Monday, 28 February 2011

News: César win for Gainsbourg film

This weekend was a major weekend for film awards, with the eyes of the world wondering who was going to take the big prizes.

While the Oscars grabbed the headlines, the César awards in Paris are the ones I am focusing on, with a big win for Gainsbourg (Vie Heroique).

Best film went to Of Gods and Men, which picked up three awards including best supporting actor and best cinematography. It wasn't even nominated for an Oscar.

The Ghost Writer, an English language film, picked up four Oscars including best director for Roman Polanski. It is the third time he's won a César for best director, having won for Tess in 1979 and The Pianist in 2002

Best foreign film was The Social Network.

I was particularly pleased to see the 'Best Animation' award going to The Illusionist, a great Franco-Scottish collaboration.

But the big winner, with the most interest here is Gainsbourg (Vie Heroique) which picked up three awards, best first film, best sound and best actor award for Eric Elmosnino. A well-deserved winner.

The film had a few other nominations, including best film and Laetitia Casta was nominated for best supporting actress.

Looking at the César awards this year in comparison to the Oscars is a strange parallel. No King's Speech in the French Republic, little outside the English-speaking world for the Oscars.

Anyway, today's video is Eric Elmosnino performing Gainsbourg's Nazi Rock from the film's soundtrack. On a weekend that saw Dior's head designer suspended for hurling anti-semitic insults in a bar in La Marais and saying how he loves Hitler, it seems fitting to celebrate a victory for a film marking the life and work of a Frenchman who was forced to wear the yellow star as a child during the Occupation.

Eric Elmosnino & Dionysos : Nazi Rock (BO Gainsbourg Vie...)
Uploaded by GaGa-Vision. - Music videos, artist interviews, concerts and more.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Commercial break: Daft Punk

A new advert by Daft Punk, this time for Coca Cola, and special bottles designed by our favourite French robots.

The bottles come in two colours, silver and gold. Just like the Daft Punkers themselves.

The limited run of bottles comes as part of Coke's "Club Coke" promotion, which saw Mika design a bottle in 2010.

The bottles will apparently be sold at clubs from next month. Don't expect your local coke machine to be stocking them.

They've already done ads for the Gap, Sony Ericsson, Adidas, so they're hardly selling out to commercial interests.

More information at the Daft Coke website at some point >

Live: Zombie Zombie

Paris-based synth rockers Zombie Zombie (Versatile Records ) played in Glasgow last night as part of the Glasgow Film festival, performing a live soundtrack to the silent movie Battleship Potempkin, an early 20th century Soviet propaganda movie that was to be one of the most influential films ever, establishing as it did many of the rules of film making that have been used since.

The band played in Glasgow last year performing their versions of the work of John Carpenter that he created for his horror films, there's a clip to a performance of Halloween added below.

I didn't make it to the show last night, but it sounds like they made quite a job of the Battleship score.

STV film and entertainment critic Michael McLellan wrote on the website: "...when more dramatic moments provided the opportunity Zombie Zombie certainly made the most of it, the simplicity of their line-up allowing for bracing moments that might have had the audience thrusting their fists into the air, were they not stuck to their seats.

"This was especially case for the famous scene on the Odessa stairs, a descending bass line’s accompanying instrumentation gathering up into a furious cacophony at the massacre of the citizens, and also at a high octane end as the Potemkin seems set for battle."

Read full review here >

Hopefully I'll get the chance to see them before long. It would be good to see them at a gig rather than as an event

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Chart: Nolwenn Leroy

Nolwenn Leroy won French TV show Star Academy show in 2002, the country's equivalent of the BBC's Fame Academy.

However, unlike the UK winners of Fame Academy, she's gone on to have a career that has endured, with her fourth album Bretonne released in December 2010.

She has already had a couple of Number one songs, her debut Cassé in 2003 and 2004's Nolwenn Ohwo!. Her debut album also got to number one, but with her fourth also reaching that position at the top of the French chart, she has certainly gone beyond her reality TV beginnings.

Hard to image Alex Parks or David Sneddon managing this.

Star Academy was, of course, huge in France, a much bigger deal in terms of popularity and artistic credibility than its UK equivalant. Probably this was something to do with the UK already having had the likes of Pop Stars and Pop Idol and their parade of talentless and fame-hungry chancers.

Great to hear some modern interpretations of Breton classics like Tri Martelot and La Jument de Michao. I have to admit it was strange at first to hear the songs performed by a woman, being so familiar with the work of Stivell and Tri Yann, but there's no mistaking her voice is extraordinary and the arrangements are great.

Much as I like Stivell, it's hard to deny that some of his early recordding do sound a bit dated. Not that there's anything wrong with 70s folk/prog/rock to these ears, but I can understand it's an aquired taste and something that radio stations and media folks might pass on.

I suppose many of the early generation of folk and rock artists that used traditional music were just taking the music that they liked and popularising it the style of their day. Nolwenn just continues that honourable tradition.

I've come across some negative comments, suggesting that her success is more down to marketing that talent, but I dont think that's the case.

Folk music does not need to only be performed by men with beards. The fact is that these songs are being heard by a new generation, and I'm sure the folk artists of previous generations would be pleased to hear the work they popularised being passed on, and the celtic culture or Brittany finding new audiences.

The fact that this is the number one album in France is a great reflection of the widespread appeal of Breton culture in France. It would be hard to imagine a collection in Gaelic making the same impression in the UK.

Now if we could just persuade her to sing something in Gaelic or Scots...

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

News: French Music Podcast UK 11

Another big shout out to the French Music Podcast UK, the 11th installment of which is now available to listen to online.

As always, some great tunes including Thieves Like us, Les Plasticines, Skip the use, Jolie Cherie, The Shoes and Zazie.

Also a great archive track from the now-defunct Noir Désir.

Again, a great place to go for some great French music.

French Music Podcast UK - Number 11 - 20th February 2011 by French Music Podcast UK

Monday, 21 February 2011

Charts: Mylene Farmer Oui mais...non

When I got things under way earlier this year, I had intended to do a regular look at the charts in France, but it seems that they don't turn over terribly often. Israel Kamakawiwoole is still at number one hnd has seemingly been there for ages.

While a great song, it was released years ago and in the UK at least it's more associated with a deodorant advert than anything else.

Meanwhile, most of the others in the top ten are 'international' artists (Taio Cruz, Black Eyed Peas, Shakira...etc)

However, Mylene farmer makes a strong case for France with Oui Mais...Non, (Polydor/Universal) still in the top five.

It's a very Gaga style video, interesting to see how Gaga's also being accused of being more than a little 'influenced' by Mylene's Libertine (1986) for her Born This Way song (2011) Hmmm...

Watch article from M6 news >

I'm sure there are fans of both artists who would make their case equally strongly, although personally I would just want to see Mylene Farmer to be as big an artist internationally as Gaga is.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Live: Zombie Zombie at Glasgow Film Festival

This year's Glasgow Film festival kicks off this evening, and it's great to see this event become the event it now is. While a long way from having the international prestige of the like of Cannes, it certainly punches above its weight and really taps into the traditional enthusiasm for cinema in Glasgow with a real imaginative and engaging approach.

This year it opens with the new Francois Ozon film Potiche with Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu, so no lack of French input in the event.

One of the features of the festival is that there is a music and film festival running alongside the main cinema events, and French act Zombie Zombie are on the bill.

They are performing a live soundtrack for Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin at the Arches, having played in Glasgow at the film festival last year performing live soundtrack for John Carpenter horror movies.

I saw a similar show a few years ago, with a live band accompanying Storm over Asia, another vintage propaganda movie, and it worked very well indeed. Always found Battleship Potemkin to be rather over-long, despite its revolutionary nature, but with a live performance it should make it a more dynamic experience.

More details on the film here >

It was, if I remember right, banned in the UK for decades after its original release for fears it could inspire a revolution. Wonder if the police will be on standby and if there will be barricades in place around the city chamebers just in case.

Zombie Zombie play on February 23 at the Arches, Glasgow. More details of the Glasgow Film Festival here >

Editorial: Vive le vive le roq!

February has been a great month for the blog so far, I've managed to keep the posts regular and had some great feedback and encouragement.

If there was and doubt as to the need for this blog it came in an email from Les Ramonneurs de Menhirs, a band I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, saying "it's nice to help us to be more known in UK. That's true, it's hard for french bands to play in UK"

Also pleased to see that the site's been getting more traffic this month than ever before. The lesson is obviously that the more I post the more visitors come, so more posts there shall be!

Suffice to say there's a huge number of French acts that deserve a mention. I'll do my best as time permits. More ideas for content and more ideas for music coming very soon, and needless to say, some of the finest music from the Hexagon and beyond.

Friday, 11 February 2011

New: Grand Corps Malade: Romeo kiffe Juliette

A video today shamelessly inspired by the latest French Music Podcast that I linked to yesterday, It included this astonishing track - Romeo kiffe Juliette, by Grand Corps Malade.

The track is from his third album 3eme temps, released in 2010. He has been releasing material since 2006's Midi 20 album, having worked his way from local poetry slams to some of the most prestigious artistic awards in France in recognition of his work.

I've always been an admirer of French rap, perhaps just in awe of anyone who can speak French at that speed, but GCM takes rap to a new level of lyricism and you have to love the use of modern French that you probably wont find in a dusty old copy of a Collins Robert dictionary.

Frankly, even if you don't get the language first time round, you have to admire the flow and the production. The video is also pretty fine, echoing as it does the song's modern take on a classic with some very contemporary dance moves.

Plenty of live dates in France over 2011, but none in the UK.

Incidentally, today marks a full week of Vive le Roq activities, the first time so far I've managed to do this despite all my best intentions. Looks like we're on track for more posts in February than we've managed not only so far this year but for the whole of last year as well!

Grand Corps Malade - Roméo kiffe Juliette (Clip Officiel)
Uploaded by GrandCorpsMalade. - Watch more music videos, in HD!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

New: French Music Podcast 10

Quick link today to the always-great French Music Podcast, who have posted their latest editoin online.

Some great stuff on it, Bot'ox, Keren Ann, Black Strobe, Serge Gainsbourg, Grand Corps Malade, Discodeine, Bob Sinclar, Jeremy Hill and Erik Truffaz.

Its now also available via iTunes as well as from Soundcloud (below)Half an hour well spent!

French Music Podcast UK - Number 10 - 5th February 2011 by French Music Podcast UK

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Retro: Serge Gainsbourg - Comme un Boomerang

There's been a huge amount of activity ahead of the 20th anniversary of the death of Serge Gainsbourg.

Biggest item has to be the new 20CD compilation on Mercury records, essentially his complete discography, film work and duets. Looks like a fine item, although there is no doubt a whole lot of material that completists will have already bought several times already. At just under 150 Euros from FNAC it's not cheap, but certainly tempting.

Other new items include the second of two vinyl box sets of his EPs. the first covered 1958-62 this month sees a second covering 63-68. Like the 20CD compilation, its a limited edition and comes in at around 100 Euros, like the previous volume of EPs.

Fortunately this new commercial activity includes some of Serge's lesser known recordings getting their much deserved time in the sun, one being the Inédit "Comme un Boomerang."

Originally written for the singer Dani in 1975, it got another lease of life with a version recorded by Dani with Etienne Daho in 2001. Gainsbourg's unreleased version is a demo version, and reveals an artist very much at the peak of their game.

While some might say the release of Gainsbourg material could be seen as cashing in on his reputation, there's no denying that this track certainly deserves to be heard.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

New: Cinémoi French cinema channel

I've taken out a subscription to the Cinemoi French film channel that is on cable and Sky in the UK, which looks pretty promising.

Obviously there is a tremendous amount of French cinema being shown, many of which passed me by on their initial release, as well as a lot of classics as well.

Highlights so far? Probably L'armée du crime, although Immortal, Arsene Lupin and Fair Play were all pretty excellent.

Looking forward to getting to see more of this kind of thing. Normally you would have to be watching the programme of cinemas like the GFT pretty closely, spend several days watching movies non-stop during the French Film Festival or have deep pockets at the 'World Cinema' section of HMV (not that they actually have that much) to get to see this kind of cinema.

Also looking forward to see some of the old films that they've been screening. Les Diaboliques is on the menu in the next few days, as is The Wages of Fear. Again, it saves tracking down DVDs.

However, one interesting thing that they are also doing is showing some French music videos between films. OK, so I have only seen a couple so far, both pretty obvious - Vanessa Paradis and Phoenix - but its a great start and hopefully a platform for more French acts to get the exposure in the UK that they don't get elsewhere.

So today's video is one by Phoenix, giving us the excuse to finally use something by one of the biggest French acts around.

PHOENIX - Lisztomania
Uploaded by Cooperative-Music. - Music videos, artist interviews, concerts and more.

Monday, 7 February 2011

News: Gary Moore RIP

I've always kept this blog as wide as I can when it comes to the definition of 'French' when it comes to music, so I'm putting as today's clip a version of Parisienne Walkways by Gary Moore, the Irish guitarist who died at the weekend.

This has always been a favourite piece that he did. The guitar playing is just beautiful, capturing a perfect melancholy feeling.

I love the way Phil Lynott's vocals remain cool and low key, while the guitar does some extraordinarily emotional work. Really dramatic and affecting stuff without it becoming self-indulgent.

While best know for his work with Thin Lizzy, Gary Moore went on to be one of the most respected blues guitarists around, and you can hear those blues being articulated perfectly in this song.

I reckon he introduced the blues to a whole generation, and if I remember right the Crocojazz record shop in Paris, near the Pantheon, was a great place to pick up some blues music.

A longer obituary piece I wrote earlier is here>

Thursday, 3 February 2011

New - Les Ramoneurs de menhirs 'If the kids are united'

Came across this cover of the old Sham 69 song by Breton punk band Les Ramoneurs de menhirs. Think it sounds pretty great, although I suspect Jimmy Pursey did not write the song with the Breton bombarde in mind.

I heard the original again recently on a local Rock Radio station, hadn't heard it in years, and it certainly put a smile on my face.

This track is from the Amzer an dispac'h album, their second, which was released in 2010.

the album also includes a cover of La Blanche Hermine which includes a vocal contribution by Gilles Servat, the original writer of the song who released it in 1970.

I see from the source of all wisdom that is Wikipedia that they toured Scotland in 2008 with Oi Polloi, would have been great to see the Ramoneurs but I totally missed it. Hope they come back some time soon!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

News: To the heroes of the sea

Fourteen fishermen from Lorient in Brittany found themselves having to be rescued off the west coast of Scotland last night after their vessel ran aground in gale-force winds.

Read the full story here >

I didn't realise that they came up to Scotland, but I suppose given the restrictions on fishing its no surprise that they have to travel far to make a living.

Fishing is a dangerous job at the best of times, and more difficult as a way of life with increased restrictions. Although in many instances these are for good ecological reasons to prevent overfishing, it does make the job more hazardous and less economically viable.

So the 14 crew of the Jack Abry II are safe and sound, thanks to the local coastguard which is also under threat as a consequence of proposed cuts. Which could make it even more dangerous yet for anyone at sea.

Fishing and the sea is of course something engrained in Celtic culture, whether the hebrides or Morbihan, and it has inspired a huge amount of music, and I thought today's tune would be along those lines.

Aux Sombres Héroes de l'Amer was Noir Désir's first hit in France, quite different from their harder-edged later songs, more in common perhaps with the Waterboys. It categorised them for a while as a band that performed sea songs (strange but true!) but they soon got past that.

Their troubled future was ahead of them, but the video is a wonderful piece of history.