The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

French Letter

17

MalajubeWe saw Quebec indie-rockers Malajube at La Maroquinerie in Paris last night. Despite a sluggish start (with - our bad luck - a relatively listless version of 'Montréal -40°C', our favourite song of theirs) they soon picked up steam. Literally - the place was roasting and clouds of mist were rising from the overheating crowd.

No one suffered more from the heat than lead singer Julien Mineau. For some reason he had decided to wear a platinum-white moptop wig that hung sheepdog-stylee down to his upper lip, completely covering his eyes and nose.

Hot stuff: Malajube singer Julien Mineau (without wig)He was obviously hot under there - two songs in and already the poor guy was leaking buckets of sweat (and probably nostalgic for the minus forty degrees of home). Perspiration was pouring off him, running down the front of his guitar and spraying the front row teenage girls whenever he made a sharp movement. We hadn't seen such hot sweatiness since that time in Pigalle when we [Snip! - CLUAS Legal Department]

Despite Mineau's socially embarrassing discharges, his band played a storming set made up mostly of cracking tunes from their 2006 album 'Trompe L'Oeil'. We dug the music, but even your blogger (with his fluent French) had problems comprehending the band's Quebec accents - and they didn't help matters by deliberately exaggerating or putting on fake French accents. The Quebec accent is a source of ridicule in France - only today someone explained to us why punters last night were playfully heckling Malajube with shouts of 'Skiddooo!'

La Maroquinerie (the name signifies the building's former life as a leather goods factory; the 'maroc' comes from Morocco, traditional land of leather production) is a smashing little venue - the gig space is a cavernous cellar, and up on ground level there's a nice, spacious bar and restaurant. Already this year we've been there to see excellent shows by Peter Bjorn and John, The Decemberists and Simple Kid (who gave a masterclass in winning around an audience). It's in the 20th arrondissement, a bohemian district of Paris that's full of fine little bars, restaurants and concert venues (our beloved Flèche d'Or is there too).

As for Malajube, they now have a healthy following in France. As well as playing Paris, they also visited Rouen, the city where Joan of Arc also suffered badly from the heat. Warding off the flames, here's Malajube treating local website Domino TV to an acoustic version of 'Montréal -40°C'. That's 'mon-ray-AL MWAN kar-ONT' to you:


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15

Bertrand Cantat, during his trial in Vilnius in 2003A judicial hearing in Toulouse has granted conditional early release to Bertrand Cantat, singer with French rockers Noir Désir.

Cantat (43) has served three and a half years of an 8-year sentence for killing his girlfriend, actress Marie Trintignant, during a violent argument in a hotel room in Vilnius, Lithuania in 2003.

The court agreed with lawyers for the singer that Cantat had been a model detainee and had 'made efforts at social readaptation'.

However, the judgement stipulated that Cantat is not allowed to make any public comment on the case or his offence.

This essentially precludes the singer from performing or recording any songs that refer to the death of Trintignant or to his culpability in the matter.

Noir Désir's record company, Universal France, have previously stated that the band's contract remains in force and that new material is awaited.

Cantat will leave the prison in Muret, near Toulouse, tomorrow (16 October). A media frenzy awaits him, as does renewed controversy and public debate about a perceived lack of adequate protection for women who are victims of domestic violence. France has also been rocked by recent cases involving repeat offences by convicts on early or temporary release, though the court in Toulouse today was satisfied that Cantat would not re-offend.


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14

French transport strikes in 1995So all of France is in a state of gloom after being knocked out of 'their' Rugby World Cup by the old enemy.

And if that wasn't depressing enough, there'll be a transport strike this Thursday. President Sarkozy wants train drivers to give up their extra pension benefits so that they'll have the same retirement age and wrinkly-money as the rest of the public service.

To Sarko's surprise, the train drivers would prefer to keep their benefits - and so the rail unions are all out on Thursday. There's a legal obligation on the unions to provide a minimum transport service on strike days, but it remains to be seen if this will be honoured. There's also the possibility that the strike could continue for days or even weeks, as happened in the winter of 1995.

Anyway, the strike reminds us of a French song you sometimes hear on the radio in Ireland and elsewhere - a jazzy little ditty that goes "Je ne veux pas travailler..." You know the one we mean?

Pink MartiniOf course you do. The song is called 'Sympathique'  (which means 'nice') and it's from the 1997 debut album of the same name by a 12-piece jazz-lounge-pop band called Pink Martini (left). Strangely, despite the heady Gallic flavour of the song, the band aren't French - they're from Portland on the west coast of the USA, home to The Dandy Warhols, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and many other alt-rock bands.

Also, even though it sounds like an authentic artefact from the days of Edith Piaf and Josephine Baker, the tune was written by the band's core duo, singer China Forbes and pianist Thomas Lauderdale. But they didn't write the lyrics, which come from a piece of whimsical verse by the celebrated early 20th century French poet and man-about-town Guillaume Apollinaire. (Among his other feats: he coined the word 'surrealism', was accused of stealing the Mona Lisa, received a serious head wound in the trenches of World War I, died of Spanish flu two days before the Armistice and was buried in Pere Lachaise.)

The song came to prominence when it was featured in a TV ad for the Citroen Picasso (very useful in times of transport strikes), and it seemed to spread in popularity by word-of-mouth and occasional radio play. Your future blogger, before The Great Leap Frenchwards, recalls hearing it a few times on Ray D'Arcy's show on Today FM around 2001-02.

However, you might be surprised to learn who claims to have been the first to play the song in Ireland - none other than football commentator George Hamilton (right, on television). Now, we hasten to add that George wasn't spinning discs during Irish international games - he hosts a fine little music show called 'The Hamilton Scores' on Lyric FM on Saturday mornings. George also writes an interesting classical music column for the Irish Independent every Saturday.

[On a related football commentator/music DJ point, did you know that the Irish Top 30 chart show on RTE radio in the 1960s was originally presented by Jimmy Magee?]

For such a sweet little song, 'Sympathique' is actually quite subversive (the French rail unions would no doubt approve). The chorus goes: "Je ne veux pas travailler / Je ne veux pas dejeuner / Je veux seulement oublier / Et puis je fume" - in other words (i.e. English ones), "I don't want to work / I don't want to have lunch / I just want to forget / And so I smoke". In both French and English, 'smoke' here is clearly understood as being of the Cheech-and-Chong kind.

Pink Martini have just released their third album, 'Hey Eugene', which continues the band's cabaret sound and tradition of terrible titles and album covers (their second record was called 'Hang On Little Tomato').

Anyway, out of solidarity with our fellow-workers, here's Pink Martini and 'Sympathique'. The video is anything but sympa, by the way:


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08

U2 fan sites such as U2Achtung.com and U2Valencia.com are currently carrying reports (apparently originating from Universal Music in Spain) that U2 will release a 20th anniversary edition of 'The Joshua Tree' on 10 December.

According to these reports - unconfirmed by the band or their official website - there will be four formats:

- a single-disc remastered version of the album

- a 'deluxe' 2-disc version, of which the second disc will feature studio out-takes, alternate versions and a cover of Curtis Mayfield's 'People Get Ready'

- a 'super deluxe' version, including a DVD featuring U2's 1987 show at the Hippodrome de Vincennes in Paris (for this blog there had to be a French angle, obviously) and Barry Devlin's 1987 documentary 'Outside It's America'

- a vinyl version

It is also still unclear if the 'super deluxe' version comes with extra fries.

A catalogue from Universal Music in Austria features the deluxe edition as one of its forthcoming releases. However, while the U2 fansites mentioned above claim to have received confirmation from Universal Music in Spain and France, Universal Music's sites have not (at the time of writing) made any announcement of an imminent U2 release.

U2 fans will no doubt remember that the album was actually released in March 1987, not December.

From the aforementioned 1987 Paris show, here's U2 performing 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For':


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03

We hope that by now our regular readers are regularly visiting the Take Away Shows, the indie-busking series of films featured on French music blog La Blogothèque.

Elvis PerkinsThe latest addition to their stellar archive is Elvis Perkins, one of the essential new American acts of the year. His debut album, 'Ash Wednesday', is a fine collection of stark and heartfelt acoustica which will be sure of a place in the upper reaches of the 2007 best-of polls.

The Take Away Show team filmed two Perkins songs: below, you can watch 'While You Were Sleeping', filmed in Place Vendôme (home to exclusive jewellers and the Ritz Hotel). Perkins serenades a rather sceptical-looking toddler and various groups of tourists (gathering in front of the Ritz due to it being the point where Princess Diana et al started their ill-fated flight from the paparazzi in 1997) before heading up to the Opèra to find (quelle coincidence!) his band waiting for him on the steps.

If you visit the Take Away Show site you can watch the second clip, a medley of 'Emile's Vietnam In The Sky' and 'All The Night Without Love' performed at plush department stores Printemps and Galeries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussmann. The security guards aren't too impressed, but Elvis handles them with Parisian sang froid.

Here's 'While You Were Sleeping':


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03

If you were at Daft Punk's Marlay Park show in the summer of 2006, then you may have seen this band, the support act that evening. We doubt you could have forgotten them.

Fancy: Monsieur may want to wax those forearms...From the east Paris suburb of Montreuil, Fancy are a three-piece group that mix New York Dolls glam and AC/DC hard rock the way teenagers mix lager and cider. The results are just as potent (but less likely to have you getting sick all over yourself).

Feather boas, razor-sharp cheekbones, spandex, lashings of make-up, squally guitars, confused sexuality - in other words, a proper pop band! Hurrah!

We reckon they sound a lot like The Gossip (which is a good thing) - even down to the Beth Ditto-esque screams of lead singer Jessie Chaton. And yes (before your parents ask pop's greatest question: 'Is that a boy or a girl?'), Jessie is a man, with the same helium voice as our other French pop discovery of 2007, Christophe Willem.

And just to show that Chaton has got credentials, you've already been dancing all year to one of his songs - he co-wrote 'D.A.N.C.E.' by Justice.

Their new album, modestly titled 'Kings Of The World', has just come out in France. It being Fashion Week in Paris, and given Fancy's sound and look, the record has come at just the right time to be the soundtrack for some serious pouting and flouncing.

No Irish dates upcoming for Fancy, although if you're in London on 22 November you can catch them at Koko with OK Go and Simian Mobile Disco.

Check out some of their tracks on their MySpace page. Here's the video for their single '17 (Wollmar Yxkullsgatan)'. You can leave out the bit in brackets when you're asking the DJ for it:

 


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01

Groan. Let us never speak about rugby again (at least until France v Ireland at the Stade de France next spring).

It's Fashion Week here in Paris. Now, although your blogger cuts a suave and well-tailored figure, it's hardly an event to get us excited on the scale of, say, a month-long sports tournament. But then again, neither are we enthusiastic about the imminent release by everyone's favourite over-rated and cantankerously obscure band.

Still, we know that the CLUAS readership are a fashionable bunch, and they expect their Foreign Correspondent (Paris) to report on the rag-and-bone fest going on all around him.

So, having swanned around the centre of Paris this morning, here's what your F.C. (P.) can EXCLUSIVELY report:

  • Number of fashion shows attended: zero
  • Number of celebs spotted: zero
  • Weather: bucketing down
  • Number of tall, glamorous models hailing taxis in the middle of the street: loads
  • Number of soaked and overweight Irish fans who succeeded in getting a cab this morning: zero
  • Origin of metro-seeking rugby-supporting compatriot at Place Saint Michel who (sl-ow-ly) complimented your blogger on "speaking English very well": Cork
  • Sartorial event, focus of much admiration on the metro line 1 eastwards (10:15 a.m.): your blogger's cord flares
  • Use of 'admiration' in preceding sentence: ironic

This whole fashion show hullabaloo reminds us of Carla Bruni, the Italian-born supermodel who is now forging a new career as a popstar in France.

Her two albums of quiet, acoustic ballads have been big sellers in France and beyond. This year's bland 'No Promises' had her crooning poems by the likes of W.B. Yeats, Emily Dickinson, Christina Rosetti and W.H. Auden.

However, her first record, 'Quelqu'un M'a Dit', was a much better album - a collection of mellow, dreamy folk-pop (in the style of some of Françoise Hardy's early '70s songs) that the CLUAS reviewer at the time called a 'subtle and charismatic record'. Here's the title track:


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28

France's biggest music star, Manu Chao (right), is playing at the Big Top in the Phoenix Park on Sunday 4 November.

Tickets, costing €35.60 plus 'booking fee' (i.e. the cost of shoving them in an envelope) have just gone on sale on the Ticketmaster website and at those famous 'usual outlets'. Tough luck if you're hoping to grab some for you and your seven mates: tickets are limited to six per person.

Chao's current album, 'La Radiolina', is currently doing great chart-topping business across Europe, and his live shows are renowned for being energetic and exciting. He may not be a household name in Ireland, but Chao is a million-selling artist across the world, with huge support in South America and continental Europe.

Expect this gig to sell out very quickly...


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27

Thanks to Merrill from French Friday for letting us know about this: cult '80s French popstars Les Rita Mitsouko are playing at the newly-refurbished Whelan's in Dublin on Wednesday 17 October.

The duo - singer Catherine Ringer and instrumentalist Fred Chichin - are currently promoting their most recent album, 'Variety', released in April of this year in both French and English versions. Whichever language you listen to it in, though, it's a fairly unspectacular collection of jangly MOR guitar pop.

However, most punters won't care about this, as they will probably be there to hear the French band's fantastic 1980s material. Colourful, brash, bizarre, kitsch, eclectic - singles like 'Marcia Baila' and 'Andy' sound like pop music à la Jean Paul Gaultier. This is a compliment.

In an earlier post we told you all you needed to know about Les Ritas: the explanation of their strange name, the story behind 'Marcia Baila', and Ringer's now-legendary TV clash with Serge Gainsbourg.

We definitely recommend that our Francophile Irish readers check them out. Tickets are available from those usual outlets you know and love.

However, all the French people in Ireland will want to be there - and as there are a lot of French people in Ireland, we reckon that (a) tickets will sell out in Arcade Fire-style time, or (b) it'll all get moved to somewhere bigger.

(We've already mentioned the Dublin promoter who booked Manu Chao - million-selling global star - to play a 2004 show in... Whelan's. The concert eventually took place in... The Point. It doesn't look like today's promoters are any more clued-in to non-Anglophone music and the potential market of non-Irish audiences in Ireland.)

Anyway, here's Les Rita Mitsouko with their hit single 'Andy'. As we said before, only French people can make music like this:


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26

Zach Condon of BeirutHere's another gem from the Take Away Shows/Concerts A Emporter, the Paris outdoor-session series by Vincent Moon on French music blog La Blogotheque which we featured recently.

Named after a city not exactly conducive to street performance, it's Beirut performing (almost appropriately - right country, wrong town) 'Nantes', from their new album 'The Flying Club Cup'.

Our trendier Paris readers will recognise the mural wall as the gable end of Café Charbon on rue Oberkampf, one of the city's hippest bohemian café-bars.

You can also watch Beirut playing 'The Penalty' (also from the new album)in a bar further down the rue Oberkampf (we recognised the Hotel Luna Park), and read about the background to this session.

Make sure you check out the full archive of performances in the Take Away Show series, each accompanied by a short article in English or French. And if your French is good enough, La Blogotheque is quite good too.

Anyway, as we were saying, voici 'Nantes' by Beirut live on a street in Paris:


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Nuggets from our archive

2000 - 'Rock Criticism: Getting it Right', written by Mark Godfrey. A thought provoking reflection on the art of rock criticism.