Motifs – Paris Combo
Starting in grade school and going up to my first semester in college, I took an embarrassingly long series of French courses. I say "embarrassingly" because, despite all that study, I never got a grip on conversational French. As a result, dealing with a CD with lyrics all in French is a bit daunting, although seeing the translated excerpts on the band’s internet press kit reveals that I could figure out more of this stuff if I worked at it. Music has a way of forcing a listener to expand his limitations.
The language barrier aside, Motifs is most engaging. A decade or two ago, it seemed like a common skill to be able to combine melody, lyrics, performance and production into a song that felt inevitable, but these days it seems rare. Perhaps that’s only because few people these days apply those skills towards stimulating music, which Paris Combo’s songs undoubtedly are. Give this disc one or two listens and it will turn into a Francophone hit parade.
Singer Belle du Berry has a punk background, but you wouldn’t guess it from her effortlessness in playing the chanteuse. There are no weak links in the rest of the quintet, either — bassist Mano Razanajato’s vocal turn on "Discordance" spices up the closing stretch of the disc, and guitarist Potzi has the Django sidewalk-caftyle down. Without those translations, it’s not certain how much new these lyrics tell us about the perils of coupledom ("Ennemis Siamois"), the indulgences of the rich ("Baron de chaise") or the mundanity of the day-to-day ("Calendar"), to pick three typical themes. As you’d expect from Parisians, though, the Combo gives this all a sophisticated veneer which you won’t find in the rants and pouts which would be more likely to emanate from our shores.
Despite the "world" elements, Motifs is first and foremost a pop CD, and it’s both classy and fun. And if it inspires a few more latent linguists to polish off their skills, so much the better.