Like Bashung

Tels Alain Bashung is a just-released tribute to the great French rocker, who passed away in 2009. He left a discography that, for the non-French listener, has as much turn-ons as turn-offs. He wasn’t a fantastic singer, technically. He had, as Sky said already in the post below, a tendency for pumped up stadium-rock and yes, he was obsessed by Dylan. Yet, albums like Play Blessures, Fantaisie Militaire and Osez Joséphine are still very listenable, and songs like La nuit je mens or Madame rêve lost nothing of their emotional value. Plus, he played in a few very good videos (like Volutes). On Tels Alain Bashung, FS-faves like Keren Ann, Vanessa Paradis, M, Dionysos and Benjamin Biolay make his songs their own. No stinkers here (ok, well, Christophe maybe channels some bad stadiumrock-vibes). On the dvd that accompanies the cd, almost all artists tell melancholic stories about Bashung, his songs and their memories. Oddly, rock-trio Mustang is also featured, yet they’re not the album. Shame. Their approach to rock ‘n roll is very much in the vein of another of Bashungs heroes, Gene Vincent.

Keren Ann – Je fume pur oublier que tu bois
Alain Bashung – Je fume pour oublier que tu bois

Note from Sky’s editorial desk: I beg to differ, Guuz — Christophe’s cover of Bashung’s Alcaline has class and haute tension.

Christophe – Alcaline
Alain Bashung – Alcaline.mp3

Dead Beats and a Sad Tomato

On the cover of her brand new album 101, Keren Ann tries to sell us a tough babe royale with cheese, Honey Bunny style, but actually, the box contains just dead beats and a sad tomato. Nine years ago, the forlorn princess of her nouvelle chanson debut La Disparition told an exceptionally seductive story of longing and melancholia – high in the ranks of FS’s best-of-the-decade albums, and rightly so –, and maybe it was nowhere to go but down from there. While 07’s Lay Your Head Down already was a huge disappointment, 101, also English lyrics only, finally comes as a lesson in artistic rigour and negative energy, oscillating indecisively between neo folk and a pale silhouette of 90s dream pop: half of the tracks – sounding like a portable pulled out of a swamp – are oppressively boring Hope Sandoval copies, the uptempo songs indie pop bubblegum of the shallowest kind, while the title tune offers a bromidic 5:30 min loop that only serves to induce chronic fatigue syndrome, but fast. The limp vegetable is Keren Ann herself. Confusing intimacy with ennui, the royalty of yore has a new title: tristesse drama queen of the year.

Keren Ann – She Won’t Trade It for Nothing

Sylvie Vartan

Legendary ye-ye singer Sylvie Vartan returns with a very strong album, produced by Keren Ann & Doriand, who also wrote a couple of songs. Others who contributed are Benjamin Biolay (La Vanité, great song), David Hallyday (her son), La Grande Sophie and Etienne Daho. The production is very sixties, with plush keys, loads of strings and guitars drowning in echo. Duet-partners are Doriand, Julien Doré and Arthur H. Vartan isn’t the world’s best singer anymore – then again, she never was. This album is way better than the rehashes on Nouvele Vague.  See the duet with Doré  here. Read an English interview with Sylvie here.

Sylvie Vartan & Doriand – Je me détacherai

Bruni vs Bowie

“It has to go down as one of the worst covers in the history of rock, although there are certainly a few by Tom Jones I would rank lower.” “Absolute Rubbish.” “What did David do to deserve this?” Random comments from French magazines and websites (see here for more) on Carla Sarkozy-Bruni’s take on David Bowie’s Absolute Beginners. She recorded it for the (DB-management approved) tribute album We Were So Turned On, a double-album with covers from Duran Duran, A Place to Bury Strangers, Warpaint and John Frusciante.  (See also here) Some are good, most are so-so. The odd thing for a charity album is the limited availability – you can only buy it in the UK iTunes store (and listen to it on Spotify, worldwide), but webshops outside of the UK don’t sell it. Yet. Now, is that version by Bruni really as bad as the French would like you to think? Have a listen yourself. And be sure to check Keren Ann’s contribution, a wonderful fragile version of Life on Mars?

Carla Bruni – Absolute Beginners
Keren Ann – Life on Mars?

Keren Ann

Keren Ann singing in Ivrit, can’t remember if I ever posted her cover of Rechov Ha’nashamot Ha’tehorot (by Israeli band Pure Souls, the songtitle translates At the Pure Soul Street), but it’s excellent. It sounds like it was used in a Hebrew version of Bilitis, with it’s soft-focus fx. It was recorded for a compilation to celebrate 60 years of Israel. No wonder she was asked, KA was born near Haifa, and moved to Paris when she was 11 (she also retains Dutch citizenship). Keren Ann Zeidel recently recorded a duet with Israeli singer Shlomi Shaban for Amnesty International. A special version of By the Cathedral, originally on the Not Going Anywhere-cd. The Spanish branch set up the Peace campaign, for ” aimed at preventing cases of Human Rights abuses around the world”. For a small donation (starting from 5 US dollars) you can download 180 (!) exclusive songs from bands from all over the world, including FS-faves like Vive la Fête and Amélie-les-Crayons, but also Black Strobe, a balladeer, Marike Jager, Ra Ra Riot, Port O’Brien, Malajube, Buck65 and many, many more.  Recommended!

Keren Ann – Rechov Ha’nashamot Ha’tehorot
Pure Souls – Rechov Ha’nashamot Ha’tehorot
Keren Ann & Shlomi Shaban – By the Cathedral

Keren Ann sings Brassens

Georges Brassens in English, now there’s a challenge. His songs and poetryhas been translated, but very seldomly sung in English. Pierre de Gaillande, who has a French father and an American mom, is giving it a try on his album Bad Reputation. Why Brassens in this day ‘n age? Quote from the bio: ‘Brassens had no interest in being fashionable or cool, and yet defined coolness in a way that resonates for de Gaillande in our day and age. For de Gaillande, it boils down to language: “Using proper grammar, good spelling, and eloquent language is subversive and even sexy in this era of Tea-Party talk,” de Gaillande smiles. “That’s part of the mission of this project: to bring back that kind of sexy. I think it’s the hippest thing I’ve ever done. I draw inspiration from Brassens’ attitude: He didn’t care what people thought. He just got the poetry out there. “‘
The music stays close to the original, with the skipping rhythm and acoustic guitar, Pierre’s voice reminds me of Tom Robinson’s – it has the right amount of irony and sarcasm to sing Georges’ songs. On one song he gets help from FillesSourires-heroine Keren Ann, as far as I know the first time KA sings a GB chanson. The full album will be released on June 8.

Pierre de Gaillande & Keren Ann – To Die for Your Ideas

See the original version here.