posted on October 29, 2009 19:00
You might recall, if you've been around here long enough, that in 2006 we featured the 'Paris Calling' compilation of new young French garage rock bands. A surprisingly high proportion of them seemed to have attended the 2003 Paris concert by The Libertines and copied the London band's scuzzy retro-punk sound. Mainly middle-class teenagers from comfortable suburbs, they were lumped together by a cynical French music media as 'babyrockers' - which betrays the middle-age status and mentality of many in the music press here. ("Young people being in bands! Not in my day they were!")
One of these bands actually met and formed at that Libertines gig. However, Plastiscines (right) immediately distinguished themselves from their Doherty-worshipping peers. For one thing, they were a group of four girls: the other bands were mostly young lads in thrall to the immature and cliched Ramones-style gang image. Also, they were happy to play at being glamorous pop stars, appearing in photoshoots for fashion glossies as well as music mags. And they sounded nothing like the other bands - their reference points were The B-52s, Sleater Kinney and such U.S. punk-pop, with a hint of '60s Frenchness for local colour.
Most importantly, Plastiscines did it very well: their 2007 debut 'LP1' was crammed with snappy, catchy, charismatic songs befitting independent-minded young people. Unfortunately for them, heavy promotion for the record's French release seemed to weary the mainstream public and embolden the band's humourless muso critics. Their drummer quit and so did her replacement. This bad luck at home was tempered by well-received shows in North America, naturally more receptive than conservative France to girls playing electric guitars.
So, their second album has just come out and feels like it's aimed at a U.S. market: 11 of the 12 songs are in English and the band recently appeared in two episodes of hit series 'Gossip Girl'. However, 'About Love' is seriously disappointing - it feels like merchandise rather than music and that's always a symptom of the dreaded second album syndrome.
Many songs here sound like formulaic rehashes of familiar alt-rock. For instance, first single 'Barcelona' has hints of The White Stripes' 'Seven Nation Army' about it. Other tracks are half-ideas and quarter-ideas stretched beyond breaking: a song called 'Bitch', where singer Katty Besnard lists various ways in which she is the eponymous disagreeable female, is particularly dumb and depressing in this regard.
But the most unpleasant surprise about this record is how lifeless and boring it sounds. The charm, personality and swagger of their debut songs have disappeared. This could be any band, any uninspired or derivative guitar group: Plastiscines seem to have come down to the level of their 2006 babyrocker peers.
Oh well. You can check for yourself on Plastiscines' MySpace page. Here's the video for 'Barcelona':