19 November 2008

Holden : La Machine (album review)

While having a discussion on French music one day with someone who will remain anonymous, they declared, "the French can't rock for shit". They referred to the French tendency toward ambience over aggression in the music world.

I disagree. I have always held the idea that the French sensibility is thus: we could rock but choose to do something less predictable and more subtle. In an era of predictability in the music 'industry', Holden has some nice surprises in store.

Their new album, La Machine (I don't really need to translate it for you, do I?), is a jaunty and somewhat whimsical ride into their world. You see, it is a special world where it's not easy to pigeonhole them into a genre or musical ideal. And I like that a lot.

And no, just because they are French doesn't mean their album resembles the soundtrack to the film, Amelie; the scorn of many a French person, I am sure. No, they don't all play or listen to cute accordian music while eating croissants and wearing berets.

This musical outing has a more sophisticated cut, resembling the feel of Saint Etienne's Sound of Water or Radiohead's OK Computer. If this combination sounds disconcerting well, it is.

La Machine, while retaining that chilled out 'French' feel, is all about the substance. More psychedelic era Beach Boys than So Frenchy So Chic. I only wish I held more than a high-school knowledge of the language, so I could understand the lyrics. Armelle Pioline's vocals, like Francoiz Breut's, create a floaty cloud of serene, unidentifiable sentences that meander and waft into your brain without the recognition of what they mean precisely. So there's your first challenge: learn French then listen to Holden! They're worth it.

This album was reviewed for The Dwarf.

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