Dis moi quelque chose en francais, mon ami.
What do I know about the French?
Not much. I only know the French that many people know. Romantic, subtle, a lover of beauty in all forms. It is, sadly, a superficial way of getting to know them, as I would find out recently during my increasingly frequent interactions with the French people.
My kind and fantastic friends made me want to know more about their very interesting culture, which is definitely not just about King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and the architecture of the Eiffel tower. The French are not just about foie gras, fillet mignon, vin, fromage; they are not just the human race which speaks the language that Maurice Arcache is so crazy about. (Je comprends maintenant, mon palangga. Hahahah!)
The French is a lot more than that. Apparently French music is just one of the aspects of their culture that I discover to be so wonderfully diverse. It is sad that I come to appreciate this only now, but I guess it is not yet too late for me, and for the non-French speaking music-loving denizens of the world.
For one, punk does exist in France. Oui! It was born almost at the same time punk exploded in England. A brief discussion on the French punk and new wave from 1975 to 1985 appears here.
(Photo at left: Album cover of the compilation of French punk tunes, 1977-1980, released by EMI France in 2002.)
It is quite known that France dishes out some of the best electronic music around, with Daft Punk being its best-known export to the world. However, there is so much more to French electronic music than Daft Punk. A great number of artists create sonically rich materials that tend to be dark, one would be wondering if being gloomy is an actual characteristic of the French.
Folk music is one genre I have personally most associated French music as a whole: the French does seriously good folk songs. But it was a pleasant surprise for me to find some pretty cool French hiphop, metal, and even dub pieces, too.
It makes me sad that the problem of language (not to mention the problem of payola in the popular airwaves!) has a lot to do with our lack of awareness and access to music that are worth listening. One need not look far: our very own local artists who deserve airplay do not get enough of it. The same can be said about out Southeast Asian neighbours. So what more about the very remotely based French music? (Isn't American music just as remote, in the first place?)
This aching desire to hear something quite new, as well as my current fascination for the French, prompted me to create this playlist. Mes amis et amies sont ma source d'inspiration pour cette playlist. I hope you all like it. Oui, right this moment I am already working on Part 2. Below is the list:
1. ALAIN GORAGUER - "Terr et Tiwa Dorment"
"Terr et Tiwa Dorment" comes from the highly acclaimed soundtrack recording of the 1973 film "La Planete Sauvage". I came across this album through the recommendation of no less than Arvin Nogueras (known to most as Caliph8). We here at Trash Radio Manila had and will always respect Arvin's musical taste, so it is but fair to say that a recommendation from him is worth a listen or two. And I am happy to have done it again.
2. OBERKAMPF - "La Marseillaise"
Probably one of the most popular punk bands in France in the 1975-1985 era. Often cited as the band that burned down the French flag onstage. Joe Hell, vocalist for this group, sounds like a cross between Stiv Bators and Billy Idol, which is curiously a good thing.
3. ETRON FOU LELOUBLAN - "Yvett'Blouse"
EFL's music is described by most as progressive rock, others avant-garde, and I even came across an article that says they are punk. What the heck was that all about! "Yvett'Blouse" is from the album Batelages, a fine showcase of the band's musical skills and sonic brilliance. I enjoyed listening to this album, it certainly takes some bit of getting used to. Then again, it is all a matter of taste: I just have to say, different is good for everyone.
4. METAL URBAIN - "Cle De Contact"
The first ever release by Rough Trade is actually a single by this band titled "Paris Maquis". Metal Urban was punk, but used synth and drum machines at the same time, and if you were a kid living during the late 1970s when punk was in full swing, this would probably had blown your mind away. Or maybe, confuse you. An excerpt in their biography that appears on their MySpace account reads as follows: "(On the topic of Metal Urbain's single "Panik" b/w "Lady Coca-Cola") "Panik" on Side A was very angry punk, but not like any punk we’d ever heard before. I loved the screaming synth noises and the pissed-off French lyrics. I could not understand the French, but it completely destroyed the idea that the French could not rock because the language did not fit the music. Now French was a fiery punk weapon. But the real shock was the B-side, "Lady Coca-Cola." It was not really punk, more an attack of pure noise. Maybe a little Heldon/R. Pinhas, but more like being attacked by dentist’s drills coming out of the stereo—wow! These guys weren’t just different, they were insane." The author: Jello Biafra.
5. STALAG - "Date Limité de Vente"
The band Stalag was short-lived, producing only one 7" in its entire existence. This song is at Side B, and the vinyl came out in 1981. Not much has been written about these guys. There is a site dedicated to Stalag, but heaven help me, I'd rather refer you to the site. (My command of the French language, I admit, is very weak, and a lot of things may be lost in translation if I make further attempts.)
6. SELENITE VOX - "Voix Dans Le Tunnel"
This song is part of a rare split 10" released by Selenite Vox and Les Abscons in 1982. Both bands played around with experimental sounds, and the album was titled PRZ001AB. You can read more about Selenite Vox on their MySpace site.
7. SNIX - "Madou"
It's French Oi! this time. Snix was formed in 1982 and eventually recorded a full-length LP titled "Coeur De Lion", from which "Madou" comes. The song also appears in a number of compilations, one of which is "Oi! The French Connection".
8. AUSWEIS (with PUPPA LESLIE) - "Cours Leslie Cours Dub"
Ausweis and the late Puppa Leslie recorded "Dub Action" (the album from which this track came out), which proved to be a courageous move for them. "Dub Action" is a political album and no label (except for Danceteria) was willing to release it, furthering the rather subversive image attached to the group's reputation. More about Ausweis in their MySpace site.
9. STINKY TOYS - "Driver Blues"
Another recognisable name in French punk. Stinky Toys are from Rennes, and while they are at the receiving end of not-so-kind reviews a good number of time (described as bland), there is no denying that the group were one of the pioneers of the early Paris punk scene. (Photo off the band's MySpace site)
10. SONERIEN DU - "Chench Tu"
I thought it best to wrap up this playlist with "Chench Tu", a song from a group called Sonerien Du. Sonerien Du comes from Bretagne, a place which, as far as I know, is home to some of the most enduring French folk music around. This group is just as enduring, they were formed in 1971 and still perform to this very day. Check them out.
I enjoyed doing this, you know? The list may confuse most of you, but I had fun and it is all good. If you had fun just like I did, merci beaucoup! If not...then, how about Part 2?
A bientôt tout le monde! :)
Ma gratitude: Please take a look at these sites.
La Folie Du Jour (http://01fragments.blogspot.com/)
Ezhevika Fields (http://ezhevika.blogspot.com/)
France Music (http://francemusik.blogspot.com/)
Nostalgie De La Boue (http://nostalgie-de-la-boue.blogspot.com/)
Phoenix Hairpins (http://phoenixhairpins.blogspot.com/)
Good Bad Music for Bad Bad Times! (http://www.goodbadmusic.com/)