It must be something in the water. The movement known as the French touch encompasses a huge sweep of music, from Justice’s heavy metal take on house to Dimitri From Paris and St Germain’s slinky lounge jazz. But one thing that they all seem to have in common is an ability to take sounds from square centre in the middle of the road and then re-invent them as something chic and glamorous. Think of, for instance, the monstrous success of Daft Punk, who took questionable 70s disco and Barry White samples and re-purpose them as the coolest dancefloor fire in town.
It’s a neat trick, and one that French producer Møme (Jérémy Souillart) and L.A.-based vocalist Ricky Ducati of Midnight to Monaco fame also pull off pretty successfully on their new ‘Flash FM’. In this case, the palate of influences from which to draw is a little different, as the mention of standard solid gold disco hero Barry Gibb is joined by Brian Wilson, Jeff Lynne and the Allman Brothers. “A glorious kaleidoscopic trip back in time through the halcyon musical lineage of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s,” is what the blurb says, also mentioning a sly wink in the album’s title in the direction of Grand Theft Auto’s retro-slanted Flashback FM. We’ll leave that one to the lawyers, but we can definitely hear what they mean.
So, there is a kind of hyper real nostalgia that runs through the 15 tracks here. Take the song ‘Flamingo’, with its light Balearic flamenco guitar and breathy, processed vocals. It’s like all the pop pap from the 80s that you hate, only in their hands it sounds great with its filtered house drops and ELO-esque jauntiness. It’s enough to take a hard bitten rock critic and make him question everything he thought he knew.
So, you’ll find yourself grooving along to ‘Got It Made’, for example, casting tastefulness caution to the wind about its Bee Gees-esque falsetto vocals as they glide over gloriously low slung house foundations. Names you thought you’d forgotten about, like, A-ha, Trevor Horn era-Yes, 10CC and Hall & Oates, all suddenly leap from the dustier sections of your subconscious into your frontal lobes as you encounter ‘They Said’, ‘She’s Gone’ and ‘In Control’, but again, it’s all seems to operate in a world beyond tribal tastes, where its glorious pop power outshines all other considerations.
Our only complaint? The fact that one of the album’s most sublime moments proves to be just an interlude. ‘Howl Interlude’ – to be fair, the clue is in the name – starts with oozing Beach Boys backing vocals and then a two note bassline and crisp, dry drum machine join them. It just gets going and then it starts to fade out, not even quite reaching the minute mark. We know the laws of showbiz dictate you should you should always leave the audience wanting more, but we’d strongly implore the pair to revisit this corker and bring it to full life sometime in the future.
It’s definitely a case of ‘Flashback FM’ by name, flashback by nature, albeit a type of nostalgia where nothing is quite how you remember it. Indeed, in their hands, it all ends up sounding way, way better than it did first time round.