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:

26

As mentioned in his review of Oliver Cole in Radio City on Saturday night, Key Notes found himself in the unusual, not to mention uncomfortable, position of being right in front of the stage.  The only benefit of this was that, at the end of the night, he was able to get his hands on 3 of the bands set list's.

These 3 set documents show that there are many different ways to write a set list, and some are, eh, more interesting than others.  First up, we have The Ghandis set this.  This is your typical 'back of a fag packet' set list and show's that a band can change their mind a number of times before deciding on their songs: 

Next we have the Alphastates set list.  This is handwritten on a sheet of A4 paper and seems perfectly normal until we get to the last song Milky Tits (which was actually an excellent rendition of Angel Kiss, dedicated to lead singer Catherine Dowling's unborn child): 

Finally, we come to Mr. Oliver Cole's list.  It was only because Cole mentioned during his set that he had given all their songs joke names that Key Notes even bothered to pick up any of the set lists.  This blog is not sure if there needs to be some sort of parental advisory with this particular entry but, here we go, Oliver Cole's 'sex list': 


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24
The Champs-Élysées runs up to one side of the Arc de Triomphe, and down the opposite side is the Avenue de la Grande Armée, down as far as Porte Maillot and the bus out to Beauvais airport. This street attracts less tourists, perhaps because you’ll mainly see motorcycle showrooms here.
 
But back in 1928 those showrooms sold cars and at least one American tourist passed by. So the story goes, the visitor stopped at dealerships along the Avenue de la Grande Armée and honked the bulb horns on various cars. The garage-owners’ reactions haven’t been recorded for posterity – just the honking, which you can hear on a piece of music this passer-by, George Gershwin, subsequently wrote. (Strictly speaking, Gershwin wasn’t a tourist – already famous, he had come to Paris to immerse himself in the city’s music scene.)
 
An American In Paris, the filmInstead of a miniature Eiffel Tower or carefully-stashed bottle of wine, Gershwin’s Paris souvenirs were those car horns – he brought back several to New York and added them to the orchestra for the première of ‘An American In Paris’ in December 1928. The idea of the horns was to add to an overall mood of being in Paris, what one would hear while strolling along the boulevards. (Car horns still hog the ambient noise in this city, Parisian drivers being as impatient as they are reckless.)
 
As the circus-like parping of bulb horns suggests, ‘An American In Paris’ is more whimsical than Gershwin’s masterpiece, the epic ‘Rhapsody In Blue’. But that’s just as accurate a representation of being a U.S. ex-pat in 1920s Paris. The title of Ernest Hemingway’s definitive account of this time and place, ‘A Moveable Feast’, gives an idea of the dynamism and socialising on display. The likes of Gertrude Stein held court here, attended on by Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Henry Miller – and Josephine Baker’s cabaret show caused a sensation. (James Joyce was also here, of course, soon to be joined by a young assistant called Samuel Beckett.)
 
‘An American In Paris’ inspired the 1951 Hollywood musical of the same name, starring Gene Kelly. The composer was already dead, so the film features existing songs by him and his lyricist brother Ira, like ‘I Got Rhythm’ and ‘’S Wonderful’. The centerpiece of the film is an 18-minute dance sequence to an arrangement of Gershwin’s ‘An American In Paris’, in which a daydreaming Kelly passes through scenes from various styles of French painting.
 
Despite Kelly being in top form, the musical is contrived and unengaging. (What’s more, its Paris scenes were filmed on Hollywood sets and the ‘Parisian’ supporting characters speak very stilted French.) Still, the film beat Brando’s ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ to win that year’s Oscar for Best Picture. It also won two Oscars for its music, but these went to the arrangers rather than posthumously to Gershwin. (‘Rhapsody In Blue’ would also inspire a celebrated film: it features in the opening sequence of Woody Allen’s ‘Manhattan’.)
 
Gershwin’s composition was back in the news in 2008 when the New York Philharmonic played it during their historic performance in North Korea. Unfortunately, we won’t know what Kim Jong-Il thought of this slice of Franco-American frivolity; the North Korean leader didn’t show up for the concert. (Nonetheless, we have a disturbing mental image of Kim Jong-Il honking the bulb horn of his old-fashioned jalopy driving through Pyongyang.)
 
Here's the New York Philharmonic with the liveliest thing to hit North Korea since someone invented a new shade of grey back in 1958. Note how the bulb horn part goes to the young guy with the funkiest haircut (37 secs) - a recent graduate on that instrument, no doubt:
 

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23

CLUAS on FacebookCLUAS has always been well ahead of the curve. Sure, weren't we on the internet a full year before U2 decided it was time they had a website?

Therefore it will be no surprise to hear that CLUAS continues to plough a path at the bleeding edge of 21st century technology. The latest example of this? Our decision to set up - only yesterday - a page for CLUAS on Facebook.

So if anyone else out there is also an early adopter of Facebook, you can now add yourself to the CLUAS Facebook network. And if you have never heard of Facebook, remember it was right here that it first came to your attention. All part of the service m'luds and ladies.

 


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22

Ireland's most intimate boutique music and arts festival, Castle Palooza, was launched yesterday and the event, now in its fourth year, promises to be the best yet.  The line-up so far is a who's who of top class Irish indie acts:

  • David Kitt
  • R.S.A.G.
  • Dark Room Notes
  • Ambience Affair
  • Le Galaxie
  • Channel One
  • Dave Peyton
  • Nell Bryden
  • The Lost Brothers
  • Noise Control
  • Patrick Kelleher
  • Robotnik
  • Project Jenny Project Jan
  • The Followers Of Otis

     

    Key Notes is particularly excited about the presence of Dark Room Notes, Le Galaxie (formerly 66e), Robotnik and the man currently hawking his excellent Nightsaver album, David Kitt.  This blog is also looking forward to seeing R.S.A.G and Channel One for the first time, having been told many times by his fellow bloggers that he really must see them live.

More acts are to be announced before the event, taking place on August 1 & 2 (the Bank Holiday weekend), in the grounds of Charleville Castle, Tullamore.  There will also be a number of non-music events taking place over the course of the weekend including a live Rocky Horror Picture Show and ceilí though, unfortunately, not at the same time! 

Tickets are available from a recession-busting €89 for a weekend camping and include a 'Treat Yourself' package for couples for €299 which includes 2-day camping tickets, a pitched tent on arrival, a double sleeping bag, pillows and mats, a bottle of champagne and breakfast in bed on the Sunday morning, complete with newspaper.  This is not your typical festival!  All tickets available from here the usual outlets.


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21

In the same way as the summer transfer window gets us excited for the forthcoming new football season, so the April-May period of festival line-up speculation and announcements starts us planning for a summer of music. You in Éire are already dreaming of torrential rain, horrendous traffic jams and alleged campsite riots (allegedly).

But for those of you looking to head off foreign for some sunshine with your live tunes, here begins our annual overview of the French summer festival line-up.

Eurockeennes 2009The busiest weekend for French festivals is the first weekend of July, when traditionally there are THREE big events simultaneously – Solidays in Paris, the Main Square Festival in the northern town of Arras and Eurockéennes in the eastern city of Belfort. Today we’ll look at Eurockéennes, which takes place from Friday 3 to Sunday 5 July. (We'll feature the other two in due course.)

Now in its 20th year, Eurockéennes is perhaps the French festival that’s best known internationally. This is certainly due to the size and quality of its line-up, but also because of its location; Belfort is close to Switzerland and southern Germany so it’s within reach of Euro-railers and backpackers throughout central Europe.

The 2009 programme has marquee names and cult heroes galore. The Friday night features The Prodigy, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Alela Diane, Emiliana Torrini, Hockey, Diplo, The Ting Tings, La Roux and The Kills, while that night’s headliners are French rappers NTM. Saturday has Kanye West, Pete(r) Doherty, Friendly Fires, Tricky, Passion Pit, Peter Bjorn & John, home favourites Birdy Nam Nam and Austrian chanteuse Sophie Hunger.

Finally, on Sunday you’ve got Slipknot, Glasvegas, Mos Def, Tinariwen, Florence And The Machine, adopted-Irishpeople Rodrigo y Gabriela and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. But that final day belongs to three heavyweight French acts: Phoenix, Yuksek and Laurent Garnier.

Any questions?

How much will Eurockéennes cost me? If you book on the festival website, you can get a three-day pass (including four days of camping!) for €88 and a one-day ticket for €39. These prices don’t include booking fees, putting-ticket-into-envelope expenses, etc. but that’ll hardly be much. That three-day pass looks like great value.

How do I get to Eurockéennes? Well, Easyjet fly to nearby Basle-Mulhouse airport, and the French national rail company is offering special fares for three-day ticketholders.

Full details of the line-up and practicalities are available on the Eurockéennes website's English page.

From Saturday Night Live recently, here’s another fab new Phoenix track: off the forthcoming ‘Wolfgang Amadeux Phoenix’ it’s ‘Lisztomania’. What’s with all the classical composer references?
 


 

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16

This Saturday (18 April) is World Record Store Day, when punters are encouraged to support their local music dealers. It’s a good opportunity to tell you about our favourite French record shops – and encourage you to tip us off about ones we haven’t discovered yet.

High-street record shops in France are quite good, with breadth and depth to their stock. Should you find yourself in a busy shopping area in a French city, chances are you’re close to an outlet of FNAC, an excellent chain of home entertainment and multimedia stores. Their music space is usually divided into large sections for rock, French, jazz, classical, urban and world music, and each section has its own information desk where the staff (in their distinctive green and yellow waistcoats) tend to be quite knowledgeable. The FNAC on the Champs-Élysées in Paris is open until midnight, like the neighbouring Virgin Megastore (also very good) – there’s something magical about being in a record shop late at night, as if all the best music only comes out after dark. And because the Champs-Élysées is a designated tourist zone, both stores can open on Sundays.

As well as being a fine store, we also commend FNAC for their Indétendances series of samplers and summertime Paris concerts, giving valuable mainstream exposure to up-and-coming French acts of various styles. And the larger FNAC stores have a dedicated space for live performances – in particular we recall a full-on, plugged-in, amped-up set by Grenoble band Rhesus at the FNAC near Montparnasse one Saturday afternoon.

Gibert Joseph on the Boulevard Saint Michel in ParisEven better than FNAC, in our view, is Gibert Joseph (right), a book and music seller that can also be found in many major French towns. In Paris, you can find Gibert Joseph halfway up the Boulevard Saint Michel, the record shop at number 34 a few doors past the bookstore. (Warning: don’t confuse Gibert Joseph with Gibert Jeune, the virtually-similar group of bookshops around the fountain in Place Saint Michel.)

Gibert Joseph’s main virtue is that they sell new and second-hand music side by side. You can even find the latest releases marked with a yellow sticker that says ‘Occasion’, the French term for second-hand, at discount prices and shelved beside new copies at full price. Gibert Joseph has the best alternative music section of any French high-street chain. They also have live sessions. And, if you’ll forgive the digression, the bookstore has new and second-hand English reading material on the fourth floor, though we should also mention the small second-hand English bookstores nearby around the Odéon.

If you crave the real independent music store experience in Paris, simply go out the door of Gibert Joseph, cross the Boulevard Saint Michel and you’ll find rue des Écoles, home to small second-hand shops like Crocodisc. The nearby O’CD has become successful and opened many branches, but at a price: like many small record stores in Paris, it now stocks more DVDs than music.

Then, further along the street, turn right and go up rue de la Montaigne Saint Geneviève. At the very top, just before you come up behind the Panthéon, you have La Dame Blanche, which specializes in jazz and classical music on vinyl. Even if you don’t do the wax, some of those old classical LPs have wonderful sleeves – dig the scary head on young Daniel Barenboim! Half the pleasure of visiting record stores is simply flicking through the stock and finding an album cover that’s surreal, kitsch or slightly troubling. (Another digression: round the corner from La Dame Blanche is the Bombardier, a very nice English pub with filling meals and football on TV.)

But what’s the best record store in Paris? Well, our choice is well outside the city centre – you’ll need to take the metro to Belleville in the east and then push your way through the busy streets of this ethnic, working-class area. Suddenly you’ll fall across Place Saint Marthe, a quiet cobblestone square that has boho cafés on one side. On the other side is the record store, Ground Zero.

Ground Zero record store near Belleville in ParisGround Zero (left) is small and homey – we know it’s a converted house because there’s still a sink in one corner. Like Road Records in Dublin, it stocks the latest indie releases and correctly assumes that you already own the essential classics. Their main trade is in the sort of alternative guitar pop that attracts shy, bookish male punters who then shuffle timidly up to the girls behind the counter.

And, crucially, it sells product from local acts – you’re likely to find records by Paris-based singers and bands displayed in boxes on the counter. In particular, Ground Zero seems to be a favourite of the extended Herman Dune family, who have performed in-store sessions there.

So, this World Record Store Day your correspondent will head for Ground Zero near Belleville in Paris to buy albums and give the twinkly eye to those shop assistants.

On our rare trips outside Paris, we’ve made sure to look for local independent record shops. Should your holidays take you into deep France, we have two recommendations: Planet R in Saint Lô in Normandy and Sofa in Lyon. And there are Gibert Joseph record shops in Versailles and Lyon – we’ve been there, we know that they exist.

If you know any other good record shops in France, especially outside Paris, or if you have a memorable record-buying experience from your school tour or last holiday here, tell us about it with a comment below. Live from Ground Zero in Paris, here's Herman Dune and Julie Doiron singing 'With A Fistful Of Faith':


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15

Key Notes Top Ten Irish Albums: 7

Damien Rice - O

This blog entry could get Key Notes in a great deal of trouble.  You see, while the good people of CLUAS respect all musical tastes, there is something about Damien Rice that splits the CLUAS writers firmly into two camps.  Those that don't like him and those that really don't like him.  Key Notes is being facetious, of course, but it is fair to say that this blog is in the minority on this site when it comes to Rice.  However, wouldn't it be a very boring site if every single one of us had the same opinion?

From what I can gather, between the expletives, it is Rice's image as the head troubadour of the Irish singer-songwriter set that seems to grate with most people.  While it's true that this blog was going through a bit of singer-songer phase when he bought O, it was during his time with Juniper that Key Notes first became aware of his fellow Kildareman.  Juniper were one of those bands, like Ten Speed Racer, that always seemed less than the sum of their parts and Bell X1's status as one of Ireland's most popular bands (bra detectors that they may be) and the phenomenal success of Rice beyond these shores would seem to verify that.

However, strip away Rice's image as a messiah amongst certains sections of the Irish music scene and the fact that every (formerly - they're all broke trying to pay for their second home now) middle class family in Ireland own a copy of O (along with White Ladder and whatever that Dido one was) and you're left with O, an album that embraces its obvious flaws and is all the better for it.  It is far from technically perfect, but it has something much more important, magic. 

O touches a part of the conscience that you spend most of your time trying to hide (the part that makes you cry at the end of Big Fish or watching a documentary on Hillsborough).  Musically, there is very little difference between Rice and most folksy singer-songwriters.  What's different about O is that Rice's songwriting is so raw, so emotional that, like Leonard Cohen, you can forgive the flaws because you feel empathy for the characters in his songs.  It helps, of course, to have the vocal talents of Lisa Hannigan and the heart-tugging cello of Vyvienne Long on your side, but more than that Rice has a way with words that escapes most of his contemporaries.  Any songwriter that can turn a song about masturbation (Aime) into a love song is doing something right. 

O is one of those albums that touches greatness without having any stand out tracks, instead it is the sum of their parts, the collective consciousness of the 12 disparate characters that make up the album that draws you in.  It doesn't matter that Rice followed up O with the lacklustre 9, an album that seems worse now than when this blog reviewed it for his first CLUAS piece.  O is, like Astral Weeks, an album that divides opinon.  Some people can't see beyond the musical sparseness of either and yet their are others, like Key Notes, that believes that sometimes, just sometimes, the music plays second fiddle to the story of the album, indeed, the story of O.

Damien Rice - Cold Water


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11

Your correspondent took a rare trip out of the French capital recently. We went to Lyon, the second-largest city in France and only two hours south-east of Paris by high-speed train.
 
LyonOutside of France, most people probably know Lyon for the recent success of its football team. But the city is renowned as a centre of gastronomy. This demanded rigorous investigation, so your blogger duly ate his own body weight in fantastic local food. (We recommend boudin noir, the Lyon equivalent of black pudding but a zillion times nicer. Next time we'll have the andouillette, a kind of sausage.)
 
The centre of Lyon is a commercial strip of concrete slabs and the usual high street stores. The old part of town, Vieux Lyon, leads uphill to two uncanny reminders of Paris - a kitsch, oversized white church like Sacre Coeur atop Montmartre and a replica of the top half of the Eiffel Tower. But apart from that Lyon has its charm. We stayed in Croix Rousse, a quarter that's home to artists and small bars still defying the smoking ban.

As usual in a new town, we looked for record shops. There's a local branch of Gibert Joseph near Bellecour as well as large stores like Virgin and FNAC - but for small independent music dealers in Lyon you should head for the streets around the town hall, where there are a handful. Our favourite was Sofa on the rue d'Algerie, which stocks mainly vinyl and non-rock sounds such as hip-hop and electronica. (To our joy, in the world music section we found 'I Am Brazil' by the Redneck Manifesto. We prefer to believe that it wasn't misfiled because of the title and that Irishness is fiercely exotic to the Lyonnais.)

Anyway, we survived away from Paris and it gives us the opportunity to tell you about an upcoming festival in Lyon. Nuits Sonores takes place on 20-24 May in venues around the city.

Nuits Sonores 2009 in LyonNow in its seventh year, Nuits Sonores is a popular and well-respected electronica and indie gathering. This year's programme features established acts like Carl Craig, Laurent Garnier, Miss Kittin, Holly Golightly and Dan Le Sac. The hipper-than-thee festival-goer will note the presence of Tiga, the Montreal-born DJ whose name is being dropped by other electronica acts the world over.

Miss Kittin is from Grenoble, so she won't have far to go for her Nuits Sonores show with The Hacker on 24 May. The pair have collaborated on a new album called 'Two' (their second long-player together, you see) and it's a superior set of melodic electro-clash floorfillers.

Before Lyon, Miss Kittin and The Hacker will be in Dublin on 3 May. Because they're French, this inevitably means their Dublin show is on at the ALT, the little Gallic musical enclave in Ireland. And, says Miss Kittin's MySpace giglist, later this summer they'll be in Paris, Madrid and... Naas! Of course, this is for Oxegen but at least they won't be shouting "'Allo, Dublin!"

(We feel bound to tell you that 'Naas' resembles a French word pronounced 'nazz' and which means 'very uncool'. If at Oxegen they tell you "You're Nazz!" and start giggling, now you're in on the joke and you can tell them to f**k off. It'll be gas.)

Miss Kittin and The Hacker are definitely not 'nazz'. Check out some of those 'Two' tracks on Miss Kittin's MySpace page, including '1000 Dreams', presented below in homemade video. Thanks to the Scottish community in Lyon:


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06

In this line of work (and Key Notes uses the term work very loosely!), one of the easiest things to do is box bands off; compare them with like sounding bands, to help readers decide if they would like the band or not.  Indeed, many bands wear their influences so proudly that it almost seems as if they wish to turn their particular little box into a coffin.  Sometimes though, you encounter bands that operate, if not quite in a vacum, then at least at a level far above that achieveable by your run of the mill indie band.

Sometimes, these bands can be so good and so unique, that they completely escape your attention until their discovery only comes about by happy coincidence or, as is the case with Groom, the band taking the initiative and making this blog aware of its existence.

Groom have been on the Irish scene since 2004 and yet this blog first became aware of the band when contacted by Mike Stevens, Groom's driving force, about the release of the bands new mini-album, At The Natural History Museum.  It took about 30 seconds to realise that Groom were a very rare band indeed, further compounding Key Notes regret that he'd not been aware of them sooner.

At The Natural History Mueseum is, essentially, a mini-album about death and the transience of existence, seen through the eyes of a number of disperate characters.  The only thing they have in common is that they are all brought to life by the genius that is Mike Stevens through lyrics such as: Hold me close to your chest so I know your beating heart is true/And when zombies rip at my flesh, I'll turn to you (Mythical Creatures) or indeed, Ski never came back from the '80's/Disappeared, never to return/He was last seen out with his Honda 50 helmet/And his leather jacket with "Burn, Bay, Burn!" (Worst of Places, Worst of Times).  Stevens' vocal stylings and, indeed, lyrics, are best described as the result of Neil Young and Kate Bush's lovechild snorting the ashes of Elliott Smith.  In other words, it's pretty good.

It's not often this blog tells people to go out and spend money, especially on budget day, but At The Natural History Museum will be released on (US indie label) Tight Ship on April 24th and this blog thinks that your music collection will thank you for buying it.  Groom will be launching the album with a gig in Whelan's the same night, with support from Neosupervital


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30

French turntable team Birdy Nam Nam have attracted a lot of international attention recently, as much for their sound as for the fact that there are four of them mixing and twiddling together where normally such things are a solitary pursuit.

Birdy Nam Nam - Manual For Successful RiotingIn a way, this is quite odd. No one remarks on the fact that four rock musicians can combine as a group. Jazzmen tend to gather in fives, sixes or more. And what about the Berlin Philharmonic? There’s a hundred of them!

What’s more, in the studio Birdy Nam Nam probably don’t record live together but in individual takes and overdubs, like most rock bands. So, their onstage innovation counts for little down the coalmine of making albums. Like for most rock bands, in fact.

Fortunately for Birdy Nam Nam, the ends are just as impressive as the means. ‘Manual For Successful Rioting’, their second album, has just come out and it’s a cracker. Top-quality turntablism married to dancefloor electronica of considerable depth and imagination, it will make their name internationally. And, in our parish notes, anyone who was at their show in A.L.T. in Dublin last December will give a wry smile at that title. [Don’t go there, croissant boy! - CLUAS Legal Department]

Perhaps a more telling title is that of ‘Trans-Boulogne Express’, the 2007 track included here. That allusion to ‘Trans-Europe Express’ is a clear nod to Kraftwerk, the spiritual forefathers of this album, and marks a slight change in direction from the hip-hop-isms of old. Clinical beeps and blips, control-freak loops, distorted voices: the sonic template is Teutonic audio engineering at its finest. But, like the legendary German foursome, Birdy Nam Nam infuse their electronica with humanity and wit – mostly with the old-school rapping of Newcleus on ‘Shut Up’ but also with the soul and jazz samples that flash like lightning through this record. Crucially, you can dance to it too; producers Yuksek and Justice are old hands at that game.

And, of course, in places they sound positively French. The strangest track here is probably ‘Homosexuality’, a Jarre/Air-style exercise in swooshing retro-futuristic synths under a vocoder-ed voice that repeats the title. (We don’t know if there’s a point being made there; if so, it’s above our heads at least. That said, we could suggest some innuendo about the title ‘Trans-Boulogne Express’, but perhaps we’d best keep that to ourselves.)

Hardcore fans may be disappointed that this record is closer to carefully-crafted studio electronica than turntable cut n’pasting, but the BNN live experience can only enhance the thrill of this music. Until they land at your local venue, check out their MySpace page for tracks. And here they are on video, painting a model of the word ‘RIOT’ over and over. It must be art:

 


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Nuggets from our archive

2003 - Witnness 2003, a comprehensive review by Brian Kelly of the 2 days of what transpired to be the last ever Witnness festival (in 2004 it was rebranded as Oxegen when Heineken stepped into the sponsor shoes).