Friday, 19 November 2010

Pony Pony Run Run

As recomemnded by a friend at work, who picked up their CD when he was over in Paris recently. Great stuff, very contemporary electro.

He was surprised to hear it being played in Top Shop the other day, saying that it was no doubt uncovered by some well-paid cool hunter with a finger on some pulse or other.

The band are from Angers, having formed in Nantes in 2003. The band is a three-pice, with the members hving the easy-to-remember names of G (guitar) A (bass) and T (keyboards) Previous members included S and F apparently. They might yet reappear on Sesame Street.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

French Music Podcast number 7

A quick one today, just a link to the latest edition of the French music podcast. A regular half-hour programme that features some of the latest sounds cming out of the Hexagon, and details of who is touring or playing in the UK either now or in the near future.

There's always lots of great stuff on offer, well worth checking out, hald an hour of your time well spent.

This edition features music by Daft Punk, June & Lola, Fortune, Feloche, NLF3, AD, M & Saez.

Previous editions are also available to listen to on Soundcloud.

French Music Podcast UK - Number 7 - 12th November 2010 by French Music Podcast UK

Monday, 15 November 2010

Mesrine: The criminal element

Spent much of the weekend watching (at long last...) the two Mesrine films, L'instinct de mort and L'ennemie public No 1.

Strange, but former public enemy number one did not feature highly in the syllabus of any of the French courses I've attended over the years, but he was a big cult figure.

Every society has their heroic villains, whether the Kray twins, Ronnie Biggs or in Scotland Jimmy Boyle. There are many issues wrapped up in this area, crime and the law, the state and the individual and the concept of freedom versus containment.

Of course, there is the question of whether or not Mesrine was genuniely politically motivated, or an opportunist who attached a political label to his acts after the fact to win favour as an outlaw, as well as the issue of whether his involvement in the Algerian War was the cause of his behaviour, and the controversy of his death - essentially by firing squad on the streets of Paris.

Much to discuss and dissect, but needless to say the voice of Mesrine found a place in the French music world, in songs by Trust, one of France's finest rock bands.

The lyrics of Le Mitard are from Mesrine. The voice at the beginning and end are Mesrine.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Riot soundtrack

France looks set to face civil unrest, the like of which the country has not seen for decades.

The Senate are likely to vote on Wednesday on pension reforms, and on Tuesday another day of widespread protest is going to happen. So far we're already seen angry scenes in places like Nanterre, and images of police in riot gear, masked protesters, banners and the inevitable tear gas and clouds of smoke.

It's probably as serious as I can remember, and it's uncertain where it will end. If the vote goes through, things may escalate on both sides, Sarko's allies seeing a victory as permission to continue with their programme, their opponents no doubt upping their demands and their activities.

All in all pretty bleak, with battle positions being reinforced on both sides and a long campaign looking certain.

So what is the soundtrack for this unrest? Well, this is at number one in France at the moment...

I suspect I won't be waiting long for someone with more time than I have to edit the song with the inevitable riot footage...

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Jarre 101010 streaming

For those that missed it, Jean-Michel Jarre streamed live his gig from the London O2 on Sunday night. A great reminder of the Glasgow gig the week before.

Quality of the video was not bad, I reckon the stylised graphics etc were intended to show it was more of a web event and not intended to be comparable quality to a DVD, but given that there was a streaming of around 2 hours and several thousand watching live, it was pretty smooth.

Sound quality was a different matter, and it was top notch. Reckon the sound was the priority with the streaming and it certainly worked.

Obviously it raises the issue of why other artists don't do the same kind of thing. It's probably easy enough to do these days, and could be a source of extra revenue for the touring musician if that's what they want to do, or a way of spreading their music a bit further than just in the concert hall.

Again, Jarre goes ahead of the rest and throws down the challenge, and at the same time continues to pioneer making his music available to those who want to hear it for free. The concert tickets were not cheap, and probably that put a few folks off going given the troubled economy we live in, but Jarre gives them the chance to catch a show. Good work.

The stream is still available to watch here;

Would it have been nice to watch it while listening on a Jarre Technologies aerosystem1? You bet it would have been!

Friday, 8 October 2010

Stromae - Alors, on danse..

Resistance was probably useless. Not that it needed any, given that it's a pretty decent tune. Stromae's Alors on danse has been the biggest French language hit in the UK for years, reaching number one in the official singles chart, higher in the specialist dance charts.

It got pretty heavy rotation on MTV dance here which no doubt helped, but its success is probably more due to it coming back from Ibiza where UK listeners probably first heard it. It's been massive in every other country in Europe all summer, somehow it was inevitable it would come here, although given the UK's reticence to embrace anything in a foreign language as far as music all bets were off.

Dance music is effortlessly international. True, the lack of lyrics help, but this tune is more lyrical that most dance numbers, close to the likes of Faithless in the vocal delivery. Cool, low key, sophisticated. The French language is perfect, no version anglaise required.

Post-summer European songs that became hits in the UK were traditionally awful. The Macarena? You get the picture. We live in better times.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Gainsbourg - Qui est 'In'

Love this little Gainsbourg clip, you have to marvel at 60s music TV. What they lacked in budget at CGI they certainly made up with some imagination.

You can't help but think of Austin Powers as well when you watch this kind of thing, but kind of forget that they probably found it funny even back when it was made. We like to think we are smarter and cleverer than those before, and we can laugh ironically at stuff they thought was cool, but kind of forget that they probably thought it was a laugh in the first place.

You also have to admire Serge's apparent complete disinterest in performing for the TV

The song sounds more raucous than usual, almost like a garage rock band or an early Rolling Stones number than his more usual jazzy sound. Very upbeat and energetic, and a bit rough round the edges.

Only two minutes long as well, plenty packed into such a short pop song. Nice one Mr Gainsbourg!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Jean-Michel Jarre at Braehead, Glasgow

Great show at Braehead Arena in Glasgow on Sunday night by Jean-Michel Jarre, strangely the first time I'd actually got to see him. Strange because I've liked his stuff for decades, and because I well know what a big figure he is in French music.

A colleague likened him to Paul McCartney, in the size of his influence, although unlike McCartney he certainly isn't a nostalgia act and his eyes are firmly on the future.

I only recently realised - when I interviewed Jarre - that the 2010 tour was influenced by Arthur C Clarke's book. Of course, Clarke was famously influenced by Jarre when writing the 2010 book.

Jarre's an optimist, and passionate about what he does, his music and his art. We need more people like him.

Sure there could have been a bigger crowd, but given that he played Glasgow last year and the tickets were not cheap - the economic meltdown's effect on live music remains to be seen - it was a phenomenal show.

Jarre's a proper star, and while there could be accusations of self-indulgence at times, the fact that he takes what could be a fairly unengaging spectacle into something quite dynamic speaks volumes. Four blokes with keyboards could be a fairly bloodless show, and while Kraftwerk have made this into an art form, electronic music can be on the dry side and a little too close to a classical recital at times. But Jarre manages to personalise things, keeping the scale a human one despite the immensity of the spectacle and all the technology on display. This isn't music by robots, it's a remarkably human performance.

Special mention too for his tartan trousers too, he certainly made the effort to blend in to Scotland!

Of course, Jarre's done more than most to have people experience his music for nothing and to participate in the most spectacular music events for no charge. For all electronic music can be a little austere, Jarre has done more than most to popularise it and to share his art.

There are a couple of things I'd like to see though. One is Jean-Michel Jarre playing at one of the Ibiza mega clubs. More young people need to hear him. I don't think there were many folks in the crowd under 40, and I reckon some of his material would go down an absolute storm in the right environment. If I was inclined, I would set myself up as a techno DJ and play nothing but Jarre and similar artists. Would be an easy way to make a living I reckon.

The other? I'd like to see Jarre perform a large-scale outdoors show in Scotland. The Edinburgh Festival closing fireworks concert would be a useful blueprint that could be changed just a little to be a Jarre spectacular. Of course, there would have to be an occasion - perhaps to mark Scotland's Independence Day and our international recognition by France? You never know...

Here's a video from the show, quite good quality and gives an idea of what was going on. Can't see much of Jarre in the shot though, but rest assured he was having as great a time as the audience was.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Jarre Week!

In our latest installment in what has unofficially quickly become 'Jarre Week' at Vive le Roq, here's a great video for Equinox 5, a track that could probably be described as "The other Jean-Michel Jarre tune that people recognise after Oxygene IV'.

Have to again marvel at the quality of the video, very much a product of a different era. In some ways it reminds me of some of the Abba videos from the 70s, with the 'turn and look at the camera' shot, the beach, the horse (videos from this era always seemed to feature a horse for some reason) and you've got to love anyone who can rock a cravat in a music video.

There are probably hipsters in an expensive loft apartment trying to recreate the look of this video for a project as we speak, using words like 'retro-futurist' and 'naif-modernist.' Good luck to them, they'll struggle to get close to the originality that's gone into this.

I think that both Oxygene and Equinox are outstanding work and I reckon this era of Jarre's music put the focus on his music, before the attention was diverted more to the showmanship. Not to do down the Jarre live experience, far from it, as events the size of those he's been involved in are little short of extraordinary. Just that I've always thought that there was more to Jarre than a laser/light show and these two albums make that clear.

Looking forward to seeing him in an arena sized venue. I've seen video of the La Defence and Houston gigs and while the video is pretty great, I suspect those attending the events might not have exactly been up-close enough to see the man himself, the audience being so big that most of those there were probably in a different arrondisement to the stage.

Still, I reckon the shots in this video of the modernist buildings look pretty good, as do the shots of the synths set up in the woods. Had it been me, more shots of modern buildings with the Equinox figures peering out of the windows, with more shots of Jarre walking about the area. Some crimes against fashion perhaps, but in his defence there were far worse things going on in the music world at the time. But lets not try to get too clever and just enjoy the way the future used to look.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Jarre v Penguins

Thinking a lot about Jean Michel Jarre at the moment, on account of his forthcoming Glasgow gig. Mostly along the lines of the 'why have I never actually gone to see him before' kind of thing.

I mean, given the size of the audiences to some of his gigs at Place de la Concorde and La Defense, never mind in Moscow, a sizeable proportion of the population of Europe must have been to just these three gigs.

Anyhow, been going back over Oxygene (obviously) and came across this priceless little video that really works well for Oxygene IV. Sometimes the simplest ideas really are the best. Two minutes and 51 seconds that will make your life that little bit better.

Nice juxtaposition of the ultra-futurist music with a very lo-fi visual aesthetic, optimistic sounding music with an environmentally aware message. Love it.

I'm on my second copy of oxygene these days, but my CD seems to have vanished. No doubt sitting happily in a box with the Faust CDs I've been trying to find for a workmate.

More Jarre on Vive le Roq very soon, including possibly a very exciting Jarre event before the gig in October. Fingers crossed it all comes together, but "very exciting" is the understatement of the year...

Friday, 20 August 2010

Antisocial 2010

Came across this great version of the trust classic, video is quite well done as well, on account of some of the early footage of Sarko I'd never seen before. Almost beyond parody.

Bernie looking older than he did back in the day in the brief interview clip, but Nono looking strangely well preserved.

Trust are probably the reason beyond all others that this blog exists, as without Trust I'd never have got into French music at an impressionable age. I'll write more about them again soon, with some more clips.

As it says in the youtube description: "Tout évolue...mais rien ne change."

Friday, 30 July 2010

Sonic Youth v Plastic Bertrand

Following on from yesterday's revelation that Plastic Bertrand wasn't the actual singer on ca plane pur moi, the Friday cover version was an obvious one.

There have been a good many covers of the song, but I really like Sonic Youth's version. It's from the 1992 compilation album "Freedom of Choice: Yesterday's New Wave Hits As Performed By Today's Stars"

By 'Today's stars' read 'alternative rock bands of the early 90s'like Mudhoney, Redd Kross, Das Damen, Yo La Tengo...underground american rock from the pre-canonisation of Nirvana time, all good.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Plastic's explosive revelation

So apparently Plastic Bertrand didn't actually sing on ça plane pour moi, probably the best known French song for those that grew up in the late 70s.

Roger Jouret - apparently 'Plastic Bertrand' was not his birth name - admitted in an interview with Belgium's le Soir that it was another singer on the record. He blamed the producer, the interestingly named Lou De Pryck, for the not-quite Milli Vanilli like situation.

A court in Belgium had heard evidence from a linguistic expert that Bertrand's Brussels accent was not the same as that on the record, that of a Picard or Ch'ti from the north of France, where De Pryck came from. According to De Pryck, the subterfuge continued for his first four albums.

Bertrand said De Pryck asked him to “shut up” in exchange for 0.5% of the rights, and promised to record a new version of the song with Plastic Bertrand’s voice, which never happened.

Bertrand told Le Soir: "He banned me from going to the studio. I was stuck. I was in the shit.

"The day I left RKM (Bertrand's record company) to be free, he smeared me,

"So I took him to court for slander but I lost because I accused him of being a crook. But now, I’ve had enough. I’ll sue him again for slander."

De Pryck told Le Parisien newspaper: ""My Ch'ti patois has proved me right. I am relieved. I hope I will finally get my rights."

The font of all knowledge that is Wikipedia tells me that ça plane... was actually a cover of an English language punk song Jet boy Jet Girl, something I didn't know. I had heard the cover of the English version by the Damned. I wrongly thought that the Damned's version was an English version of a French original, rather than the other way around. The English language version was never a hit, and was never going to get airplay given its lyrics, which were changed completely for the French version.

The song sold over 900,000 copies around the world, and Bertrand's career was hardly damaged by what Le Soir described as the 'open secret' that he didn't actually sing on his biggest hit.

Still a belter of a song for sure, so enjoy a rare sighting of a Belgian francophone hit on Top of the Pops from way back...

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Eurovision week - Sébastien Tellier

Saturday is the Eurovision Song Contest, normally the only occasion the good folks in the UK get to hear anything from outside the usual UK/US playlist. And laugh at it.

Some countries take it way too seriously, some get it right. France normally get it right most of the time, so I'll list a couple of good ones in the build-up to Saturday.

Here's the first - Sébastien Tellier from 2008. Does it get any cooler that arriving on stage by golf cart?

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Paul Gray - Slipknot in France

Saddened to hear this morning the death of Slipknot bass player Paul Gray.

Here's a piece I wrote this morning >

Following the release of 'All Hope is Gone' in 2008, I interviewed Shawn and Chris from the band when they played Glasgow's SECC arena in Dec '08, ( Watch the interview here > ) and they returned to Europe the following year to play some of the biggest festivals.

Here's some footage of them playing at the Les Eurockéennes festival in Belfort, their most recent gig in France:

OK, obviously not a French band, but I'm keeping the definition of what's relevant to this blog as wide as possible. I aim to be inclusive, rather than operate some kind of policy that keeps things I like off the picture.

French band? They're here. Band singing in French ? Good enough. Some kind of vague French connection? Still making the grade!

Charts and some rap

I aim to keep an eye over the Franch charts, but while charts used to be a fairly straightforward matter of seeing what was the biggest selling single each week, the situation has in recent years become just a little bit more fluid.

While the syndicat national de l'édition phonographique (SNEP) compiles the 'official' charts, there's no doubt that the likes of iTunes give a pretty accurate picture of what people are listeining to as well, and the two can be quite different.

For example, SNEP currently puts Justin Beiber & Ludacris 'Baby' at number one, and Stromae's 'Alors on Dance' at two, neither are in the iTunes French top 10, although Alors... is in the top ten or number one in ten other European countries, although not the UK obviously.

Meanwhile, Désolé by rappers Sexion d'Assaut is the iTunes number one, and they're got a second tune in the top 10, Wati By Night, at number nine.

Obviosuly both charts are pretty heavy on the old Anglo-American music (mostly American rather than Anglo) that we hear in the UK regularly - Katy Perry, Sean Paul, Taio Cruz, Lady Gaga (etc), but there's still plenty of Francophone talent being appreciated in France.

So here's a version of Désolé live on Paris hip hop/R&B radio station

I know rap's not everyone's cup of tea, but frankly I'm in awe of anyone who can do what French rappers can do with the language!

Friday, 21 May 2010

Girls Aloud (en francais)

Today's update is a quick one, with something to put a smile on your face for the weekend; the first of an occasional series of 'when English speaking acts sing in French.'

May need to get a snappier title than that...

So here's Girls Aloud with a version of I Don't Speak French - in French.

Incidentally, apparently they don't and had to learn the song phonetically.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Magma, film appearance from 1972

Today's offering is a clip of French progressive band Magma, appearing in a 1972 film.

Magma is not exactly easy listening, performing the majority of their songs in their own language - Kobaian - and developing hugely ambitious and complicated concept works.

The band centres on drummer Christan Vander, and were originally inspired by John Coltrane's firey jazz explorations. Over the decades they have developed a unique sound that manages to reference free jazz, modern classical and soul as well as incredibly ambitious

They influenced a whole sub genre of music, a bombastic and energetic type of progressive roq called zeuhl (from the word meaning 'celestial' in Kobaian) including bands like Univers Zero from Belgium and Ruins from Japan.

Certainly a long way from the rather bloodless pastoral whimsy that seemed to inform much of the British progressive scene at the time.

The clip is from the movie "Moi Y En A Vouloir Des Sous". The track has never been released officially, which is extraordinary given how good it is.

The band are still very much active, and last year produced a 12-disc box set collecting their complete studio albums along with two discs of rarities. They also released the album Emehntehtt-Re, completing a trilogy that they began in the 70s with the album Kohntarkosz and continue to play live, although with a very different line up from the 70s version of the band, Vander and wife Stalla being the only constants in the line-up.

For more Magma and magma-influenced Zeuhl bands go to this fantastic french blog page >>

There will be more Magma on the site in the future that's for sure.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

May 19 - Fête de saint Yves

Apologies for the way too long since last update, but I'm now hoping for a daily Mon-Fri quick update and video, so that there's something for your French listening pleasure here regularly.

So today - May 19 - is the fasival of St Yves, patron saint of Brittany, so an excuse for something appropriate. So the national anthem of Brittany is today's choice; Bro gozh ma zadou

This vesion is by Breton folk legends Tri Yann.

The song is of course famililar to many, having the same tune as 'Land of my fathers', the Welsh national anthem. The words are - albeit in Breton rather than Welsh - similar in meaning.

The Breton lyrics were written by Breton nationalist François Jaffrennou who translated the Welsh song into Breton. It became the national anthem in 1903, a mark of friendship and shared culture

Here is a more modern take on the song by Alan Stivell:

While the festival of St Yves is not officially recognised as a 'jour férié' in France, there are moves afoot to increase the recognition of the day, as an international celebration of Breton culture.

2010 sees events taking place in Tokyo, Paris, Beijing and of course, in Brittany. Events are not just limited to today, and have been taking place - officially - from the 14th to the 23rd.

With a wide Breton diaspora and thousands around the world who may not Breton by birth but want to celebrate its culture, it could hopefully become a significant international event. St Patrick's Day celebrates the Irish influence around the world, St David's day is an important day in Wales, and St Andrew's Day marks Scotland's place in the world, so it's probably only right the Brittany gets the recognition it deserves.

More information on fete de la Bretagne here >>

Friday, 26 March 2010

More French Franz

Great to hear the Franz Ferdinand/Marion Cottilard collaboration, so though a link to FF's cover of Gainsbourg's Sorry Angel was in order.

Like the best cover versions, it reimagines the song into not only different from the original, but the act doing the cover put something of themselves into it. It sounds like a FF song in a way, not just a simple homage to Gainsbarre.

And the female vocals? Jane Birkin of course. Nice touch, Birkin's always been at the forefront of re-inventing Gainsbourg's art for a new audience.

Taken from the Monsieur Gansbourg Revisited CD from 2006.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Franz ferdinand and Marion Cotillard

Oscar winning actress Marion Cotillard has teamed up with Glasgow's faviourite indie art rockers Franz Ferdinand to record the song 'The Eyes of Mars' to mark the launch of Dior's new fashion range.

Music and lyrics are by Franz Ferdinand, and the campaign features an online mini movie about a fictional character created by designer John Galliano

Cotillard, who won an Oscar in 2008 for Best Actress for her portrayal of Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose is the face of the French fashion label.

Cotillard, who was this month made a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, was also praised by critics for her singing ion the musical Nine, where she starred alongside Nicole Kidman, Sophia Loren and Penelope Cruz.

It's not the first time the Franz boys have dabbled with the French music scene, they covered Air's Sexy Boy and recorded Serge Gainsbourg's Sorry Angel with Jane Birkin for the 2005 album Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited.

I have to say, it sounds a lot like a Franz Ferdinand song rather something that was just written for an advertising campaign, and a pretty bold choice for Cotillard.

More one the campaign here:

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Marc Almond Jacque Brel radio documentary

A quick entry today to point you to part one of Marc Almond's radio documentary about Jacques Brel, that was broadcast on BBC Radio two on Tuesday.

Marc Almond invites Radio 2 listeners to explore the music and unconventional life of one of France's most revered singer-songwriters - Jacques Brel.

Almond has been a great interpreter of Brel's work in English, his Jacques album released in '89 collects them together. His later album Absinthe collects English versions of frnch songs by others.

You can catch up on the documentary here>

Part two is on air n March 23, the final part the following week.

Here's a clip of Marc Almond, from his Marc and the Mambas incarnation performing 'If you go away' Live on the Jonathan Ross show from 1989.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

St Patrick's - Celtic connection

It's St Patrick's Day, which while not a big festival in France, is worth marking on this blog. If only in recognition of the fact that when I lived in Paris the overwhelming majority of English speakers I spent time with were Irish, a fact no doubt linked to one of the most memorable St Patrick's celebrations I attended, involving a dégustation of Jamiesons whiskey in one of the city's fine Irish pubs...

There are now many Irish pubs in Paris and across France, numerous links between the two countries in every level, but the ties between Ireland and France seem to me to be most apparent in Celtic music.

To mark St Paddy's without further ado, the legend that is Alan Stivell, with Brian Boru. Originally from his '95 album of the same name, this version from the '99 live 'Bretagnes a Bercy' DVD.

There will be more Breton music on this site in the future. That's for sure. There will also probably be more Alan Stivell Sláinte!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Jean Ferrat

I have been thinking about launching a blog that focuses on French music for a while now, a blog aimed at hopefully furthering the popularity of French music to an anglophone audience.

The music scene in France is amazing. From hip hop to prog rock, chanson and folk, it's a huge worl that is largely ignored by the media this side of the channel. Time to do something to redress the balance.

Despite having the idea some time ago, I kept putting it off, but I got a bit of a reminder today about the need for this kind of thing. Jean Ferrat, one of the last giants of French chanson, died at the weekend, and despite being one of the most significant voices in france, he remained unknown outwith a small audience in the UK.

A Communist sympathiser who was praised by President Sarkozy for his "unyielding conception of French song", Ferrat's career from the 60s onwards put him up with the likes of Jacques Brel and Georges Brassens. Some songs were banned for their politics, (Potempkine, Ma France) others - such as his adaptations of the work of Louis Aragon (Aimer à perdre la raison) - amongst the finest examples poetry and song together in the French language.

As French TV legend Michel Drucker said: "A whole part of France, a whole generation is mourning today,"

"There were Brel, Brassens, (Leo) Ferré and then there was Jean. He was the last of the Mohicans."