Thursday, 28 April 2011

Rétro: Jacques Dutronc - Les Gens sont Fous

A great piece of vintage garage rock from Jacques Dutronc.

Although he is often more complared to the likes of the Kinks - there's no denying a similar songwriting ability on songs like Il Est Cinq Heures, Paris S'éveille - this song is closer to the kind of proto-punk that appears on various artist compilations of American 60s rock like Nuggets.

Bands like the Standells and the Seeds modelled themselves on the Stones and the Beatles, adapting the blueprint of the British Invasion beat bands of the 60s, and often combining this with he psychedelic elements that were coming in towards the end of the 60s.

Literally hundreds of compilations followed the release of the Nuggets album in 1972, with several volumes of Nuggets, Pebbles, Rubble and such like all mining the rich and obscure seam of psych beat. Many of the acts featured only had success in a small local area, and despite releasing recordings never achieved any widespread notoriety. These were unearthed and finally got the attention they merited from an audience that they failed to attract when their releases first came out.

Dutronc, of course, never had any problem finding an audience, and his career is still going strong. Many years of acting followed his initial musical success, with a César award for is role in Van Gogh, and a return to music with his most recent release, a live document of his 2010 tour featuring guest appearances by Etienne Daho and Vanessa Paradis.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Merzhin - L'étincelle

Breton band Merzhin have recently released a new single L'étincelle, the latest from last year's album - their fourth - Plus Loin Vers L'ouest.

Since 2000 the band have made a folk-influenced rock that has a punky attitude and a celtic flavour.

Merzhin are no strangers to the Vive le Roq blog, and I featured their song Maillot Jaune in January.

Merzin are to feature on a special edition of TV show Taratata about celtic music on May 17, alongside Nolwenn Leroy, Andrea Corr - singing Tinsletown in the Rain, a song originally by Scotland's Blue Nile - Donovan and fellow Breton Alan Stivell.

Merzin are touring the far east in June, with dates in the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Malaysia, and return to play dates in France for festival dates from July.

Merzhin - L'étincelle from Simon Guyomard on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

New: Têtes Raides - Emma

A song I've intended to mention for a while here but just have not got round to doing so far is the song Emma by Têtes Raides, featuring Jeanne Moreau.

Têtes Raides have been active since the 1980s, and the track comes from their 2011 album L'an demain.

Their debut album Not Dead But Bien Raides was released in 1989.

While very much in the loose tradition of French chanson, Têtes Raides approach it from the angle of alternative rock. By using recognisably traditional elements to their sound they come up with something that goes beyond the usual frontiers of rock music.

The late-night down at heel latin jazz vibe in this number reminds me of Tindersticks, a band very much influenced by French music.

Jeanne Moreau is of course one of the biggest female figures in French cinema. Along with iconic roles in Nouvelle Vague films like Jules et Jim and Lift to the Scaffold her filmography reads like a history of French cinema in the 20th century and beyond, encompassing the work of some of the greatest directors.

She has also had a career as a singer, although she is less well known outside France for her musical endeavours. In this song she reminds me of Marianne Faithful in her later work, who although of a similar vintage to Moreau, is as equally unafraid of collaborating with musicians from a younger generation.

Alain Bashung: Le Dimanche à Tchernobyl

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.

It is worth remembering the sacrifice of those who gave their lives and their health bringing one of Europe's biggest disasters under control and also preventing an almost unimaginable worse disaster.

It is estimated by some that the disaster had a total death toll of just under one million lives, but had the liquidators not prevented a further nuclear explosion at the plant, much of Ukraine and Belarus would have been destroyed and Europe rendered a radioactive exclusion zone like the one in place in Ukraine and Belarus surrounding the plant.

The nuclear cloud came across western Europe, and stopped at the French border, before resuming its progress in the UK. The fact that France heavily depends on nuclear power might have had something to do with the French government's position.

The track is from Alain Bashung's 2002 album L'Imprudence, an album viewed by most critics as his darkest work, and also among his finest.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Commercial break: Mr Day - Food for Soul

A quick update today as it is the first of several bank holidays in the UK today, as well as the first day of actual proper decent weather...summer is on its way!

So I'm still listinging to some great funky stuff, and was surprised to hear that a track by Mr Day, produced by Patchworks (aka Mr President - see Vive le Roq blog entry from earlier this week) was used for a coffee advert.

The link is to the French version, but it was aired in the UK - although with a different voice over. Helpfully the French version reminds people to eat five portions of fruit or veg a day for health reasons. Well, coffee comes from beans - a vegetable - so I should be OK.

Of course, the French relationship with any kind of instant coffee is an ambiguous one. There are plenty of brands of decent ground coffee on sale in the supermarkets and shops, and most cafés wouldn't entertain the idea of instant, but someone in France is buying loads of the stuff as a visit to any supermarket shows.

The original version of the song is available to listen to here >

So if you need any encouragement to take a coffee break, here's a pretty good reason to get the kettle on.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Rétro: Mylene Farmer - Pourvu qu'elles soient douces

Mylene Farmer is back with the title track of her Bleu Noir album released as a single last month, so I thought it worth it to have a look back at her first major success, the song Pourvu qu'elles soient douces.

With a total of ten number ones in France so far, a record for the country, this was her first from 1988, which unquestionably established her artistic reputation.

It was the third single from her second album, Ainsi Soit Je.., which remeains one of her most critically acclaimed releases

In no small part the credit for this has to go to the video, which with production values that were higher than many films of the era, costing around 1.5 million francs and needing 600 extras.

It works more as a short film than a music video, the music section of it only a fraction of its total running time. It was apparently scheduled for a cinematic release as a short before the main feature film, but this never happened for fear that it would make the main feature look bad.

Of course, were it made these days it would be mostly done with CGI for a fraction of the cost, and with less nudity and violence so as to be more broadcast friendly.

Mylene was certainly pushing the boundaries in the late 80s, and while others might
have continued to make videos that attract controversy, few have managed to do so with such artistic credibility.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

New: French Music Podcast UK - été 67

Another heads-up for the latest edition of the excellent French Music Podcast UK, an essential 30 minute round-up of some of the freshest and best sounds from the hexagon and beyond.

This edition, number 14 no less, features Medi, Kid North, Shaka Ponk, Mintzkov, Mr. President, Dominique Fillon & été '67.

French Music Podcast UK - Number 14 - 17th April 2011 by French Music Podcast UK

The standout act for me this time has to be Belgian band été 67.

They released their first proper CD in 2005, a four track EP, attracting airplay in Belgium as well as in France, Switzerland and Canada. Their first self-titled album came out the following year.

Passer la Frontiere, their second album, was released in Belgium in 2010 on Team4Action records, and has now been released in France.

The band were formed in 1998 in a town near Liège, taking their name from the Summer of Love, with a nod to the music that came out then, from the debut albums of the velvet Underground and the Pink Floyd, to the Beatles' Sgt Pepper and key releases by the Rolling Stones and the Doors.

But for all their apparent nostalgia, and the folk-rock flavour of their music not being a million miles away from the likes of classic artists like Neil Young, they're no look-back fantasists. Their music as modern as the likes of Mumford and Sons, who just happen to be a million selling award-winning act, so hopefully some of that much-deserved success will come the way of these young Belgians.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

New : Mr President - The Best is Yet to Come

Mr President is based in Lyon and the single The Best is Yet to Come comes from his first solo album Number One which was released on March 7 2011.

The track features featuring French artists Hawa and Mr Day.

It's a great slice of retro jazz funk that wouldn't sound out of place on the soundtrack of a '70s Blaxploitation flick. It's soul with a muscular edge, the kind of groove that James Brown or Curtis Mayfield would be proud of.

Mr President is the latest project from Patchworks, also known as Bruno Hovart, who has also worked under the names Uptown Funk Empire, The Dynamics and Metropolitan Jazz Affair.

He has been working as a producer since the mid 90s after playing bass in a number of bands, and has been working to capture the old school rawness of vintage soul using contemporary means.

I'd be very surprised if tracks like the Afrobeat tinged From North to South don't find themselves being used by film or TV producers wanting a flavour of that organic funk vibe.

Sharp-eyed viewers might notice that the video doesn't seem to be set in present-day Lyon...who knew the city looked so much like 70s New York? ;-)

Anyway, to mark the release, Mr President and his label Favourite Recordings have launched a remix competition for The Best is Yet to Come. The three winning remixes will be released as a digital EP by the company. Get more details from the record company's website >

Monday, 18 April 2011

New: Record Store Day - Team Ghost

This weekend's Record Store Day saw a couple of French acts releases a split single, Team Ghost and Anoraak, with each band remixing the other's work.

The single was a limited release of just 250 copies on blue vinyl, and if you managed to get one you were luckier than I was!

Team Ghost was formed by Nicolas Fromageau, originally in the duo M83, who released two albums, M83 (2002) and Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts (2003), before Fromageau left the band.

Relocating to Paris, he teamed up with Christophe Guérin and producer/manager Jean-Philippe Talaga and began working as Team Ghost.

They released their debut EP You Never Did Anything Wrong to Me on the UK label Sonic Cathedral in April 2010, a second EP Celebrate what You Can't See released in November 2010.

Team Ghost has just started work on their debut album, recording it in Carpentras in Vaucluse, in south east France.

The band are being brought over to the UK for the Oui Love Tour to play some dates co-headlining with Anoraak.

Sat 14/05 Brighton, The Great Escape
Mon 16/05 Bristol, The Louisiana
Tues 17/05 Birmingham, Hare and Hounds
Wed 18/05 Manchester, The Castle
Thu 19/05 Liverpool, Liverpool Sound City
Fri 20/05 London, CAMP

Thursday, 14 April 2011

News: Record Store Day - Charlotte Gainsbourg

Saturday April 16 is International Record Store Day, where in an effort to encourage you to shop in your local independent record shop there are a whole host of special limited edition goodies up for sale.

With decent record shops becoming very much an endangered species, it's a welcome and worthy endeavour, and well worth supporting.

It originally started in the US in 2007, and has since spread internationally to both the UK and France. The UK sees 180 shops involved, and over 250 special releases marking the day.

This year there are some french acts involved in the special releases being made available in the UK.

Probably the most interesting is a special seven inch by Charlotte Gainsbourg, a split release with Irish band Villagers. The Charlotte Gainsbourg track is one called Memoir, written by Conor O'Brien from Villagers after Charlotte approached him to write a song for her to perform.

They recorded the song together in Paris with Feist producer Renaud Letang.

It comes two years after her Beck produced album IRM, and ahead of the planned release later this year of a compilation called Live and Unreleased, a double album which will include Memoir.

Also for Record store day is a limited release (250 copies on a blue vinyl seven inch single on Sonic cathedral Recordings) by Anoraak and Team Ghost where each act remixes each other's track ( Dolphins & Highways / A Glorious Time) to mark their Oui Love tour of the UK.

Meanwhile, Ed Banger Records releases a limited box set of 7 inch vinyl, featuring a demo version of Justice's Civilisation.

For more information on Record Store Day in the UK, go here >

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

New: Johnny Hallyday - La Douceur de Vivre

A new video by Johnny Hallyday, La Douceur de Vivre, the second from his Jamais Seul album which was released at the end of March.

The album went to number one in France just one week after it was released. Johnny's return after last year's difficulties has certainly been a welcome one.

Johnny appears like a rock 'n' roll Tom Jones in the video, with Johnny looking as rugged as the crags on California's Pacific Coast Highway, but it's nice to see the classic Americana of JH balanced with a very contemporary french couple in the clip.

The song has the qualities that Johnny's fans will love, I imagine it will go down particularly well on his summer tour.

According to Johnny's website, Jamais Seul has sold just over 97,000 copies on CD and just under 2,000 on legal downloads, figures that certainly suggest Johnny's fans prefer CD to download.

Worth remembering that Johnny has sold over 100 million records in his career so far, a figure comparable to the likes of Guns 'n' Roses, Metallica, Rod Stewart, Phil Collins and the Who, all acts that have both a massive international followings and are recognised as A-list celebrities in the UK and US media.

With Jamais Seul selling the way it is, and with the tour over the summer, Johnny's probably well on his way towards his second 100 million sales.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Jean-Michel Jarre - Hey Gagarin

Marking the 50th anniverary of one of the most extraordinary events in human history, the space flight made by cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in 1961.

With Vostok 1 he became the first human in space, and now that the cold war rivalries of the day are forgotten, the event can be remembered by all as the incredible achievement it was.

While his flight only lasted one hour 48 minutes, it changed the way we look not only at space, but at the world we live in as well.

Following his historic flight, Gagarin was an international celebrity and visited many other countries, as a popular ambassador promoting the USSR's achievement. Gagarin visited France in 1963.

The Jean Michel Jarre track is from his 2000 album Métamorphoses, which, while not his most commercially successful album, certainly established his much-deserved place at the forefront of "dance" music.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Rétro - Johnny Hallyday and Carla Bruni

Sometimes there are moments in French music that are almost surreal when you look at them.

Case in point is this one, a duet by Johnny Hallyday, French rock 'n' roll icon who remains pretty well unknown outside the French-speaking world - duetting with Carla Bruni, the chanteuse and ex-model who is these days best known as the wife of President Sarkozy.

The song was originally written by Michel Berger and performed by Johnny in 1985 on the Rock 'n' Roll Attitude album.

Berger was the husband of and musical collaborator with France Gall between '74 and his death in 1992.

He was a singer-songwriter in his own right, and is best known in France for the rock opera Starmania, which was a massive hit. His work with France Gall re-established her career in the 70s and 80s, writing her best-known songs during this period.

As I said, this clip seems tremendously strange. The wife of the president duetting with a singer either seen as the living embodiment of Rock 'n' Roll or as a past-it ham who never really had any artistic merit to begin with and has gone downhill since is pretty strange concept to the non-French listener.

Stranger still is that it sounds pretty great as well.

Friday, 8 April 2011

New: Hotroad - Insanity

If you like your thrash old school, Swiss band Hotroad are playing something that you'll enjoy.

Thrash was a huge movement that re-invigorated the rock scene, and American acts like Metallica and Megadeth (as well as Slayer and Anthrax to list the full Big Four) are credited as the main innovators, but there were many European bands who were also at the front line of the revolution in the 80s, with Kreator and Sodom from Germany being among them.

So the fact that Hotroad are from Switzerland (Lausanne in Vaud, the French speaking part of the country of course!) shouldn't exclude them from the critical attention that new generation thrash acts are getting, with the likes of Municipal Waste and Gama Bomb getting the credit for re-inventing the scene.

Like metal in general, thrash has established a huge international following, with acts developing the genre in pretty much every country, and Hotroad's debut album Insanity holds up well against the international competition.

They claim influences from Pantera, Motorhead and Metallica, and these elements can certainly be heard throughout the album, which was released in late 2010.

The band is a four piece, Loïc Tapia on lead guitar, Florian Grobéty on bass, Coowar Thierry on rhythm guitar an vocals and Théophile Burnat on drums.

Sure, they can rock with the brutality that their genre demands, but they are capable of some serious stunt playing. Check out The Fear of the Unknown for a lesson in how to create a bit of atmosphere while keeping the foot down.

Highlight for me was probably the track The Last Redemption, a slow-building heavy instrumental that gives the band a full seven minutes plus to showcase their skills.

More on Hotroad here >

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Rétro - Serge Gainsbourg, Johnny Hallyday and Gérard Depardieu

Three of the big figures of French culture for the price of one in this clip, Serge Gainsbourg, Johnny Hallyday and Gérard Depardieu.

The song is Harley Davidson, which was a big hit for Brigitte Bardot that was written by Gainsbourg in the late 60s.

This is the reggae arrangement of the song that Gainsbourg himself would perform in the 80s following his Aux Armes et Caetera and Mauvaises Nouvelles des étoiles albums.

Of course, it doesn't take much of an expertise in either French language or motorcycles to spot that the song is about a Harley Davidson and the bike in the video is a BMW!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Live: Yelle in Glasgow

Yelle were playing in Glasgow last night supporting Katy Perry at the SECC as part of her California Dreams tour, and there was a review of the gig on the STV website that had some great things to say about the French band.

While the article focussed on the big-budget show by Katy Perry, reviewer Kirstin Lynn wrote: "French dance-pop trio YELLE grabbed a hyped crowd on their side before infecting them with retro synths and modern beats."

"With intense rhythms and grimey electronics the band seem to fit nicely into the rulebook of French dance being done incredibly well. A few songs later though and YELLE are a bit more up-beat euro-pop than Daft Punk."

She added: "...the enthusiastic YELLE are the stubbornly hyperactive soundtrack to a sugar rush and leave the SECC sweet, if a little sweaty for a certain Miss Katy Perry and her Californian Dream Tour."

Read the full review here >

Good to see Yelle getting some well-deserved attention. Much of the press so far about the support acts for the Katy Perry tour has been about the spat between DJ Calvin Harris and Katy Perry that saw him leave the tour without any mention of Yelle, so good to see them get the kind of review that they deserve.

Yelle released their second album Disco Safari Club earlier this year.

The Katy Perry tour should see Yelle playing to a massive new audience, and one that is exactly right for Yelle. Hopefully France's brightest stars are set to go far in 2011

(Yelle picture from the Glasgow show at the top of the page is by Tony Lynch)

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

New: Daft Punk - Tron Legacy: R3CONFIGUR3D

While Daft Punk's Tron: Legacy soundtrack was certainly long awaited, I think it left some people a little disappointed as its overall downbeat and sparse nature didn't lend it to the dancefloor, and a feeling that they should just get on with a proper follow-up to 2005's Human After All.

However, it succeeded in being a more experimental release for the French duo, allowing them to take a step well outside the field of dance music. It also managed to fulfil the expectations of a cinema audience while leaving the band's artistic credibility intact.

It was also their highest-profile release so far, taking them to a whole new audience.

However, even if the original release may not have been on the same scale as a full new Daft Punk album, there would certainly be some great remixes to be come, and Tron Legacy: R3CONFIGUR3D collects several of these.

Collaborators on the album includes The Crystal Method, Moby, Photek, Glitch Mob and Paul Oakenfold. They are not names that you would normally associate with a Disney release, and it is all the better for it.

Involvement in a soundtrack work can lead to an artist diluting what they do best in a bid to please an audience that actually isn't all that interested in what they do.

But Daft Punk came away from the Tron: Legacy with credit, and R3CONFIGUR3D builds well on its success.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Editorial: April 2011

A quick editorial piece is probably in order, as much to thank all those who visited the Vive le Roq blog last month as anything else.

The blog had more visitors in the last month than it has had in all the months of the previous year put together.

So thanks for dropping by.

Obviously writing more has paid off, so I'll aim to continue in that way.

Similarly, thanks are in order to those who have been in touch, bands and labels and their representatives. It is good to know that the blog is not only appreciated, but that it seems to be useful as well. I can't ask for more than that.

Incidentally, if any labels, bands or PR folk want to get in touch, just send me an email to johnkilbrideAThotmailDOTcom (replacing the AT and DOT with the appropriate symbols, obviously...)

New: Julien Doré - Kiss Me Forever

A new video by Julien Doré, for the song Kiss Me Forever, a song from his new album Bichon.

The album was released on March 21, and is the follow-up to his debut album Ersatz, which reached number two in France on 2009, the song Les Limites making it to number one.

Not bad for the winner of TV talent show Nouvelle Star - the French version of the UK's Pop Idol - which Doré won in 2007.

While Will Young has gone on to have a music career in the UK, Michelle McManus, the other Pop Idol winner, has in recent years concentrated on her TV career in Scotland.

I can't imagine any TV talent show winner in the UK coming up with something like this, perhaps the kind of thing that someone like Jarvis Cocker might come up with, with a not to Sébastien Tellier and Serge Gainsbourg.

It's both pretty funny and pretty clever, but given that he covered Alizée's Moi...Lolita and Britney Spears's Baby one More Time on Nouvelle Star he certainly showed a sense of humour and a self-awareness that the likes of Darius were lacking in the UK version of the show.

The album cover is great, but I wonder how many listeners outside France don't realise he's being perhaps just a little bit tongue in cheek.

But what we area seeing once again is an artist who, given the initial exposure of a TV talent show, has gone on to show that there's a lot more to their talent that being able to do a passable cover of a Beatles song with a big band backing on live TV.

In the UK the TV talent show contestants seem to be chosen just to fulfill the expectations of the programme, and once the momentum of that exposure expires, they can't offer enough to sustain a career.

A song like this shows Julien Doré has much more to offer, and has gone well beyond the expectations of TV music shows. I suspect we are just seeing the beginning of a long career.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Commercial break: David Guetta

David Guetta has announced that he is getting involved in a scheme with Coca Cola's energy drink Burn to give DJs who want to emulate his success their big break.

There will also be a documentary film made about Guetta, now one of the biggest figures in the dance music scene, who has gone from playing in Paris nightclubs to be one of the most in-demand producers in the world. From playing the tunes at venues like the Rex and Folies Pigalle he has gone to collaborate with the likes of Black Eyed Peas, Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, Kylie Minogue and Madonna.

Getting Over You was a number one in France, and became his third number one in the UK after When Love Takes Over and Sexy Bitch (or Sexy Chick for those listening during the daytime).

Speaking about the scheme he told the Reuters news agency: "I've always wanted to, how can I say, give back the love a little bit to younger producers,"

"I've been very, very blessed with success, and I want to help other people achieve this.

Speaking about the documentary film, which will cover him and his music and also the wider context of the dance music scene, he said: "People from my generation and even younger know my history, but a lot of kids don't know the history of this music."

Work on the documentary is expected to begin in April and for it to be released in September.

More details about the DJ contest are expected to be posted on the energy drink's website, The winner will get his or her big chance to play records at Guetta's dance parties in Ibiza.