Music

Nous Non Plus: Menagerie

David Berry

A record of stomach-able, if not exactly inspiring pop, with a mangled French accent.


Nous Non Plus

Menagerie

Label: Aeronaut
First date: 2009-01-20
US Release Date: 2009-02-03
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
Amazon
iTunes

You can tell a lot about an American by his or her opinion of the French. For a sizable population, they remain cheese-eating surrender monkeys, a national embodiment of the sort of effete, intellectual liberality who get trotted out as an insult any time someone dares to use a big word. For the others, they measure as whimsical masters of the bohemian lifestyle from a country of impossibly attractive wine connoisseurs casually smoking cigarettes while watching art-house cinema. No other nation on earth arguably enjoys such a conflicted opinion in the public consciousness.

New York-based Nous Non Plus obviously belongs to the latter category, albeit without any trace of seriousness about their admiration. Born from the similar-sounding Francophiles Les Sans Culottes, the group of cheekily nomed musicians -- besides frontman/bassist Jean-Luc Retard (actually subject of the documentary Air Guitar Nation/lover of cheesy, foreign stage names such as Dan Crane/Björn Türoque) there's such, ahem, gems as Céline Dijon and François Hardonne -- share that group's love of breezy French pop, though with a definite eye towards something a little more tongue in cheek. The result classifies as a record of stomach-able, if not exactly inspiring pop with a mangled French accent, albeit one that's definitely better when it avoids being cute, in either the doe-eyed or sly sense of the word.

An unfortunate example of the latter is "French Teacher", a twee-disco answer to "Hot For Teacher". Riding a muted-funk bassline and dance drums, Retard coos suggestive and blatantly sexual lyrics ("She walks into class / In a short tight skirt / The curve of her ass / Is making me hurt") with the cheesy song growing tired well before a painful skit interrupts the last chorus.

"Teacher" would be more forgivable if it was an isolated incident, but too often throughout Ménagerie Nous Non Plus seems content to dress up substandard ideas and execution in Gallic revelry, as though the novelty of singing in French excuses laziness. "La Momie", for instance, essentially a one-joke riff on falling in love with a mummy, distinguishes itself only for a vaguely horroris but still very bright synth line. At least it sticks out, though, as most of the back half of the album assembles a mix of loungey, bright French pop, not exactly hard on the ears but never anything that demands attention.

With that said, Ménagerie has its bright spots, especially when the band gets a little more subversive. First song/lead single, "Loli", burns with a frustrated desire. Its garagey urgency gives Retard's desperate sexuality the kind of jolt that most of the album sorely lacks. "Mais Maintenant il Faut Danser", meanwhile, gives a kind of a Gogol Bordello-lite treatment to a song about fucking the world. As much of a party as it is, though, the song has a certain sly, biting humour contained in lines such as, "Big bombs fall on little children / The sounds of panic fill the air / Mais maintenant il faut danser (But for the moment, we must dance)", a wit and subversion of the cutesy Frenchness that doesn't pop up nearly enough throughout the album.

If they had gone more in that direction, Nous Non Plus would have at least made up for the simplicity of its presentation, to say nothing of given the romantics who glorify the French as a kind of under-the-table shot in the groin. Nothing like turning half-thought-out romanticism against people. Instead, though, they aim mostly to reproduce, rather lamely, that same romantic French ideal, and so most of the album engages as listening to a newly returned backpacker reminisce about the time he or she ate a baguette on the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower. If French pop is your thing, you'd be far better off to skip the imitation.

4
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.

Music

Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.

Music

Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."

Music

David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.

Music

On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.

Music

Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.

Music

Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.

Music

Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."

Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.