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:

14

While for many surfers the WWW often resembles a modern Wild West where just about anything goes there are - believe it or not - some formal standards in place. The particular standards I'm talking about are for HTML code: how HTML should be used when creating a webpage (and how a browser should interpret HTML and present it on a page). The setting of the standards is overseen by the all important World Wide Web consortium (also know as W3C, which is headed up by Tim Berners Lee, no less than your man who invented the World Wide Web).

W3C logoNow to be honest, up to about a year ago, CLUAS did not care about these standards and there was not a single page among our thousands that was even close to being compliant. This did not stop me having a begrudging respect for websites that spouted on about their "W3C compliancy". I was after all only too keenly aware that CLUAS would need to overcome a proverbial mountain to enter the hallowed corridors of compliant websites.

All the same, last year I looked into it and I started - slowly - to update our HTML code, with a little change here and minor tweak there, all with a view to making as many as possible of CLUAS.com's thousands of pages compliant. To be honest it was initially just one of those pointless personal challenges you set yourself once in a while, the motivation of which few people would ever understand (and if they ever did understand the motivation they'd doubt your sanity).

The exercise is ongoing however already the result is that already a massive number of pages on CLUAS.com are at last complaint to W3C's "HTML 4.01 Transitional" standard. Basically the vast majority of pages whose address does not end in .aspx are now complaint (for example 73% of last month’s top 100 most visited "non aspx" pages are now compliant).

So what about these non-compliant .aspx web pages? Well these pages are generated using the DotNetNuke content management system we use and just a handful of them are already compliant (to the different "XHTML 1.0 Transitional" standard). However the level of their compliancy will improve in coming months as the next release of DotNetNuke Blog Module (which is used to publish our album and gig reviews, blogs, and interviews) should be fully compliant, meaning in one swoop huge numbers of CLUAS pages will step in the world of compliancy.

So why bother about compliancy? Put simply there are a number of advantages, such as:

  • File size and loading times are reduced.
  • Sites are easier to update in terms of content or styling because of the smart structure (i.e. separation of content from styling) that is implicit in W3C compliant websites.
  • Greater assurance of future proofing your website - if a site obeys established rules, they should continue to work in browsers and devices of the future.
  • And having a compliant website means the webmaster feels all smug and elitist compared to pitiful other sites that have not clue about the wonders of compliant HTML code.

The gas thing is that while all this effort may result one day in CLUAS.com being a website fully compliant with W3C standards, the next generation of HTML standards for web pages are already in the pipeline. So we may have to start this compliancy effort all over again…


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13

It's common knowledge that securing links from other websites plays a key role in getting your website's pages into major search engines. CLUAS has been steadily attracting links over its 10 year lifetime resulting in a steady stream of people visiting CLUAS via these links and also - more importantly - ensuring we have an excellent ranking in the search engines. For example we have, for years, been the number 1 result for people searching 'Irish indie music' (and bizarrely also for 'Irish Jazz music'). But such searches are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. CLUAS receives a very considerable amount of its traffic from search engines thanks to - literally - thousands of different 'long tail' searches done by users each month.

So why does CLUAS rank above other Irish music websites when it comes to so many search phrases? There is a complicated answer. And a simple answer. The simple answer is: "links, and loads of them". Thanks to something I stumbled upon last week I can now visually demonstrate the "linking success" of CLUAS compared to other similar Irish music sites. I came across a tool made available by "Majestic SEO" (a company offering "Search Engine Optimisation" services) who started to trawl the WWW back in June 2007 and recorded all the links they found. To use their own words they have...:

"...crawled over 96 billion webpages and analyzed almost 697 billion unique URLs and their anchor text to calculate who link to who and with what anchor text."

They allow registered users of their site to compare websites in terms of the number of links they have attracted. The graph below (click on it to see it in higher resolution) shows the number of different domains that the Majestic SEO crew found over the last two years linking to CLUAS and compares it with the links they found for 3 other Irish music sites (Hotpress.com, State.ie and Nialler9.com).

CLUAS - number of links it has attracted from other domains
Click to see graph in higher resolution

It is clear from the graph that CLUAS has attracted links from more domains (i.e. websites) than any of the other sites. This massive repository of sites linking to us is, if you ask, me a key signal used by the search engines when they decide to rank CLUAS above other websites. Building such a eco-system of links sure takes time, but we can vouch for the fact that once it is done the impact is considerable (and occasionally surprising...).


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08

Oxegen09Last year, CLUAS was the first publication in the world to provide reviews of Oxegen, Electric Picnic, Cois Fharraige and Hard Working Class Heroes.  Some publications would sit back and think 'job well done.'  Not here on CLUAS however, as this year we aim to bring you the most up-to-date and in-depth coverage of Oxegen 2009.

As with last year, CLUAS will be publishing a review of each day of Oxegen 2009 within 12 hours of the day ending, i.e. a review of Friday will be up by Noon on Saturday.  These reviews will continue to be interactive so, if you were there, feel free to let us know what you think.  Key Notes will also be providing CLUAS readers with an Oxegen overview which will go live on July 15.

For those of you who can't wait for a whole 12 hours, well, for the first time ever, CLUAS will be providing live reviews via Twitter.  Now, obviously these reviews are limited to 140 characters but their aim is to provide you with a flavour of the music before the full review.  Key Notes will also be using Twitter to provide you with backstage gossip, line-up changes and weather updates.  To follow Key Notes visit his Twitter page: cluaskeynotes

This year will also see the publication of a number of festival diaries.  These will give you a complete feel of the festival from the point of view of a band, a fan and from someone who spends their weekend working while you play.  Key Notes can't tell you who the band are just yet, but they've recently been in the news for all the right reasons and this blog will have more details on the working diary over the course of the weekend. 

The fan diary, well, the fan diary could be written by you.  If you are going to Oxegen, please feel free email keynotesatcluasdotcom and Key Notes will provide you with details of what is required.  This is your chance to be involved in CLUAS' most in-depth coverage of a music festival ever. 

So, now you know where to find the definitive Oxegen coverage, Key Notes hopes too see you checking it out over the course of the weekend.  For those of you travelling to Punchestown, feel free to say hello.  Key Notes will be the one listening to the music.


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08

Funny that this week, when local and international press if full of the riots in Xinjiang, I read an article by Tian Wei, a presenter on China Central TV’s English channel, about China getting a raw deal from the western press – which, she claims, is incapable of being impartial in reports on China. Tian suggests China’s media, flush with government money lately, needs to sharpen up how it presents its story. Nothing though about what it says. I wonder if better writing or video editing can make any difference when you’re running a government press release pretty much verbatim – as internationally-focused Chinese media like China Daily regularly do when the issue is a sensitive one for the Politburo. Some of the screeds pointed towards the Dalai Lama are neither well written, balanced, or news. But then sometimes I’m surprised at how far titles like China Daily do go – and I don’t doubt their journalists would like to go farther. Like the piece the other day about the ‘shang fang,’ protestors who travel to Beijing from provincial towns to air grieviances against often-corrupt local officials. The piece was softly critical of the local cadres for sending minders to ‘escort’ protestors during their time in Beijing. Local governors regularly send thugs to intimidate the protestors into not embarrassing them before higher authorities. Mild stuff perhaps, but very interesting and I think if local media can continue pushing the envelope Chinese media will read a whole lot better in five or ten year’s time. It’s as much about substance as style, Tian Wei.


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Posted in: Blogs, Beijing Beat
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08

There’s someone happy in China today. Book shops around Beijing yesterday prominently displayed a Chinese-language biography of Michael Jackson written just in time for his funeral. Seeing Yuan signs, a local publishing house contracted a book out of two local music journalists who wrote for two days and nights to complete a biography of Michael Jackson. See the full story in the China Daily. The deceased singer was a star in China – though not as big as Kenny G or John Denver – and may have toured in the country had he lived: word had it Jackson was signed for a gig at the ‘bird’s nest’ National Stadium (but then that rumour has gone out about everyone from U2 to Madonna. There’s been criticism of the effort but given the quality of all but China’s select quality press, I fear that like much local writing it will be long winded, flowery rubbish churned out to fill space.

 


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06

Three parts Irish, one part Canadian, The Angel Pier kicked off 2009 with a storming show to a packed Whelan's showcasing songs from their debut album which will be released later this year.  In this edition of Key Note Speaker, Mark Colbert, drummer with The Angel Pier, takes time out from promoting the band's new single, Align The Seas.

The Angel PierFavourite Songs from the Past Year
Halfway Home - TV on The Radio

Favourite Song Ever
This changes daily.

Favourite Angel Pier Song
Align the Seas, which happens to be coming out as a single in the very near future (July 24)!

Favourite New Band/Artist
Grizzly Bear (although, strictly speaking, they're not a new band but they are a new discovery for me).

Favourite Band/Artist Ever
My Bloody Valentine.  For me they changed the way I listen to and approach music.

Favourite Gig This Year
It wasn't this year but my favourite gig of the last 12 months would be Yeasayer in Whelan's.

Favourite Gig Ever
Radiohead at The Olympia circa Hail to the Thief.  Either that or early Damien Dempsey gigs at Whelan's. There were many! You really felt like you were part of something special, he was on fire and it was the only way you could hear his songs in those days. He had nothing released.

Favourite Angel Pier Gig Ever
Probably the second last Whelan's gig we did. It was the heaviest rain the country had seen in decades, roads were flooded and, yet, we still filled the place.  We worked hard that night to give the people something to justify their persistence against the crazy weather!

Favourite Venue
Brixton Academy, which is now, sadly, closed. It's the perfect sized venue to see a band with a big sound but still feels intimate. It's also a beautiful building, may it rest in peace!

Favourite Piece of Musical/Recording Equipment
A voice in a stairwell.

Download/CD/Cassette/Vinyl
Vinyl.

Favourite TV Show at the Moment
I don't really watch TV at the moment.

Best Movie Ever Seen
The Omen

Favourite Book Ever Read
Dear Boy - A biography of Keith Moon.

Most Listened to Radio Show
Paul McCloone/Donal Dineen on Today FM. You can feel their passion for good music, something lacking in many radio stations these days.

What's in Store for The Angel Pier Next
We're looking forward to playing the IMRO New Sounds Stage at Oxegen on Saturday July 11 at 8.25PM.

There are a number of tickets still available for Oxegen '09 from here and usual outlets nationwide.


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03

In Iran in 2006 I made the acquaintence of band leader Raam E - I never worked out his full name and wouldn't write it here in any case. Raam was fanatically into Brit bands like the Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand - the latter's work he perfected and played with his own group around town.

I've not been able to track him down lately - last I heard he got a tour in west-coast USA in 2008 via friends met on CouchSurfing, that brilliant website bringing travel-minded friends together worldwide. But I've been thinking of him while reading an article in the South China Morning Post about two musicians featured in an underground film - aren't all interesting Iranian films - shown at Cannes this year. The film is No One Knows About Persian Cats, the filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi (yes, boyfriend of recently released US journalist Roxana Saberi, who co-scripted the film), and the musicians Negar Shaghaghi and Ashkan Koshanejad. The duo, girl and guy respectively, fled Iran for London, using fake passports.

I'm always telling people that Iran is my favourite travel destination: the culture, the history, the friendly people who invite you for tea and talk about the world for hours. There's plenty of great modern art and design happening in Iran, but, as the SCMP article suggested, it's gotten much harder to make alternative art under the Ahmadinejad regime. For example, women can't sing solo in public, and those who can are leaving the country. Sounds awfully like pre and post 1989 China. I'm going to try once again to get in touch with Raam and hear how it's been, playing Franz Ferdinand in Tehran.


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02

HWCH 09This blog is by no means old.  However, when Key Notes realised that Hard Working Class Heroes (HWCH) would be seven this year, it stopped him in his tracks.  What a different place the world was in 2003.  That being said, the more things change, the more they remain the same and HWCH continues its raison d'être: an Irish Festival for Irish Bands. 

With this in mind, HWCH launched its call for bands on Wednesday evening.  Despite the heat (and boy, was it hot) a large number of familiar faces gathered in Freebird Records (Secret Book & Record Store and nirvana for music nerds like Key Notes who also have an unhealthy fetish for second hand books).  The event was launched by Angela Dorgan of First Music Contact, the people behind HWCH, who called on Irish bands to register with the Breaking Tunes website to secure a slot at the event.  Registration is completely free and who gets in will be decided by an industry panel made up of writers (though not Key Notes, so no bribes!), A&R folks and domestic and international festival programmers.

It should be noted that the closing date for applications is July 30 so get in quick.

Music photographers are also being called to submit their work for consideration for the Photographers Exhibition.  Those interested should log on to the HWCH website for more details.

As for the launch, this blog was impressed by the performances of all three acts.  Biggles Flys Again (Freebird Records), The Ambience Affair (Road Records) and And So I Watch You From Afar (Tower Records) are a great barometer for the current state of Irish indie music.  Key Notes particularly enjoyed the performance of The Ambience Affair (and not just because of the chips!) but was also sorry he couldn't stick around for more of And So I Watch You From Afar (at that stage, Key Notes was suffering heatstroke!). 

Hopefully there will be many great performances over the course of the HWCH weekend (October 16-18).  Ticket prices remain the same (40 euro weekend pass, or 18.50 euro per day).  CLUAS regulars will know that Key Notes, Ian Wright and Anna Murray provided the most in-depth coverage of HWCH '08 and, if this blog can help it, CLUAS will once again be the place to go to read reviews of your favourite bands playing HWCH.


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02
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02

The media’s silly season has begun; this week’s edition of political magazine The Economist has an article on French hip-hop.

Using a government-funded urban music festival in Paris as its point of entry, the gist of the article is that the French rap scene is now maturing and being recognized by the cultural-political establishment. It’s simplistic analysis that’s stained with stereotypes, and we almost feel bad at kicking such an easy target. But we’ll kick away regardless and deal with our feelings later.

For one thing, French rap is old news. Four years ago, at a time of urban rioting in France, your correspondent wrote about how French rappers played a vital part in the media debate about the problems in suburbs. As university-educated politicians pontificated, artists like Disiz La Peste and Diam’s would rationally and articulately respond by sharing their experiences and giving a balancing point of view. Such confrontations on TV debates were important in educating mainstream France on the reality of life in their home neighbourhoods.

Furthermore, it’s simply untrue to suggest – as this article does – that state funding of a music event implies official recognition of the music being played there. In France, many large and small music festivals receive financial support from their local authority. For instance, the recent Solidays festival was in part supported by the centre-right local government of Hauts-de-Seine and featured many acts who were vocally critical of centre-right policies on immigration and minorities. The only time politics comes into play is if a controversial act raises public objections: this happened at the recent Printemps de Bourges because of the appearance of Orelsan, a rapper known for a track called ‘Sale Pute’ (‘Dirty Whore’) that featured violently misogynistic lyrics. Orelsan eventually apologized and dropped the song from his set.

As in those articles where we should be shocked at French people eating Big Macs rather than haute cuisine, this Economist piece depends on stock images of France: snobby “purists frowning into their opera glasses” are juxtaposed with the “multiethnic, semi-ghetto culture of the banlieues, where themes of exclusion, drugs and violence that inspired American rap find an echo”. Note the reinforcement of the mentality that the suburbs are synonymous with drugs and violence. For sure, social problems exist there but quite a lot of people in the banlieues are smart, conscientious community members forced to overcome prejudice towards their postcode whenever they apply for a job.

And no more so than having to live on a ranch to appreciate country music, you don’t have to come from a ghetto to make or like rap. We mentioned in our Solidays review how Manu Chao, of the third-world sounds and revolutionary politics, was born and raised in the comfortable Paris suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt. And Orelsan is from a white middle-class background too. Rap is as commercially successful here as in the USA because white middle-class kids are getting into it.

Also, the ethnic communities of France are not listening exclusively to rap and hip-hop – their musical tastes tend to reflect the variety of their origins and rap is only one (though highly visible) part of that. Rai from north Africa is so popular here that it has huge-selling stars in France like Cheb Mami – who is currently in the headlines as he is being prosecuted on accusations of forcing a girl to have an abortion. Music from the Antilles, such as zouk, is also massive here – and west African acts like Les Nubiens can easily fill large venues like the Elysée Montmartre. So it’s simply not true to blindly equate the French suburbs or French ethnic groups with rap music. And rap is being integrated with traditional ‘white’ French sounds – we featured Java recently, a hugely-popular group that combines punk, rap and musette accordion.

When The Economist tries some musical commentary by explaining the vibrancy of French hip-hop, it persists with the ghetto-culture line – which is perfectly valid – and mentions in passing two secondary reasons. First, the language quota on national radio creates a demand for French vocal music. Second, there’s a tradition of lyrical, word-heavy singing in France – not with the melodies of music-hall or pop singers like Edith Piaf or Françoise Hardy respectively, as the article states, but with the likes of Georges Brassens and their subversive ballads delivered in near-speaking tones.

But perhaps one subtle reason why rap and hip-hop have taken off in France is because they’re American. Ever since Josephine Baker became a Paris cabaret sensation in the 1920s, French music has been in thrall to the USA despite the occasional outburst of anti-Americanism. Bebop prospered in post-war Saint Germain; Johnny Hallyday and a host of imitators adapted rock n’roll by translating the lyrics of Stateside hits into French; Serge Gainsbourg’s late ‘60s masterworks are crammed with American pop-culture references (to the likes of Bonnie and Clyde, Ford Mustang and Harley Davidson); grunge fuelled the rise of Noir Désir, France’s biggest rock act – and French rap is just the latest in this long transatlantic tradition where America equals glamour and coolness.

Maybe we shouldn’t be too demanding of The Economist’s views on popular music. The current edition also features an obituary for Michael Jackson: you may be surprised to read which two of his biggest hit singles they describe as having a “light, infectious lilt” and a “soft, syncopated sadness”.

Here’s some current French rap for you: from his album ‘Réel’ it’s Kery James with ‘Le Retour Du Rap Français’:


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Nuggets from our archive

2004 - The CLUAS Reviews of Erin McKeown's album 'Grand'. There was the positive review of the album (by Cormac Looney) and the entertainingly negative review (by Jules Jackson). These two reviews being the finest manifestations of what became affectionately known, around these parts at least, as the 'McKeown wars'.