Monday, 2 November 2009

French Punk: Stinky Toys, Elli & Jacno, Marie & Les Garçons, Electric Callas

Stinky Toys/Elli & Jacno

The other big piece of pride in French punk is Stinky Toys. Invited to play at the 100 Club, for the punk festival of McLaren, they gained a small cult following. I have to admit I never get into Stinky Toys: The music is fine (even if way too much mod revival), they're cute, but hell, no I can't. Apparently the reason for this cult following is their second album (known as the yellow one), that even our glorious corrector, redactor and man of taste (we're waiting for your article, Michael) admires.

The thing I can tell you about them is: they've got a terrible French accent, the music is alright, they sound like The Who of My Generation, Elli, the singer, is born in Montecasino and looks a bit like Francoise Hardy or France Gall (That should attract all the pervs of the indie community. Come on, you just love Yé-yé because they're cute).

(the language used on that track is still unidentified)

The driving force of the Stinky Toys was Jacno, guitarist who left them in the middle of 1978 to buy an EMS and start electronic music. The result is an album call Jacno and it's cute and kitsch. But really cute.

And after Elli came to him and started to sing with him on some other cute but kitsch but cute records. (OK, I really don't have a damn thing to say about them).

Oh yeah, in 1980, Eli & Jacno wrote a cute but kitsch song for a young girl called Lio, who after became really famous in France and in Japan. (Pervs, it's for you, check as well "Banana Split")

Well... well... well.

Ok, I really like Jacno, he is the perfect French dandy: elegant, funny, great looking, but... that's all, basically.

OK, next.

Marie & Les Garçons

Honestly, in the same kind of "upper-class student with a 60's obsession" I have to say I highly prefer the underrated Marie Et Les Garçons.

Born and raised in Lyon, they were a typical school band except that Marie was the drummer, not the singer and their influences were Nico, The Velvet Underground and The Modern Lovers. And they weren't able to play their instruments.

Actually they could have been called "The French Answer To Jonathan": they give the same feeling of cute love of life and have a great amateur teenage sound. Their songs all observe a great mod emergency circa 66, mixed with some lazy feedback psychedelia VU-type thing. The guitars are melodically abrupt, the solo's have 3 notes, the tempo is quick and the voices are out of tune. And the songs are all around 2 minutes long. And the lyrics have got a naïve feeling of fake lust, close to an early Pastels or a teenage Orange Juice.

Honestly, Marie & Les Garçons get nothing to be punk (a great Gang of Four/Postcard look as well), but everything to be one of the Cherry Red/RT'81girl bands (think Dolly Mixture with a guy singing in French). They would have been perfect to dance along to in your room, face to the mirror, all dressed in polka dots. They were purely genuine love.

(Ok, for the history, they did a 6-songs 12" with John Cale on Ze Records) Cherry Red or KRS or Rhino have to reissue that quickly.

And that's the myspace link.

Electric Callas

Also from Lyon and sharing some members with Marie Et Les Garçons, Electric Callas is the real great loser of the first wave.

Totally underrated and impossible to find, but you MUST check them out, Electric Callas is certainly the first French “punk” band to take a little further the rock’n’roll revival that French punk was at first. What will be called Novö after.

Taking a LOT from Young Americans period Bowie, mixing the feeling of the German trilogy, and adding a good dose of punk pioneers (Stooges and VU for short) with touching elegance, Electric Callas had a incredible sense of measure and balance between the whole dandy supercial stuff (great attitude, shitty music) and the rock’n’roll show (shitty attitude and great music). And they were for sure the first and last post punk-post glam band ever (no, you can’t say Pink Grease). One of the only bands for whom “plastic” would not be a insult but a quality.

Cold, but still incredibly danceable, they did just two 12”in 79 and 80 before disappearing. And those 12” are absolutely impossible to find. Few stuff remains of them (even on Youtube, the only thing is underlit footage with a deficient sound –see below-): one of the best covers of I Wanna Be your Dog on Le Rock d’Ici A L’Olympia, a live compilation (the rest is shit and the compilation became quite cult apparently, it's not really worth spending £30 just for one track), some other tracks on some other obscure compilations (Kill Me Two Time, Sex, 77) and those incredible 12”, W.S.B and Winner. Apparently few years ago, Seventeen (a French punk label) was supposed to release an anthology, but I never saw it.

(Shit, I can' find the youtube video anymore)

After, the leader, Jangil, went solo and is still doing music. Well, despite all the respect and love I have for Electric Callas, I have to say that I’m really not fond of it. Mostly down-tempo sleazy electro (think French Touch). They are certainly some amateurs, but… well. At least on the myspace (one of the best 90’s gif art myspace ever), you can listen to W.S.B and So Chic (from the Winner 12”) –a new version and even if the original is far better, that one is quite cool-


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