The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011


From 2007 to 2010 CLUAS hosted blogs written by 8 of its writers. Over 900 blog entries were published in that time, all of which you can browse here. Here are links to the 8 individual blogs:


This is an irregular post, a thing I don't do without reason - not a review as such, but rather an exhortation to buy the Rubberbandits' single between now and the 23rd. "Horse Outside" is its name, and you can buy it in record stores or on iTunes.

You may remember that last year, there was a campaign to usurp Simon Cowell's flavour of the month with "Killing in the Name Of" by Rage Against the Machine. This was successful in the UK, but in Ireland the hordes of tween girls overcame the more alternative among us to put that wholly forgettable X-factor winner, Joe McElderry, in first place. Sadly for those girls, their investment came to nothing, as whatever-his-name-was announced that he was gay sometime during the year. 

This year, we have an equally forgettable X-factor winner, Matt Cardle, singing an equally forgettable cover, with the interesting addition of a guitar every so often. Thankfully, it seems that we have this time steeled ourselves against this invasion of the lowest sort of English culture, and global commercialism. The Rubberbandits, a Limerick hip-hop duo, are on the way to the number one spot.

I need not tell you about the Rubberbandits, whose video "Horse Outside" has topped 2.5 million views on Youtube. I may, however, tell you why you should go immediately to iTunes and buy their single. This band are capable of the most cutting, intelligent satire that I have come across in recent popular music. They have held a startlingly clear mirror up to many facets modern Irish culture, and the reflection is not always attractive. At first, I imagined that they were unaware of the extent of their social criticism, but hearing them regularly in the national media, I think they are genuinely clever people, quite aware of what they are creating.

Another reason to respect them is the number of feathers they've ruffled among the mindless, caipín-wearing traditionalists of this country. The criticisms leveled against them on Joe Duffy's radio programme, and their own elegant rebuttals, are absolutely hilarious. It seems that singing about sex, drugs and criminal activities is still rebellious in this country, but the Rubberbandits do it in such an original, way - intelligent and profane at once - that they deserve the notice even of music snobs. And, most importantly, they deserve the Christmas number one single. 


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Artist: Lucy Foley
Release: Copenhagen (Album)
County of Origin:  Clare
Genre:  Offbeat Electro-acoustic Folk
The Freshly Squeezed Rating: 8.5 drops out of 10


Lucy Foley's first album, recorded in New York and Co Clare and inspired by the time she spent in Denmark, is a good record to return with, after my long absence. Lucy Foley is offbeat, edgy and refreshing.


There's a lot to like about Lucy Foley. She doesn't seem to fit neatly into any genre, the whole album seems interwoven into a tapestry, and she manages to maintain her rhotic Irish accent. Her laid-back style reminds me of Susie Wilkins, a London-based artist whose music I lived on for a few weeks after I saw her supporting Joe Jackson.


It seems to me that this is one album that is best enjoyed as a whole, but especially notable within it are “It's a Tangle”, a catchy and surprisingly frank opening, and “Mister Bogeyman”, the sixth of seven tracks, a dark but urgent jazz-folk cross.


Copenhagen was released on October 1st - it can be previewed and bought here. Check out Lucy's website for more information, including information about gigs.

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Allow me to introduce you to A Lazarus Soul if you’re unfamiliar with them. They’re perhaps one of the best bands in Ireland right now, and their music channels the likes of Joy Division and The Smiths but with a Dublin twist. Their excellent second album Graveyard Of Burnt Out Cars makes frequent references to the rougher sides of the capital, bringing realism to the forefront but still having heart, albeit among some strong lyrics.

For their single ‘The Day I Disappeared’ an image of infamous criminal Martin Cahill was used as the sleeve cover, the song features the somewhat fitting lyrics “And the Liffey filled with tears/Of relief the day I disappeared.” On one occasion I was walking through Dublin City in the evening and one of their songs came on my mp3, and it just seems an incredibly apt representation of the city. If I’m out of the country and one of their songs comes on I’m instantly reminded of Dublin, it’s very authentic and, joyously, very distant from the likes of U2.

So why exactly am I mentioning A Lazarus Soul? Excitingly, they’re releasing a new album in October, entitled ‘Through A Window In The Sunshine Room’ and their first single ‘A Penthouse View’ is available for free download here. It certainly doesn’t sound that similar to any of their songs from 'Graveyard Of Burnt Out Cars', or their debut 'A Lazarus Soul Record', but I’m interested to see where this goes and to hear more tracks from their forthcoming album. I’ll leave you with their video for ‘Icon’, perhaps one of their most popular tracks, from their 'Graveyard Of Burnt Out Cars' album. Enjoy!

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lisacuthbert-obstaclesArtist: Lisa Cuthbert
Release: Obstacles (Album)
County of Origin:  Dublin
Genre:  Melodramatic Piano Pop-Rock
The Freshly Squeezed Rating: 7.5 drops out of 10



Lisa Cuthbert obviously owes something to Dolores O’Riordan and company, but her music definitely stands on its own as both novel and emotionally engaging. From the anger of “My Material Girl” to the desperation of “Second Leaving”, this highly impressive debut album will catch you between its crystal highs and throaty lows.

The artist was born and bred in Dublin, and initially earned a reputation for her diverse repertoire, including a number of Metallica covers. Last year she recorded her first EP, Ready to Unfold, and with it she began to explore a more pensive style, which retains the occasional vein of aggression: in my opinion, adding immeasurably to it.

Lisa Cuthbert’s combination of piano and vocals is incisive, and at times derails the listener with walls of unexpectably sincere lyrics. I can see people dismissing this music without a second thought, but it commands my respect. Especially look out for “Obstacles”, “My Material Girl” and “Storm Coming On”. 

Lisa Cuthbert released "Obstacles" this March. She performs in Tower Records and in the Bewleys Cafe Theatre this Friday the 6th: more details can be found on her Myspace here.

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'Gainsbourg', Joann Sfar's disappointing biopic of France's greatest ever pop star, opens in Irish cinemas on 30 July.

You'll remember that we reviewed it in detail here when it first came out in France back in January. Just to recap: the first half-hour featuring the boy Lucien Ginsburg is energetic and promising, but the rest of the movie (focusing on the adult Serge Gainsbourg) is merely a series of clumsy caricatures with no character development or motivation. Ever wondered how the worldwide scandal and fame of 'Je T'aime (Moi Non Plus)'still pop's most notorious single, affected Serge and Jane Birkin? Well, you won't find out from this film.

That said, if you're a Francophile you'll probably find it interesting enough. The initial concept - personifying Gainsbourg's self-doubt as a cartoonish alter-ego - is quite clever, even if Sfar makes it carry too much of the film's dramatic weight. Eric Elmosnino, an astounding dead-ringer for Gainsbourg, is watchable throughout. Still, the whole film survives on the good-will created by its entertaining first act.

Music-lovers will get little insight on the creative processes of a genuine pop genius: Serge is just shown serving up ready-prepared classics like 'Comic Strip'. Non-francophiles will quickly tire of seeing French stars impersonated for the amusement of a French cinema audience.

However, if this film and its publicity help introduce Irish audiences to Serge's 1967-71 golden period, some of the most thrilling and influential pop music ever made, then it will have done some good. 

Looking very cool indeed, here's Serge Gainsbourg smoking along to his magnificent 'Initials B.B.':

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Artist: Kowalski
Release: Take Care, Take Flight (EP)
County of Origin:  Down
Genre:  Indie-Disco
The Freshly Squeezed Rating: 3.5  drops out of 10

Kowalski are the epitome of well-polished - although 'Get Back' seems slightly discordant to me - but entirely uninteresting music. Their music is occasionally good, sometimes original - but never both at the same time. 

This particular brand of Indie, entirely lacking personality or bravery, especially irritates me. The very essence of Indie music is the struggle for independence and individuality, and this band is the type of timorous conformity and of seeking the centre. Kowalski offends me by its excessive desire not to offend anyone at all. The death of Indie lies in this sort of pathetic appeasement of the musically ignorant.

I think that my distaste for this music is heightened by my aversion to moany vocals of any genre. I only grudgingly accept the necessity for Michael Stipe's whinging as a necessary component of R.E.M.'s sound. Here, I see no such necessity. Kowalski seem to be simply afraid of playing out loud.

This band, who hail from Bangor, have saved themselves from a lower rating with their general togetherness, and their relatively acceptable lyrics. Perhaps someday Kowalski will throw off their shackles and begin to create for themselves, rather than for other people. Until that day, though, £3 for a digital copy of one of their EPs is a very high price.

Kowalski's Myspace can be found here, and you can download and listen to their new EP here

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Your Paris correspondent finds it the most over-hyped and over-rated Irish album of recent years, but what do we know? Everyone else in Ireland can only rave about Villagers and 'Becoming A Jackal'.

Conor O'Brien of Villagers busking in front of Amelie's greengrocer, Abbesses, Montmartre, Paris, France (Still image from video by Le Hiboo)

This party line has also been adopted by our UK neighbours: Conor O'Brien's recent appearance on 'Later... with Jools Holland' was this week followed up by him popping up on the Mercury Music Prize shortlist for 2010. (Only a begrudger and player hater would dare suggest that he's the token Irish act on the list.)

And like one of those animated map graphics showing the Nazis' advance through Europe, Villagers-love has spread to France.

On the radio, O'Brien joined Laura Leishman for an interview and acoustic session on her high-profile show on alt-music station Le Mouv'. Villagers tunes have also popped up in the playlist of C'est Lenoir, France Inter's long-running and much-loved indie hour.

In the press, 'Becoming A Jackal' has got the serious rave. Les Inrockuptibles devoted a typically flowery feature to the "little genius" O'Brien and "his gothic folk, haunted by black lights and bruised words" comparable to Nick Cave, Scott Walker, Prefab Sprout and Van Dyke Parks. The more readable Magic RPM, in their 5-out-of-6 review of what they consider "a masterpiece", spot a different set of reference points: Paul Simon, Belle And Sebastian and Leonard Cohen. 

On the web, O'Brien features in a set of 'Takeaway Show'-style performance videos by French site Le Hiboo. ('Hiboo' is the French for 'owl'.) Filmed in Abbesses, a less-touristy part of Montmartre, the videos have O'Brien strumming and singing and strolling all at the same time. Sharp-eyed French movie fans will recognise the shop in the picture above: the greengrocer's in 'Amelie'. (No wonder that grocer was always in such a foul mood.)

Anyway, for the countless millions of you who like Villagers, check out Conor O'Brien on the streets of Montmartre singing 'Set The Tigers Free' and, below, 'Home':

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boa morte dial waltz

Artist: Boa Morte
Release: The Dial Waltz (album)
County of Origin:  Cork
Genre:  Downbeat Alt Folk
The Freshly Squeezed Rating: 8.5  drops out of 10

When I began to listen to this release, my first thought was that the music was too modest, that the band only needed to expand a little, to muster a little courage and to come out with a really powerful album. Having listened to it a number of times, however (and it definitely needs time) I've decided this band is perfectly mature: their style isn't assuming, but it's still very powerful, in its own slow but momentous way. Citing Neil Young and Leonard Cohen as their influences, they remind me of a melancholic Yusuf Islam.

Boa Morte formed in Cork in 1998, but haven't released anything for a number of years. It seems that they were planning to release this current album five years ago; why they've been delayed until now is a mystery. Judging by their music, though, this band isn't one inclined to rush things.

'The Dial Waltz' is more poetry than mere music. The lyrics take centre stage, and although the music is enjoyable, it's really more of a vehicle for the lyrics than an end in itself, and especially the drums seem to be replicated in a few songs. Nonetheless, this band is definitely one I'll keep on my iPod. Look out for 'Luminous Plankton' and 'Tears on a Full Moon', my favourites on the album.

Boa Morte released 'The Dial Waltz' in May of this year. Their Myspace can be found here. We presume that they'll be gigging over the summer: watch this space for up-to-date information.

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Recently news flooded into my e-mail inbox about the imminent closure of Road Records, the independent music shop based in Fade Street in Dublin City. The following e-mail has been sent out to all subscribers to their mailing list:

"How do I begin a piece like this, without repeating everything I wrote nearly two years ago now.

I suppose I would have to say its with great sadness to inform you we are finally closing the doors of Road Records.

Its been a difficult two years since we first faced the prospects of closure and we have literally worked night and day to try and see if we could save the shop and make it a viable business again. The current economic situation in this country added to the many problems we faced in the past have finally caught up with us and we can no longer sustain this little shop.

This time, I am sad to say, there is no alternative for us, we have literally tried everything in our powers to keep this place operating and nothing has worked for us. It hasn’t been an easy decision to make, if anything its even more difficult than two years ago, we have had amazing support from people but nothing we do seems to work anymore.

With debts beginning to build again Julie and myself have finally decided that we cannot take any more risks personally and before things get any worse we will have to finally walk away from the shop for the last time.

I have to say I still have no regrets about the last 13 years, its been a real blast and a pleasure to be here over the years. We have met some amazing people and have become friends with some truly amazing bands. The level of support we have received since last year has been truly mindblowing but so much has changed economically since then that its just not possible to sustain such a small record shop like this anymore.

I am not going to give out about the music business this time around, its just one of those things and we have finally come to a stage where I think the days of the small indie store are numbered. It’s sad to have to admit that but this time I think its true, we can’t blame digital sales, illegal downloading etc, the world is a changing place and I can’t see any room in it for kooky little indie stores like ourselves.

We will be starting our closing down sale this Saturday 17th of July and everything will be on sale at a 25% reduction. We will be open for just one more week after that with the final day being Saturday 24th of July. Literally everything will be going on sale so if you want to pick up a cheap stereo, cash register or stapler, then do drop in.

We would both like to thank each and everyone of you for your support over the years, maybe we will catch up at some point in the future.

We would also like to thank all our wonderful staff from the last 14 years, in person they are – Dylan, Jonny, Jimmy, Gib, Colm, John, Chip and Aengus.

As for what we will do next, the honest answer is we really don’t know, hopefully we can pay off any debts we have and then at least we have a beautiful little baby boy to try and put a smile back on our faces.

Thanks & Adios

Dave and Julie"

Only last year Road Records announced they’d be closing, and discussed this difficult decision with former CLUAS blogger Steven O’Rourke in this informative interview. A large portion of bands within the Irish music scene grouped together to host a benefit night at Andrew's Lane Theatre. It seemed this saved the shop, but evidently it was only temporary.

Illegal downloads and internet shopping have in a way ravaged the independent music industry. There are both pros and cons to the aforementioned issues, but it’s always the man on the ground i.e. the independent music shops who suffer. Road Records have for many years been an integral part of the Dublin music scene, both supporting and stocking releases from Irish bands.

Perhaps the most disheartening thing is my wondering “which shop will be next?” Road Records is my favourite music store in Dublin, a point which I made in my blog post about Record Store Day noting the enthusiasm with which Road Records embraced Record Store Day. It’s a shame to think that at next year’s Record Store Day there will be no Road Records participating, and it'll be very hard to find another independent music shop in Dublin to match Road Records.

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Milan JayAlbum: Mellow Funk
County of Origin: Galway
Genre: Mellowtronic
The Freshly Squeezed Rating: 6 drops out of 10

Milan Jay (is it really his name? Doubtful, but you never know) supposedly spent 18 months putting this, his debut album, together. I can't vouch for its originality - although in an interesting twist the artist proclaims that he isn't really into Electronic music, 'it's just what he came out with'. 

The album isn't bad, and in fact it's great background music, it has energy, and the artist himself has it spot on when he describes it as "music for 10 hours at 30,000 feet with nowhere to go and nothing to see but an endless blue sky". It's poppy, energetic and it'll put you in a good mood. Perfect for your jogging playlist. 

I think MJ has a lot of potential. The would-be hit on this album, A.I.H.I.D., is a genuinely strong track, and Farewell Hiroko, my own favourite, is ethereal and calmly euphoric. 

Mellow Funk can be listened to and downloaded for free here. Since you aren't paying a cent for it, I'd download it and have a listen - in the unlikely case that you don't like it, you've lost nothing. Milan Jay has promised us he'll be touring live and releasing a new single over the summer, so watch this space.

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Nuggets from our archive

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 to read this very article.