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

From after-show beers and bowls of jiaozi in Beijing to budget hotel rooms, stuffy tour buses and MTV appearances in America, Brain Failure have come a long way. After ten years of swinging their way up the greasy pole of Chinese rock, Brain Failure are international rock stars, complete with lyrics worthy of parental advisory stickers and exhaustion-induced tour cancellations.

Now singing in English, they’ve been on MTV, ABC and numerous Japanese TV stations. They’ve even been on Chinese national TV. The Brain Failure boys took some time of from their China Tour to do a fashion shoot for Trends Magazine, a local glossy lifestyle magazine promoting the gentrification of China. Looking cool, hair-gelled and, well, rock stars, the Trends-endorsed Brain Failure also feature posters given away to early buyers of the band’s Beijing To Boston DVD produced by American label Interpunk.

Despite their poster-boy status Brain Failure haven’t given up entirely on the anarchaic spirit of punk as represented by the Sex Pistols and the Ramones. There’s a line “Won’t you see my daddy in the KTV” sung to sound suspiciously like a request for late night oral fooling about. Naughty but nice. The Clash it ain’t but the band does address deeper issues: like the alienation and stigma of being a Chinese punk rocker, in ‘No Dirty Punx’ and the excitement and bewilderment of pre-Olympics Beijing: ‘2008.’

 

Now touring abroad as often as they’re at home in China, Brain Failure have the look of confidence and self-satisfaction about them. True, the band knows better than most other Chinese bands how to put on a show. A cloud of steam rose from a heaving, roaring crowd at the Club 13 recently as the band blasted through a 90 minute set of mostly new songs. It was part homecoming, part launch party for the band’s new CD, Coming Down to Beijing.

 

It seemed strange to hear lead singer Xiao Rong ‘s between-song banter in Chinese. Everything else about this outfit – and its songs – was American, including the lyrics, staccato blasts of cheeky, hoary English sung in a laboriously American twang by vocalist Xiao, whose trademark cropped and died leopard skin hairdo forms the cover art for the new CD.

 

The crowd loved it. Outside the merchandising stall did a brisk trade in band t-shirts, arm bands and CDs, all bearing the disctinctive bi-lingual Brain Failure logo in neatly chiseled script hanging over a diamond shape. Inside a group of Chinese and foreign girls at a table above the mosh pit wore their pink Brain Failure t-shirts tight, dangling cigarettes and arching forward to take photos.

 

On stage, the band looked cocky enough to deserve the attention of groupies. Bassist Ma Jilang goaded the crowd surfers near the stage to do their worst. Guitarist Dee Dee Wang Jian – the name appendage is a mark of respect to the Ramones – poses and drummer Xu Lin bangs his drums like a sledge hammer on bricks. Talking between post-show bottles of beer Xu explains how he soaked up plenty of sticks tricks from drummers and drum technicians – “I didn’t know what that term meant before” - during long stints playing and recording in the US and Japan.

 

Xu had the services of several drum technicians, credited in the album sleeve notes, when the band recorded at The Outpost, the producer being Ken Casey of Dropkick Murphys, a Pogues-inspired Irish-American punk outfit with a growing fan base in North America and Europe.  That’s good company to be keeping for an ambitious punk band. Brain Failure is one. "Coming Down To Beijing” features a guest appearance from Dicky Barrett of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, a cult favourite on American college radio.

 

Dropkick Murphys’ Mark Orell plays organ on "Fall In Love 2008" while horns were added by good friends and tourmates Big D & The Kids Table, with whom Brain Failure co-released a CD of both bands’ songs. Similarly, when Brain Failure played the Punk Spring 07' Festival, one of the biggest punk rock festivals in Japan it was with international names, and friends, the Dropkick Murphys, NOFX and Jimmy Eat World. A Japanese manager and record label, Bad News Records, have yielded the band plenty of gigs in Tokyo.

 

But how Chinese is Brain Failure anymore? Not very. And maybe that’s the point. After a decade playing Beijing’s limited circuit of rock bars, the band sees its future in more lucrative territories. Aside from singing in a language most of their compatriots don’t speak, the band recently hosted a show from legendary punk club CBGB's in New York which aired on MTV China, a show accessible to only a minority of fee-paying Chinese TV viewers. The band recorded new versions of two of their most successful songs for Turn on the Distortion, a CD only available in Japan.

The band has even succumbed to the classic proof of cock-rock stardom: burn – out. Some of the upcoming China tour dates were cancelled due to health reasons. “The band is resting and will be on the road in no time,” explained the group’s American press officer, Josh Smith to excuse a string of concert cancellations in late 2006. The group could be excused. After five months recording and busing around America with the likes of legendary carousers like the Dropkick Murphys, Against All Authority and Rat City Riot, the group deserved a rest.

 

 

 


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26

I just got a press release in for this CD and thought I would let y'all know about it. "Chairman Of The Board" is a compilation of rare surf soundtracks all but lost to the genre that created it. From 1964-74 film directors immersed in the surfing culture commissioned original music for their cinematic creations, much of which has been lost or gone unnoticed until now. Harmless Records will release this 19-track compilation on 7 June.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out  www.myspace.com/surfthechairmanoftheboard for more info.


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26

Ok, I got a new DVD copy of this film cheap off Ebay a while back when I was flirting with the idea of moving up to a longboard and certainly this rather goovy, mellow, laidback flick did have a positive effect of my view of what longboarding entailed until, that is, I had to actually pick up one of those 9' 6" monsters and stagger to the beach with it under my arm. Nevertherless, 'Singlefin: Yellow" is one of my favourite surf flicks because it is actually attempting to be a film and not just a randomly edited collection of extreme surfing footage cut together to some rubbish speed metal soundtrack. The film is basically about a a 9'6" single fin, yellow, classic longboard shaped by west coast shaper Tyler Hatzikian who then sends it on to the first of a series of surfers with the message to surf the board until they are done before passing it on again. The board travels around the world, making it as far as Australia and Japan before it ends up in Hawaii in the hands of Bonga Perkins who surfs it in Pipeline before shipping it back to Tyler. Most of the surfers I know don't like the movie because it is too slow in pace and doesn't feature enough jacked up action but don't let that put you off. The best part of it is the soundtrack which is comprised of a series of tracks by underground West Coast artists and my copy of the film came with a free CD of the music used in the film. The artists featured include Euphone, Bluebird, The Dylan Group, Mighty Flashlight & Calvin Keys.

Anyway, here is the trailer for the movie .

 

 

 


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24

Oh dear. The Immediate’s appearance at La Flèche d’Or in Paris on 21 April was actually as a tacked-on fifth-on-the-bill opener for a show of four other bands - the Dublin group weren‘t even named on the official posters.Now you see them, now you don't: The Immediate

Even worse, they started much earlier than their advertised time of 9:00 - at 8:15, in fact. As a result, we didn’t see them at all. And, as the bar staff later told us, not many other people got to see them either. Eight to nine is evening-mealtime in France, and walk-up punters would still be at dinner either at home or in the restaurant.

So, be careful all you Irish bands visiting Paris and France: unless you’re at a festival, make sure that you don’t get landed with a dead pre-9pm timeslot!

As an aside, three of the other four bands on the night were great. The Wombats (from Liverpool) play energetic Arctic Monkeys-style pop but with a little bit more melody. Marybell Katastrophy are a catchy and interesting electro-pop band from Denmark with (blush) three ferociously photogenic Danish girls on vocals, guitars and synths. And Norwegian rap-funk-punk outfit Datarock were a blast: like a soundclash of ‘Rock The Casbah’, ‘Girls On Film’ and ‘You’ve Got To Fight For Your Right To Party’. Definitely three European bands worth listening to.

As for our own lads, they should have better luck on 24 April when they play a Dad Records showcase gig at a very impressive venue called Showcase, located under the Pont Alexandre III (the ornate gold-decorated bridge that leads onto the Invalides, Paris-lovers).

 

Did YOU see The Immediate play at the Fleche d'Or on 21 April? If so, contact our dedicated Missing Bands Unit at frenchletter(at)cluas(dot)com. Your blogger regrets that there is no reward for finding missing bands.


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24

Planning your summer holidays? Looking for a music festival in Europe? Thinking of coming to France? How about this for a line-up: Muse, Arcade Fire, !!!, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Cold War Kids, LCD Soundsystem, Art Brut, Lily Allen, Klaxons and others - all playing at the two-day Garden NEF festival at Angouleme in the south-west of France on 20-21 July.

Tickets for the festival are still available at the time of posting. If you only have cupla focail en francais, never fear - French ticketseller FNAC has an English-language online service where you can book your tickets in English. Tickets are €41 per night are €66 for a weekend pass.

Angouleme is in the south-west of France, not far from Bordeaux, Limoges or Poitiers. The TGV stops there, which means it's only 2 hours 20 minutes from Paris by train.

The full line-up is:

20 July: MUSE + LILY ALLEN + !!! (Chk Chk Chk) + COLD WAR KIDS + MUMM RA.

21 July: ARCADE FIRE + CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH + LCD SOUNDSYSTEM + KLAXONS + ART BRUT + ANIMAL COLLECTIVE. 

 

Feel free to contact this blog in the more intimate surroundings of frenchletter(at)cluas(dot)com. Your blogger regrets that he cannot "give Leaving Cert French grinds".

 


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23

One of the simple pleasures surrounding a summer surf trip is that feeling of heading down the M50 on a sunny Friday evening with your board strapped to the roof, dreaming of the weekend ahead and imagining the adventures you are going to have. It is on occasions like these that a certain kind of in-car music is called for; upbeat, breezy, sunny, uncomplicated and positive. The kind of music that The Beach Boys had mastered, that Picturehouse had tried and failed to get a handle on and that UK based five piece The Feeling appear to have become quite adept at producing on their debut album, “Twelve Stops and Home”.  If you listen to FM radio at all, you will probably have been unable to escape songs like, “Never Be Lonely”, “Sewn” and “Love It When You Call” and, to be fair, there is no reason to escape these sunlit ditties. Too often, surf music seems to be leaden reggae, identikit metal and, worst of all, surfers simply playing acoustic guitars so The Feeling are, if nothing else a breath of admittedly retro fresh air. Maybe you might get tired of them sooner or later but, in the meantime, they certainly brighten up a long drive westwards.

 

Anyway, here are the lads performing 'Love It When You Call" live @ Abbey Road.



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21

the current Wilco lineupIt happened halfway through last Wilco's first ever headlining gig in Sydney last night . The band were ripping through Walken from their imminent release, Sky Blue Sky.  I was sat by the sound desk, in a leg brace - long story. My good friend Fergal, enjoying his virgin Wilco experience, turned to me and took a Robbie-Robertson-a-la-Last-Waltz stance, wide-legged, jerking back and forth, guitar swinging from side to side. I looked back to the stage and realised just how much Jeff Tweedy resembled the former Band front man. Right down to the ear to ear grin. Yep, this was not the grumpy Jeff I'd experienced in the past - this was a happy Jeff. Jeff, the raconteur, taking the piss out of Steak 'n' Kidney (Sydney) and describing Tasmania as "the two-headed state".

The music was just as joyous. Encompassing songs from all of their albums, the gig hit Wilco Setlist Enmore Sydney 21/04/07some extraordinary heights. Misunderstood was HUGE, the audience yelling "Nothing!" with the band over and over and over again. Set closer, the ever avant-garde Spiders, showcased the dualling guitars of Tweedy and lead guitarist, Nels Cline. This was a continuing motif of the night - Tweedy's guitar was dirty, messy, strangled and Cline's was bright, exact, soaring. Together they made a truly compelling sound - the three minute guitar salvo at the end of At Least That's What You Said was a hair-raising highlight. California Stars from their still wonderful Billy Bragg collaboration Mermaid Avenue was as littingly lovely as ever. Theologians, Jesus etc and Hummingbird were expertly despatched. Drums, guitar, piano, perfect vocal harmonies. Wilco could really be the Band of our time. There were glimpses of Dylan, Bowie, the Stones and the Band, of course, but Tweedy has morphed this alt-country collective into something that is so much more.

Such a celebratory concert doesn't quite dispel all my doubts about the new album though. The set featured five songs from Sky Blue Sky, due out at the end of May, and I'm not sure I could argue that lack of familiarity is the reason none stood out as highlights. Hate It Here, introduced by Tweedy as the "Domestic Song", talks of domestic bliss, of missing a loved one when he or she is not home. It's soulful, beautifully sung by Tweedy, but it lacks the bite and challenge of previous Wilco classics. Sky Blue Sky sounds settled, comfortable. Whilst I suspect this respresents where Tweedy is with his life right now, it means the record is all too easy to absorb.

The band tour Europe in May (though I notice that Dublin doesn't seem to be on the current itinerary). They play two shows in the Shepherd's Bush Empire (the best music venue in the world, in my humble opinion) - an exhilarating night is guaranteed.

 A webcast of the gig is here.


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21

The Immediate onstage at La Maroquinerie, 19 April 2007

Dublin indie media darlings The Immediate are currently playing a series of shows in Paris.

This mini-residence in the French capital comes only a couple of weeks after they played here at La Maroquinerie on 29 March as opener for Hey Gravity. Unfortunately for them, at that gig they had to try to win over a sparse and less-than-appreciative audience (at one point having to ask: "Come on people - applause!").

This time around, on 19 April, they were back at La Maroquinerie on the bill of French magazine Les Inrockuptible's regular Indie Club night, along with The Kissinmas (from Clermont-Ferrand in central France), The Pigeon Detectives (from Leeds) and Jamie T (from London).

This time the reaction was more favourable: a full house on the night and calls for an encore. If you fancy testing your French, check out the review on French indie music site Sound Of Violence.

You can also watch them perform 'A Ghost In This House' as filmed by Les Inrockuptibles.

The Immediate's Paris shows continue with a concert at La Flèche d'Or on 21 April and a showcase gig for their French label Dad Records on 24 April.


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19

So there is a movie that is coming out soon that has me positively salivating.... it's not Fincher's Zodiac. Nor is it the Rodriguez/ Tarantino lovein, Grindhouse. No - it's This Is England, by maverick English director, Shane Meadows.

The reason? I believe Meadow's last movie, 2004's Dead Man's Shoes, to be one of the greatest pictures of recent years. It's a rivetting revenge thriller starring the British Isle's one true acting superstar (are you watching, Colin?) , the very wonderful Paddy Considine. He plays ex-soldier Richard with such menace, magnetism and macabre humour that I would readily compare the peformance with de Niro's iconic Travis Bickle - yes, Considine really is that good.

Meadow's makes very personal pictures. His Once Upon a TIme in the West was a western based in, you guessed it, the Midlands (Dead Man's Shoes reminds me of Leone's Hang 'em High in its tone) and his newest release, This Is England, is a semi-autobiographical skinhead drama and promises to be as compelling and confonting as Dead Man's Shoes.

Over time, I'll talk about some other lost masterpieces, but if you have some of your own, list them below.


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19
According to the May 2007 edition of Surfing Magazine, Texas band The Sword are the new hip Heavy Metal kids on the block. With a sound that is inspired by bands like Pantera, Slayer and The Zep they are certainly loud. Here is their video for the single 'Winter Wolves'.


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Nuggets from our archive

2007 - REM live in the Olympia, by Michael O'Hara. Possibly the definitive review of any of REM's performances during their 2007 Olympia residency. Even the official REM website linked to it.