Cult Classics Album Breakdown 15

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.

★★★★★★★☆☆☆

7/10

© 2020 jacksmedia.net, Ltd

Top track trio:

League Chicamos

La Ritournelle

Wonderafrica


Cult Classics Album Breakdown 1

Dexys Midnight Runners – Searching For The Young Soul Rebels (1980)

Released in 1980 at the height of the Northern Soul revival, this record by Birmingham’s quirkiest of quirksters draws on a profound Soul sensibility, whilst also experimenting with Funk, Ska, and booming powerhouse Pop melodies.

Searching For The Young Soul Rebels is truly a record of its time; a powerful statement of defiance and fun by Kevin Rowland and his eight-strong army of “boys”. It’s the intense, four-dimensional soundscapes that first grabbed me when I got my hands on a second hand, semi-battered CD copy in the early noughties. New wave meant fresh air; and in a music chart dominated by Punk bands and semi-irrelevant popsters, Dexys were one of the larger waves sweeping over a changing musical landscape.

The album begins with the brilliant, cymbal crashing Burn It Down – full of balls and lifeblood and culture-shifting-angst, it’s a passionate attack on all those who dare demean the Irish and their heritage. Rowland reels off a host of Irish literary giants in defense of this great nation – Oscar Wilde, Brendan Behan, Sean O’Casey, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett and Lawrence Stern, to name but a few. The horns are exquisite, and the vocals thumping. One of Dexy’s finest ever recordings.

Followed by Tell Me When The Light Turns Green – a rousing shifter, once again brought to life by a brilliant horn section, it’s more The Team That Meets In Caffs that pulls the ear into the speaker and wont let go. A moody, edgy instrumental, it demonstrates the true power of this band, and the voice behind them without needing voice. In fact, I ramble. The true voice of this band are those compelling horns.

I’m Just Looking is a gripping song of longing with yet another stunning brass section, followed by the epic bounce of Geno – one of the band’s staple super hits. The beauty of this band is that their music gets inside you before you realise it has to somehow get out. I’ve had many a night pumping the jukebox with Geno, much to the delight of EVERYONE. Seven Days Too Long, quite simply a Northern Soul institution, is every inch as rousing as the original.

I Couldn’t Help If I Tried is a gorgeous ballad sang with deep, raw emotion by Rowland, who flirts with falsetto throughout. It is bluesy in parts, jazzy in others, but at all times grabs you by the shirt collar. A superb change in tempo on an otherwise lively album. Thankfully Not Living In Yorkshire It Doesn’t Apply – just about the oddest song title of them all – certainly lends an ear to the Punk movement of the time with its machine-gun bass, but the organ, coupled with Rowland’s fascinating flying-falsetto, throws the overall sound back into the Northern Soul scene. There is even a suspicion of Disco influence in this track – and that is never anything short of exciting.

And so, it seems that the only way to review this record is track-by-track. There is a spinal cord throughout the music. Love Part One is a unique, spoken word track complemented by a solo saxophone in the background, with an intrigue and poignancy: “They all dedicate lines to you/Thin lines – easy to see through/Of course they do it to be like others who/All feel something I wont pretend just for you.” Now that is cool.

The closing track on the album, There, There My Dear, is an exuberant and emphatic closing performance featuring dynamic backing vocals and a great lyric. And so comes a shock when the vinyl stops spinning and the needle clicks because your world has been nothing but Dexys indulgence for that space in time. As a complete package there are one or two dips, and it’s not looking to tear your heart out and stitch it straight back in. But, damn, it’s a cool record.

Searching For The Young Soul Rebels is a powerful piece of work that captures its time so well – a time when music called for rowdiness and energy and all-out passion.

★★★★★★★★☆☆

8/10

© Jacob Sweetman

Top track trio:

Burn It Down

Geno

Seven Days Too Long