Sébastien Tillier – Politics (2004)
Sebastien Tillier is a French musician, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who represented France in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2008 with his song Divine. Don’t let that put you off. He’s also produced songs for Dita Von Teese, as well as composing music for the French films Narco and Steak. Despite his Eurovision episode, Tillier is not a limelight-grabber; more an eccentric with a very individual approach and solitary direction. He is currently signed to Record Makers, a French independent record label, which released this album – Politics – in 2004.
Politics is Sébastien Tillier’s second album, and one that sparked lively debate about this new and rather mysterious artist. Upon listening to the record you’ll not be at all surprised to learn that he’s friends with French electronica masters, Air – they in fact own the Record Makers label. Their influence is all over Politics. I can also hear the likes of Hot Chip, Scott Walker and Jean Michel-Jarre in there too. The songs are sung in English, German and Spanish, and it has since emerged that he can also sing in Italian. He’s a talented cat, is old Sebastien, but the album is far from perfection. In fact, I’ve rarely been left so frustrated by such a contrast come the end of a record.
Some of this album is stunning. The likes of La Ritournelle is super slick, subtle French pop with the coolest of Air vibes. I’ve read that it has been often compared to Massive Attack’s huge hit Unfinished Sympathy, and I can hear it. The edginess and of that piano hook is equally as hypnotic. Bye-bye recollects Scott Walker in his heyday, Benny is eyes-wide-open quirky (if not a touch irritable), and League Chicanos a roving electro-tinged romp with McCartney-esque juxtapositions and a sublime Latino melody. The Parisian polymath’s sound maybe somewhat unfashionable (with at least one eye on disco), but the seducing synth of Wonderafrica – distinctly 80’s and shamelessly silly, is nothing short of absorbing.
The album has lowlights, too. La Tuerie is practically unbearable. I don’t know how many times the skip button has been employed but it must be two dozen. Also, Ketchup v Genocide is more like a Kraftwerk piss take than a serious entry onto the record, and Zombi a mediocre attempt at You Are What You Is-era Zappa. Maybe Tillier was scraping the barrel, or maybe he just doesn’t give a fuck. Either way, these detours detract from a record with immense potential. Politics would be much more memorable if it weren’t for Tillier’s loose quality control.
If you have an ear for electronica, particularly French band, Air, you’ll probably be fond of Sebastien Tillier. His music is certainly curious, maybe even charming. The good stuff is, actually, really GREAT. His cinematic splashes on the already loungy, laid-back French pop canvas demonstrate an artist with conviction and talent. I bought more of his records after Politics, and i wasn’t disappointed.
Maybe you can too.
Top track trio: