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:

11

 

Welcome to Freshly Squeezed Irish, the new CLUAS blog penned by Philip McDonald! The focus here will be on bringing you the best new Irish music you've never heard. Bands who would like to featured on this blog should drop Philip a line via this dedicated page. Be sure as well to sign up for the Freshly Squeezed Irish RSS feed!

 

Sweet Jane - Sugar for my Soul

Band: Sweet Jane
County of Origin: Dublin
Genre: Dreampop Rock 'n Roll
Album: Sugar For My Soul
The Freshly Squeezed rating?
 8 drops out of 10

"Sugar for my Soul" is a crisp, melodic album from a promising group. Sweet Jane, presumably named after the Velvet Underground song, have been getting rave reviews across the board - and this is no exception. With echoes of REM's vocals and The Edge's guitar, their airy, bright sound is infused with country and rock 'n' roll. In fact, their self-descriptor, "dreampop rock 'n' roll", despite sounding contrived, is surprisingly accurate. The almost-title track, "Something For My Soul", is extremely catchy.

Sweet Jane have been around for around two years, releasing an EP in 2008, touring throughout 2009. They have just released this, their first LP, a surprisingly mature piece of work for such a recent band.
 
Look out especially for "Save a Little Place", which seems to be a subtle tribute to "All I Have to Do Is Dream" by the Everly Brothers. With quirks like this, and a hidden track (better not give the game away by saying where it is), it's obvious that this album is deeply thought-out, as well as being plain good. 



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09

Björk - Volta, worst album of the last 5 years?A few days I pulled together the list of the highest rated albums of those reviewed on CLUAS in the last 5 years. Now it's the turn of those albums that in the same period got the lowest ratings from CLUAS reviewers. The albums listed below are those that, since 2005, have been awarded less than 4 out of 10 by a CLUAS writer. Among them you will find albums by Placebo, Van Morrison, Smashing Pumpkins, Mercury Rev and James Blunt. 

So what album was considered to be the worst of those reviewed on CLUAS? Well the honour falls into the lap of Björk whose 2007album Volta was awarded a grand total of zero out of 10 by CLUAS writer Rev Jules. It was a divisive assessment if the comments below the review are anything to go by.

Here comes the full list...

Topping the list with a rating of zero out of 10...

1 out of 10

2 out of 10

2.5 out of 10

3 out of 10

3.5 out of 10

...and scraping in with a score just below 4 out of 10...


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05

The CLUAS Archives There are over 500 album reviews in the CLUAS archives. While they've always been accessible via our archive pages, the way the reviews have been presented (one big long unordered list of reviews for each year) is not very user friendly. Which is a pity as there are some terrific reviews in there, as well as reviews of great albums that may have slipped under one's radar. Thankfully the chances of missing out on some such gems over the years has now decreased dramatically. Read on for the fabulous details...

The CLUAS album archive pages have now been reorganised to ensure that our album reviews are listed, for each year, in order of the rating that the reviewer gave the album out of 10. Is that a collective 'Wow' I hear?

Anyways. What's interesting to see is the albums that came out on the top of the pile each year. Most of the top ranking albums are solid but some are, ehhm, let's just say "curious". Below are listed the very top ranking albums (i.e. albums that scored 8.5 or more out of 10) as reviewed by CLUAS writers from 2005 to 2009. Are these the best albums of that period? Certainly not, although many are gems that will stand the test of time. One thing for sure is that the list of albums and their accompanying reviews make for interesting reading.

So what was the top rated album released between 2005 and 2009, according to the CLUAS writers? The answer is, of course, obvious. It has to be the, ehh, all time classic 'Holiday Mix 2005' released by DFA Records.... Read on for even more mind-bending insights revealed in the list (including releases by 10 Irish acts).

10 out of 10

9.5 out of 10

9 out of 10

Between 8.5 and 9 out of 10

8.5 out of 10


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28

Today is the end of the 40th Glastonbury festival, and as the tour buses trundle out of the otherwise sleepy village of Pilton in Somerset and the massive clean-up gets underway in Worthy Farm I return to my yearly Glastonbury routine which I’m sure I share with many.

This routine consists of me watching Glastonbury footage and becoming increasingly green-eyed with every guitar chord emanating from the Pyramid Stage and cursing myself for not being there. So in an effort of consolation I resolve to go the next year and religiously follow the Glastonbury updates throughout the year. But then the year passes and I miss the festival yet again. This routine is repeated yearly, and I will eventually get to Glastonbury even if it means riding a tractor through Pilton and accosting Michael Eavis himself.

Having previously housed such iconic acts as T. Rex, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Blur and Oasis it’s become a British musical institution. And this year while the cows were grazing in fields at a safe distance from drunken revellers and overly confident rockstars the Pyramid stage was graced by Gorillaz, Muse and Stevie Wonder respectively.

As per usual the festival was very successful, and I’m sure there are Glastonbury survivors all around England nursing the mother of all hangovers to choruses of “It was worth it, completely worth it” and questioning if anything they saw throughout the weekend really happened. The general consensus is that the more outlandish and surreal the memory, the more likely it is it that it really did happen.

I’m sure Damon Albarn is very pleased to have headlined Glastonbury two years in a row, albeit in different bands. So, as the beginning of summer has been marked with the always eclectic Glastonbury festival I’m going to sign up for every Glastonbury festival mailing list possible.  Because I’ll be there next year, I swear.


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24

John Lennon had a tormented childhood. At the age of 5 his parents made him decide who he wanted to live with - his father Alf who was moving to New Zealand, or his mother Julia who was to remain in Liverpool. John chose Alf, but as his mother was leaving he ran after her and ultimately chose her. His Aunt Mimi then reported his mother to Social Services, so he remained with Mimi instead.

Aged 17 his mother was hit by a car and died near her home. It’s often been said that the absence of his father and the death of his mother at a young age contributed to Lennon’s seeming inability to deal with confrontation and responsibility in his personal life and caused him to undergo therapy in his later years.

The BBC 4 film ‘Lennon Naked’ explores this side of Lennon. It begins with Lennon in his adulthood, continuing where Sam Taylor-Wood’s ‘Nowhere Boy’ left off. Some footage of when Beatlemania began to take hold was interspersed throughout the opening scenes, black and white film of girls screaming wildly and declaring their love while the suitably pleased 20-something musicians are lapping up the attention.

Before long the film delves into the world of Lennon while with his first wife Cynthia. She’s portrayed as a nagging, emotional woman who has doe-eyed look across her face every time she tries to reason with him. Meanwhile Lennon is shown to be moody towards his wife and unhappy with her boxing him in and limiting his creativity. A barrel of laughs this certainly isn’t.

As the film progresses the constant carelessness of the character of Lennon grows tiresome, and the film is awash with some less-than-convincing actors. Paul McCartney, played by Andrew Scott, sounded like he had a comedy voice throughout, his deep nasally tones sounding more Little Britain than Liverpudlian. The slight appearances made by the actors playing George Harrison (Jack Morgan) and Ringo Starr (Craig Cheetham) were blighted by their comedic moustaches and, particularly in the case of Paul, drawn on eyebrows.

The film is exactly as it was described, it was a drama. A drama that gives little insight or enjoyment to your average Beatles fan, the characters seem to have derived some acting advice from the cast of Eastenders. It’s a shame because the lead actor, Christopher Eccleston, who played John Lennon, gave an excellent performance, but the lack of any progression in the character of Lennon and the dreary and constantly unhappy portrayal of him offered no insight or development in his character.

Ultimately all this film taught me, from the soundtrack, is that The Beatles had a song for every occasion.  And right now after watching the film I feel like I Should Have Known Better.

  • If you'd like to make your own verdict on the film it will be aired again tonight on BBC4 at 10pm.

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19

Ever wondered what happened to Fred Mascherino formerly of Taking Back Sunday? Well, if so, wonder no more! The last I heard of him was when he left the band and was focusing on his solo project The Colour Fred, but recently I found out about the current band he’s in called Terrible Things.

While their track ‘Revolution’ sounds like it wouldn’t be out of place on Taking Back Sunday album it’s still an impressive track. ‘The Hills of Birmingham’ is an engaging track which begins acoustically but swiftly descends into electric guitars and a stronger sound. To have a listen yourself, which I highly recommend, their MySpace is here and is only a click away!

Two weeks ago former Stereophonics drummer Stuart Cable passed away in his home in Wales. I’m not going to start professing to being their biggest fan, but it must be said they did release some brilliant songs. My favourite Stereophonics song, in which Stuart Cable played, is ‘Vegas Two Times’. Whatever anyone says, it can’t be denied that he was an excellent drummer, and I'm certain this this song shows it.


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30

Since my last blog post I’ve been acquainting myself with the music of Pearl and the Puppets. Her latest single ‘Because I Do’ is catchy but not too dissimilar to the sound of Feist. Still some quality songs to be heard on her MySpace here, and I'm in no doubt that she's definitely one to watch.

And, as I’m sure you’ll be interested to know the most mundane (but in my case terrifying) eventuality of getting a tooth taken out caused me to ponder about what would be a good play list for while you’re in the dentist’s chair. Well, that and minimising my sugar intake. And, as your ever intrepid blogger, I compiled this list:

  • Nick Drake - Sunday (A nice instrumental song to almost relax you before your teeth begin being drilled in to)
  • Blur - Trimm Trabb (A mellow but somewhat euphoric track is always a necessity in such a situation)
  • The Courteeners - Will It Be This Way Forever? (Nothing like listening to a song about naivety and adolescence  to distract you for a bit)
  • Elbow - Not A Job (Depending on how loud the drilling/pliers are, can be quite effective for making your mind wander)
  • The Cure - Forest (Vivid imagery, Robert Smith’s eerie voice - need I say more?)
  • The Beatles - Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite (Instantly effective, sing along if you’d like to show off your vocal skills/snap a tooth)
  • Arcade Fire - Windowsill (Can make you feel more depressed than scared, you’ll be like Tommy Tiernan when Radiohead started playing on the bus from Craggy Island. So when your teeth are being hacked at, you won’t notice a thing!)                  


No, you don’t have to thank me, thank your teeth the next time they decide to start warring each other. And while we’re on the subject of tooth extractions here’s Green Day’s video for 'Geek Stink Breath'. (Best not to look at this video if you’re of a nervous disposition/are about to have a tooth taken out!)


 


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19

Your correspondent predicts that from next week French electronica will have yet another global star. His name will be Arnaud Bernard, his first name reversed to give the nom de pop of Onra.

Broth of a boy: Onra

How do we know this? Well, because next Monday (24 May) Onra will release his new album, 'Long Distance'. It's brilliant, and it should make him very popular indeed.

Truth be told, Onra (right) isn't a complete unknown. He became something of a cult hero on the blogosphere with his 2007 album 'Chinoiseries'. The title is a French-ism that suggests 'Chinese stuff' but actually means 'bureaucratic red tape', and the music was inspired by old Oriental pop records he picked up while visiting Vietnam, his father's homeland.

Now back in Paris, Onra's attention has turned from east to west. 'Long Distance' is drenched in the old-school dancefloor sounds of Detroit and New York. One track, 'WeeOut', starts with a burst of good old-fashioned scratching before laying down some très '80s beats and synths. Other tracks are more soulful, like 'Oper8tor', 'High Hopes' and the title track. And the whole thing fizzes with electronica. To say it's certain to be the best French album of 2010 feels like we're damning Onra with faint praise.

As it happens, the record is coming out on Dublin label All City Records, so we can make an adopted Irish artist of him. He's even launching the album in Dublin, with a show at Twisted Pepper on Abbey Street next Friday (28 May). G'wan Oirland!

On a related note, the Irish-speakers among you will have noticed that 'Onra' sounds exactly like 'anraith', the word as Gaeilge for 'soup' (hence the title pun). Wouldn't it be gas, right, if he was doing a show in the Gaeltacht and he went for dinner beforehand, and for his starter he asks for the soup, because he's Onra and the soup is anraith and that's him and... Oh wait: this presupposes that he'd be ordering in Irish. And what if he decides to have the salad instead? Well, maybe because he doesn't speak Irish he thinks the server is asking his name instead of his order and he says 'Onra' and instead he gets soup! Wouldn't it be wild? Or what if-

CLUAS gaffer: Just post the link and the tune, you eejit!

Um, right. To prepare for the album launch in Dublin next Friday you can hear some of 'Long Distance' on Onra's MySpace page. Here's 'High Hopes'. Twenty-five seconds in, what does that keyboard riff remind you of?


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19

FeistI think we’ve probably all seen the Discover Ireland ads with the catchy Tegan and Sara-esque song with the lyrics “I need to go/I need to get away from everything.” This song is of course ‘Remember When’ by Heathers. It seems that adverts are the perfect launch pad for indie artists, let’s not forget Feist’s adoration after her track ‘1234’ was used on the iPod ad.

This method causes the song to beam into both peoples homes and hopefully their consciousness. When Gossip’s ‘Standing In The Way Of Control’ was used as the main song for the first series of teen drama Skins it shot up into the charts.

And of course The Fray and Cold War Kids owe a lot of their popularity and success to Scrubs for frequently using their songs. The Fray’s ‘How To Save A Life’ and Cold War Kids’ ‘Hospital Beds’ were used to regularly in both the show and the accompanying promo ads for the programme.

FlorenceFlorence and the Machine’s ‘Cosmic Love’ has recently been renamed as ‘that song from the O2 ad’. A song which people who are only familiar with it from the ads only know a portion of, and we all know how dreary it is to listen to the whole song when you know five words absolutely perfectly and the rest may as well be yodelling.

This does cause me to wonder if this gives some bands a restricted shelf life, if they’re destined to be ‘that band from that [insert company name here] ad’ and that all of their future work could pale in comparison.

After the major success of Gossip’s ‘Standing In The Way of Control’ their following singles and album can be described as mediocre as best. But who knows, maybe had I not heard ‘Standing In The Way Of Control’ so many times that my ears began to bleed I might appreciate their music more. Or, alternatively, they didn’t let their song be used on Skins and I would never have even been aware of their existence.

The use of relatively unknown artists’ songs being used in the media is no new phenomenon. Now many companies are trying to appeal to a younger, more bohemian demographic. And being inhabitants of the information age means all of this is more accessible, and more predominant than ever.

Is it really much of a dilemma though? Yes, using a song of yours on an advert (assuming it gets chosen) could mean that you’re only remembered for one song and the rest of your music could be ignored, or you could forever play music and write songs while getting almost no recognition and make no living from it. Who came blame a band for having ambition, and getting an enviable amount of money in the process?

As long as Bonnie Tyler stops appearing on screen advertising credit cards while looking like a ghost from the netherworld then I generally find advert music to be pretty good. Certainly the less songs by Johnny Logan afflicting my ears and more by relatively unknown bands the better.
 


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15

At first glance, Parisian four-piece Gush seem like a French equivalent to Kings Of Leon. The band members are all related - brothers Xavier and Vincent Polycarpe plus their cousins Mathieu Parnaud and Yan Gorodetzky. Also, their fashion sense is more back-woods than Left Bank: shaggy hair, vintage leather and the sort of long-sleeve, round-neck, three-button T-shirt that Grizzly Adams would wear as an undergarment.

Gush

But soundwise Gush (right) don't follow the Followills down the road of southern-fried blues-rock. The four French lads are certainly retro, but their thing is post-Beatles pop and folk-rock - say, the very early Lennon or McCartney solo stuff, later Beach Boys or a bit of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The storming semi-acoustic rocker 'No Way', reinforced with steely harmonies, shows the strength of those influences to best effect. Still, don't discount the novelty of Frenchmen who actually sing and write melodies.

Gush are starting to make a stir in France. Recently they released their first album, 'Everybody's God' (Irish music fans may remember a Donegal band called Georgia who had a record of the same name in the early '90s) and an upcoming Paris show at the sizeable Cigale has already sold out. Now they're picking up airplay with a strange and distinctive single that's a little different to the rest of their tracks.

On paper, 'Let's Burn Again' promises to be vastly uncool - it has the upper-register backing harmonies and staccato keyboards of mid-Atlantic, middle-of-the-road '70s pop. Fortunately, music isn't made on paper: 'Let's Burn Again' sounds so odd and unhip that it's almost fascinating, especially when you try to match the sound to the look of the band.

You can hear more on the Gush MySpace page. Make sure you listen to both tracks we mentioned, 'Let's Burn Again' and 'No Way' - quite different but each charming in its way. Which one will we choose for our video? The strange, unhip one with keyboards, of course! Here's 'Let's Burn Again':


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Nuggets from our archive

2008 - A comprehensive guide to recording an album, written by Andy Knightly (the guide is spread over 4 parts).