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2005Michael Jackson: demon or demonised? Or both?, written by Aidan Curran. Four years on this is still a great read, especially in the light of his recent death. Indeed the day after Michael Jackson died the CLUAS website saw an immediate surge of traffic as thousands visited CLUAS.com to read this very article.

The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Album Reviews

14
Joe Jackson 'Rain'
A review of the album 'Rain' by Joe Jackson Review Snapshot: Classic-hits MOR jazz-pop craftsmanship. Classic-hits MOR jazz-pop craftsmanship. Classic-hits MOR jazz-pop craftsmanship. (rep...

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11

A review of the album 'Opium' by Mark Geary

Opium by Mark GearyReview Snapshot: Well, it's not poppy, and neither is it addictive. Unadventurous, overserious, monotonous and lacking in individuality and personality, 'Opium' embodies all the worst traits of the Irish acoustic singer-songer sound.

The Cluas Verdict? 4 out of 10

Full Review:
In August 2004, promoting his album 'Ghosts', Mark Geary gave an interview to the Irish edition of the Sunday Times. In it, he was at pains to distance himself from "the Whelan's lock-in crowd" (the Dublin singer-songer circle that frequented the well-known bar and venue) and "the Glen and Damo scene".
 
Recounting his experiences with American record companies and promoters, he also spoke of "fighting for your right to fail" - a line from the album's title track. (Angered by this self-contented lack of ambition, your reviewer criticised Geary in an opinion piece on the conservatism we saw as rife in the Irish music scene.)
 
Four years later, Geary is back with his new album, 'Opium'. The intervening time has seen him grow closer to the Glen and Damo scene - Hansard provides a photo for the record's poster and lyric sheet. And 'Ghosts' enjoyed favourable reviews and punter interest, so he can't claim to be a loser any more. Can he?
 
But no, on 'Opium' Geary's worldview hasn't changed. He's still less 'I came, I saw, I conquered' and more 'I feel, I fall, I fail' - three ideas that recur through the songs here.
 
Musically, 'Opium' is unremarkable and predictable; it mostly tends towards the downbeat alt-country rhythm favoured by unimaginative acoustic-strummers. Ann Scott's sweet vocals on 'Facin' The Fall' make a refreshing change, but she can't save the track from its maudlin destiny: "We got nothing, nothing at all / Facin' the fall." There are no memorable melodies or instrument parts on 'Opium'; all the musical content is unobtrusive strumming or shuffling, subordinate to Geary's monotonous delivery.
 
True to singer-songer form, whenever Geary takes a break from tracking developments in his navel it's to attack The Man. From under the bandwagon he takes half-hearted potshots at the usual distant targets like "the corporate climb" in 'Atrophy', "the churches and your killing fields" in 'Always' and "the soldier / Drunk on power" (and not "drunk on Powers", as your reviewer thought on first listen) in 'The King Of Swords'. Someday, some brave and intelligent singer-songer will take a deadly tune to concrete local issues like criminally under-resourced health services, so that The Man will lose an election. It could even be Geary, if he starts taking some chances with his music.
 
We found it a bit rich to hear these lines in 'Tuesday': "I don't like your catwalk eyes / Leave your prejudice aside". This is the traditional singer-songer attack on soul-less superficiality, here equated with narrow-mindedness. But isn't a singer on stage just as much a role-playing performer as a model on a catwalk? Fortunately, a couplet from 'Always' neatly sums up the sensitive, self-centred singer-songer persona: "If you're listening, I'll begin / To pay for pleasure, gonna bruise my skin."
 
Lots of people love this genre of music, and that's fair enough. But it's comfort-food for the overserious indie-kid, no more or less artistic and soulful than your Vegas MOR diva showboating about love cutting her heart like a knife. Unlike more inventive and idiosyncratic peers such as Mumblin' Deaf Ro, Cathy Davey or Simple Kid, there's nothing on 'Opium' to distinguish Geary from the masses of self-pitying bedsit buskers.

Aidan Curran

 To buy a new or (very reasonably priced) 2nd hand copy of this album on Amazon just click here.


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09

A review of the album 'The Tiny Pieces Left Behind' by Joe Chester

Joe Chester Tiny Pieces Left BehindReview Snapshot: The album overall left me cold. I was disappointed because it's always good to hear a new album from an Irish artist that is fresh and has the potential to wow, but I'm afraid that didn't happen for me here.

The Cluas Verdict? 5.5 out of 10

Full Review:
I admit, often to others' disdain, that I am a singer-songwriter fan. Rufus Wainwright, Sam Beam, Glen Hansard, Ryan Adams, Sufjan Stevens and many others count among my favourite singers. All have different styles but  they each have a unique, strong voice and the ability to speak through their music. They're my trusted voices, and I'm always happy when I go back to their albums, any of them. Unfortunately Joe Chester is not going to find a place up there with them just yet, not with this album.

I came to Joe's new album with eager anticipation. I enjoyed 'Murder of Crows', Joe's 2004 debut, but I found there was too much going on with this album. The move away from the acoustic sound of his earlier stuff just didn't work for me. The songs blended together and save from a few highlights the album didn't leave too much of an impression.

The album starts out strong but to my mind doesn't deliver after that. There is sameness to it, I'm not sure if it's his voice or the melodies but I found myself skipping some of the songs as I listened to it for the third or fourth time. 'Maybe This Is Not Love' opens the album. It's a catchy track and sounds like it could be a possible summer single, I imagine it would get radio play. It's upbeat and to my mind the best track on the album. 'Something is Better (than nothing at all)' follows and doesn't quite measure up; there's not enough variety in it and the repeated chorus just crawls along.
 
'The Bodies Start to Move' sounds more like Joe from his earlier work so I was disappointed when the music took over and all but drowned out his voice. 'Fluorescent Light' showcases some nice harmonies with Gemma Hayes. Their voices work well together but again I don't know if there was enough there to sustain five minutes. 'To Hold Onto Melting Love' has a melodic, piano tinkling intro and a simple arrangement. It veers towards a traditional air as the track progresses and it actually works well.

'Why Things Break' never rises above its lacklustre beginnings, nor does'Long Distance Friend' where again I found his voice competing with the music. 'Alarms' unfortunately is my least favourite song on here, I actually found it difficult to stick with it for the entire five minutes 25 seconds. It's repetitive and the least melodic song on here.

The album is one to have on in the background but I don't think the songs jump out at you, save for a couple. I think the length of the tracks also had something to do with it. Four of the tracks are over five minutes long and it's hard to sustain a good melody for that length. 

Celine O'Malley


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08

A review of the album Colours of Sound by Autamata

Review Snapshot:  Electronica didn't really do much for me before listening to this record, and while listening to it hasn't inspired me to go clubbing in Ibiza (or wherever it is kids go these days) this summer, Colours of Sound is certainly a record that can be loved by those whose musical taste hasn't previously stretched to electronica.

The Cluas Verdict?  8 out of 10

Full Review:
Going to a disco in a small County Kildare town left you with two options.  You either liked grunge, and therefore moshed, or you liked 'rave' (or at least 2Unlimited's watered down version of it) and wore X-Worx jeans. There was no middle ground allowed, lest you wished to be associated with country and western.  It was a tough and unforgiving upbringing with lasting consequences as my decision to wear striped jumpers and ripped jeans while listening incessantly to Nirvana was one that has distanced me from electronica since.Autamata

So it was with apprehension that I approached Colours of Sound, the third studio offering from Ken McHugh and co, otherwise known as Autamata.  I was aware of the band, but I can't say I had to much inclination to listen to, let alone purchase any of their material.  Album opener Effervescent changed all that.  A beautiful instrumental piece, it's haunting melody doesn't so much set the tone for the rest of the album as pull you in to its arms like the whispered words of a new lover and then bang, by the time Cathy Davey lends her vocals to Cloud Seekers you've embarked on a full blown love affair with Colours of Sound.

Like all relationships, it has its rough patches.  Come Party at my House and Inter-railing don't feel as natural as the rest of the album and at 6 minutes and 33 seconds A Drive Through the Countryside comes across as a little self-indulgent on the part of McHugh but to be fair, if I could play as many instruments as he can, I'd be showing off too.

The best review I can give Colours of Sound is that it made me feel like I'd woken up in a Joan Miró painting.  Initially the minimalism drew me in but the more I explored the more I found myself in awe of the mountains of sound and rivers of colour.  It's an experience I'd highly recommend. 

Steven O'Rourke


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06
The Black Keys 'Attack & Release'
A review of the album 'Attack & Release' by The Black Keys Review Snapshot:  The latest blues-rock offering from the Ohio delta duo benefits from Dangermouse's knob-twiddlin...

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06
Wildbirds & Peacedrums 'Heartcore'
Review Snapshot:  In terms of 'stripping it down' The White Stripes have nothing on Wildbirds & Peacedrums. Their concoction of enchanting vocals and variable drum sounds proves to be...

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06

Clinic Do It!A review of the album Do It! by Clinic

Review Snapshot:

Do It! sounds like an indie band who have gone on a bad trip and taken some vintage instruments with them, with the result that Clinic sound like a four-piece power rock group who have been placed behind a sheet of glass in the dungeon of some warped fairground (just listen to the Coda, with its vaudevillian nightmare intro). It works.

The Cluas Verdict? 7 out of 10

Full Review:
Although my first encounter with Clinic left a decidedly unfavourable impression on me, with 'Do It!', their fifth album, I finally get it. It’s a new sound creation, floating some way above accepted style and genre, and this is a well-made demonstration of that.

It is clear from opening track Memories, that Clinic’s strength do not necessarily lie with their songwriting, but their ability to create and work with sounds. Whichever side of the natural/raw vs. production debate you might stand, you just can’t deny that the studio has done Clinic a whole lot of good. Most songs on this album are undeniably decent chugging alt / art / punk / rock / folk / eh? tracks but with often uninteresting and/or indecipherable lyrics and frankly quite strange lines from all instruments, it’s their manipulation and combination of unusual and often vintage sounds that makes them stand out from the crowd: Clinic think like an electronic band but act like old-fashioned rockers. Each and every track sees a new mix, a new guitar setting, a different organ, a vocal drone, some deeply-buried harmonica or brass. Constantly changing panning, EQ. and mix settings make each of those sounds in each track a new and distinct event.

Clinic have restructured the musical hierarchy, removing melody from its top post and replacing it with rhythm and sound-world; harmony is still in there somewhere, although their ex-key chords make it a difficult thing to follow. Although they have mastered both subtlety and directness, it’s the former that permeates most of this album, particularly in their rhythm and barely discernible drum beats. Drum and instruments meld and progress in an organic and natural way, despite their unnatural and industrial overtones.

As an introduction to their music, 'Do It!' provides a solid base of the Clinic aesthetic; as the fifth in a line of albums, it, like its music, follows a steady path of progression which can only continue with the next.

Anna Murray

 To buy a new or (very reasonably priced) 2nd hand copy of this album on Amazon just click here.


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06

A review of the album 'Any Port In A Storm' by New Amusement

Review Snapshot: This is the debut release from local Dublin act New Amusement. Up until now there has been little said about this band, but this mini-album should put them on the map as far as the local scene goes. It’s simple indie pop rock but it’s a pleasure to listen to. They may start making waves yet.

The Cluas Verdict? 7 out of 10

Full Review:
Last month I popped into the Student Bar in UCD to see a Fight Like Apes gig. It was a Champion’s League night but fortunately they had televisions screening the Man Utd Roma game during the support band’s set. However it was not long into their performance that my neck craned away from the TV set to see what band were producing these quality indie rock sounds. Alas it was New Amusement, a name unknown at the time to both myself and the good company I was keeping. For the next half hour they distracted me from Rooney and co with a solidly excellent set.

Imagine my surprise when their mini-album, ‘Any Port In A Storm’, found its way into my post box for review last week. I eagerly popped it into the CD tray and pressed play. Instantly I can tell that in the studio they are quite different to their performance at the Student Bar. The distortion present at the gig was not intended by the band, just a feature of the venue it seems. So it’s different to what I expected, but it’s good.

In a similar vein to Delorentos, New Amusement write catchy indie pop songs, but with a tinge of melancholy. This twist is shown best in the standout track on the album, ‘Gone To Sea’. It’s fast paced and light but with a down beat tone to it. “Like a sailor gone to sea, who’s to blame for this farewell/Walked the beach and the sand was hot, now the tide has blown away”, sings Brian Molloy.

‘Are We Winners’ shows the band’s confident self-assured side. It has a real sense of urgency, and as far as indie pop rock goes, it is a cut above The Pigeon Detectives et al. In parts, this album may sound a bit formulaic, but as debut releases go, this shows real promise. New Amusement, another good addition to the local scene.

Garret Cleland


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02

A review of the album 'Antidotes' by Foals

Foals - AntidotesReview Snapshot: With sweeping orchestral sounds and muted harmonics reminiscent of Battles, Foals deploy sombre effects blistering into full blown melody meat feasts. What a shame they can't sing.

The Cluas Verdict? 6.5 out of 10

Full Review:
I am a victim of the hype machine. It just sucks me in. Like the TV programme Skins, with its false promise of entertainment, and its artificially crafted 'indie' image. Yet at times it grips me, despite how much I loathe Skins, the NME and the all-style-no-substance bands they promote. This time however both TV programme and magazine have tapped into a band that is both stylish and talented - Foals.

Foals' debut album 'Antidotes' belts out climactic track after track of perky harmonic melodies combined with dark ruddy distortion; a sound that I'm guessing must be heard live to absorb the intensity of the crescendos.

The Oxford indie band dubs its album 'psychedelic pop.' I disagree. The effect sounds more like the math rock of Mogwai or 65 Days of Static, speeded up and dipped into the syncopated harmonic sherbet of Battles. However their repetitive lyrics and schoolboyish shouting makes you wonder- what would the album be like if they didn't sing? Because really, they can't. Sing, that is. Then you realise that without lyrics the album would be a top post-rock dance affair filled to the gills with beautiful bell tones, sustained brassy notes, rough muted chords and nerdishly perfect effects.

The album begins with its best track, 'The French Open'. Discordant harmonies and a brass intro that feels like a funeral backing track (without the bagpipes) leads into wayward smatterings of guitar riffs and builds up to a jittery, pulsing force against an orchestral cocktail of harmonies and confusion.

The band's single 'Cassius' stands out on the album too, but the voices on this track are too much to the foreground - the music speaks for itself; it doesn't need lyrics to speak for it too. Danceable and loveable, 'Cassius' develops in places towards dark and haunting scratchy guitars and a build-up on the drums. It pretends to be all sweetness and light but then begins to evoke more of an ironic tone, petering out with an afterthought of improvised brass.

Remember that haunting remix of Radiohead's 'Morning Bell'? Foals' next single for release, 'Red Socks Pugie', begins with similarly eerie computerised effects that filter into twisting terrifying noises, working their way into your ears, filling up your soul with sound.

The echoing voices on 'Electric Bloom' sound too stilted and grit against the skull with a kind of football style chant until the words become too much and you find yourself wishing the track could just stand alone without the band's harsh voices booming over it.

'Heavy Water' drags out its drums against harmonic scales that mimic the pitter-patter of rain, descending into a stormy heavy tune that feels like a cold November evening. Another stand out track is 'Big Big Love,' whose percussion intro sounds suspiciously similar to 'Race:In' by Battles.

The entire album filters smoothly from track to track, each one building upon the instruments that have gone before, but towards the end the echoey and shouting voices are just a bit too much to handle.

Foals' influences are very obvious, with sprays of distortion and over-used harmonics but their nerd effects and soft hints of ska stamp some originality on the album. Foals have a while to go to develop their own true sound.

And hopefully, on their next album, they'll learn to keep the vocals down.

Niamh Madden

 To buy a new or (very reasonably priced) 2nd hand copy of this album on Amazon just click here.


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01
Panic At The Disco 'Pretty Odd'
A review of the album ''Pretty Odd'' by Panic At The Disco Review Snapshot: A badly-misjudged attempt to break free from the emo standard that collapses under the weight of its own...

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