[19 October 2006]
It just invites the bad puns ... For the fans: “You can’t stop Leroc”. For the haters: “Hurl-a-roc”. Or the use of a certain expletive that rhymes with “roc”. But for those in between, the challenge is to see exactly what this strange Monsieur Leroc (real name Arne Drescher ) the German with the French-sounding name (who records in New York with mostly American vocalists) is actually doing. At first glance, he’s being pretty juvenile, with chimpanzees in robot costumes driving buggy racers on the album cover. By the time you’re on the third track of the album I’m Not Young But I Need the Money, you’ll find yourself nervously laughing in disbelief.
Weirdness and sillyness have rarely gone tighter hand-in-hand than on “New Ice Cream Truck Sound”, with vocalists 2Mex and Awol One ranting: “Your body’s like a robot / It makes my sinus wanna blow snot / Your body’s like some classifieds / Just like Columbine where classes died / I love you Grandma.” This is immediately followed by “Great Balls”, apparently “so round so clean / they’re the greatest I’ve ever seen.” All this will either have you dancing around in careless youthful joy, or feeling nauseous at being subjected to such childish foolishness. But looking beyond the ludicrous, one finds a playful and spontaneous energy that balances things out to help the album reach a certain maturity—and, more importantly, highlight Monsieur Leroc’s unique musical personality.
“New Ice Cream Truck Sound” starts off with guitar strumming reminiscent of Ben Harper. “Freewheelin’ Frankie” cuts together a delicious Sunday lunchtime Manci-Sinatra-gospel tune. On “Give Me Not Trouble”, Radioinactive kicks up a lyrical flow worthy of the Anticon crowd. “Me So Hungy” draws back memories of De La Soul, albeit with a jazz shuffle and lyrics discussing fried chicken and hot dogs. Vocalist Bargain Josh, aka Josh Fischel from Bargain Music, is worth more than a few of the bucks you may shell out on this record. He begins by pulling off a very nice artist collective-style Finley Quaye on “Cooley McCoolsen”, before excelling in Red Astaire territory on “Great Balls”, which intricately integrates renditions of snippets from the Jerry Lewis classic. He even veers into a vaguely Prince-like high pitch on the Fisher Price keyboard funk of “Baby”, before finishing in sultry fashion on the purposefully titled closing track “P.Off”.
Much like Jamie Lidell, Handsome Boy Modeling School or OutKast, in eclecticness, Monsieur Leroc revamps old soul to new, with his very own quirks. But whereas those artists, along with the likes of DJ Shadow and the Avalanches, have secured their spots on the upper crust of sample-and-cut genre fusion, Monsieur Leroc is the guy who bought the DJ Shadow “Wanna-be-a-producer?” plastic playset. He’s managed to do pretty impressive things with it, creating a unique album that spans from silly to superior, within random and diffuse boundaries between jazz, soul, swing, hip hop and breaks. But the sillyness is always there and it is rampant—like a Mike Ladd in kindergarten. So beyond the mercurially spliced swinging jazz, folksy soul rhytms and off-kilter beats, how much you enjoy this album really depends on the age of your inner child.