On their rousing debut album French Boutik go for sharp guitar riffs, crispy drums, a funky bass, a soulful organ, catchy melodies and captivating vocal harmonies. You gotta say yes to their French beat from Paris.
Good pop music from France? That’s impossible, you think. Well, there you go. Think of Air, Bertrand Burgalat, Daft Punk or Phoenix. And even better, listen to Front Pop, the superb album debut from the Parisian mod soul power pop combo French Boutik. Fantastic pop music from France is a mission possible. Maybe the heavy weight of the traditional classic French chanson dominated popular French music too long. Perhaps it wasn’t an ideal matrix for exciting new pop music from Paris or elsewhere in the land of Jean-Paul Belmondo, Catherine Deneuve, cool jazz, existential philosophy and picturesque cafes.
But in the 1960s in the undertow of The Beatles, France and the French definitely learned to swing and dance in a thrilling modern way. The yeh-yeh-wave with the wonderful, divine French beat girl Françoise Hardy or Jacques Dutronc, her later husband and father of her son, lighted French pop music. The same goes for the extraordinary artist Serge Gainsbourg, who with a little help from sexy singers like Brigitte Bardot or Jane Birkin made super fantastic pop music. Which brings us back to French Boutik again. This fab band consists of the cool Zelda Aquil, drums, backing vocals; the charming Gabriela Giacoman, vocals, backing vocals, percussion; the nonchalant Serge Hoffman, guitar, vocals; and last but not least the thoughtful Jean-Marc Joannès, bass. The main songwriter is Hoffman, usually in co-production with Aquil or Giacoman.
I discovered French Boutik by chance, taking a detour through Popincourt’s brilliant debut album A New Dimension to Modern Love. The wonderful French Boutik singer Gabriela Giacoman sings there so enchantingly. On the other hand Popincourt mastermind Olivier Popincourt plays Hammond organ on Front Pop, returning the compliment. Having released already three EPs French Boutik turned to beautiful Hamburg, German seaport of Beatles fame. After writing new songs in Paris French Boutik recorded there Front Pop in the small but really cool Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Studios.
Other than Popincourt, French Boutik sing their songs mostly in French. But both acts gain more appreciation and a bigger audience in the United Kingdom as well as in continental Europe. Their pro-European open-mindedness and simpatico internationality are practically the musical antithesis to rightwing anti-Europe-baiting, Brexit and Trumpdom. The situation is kind of similar to the 1980s and the tough years when the UK’s Prime Minister was the Iron Lady Margret Thatcher. Then Paul Weller’s great second band The Style Council sought to overcome the grey dreariness of the era with their optimistic soul jazz pop, commuting between London, Paris, Rome and Detroit.
Likewise, French Boutik who are like Paul Weller convinced Mods do sound on Front Pop irresistibly fresh, uplifting and overwhelmingly charming. They adjust their new French beat more to electrifying power pop and the passionate guitar frenzy of The Jam, Weller’s first fab band. But they pay homage to the beat, soul and mod feeling of the swinging sixties as well as to the spirit of the punk and new wave of the 1970s and early 1980s.
So, they reinterpret Françoise Hardy’s delightful sixties hit Je Ne Suis La Pour Personne convincingly groovy. But at the same time they have splendid self-penned songs like Impitoyable, Le Mac, Sur Mon Ecranor, Le Casse or Costard Italien – all of them sung in French. Like Hitch A Ride and The Rent, which are sung in in English, they all have alert lyrics about political and social themes or more romantic or just everyday life topics.
French Boutik go for sharp guitar riffs, crispy drums, a melodic, funky bass, a soulful organ, catchy melodies and the captivating vocal harmonies of Gabriela Giacoman and Zelda Aquil. Theirs is the new, charismatic new French pop, the new French beat from Paris. You gotta say yes to their front pop.
The vinyl LP edition of French Boutik not only allures with its cool cover, it has also on offer a stylishly designed inner sleeve with all the song lyrics printed, a double sided poster with some other fine band pics and a MP3 download code inside. Merci beaucoup, French Boutik.
French Boutik Front Pop, Detour Records/CopaseDisques, 2016