Pop Romantique, French Pop Classics (Emperor Norton)

Posted December 31st, 1998 by admin

Pop Romantique
French Pop Classics
Emperor Norton
By: Eric Greenwood

This collection of French pop classics is pretty much ‘indie rock does french pop’ with bands like Luna, Ivy and Heavenly churning out cover versions of some old French songs. Serge Gainsbourg, who has come to embody the essence of the French pop genre in America, is covered the most with almost half of the tracks attributed to him. Gainsbourg’s influence is evident in some of today’s brightest balladeers like Neil Hannon, Marc Almond, Momus and, of course, Stephin Merritt, whose band, The Magnetic Fields, makes an appearance here doing a fairly lax version of the Bassiak song “Le Tourbillon”, which is taken from the Francois Truffaut film, Jules et Jim.

Francoise Hardy, who also comes to mind when you think of French pop and whom you might remember from Blur’s “To The End”, collaborates with the electronic duo Air on “Jeanne.” This French duo left its machines behind in favor of acoustic guitars, allowing Hardy’s languid voice to hang in the balance. Lloyd Cole puts an unqiue twist on his contribution by translating an old Bob Dylan song into French, which is a ballsy move considering, as the liner notes point out, that veterans of the Franco-Americans culture wars are still trying to forget Hughes Aufray’s Dylan adaptations in the 60s. Both The Apples In Stereo and The Ladybug Transistor (featuring Kevin Ayers) decided to record original songs in French, and both hold up their ends despite being flanked by certifiably classic songs.

The whole point of this compilation is that these songs had to be done in French because according to Djuna Barnes ‘certain moments must be lived in French.’ The result is a pleasant Sunday afternoon kind of record, harmless in its intent and harmless enough to listen to. I’m not sure the covers here in any way surpass the originals, but it’s a relatively frivolous detour.

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