FrancaisOK: The brilliant and popular music of France
WHAT is France famous for?
Well, the French are well known for amazing food and booze, not to mention being some of the finest smokers on the planet. They’re great at art house cinema, having sexy accents and as the Tour De France has shown (see? Topical), some of the most incredible countryside on the planet.
However, often derided is French music. France, we’re told, is rubbish when it comes to making tunes. Ha ha! Says the world. The FRENCH? Pop music? SHUTTUP!
France has been making some of the best, funnest music on the planet for years! Novelty records and holiday camp europop isn’t solely what France is about, so with that, let us look at some of the greatest French music ever produced over the years.
C’est une musique à nos oreilles!
So, you know all about the robots and that, when they show up, we have a good summer. They control dancefloors just like they control the weather. Here is one of their earlier efforts.
Ace singer-songwriter Camille is definitely someone you need in your life. She makes music out of her own body parts and it sounds like brilliant pop and not at all like Bobby McFerrin.
Cult favourites, Stereolab, create a special kind of hush around people of a certain age. They mixed together space-age cocktail jazz, French library electronics (more on that later) and arch 60s pop to make for one of the most wonderful bands who ever lived.
Listen. Serge is more that That Song With The Orgasm In It. SG is a proper genius and madman and France rightly honoured his death with a national day of mourning. Here’s a cut from his utterly sublime ‘Melody Nelson’ LP, which saw Serge teaming up with another French powerhouse, Jean Claude Vannier.
Without anyone noticing, Phoenix became one of the biggest bands in the whole world, headlining festivals and generally conquering the world. Former bandmates of Daft Punk (they were in a band together called ‘Darlin”), they’ve applied their wry take on the world to some of the most gorgeous pop-rock music ever recorded.
Dutronc was one of France’s first pop heroes, cutting a suave, cheeky figure in the 60s. He was a bigwig at Vogues Disques (arguably France’s greatest record label), wrote songs for others, was a mean actor and Francoise Hardy liked him enough to marry him. Jacques Dutronc may not be a household name outside of French speaking countries, but that’s the fault of the rest of the world.
A new wave of garage punk/ye ye groups exploded around Paris which were known as ‘les bébés rockers’. Les Plastiscines were one of a number of bands that appeared on the excellent ‘Paris Calling’ compilation. Soon, they’d release their debut ‘LP1’ and they never looked back.
Another one of France’s first pop-stars, Polnareff tried his hands at loads of different styles, but his most classy joint is the incredible instro ‘Voyages’.
Another of the les bébés rockers, The Hellboys were greasy, leopard print garage punk straight out of the dirty daydreams of The Cramps and Link Wray. Sadly, the lead singer Nikola Acin (a very interesting man worth looking up) died aged just 34 years old.
Britain has the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. France had people like Cecil Leuter to test the limits of early electronics and synthesizers. Some of his music is eerie and spacey… others, like the one below, is unhinged bubbling synth funk. The best bit? His real name was Roger Roger. Leuter, along with other French Library music makers helped to shape pop the world over by showing what was possible with electronic music.
Air took over the world with ‘Moon Safari’ with their retro-futuristic take on pop music. They continued slightly under the radar, by including prog and doing film soundtracks… but they’re still brilliant.
Klub Des Loosers
French hip hop usually means people lazily linking to MC Solaar. Of course, MC Solaar is great, but seeing as he’s guested on Missy Elliot records, he doesn’t need further promotion. So here we are, with Klub Des Loosers, who really should give you the bug to find more French rap.
You may remember Oizo as being that guy who gave the world Flat Eric with the Levi’s ad which included ‘Flat Beat’. However, Oizo is one of the most innovative, ferocious music producers on the planet. Check out the incredible, jarring, cut and paste jackhammer that is ‘halfanedit’.
Missed out your favourite French song or band? You know where the comments are.