The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Key Notes

14

The lineup for this years Hard Working Class Heroes Festival has been announced.  Taking place in the POD complex over the course of 3 nights (28th, 29th and 30th of September) HWCH '07 will see almost 100 Irish up and coming (and indeed some more established) bands given the chance to perform around Dublin in a festival like atmosphere. 

For me, the outstanding bands in this year's line up are Alphastates, Ham Sandwich, and Dark Room Notes.  Alphastates were the first band I saw at my first HWCH.  A cold shower inducing fusion of sultry soul and near erotic electronica; the Alphastates sound is augmented perfectly by the breathless vocals of Catherine Dowling.   If you don't believe me, check out the video for Kiss Me, a track from their 2004 debut Made from Sand.

 

Those of you who've graced the Key Notes blog before will already know of my admiration of Ham Sandwich.  Currently working on their, as yet untitled, debut album they are undoubtedly one of Irelands finest live bands. Having toured relentlessly over the last 18 months or so you can expect a full house when Ham Sandwich hit HWCH.  I don't think you're likely to see Lionel Richie there though.

 

Dark Room Notes are not only the saviours of wet and windy Monday evenings in Whelan's but also the purveyors of some of the finest electronic indie you're likely to hear.  Usually all it takes is a Casio to draw comparisons between *insert band name here* and the likes of Depeche Mode and Joy Division but in the case of Dark Room Notes it's entirely warranted.  It's a long time since a band excited me this much.   The video for Love like Nicotine is available to view below.

The full line up of Irish acts performing is available here.  Who are you looking forward to seeing most? 


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25

'Reminiscing; it ain’t what it used to be,' or so the saying goes.  I for one would like to disagree.  I was recently given a gift of The Travelling Wilburys double CD and DVD.  An unusual gift as I’d never once mentioned my deep rooted appreciation of The Wilburys to this person; but it was an inspired one.

As soon as I started listening to volume one of the CD I was instantly transported back in time to December 1988.  Don Mclean was singing about the day the music died, but, for me at least, this was the day that music was born.  It wasn’t that I had ignored music up until that stage; indeed, growing up in a house where Hendrix and Lynott shared airspace with Rod Stewart and Freddie Mercury it was hard to avoid it.  But until then music had always been in the background, just extra noise distracting me from Transformers or He-Man.

However, as I've said, in December 1988 that all changed.  The start of the song didn’t even get my attention.  I’m sure if I was older George Harrison’s vocals would have raised an eyebrow or two but for me it was just another song.  Then, the man with the greatest voice I’d ever heard sang 'I’m so tired of being lonely, I still have some love to give, won’t you show me that you really care,' and I was hooked.  Who was this guy?  How did he manage to sound like ice cream?  (It was a stupid question, but that’s what he sounded like to my six [and a half] year old ears.)

He was Roy Orbison; the band was The Travelling Wilburys and I’ve been hooked on music ever since.  I’ll never get tired of hearing this song and I’ll never get sick of looking at this video, so here it is for you:

 

 


What about you; when did the music bug first bite?  Who was it that grabbed you by the ears and had you pressing the repeat button on your tape deck?  While I couldn’t agree with the truism that started this blog, I’ll end with one I can:  'You always remember your first time.'


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18

 

One of the worst things about living in Dublin is that you become very lazy when it comes to finding new music. In my defence, it’s possible to go into town almost any night of the week and find a decent gig without very much effort at all. Recently though, as a result of writing this blog, I have decided to spread my musical wings in an attempt to unearth some musical treasures from the rest of the country.

For the first in this "Beyond the Pale" series of blogs, I’m going to start with Westmeath, a county, according to Wikipedia at least, famous for cattle, lakes, pewter and élan. Famous Westmeath people include Michael O’Leary and the man with the largest collection of female underwear in Ireland, Joe Dolan.

However, you’ll be glad to know that Westmeath has much more to offer Irish music than dodgy cover versions of Blur songs. My Fallen Empire are a seven-piece band capable of sounding like your favourite song and yet nothing you’ve ever heard before. I had the pleasure of supporting My Fallen Empire in a previous life and the sheer verve that Eddie Keenan and co. put into their live performances is something to behold. Currently writing and recording for their debut album, My Fallen Empire have almost limitless potential. Hopefully, 2007 will see that potential come to fruition.

Another of Westmeath’s rising stars is Peter Doran, described to me by one music insider as "the greatest songwriter Ireland has ever produced!" While I’m not quite in agreement as yet, there is a certain magical quality about Doran’s music that sets him apart from every other guy with a guitar and a tune. Of course, as with all the best singer-songwriters, Doran benefits from the band he surrounds himself with; Gerard Toal (Cello) and Johnny Owens (Violin) deserving particular credit. That being said it is Doran himself who writes the songs and his debut album "Wood" showcases his aptitude in this regards with the aforementioned "Wood" and "Treasure Chest" being the two best examples of his undoubted talents.

Below is a live version of "Wood" for your enjoyment.

 

 

Who am I missing?  Does Westmeath have any more musicians/bands I should know about? If you know of any, please spread the word by commenting below.


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17

I can’t remember when it first started, but it appears that in the not too distant past all the musicians in the world got together in a room and decided it was suddenly okay for them to sell their music to the highest bidder and promote everything and anything in the hope that it would take their music to a wider audience.

Surely though when musicians, indie or otherwise, start pimping themselves to the advertising industry they should start devising business plans and hosting AGM’s as well?  Music is supposed to be an art from, but when was the last time you heard anyone talk about ‘the art business’ or ‘the literature business?’ It doesn’t happen because it shouldn’t happen. Art in all its forms should be pure, how else can you believe what the artist is trying to tell you. 

The late, great, Bill Hicks once said ‘Do a commercial, you're off the artistic roll call, every word you say is suspect, you're a corporate whore and eh, end of story,’ and while I’m not saying that Hicks was always right (his views on smokers ‘rights’ I particularly disagree with) he makes a very valid point in this instance. I remember when I heard ‘The Shining’ by Badly Drawn Boy on the Kellogg Cornflakes ad. I remember because I haven’t been able to listen to a BDB song since without thinking about that ad and, therefore, his music has lost its appeal for me.

On the local scene two Irish bands have recently been gaining exposure from high profile television advertisements. Saso feature in the most recent Coors Light ad while The Laundry Shop provide the music for the new Discover Ireland spot with their song ‘Highs & Lows

 It’s actually The Laundry Shop that inspired this blog. I saw them support A Lazarus Soul recently and was enjoying their set until they finished with the aforementioned ‘Highs & Lows’. People who weren’t interested in a song they’d played all night suddenly paid attention. All well and good, but do The Laundry Shop really want to be known as ‘that band with that song, you know, from that ad?’

 Am I right to agree with The Beastie Boys when they state ‘Don't grease my palm with your filthy cash, multinationals spreading like a rash, I might stick around or I might be a fad but I won't sell my songs for no tv ad.’ Or should musicians use any means possible to promote themselves?


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03
As part of the annual People of The Year Awards, the 2007 edition will see a special award being presented to Ireland’s Greatest Living Musician. The 15 most popular nominees, chosen by the general public, will be whittled down to one by a “top class adjudication panel.”
 
The People of The Year Awards website gives some indication as to what genres they think most people will look to when casting their vote. Amongst the names mentioned are Phil Coulter, Enya, Paul Brady and Ronan Keating, all, well, nearly all, fine musicians in their own right, and all appealing to a very particular demographic, “The Mammy”, or “Female 35-50” as I’m sure she’s known to the marketing department of the awards sponsors. 
 
Of course, the names above are also mentioned as they are almost guaranteed to get that particular demographic voting. I don’t see names like Richie Egan (Redneck Manifesto, Jape), Ollie Cole (ex TURN) or Kryz Reid (Fairuza), for all their musical ability, inspiring the same response. Other contenders deserving consideration, though equally unlikely to get a look in include Dave Geraghty (BellX1, The Rotators), Shane McGowan (depending on your definition of “Living”) and purveyor of all that is good about Irish music at the moment Duke Special.
 
It is with regret that I must exclude Van Morrison from the running for inflicting Brian Kennedy upon us.   Likewise, Sinead O’Connor lost her shot at it the first time she heard John Peel play Horace Andy. Therefore, my choice for Ireland’s Greatest Living Musician is Neil Hannon, and not just because he penned “My Lovely Horse”. 
 
Starting with 1990’s “Fanfare for the Comic Muse” Hannon, who essentially is The Divine Comedy, has produced a vast collection of work that circumvents the law of diminishing returns (something Ryan Adams should take note of). In February 2007 Hannon was awarded the Choice Music Prize for “Victory for the Comic Muse”, The Divine Comedy’s ninth studio offering, perhaps more in recognition of an outstanding career than that particular album.
 
However, I have feeling that Neil Hannon won't win.  One can only hope, therefore, that the voting for this award helps to raise a lot of funds and awareness for a worthwhile cause, to make up for what is sure to be a decision based more on popularity and the cult of personality than on musical ability.  Yes, I believe Bono will win.

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22
It would be impossible to write about Ham Sandwich without addressing their chosen moniker. Ham Sandwich, in my opinion, is right up there in the ‘so bad it’s good’ list of band names alongside Bastard Sons of Boris Karloff, I’m from Barcelona and The Flaming Lips. The reason it’s a great name is because it’s not only eye-catching but it’s fun along with it, as the band themselves state “a band called Ham Sandwich manages to dispense with the expected clichés of what a modern indie band should be.” However, it’s not only their name that dispenses with any preconceptions you may have.
 
The last time I saw Ham Sandwich perform their frontman, Podge McNamee was wearing a gladiator outfit. It was bizarre, but it was much more original than seeing another indie band in their skinny jeans et al uniform. The gig, one of the most enjoyable I’ve ever attended, even included tickertape. Not something you’re likely to see The Things, a band who take themselves far too seriously, do any time soon.
 
Surprisingly, given the digital age we operate in, the band doesn’t have a website, using Myspace for its online activities instead.   Of course, by using Myspace and YouTube, they are clearly not naïve about what it takes to have your music heard by a, generally, fickle and fleeting musical audience. What is refreshing though, at a time when musicians compare the size of their Myspace friends as opposed to, well, something else, is that the band are not just using the technology to carefully cultivate an image or to project themselves as being more than just musicians. Instead Ham Sandwich concentrate on making great music first, and then using technology to share it.
 
It is here where a lot of bands could learn from Ham Sandwich. Forget about your name, forget about your image, if you make great music, people will eventually listen. It may well seem like more work than coming up with a fantastic image or employing every possible gorilla marketing stunt you can imagine (take a bow: The Urges), but as a music fan I’d much rather buy great music, than buy into an image.
 

Ham Sandwich play Mullingar tonight and Whelan’s tomorrow night.   The video below is their Late Late Show performance of 'click click BOOM.'

 


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18
Writing recently about the competition to find Ireland’s Greatest Living Musician gave me the perfect opportunity to delve into my record collection to remind myself of some of the contenders. In the process of completing this task I was taken aback by the sheer volume of music I possessed belonging to musicians now headlining the great gig in the sky. A quick check on my mp3 player showed that of the 100 most frequently played songs, 58 of them were by musicians who have already shuffled off their mortal coil.
 
Admittedly, that list has a lot to do with an on-going obsession with all things Elliott Smith. More than anyone, Smith represents why dead musicians prove so successful. You see, by being dead, he can’t disappoint me. While “From a Basement on a Hill” and “New Moon” don’t come anywhere near the quality of his ante-mortem offerings such as “Elliott Smith” or “XO” I know that they are not compilations he would have released if he were still alive. Therefore, I accept them for what they are; a collection b-sides and demos released by his estate (New Moon to the benefit of the OUTSIDE IN charity).
 
Of course Smith was acknowledged as a talented musician before he died. His composition, Miss Misery, (Good Will Hunting) secured him an Oscar nomination, only to be beaten by Titanic’s My Heart Will Go On. However, the widespread success of his two posthumous releases, as well as the unofficial release “Basement II” shows that demand for his material, and his influence as a musician, is on the increase.
 
The same cannot be said for Nick Drake. In his lifetime he was regarded as nothing more a competent singer-songwriter who failed to find appeal with a wide audience. However, since his death from a drug overdose in 1974, Drake has become widely regarded as one of Britain’s most influential musicians. By the mid-1980s Robert Smith of The Cure was crediting the origin of his band's name to a lyric from Drake's song "Time Has Told Me" - "a troubled cure for a troubled mind.” Drake’s posthumous career reached its peak in 1999 when Bryter Layter was named as the greatest alternative album of all time.
 
As well as being good for your credibility, dying can also prove beneficial for your finances.   In 2006 Kurt Cobain replaced Elvis at the top of Forbes.com “Top Earning Dead Celebrities”  list, after earning $50 million in sales and publishing rights. Other high earning dead musicians include John Lennon, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, George Harrison and Bob Marley who between them earned $56 million in 2006.
 
This goes to show that while dying on stage may not help your career, death most certainly can. What a pity you can’t be around to enjoy it.

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07
Mat Tanner is a musician. He has already self-financed, self-recorded and self-released one album and is in the process of doing the same with a second. Last week, however, he incurred the wrath of Universal Music Publishing Group.  What could a Manchester based singer-songwriter have done to offend one of the world’s largest publishing groups? 
 
Well, sometimes, when playing live, he likes to play an acoustic interpretation of 'Power of Love' by Huey Lewis and the News, 'Boy in the Bubble' by Paul Simon, and 'Kiss' by Prince. Not all three songs, but rather a self-devised medley.  It’s an interesting number, and one of his fans enjoyed it enough to record it on their mobile phone and email it to his website, along with a number of performances of his own songs from the same night.
 
Impressed, and wanting to share the video with fans such as myself, Mat uploaded the video to YouTube last year. Since then it has received over 500 view and numerous comments, almost all positive. It is worth noting at this stage that two other videos of Mat from the same night had over 1600 views between them, therefore, people weren’t just searching for Prince say, and finding Mat.  However, Universal obviously feels very differently and so last week Mat received the following email:
 
“Dear Mr. Tanner,

This is to notify you that we have removed or disabled access to the following material as a result of a third-party notification by Universal Music Publishing Group claiming that this material is infringing:

Please Note: Repeat incidents of copyright infringement will result in the deletion of your account and all videos uploaded to that account. In order to avoid future strikes against your account, please delete any videos to which you do not own the rights, and refrain from uploading additional videos that infringe on the copyrights of others. For more information about YouTube's copyright policy, please read the Copyright Tips guide.”

As far as I’m aware Mat has made no money from this video. It’s not a song he plays live all that often and so doesn’t trade on the back of it. He is simply a musician making his own music who happens to play a cover version to vary his set every now and again.  Where is the crime?  Surely, there is more chance of someone going out and buying a Huey Lewis/Prince/Paul Simon record on the back of being reminded of it than there is of any of the above losing out?  And what of the thousands of cover bands who make a living playing other peoples music in almost every pub in the UK and Ireland every night of the week? 

Taking action against a musician for playing music doesn't help music; it only threatens it. 

What next, copyright infringement for learning to play the guitar?  Oh wait!


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23
The Immediate, whose debut album In Towers & Clouds was well received by the majority of reviewers (one exception being CLUAS.com's Aidan Curran), announced this week that they were to split, citing “existential differences.”
 
Anyone attending an Immediate gig over the past year or so will not be surprised. The band; David Hedderman, Conor O'Brien, Peter Toomey and Barra Heavey, always came across as top heavy, all chiefs and no Indians. With each member having the ability to play each instrument, the band took the opportunity to showcase this ability after almost every song of their live set.
 
That’s not to criticize the band for being multi-talented, but it often felt like each member wanted to be the front man, and came across as bored when not in that position. For the most part this didn’t take away from the quality of their live shows, but there was always something in the background, an itch that one day was going to have to be scratched. However, while it’s a pity that a band with such promise has met its demise, their loss may well be our gain.
 
Four, clearly talented musicians, now have the opportunity to find a new vehicle with which to express themselves. Where In Towers & Clouds suffered from having too many influences, future releases by ex-Immediate members may well have a clearer sense of direction as the others interests and influences no longer need to be addressed.  
 
Fans of The Immediate need look no further that the demise of Juniper for inspiration. Damien Rice has gone on to find his own voice, one that, judging by album sales, has been heard by an awful lot of people that may never have bought a Juniper record. While not as successful, Bell X1 have also, since Junipers demise, carved out a loyal fanbase of their own, and, more importantly, Paul Noonan and Co. are now making the music they want to make.
 
Of course, the opposite may well happen.  Perhaps The Immediate equal more than the sum of their parts, and without each other the magic may is just not there. Either way, instead of getting the chance to hear one Immediate follow up album, we may get to hear four; surely some good must come from that?

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Nuggets from our archive

2004 - The CLUAS Reviews of Erin McKeown's album 'Grand'. There was the positive review of the album (by Cormac Looney) and the entertainingly negative review (by Jules Jackson). These two reviews being the finest manifestations of what became affectionately known, around these parts at least, as the 'McKeown wars'.