French Boutik – Les Chats de Gouttière EP
There’s something enduringly popular about ’60s swinging London that seems to resonate with even the most cynical among us. It’s so ingrained that it’s virtually part of our DNA. We couldn’t host the Olympics without a nod to it at both the opening and closing ceremonies. Whether or not this is idealised nostalgia is besides the point. Truth is it’s fun, and there ain’t nothing wrong with that.
We’re good at celebrating this musical heritage ourselves but where it gets really interesting is when seen through the eyes of other nations, and refracted back, which always adds an interesting twist. Of course this was happening way back in the era of Mary Quant, Geoff Hurst, and Radio Caroline too. Major artists would record foreign language versions of certain songs for different territories, and songwriters such as Jacques Dutronc and Serge Gainsbourg took at least some inspiration from the sounds that made Carnaby Street swing.
Which brings us nicely to French Boutik, a five piece beat group from Paris who describe themselves as “pop moderniste”. They’ve just releases their debut EP containing four tracks which ably capture their sound – a pleasing mix of mid ’60s retro-isms fused with indie-pop girl charm, with three of the four tracks sung in French. Lead track “Les Chats de Gouttière” is a tale of alley cats apparently (thanks Google translate). It’s a three minute mini pop opera, complete with sophisticated melody and all the band’s strengths condensed into one song. Interestingly gouttière also translates as groove as well as gutter which gives a little clue as to how it sounds.
Side one continues with “La Vedette”, a male lead vocal for this one, with a finger snap inducing rhythm and melody reminiscent of prime-era Kinks. A quick flip over to side two gives us “Le Clope” (that’s a smoke, cig, or fag in British parlance). It’s Yé-yé for grown-ups, with frantic beats and Townshend guitar nicely offset by the sweet vocal of singer Gabriela Giacoman. “New Bossa” is the one track sung in English, a cautionary tale of too many drugs, too early in life. It’s perhaps the least successful offering, slightly more sedate and lacking the dynamics of the rest of the EP, but at least my French language skills are not tested to their limits on this one. The 7” vinyl version comes in a full cover sleeve with reassuringly thick cardboard, just like they used to make. Nice attention to detail too as it’s sans barcode, which is a fittingly authentic touch. Worth tracking down the vinyl version if you can.