The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

27
Thanks to everyone who e-mailed and posted with their views on what should and shouldn’t make our annual run-down of la hexagone’s top tunes. (Don’t forget to check out the CLUAS 2007 album poll results)
 
Regular readers will know that your blogger isn’t fond of most French rock, chanson française, Libertines-worshipping ‘babyrockers’ or superstar DJs. So, just because we’re not into Deportivo, Luke, Kaolin, Renan Luce, Rose, Daphné, Stuck In The Sound, BB Brunes, Naast, David Guetta, Bob Sinclar (no second ‘i’, remember) or Martin Solveig, that shouldn’t stop you from checking them out and making up your own mind.
 
So, what did we like from the vintage of deux mille sept? Here are our albums and songs of the French music year. If our selection is light on French-language works, this reflects the international ambitions of the best and most musically-ambitious French acts, rather than any pro-English bias on our part. On y va!
 
Albums: While last year produced a half-dozen fantastic albums that have the look of classic status about them, 2007’s crop of long-players are more modest in their achievements. Still, here are ten we liked very much…
 
A wildly ambitious and playfully imaginative mix of chanson française (the good kind), indie rock, cabaret pop and even a bit of rap. Sixty minutes of gripping tunes. A dark, romantic tale that conjures up a Tim Burton-esque nightmare world. Veteran French actor Jean Rochefort singing about Don Quixote, who he was to play in Terry Gilliam’s disastrous Cervantes project (chronicled in the ‘Lost In La Mancha’ documentary). Our favourite French chanteuse, the marvellous Emily Loizeau, prominent among the guest singers. But most of all, a record that features Le Roi himself, Eric Cantona. How could we not love it?
 
You didn’t need to be a Francophile to have heard and loved this one. The heirs to Daft Punk and the latest in a long tradition of French electronica duos, Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspar Auge brought to the dancefloor a heavy metal attitude, squelchy beats and distorted synthesisers. Apart from when they have children singing pop melodies, that is. For some reason, not many vampires bought this album.
 
Under the influence of Joy Division, The Buzzcocks and Siouxsie And The Banshees, cold and robotic punk with haughty Parisian sang-froid that’s awesome live. In particular, ‘The A.B.C Of L.O.V.E.’ is great fun and ‘Je Suis French’ is the sound of a French supermodel looking down at a scruffy peasant. And as for ‘Body Addict’, scroll down to see just how much we loved THAT song…
 
She qualifies for France’s top music prize, so the Israeli-born Dutch citizen (an established figure on the French scene) makes our list too. A lovely collection of lo-fi folk-pop that draws heavily on Leonard Cohen and Lou Reed, it’s the quiet and introspective cousin of Feist’s ‘The Reminder’.
 
The late friends of this Clermont-Ferrand boy-girl duo obviously include Nick Drake and Elliott Smith, whose lovelorn folk-pop (shot through with dark hints of violence and sadness) echoes through this excellent debut album.
 
The glamorous French girls, first featured in our 2006 article on new Paris bands, released a debut album of catchy punk-pop and derriere-kicking attitude – which they needed, to cope with the setbacks they endured. The male, middle-aged French rock media dismissed them as ‘babyrockers’ and savaged them for the heinous crime of not being male and middle-aged. Their drummer and her replacement both left the band, and heavy promotion didn’t translate into big sales. Let’s hope they get the success they deserve in 2008.
 
France’s biggest international star, the right-on Che Guevara of world music, was a bit too enthusiastic about recycling his past glories – rock riffs from his Mano Negra days, the police siren from his Amadou and Mariam production job. That said, an average Manu Chao album is still better than most people’s best.
 
2007 was the year of Tecktonik™, but the Paris electro-breakdancing scene produced little in the way of decent music. The exception was Julie Budet’s dayglo disco-pop - fizzy, colourful and fun.
 
Driving, earnest indie-guitarness that some French music fans dismissively call ‘la pop anglaise’. Feck ‘em – this Grenoble trio are great, despite the occasional blandness of their English-language lyrics.
 
US-based Melanie Valera is a mere ‘de’ away from achieving instant fame in Ireland. She’ll just have to rely on her idiosyncratic and likeable electro-folk-pop instead.
 
(We also liked: MC Solaar ‘Chapitre 7’, French Cowboy ‘Baby Face Nelson Was A French Cowboy’, Vanessa Paradis ‘Divinidylle’, Bo ‘Koma Stadium’)
 
NOT Album Of The Year: Air ‘Pocket Symphony’
“Insipid, boring and shockingly formulaic”, the CLUAS review called the latest Air anti-climax. All the more disappointing because their 2006 side-projects (Charlotte Gainsbourg, Darkel) had been excellent. And did you read their knuckle-dragging views on female politicians? Even Playboy magazine found them sexist.
 
Roll Of Honour ~ Albums
2006: Emily Loizeau ‘L’Autre Bout Du Monde’
2005: Camille ‘Le Fil’
 
 
Songs: Sadly, in 2007 we didn’t dig up any earworms as insidious and burrowing as last year’s laureate (‘Bagatelle’ by Vanessa And The O’s). And nothing stood out as prominently as last year’s top tunes. But there were plenty of fine pop songs to choose from.
 
Lead singer Sue intones like a robotic Siouxsie (who now lives in south-west France and speaks excellent French) over cold, clinical punk-pop. What it lacks in originality, it makes up for in being absolutely bloody brilliant. The best song (and they have plenty of crackers) by perhaps the most enjoyable band in France.
 
France’s summer number one: a smashing ‘80s-style disco-pop hit from a former TV talent show winner who looks like Jarvis Cocker and sings like Michael Jackson – a volatile combination. Does he stage-rush his own shows?
 
On their shoulder is the paternal guiding hand of Elliott Smith’s ghost; this charming folk-pop single should earn Cocoon some deserved international airplay.
 
Squally T-Rex+AC/DC glam rocking. An androgynous, helium-voiced singer. Feather boas, spandex and lashings of make-up… Fancy are the Jonathan Rhys-Meyers of rock. In truth, we wish all bands would look and sound like this.
 
It may have lost a little of its freshness after hearing it for the millionth time, but there’s still something strangely affecting about a children’s chorus singing “The way you move is a mystery”.
 
Three randy French lads whose electro-flavoured alt-pop sounds fantastic but goes overboard on tedious adolescent lyrics (plenty of f*cks and c*nts and sluts and bitches) that befit their band’s name, and quickly becomes annoying. However, ‘Starlett Johannson’ was different – thoughtful, romantic and charming.
 
The sort of heartfelt, widescreen indie epic that fans of a much-missed Limerick band called Woodstar will recognise. They sound great in concert too.
 
What threatens to be mere Lou/VU-worshipping (spoken-word verses, droning guitars) is transformed by well-placed handclaps and a sweet chorus. Lovely stuff.
 
Stripped-down Super Furry Animals-style indie oddness which packs a marvellous chorus. We found this Toulouse-born singer-songer (real name Jean-Francois Mouliet) on the bill with Simple Kid at a memorable Fête de la Musique show in Paris.
 
10. Vanessa Paradis ‘Dès Que J’Te Vois’
For her big return to music in September, actress/model Madame Depp drafted in French rocker M to write an album’s worth of fine radio-friendly guitar-pop, the pick of which was this sexy, slinky airplay hit.
 
(We also liked: Rhesus ‘Hey Darling’, Plastiscines ‘Loser’, The Love Bandits ‘She Loves Sex’, Dionysos ‘L’Homme Sans Trucage’, Constance Verluca 'Les Trois Copains')
 
So the rumours were true – he was having follow-up problems after all. A disappointingly flat and charmless comeback single of auto-pilot beats and unimaginative synth swooshes. New album ‘Sexuality’, due out in February, would want to be a lot better.
 
Roll Of Honour ~ Songs
2006: Vanessa And The O’s ‘Bagatelle’

Here's the video for our favourite French song of 2007 - 'Body Addict' by Pravda:


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Nuggets from our archive

2003 - Witnness 2003, a comprehensive review by Brian Kelly of the 2 days of what transpired to be the last ever Witnness festival (in 2004 it was rebranded as Oxegen when Heineken stepped into the sponsor shoes).