France - Full Moon 44 - 05/18/00
Ah, the Gallouise and the garlic, the sound of Maurice Chevalier in the air. An attractive
image, I'm sure you'll agree - so why then do French acts so seldom reach the uk's shores?
Because they're French. Ok, because they speak French. Unless they sing in English they remain
largely ignored. That might be putting it in over-simplified terms, but the British are such
xenphobes that the thought of something from abroad is often dismissed out-of-hand. Take the
famous French acts to have hits in the UK recently. Daft Punk, Air, Jean Miche-Jarre? What have
they got in common?
They're all electronic bands with predominantly instrumental songs; Air sing, but in English.
The Brits probably don't even realise where they're from and if they did there'd be headlines in
The Sun. "Bloody foreigners take over our charts - join the Sun's fight to stop the menace to
our pop kids!" It's not just the French either, name me a foreign language act to chart over
here? Everyone from Kraftwerk to Europe to bleedin' Roxette infiltrate our charts via the back
door of English as a foreign language. Otherwise they'd only have hits in their own country.
Apart from Encore Un Fois which the kids probably heard in Ibiza and think is actually
Spanish anyway. The SuperFurries are the only UK act to have a serious stab at the charts in a
foreign language (i.e. Welsh). Don't hold your breath on that one doing as well as their
previous works. The Super Furries again makes me reinforce a stereotype somehow, as all I can
think about this album when I hear it is foreign language acts through the ages. There's more
than one of those strummy things that the SFA do better than anyone (it's ironic that no-one
outside Wales can tell what Gruf is on about anyway, even when he's singing in English). And
that's a shame, because Flóp's made a pretty interessant album. It's a bit odd, a blend
of Pulp and Belle and Sebastian, only with those French lyrics. And since these acts most
interesting features are their lyrics, this is a bit of a problem, as you're dying to know know
what on earth he's singing about.
Lyrics aside, when the album starts off the immediate thought is Pizzicato 5, which logically
leads to Les Soeurs Winchester, who are are actually neither French (or Japanese) but do sing in
French, presumably as a form of commercial suicide.
Musically as I hinted there's a certain Britishness to it all, not least the slightly bonkers
saxophone work which is reminiscent of the likes of Stump or the Dog Faced Hermans and sits
rather uneasily beside what is presumably a tale of urban French life.
So, that's it. Song-based music like this won't work in the UK's insular scene. A crash-course
in English is pretty much essential. Well, it worked for Maurice.
(NB! This is not Flóp's latest album. A new record, Rechute, was
released on Les Disques Mange-Tout last month - editor's note).
Copyright © 2000 Stuart McHugh