Vienna, told the BBC. The Western press's championing of him as the voice of dissent won't have helped his cause. I’m tired of seeing musicians of any alternative style being postered as the voices of a generation, or the voices of protest. It happens every few years in China, where rock musicians love publicity but generally shun any chance of confrontation with the rule-alone Communist Party here. Is it fair to hang all these expectations on musicians, particularly since the media in question in all cases I've seen have rarely if ever written about the musician before or after putting them on the cover as China's/Iran's great Dylanesque hope? 


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06

An excerpt from the Kevin Smith movie, Dogma:

Bethany:  What exactly brought you to Illinois?
Jay:  Some fuck called John Hughes.
Bethany: 
Sixteen Candles John Hughes?
Jay: You know that guy, too? See, all these movies take place in a small town called Shermer, in Illinois, where all the honies are top-shelf, but all the dudes are whiny pussies - except for Judd Nelson, he was fuckin' harsh - but best of all, there was no one dealin', man; then, it hits me: we could live like phat rats if we were the blunt connection in Shermer, Illinois. So we collected some money we were owed, and we caught a bus. You know what the fuck we found out when we got there? There is no Shermer in Illinois. Movies are fuckin' bullshit.

Outside of my family and friends, there are few people whose death would stop me in my tracks and make me reflect upon their life and work.  John Hughes was one such person though.  It was with a mixture of shock and sadness that I heard of his passing this morning.  You see, as a child of the eighties, Key Notes grew up with movies like Breakfast Club, Weird Science and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  Of course, this blog was a bit too young to see them first time around but, as a teenager in the early '90's the movies seemed to fit perfectly with my own teenage angst.

Hughes was great at writing outsiders and showing, ultimately, that they're not so different from the rest of us.  There was a Ferris Bueller, Wyatt Donnelly or Samantha Baker in all of us during our teenage years.  It's not often as a teenager that you feel that someone 'gets' you, but when watching a Hughes movie you really felt like he did.  Such a pity then that he moved away from teen movies so as not to be considered a one trick pony. 

Pop songs always played a huge part in a John Hughes movie. Sixteen Candles had Paul Young's Love of the Common People and True by Spandau Ballet, Ferris Bueller had Twist & Shout and an instrumental cover of The Smiths' Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want and The Breakfast Club had, of course, Simple Minds' Don't You.

However, my own personal favourite was Tesla Girls by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark from Weird Science and that's the song I'm going to finish this blog off with today. 

Life moves pretty fast.  If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it - Ferris Bueller.  I, for one, will be having a John Hughes marathon this weekend.


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05

Well, it seems that all your correspondent has been doing lately is moaning and complaining. The new Phoenix album is disappointing; the new Air song is poor; the new Cassius EP is uninspired, and so forth. Some of you have been wondering if the Paris heat is getting to us, if some Parisienne had battered our coronary organ, if we just needed a holiday. All of that may be true, but those Phoenix, Air and Cassius records are tiresome nonetheless. If only there were a kindred spirit, someone with a fellow feeling for French music's current staleness...

RV Salters, aka General ElektriksEt voilà! Meet Hervé Salters (right), whose mammy is French and daddy is Irish (so he says in this interview). Born and raised in France, Hervé spent some of his teenage years in London before moving to California in 1999. (Continuing the Irish connection, he lives in Berkeley, named after Kilkenny's greatest ever philosopher.) Amending his first name to RV, he started making music and fell in with the likes of Blackalicious and DJ Shadow - indeed, his first album, 'Cliquety Kliqk' in 2003, featured Blackalicious.

Now Salters has released his second album, 'Good City For Dreamers'. It's a marvellous blend of loose funkiness and tight electronica, flavoured with jazzy progressions and Beatles-y pop hooks. The sense of fun and adventure is infectious.

So what's the link with your blogger's recent moaniness? Well, our favourite song on the record is 'Raid The Radio', where a soulful chorus declares war on the airwaves because "we're tired of hearing the same old song". Yes! That's us! We hear ya! (We also love it for the blissed-out groove and playful whistling.)

General Elektriks are currently touring around France - no upcoming Irish shows for the moment but perhaps he may have been there recently (visiting his family, for instance). Check out RV Salters' tunes on the General Elektriks MySpace page.

Here's a brilliant unofficial homemade video for 'Raid The Radio' that perfectly catches the spirit of the track - the sound quality isn't perfect but you'll get the gist. Under UEFA regulations this may well be both the best French song and best Irish song of 2009:


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03

This is supposed to be a series of blogs that look at the individuals who populate Irish indie gigs and yet, in this particular entry, Key Notes will be profiling the type of person who would never be seen alone.

Introduction:
scenesters are far too cool for capital letters.  The time you and I waste searching for the shift key (or, worse still, caps lock) is time they can spend getting their fringe just right.  Indeed, such is their dedication to this, they only purchase products beginning with lower case letters, such as iPhones, iPods and, well, you get the idea.  It is one of nature's great mysteries that scenesters are very self-aware and yet, almost always unaware of their status as scenesters.  As such, they are amongst the most deluded of the Irish indie gig goers.

How to spot one:
For a start, you won't spot just one as scenesters are the cattle of the Irish indie scene, roaming, as they do, in herds.  The male of the species tend to speak at a higher pitch than the average Irish male.  This may have something to do with the fact he appears to be wearing his 15 year old sister's jeans.  Beneath these ill-fitting jeans you're likely to find pointy shoes or white canvas trainers, depending on the scenesters mood before he left home.  The torso tends to be covered with an equally tight fitting t-shirt adorned with the logo of a band the scenester may never have actually listened to.   The very worst scenester ends up looking like a Jonas Brother!

The female of the species loves Urban Outfitters, indeed, in a survey carried out by this blog recently, 82% of female scenesters listed Urban Outfitters as their favourite shop.  The remaining 18% pretended I didn't exist.  The female scenester will, therefore, often be seen without a drink in hand, having spent 85 euro on leggings that look exactly like those her older sister threw away before the start of Italia '90.  Female scenesters often bald quicker than non-scenesters due, in part, to their penchant for wearing hats indoors.

Behavioural Characteristics:
scenesters will spend 90% of every gig talking amongst themselves, about themselves.  They will spend the remaining 10% attempting to cheer and 'whoop' louder than anyone else at the end of songs while shouting for the band to play the one song they know from that album the NME said was the best thing since last week's album of the week.

It should also be noted that almost every scenester appears to be in a band though, strangely, you won't have heard of them as they've never actually played a gig or recorded any material.  They do have a 'really cool' name though, probably beginning with 'the.'

What they are likely to say:
'What was that support band wearing; it should have been my band up there.'

What you are likely to say:
'Look love, they have a set-list that they're going to stick to, no matter how much you shout.'


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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.