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:

03

The wider world’s perception of music from France is still based on a clique of ‘French touch’ electronica bands who’ve been around for over a decade. International audiences seem to be enthralled by anything French that goes ‘blip’ or ‘bleep’, flavoured with varying degrees of dreamy synths or skuzzy guitars.

But to our ears it’s all starting to sound tired. The new Phoenix album, ‘Wolfgang Amadeux Phoenix’, gives the impression of a band happy to consolidate rather than innovate. Air’s new track, ‘Do The Joy’, sounds like most Air tracks off their last two records – incidental music for some boho existentialist arthouse movie. And what have Daft Punk been doing lately?

Cassius‘Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’ was produced by Philippe Zdar, Philippe Cerboneschi, one half of Cassius and another member of this clique. Perhaps less well known internationally than their peers, Cassius (right) can nonetheless point to two cracking singles in their back catalogue – the banging remix of ‘1999’ and the slashing guitars of ‘Toop Toop’ from 2006.

Now Cassius are back with a new song from a forthcoming E.P. ‘Youth, Speed, Trouble, Cigarettes’ is the title and complete lyric of the track. It starts with an air-raid siren and features a catchy ascending-scale figure duplicated on guitar strums and a thin synth line. The lyric is shouted by teen-sounding voices, recalling ‘D.A.N.C.E.’ by Justice, the most recent off the assembly line of French electronic duos.

All this is packed into the opening thirty seconds – but the whole thing just repeats itself for the remaining three and a half minutes. It all feels a bit laboured, as if that one decent hook has to carry the whole track. Perhaps a canny remix can breathe some life into it.

The B-side, ‘Almost Cut My Hair’, is as mundane as the title suggests – dancefloor electronic that bangs out one keyboard riff ad infinitum. Or maybe your correspondent is just completely bored by le French touch and yearns for something exciting and new to happen here in Paris.

Judge for yourself – here’s ‘Youth, Speed, Trouble, Cigarettes’ by Cassius, set to extracts from Harmony Korine’s ‘Gummo’:


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28

Having been nominated for 'Best European Festival' in the UK Festival Awards 2008; Castlepalooza is back and will take place over the course of the August Bank Holiday Weekend (Saturday August 1 & Sunday August 2) in the gorgeous surroundings of Charleville Castle, Tullamore.

The line up is as follows:

Were it not for a stupid knee injury picked up while training for the Marathon (Grade II MCL and Medial Meniscus tear, if you're asking) Key Notes would be going himself.  However, this blog would still recommend that those of you going do your very best to check out the following 5 bands; Dark Room Notes, Le Galaxie, Rarely Seen Above Ground, Angel Pier and The Ambience Affair.

Of course, as with all the best boutique festivals, there is much more than just music going on at Castlepalooza.  This year the festival will also include lots of other entertainment, from the live Rocky Horror Picture show to Crafternoon Tea and dance workshops to the infamous Party Bus.  Castlepalooza also has hot showers and flushing loos which differentiates it from most festivals Key Notes has ever attended.

A limited number of tickets are still available from the Castlepalooza website and from usual outlets.  Also, be sure to check out Anna Murray's reviews of Castlepalooza 2009 over the weekend.


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25

Saint Malo is an old walled town on the northern coast of Brittany, hugely popular with tourists looking for sun, sand and spectacular scenery. For three days every summer the ranks of sun-worshipping tourists are swelled by pale Parisian indie kids, here for France's best alternative music festival.

La Route du Rock 2009Our regular readers will remember that we featured last summer's La Route du Rock on two occasions - 'before' and 'after'. First, we reported on the festival's financial problems, potentially terminal at the time. Then we were happy to tell how the festival had been saved by a late rush of ticket sales, apparently due to UK-based fans of Sigur Ros making the short hop across the Channel.

La Route du Rock returns for 2009, in its traditional slot of the mid-August French public holiday. It features as main stagers the sort of alternative acts normally cordoned off in the tents of other major festivals.

That said, the festival can boast a headliner who's high in both indie cred and marquee-name attractiveness - our own My Bloody Valentine. G'wan Oirland! Kevin Shields and co. will play on the first night, along with Tortoise, The Horrors, A Place To Bury Strangers, Deerhunter and Mark Kozelek. Plenty of squally shoegazing there.

Saturday's headliners, The Kills, leave us cold. But Peaches will surely be good for a wild time. Also on the bill that night: Camera Obscura, St Vincent and Four Tet.

Sunday night offers the only big French name of the festival - chanteur Dominique A, who you might know from his appearance on 'Hyacinths And Thistles', the 2000 album by Stephin Merritt's side project The 6ths. More to our taste are Grizzly Bear (auteurs of the wonderful 'Veckatimest'), Andrew Bird, Bill Callahan and Telepathe.

Saint Malo is close to Rennes, where there are regular flights to/from Ireland, and the ferry at Roscoff - Irish music fans should consider hitting La Route du Rock for their summer holidays sometime. Your correspondent will be there: bucket-and-spading it on the beach by day, indie-ing out by night. Yahoo!

You can check out full festival details on La Route du Rock's website. How much will it cost? Well, it's €94 for a full three-day pass to the main arena and two smaller venues. But if you just want to stick to the main stage and don't feel the need to see Telepathe or Mark Kozelek, it's €74 just for the main stage.

Now, back to the packing: suncream, snazzy swimming togs... oh, and earplugs - here's 'You Made Me Realise':


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22

No doubt you’re all giddy with excitement about this weekend’s U2 concerts at Croke Park. Whatever about the quality (or lack thereof) of their new material, you have to admit that the show looks bloody impressive as a live spectacle.

The Biggest Band In The World™ played two nights at the Stade de France in Paris a few weekends ago, before heading down to Nice for a gig near their Riviera base.

They have a chequered relationship, U2 and France. You may remember the 1995 MTV Europe Music Awards in Paris, when Bono dismantled the atomic bomber and French president Jacques Chirac by calling him a ‘wanker’. Since then, though, he has settled into a holiday home on the Cote d’Azur and even written (with Simon Carmody!) a song for Johnny Hallyday.

And Bono can now speak French, sort of.

French pop radio station NRJ (pronounced ‘NRG’/‘energy’) has an annual awards ceremony, much like the MTV bashes, which takes place every January in Cannes as a curtain-raiser to the annual MIDEM conference. Cannes is close to chez Bono. In 2005 U2 were busy trying to shift units of ‘How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb’ and tickets for the Vertigo tour.

And so, in what was no doubt a coincidence, at the 2005 ceremony NRJ gave Bono a lifetime achievement gong – and the man himself drove down the road to collect the award in person.

Having accepted the mantelpiece bauble from Naomi Campbell (above right), Bono then pulled out a sheet of paper and began delivering a speech in French (at 4 mins 30 sec of the video below).

What Bono says is that he… well, actually, we’re not going to translate. You can try to figure it out yourself, what with the Leaving Cert French you no doubt still remember perfectly and practice fluently. If you have any witty suggestions, post them below:


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22

If you get a chance take a look and a listen: Eurasianet, a portal studying Central Asian political and social issues, has posted a great piece of reportage on the state-sanctioned revivial of folk music in Xinjiang province, the majority Turkic-muslim province in the news lately after riots between ethnic Uyghur natives and Han Chinese residents.

Reporter Anne Laure Py did a good job crossing the region to track the revival of the dombra-driven folk songs among local Kazakh and Kyrgyz communities. Ethnically close to the Uyghurs these communities crossed in and out of China and their ethnic homelands to avoid the various raths of Stalin and Mao, neither of whom had much time for cultural diversity or preservation.

It's very interesting to listen to Zhouji, a Han Chinese ethnomusicologist with genuine respect and affection for the songs of these original nomads. A presence right through the multimedia project, he looks the part, with the Gerry Garica-grey goatee and long hair you don't often get on a Chinese academic. There's plenty of characters, and great music in the online series, so take a look.

Dombra tunes are making a comeback in China's muslim west


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21

In this, the 10th edition of Key Note Speaker, Key Notes' speaks to Anna, Pearse, and Jamie of Charm Offensive, the Kildare based band who take their influences from many bands but who manage to sound distinctly unlike anyone else (including themselves).  Charm Offensive play Upstairs in Whelan's today (July 22) at 8pm.  Declaration of interest: The Anna involved is Anna Murray of CLUAS fame, proving what a multi-talented writing team we've assembled here!

Favourite Songs from the Past Year
Anna
Is it too late to count Portishead’s Threads? Also, Grand Pocket Orchestra’s Little Messy
Pearse 
Dog Days
by Florence and the Machine and 22 by Lily Allen
Jamie 
Call It A Ritual, Wolf Parade but I’m not actually sure it was in the last year

Favourite Song Ever
Anna 
No idea. I tend to remember albums not songs
Pearse
Glosoli by Sigur Ros is up there, with some Radiohead, maybe Reckoner, and a lot of Blondie
Jamie 
Everything In It’s Right Place - Radiohead, He Poos Clouds - Final Fantasy, I Want You [She’s So Heavy] - The Beatles but it’ll change by next week

Favourite Charm Offensive Song
Anna 
Sugar Rush
, it's very moody, and wild, but very controlled. It's top
Pearse
Futureproof.
We haven’t played it live yet, but it should be satisfyingly loud
Jamie 
July’s Child. The most complete thing I think we’ve done

Favourite New Band/Artist
Anna
Sounds of System Breakdown, The Stoney Brokes, Grand Pocket Orchestra
Pearse
I'm loving Florence right now. Are Nirvana new?
Jamie 
Wolf Parade but, again, not really new

Favourite Band/Artist Ever
Anna 
Tujiko Noriko or Final Fantasy
Pearse & Jamie
Radiohead

Favourite Gig This Year
Anna & Jamie 
Final Fantasy in Whelan's
Pearse
Lilly Allen at wherever it was

Favourite Gig Ever
Anna 
Final Fantasy in Whelan's, but two years ago
Pearse
Definitely Arcade Fire on Oct 23rd last year. Blew my socks off
Jamie 
Radiohead in wherever they played in Dublin in 2003

Favourite Charm Offensive Gig Ever
Anna 
Today's!
Pearse
Definitely today's! Best gig ever!
Jamie 
We had a very nice gig at Eamonn Doran's last year, it was the first time we'd played live for a while, so it was great to get back on stage

Favourite Venue
Anna 
I’d love to do a silent gig in Crawdaddy – everything through headphones
Pearse
Well it's always been my dream to play on the roof of the tennis club in Castlebar, maybe some day I can make that happen
Jamie 
Vicar Street

Favourite Piece of Musical/Recording Equipment
Anna 
Macbook, with Logic Pro, Cubase, Soundforge, Soundhack…
Pearse
My lovely pedal, a Boss GT8
Jamie 
A Korg, but only because I’ve never used one and can’t afford one

Download or CD/Cassette/Record
Anna, Pearse & Jamie 
CD

Favourite TV Show at the Moment
Anna 
Bones! And Green Wing
Pearse
Pushing Daises
Jamie 
Rome

Favourite Movie
Anna 
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Pearse
Pan's Labyrinth
Jamie 
Back To The Future I & II

Favourite Book
Anna & Jamie 
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Pearse 
The His Dark Materials trilogy
 

Most Listened to Radio Show
Anna, Pearse & Jamie 
Um....Radio?

What's in Store for Charm Offensive Next
Pearse 
Well we're playing Upstairs at Whelan's this Wednesday at 8pm, with the talented Defex
Anna
Some recording, which should be on our MySpace soon
Jamie 
Wembley, drug shame, triumphant comeback


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21

Over and out: another let-down from AirThe new single from Air (right) is available on the band’s website. ‘Do The Joy’ is the first extract from their new album, ‘Love 2’, which is due for release on 5 October.

There are two long-standing traditions around new Air records: (1) the blather about how the duo are back to their ‘Moon Safari’ level of quality, and (2) the reality that Nicolas Godin and J.B. Dunckel have yet again served up a lazy, diluted version of the classic Air sound – drizzly synths, breathy androgynous vocals, echoing chords. If you endured the horrible ‘Pocket Symphony’ you really don’t need to let yourself in for more of the same, which is what ‘Do The Joy’ is.

But if that doesn’t dissuade you, then head to Air’s official website, where you can help yourself to a free download of ‘Do The Joy’ by signing up for the band’s newsletter. A second single, 'Sing Sang Sung', is slated for release on 24 August.

Forewarned being forearmed, here’s a one-minute extract from 'Do The Joy', which should give you the gist:


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20

Here’s a lovely bit of blissed-out summer folk-pop that’s getting plenty of airplay on French radio – which is quite appropriate, for reasons we shall explain.

ChicrosThe band (right) are called Chicros, formerly Los Chicros, which we believe is slang for “the skinflints”. We understand that they named themselves thus because they trawl for cheap vintage instruments picked up in markets and second hand stores.

Anyway, this Parisian foursome make an idiosyncratic sound that covers most points of the retro alt-pop spectrum – we hear flashes of Belle & Sebastian, Jonathan Richman and The Boo Radleys in there.

Chicros have just released their second album, ‘Radiotransmission’. It’s a concept album about the wireless – a quarter of the track titles feature the word ‘radio’. For the most part, it’s quite good.

The standout track is that bit of blissed-out summer folk-pop we promised in the first paragraph. It’s called ‘What’s New Today On TV?’ and has a rather delicate melody that bobs like a kite over a chiming guitar line. And the song’s sunny disposition is subverted by the blatantly saccharine chorus: “What a wonderful world we live in today”. The best pop songs often sugar-coat a bitter pill.

You can check out Chicros’ MySpace page for this and other tracks. We had hoped to bring you sound and vision: however, the video for ‘What’s New Today On TV?’ consists of clips from what seems like the less graphic parts of ‘70s German adult films. The CLUAS Legal Department are quite strict on this sort of stuff, so you’ll have to make do with a discreet link and one of those ‘not responsible for external content’ disclaimers. And don’t watch it at work, okay?

Fortunately the video for 'New Orleans' is more suited to CLUAS viewing, featuring nothing more than young children violently attacking voodoo dolls of the band:


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16

On April 8 2008, not only did I lose my father-in-law to cancer but I also lost one of my best friends.  Alan Smyth was in the prime of his life when he first got sick and during his illness often joked that he would be 'the healthiest man in the graveyard.'  The dignity with which he fought his cancer and the strength and sense of humour he showed even when he knew it was a fight he could not win shows just what type of person he was. 

During Alan's illness I saw first hand how tragically under funded cancer care is in Ireland.  The Irish Cancer Society is dedicated to changing this and so I swore when Alan died that I would do my bit to try and raise funds for them.  Therefore, on October 26 I will be running the Lifestyle Sports/Adidas Dublin City Marathon to raise funds for The Irish Cancer Society.  In the build up to the Marathon I will be running the Adidas Race Series, starting tomorrow (Saturday July 18) with the Irish Runner 5 Mile Challenge in The Phoenix Park.  This race series will also include The Frank Duffy 10 Mile Challenge (August 15) and The Dublin City Half Marathon (September 26).

Now, this is where you come in!  I have set up a charity page called Steve's Year of Running Dangerously.  Initially, I had hoped to raise 500 euro for the Irish Cancer Society but as I have already raised that amount I have raised my fundraising total to 750 euro.  Should I exceed that amount I will raise the amount to 1,000 euro and so on.  Ideally, I will raise as much money as possible.  Any donation, no matter how big or small, will be equally appreciated by me and, more importantly, by The Irish Cancer Society.  It will also be possible to sponsor me for up to one month after the Marathon is finished (for the cynical amongst you who don't believe I can complete it!) so, as Alan would say, let there be no panic.

I can't think of a better way to finish this blog than with a song that always reminds me of Alan and one that I will definitely be listening to as I make my way around The Phoenix Park tomorrow for the first of the Adidas Races Series.

Prefab Sprout: Cars & Girls


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15

The Good

Magnetic North
The type of Northern Irish music that usually makes headlines around the 12th of July is not the sort we would typically report on here at CLUAS.  However, over the course of last weekend's Oxegen festival there were four Northern acts that stood head and shoulders above most of their Southern peers.  While both Duke Special and Iain Archer reaffirmed their undoubted talent, General Fiasco and, especially, And So I Watch You From Afar blasted their way on to my musical radar.  Seeing General Fiasco was a happy accident but, after their performance at the launch of Hard Working Class Heroes, And So I Watch Your From Afar were a band I was never going to miss. Both were beyond brilliant and (with a little help from my Belfast born friend) I will be paying much more attention to the Northern Irish indie scene in future.

Stage Managed
I know from experience that musicians are not the most punctual of people.  Indeed, I can count on one hand the amount of times a band/musician has turned up for an interview on time.  However, over the course of Oxegen 2009 almost every single performance started on time. There were one or two notable exceptions (there always is) but kudos must go to the Stage Managers for harassing the bands into punctuality.  It certainly made my job as a reviewer much easier.

The Gig's The Thing
Say what you want about the quality of their music but there are certain bands that sound 100 times better in the live arena than they do on record.  In this case I'm thinking specifically of Republic of Loose.  I've never been convinced about their songs and yet, every time I see them live I find myself singing/dancing along.  They are the great showmen (and women) of the Irish indie scene and, indeed, only Roisin Murphy's stage show comes anywhere close to matching The Loose in terms of entertainment value.  I wish someone would upload their cover of Wanna Be Startin' Somthin' to YouTube soon though!

Ride On
I've reviewed Oxegen for CLUAS for the past two years and generally make use of the VIP parking that us 'media types' (snigger) get to avail of.  However, given the weather conditions on Saturday I decided to make use of the free 'Park 'n' Ride' facilities at Goff's on the Sunday of Oxegen 2009.  Should I get to review it again for CLUAS next year this is the only way I'll be travelling.  It's quick, it's free and it's much more convenient than trying to make your way out of a muddy field in the middle of Naas.  Why anyone would drive when this facility is available is beyond me.

The Bad

Rain, Rain, Go Away
Of course, there is nothing that MCD can do about the weather but it's such a shame that Oxegen always seems to take place in the rain.  It would be a much nicer festival if it took place during the summer!

Muddy Waters
Whilst MCD can't control the weather; they could certainly expect it and have planned slightly better for it.  The conditions on Sunday, in the IMRO tent especially, were little short of shocking.  This tent is located at the bottom of two slopes and so suffers more than most of the tents in bad weather.  However, it's nothing that some of the sawdust that was laid out on the entrances to the festival site could have fixed.  As funny as it was seeing people lose their wellies in mud, it felt as if it could be easily stopped.

This Must Be, Pop
As bizarre as it is that I've used an N'Sync lyric in the heading, it's even more unusual how, erm, popular, pop music was at this year's Oxegen.  Lady Gaga, The Blizzards, The Script, Katy Perry; all pop, all popular.  As Jim Carroll pointed out in his blog on Oxegen, perhaps this is the direction the festival is going.  It's certainly what the kids seem to want from their music festival experience.  While I can see the attraction for MCD in doing this, I wouldn't like to see Oxegen lose all its indie bands.

The Ugg Boots

(VIP) Very Important (I Get) Pissed
There is nothing more frustrating, when you're covered in mud and soaked through by rain, than wandering back to the media area to find people in the VIP bar looking spotlessly clean and bone dry, doing their best to be noticed by anyone with a media pass and a camera.  It's a music festival, get out and see some bands!  You probably didn't pay for your tickets so at least support the bands by standing out in the rain for a few minutes.


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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.