I've been a big fan of Benjamin Biolay, although haven't listened to him that often since the F-word moved in, because the music makes me very melancholy, which is all very good when I can hang around mopingly by myself getting high like a Curehead with Peter Pan syndrome, and not so hot when I'm trying to maintain an adult relationship. But one day I was PMSing and all pissed off anyways, so I was listening to Rose Kennedy, and the F-word pointed out that "Les cerfs-volants" was basically "My Way". I shrugged. Must be a tribute, right? Everybody knows "My Way" (even if French people like to pretend what they actually know is "Comme d'habitude"). That'd be like plagiarising "Happy" Fucking "Birthday", I mean Sid Vicious sang it for fuck's sake.
Then his new album La Superbe came out, got an avalanche of good reviews, and won a bunch of Césars or whatever the hell the French call their version of the Grammys, and I ignored it, because I'd made the mistake of reading some interviews with the man before listening to it and he came off as the worst kind of champagne socialist , of a kind that isn't even produced outside of France. Not even Guarniad readers come up to this standard. It's the sort of thing where you can arrange the strings on a Carla Bruni album while releasing a song about how you'd like to eject her husband from elected office (which Biolay has done).
And then yesterday I was hopping back on the PMS wagon and had a tonne of brainless administrative things to catch up on at the office, so I finally gave La Superbe a listen and sure enough it seemed pretty awesome. Typically lovely instrumental arrangements and typically broody lyrics, maybe a little too self-consciously melancholic for me at this point in my reasonably self-actualized psychological existence despite the PMS, but I was getting into it.
However, then it started sinking in:
"Prenons le large" - "Don't you forget about me"
"Tout ca me tourmente" - A bunch of Goldfrapp
"Padam" - "Wonderful Life"
And oh my fuck, the whole thing is Disintegration with instruments instead of synthesizers.
I could go on. The whole double album sounded like a beautifully arranged pastiche of my childhood and adolescence. Which was half good and half aspartame. Finally I had a quick google to see if anyone else was picking up on it. All I found was pissed off Morrissey fans who didn't like that "La Superbe" sampled the same bit of Shostakovich that "Teachers Are Afraid of Pupils" sampled, which didn't do much except confirm me in my belief that Morrissey fans need to stop drinking the fucking koolaid, it's Shostakovich for shit's sake, and at least Biolay gave it the dignity inherent in strings instead of bastardizing it with synthesizers. God, Morrissey's a fucking prick. "I know," he must have thought, "let's take some lovely Shostakovich and put it to synthesizers, because I'm not a big enough prick yet." Prick, man.
And on top of that, while I'm in a critical mood and bringing it back to Benjamin Biolay, may I just say now, any pop star who's going to have a hissy fit about how much it sucks when you love a girl and she loves you and you're having lots of great sex and it all rocks and then she gets pregnant and then everything goes to shit - just shut the fuck up, okay? Write a fucking instrumental instead. Nobody's interested. Except your poor fucking kid. God, Benjamin Biolay sucks.
But I'll give La Superbe a chance to grow on me. Maybe I've been spoiled with a heavy diet, when it comes to new music, of Nick Cave and Tom Waits (the only two white guys upon whom the F-word and I see eye to eye, and hence who are on heavy rotation) being middle aged monkeys who don't give a toss so they may as well try writing something no one else has written before. And while La Superbe may be a pastiche of the music of my childhood and adolescence, there's no doubt it's a beautifully arranged pastiche, and that's worth more than a little in this increasingly ugly world. However that feels rather exploitative at the moment too. At the point in his career where Biolay would have to count on aging Cureheads giving up their fascination with him as an attractive tubercular-Heathcliff-as-composer archetype, because we've all had adult relationships or psychoanalysis or both by now, he writes super-pretty pastiches of the songs of our childhood and adolescence and draws us back into the income-spending segment. Well, tough. It's nice but you'll get no money from me. I'm cheap as a teetotaller Scotsman and I've found Grooveshark.
Also - in all honesty, I think Owen Pallett has ruined me for other musically sensitive types with unexciting voices. His songs are all about more interesting things than that mopy gallic je-t'aime-moi-non-plus-who-to-kill-first-me-or-you shit and his arrangements, if often less pretty than Biolay's, are way more interesting and stay with me way longer. Here's the Final Fantasy song that's been stuck in my head for about a week: