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:

31

The best French album ever is Serge Gainsbourg's 'Histoire De Melody Nelson' from 1971, a concept album about an older man's infatuation with an underage English girl (from Sunderland!). Despite this dodgy premise, it's actually a thoughtful and dreamy record.

The album is a showcase for the trademark Gainsbourg sound - soulful basslines, acoustic guitars and swooning symphonic strings. Air built a career from it; acts from Radiohead to Pulp to Massive Attack have been profoundly influenced by it. Gainsbourg's daughter Charlotte drew heavily on her father's style for her fine 2006 album '5:55'.

Jane Birkin (Gainsbourg's partner and co-vocalist), whose heavy breathing and groaning had caused 'Je T'aime (Moi Non Plus)' to be banned by radio stations and condemned by the Vatican, only has a short cameo on this record. This time her sound effects were confined to her horsey laugh, but she features on the album cover. Trivia: on the day the photo was taken she was pregnant with Charlotte but had not yet told Serge.

The highlight is 'Ballade De Melody Nelson', a short but gorgeous little song which opens with one of pop's greatest basslines. Then Gainsbourg croons like a tragic hero and the whole thing is over in less than two minutes.

The video, which you can watch here or below, is just as wonderful, like a message from Planet Groovy. Birkin twirls like a true early-Seventies hippychick, while Serge is just untouchably cool:


More ...

[Read more...]

Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
28

The music business has been truly stirred and shaken, and nowhere more so than China, where a handful of state sector of labels are having to co-exist with international majors who have snapped up most of the bankable stars. But everyone is being screwed by piracy. Now, into the gap has stepped Access China Media Solutions, a Chinese company specializing in developing music and gaming technology for mobile phone. Formed as a joint venture between Japan-based software developer Access Co., Ltd., and Seattle-headquartered Melodeo, Inc, in early 2006, the company develops technologies and solutions designed to enable the secure delivery of music and video for the Web and mobile phone.

 Melodeo’s success at delivering music content to mobile users in the US, and its credibility in the music world – the company’s Senior Director of Media Content is Dave Dederer, founding member of rock band The Presidents of the United States of America - probably helped Access China to land an unspecified injection of cash lately from both Sony BMG and Warner. The deal means Access China Media Solutions builds a “platform” of secure technology through which the labels can sell their music downloads to PC and mobile phone users in China.

So Chinese music fans get a more cool, user friendly experience that other providers don’t offer. And music companies get “a secure, economically viable way to distribute their content in China and throughout the world,” as the press releases announcing the deal suggests they’ve been desperately seeking. “Piracy of both physical CDs and online digital music has made these efforts difficult over the past decade.” No surprise there.

Mobile phone networks are, goes the logic, more secure, and have a built-in payment system – you pay for your downloads in your monthly phone bill. Approached yesterday at a technology conference in Beijing Wayne Zhang, the bespectacled, quietly spoken CEO of Access China Media Solutions said the team-up will unleash a “new wave” in the world wide music business. “Together we have the content, proven technologies, and network operators' support to ensure that wireless customers can get their music and multimedia entertainment content the way they want it, whenever and wherever.”

Yet for all Zhang’s promise of nourishing “a vibrant, legitimate digital music business in China” and helping “…recording artists and songwriters by ensuring that they are properly compensated for their work,” the new Access deal seems to be mostly about building the advantage of the global players in China. Both of the big labels are already licensing music to web portals and mobile content providers in China.  

Sony BMG has said in a few thousand interviews and announcements that it’s “excited” about the market for distributing its international and Mandarin repertoire on mobile phones in China. The first of the major labels to open a Chinese representative office (in 2000) Warner was also the first to strike a deal with a Chinese mobile operator to distribute its whole catalogue – it struck an agreement with China Mobile in 2006.

Given Access and Melodeo’s software know how and the vast content banks of the two labels, the deal could be the key to the regional music market. China after all boasts the world’s largest mobile subscription base – almost 500 million users. Delivering digital music and entertainment safely and making money hasn’t always been easy though. While the country boasts nearly 500 million mobile subscribers it’s been a real headache to get everyone onboard: the operators China Mobile and second player China Unicom are often greedy about their slice of the fee from each play. Most mobile phones are made in China but handset and device manufacturers have proven stubborn and slow on innovating since low cost phones sell fastest (and are easiest to make) in China. Content providers, application developers and artists meanwhile have all got their own issues over slices from the pie. Content providers have been accused of ganging up to force lower prices on to labels and musicians.

Using a strategy that we’ve seen here before – China as a “potentially huge market” and a cheap testing ground (talent and business costs are cheap here but consumers’ incomes smaller) - if the arrangement is successful here it could be rolled out to other territories. But success is a big ‘if’ in China, where concepts like copyright and intellectual property remain foreign to many. Sony BMG and Warner will no doubt also be talking to the dozens of websites offering downloads for free and the thousands of Beijing shops jammed with bootleg CDs and DVDs will first have their say.


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Beijing Beat
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
28

In other ways China is increasingly plugging into the worldwide concert network.  

The seven-continent Live Earth concert series which begins in Sydney, Australia, will hit Shanghai as well as Tokyo before going on to South Africa – count the carbon footprint of all those jet-flying tour crews. Part of a campaign led by the Al Gore-connected

Alliance for Climate Protection and other NGOs. Gore is a “Partner” of the Live Earth concert, language which makes the whole venture sound suspiciously like a corporate convention. Here’s more corporate speak: “Live Earth is being produced globally by Control Room, the firm led by Kevin Wall which has “produced and distributed” more than 60 concerts since its founding in 2005 featuring Beyonce, Madonna, Green Day and the Rolling Stones, among others. Is this Control Room’s way of dipping its toe into the China market? Interestingly, there’s a law in China which forbids artists performing on benefit gigs from getting paid. So while Al Gore’s connections may facilitate the mountain of licenses you need for a gig like this in China it’s going to be very interesting to see if and how the concert will make any money here. Considering that the currently very hot Linkin Park are scheduled to play, there will have to be money involved. The band has long had ambitions to play China, where it has a sizeable following, but will Live Earth be a repeat of the Great Wall concert a few year ago, at which ever-hot Alicia Keys and Cyndi Lauper played a disastrously under-attended and badly organized show in a stunning location? The money was supposed to come from the TV rights but quality issues mean that never got aired, and several lawsuits are apparently winding their way through US courts over fees and broken promises. I remember the Great Wall concert as much for catching the last acts sitting in one of the empty VIP armchairs up front - they emptied of invited Communist Party bigwigs and Army brass as the night wore on and got colder – so we wrapped up in the blankets provided and rued our paying 40 euros for the tickets when we could have picked up one of hundreds at the gate for about 5 euros. Tread carefully, Live Earth…


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Beijing Beat
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
28

Only after the event did we find out about Leanne Harte playing at the New Morning in Paris last May 10, as support to (of all people) Mott The Hoople singer Ian Hunter.

It was by no means the Dublin singer-songer's first French capital concert. She was here on October 10 last to play an acoustic show at the Cafe de la Danse, to promote her self-titled debut album.

If, like your correspondent, you missed her show (and at least you probably have the excuse of not living in Paris), Harte has helpfully released a live recording with the Gershwin-esque title of 'An Irishgirl In Paris'. It features acoustic versions of songs from her debut, some new original tracks and a cover of 'Pretty Good Year' by Tori Amos.

From the aforementioned concert and live CD, here's Harte singing 'Hard To Grasp':


More ...

[Read more...]

Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
27

Now that the Champions League final has closed the season, and with no tournament this summer, we football addicts must depend on the Tour de France, Kerry v Cork in the Munster Final, British Open golf and so forth, to keep us going until normal life resumes in mid-August.

The French Open tennis championship begins today on the distinctive red clay courts of Roland Garros in Paris. Fans here will no doubt hope for Amelie Mauresmo to provide a rare home victory.

One of those previous French winners, 1983 men's winner Yannick Noah, has since become one of France's biggest pop stars. After retiring from tennis he started performing rock songs and touring small provincial venues, often to mixed receptions of curiosity and derision.

He subsequently adopted a more successful sound of light reggae-pop, and his second career was born. Noah now headlines summer festivals and fills venues around the country, and is arguably more famous now as a pop star than as a tennis star (he also advertises a brand of underpants). His son Joachim, playing college basketball in the USA, is on the way to becoming a huge sports star too.

Born in Cameroon of an African father and white French mother, Noah sings mainly about social issues like racial harmony - though lyrically he tends towards self-help-book feelgood inspiration rather than angry polemic.

Still, he was a vocal supporter of Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal in the recent election and, along with other high-profile stars like footballer Lilian Thuram, he publicly criticised conservative candidate (and eventual winner) Nicolas Sarkozy's heavy-handed approach to immigration policy.

His biggest hit so far has been his catchy 2005 single 'Métisse', about taking pride in his mixed-race identity, which also features France's sharpest rapper, Disiz La Peste. Watch the video below:

 


More ...

[Read more...]

Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
26

If you, like me, thought that owning a set of minature Wilco dolls was a little left field then I would be interested in hearing your views on owning a limited edition doll of Beach Boys supremo Brian Wilson as he looked and dressed in 1966.Yes, he is available in two versions: the limited edition with box personally signed by Brian Wilson @ $150.00, and limited edition, unsigned @ $75.00. I notice that Tower Records sell a wide range of minature dolls of rock musicians, who buys this stuff ?


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Sound Waves
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
25

Say hello, (new) wave goodbye: Nouvelle vagueNouvelle Vague (or 'new wave' in English), playing in Dublin this weekend, scored a surprise hit album with their eponymous 2004 collection of acoustic versions of - voilà! - new wave and punk classics by acts like The Cure, Depeche Mode and Joy Division. (Sacrilegiously, they also covered 'Teenage Kicks'.)

Their gimmick was to have the songs sung by young female French singers familiar with neither the originals or the English language, hence the (at the time) freshness of their versions (their cover of 'Too Drunk To F**k' by The Dead Kennedys is quite fun to listen to).

One of these singers, Camille, went on to release a smashing 2005 album called 'Le Fil', full of quirky pop songs and inventive vocalising.

By the time of last year's second album, 'Bande A Part' (the title of a nouvelle vague movie by Jean-Luc Godard), the joke seemed to have worn a little thin.

Still, here's their version of New Order's "Blue Monday", recorded for a TV show backstage at Glastonbury:

 

 

 


More ...

[Read more...]

Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
25

UNKL, a bunch of American creative types who (to quote themselves) "develop products that tie directly to their ever growing line of urban vinyl characters" have a whole range of 2" minature dolls they flog for about US$8.

They have just announced that they will be launching a “six pack” set of Wilco dolls at some Comic shin-dig called Comic-Con, taking in San Diego in July. We're talking a limited edition of 1000 of the 6 packs, which can be ordered for 50 bucks on Wilco's Musictoday store. Earliest shipping date is June 15th (and watch for the importation duties slapped on by your friendly Custom and Excise service).

Hat tip: DaddyTypes, my fave blog for new Dads.


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Promenade
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
24

Richard and his hairOnce in a while, stuck on the other side of the world, I envy the quality TV that you lot get in the Northern Hemisphere. One of the shows I miss most is Later with Jools Holland.

And tonight's show has a simply brilliant line-up. Bloc Party, LCD Soundsystem, Joan Armatrading, Wilco and my hope for breakthrough of the year, Richard Swft.

The last, and only, time I saw Richard Swift live was on a visit to see our esteemed editor in Brussels. As is his wont, Eoghan organised that we, with our better halves, would go see a gig that he had picked out. Swift made up one of two relativlely obscure singer-songwriters - the other being Baxter Dury, son of the late Ian Dury. Dury's rather predictable reggae-like urban dramas were completely obscured by Swift's dramatic, almost vaudevillian, chamber pop. Swift had a memorable head of hair (!) as well as a tight, funky band. His melodic delivery perfectly suited his songs. I bought a double CD that was available on the night - a compilation his previous two albums, the Novelist / Walking Without Effort.

 This year Swift returned to the fray with one of the albums of the year, Dressed Up for the Letdown. As the title suggests, it's a melancholy delight, full of pointed lyrics. Artist and Repertoire , typically, is a conversation between Swift and his A&R man - "Sorry Mr. Swift, but there's no radio that likes to play the songs of your lovers' sorrow". Many of the songs evoke Richard Hawley, Rufus Wainwright... And he deserves to be in this exalted company. his albums can be wallowed in.

So enjoy Richard Swift on Jools tonight. And then go buy his really rather wonderful records...  


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Short Cuts
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
24

You might not think that the property section of an Irish newspaper is a fertile area for rock and roll stories but you would be mistaken. In the last few months, a number of features have appeared in the residential property sections of a variety of national newspapers dealing in the sale of this rock star's mansion or that movie maker's stately pile. The reason given for the sale is usually that such and such a celebrity finds themselves spending less and less time in Ireland and, anyway, they have properties all over the world that they need to live in from time to time too. What the articles don't suggest is that this sudden departure after years of comfortable living in the Auld Sod may be, at least, partly due to the recent capping of the Artists's Exemption at € 250,000.00 per annum by the Department of Finance, after which said celebrity will have to pay tax on the remainder of their income.

Now, I am not interested here in getting bogged down in the pros and cons of this exemption; briefly I am for it and also I was against it being capped because the vast majority of artists who avail of it earn less than € 50,000.00 per annum and they do that with great difficulty, but one very interesting knock on effect the cap has had is to escalate a decline within a certain section of the Irish property market, namely in the sale of top notch residential homes.

As soon as the cap was introduced, the tax consultants of these wealthy musicians had to very sensibly point out that the sine qua non of living in Ireland tax free had evaporated and perhaps it might be better to look elsewhere for a place to reside, at which point said musician might think, fair enough, and start looking to liquidate their assets, the result being a sudden rush onto the market of fabulous residences. Now, in the past, when one of these piles was sold, its ownership usually changed hands between celebrities with the usually older seller needing to acquire a big bag of cash and the usually younger buyer needing to dispose of a big bag of cash. With the cap in place, this ready market in buyers all keen to find a tax haven for their newly minted loot, has disappeared and it's fair to say that the remaining buyers in the market may not have such a pressing need for a home with state of the art recording studios and cinema screening rooms, particularly when the property in question comes with a price tag of upwards of € 8,000,000.00.

The result is that the Irish residential property market, already in decline, is given a further negative jolt as these top range properties remain unsold or are withdrawn by their owners, the knock on effect being that confidence in the sector is further eroded and confidence, as any self respecting rock star will tell you, is what it's all about.


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Sound Waves
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
Page 83 of 91First   Previous   78  79  80  81  82  [83]  84  85  86  87  Next   Last   

Search Articles

Nuggets from our archive

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