The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

French Letter


Last summer we brought you on-site reports and reviews from La Route du Rock, the brilliant alt-music festival that takes place in Saint Malo every mid-August.

La Route du Rock, winter/hiver 2010

There are actually two annual La Route du Rock festivals - the 'summer' festival in August is complemented by a 'winter' version in February. And so La Route du Rock Collection Hiver ('winter collection' - how fashionable and French) 2010 happens this weekend, 19-21 February. (In France, winter ends and spring begins on 21 March.) The main venue is L'Omnibus on the outskirts of Saint Malo.

Like its summer counterpart, the winter version of La Route du Rock has a line-up that's bursting with concentrated indie goodness. Here's Friday evening's bill of fare at L'Omnibus: Fiery Furnaces, Beach House, Jackie O Motherfucker and The Horrors.

But check out Saturday night's running order: Clues, Shearwater, The XX, Local Natives and Clara Clara. Same night, same venue, same bill, one after the other - isn't that a fantastic line-up?

Update: The XX have cancelled their appearance at La Route du Rock, following the death of singer Romy Madley Croft's father. Their place will be taken by These New Puritans, who supported The XX at their magnificent Paris show last Thursday.

Sunday afternoon is less busy but no less impressive - The Tallest Man On Earth will be playing in the atmospheric surroundings of the Chapelle Saint-Sauveur. (Yes, it's a gig in a church.)

Another interesting event during the festival weekend is a special Saturday afternoon screening of films from the Takeaway Shows, Vincent Moon's influential series of impromptu performances.

If you're thinking of a quick dash to Saint Malo this weekend, forget it - the festival is sold out. You'll just have to wait for the summer festival in August... keep an eye on this blog for the first confirmed details of this year's acts.

Here's one of the bands from that cracking show in Saint Malo this Saturday - Local Natives with 'Airplanes', from a recent BBC session:

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Last Saturday was another rough night at the Stade de France for Irish sport, as our rugby team lost badly to a French side that's good but hardly great. Your correspondent was there, shivering with cold and shuddering in despair beside the visiting CLUAS Album Review Air Traffic Controller (in Paris for an inspection of operations at Chateau French Letter).

As ever, though, national pride has been restored by Ireland's pop stars - always good for the Seine-side win that ever eludes our football and rugby heroes.

We mention regularly here Les Inrockuptibles, the weekly music and culture magazine with a quintessentially French taste for florid prose. Die-hard devotees of The Divine Comedy, in recent times Les Inrocks have given the rave to Duke Special, Carly Sings and Adrian Crowley.

French revolutions per minute: Magic RPM, February 2010

Another music publication carried at all times in our CLUAS Foreign Correspondent Diplomatic Pouch is Magic RPM (right). A monthly magazine devoted entirely to alternative music, its title acronym stands for 'Revue Pop Moderne'. Modern pop: yes, please!

Magic RPM is excellent. For one thing, their writers have some strange trick of writing French prose that's simple yet intelligent and witty. Also, the magazine's review section has ambitious scope - the February edition has a whopping 66 albums getting substantive and considered critiques.

Two of this month's sixty-six are Irish - Fionn Regan's 'The Shadow Of An Empire' and 'Tourist History' by Two Door Cinema Club. Each gets a fair and informed review that backs up the final rating (out of six, rather idiosyncratically).

First up, Fionn Regan. Reviewer Vincent Théval falls in with the general reaction to the Wicklow man's second album - a comparison to Dylan going electric. He isn't impressed by the opening songs, calling them "a set of knives without a blade".

However, the man from Magic RPM much prefers the record's home stretch, in particular "a trio of sublime ballads": 'Little Nancy', 'Lord Help My Poor Soul' and the title track.

A 'non' to the first half and 'oui' to the second - that makes a final score of three out of six for Fionn Regan, with the consolation of high praise for a handful of tracks. If you read French, check out the full review here.

Two Door Cinema Club also receive an obvious comparison from their reviewer, Thomas Schwoerer, who reckons the "excellent" single 'Something Good Can Work' "sounds like Phoenix south of the equator". (That'll be an allusion to Vampire Weekend's world-pop, then.) The review praises the Down lads for their "sense of catchy melody and killer chorus" that delivers an album "to bring a smile to the lips". Overall, Schwoerer remarks on the band's "naive and juvenile" sound but ultimately finds in favour of "these three boys that we'll surely hear a lot this year".

And the scores? Four out of six for Two Door Cinema Club, continuing their successful experience in France. Unfortunately, the full review isn't online.

So, plenty of much-merited positive comments for the two Irish acts in Magic RPM this month. G'wan Oirland! Here's Fionn Regan with the unquestionably Dylan-goes-electric 'Protection Racket':

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On several occasions we've bemoaned the lack of good French-language pop. By 'good pop' we mean a tune you can whistle and hum and sing in the shower - and songs en français these days tend to be monotonous recitals of precious lyrics.

So, allow us to rave about a rare bit of catchy and melodic French music.

Let's get Bizet! Pascal, that is.

Pascal Bizet (right) is from Nîmes, the south-eastern city whose lasting contribution to world culture is the derivation of the word 'denim' - "de Nîmes". (The word 'jeans' is also French in origin - the earliest pairs of denim trousers were made in Genoa, which in French is called "Gênes.) Metallica fans will know of a 2006 concert DVD called 'Français Pour Un Nuit' that was filmed in the city's Roman amphitheatre.

We don't know yet if Pascal is a descendant of Georges Bizet, the Parisian who wrote 'Carmen', but he certainly has musical talent. Your correspondent has just discovered a track called 'Sans Doute' thanks to Canadian DJ Laura Leishman's excellent radio show on French indie station Le Mouv'; perhaps it takes us Johnny Foreigners to appreciate what's best in France.

'Sans Doute', with its pounding piano chords, has a touch of John Lennon's better solo songs. Changing from verse to chorus, Bizet's voice takes on some of Elvis Costello's vitriol and Joe Jackson's angst. The melody rolls along agreeably from start to finish, drawing in the listener without over-reaching for a killer hook or climax. Good work.

There we go: the first decent French-language song of the year and decade. You can hear 'Sans Doute' on Pascal Bizet's MySpace page, which also features some rather dense prose to describe the song's symbol-laden video, directed by Bizet:

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We've mentioned Emmanuelle Seigner on this blog before. The French actress released her first album in 2007 with the group Ultra Orange, and subsequently recorded a duet with Brett Anderson. Now her second album has just come out - and it includes a duet far more controversial than that with the Suede singer.

The album (right) is called 'Dingue', pronounced 'dang', which is French for 'crazy'. While her first album was heavily influenced by Lou Reed, this new record harks back to the classic '60s French pop of France Gall and Sylvie Vartan. Not being blessed with a great singing voice, Seigner never strays far from a low monotone - which is quite alright in France, because many singers do this.

The album was due to be released last November but was held back due to a dramatic development in Seigner's personal life - the arrest of her husband, Roman Polanski.

The acclaimed film director was taken into custody on a visit to Switzerland last September, as the Swiss authorities sought to extradite him to the USA to face charges of unlawful sex with a minor. Polanski is currently under house arrest in Switzerland.

Here's where Seigner's album gets controversial: one of the tracks, 'Qui Etes Vous?' ('Who Are You?') is a Bardot/Gainsbourg-style duet with Polanski - and the lyrics have an unfortunate resonance with the charges he faces.

The lyrics start with Seigner addressing an unknown man in her bed: "Qui êtes-vous, monsieur? Qu'est-ce que vous faites dans mon lit?" ("Who are you, sir? What are you doing in my bed?") Polanski's reply is "Je suis l'amour en personne" ("I am love in person").

The second verse is even more embarrassing. Seigner sings "Mais vous n'êtes pas mon type/Allez-vous-en/Vous allez avoir des problèmes" ("But you're not my kind/Go away/You'll have problems"). It continues:

Him: Tu m'as déjà dit 'je t'aime' (You already said 'I love you')

Her: Moi? (Me?)

Him: Tu as de peau douce et lisse (You have soft, smooth skin)

Her: J'appelle la police! (I'm calling the police!)

The third verse:

Him: Je ne veux que ton bonheur (I only want your happiness)

Her: Tu es un sâle voleur (You're a dirty thief)

Him: Je ne veux que ton bien (I only want you to be well)

Her: Mais je ne suis pas un chien! (But I'm not a dog!)

And the fourth verse, where Polanski's character becomes creepier:

Him: Mais enfin nous sommes fiancés (But finally we're engaged)

Her: Vous avez fumé? (Have you been smoking?)

Him: Tu m'as couru après, c'était en été (You chased me, it was in the summer)

Her: Je ne suis jamais engagée! Allez dégagé! (I've never been engaged! Go on, get lost!)

This, remember, performed by a man who fled charges of unlawful sexual relations with a 13-year-old girl. What on earth were Seigner and Polanski thinking?

The track hasn't yet been posted on Seigner's MySpace site - your correspondent downloaded it from a French online music shop. The album has just been released in France; at the time of writing, we haven't seen or heard any reaction from the French music press.

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Excellent news for the French music scene from Los Angeles last night. At the 2010 Grammy Awards, 'Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix' by Phoenix won the prize for Best Alternative Album.

Best Alternative Album, Grammy 2010

The other nominees? 'Everything That Happens Will Happen Today' by David Byrne and Brian Eno, 'It's Blitz' by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, 'The Open Door EP' by Death Cab For Cutie and 'Sounds Of The Universe' by Depeche Mode.

Ironically for an 'alternative' award, this Grammy win will surely be significant in terms of Phoenix's continued progress to American mainstream success. Your correspondent finds this album to be a slight disappointment - but Phoenix are still a great band. To them we say: chapeau!

Le jour de gloire est arrivé also for David Guetta, who took home a Grammy for his remix of 'When Love Takes Over' featuring Kelly Rowland.

Other winners last night include Kings Of Leon ('Use Somebody' - Record of the Year!), Bruce Springsteen (Best Rock Vocal Performance), Green Day (Best Rock Album), AC/DC (Best Hard Rock Performance), Lady Gaga and Beyoncé. Full details of winners and nominees are available at

In Irish news, the 2010 Grammy shindig featured Imelda May's duet with Jeff Beck on 'How High The Moon' as part of a tribute to the late Les Paul. Meanwhile, U2 were nominated for three awards but didn't win any.

From their Grammy-winning album, here's Phoenix with 'Lisztomania':

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What? Three weeks without the Gainsbourg-Birkins appearing on this blog? Luckily, and coinciding with the John Lennon biopic 'Nowhere Boy', we have the release of 'Gainsbourg: Vie Héroique' - the film by esteemed comic strip artist Joann Sfar of the life of France's greatest ever pop star.

We brought you a sneak preview last November. Noting the startling resemblance of Eric Elmosnino and the late Lucy Gordon to Serge n' Jane, we worried that the film would get stuck in a rut of impersonation.

Our fears were justified - 'Gainsbourg: Vie Héroique' is a fawning and superficial treatment of a fascinating and complex man.

Serge of un-enthusiasm: the disappointing 'Gainsbourg: Vie Héroique' by Joann Sfar

It starts well, establishing themes and motifs. Young Lucien Ginsburg is insolent, artistic, charming, indulged by his mother - and Jewish in 1940s Paris. With the clever device of marionette-like alter-egos preying on Lucien's vivid imagination, Sfar captures the latent creativity and volatility of the future artist-provocateur. Lucien avoids the worst of Nazi occupation (i.e. deportation and death) by leaving Paris for a provincial boarding school and feigning non-Jewishness - at one point hiding in the woods for three days to avoid a local round-up. A key early scene has Lucien almost charming the clothes off a still-life model from his art class - here is the charisma that would make Juliette Greco, Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin fall for a man who was far from being a hunk. Seducing the ladies, evading the Nazis - he charms the viewer too, as do the rich colours and Lucien-esque energy of these opening scenes.

But suddenly Sfar jumps ahead to the adult Ginsburg and soon-to-be Gainsbourg (played by Elmosnino) who is now clumsy around women, troubled by dark thoughts and insecure about his art. What happened to charming young Lucien? Sfar offers no explanation and thereby breaks the narrative thread.  He seems overeager to finish the hard work of character exposition and get to the good stuff: Serge playing his hits and frolicking with naked babes. (Sfar repeatedly makes the sexist faux-pas of showing Serge fully-dressed while his lady friend is nude. Perhaps to - ahem - redress this, during the later Birkin years there are some full-frontal shots of Elmosnino.)

From here on in, the film is reduced to variety-show impersonation that will please French audiences but bore the rest of the world. (Even Sfar is at it - he makes a cameo as balladeer Georges Brassens.) Anna Mougalis, as a smouldering Juliette Greco, has an appealing few minutes but is essentially a plot device to push Gainsbourg into leaving his wife and children for the pop star life. Former model Laetitia Casta struts on as Brigitte Bardot as if simply because we're at the point in the film where Gainsbourg writes 'Initials B.B.' (Rather witlessly, this is the music that plays as she enters.) Likewise, Gordon as Birkin appears on cue but personality-wise is as flimsy as her dresses. All the female characters in this film are one-dimensional and serve only to signpost certain points in Serge's life.

Speaking of signposts, too often Sfar hastily moves the film along with clunking story-marker scenes that reveal his background in attention-deficit cartoons. You should write an innuendo-laden song sung by an innocent young girl, fellow artist Boris Vian suggests to Gainsbourg - cut to Serge slithering up to prissy France Gall and proposing 'Les Sucettes'. On a beach in Jamaica a young boy sings 'La Marseillaise' to Gainsbourg: next thing he's recording a reggae version that incites violent protest from French ex-paratroopers. Most ridiculous of all is when old Mr Ginsburg, almost face-to-camera, breathlessly informs his wife (and us): 'He wrote a saucy song for Brigitte Bardot but her husband won't let them release it so now they must split up!' Potentially interesting episodes like the reaction to 'Je T'Aime (Moi Non Plus)' are left to wither on the vine.

As for the portrayal of Gainsbourg himself, Elmosnino is engaging and exact. However, with Lucien now grown up as Serge there's no further time or space allowed for character development. For instance, we never get any insight on Gainsbourg's creative vision or processes - he just heads over to the piano and starts playing fully-hatched 'Comic Strip' or 'Le Poinçonneur Des Lilas'

Worse than that, Sfar clearly idolises Gainsbourg so much as to present his most unappealing moments as mere character colour or even as virtues. Every time Serge does something bad, Sfar rewards him. Serge walks out on his wife and two young children: this is his doorway to stardom while his young family are never heard of again in the film. Gravely ill from years of abuse, Serge calls the press to his bedside and chainsmokes triumphantly while on a drip. A drunken Serge fires a gun in front of young Charlotte and makes poor Jane lose the rag: next thing he's single and pulling a sultry young model in a nightclub. (Birkin and Charlotte also immediately disappear from the movie.) Right away Serge bullies this new girl: she just cosies up to him as a sugar-daddy and lovingly bears him a son called Lucien.

The original Lucien reappears in the film's climax, a concert disrupted by those reggae-hating ex-soldiers. The young boy had sung a few bars of the French national anthem earlier in the film - its reprise here, as French people young and old sing as one before turning on Serge, is heavy-handed symbolism. Yes, yes, they love him and hate him, he's both French and an outsider: Sfar seems to think this vignette will suffice in capturing the complexity of Gainsbourg and continuity of Ginsburg. In fact, it just feels like over-compensation for an hour of French pop star impersonations.

In summary, 'Gainsbourg: Vie Héroique' is an entertaining half-hour drama about young Serge that's spoiled by the 90 minutes of plastic telefilm tacked onto it. Go see it only if you're as uncritical a Serge fan as its director.

Here's the trailer:

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MIDEM, the annual global convention for the music industry, takes place this Sunday to Wednesday (24-27 January) in Cannes on the French Riviera. The major players in the business will gather for conferences and workshops on subjects such as digital media, artist management and various aspects of law - you can download the conference programme (pdf, 2 Mo) and list of speakers (pdf, 9 Mo) for more information.

The MIDEM 2010 site also currently features a 2-part video interview with Ed O'Brien of Radiohead which is worth checking out. (Unfortunately, the page title at the very top of the screen calls him 'Dan O'Brien'.)

Music From Ireland, the body that promotes Irish music at such international events, will be in Cannes for MIDEM - they'll be sharing a stand with IMRO and distributing an excellent 20-track CD of Irish music featuring Villagers, Dark Room Notes, Adebisi Shank, Super Extra Bonus Party, O Emperor and more. You can listen to the compilation online at the Music From Ireland website.

If they have time in between conferences and networking, the attendees will also be listening to live music - MIDEM features its own exclusive programme of concerts (pdf, 0.9 Mo).

Were we being sensationalist, we could suppose that these are the anointed acts from which the execs and whizz-kids will cook up the ad soundtracks and corporate tie-ins and carefully-crafted buzzes of 2010. In any case, MIDEM is an ideal showcase for any act with ambitions of world domination, however fleeting. So, who's playing at MIDEM 2010?

Run, Lisa, run! Ms Hannigan, photo from the MIDEM 2010 programmeOnly one Irish artist is on the bill. Lisa Hannigan appears with her band in a showcase at the Carlton Hotel on Monday night. (She doesn't feature on the Music From Ireland compilation CD, though.)

There are several reasons for thinking that she'll be a hit at MIDEM. First, she's very good. Second, the programme notes mention her collaboration with Damien Rice - a ready-made media angle and sales pitch for the execs. ("If you liked Damo, you'll love..." and so forth.) Third and finally, in her photo in the programme (right) she looks stunning. Let's hope MIDEM is the start of a successful 2010 for the Meath lady.

The host country has a few familiar names. All-girl punk-poppers Plastiscines will be hoping to build on their US exposure to date, despite their awful second album. The Gallic retro-pop of Diving With Andy will charm anyone not scared off by the band's appalling name. (Your correspondent may yet run an English For Pop Music workshop at MIDEM 2011.) And we featured Toulouse's PacoVolume a long time ago - one good song ('Cookiemachine', like an acoustic Super Furry Animals track) and little else.

Anyone else you might know? Dreadlocked English singer-songer Newton Faulkner. Swiss chanteuse Sophie Hunger. And that's it for us - unless you follow featured countries Japan, Taiwan and Korea.

There's a MIDEM fringe - local Irish bar Morrison's is hosting a Canadian night on Tuesday 26 January. Fans of the maple-leaf music scene may be familiar with Jason Bajada, Matthew Barber, Danny Fernandes, Jully Black and Plants And Animals. Given the high quality of Canadian music in recent times, the plastic Irish pub looks like the place to be in Cannes this MIDEM-time.

But we're cheering on Lisa Hannigan here: g'wan Oirland! Here she is with a song named after a city at the opposite end of France from Cannes - 'Lille':

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You might remember us telling you about Two Door Cinema Club when they toured around France last autumn. By now you know them well: plenty of daytime radio airplay and rave reviews have seen to that.

Two Door Cinema ClubWell, the Co. Down trio (right) will be back in France this springtime: not once, not twice, but three times in two months! They're signed to achingly hip Paris label Kitsuné, so the bosses' backyard gets their special attention.

Joking aside, French radio has been playing them too - most notably C'est Lenoir, the excellent and much-loved indie music show on France Inter. (Presenter Bernard Lenoir always takes care to mention that Two Door Cinema Club are 'irlandais'. G'wan Oirland!) Added to that, their shows last year were as part of a tour organised by French music magazine Les Inrockuptibles, who naturally gave them great exposure. So, these three appearances should prove popular with French alt-music fans.

First up for Two Door Cinema Club in France this spring: a show on 24 February at the Nouveau Casino in Paris, a lovely little venue in the trendy Oberkampf district. We reckon it'll sell out or go close enough to doing so.

Then in March the lads fall in for the France/Benelux leg of the European tour by Phoenix. These two bands have a similar sound, so fans of the Versailles foursome may very well come away as fans of Two Door Cinema Club too. Those French dates for this tasty double-bill: 21 March in Dijon, 22 March at the Olympia in Paris, 23 March in Grenoble and 24 March in Nancy.

Finally, after a spin around Germany and Scandinavia, Two Door Cinema Club will return to France on 17 April for a slot at the Printemps de Bourges festival. (Where is Bourges? Almost in the dead centre of France, directly south of Paris.) They share that night's bill with another French group who have an indie-disco vibe, Pony Pony Run Run, plus top DJ Vitalic and one-hit-wonder DJ Mr Oizo (him of the 'Flat Eric' yellow puppet/jeans ad). Also appearing in Bourges are Iggy And The Stooges, Emilie Simon, Archive and Rodrigo y Gabriela.

So, Two Door Cinema Club look set for a successful 2010 in France. You should know this tune of theirs by now - 'Something Good Can Work':

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For reasons we don't need to dwell on, Franco-Irish relations took a bit of a dive at the end of last year. Croissant boycotts, au pair punishment beatings, burning effigies of Gérard Depardieu - just some of the violent Dublin street scenes broadcast around the world.

The Feeling Of LoveThankfully, this is all behind us now - French people can feel safe to visit Ireland again. Here's the first Gallic band to play in Ireland this decade.

The Feeling Of Love (right) are a trio from the eastern French region of Alsace. (Yes, that means they are Alsatians.) As you might have guessed, the name is ironic - they make squally, shouty Stooges/VU-style alt-rock with a hint of electro. What you lose in whistleable tunes, you gain in having your brains rocked out. Sounds like a fair deal.

To date, The Feeling Of Love have released one album, 'Petite Tu Es Un Hit', and a plethora of singles and EPs, with a second album due out in February. Of their songs, we like 'Handclap Girl' and the intriguingly-named 'Dad = Eat/Mum = Die' and 'Fat Bottom Against Fat Bottom'.

You can see them in Dublin on 13 February at Twisted Pepper as part of the Bodytonic series of shows. According to this plug on the CLUAS discussion board, tickets are only €5, which is excellent value for what seems like a great live band. (Hopefully there isn't an obligatory €10 pint inside.)

Check out some of their tunes at The Feeling Of Love's MySpace page. For a taste of their live show, here they are onstage in Freiburg playing 'Night Cold Dance':

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Exactly five years ago today, your blogger arrived in France to take up the position of CLUAS Foreign Correspondent (Paris).

In a scene similar to the opening credits of 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air', we arrived outside Chateau French Letter, official residence of the CLUAS F.C. (P.), all our hopes and dreams packed into one small case. Our remit: report on the best of French pop, rock and electronica, all the while swanning around Paris thanks to the lavish CLUAS Foreign Correspondent Expense Account.

At first we could get away with submitting a leisurely monthly column, a mere distraction. But then blogging was invented. The CLUAS gaffer, a man with his finger on the technology pulse and a rectal thermometer just to be sure, decided that this new-fangled medium was just the thing for increasing productivity and guaranteeing return on investment. And so French Letter became a fast-acting, high-performance blog.

Your correspondent went along with this idea, figuring that we'd get a few months' worth of posts at best. Almost three years and over 250 posts later, we're still at it.

Alternative music doesn't have as wide an audience in France as in Ireland or the UK. No homegrown indie act would ever break into the mainstream or enjoy broadsheet ubiquity the way Florence And The Machine and The XX did in Britain last year. Hip indie bands from America play smaller venues in Paris than they would in London or Dublin, and mostly to indie-kid ex-pats like your correspondent - last November a double-bill of The Antlers and Cymbals Eat Guitars played to a three-quarters-full venue that each would have filled alone in Ireland. UK acts get greater exposure here because the Paris music press pays close attention to the London scene; the aforementioned Florence and XX will play large halls here very soon. A Libertines concert in Paris in 2003 spawned a whole movement of 'babyrockers' in thrall to London punk n'lager attitude.

Today's French music scene has split along linguistic lines. It's only a slight generalisation to say that alternative, artistically ambitious acts sing in English and mainstream or artistically conservative acts sing self-consciously poetic or socially-aware lyrics in French. To an outsider it seems that French people value lyrics over melody - consequentially a lot of French-language rock music is literally monotonous and tuneless. (Listen to Louise Attaque or Mickey 3D, two popular French bands, and then try to whistle one of their songs.)

Young French bands influenced by melodic UK or US indie-pop (such as the bands featured in this blog) usually write and sing in English. As well as escaping the weight of French lyric-writing's demands for overwrought, politicised verbosity there's also the obvious fact of English having a wider international appeal. In France, English is the language of ambition - and of cultural hipness. The excellent new evening show of popular indie station Le Mouv' is presented by Laura Leishman, a brash Canadian who speaks almost as much English as French on air. (Irish music fans will recognise how female Canadian indie DJs are de rigueur for indie radio stations.) Any day now, your correspondent is going to become extraordinarily hip and sought-after in Paris.

But then, Paris really isn't a musical city any more. Air, Phoenix, Daft Punk and Michel Gondry - the entire vanguard of French alternative pop culture - all come from Versailles. (It's no coincidence that Sofia Coppola, the partner of Phoenix singer Thomas Mars, made an indie-pop biopic of Versailles-based cake promoter Marie Antoinette.) Regional capitals like Bordeaux and Clermont-Ferrand have healthy music scenes that seem to thrive by being far from fashion-conscious Paris. And France's two hippest music festivals, Les Transmusicales and La Route du Rock, take place in the geographically isolated Rennes-Saint Malo area.

In short, there are plenty of great French bands - you just have to look very hard for them and expect them to be singing in English.

Anyway, enough of the sociological analysis - we're supposed to be celebrating! To Paris and France, thanks for five incredible years and the promise of more good times to come. Here's our fellow well-read, rugby-loving Francophile Neil Hannon with his most celebrated song about France:

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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).