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coverpic flag France - Full Moon 44 - 05/18/00

Le Désordre

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

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