Fantastic!, Sun: What A Wonderful Word! (Aquatic / Riviera)

Posted August 21st, 2000 by admin

Sun: What A Wonderful Word!
Aquatic / Riviera
By: Eric G.

Twee French pop is something of a cliche these days because of all the American indie rock imitators, so it’s kind of strange to hear the real thing (or what purports to be the real thing). Fantastic! is another French pop band obsessed with pastels, The Beach Boys and the 1960’s. From the duotone cover art to the retro-sophistication of its breezy pop, Fantastic! sounds (and looks) like it hasn’t listened to any records since Pet Sounds, but its own sound is chiseled out of only one dimension of that Beach Boys classic. Why are French pop bands so happy? And what’s with all the sappy titles?

Fantastic! is fairly minimal compared to fellow French hippies The Cherry Orchard, but it mines the same sunny terrain, minus the doe-eyed love-struck fluff. What Fantastic! lacks in passion it makes up for in cheese. Moogs, acoustic guitars, horns, and cello flesh out the band’s anachronistic sound. The only clues that this wasn’t actually recorded thirty-five years ago are the mentions of “1987” in “Supernova” and “Jarvis Cocker” in “Beauty Queen.” It is entirely possible that I misunderstood that stopped-up sounding accent, though.

As cloying and annoying as this stuff can be sometimes, Fantastic! isn’t too bad when taken in small doses. The band should make a career of contributing songs to compilations because even five songs in a row sent me reeling for some Motorhead. By the fifth song I thought I was listening to bad karaoke in some lounge in Paris. It’s not the style so much as the content. Or, maybe, it is the style- and too much of it. The Cherry Orchard may be as sickly sweet as you can get with its sentimental lyrics and Bacharach-style arrangements, but at least it transports you somewhere. Fantastic! merely reminds you of some other place and time, and, while I might get suckered into going there by a stray good song, I definitely don’t want to stay long.

Tags: review