The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Key Notes

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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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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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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29

Matt ElliottSome of you may know Matt Elliott more by his pseudonym, The Third Eye Foundation, than the one that appears on his passport.  It was under this moniker that the Bristol native became a pioneer of the 'drill 'n' bass' approach to electronica.  It was this bleak and brutal approach to electronica, combined with Elliott's ability to transcend genres that won him many admirers in the world of music, resulting in Elliott producing remixes for the likes of Mogwai and Thurston Moore amongst others.

Now living in France, Elliott specialises in releasing albums variously described as folk and vaudeville.  The most recent release, 2008's Howling Songs, drew comparisons with no less than Tom Waits, Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen.  Now, in association with Forever Presents, Key Notes is offering two people the chance to win double passes to see Elliott in action, Upstairs in Whelan's on Thursday, April 9.

To be in with a chance of winning, just send an email with Matt Elliott Competition in the subject bar to keynotes[at]cluas[dot]com.  The competition will close at midnight on Monday April 6.  Winners will be chosen at random and, as always, Key Notes' decision is final.

Matt Elliott: The Kursk


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25

APTBSHaving just signed a deal with Mute Records (Depeche Mode, Goldfrapp), Brooklyn band A Place to Bury Strangers are bringing their wall of sound to Whelan's on March 31. 

Best described as ear-bleedingly loud and beautifully bleak, A Place To Bury Strangers have been called 'the loudest band in New York.'  Quite a compliment and Key Notes is giving you a chance to find out for yourself. 

Thanks to Forever Presents, Key Notes has two double passes to give away.  To win this prize, all you have to do is email keynotes[at]cluas[dot]com with A Place To Bury Strangers in the subject line.  Two winners will then be chosen at random.  As usual with these competitions, Key Notes' decision is final.  All entries must be received by Midnight on Sunday, March 29.

A Place To Bury StrangersTo Fix The Gash In Your Head


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09

It's a journey that Key Notes doesn't make to often these days and that, as you'll come to hear, is part of the problem.  It used to be that Key Notes would instinctively make his way to Road Records every time he went into town.  These days, when Key Notes gets so many CD's for free (to review etc) it's a trip he takes less than 10 times a year. 

Road Records was never like Championship Vinyl in Nick Hornby's High Fidelity.  It was always welcoming, even for music nerds like this blog who once asked Julie (who, along with Dave Kennedy, has owned and operated Road for the past 11 years) if she would be able to provide him with 10 albums by bands from Westmeath.  Put it this way, if Key Notes was working in a record shop and somebody asked him that he wouldn't have been as helpful and friendly as Julie was on that occasion.  The point that Key Notes is trying to make is that it is Julie and Dave's love for what they do that has led to Road becoming one of the most iconic names in Irish indie music and it is this iconic status that led to the great shock many Irish indie music fans felt when news broke in January of this year that Road may soon have to close its doors.

In the first part of the following interview, Key Notes talks to Dave about the reasons behind Roads potential closure, many of which show that age and demographics are playing a critical part in Irish indie music.  In the second part, we examine the future of not just Road, but all Irish indie records stores and talk about the efforts being made to save Road Records including One for the Road, a benefit gig featuring Choice winner Jape as well as The Jimmy Cake, Si Schroeder, Colm Mac Con Iomaire, Adrian Crowley, The Large Corporation (a.k.a. The Dudley Corporation vs. Large Mound) and the Road DJs.  Tickets for this gig, taking place in Andrew's Lane Theatre on March 14, are priced at 20 europes and are available from Road and WAV Ticket Office.

Interview Part 1 - Reasons for Road's Potential Closure (MP3, 9 MB)

Interview Part 2 - Future of Road & Irish Indie Record Stores (MP3, 9 MB)

 


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04

Key Notes is starting to enjoy The RecessionOxegen09 He knows that may sound strange, particularly to Mrs. Key Notes, but if he had a full time job right now he wouldn't be able to attend press launches in the middle of the day featuring the good, the bad and the 'who are they?' of the Irish indie music scene, would he?

This blog and OXEGEN have history of course, Key Notes was the first writer to review OXEGEN 2008 and his (pardon him as he lets his ego run wild) world exclusive reviews drew a great deal of traffic (not to mention complaints from people who don't understand how music reviewing works!) to CLUAS.com.  This year though, he wasn't sure if OXEGEN would be worth attending; sure there were certain bands like Blur, Nick Cave, The Mars Volta and Manic Street Preachers that caught his eye but others like Kings of Leon and Snow Patrol produced a reaction that could best be described as 'meh'. 

Today though, all that changed with the announcment of bands such as Eagles of Death Metal, God is an Astronaut (Key Notes knows one particular CLUAS writer who will be very happy with that), Pet Shop Boys, Doves, Nine Inch Nails, and Jane's Addiction.

The line ups announced so far for each day are:

Friday, July 10: 
Blur, Snow Patrol, The Script, Keane, Lily Allen, James, Pendulum, Ladyhawke, Fight Like Apes, Swedish House Mafia, Crookers, Eagles of Death Metal, Dreadzone, God is an Astronaut, Tom Middleton, Aeroplane.

Saturday, July 11: 
Kings of Leon, Bloc Party, Elbow, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV on the Radio, Pete Doherty, The Mars Volta, The Game, Squeeze, Hockey, Tiga, Digitalism, Pet Shop Boys, Doves, The Saturdays, Gary Go.

Sunday, July 12: 
The Killers, Razorlight, The Specials, Lady Gaga, The Ting Tings, Katy Perry, Manic Street Preachers, Paolo Nutini, Florence and the Machine White Lies, Jason Mraz, Foals, Friendly Fires, of Montreal, Miss Kittin and The Hacker, Nine Inch Nails, Jane’s Addiction, Glasvegas, Hudson Mohawke

Tickets for this years OXEGEN go on sale at 8am on Friday, March 6 and are on sale at the same price (224 europes inc. booking fee for a 3 day camping pass) as last year.  This is something Justin Green of MCD was particularly proud of, as he spoke briefly at the launch, saying that MCD realised the situation most people were in and were doing their small part to help.  In addition, those people who purchased early bird tickets are to be rewarded with 20 europes cash back and MCD have also developed a Ticket Deposit Scheme, details of which can be found on the festival's website.

 Jane's Addiction: Jane Says

Great when you're 8!


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24

It's happened to the best of us.  You see a friend and you can't wait to tell them about this new band you've just started listening to.  You wax lyrical for what seems like an age only for your friend to shake his/her head and say:  Yeah, they're okay but....I prefer their earlier stuff.  Key Notes has been on both ends of this conversation and while there are times when this particular blogger has said it just to annoy the person on the other end, more often than not it turns out to be true.KingsofLeon

Now, before you start, I'm not picking on Kings of Leon because they are an easy target.  There are quite a few Irish bands that will feature in this series.  No, I'm picking on Kings of Leon because they are the most high-profile example of a once exciting band now specialising in generic blandness.  Youth & Young Manhood (and the Holy Roller Novocaine EP upon which it was based) and Aha Shake Heartbreak were, and still are, amongst this blogs favourite ever records.  Their blend of baptist-tinged-garage rock is well showcased on tracks like Molly Chambers, The Bucket and Taper Jean Girl.  It was music that made you sit up and pay attention.  Coupled with the fact that they sported some of the best beards this side of Jesus and Santa Claus, Kings of Leon looked as good as they sounded.

However, as much as Key Notes loved Aha Shake Heartbreak (So much so that this blog also bought a copy for Old Man Key Notes) it contains the song that, in this blogs mind, set Kings of Leon on their path to banality.  Milk is nothing more than an acoustic dirge that would never have been recorded were it not showcasing Caleb Followill's distinctive vocals.  Key Notes is a big fan of these vocals, but there was so much more to Kings of Leon.  Now though, almost everything Kings of Leon produce centres around Caleb's Southern drawl.  Having lots of free time on his hands these days, this blog used some software that it owns to strip all four Kings of Leon albums of their main vocals.  The first two still sounded good but Because of the Times and Only by the Night, without vocals, come across like Liverpool without Gerrard; they just don't offer anything worthwhile.

In promoting Only by the Night the Kings of Leon spoke of being influenced by Crystal CastlesRadiohead and My Morning Jacket but that's not evident when you listen to the record.  Indeed it's difficult to believe that Only by the Night was written with anything other than commercial success in mind.  There's nothing wrong with that and I'm sure the Followill's are very happy with their lot in life.  However, the only way real way to achieve that type of success is by producing bland, inoffensive music.  In that they have succeeded and, if the reception they got at Oxegen last year was anything to go by, the general public wouldn't have it any other way.  Key Notes though, well, he really does prefer their early stuff. 

Speaking of which:

Kings of LeonMolly Chambers 

 

Key Notes also preferred when they had beards and would allow you to embed their official videos!


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17

For those of you who don't know, Barretstown was founded in 1994 by the late, great, Paul Newman.  It was to be the first of his European Hole in the Wall Camps; established to provide seriously ill children with recreational and therapeutic camping experiences.  The camp has grown from serving 124 children in a marquee in 1994 to over 12,000 children and their families from 23 European countries  and is now equiped with excellent medical facilities.

Every child (and their family) visits Barretstown free of charge (including any travel/food costs).  In order to do this Barretstown must raise over €4.5 million every year, with 96% of this coming from donations from companies and private individuals.  Now, obviously we are in a 'Credit Crunch' (queue the spectre of George Lee behind your shoulder) and the first thing that people stop doing is donating to charity and those like Barretstown, with such a lack of government support, are the first to suffer.  Key Notes has seen first hand what a positive effect Barretstown can have on the life of a child diagnosed with a life-threatening disease and has always been a supporter of the venture. Now, you too can help them.

On the 27th of February The Academy will host Inspirations - Gig of the Year.  Acts already confirmed for the event include Republic of Loose, Ham Sandwich, Sinead O'Connor, Engine Alley, The Blizzards, The Kinetics, Fun Lovin' Criminals, Shane MacGowan and The Walls with more to be announced soon.  All the bands will be performing songs that have inspired them and influenced their music. 

Tickets are available from usual outlets for a very reasonable (considering the amount of acts) €28.  So go on, get down to The Academy on February 27; you get to have a good night out and do something worthwhile at the same time!  What more could you ask for?

Ham Sandwich: Running Up That Hill (Kate Bush cover)


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27

According to a number of sources, including Drop-D and On The Record, the Meteor Music Award nominations were leaked online yesterday.  Though they will be officially announced today (28th) it would appear that the people behind the Meteors haven't figured out that the secret to a good awards show is variety.

This is Key Notes second draft of this particular blog.  The first draft was your typical 'how come my favourite band wasn't chosen' blog.  However, while writing that, Key Notes had something of a 'Road to Damascus' moment.  Not that I'm suddenly a God botherer or anything of the sort, but this blog now realises what 'normal' people have be trying to tell him for ages; music awards don't really mean all that much.  Of course, Aslan winning best band at last years Meteors should have been enough for Key Notes to lose all faith with music awards but no, it was something else entirely.

Looking through the nominees for this years Meteors there is a distinct feeling of 'Meh.'  There is far too much overlap for an award night that only has 8 categories.  For example, The Blizzards and The Script are nominated for both Best Irish Pop Act and Best Band.  Indeed, it seems that The Script are nominated in every category except best regional DJ and that's probably because not even Zach in the Meteor Music Marketing Department could convince his bosses that LA could be considered a region. 

Now, obviously Key Notes is being facetious but it's difficult not to be.  Perhaps it's a sign that we just don't have the quality and diversity of music in Ireland that those of us who write about it, talk about it, live it and breathe it think we have.  Or could it be that, shock/horror, the peope that run these awards (other than the Choice) don't actually do the dirty work and go to gigs on cold, wet Monday nights where the only other audience members are the support band and the barman.  Indeed it's difficult to see anyone from Meteor thumbing their way through the tiny (but important) Irish Independent Music Section in Tower when they've got all those Kings of Leon records to get to.  As an aside, Kings of Leon are set to headline OXEGEN again!!! Are they the new Red Hot Chili Peppers for the GAA-jersey-wearing-Tayto-munching-not-there-for-the-music-but-for-the-craic/crack festival goer?

Now, this isn't a 'Key Notes is indier-than-thou' blog.  Those sort of blogs I'll leave to the Skins-watching-skinny jeans brigade.  No, this is just one man finally realising that music awards mean nothing when there is so much great music produced that goes unrewarded.  It's only taken 26 years, but hey, better late than never.

For those of you who care/are interested here is the list of nominees:

Best National DJ

Tony Fenton - TodayFM
Dan Hegarty - 2Fm
Alison Curtis -Today Fm
Dave Fanning - RTE Radio 1
Ray Foley - TodayFM
Rick O’Shea - 2FM

Best Regional DJ

Dermot, Dave & Siobhan - Dublin’s98
Keith Cunningham - RedFM
Leigh Doyle - Beat 102.103
The Zoo Crew - Spin South West
Mark Noble - FM104
Jon Richards - Galway Bay FM

Best Irish Band

The Blizzards
Republic of Loose
Fight Like Apes
The Script
Snow Patrol

Best Irish Male

Mick Flannery
Damien Dempsey
Duke Special
David Holmes
Jape

Best Irish Female

Enya
Lisa Hannigan
Gemma Hayes
Imelda May
Tara Blaise
Camille O’Sullivan

Best Irish Pop Act

Boyzone
The Blizzards
The Coronas
The Script
Westlife

Best Irish Album

Fight Like Apes - Fight Like Apes & The Mystery of The Golden Medallion
Snow Patrol  - A Hundred Million Suns
Lisa Hannigan  - Sea Sew
Messiah J & The Expert  - From The Word Go
The Script  - The Script

Best Irish Live Performance

The Coronas
The Blizzards
The Swell Season
Fight Like Apes
Republic of Loose 


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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.