The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Key Notes


Irish indie bands and music videos haven't always been the happiest of bedfellows. 

'Here lads, do you know what would be deadly; if we recorded ourselves buskin' on Grafton Street, that'd be original' seemed to be as far as most bands would stretch. 

However, the technology involved in making decent videos is becoming cheaper and more and more bands are using the medium as an extension of their music. 

With this in mind, Key Notes today launches a new feature which will bring you new and interesting videos released by Irish indie bands - CLUAS Music Television.

Today's video is from the Future Kings of Spain.  The track, Syndicate, taken from the Nervousystem album, normally extends to over 8 minutes, but for its release as a single in July it has been cut to half that.  The video, directed by Joshua Sachs, was filmed by Ivan McCullough and students from The Tisch Film School in New York as part of the HotPress/Tisch Film School program.  It was shot over two days in Inchicore, Dublin 8. 

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Key Notes celebrates its first birthday tomorrow and to mark the occasion its author, Steven O'Rourke (seen here in typical 'morning after the gig before' pose), will forgo his usual habit of speaking in the third person and will answer his own questions in a special birthday edition of Key Note Speaker.

Favourite Songs from the Past Year 
I have to agree with Kilian from EchoGram when he says that last year belonged to pop and electronic music.  It was a year when most of the indie releases contained elements of one or the other.  'Jigsaw Falling into Place' by Radiohead, 'Teenage Lust' by Times New Viking and more recently 'Kids' by MGMT would probably be the three stand out tracks for me. Of course, I wouldn't be telling the truth if I didn't admit to singing along to 'Umbrella' on more than one occasion, but I know very few people who didn't!

Favourite Irish Song from the Past Year
'Love Like Nicotine' from Dark Room Notes, 'Never Talk' by Ham Sandwich and 'Syndicate' from the Future Kings of Spain.  They weren't easy choices for me as I think the past year has been particularly good for Irish music as the, relatively high, level of disquiet at the result of the Choice music prize shows.  An honourable mention must also go to A Lazarus Soul for annoying the Shinners with 'The Day I Disappeared'

Favourite Song Ever
It's only when you have to answer these questions that you realise how tough it is to make a decision like this.  Depending on my mood it would be either 'Waltz #2 (xo)' by Elliott Smith or 'Don't Stop me Now' by Queen, both for very different reasons.  Today it's Queen because I'm in a good mood

Favourite Irish Song Ever
'Teenage Kicks' was probably the most influential song in determining my taste in music.  In the callowness of youth the first band I ever fronted (that makes it sound more professional than it was!) used to do a smashing cover version of this song.  Thankfully this was in the days before YouTube so nobody can prove me wrong!  I also have to mention 'South' by Pilotlight, seeing as it was our first dance at my wedding last year

Favourite New Band/Artist 
On the international front Vampire Weekend and The Ting Tings both have the potential to be interesting, even if the latter sometimes feels a little forced.  At home Robotnik's album has been on repeat since I got it and though they've been around for a while now both Codes and Le Galaxie have lots of things going for them

Favourite Band/Artist Ever
Elliott Smith.  The guy was a genius.  Simple really

Favourite Gig of the Last Year 
You know, the last year was kind of a blur when it comes to gigs.  They all sort of merge in to one but I enjoyed performances by Electric Eel Shock, ....And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead and some of the Ham Sandwich and Future Kings gigs were great nights for reasons that shall not be discussed in polite company

Favourite Gig Ever
The Future Kings of Spain album launch that took place a year before they launched Nervousystem.  There was no support act  and instead we were treated to a mix-tape of TV theme tunes from our childhood (and beyond) and then possibly the most electric live performance I've ever seen.  An 'epic' night if ever there was one

Favourite Venue
I'm actually starting to warm to The Academy but I enjoy the trip down to Dolan's in Limerick too.  I'm not sure if I like 'new' Whelan's or not.  White paint?  Not very rock and roll

Favourite Piece of Musical Equipment
To play (badly); the guitar but to listen to I don't think you can beat a well played cello.  In an age where everyone is trying to create music from newer and stranger equipment, I like it just as much when musicians keep it simple

Download or CD/Cassette/Record
CD's at the moment but I'm aiming to build up my record collection.  I can't stand downloads; I'm not sure technically but it doesn't feel like you get the same quality of sound

Favourite TV Show at the Moment
MacGyver but only because my good wife got the box set for Christmas.  It's better than 99% of everything else on TV

Favourite Movie Ever Seen
Anchorman.  I probably know every line in that movie.  I'm also quite fond of the Southpark movie and The Life of Brian (can you see a theme?)

Favourite Book Ever Read
I have to admit to being something of a literary snob.  I can't stand to see fluff like 'P.S. I love you' sell so many copies when there are books out there that can challenge you mentally and make you look at the world in a whole new way once you're finished reading them.  I love 'The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette break' by Steven Sherrill and 'Benim Adım Kırmızı' by Orhan Pamuk, but, my favourite book of all time, the one that's influenced me most and encouraged me to start looking at the world in a different light is 'The Selfish Gene' by Richard Dawkins 

Most Listened to Radio Show
As I pointed out the other day, I tend to only listen to the radio when I'm in the car so, by default, it's 'Heavy Traffic' on Phantom.  I try to catch 'Icon' on the same station as often as I can too

What’s in Store for Key Notes Next
Hopefully I'll get back to writing in the third person soon enough and return to bringing you my take on the Irish indie music scene.  This year should also see the return of my 'Beyond the Pale' series (the research is almost complete) and more editions of 'Key Note Speaker' as well as one or two new features that will be revealed soon enough.  Another nomination for the Irish Music Blog of the Year would be nice too!  But then thats up to you so I'd better be interesting

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Key Notes is being a little self indulgent today.  Yes, this blog's main function is to discuss the Irish indie music scene but today, Key Notes is going to wear his heart on his sleeve.  Tonight you see brings the final of the Champions League and the battle between the (red) devil(s) and the deep blue scum sea.  Key Notes, as you may know from his semi-final dilemma, is a massive Man United fan and has been waiting for this day since May 26th 1999.  Tonight will see this blog don his 1999 Champions League edition jersey, complete with curry stains that have remained unwashed for 9 years, and watch as pure, artistic and free-flowing United take on those shady, cheating folk from London.

Now, football is nothing without an analogy and one comes to mind immediately when comparing United and Chelsea.  Rocky IV.  It's our hero Rocky - American, old school, pure to his art-form - versus Ivan Drago - Russian, new money, and known for his lack of respect towards referees.  (It also works for Liverpool - they're Apollo Creed, lots of pomp and ceremony, but really should have given up long ago).  We all know what happens at the end of Rocky IV, our hero wins and teaches the evil villain a few lessons in the right way of doing things along the way.  Just like United will hopefully teach Chelsea that it's not just about winning, but playing attractive, free-flowing, football this evening.

Best of all (for the sake of this blog!), Rocky IV contains the greatest ever Rocky song and a pretty good montage, and Key Notes is a firm believer in the theory that if you're going to do it right, do it in a montage!


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There is a debate taking place on the CLUAS discussion board at the moment regarding a review published on this site recently.  It's not a new discussion, indeed Key Notes has lost count of the number of times the topic has come up since he joined CLUAS.  At the core of the argument is that those who don't write reviews for music websites seem to think that a reviewer should know everything there is to know about a musician from the weight of plec used by the lead guitarist while recording the last album right through to how much the drummer paid for his last haircut.  This, you say, is the only way you could possibly give a fair and balanced review. 

Key Notes, as you will gather, disagrees.  You see, the mistake people seem to make is to assume that music critiquing is an objective process.  It's not.  If you've ever sat down to write a review, it's one of the most subjective processes imaginable.  There is, despite what you may have been told, no such thing as good or bad music.  Like any art form, there are only musical performances that you have enjoyed or you have not enjoyed, be they live or recorded.  Sometimes, there can be a very good reason for you not liking a performance.  The production may have been awful or the singer may have been so off his face he'd forgotten the words to his own songs.  These are perfectly valid reasons for not enjoying a gig and therefore giving it a bad review.  But a gig isn't just about the music is it?

There are times, we've all had them, when the band(s) have been okay but it's been something else that's caused you to walk out thinking: 'I didn't really enjoy that.'  It can be little things like the girl beside you not shutting up the whole way through or the singers annoying habit of discussing at length the meaning of each song before playing it.  You might say that isn't really important but when you're actually there such events are hugely significant and can take away from your enjoyment of the performance and therefore have to be reflected in your assessment.  For what it's worth, Key Notes' method is to go into a gig giving it 10/10 and taking points away for things that he finds aren't as good - as in events that take away from the enjoyment of the gig - as they should be.  This, he reasons, allows every band, even ones he isn't so well versed on, the opportunity of scoring well. However, Key Notes is also well aware that each writer has a different writing style and a different way of scoring his/her reviews.

The point this blog is trying to make is that a review can never - despite the accusation being made all to often - be 'wrong.'  A review is a critical assessment of an event, not a promotional exercise for a band or an excuse for a writer to show off how much he/she knows about music.  Every review written on this site by our team of writers is written with honesty, integrity and in the knowledge that while grammar and spelling may be edited, their opinion never will.  That is the main reason Key Notes gives up his free time for CLUAS and one of the reasons why we remain Ireland's leading independent music website. 

If, however, you feel that your opinion differs so much from our review that you cannot fight the urge to put finger to keyboard, CLUAS has always provided you with the opportunity to submit your own via this page

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Key Notes, you may be surprised to hear, doesn't actually get paid for his endless hours slaving away for CLUAS, and has to commute to and from work just like the rest of you.  4 years ago Key Notes took a decision to accept a job in location A (lets just call it 'Somewhere near the South Coast of Dublin but not quite Wicklow') and then he made the spectacularly naive decision 3 years ago to purchase a property with Mrs. Key Notes in location B (lets just call this 'West Dublin, but the nice part, not the part where they eat each others children').  This decision was naive because it was made in full knowledge of how rubbish Dublin Bus and DART are at actually getting passengers to their destination in time. 

However, 3 years of listening to Usher or Kylie blaring from some kids Nokia was more than enough and in January of this year Key Notes started driving to and from work and, with the absence of MP3 facilities in his car, he was forced to listen to the radio, something he hadn't done in quite a while. 

Now, writing as he does an Irish music blog, and facing the prospect of the M50 everyday, Key Notes turned to Phantom as his source of 'More new music than any radio station in Dublin, more new Irish music than any radio station in the World.'   The reason Key Notes can tell you this is because they repeat that statement after every new Irish song is played.  Every.  Single.  Time.  Please don't misunderstand your curmudgeonly blogger, Key Notes is well aware of what Phantom is trying to achieve, but in fact, its effect is quite the opposite.  Every time Key Notes hears this phrase, it makes him want to physically harm both his radio and the DJ.

The main culprit; Mr. Sinister Pete but, in fairness, this is because Pure Morning and Heavy Traffic are the only two shows Key Notes gets to listen to, as that's when he's driving.  His show is, for the most part, as predictable as REM releasing a 'could this be the comeback' album and, therefore, boring.  As Key Notes is going to a gig (....Trail of Dead if you're asking) today he didn't hear the show this morning (don't drink and drive kids) but this blog is willing to bet that tomorrow you will hear at least three of the following: 1) The Pigeon Detectives - This is an Emergency; 2) The Ting Tings - That's not my Name; 3) Vampire Weekend - Oxford Comma; 4) The Aftermath - Are you not Wanting me Yet and 5) Anything by one of The Rolling Stones, Iggy & The Stooges or AC/DC.  

It all just gets a little bit boring.  Key Notes realises that Phantom is a commercial venture and has certain targets it probably has to meet but surely there is enough new, and indeed GOOD new music out there to ensure that you never have to play the same song more than twice in a week.  Maybe Key Notes is wrong, maybe Phantom's other shows and presenters make up for this lack of diversity, but Key Notes can only comment on what he hears.  Heavy Traffic, for example, doesn't have the same predictability because it throws in some curve balls Key Notes wouldn't expect to hear, and that makes it a more enjoyable listening experience.

To those of you able to listen to your radios during working hours, and who listen to Phantom, is there any more diversity in the playlist during the day/night, or is Phantom, as Ian suggested in his opinion piece, in danger of becoming utterly irrelevant for listeners hoping to hear new and exciting Irish and international music. 

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Looking for something to do over the June Bank Holiday weekend?  You won't need your welliesThen look no further than The Pod Complex on Harcourt Street where Soundtrack 08 kicks off, showcasing past, present and future soundtracks to the venue.  Tripod and Crawdaddy in particular have been favourite venues of Key Notes since their re-development and so this blog has no trouble recommending Soundtrack 08 as the perfect way to kick off Ireland's festival season, and best of all it's indoors, so you don't need your wellies!

Taking place over 9 nights, all tastes and orientations are catered for.  While there are lots of interesting acts performing; the following three bands are without a doubt the highlights for Key Notes. 

Tapes & Tapes
There are stupid reasons to like bands - for example Key Notes has a fondness for bands with long titles - but Tapes & Tapes are a favourite for this blog because of one of those 'hillarious' mis-hearing of lyrics episodes that we are all prone to.  Being the militant vegetarian that he is, Key Notes once ranted and raved about the Tapes and Tapes song 'Hang the Bulls' for fifteen minutes saying how it was a terrible attitude to have to animal rights etc.  It was only later, and more sober, that this blog went on to discover the song was actually called 'Hang Them All.'  Since then Key Notes has quite enjoyed what he's heard, especially 'Le Ruse', taken from the bands 'Walk it Off' album.

You can check out the video for 'Hang the Bulls Them All' here:

Midnight Juggernauts
When people like Justice and Pedro Winters start calling you their favourite band of the year, you know you must be doing something right.  It's not really hard to see why they are so popular either.  Mixing a blend of cosmic disco and synth-rock, every review seems to describe them as a meeting between two relatively different artists.  Not being one to buck a trend Key Notes would like you to imagine Air jamming with T-Rex whilst experimenting with various illegal substances.  Beat that Pitchfork!

See for yourself with 'Shadows' taken from the recently released 'Dystopia' album.

Public Enemy
Not only is this Public Enemy, but this is Public Enemy performing 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back' - in Key Notes humble opinion the defining moment in Hip Hop's history - in its entirety!  Often mentioned in various 'Greatest Album' lists, it's influence is huge, most likely because of the way it showcased other artists talents by using a huge range of samples (approx. 75) over the albums 16 tracks.  Time magazine famously described this album as 'Loud, obnoxious, funky, avant-garde, political, uncompromising, hilarious.'  It's all of those things and it's a lot more besides.

Don't believe the hype?  Okay, well here's 'Don't Believe the Hype.'

Tickets for Soundtrack 08 are available from all good ticket retailers.   More information on the festival can be found on the POD website.

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May:  The month that's traditionally brings longer evenings, shorter sleeves and the start of a summer of washed out music festivals. It's much more than that too, as May is typically the month when bands come out of their winter hibernation/studios to regale us with their tales of love, loss and haircuts, through the medium of music.  Key Notes remembers one May - when he had much more hair and a worryingly large collection of corduroy jackets - that involved going to no less than 15 gigs.  Not bad for a lazy student but terrible for his studies as he also had exams that month. 

To help you decide what you want to see this month, Key Notes has compiled a list of his top five (and it should be stressed this is in no particular order) gigs/events over the coming month.   

Giveamanakick, Andrews Lane Theatre, Dublin, Friday May 2nd
What better way to start a month of gigs than with a free show?  To celebrate the launch of their new album 'Welcome to the Cusp' Giveamanakick are providing free entry - as long you turn up between 8 and 10 - with support from Dry County. 

Jamie Lidell, The Academy, Dublin, Saturday May 3rd 
A lot of noise has been made about Mr. Lidell over he past few years, but perhaps the strangest review he's ever received is from Elle magazine, which announced JIM, Lidell's record, as 'The best album Prince never made.'  That aside, and you're feeling in the mood for retro-soul, then Lidell is well worth checking out.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Academy, Dublin, Saturday May 10th 
Due to popular demand, as the expression goes, BRMC have had to add a second date to their Irish stopover.  This tour is designed to showcase songs from their new 'Baby 81' album an album many have said could yet make or break for the band.

Silver Jews, Roisin Dubh, Galway, Thursday May 15th
Ahead of the launch of their sixth album, 'Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea' David Berman and co. remind us all that Silver Jews are more than just a Pavement side-project.  Remember when Silver Jew used to refuse to play live? Get to see them before they change their mind.

Battles, Vicar Street, Dublin, Thursday May 15th
If you can't make it to Galway that night, things aren't so bad in the capital either.  Battles, whose 'Mirrored' album was released last year to critical acclaim, bring their unique brand of 'math-rock' to Ireland for the 3rd time in a year.  Expect trouble if the band don't perform 'Atlas' - the song which topped more end of year polls than any other last year.  Actually, have a listen for yourself to see did it deserve it:

 For an alternative look at gigs coming up over the next few weeks, check out Ian's excellent Gigs of the Fortnight section.

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Announcer type voice: 

Key Notes is brought to you today by the number '0', the letter 'F' and the word 'Dilemma.'  

Key Notes is in trouble. You see, somehow, your blog has found itself in the midst's of a love triangle.  Finding itself torn between its long term partner and its new love, with whom it's recently spent many sweaty, drunken nights.  Key Notes, it seems, has some tough calls to make.

Now, before Mrs. Notes gets too worried, Key Notes is referring to Manchester United and CLUAS.  On Tuesday April 29th, this blog has a long-standing commitment to review the Gemma Hayes gig in Tripod, the same night its beloved United play Barcelona for a place in the European Cup final.  Of course, it would have been easy had United been beaten last Wednesday (indeed, they probably deserved to lose) but no, the match remains on a knife edge, with the possibility of victory and a place in the Moscow showpiece tantalisingly close. 

Then there is CLUAS.  You see Key Notes is also responsible for the distribution of gig passes to CLUAS writers and has to set a good example to all the other CLUAS writers after his enforced absence.  However, the reason Key Notes faces such a dilemma is not because he HAS to review this gig, but rather because he WANTS to review it. 

Tipperary born Gemma Hayes has always troubled this blog you see.  To Key Notes, most music is love or hate, eject or repeat.  Hayes however, belongs to the pretty exclusive 'meh' club (other members include Whipping Boy and - don't tell the boss - My Bloody Valentine).  There's nothing about her that's particularly offensive nor, until recently, has there been anything to keep Key Notes coming back for more.  That's all changed though with one song - 'Out of Our Hands' - which Phantom, have played quite a bit of recently. 

There's no particular reason why, but Key Notes likes this song a lot.  That is why he is so keen to review Hayes, to give her another chance to get out of the 'meh' club.  If only it wasn't on the same night as the football?  But that's just life isn't it, we sometimes have to choose between things we love, just to appreciate them even more.  Key Notes loves United, but it looks like his love for himself music, is going to come out on top.  Looking below, it's not really hard to see why.  Besides, United will probably lose 12-0 anyway.

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Firstly, a brief history lesson.  Once upon a time a younger and indeed more aerodynamic Key Notes was a fresh faced Marketing and Languages graduate.  Unsure of what to do with himself for the rest of his life, he decided that he might as well give marketing a go, seeing as he'd spent the previous four years studying Satan's craft.  While browsing various employment websites (amongst other things) he discovered a job in the marketing department of Hot Press

"I like music and I've studied marketing!" he thought to himself, filled at once with the prospect of getting free stuff furthering his career.  Having sent off a diligently prepared CV and cover letter (in which he mimicked the writing, ahem, "style" of Hot Press main man Olaf Tyaransen) he waited in expectation for a call to interview.  Alas, it was not to be. Interestingly, he did receive a letter from Hot Press thanking him for his application, but that his interests "did not match our criteria."  Ever since the day he was rejected by Hot Press for his interest in music, Key Notes has refused to buy a copy.

Now, Dickensian in drama and morality as the above tale might be; it is also a damning indictment of what is wrong with Hot Press and music journalism in Ireland.  The magazine, which has been in existence for over 30 years and has a circulation of almost 20,000 people, is not really very good.  Worse still, it's not really about music anymore.  How could Key Notes know this if he doesn't buy the magazine you ask?  Well buying and reading are two different things aren't they?

According to the Advertise with us page of its website (which was written, ironically enough, in 2005): "Hot Press is the leading and established publication of its genre. Now in its 30th year of publication, Hot Press is living proof that you don’t survive, much less move forward, by standing still.  Always a magazine that has kept abreast and frequently ahead of the times, Hot Press has entered the new millennium with a whole new look and sense of purpose. This in turn has allowed the magazine to break ground - increasing its quota of fashion, gaming and much more!"  

Now, before Key Notes is accused of being "a ranting leftie" (as Mrs. Key Notes is wont to accuse), one does realise that Hot Press is a commercial venture and that it lives and dies by its advertising which, in turn, feeds off its circulation.  Key Notes is aware of all of this, but commercial concerns shouldn't affect the quality of writing, the editorial content and, most importantly, the music content of a music magazine.  And therein lies the problem.  Hot Press, as a source of music content, just isn't relevant anymore.

Key Notes can't speak for everyone but if it wants to find information on music its first port of call is right here, on the magical world of the internet.  The recent Irish Blog Awards show the quality, and even more tellingly, the relevancy of online journalism/blogging.   These people are more in tune (pun intended) with what is happening in music in Ireland than most writers Hot Press can put forward. 

Hot Press have a very poor web presence, thanks mostly to the fact that they are one of the few sites to still charge visitors for access.  Even if Hot Press stopped charging for access to their site, how many of you would hold you hand up and say "Yes, I'd visit that"?  Why would you when you can come to sites like CLUAS and Muse. As Eoghan has pointed out before, in the past year over three times as many people have visited CLUAS than have visited the Hot Press site (see graph from Compete below).

How does this bode for State.  Well, they've made a good start in that their web content is free and they've appointed award winning blogger nialler9 to update it.  As regards the print version, Key Notes wishes them all the best but it is hard to see how they are going to be able to compete with Hot Press. As Jim Carroll has said, cautious advertisers may well push their clients in the direction of the more established magazine.  Is this fair; probably not, but then very little in life or in business is.  All Key Notes knows is that it won't change his reading habits.

To Key Notes, the present and the future of music journalism in Ireland is represented by the Friday morning freebies, the blogosphere and music sites such as CLUAS.  The Ticket and Day & Night provide a weekly fix of print media, while everything, yes everything, else that Key Notes needs to know, can be found on line.  Good luck to State, but it's really difficult to see how its going to establish itself without ending up as irrelevant to music as Hot Press is now.

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Congratulations to Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová for winning the Oscar for Best Song at last nights awards.  Putting aside the controversy regarding the songs eligibility, such a huge success can only be good for Irish music, even if that success consists of some kid picking up an instrument for the first time. 

For those of you who are going to hear this song a million times over the radio/tv today, here's your first blast.

Falling Slowly:

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Nuggets from our archive

2001 - Early career profile of Damien Rice, written by Sinead Ward. This insightful profile was written before Damien broke internationally with the release of his debut album 'O'. This profile continues to attract hundreds of visits every month, it being linked to from Damien Rice's Wikipedia page.