Favourite Records 2016 #2: French Boutik Front Pop
Good pop music from France? That’s impossible, you think? Well, there you go. Think of Phoenix, Daft Punk and Air. But better you listen immediately to Front Pop, the superb album debut from Parisian mod power pop combo French Boutik. Fantastic pop music from France is nothing impossible. Word! The heavy weight of the traditional classic French chanson dominated popular French music maybe too long, and perhaps it wasn’t an ideal matrix for exciting new pop music from Paris or elsewhere in the land of Jean-Paul Belmondo, Catherine Deneuve, cool jazz, existential philosophy and picturesque cafes. But in the sixties, in the undertow of The Beatles, France and the French definitely learned to swing in a thrilling modern way. The yeh-yeh-wave with the wonderful, goddess-like beat girl Françoise Hardy or Jacques Dutronc, her later husband and father of her son, lighted French pop music as well as the extraordinary artist Serge Gainsbourg, who with a little help from sexy singers like Brigitte Bardot or Jane Birkin made super fantastic music. This brings us back to French Boutik again. This fab band consists of the cool Zelda Aquil, drums, backing vocals; charming Gabriela Giacoman, vocals, backing vocals, percussion; nonchalant Serge Hoffman, guitar, vocals; and last but not least thoughtful Jean-Marc Joannès, bass. The main songwriter is Hoffman, usually in co-production with Aquil or Giacoman.
Honestly, I discovered French Boutik by chance, taking a detour through Popincourt’s super fantastic debut album A New Dimension to Modern Love, my most favourite record in 2016, where French Boutik singer Gabriela Giacoman sings so enchantingly. On the other hand Popincourt mastermind Olivier Popincourt plays Hammond organ on Front Pop, my favourite record #2 in 2016. Having released already three EPs, French Boutik, after writing new songs in Paris for some months, turned to beautiful Hamburg, German seaport of Beatles fame, where they recorded Front Pop in the small but really cool Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Studios. Whereas Popincourt’s songs spread their romantic charm in English, French Boutik sing their songs mostly in French. But both acts gain more and more respond, more appreciation and a growing audience in the United Kingdom as well as in continental Europe. Their pro-European open-mindedness and simpatico internationality are practically the antithesis to EU fatigue, Brexit and Trumpdom. The situation is kind of similar to the 1980s, to the tough years of UK Prime Minister, Iron Lady Margret Thatcher, when Paul Weller’s second band The Style Council sought to overcome the grey dreariness of the era with their optimistic soul jazz pop, commuting between London, Paris, Rome and Detroit. This attitude isn’t only sympathetic, at the same time French Boutik do sound onFront Pop irresistibly fresh and overwhelmingly charming.
In terms of their music French Boutik, who are like Paul Weller convinced Mods, orientate their new French beat more on the electrifying power pop and passionate guitar frenzy of The Jam, the almighty Modfather’s first band. French Boutik pay homage to the beat, soul and mod feeling of the swinging sixties as well as to the spirit of the punk and new wave of the 1970s and early 1980s. They reinterpret Françoise Hardy’s delightful sixties hit „Je Ne Suis La Pour Personne“ convincingly groovy, but at the same time they have splendid self-penned songs like „Impitoyable”, „Le Mac“, „Sur Mon Ecranor”, „Le Casse” or „Costard Italien“, all of them sung in French. But just like „Hitch A Ride“ and „The Rent“, both sung in English, they all have alert lyrics about political and social themes or more romantic or just everyday life topics. French Boutik go for sharp guitar riffs, crispy drums, a melodic, funky bass, juicy organ sounds, catchy melodies and the captivating girl harmonies of Gabriela Giacoman and Zelda Aquil. Theirs is the new, charismatic new French pop; the new French beat from Paris. Those who said already yes to Popincourt’s wonderful new pop vision should with no doubt also say yes to French Boutik.
PS: The vinyl LP edition of French Boutik not only allures with its cool cover, but has also to offer a stylishly designed inner sleeve with all the song lyrics printed, a double sided poster with some other nonchalant band pics and a useful MP3 download code. What a fine package that is. Merci beaucoup, French Boutik.
French Boutik Front Pop, Detour Records/CopaseDisques, 2016
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