The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

French Letter

01

The summer is long gone but that doesn't mean we still can't have festivals; one of France's biggest music events begins tonight.

Les Trans Musicales takes place in Rennes, in the heart of Brittany, from 2 to 6 December. It being a university city, Rennes has a lively and established music scene. Now in its 31st year, Les Trans Musicales is a weekend of discovering new French and international music either on the festival site or in the city's bars.

When we say 'festival site', of course, we don't mean a field or football pitch - Brittany is much like Ireland climate-wise. The main Friday and Saturday shows are held in the Parc Expo, a complex of exhibition centres several kilometres outside Rennes, and fans are dependent on shuttle buses to get there and back. Meanwhile, the city centre bars are buzzing with young bands and visitors.

So, who's playing? Anyone you in Ireland might know?

Well, on Thursday night Erland Oye's project The Whitest Boy Alive are in a city centre venue called Liberté Bas along with four lesser-known acts. Friday out in the Parc Expo you could see Fever Ray, FM Belfast and Major Lazer among others. Then on Saturday you've got The Very Best (of that thin-sounding Afropop tune 'Warm Heart Of Africa' featuring Ezra Keonig from Vampire Weekend), one-hit wonder Mr Oizo... and that's it for recognisable names. But maybe some of the other acts will be big in 2010 - have a look through the downloadable programme (in pdf) and place your bets.

There's only one Irish act at Les Trans Musicales - Derry electro trio The Japanese Popstars are appearing on Saturday night.

You can find out more about the winter trip to Rennes on Les Trans Musicales' web site. Here are The Japanese Popstars showing their love for a cartoon series that also inspired Daft Punk - it's their video for the storming 'Rise of Ulysses':


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28

If you know your Peter Pan, you'll remember that Wendy Darling was the oldest and wisest of the three children whisked off to Neverland. Once there, she seemed to buck the trend and become more mature and responsible, though without ever making the leap to modern-minded independence.

The Wendy DarlingsFrom Neverland we're whisked back to France and the central city of Clermont-Ferrand, mentioned plenty of times before on this blog. The Wendy Darlings (right) are a trio - a girl leading two boys, like their fictional counterparts. They make fun and catchy guitar pop that has one foot in '60s garage-rock and another in '90s indieness. We think they're great.

However, it depresses us to write this next bit: the lead singer calls herself Saddam Suzy and the two lads are Dr Poppy and DJ Sepia. Seriously, like - Saddam Suzy. It's best that we just move on and ignore that.

The Wendy Darlings have a limited edition 7-track EP out right now on UK label Lostmusic Records, called 'We Come With Friendly Purposes'. They're also getting exposure on CQFD, the new band community/contest of Les Inrockuptibles.

But if you want to hear their best songs, go to The Wendy Darlings' MySpace page. 'Enormous Pop' is the track featured on CQFD - there's a homemade YouTube video of the song set to some kitsch Japanese children's television show.

However, our favourite is 'Suffer Girl' - the title is a clever pun on the '60s surf-pop vibe of the song. Here are The Wendy Darlings playing 'Suffer Girl' with the accompaniment of - oh yes - line-dancing troupe The Hate It Loud Quadrille:

 


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23

La Flèche d’Or, the much-loved music bar in the 20th arrondissement of Paris, opened again last night (23 November), having been closed since the end of April.

As we told you, the licence on the premises – a former railway station served by the train that gives the bar its present name – expired on 30 April and complaints from local residents about sound levels meant that major renovation work would be necessary for a new licence to be granted. This being a costly intervention possibly offset by the venue’s popularity and name recognition, the licence was taken on jointly by two established promoters – Alias Production and Asterios Spectacles, operators of successful Paris concert halls like the Bataclan and the Maroquinerie.

So, what does the new Flèche look like? Quite like the old one (right), actually – there have been no visible structural changes but we presume the walls are now packed with insulation. There are a couple of layout improvements – the bar is now along the back wall where the few tables were, and the sound desk has been moved from the centre to the side. The crow’s-nest lighting desk has been taken down, so the Flèche lampies have come back to earth. There is no longer a bar in the smoking patio outside, which also has fewer seats. This being Paris, where the natives smoke like chimneys, most local punters should be happy that the previous overcrowding in the corner has been relieved (though it was still busy last night between sets).

Even in the last six months of its existence, the old Flèche had abandoned the free-to-entry policy that attracted music-ravenous punters like your correspondent. But at least the charade of “free entry but obligatory ticket to buy a drink, but free entry” has been dropped – to get in last night it cost eight euro, a price which includes one drink at the bar. However, like at music festivals here, you must pay a refundable deposit of one euro for your plastic cup. Will customers wait patiently at a crowded bar to get their one euro refunded at the end of the night, or will they write it off? (Those euros add up.) Still, eight euro to see four acts is always good value and the Flèche’s international reputation means that there’ll be quality somewhere on the line-up.

So, what about the music last night?

Launching the good ship Flèche d’Or was American singer-songer Chris Brokaw. Unfortunately, his dour Dylan-esque folk-rock wasn’t a great way to whip up a frenzy on such an auspicious night. Next on stage were The Two, a local boy-girl folk-pop duo whose love-and-angst English lyrics were cringefully naff and clichéd. Still, they had celebrity support – actress Charlotte Rampling was there to cheer them on. (We figure that a lady with her was the mother of the girl singer.)

Then came the star of the night – Evan Dando, for an acoustic solo set. He hasn’t aged a day since his mid-‘90s indie pin-up heyday – same long, dangling fair hair and sun-kissed good looks. And those songs from ‘It’s A Shame About Ray’ and ‘Come On Feel The Lemonheads’ are just as ageless. The strength of those songs is the tension between Dando’s happy-go-lucky stage persona and the melancholy in his voice and lyrics. (‘Confetti’ and ‘My Drug Buddy’, two songs that always inspire celebratory audience participation, are really very dark and lonely in their subject matter.) And, of course, their undeniable catchiness. That said, his later songs are a little whimsical and insipid – so we propose that Evan Dando is the Paul McCartney of alt-rock.

Brokaw joined Dando onstage for the final furlong, which included a sincere and unironic version of Christina Aguilera’s hit ‘Beautiful’ and a gorgeous acoustic rendition of ‘Ride With Me’. No rock-outs like ‘Rudderless’ or ‘Alison’s Starting To Happen’ but most other bases covered in an hour-long set – Lemonheads fans were well satisfied last night.

Upcoming shows at the Flèche include our fellow Irishman in Paris, Perry Blake, this Thursday and The Raveonettes in early December. Full listings are available on the Flèche d’Or MySpace page.

The Flèche is back, baby! From last night’s relaunch here’s Evan Dando and Chris Brokaw performing ‘Ride With Me’:


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21

Of course, the big news from Paris is the fall-out from last Wednesday's World Cup qualifier. After the extraordinary events of the game, thousands of fans in green and white gathered on the Champs-Elysées, which had to be closed. A minority of troublemakers chanting anti-French slogans clashed with riot police. The upshot is that France has been plunged into self-questioning about its moral and cultural position.

Yes, it was certainly a major event, Algeria's win over Egypt and qualification for next year's finals.

In other news, you might have heard that Ireland lost controversially to France in our own play-off match. Your correspondent was at the Stade de France with the travelling Irish fans; it was an incredible evening with a heartbreaking finale. But thankfully we Irish haven't lapsed into undignified self-pity, crass rabble-rousing and sanctimonious moralising on the national airwaves.

She bangs the drum: Celtic tigress Imelda May onstage in Paris, 17 November 2009 (photo: Rafael Garcia)The night before, Dublin retro-rocker Imelda May had given a tonic for the troops at a small cabaret bar near Bastille called Le Réservoir. On page two of The Ticket in last Friday's Irish Times you may have seen the striking photo (right) by Paris freelance snapper Rafael Gomez Enriquez (check out his impressive website for more of his concert shots and pictures from his travels), with a few words from your CLUAS Foreign Correspondent (Paris) underneath. In such an intimate venue, especially one up a side-street and with motorbikes outside, May's brand of rockabilly and blues felt exciting and authentic. It's hard to see how she can capture that feeling on record or in an enormodome like the O2 in Dublin - so Irish expats should take advantage of May's tentative steps in foreign cities and smaller clubs.

Speaking of the Irish Times, you might have seen Jim Carroll's rave report on Canadian indie-folk-rockers Hey Rosetta! (The exclamation mark is theirs, not ours.) Well, the band were in Paris this weekend so your correspondent went to check them out. They took part in an independent music symposium on Saturday afternoon but we decided to see them the night before as part of a new band event at Le Gibus, a club between République and the Canal Saint-Martin.

Only a dozen or so people showed up to see their show, a 25-minute slot between some energetic Libertines-loving schoolkids and a dire hard rock band. Happily, On The Record was on the money: Hey Rosetta! were wonderful. Their vibe is proudly epic and aspirational and poetic, something like Mike Scott's 'big music' from the mid-'80s or a rocked up version of DM Stith's widescreen dreamscapes. (Tim Baker's voice, soaring yet sensitive, is especially evocative.) But their music is still melodic and tightly constructed, without a pick of self-indulgence. They haven't any Irish show lined up at the moment but that's sure to change: make sure you see them.

We hear you in Dublin were also treated to a special concert lately: the double bill of St Vincent and Grizzly Bear. On Saturday night their European tour reached La Cigale in Paris - barely. En route from the Crossing Borders festival in The Hague their tour bus broke down, meaning that both acts arrived in Paris two hours late. All this time the venue doors were closed and fans had to queue along Pigalle for those two hours.

As soon as the doors opened, St Vincent went straight onstage for a shortened set of only four songs. Because fans were still trying to get into the venue when she started, most people missed the first song and many missed the second and third. Your correspondent missed the first two. (Something similar happened for her at La Route du Rock: her set started just as the gates were opening, meaning that a lot of her French fans also missed the start of her show there too - so Saturday night must have seemed like a bad joke to them.) Then Annie Clark's fans were stunned and angry to hear her say goodnight after fourth song 'Marrow'. It was almost as disappointing as events in the Stade de France (for the Irish in the audience at least).  

Grizzly Bear, for their part, got in a good hour onstage. (Paris venues must obey a strict and punitive curfew, so a late finish wasn't possible.) We had been disappointed with them at La Route du Rock in August when their sound seemed vapid and disjointed - but indoors we could hear better the heavy echo effects on vocals and instruments, making for a more satisfying experience. Feist, living in Paris, joined the band to coo along to a glorious 'Two Weeks'. And the encore version of 'He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)' was agreeably odd and unsettling. Unfortunately, earlier events conspired to somewhat spoil the mood, especially for St Vincent fans. But in hindsight and hindhearing Grizzly Bear were great. Just don't ever take a lift off them - as well as Saturday's breakdown they had a minor bus crash in Austria earlier in the week, thankfully with no serious injury or damage.

So, an eventful few days for us in Paris. This coming week we hope to see Evan Dando on Monday night at the launch of the newly-refurbished Flèche d'Or, the legendary indie venue that was closed for major soundproofing works earlier this year. On Tuesday night there's a fantastic line-up at the Nouveau Casino: The Antlers, Cymbals Eat Guitars and Liquid Architecture, all for just 15 euros. (Please don't let anything happen to their bus...) And Yo La Tengo are playing the Bataclan on Sunday night.

Anyway, from Saturday night's ill-fated show at the Cigale, here's Grizzly Bear and Feist (looking quite feisty with those boxing moves) doing 'Two Weeks':


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15

In hope rather than expectation, thousands of Irish people are coming to France this week. We need not dwell on it except to say that your correspondent feels strangely optimistic and calm.

Anyway, if you'll be in Paris this week, welcome! Whatever the result, hopefully you'll have a good time here. To this end we've decided to give you a quick guide to going out Seine-side.

(A preliminary word: a pint of stout or lager will cost you around €7.00. Most French people don't drink pints, so tourists get caught out. A bottle of wine is cheaper than in Ireland and much better value. But if you must have beer, most supermarkets and small shops sell it cheaply.)

If you're here on Tuesday night then you can catch Imelda May playing at a small venue near the Bastille called Le Reservoir. Given that these days she's playing large Irish venues for large Irish ticket prices, seeing her in an atmospheric Paris club for only €15 would be a bit of a coup. (Imagine her surprise at going onstage in chic Paree to be greeted by a gang of Sligo Rovers lads on tour.) Gig-wise it's quiet in Paris this week - though next Tuesday there's a fantastic line-up at the Nouveau Casino: The Antlers and Cymbals Eat Guitars and Liquid Architecture, all for €15. Paris is great.

Apart from concerts, where are good places to head out in Paris? Well, rather than any bar in particular we recommend you pick an area and do a bit of a tour. Have you got a metro map to hand? Right:

Towards the east, between the stations Parmentier and Menilmontant, you've got an area known to us Paris-residents as Oberkampf. In fact, it's two parallel streets - rue Oberkampf and rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud. No tourists here - Oberkampf is where Parisian indie kids go out. (It's the spiritual home of the Takeaway Shows; many of the early ones were filmed in that area.) You'll find a choice of action-packed little bars with live rock, samba, jazz, folk, electronica and loads more.

For a bit of Montmartre, change at Gare du Nord and take the line 2 west to Pigalle. Shielding your eyes from the sleaze, turn right just before the Moulin Rouge and head up rue Lepic. (On the left you'll pass Les Deux Moulins, the bar from 'Amélie'. They serve Guinness there!) At the top of the hill is Abbesses, the part of Montmartre where Parisians go out. You'll find plenty of lively restaurants and bars around there.

Similarly, across the city, behind the Panthéon and the Irish college, there's rue Mouffetard with an enjoyable night-time ambience to its eating and drinking. The restaurant with the model cow outside it (we never remember its name, but you'll find it) makes warm and filling specialities from the Alpine region, all at affordable prices.

if you want a really wild night of mixing spirits and dancing on tables, head to Bastille and especially rue de Lappe. You'll feel like you never left Temple Bar. (There's a plastic Irish pub there called The Hideout. We like a little bar at the quiet end of the street called le Bar à Nenette - Cork people, they serve Murphy's there!)

The Latin Quarter, around Saint Michel, is really a tourist trap full of kebab restaurants. But jazz fans may like to visit the Caveau de la Huchette, a legendary and long-standing venue and club, and you're right near Notre Dame and the famous Shakespeare and Co. bookshop. On the other side of Saint Michel, on rue Saint André des Arts, there's an Irish bar called Corcoran's that stays open until 5 a.m.

That's enough for one trip. If you're in the Stade de France or around town, feel free to drop us a line via Twitter: http://twitter.com/french_letter. If you're unlucky enough to have any serious problems, best give the Irish Embassy a shout at + 33 1 44 17 67 00. 

Allez les verts!


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09

In these uncertain times, where can you turn for reassurance and sanity? Who will show vision and daring? Who can read the French music scene like a book?

The answer: your CLUAS Foreign Correspondent (Paris).

As we predicted would happen, 'Pays Sauvage' by Emily Loizeau has won the 2009 Prix Constantin for France's best album of the year. The prize was awarded at the end of a ceremony in Paris last night. The victory makes up for Loizeau's defeat in the 2006 edition. That year, her debut long-player, 'L'Autre Bout Du Monde', was shortlisted but lost to slam-poet Abd Al-Malik.

In truth, with Loizeau's so-so second album winning, the 2009 Prix Constantin ran to form. The prize has usually gone to a solo artist making safely-bohemian chanson française with mostly French lyrics, and 'Pays Sauvage' checks all these boxes. In addition, Loizeau's current rustic-flavoured style is representative of a plethora of folk-pop acts enjoying success in France today.

Even though we feel that 'Pays Sauvage' is a step down from the dizzy emotional and creative heights of 'L'Autre Bout Du Monde', we're still happy that she won. Well done.

A new edition of 'Pays Sauvage' has just been released, featured seven of the original songs now sung in English. This ties in with Loizeau's series of U.K. shows later this month. No Irish concert has been scheduled for the moment.

Rather surprisingly, her new single will be a cover of 'Sweet Dreams' by the Eurythmics. Here she is performing the song Nouvelle Vague-style with French singer Arthur H on a recent television show:


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07

Air will play two nights at the Olympia in Dublin, on 23 and 24 February. The shows are part of the French pair's European tour to promote their latest album, 'Love 2'.

We're not really encouraging you to go, of course. This post merely fulfills our commitment to telling you about French acts playing in Ireland. (It's in writing over on the right, just above the blog roll.) 'Love 2' continues Air's recent form in churning out the same old soft-focus retro-futuristic loungecore that you heard and fell asleep to on 'Talkie Walkie' and 'Pocket Symphony', and why would you want to hear more of that? Only continued goodwill towards 'Moon Safari' and the soundtrack to 'The Virgin Suicides' will bring people to these shows.

There are plenty of other more interesting and productive things you can do on those nights instead. The second leg games of the first knockout round of the Champions League fall on 23-24 February, so there'll be decent football on television. If you're not into football or television, you could always read a book or go to the cinema or even do some cleaning. (Did you know that vinegar is great for removing water marks and grease from your kitchen and utensils? Meanwhile, a newspaper is very effective for cleaning windows, but make sure your old fella has finished reading it first.)

You can hear some of 'Love 2' on Air's MySpace page. Here's the 'Sexy Boy'-esque animated video for the new single, 'Sing Sang Sung':

 

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05

It's been a while since we told you about Irish acts playing in France. Were you of such a mind, you could accuse us of neglecting our remit and write a sternly-worded letter to the newspaper. But we'll make up for it now by featuring our gallant boys and girls who are coming to Paris in November.

The Swell Season played the intimate Maroquinerie this time last year but have now graduated to the larger Bataclan on 9 November. You might remember how 'Once' got a warm reception in France, so it's good to see Glen n' Marketa building on that success. From Marketa Irglova to another duo and more adopted Irish: Rodrigo y Gabriela are also going well in France. The Mexican pair have sold out their show at the Casino de Paris on 12 November.

The following night Bell X1 play at the Batofar - one of several boats on the Seine that have been converted into music venues. By coincidence, the Batofar is a former Irish lightship and still painted bright red. That night is Friday the thirteenth so let's hope the boat doesn't sink or isn't haunted by the ghosts of sailors lost at sea.

A few days after that, on 17 November, Dublin retro-rocker Imelda May comes to Paris. She's playing at a venue near Bastille called the Reservoir - we've never been there but presumably it's smaller than the O2 in Dublin she'll try to fill before Christmas. More luck to us: a cosy venue will be a great place to see her.

(On 18 November, of course, there'll be plenty of Irish in Paris. For fear of bringing down the jinx, let us move along swiftly. We'll just add that U2 will play at the same venue, the Stade de France, in September 2010. Apparently the show is already sold out.)

This busy season of Irishness in France begins this weekend with Two Door Cinema Club (right), who are signed to hip Paris-based label Kitsuné.

The three Down lads are on the bill of a high-profile, sold-out touring festival organised by French music magazine Les Inrockuptibles, visiting Lille (6 November), Paris (7 November in La Cigale), Nantes (8 November) and Toulouse (10 November - so they've a day off on the 9th). They'll be supporting Passion Pit, Florence And The Machine and Boy Crisis: La Roux were supposed to be appearing too but have just cancelled due to 'medical reasons'. If La Roux had been there, and at such a small venue, it would possibly have been the greatest line-up in pop history (even though Florence leaves us cold).

Anyway, Two Door Cinema Club make brash and melodic indie-pop; they're very good at it. Their next Irish appearance is a free Mandela Hall concert in Belfast on 17 November - no Free State shows lined up for the moment. Check out their choons at the Two Door Cinema Club MySpace page, and watch the vidjo for 'Undercover Martyn':


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03

The Prix Constantin, France's equivalent of the Mercury and Choice music prizes, will be presented at a ceremony in Paris on 9 November. The winner will be selected by a jury chaired this year by icky-voiced chanson française singer Olivia Ruiz.

A quick recap of the rules: to qualify, an act must have made their album in France and never have attained gold sales status, which in France is currently 75,000 units. (No fear of that these days, says you the cynic.) You don't have to sing in French or even be French: Asa, last year's winner, is Nigerian and sings in English and Yoruba. That said, her victory bucked past form: the winner is usually a solo artist performing a rather unadventurous album that's mostly in French. And this blog's favourite artists never win - non-runners this time round include Emilie Simon, General Elektriks and Kim, while the disappointing albums by Phoenix and Plastiscines didn't get a call-up either.

So, here's a look at this year's shortlist of ten, in reverse order of likely winner.

Sorry, Birdy Nam Nam and Diving With Andy - there's more than one of you, you don't have a word of French on your album and you got great praise from us. Don't go clearing space on the mantelpiece. Facetiousness apart, the pleasant '60s pop of Diving With Andy might be a good long-odds bet but it's hard to see this prize going to BNN out on left-field.

Controversial rapper Orelsan made international headlines during the summer festival season. Local politicians objected to him performing his track 'Sale Pute' (which translates as 'dirty whore'), allegedly glorifying violence against women, at events supported by public funding. His name on the shortlist will gain media attention for both Orelsan and the Prix Constantin and that'll probably be that.

This leaves us with the depressing fact that seven of the ten shortlisted albums for the Prix Constantin can be filed with the coffee-table folk-pop that's popular these days among the Paris bourgeois bohemian set.

Amazingly, there are THREE male English singer-songers on the list. The likeable Fredo Viola brings electronica and a slight indieness to the table. Piers Faccini, drawing on world sounds, also has his charms, while Hugh Coltman's acoustic jazz-pop is fairly bland. But the French will hardly give the goodies to an Englishman... right?

Back to the home contenders: Babx and Yodelice - it must have been a windy day at the baptism font - are up-and-coming male artists in the chanson française genre that prizes wordplay over melodies. Their more established peer Dominique A, familiar to Stephin Merritt fans from his appearance on The 6ths' 'Hyacinths And Thistles', ploughs a deeper furrow of dark, poetic expression that does without fripperies like catchy tunes. Hugely popular and respected in France, he's worth a few bob down the bookies.

And so we come to the only other woman included, besides Diving With Andy's singer Juliette Pacquereau, on a list featuring a rapper accused of misogyny. Now, Emily Loizeau is someone your blogger has raved about fairly often so you'd think she'd be a no-hoper. Ha! In a move of daring ingenuity, she made 'Pays Sauvage' - a rather ordinary album of bandwagonesque folk-pop mostly in French. Solo artist; mainstream sound; lyrics mainly en français - isn't this exactly where the Prix Constantin tends to go? Genius!

So, Emily Loizeau for the win, which would make up for her fantastic 'L'Autre Bout Du Monde' losing in 2006. Each way bets to cover your derrière: Diving With Andy and Dominique A. But we'd really like to see Birdy Nam Nam somehow win this.

The full list of runners and riders, with MySpace links for each, is:

Babx  - 'Cristal Ballroom' [sic]
Birdy Nam Nam - 'Manual For Successful Rioting'
Hugh Coltman - 'Stories From The Safe House'
Diving With Andy - 'Sugar Sugar'
Dominique A - 'La Musique'
Piers Faccini - 'Two Grains Of Sand'
Emily Loizeau - 'Pays Sauvage'
Orelsan - 'Perdu d'Avance'
Fredo Viola - 'The Turn'
Yodelice - 'Tree of Life'
 

And here's Emily Loizeau, the favourite in the parade ring, with 'Sister':


 

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29

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!")

PlastiscinesOne 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':


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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).