If you thought it a feat for Matt Corby or Lisa Mitchell to walk a tightrope between post-Idol reach and Triple J pedestalled acclaim; save a thought for France’s Sebastien Tellier. Probably the only artist who will ever find themselves representing their country in the Eurovision Song Contest and performing at a Pitchfork music festival. So what is the secret ingredient which allows for this kind of widespread appeal and critical praise?
Well, for the two spritely Australians, it’s their voices; but Tellier doesn’t have an instantly recognisable set of pipes. In fact, most would probably shrug him off as sounding ‘too much like Serge Gainsbourg’. Tellier’s strength instead lies in a fearless sense of songwriting. Think Syd Barrett melodies; David Bowie’s attention to detail (and marketing savvy); Prince’s cockiness and Daft Punk’s Tron-score largeness.
His fourth studio album, My God is Blue, was produced by Ed Banger (Justice’s record label) regular Mr Flash, who helps the album reach its larger than life aspirations asserted by having both God in the title, and a cover which supposes Tellier as the blue son thereof.
All this would seem far too ludicrous if it weren’t for the quality of the songs. ‘The Colour of Your Mind’ is filled with squelches and squeals which recall Aladdin Sane-era Bowie. ‘Sedulous’ is fuelled by the sleaziest, sassiest bass line you’ll hear all year, and lead single ‘Cochon Ville’ draws near French-house, and is followed by the finger-plucked acoustic guitar ballad ‘Magical Hurricane’.
So what’s with the Eurovision thing? Have a listen to ‘Russian Attractions’, with operatic chanting backing vocals, over-arching strings, English (clearly as a second language) lyrics. There’s even a glam-rock guitar solo which doesn’t sound stupid.
It’s a bit pompous, it’s a bit manic, but this is quite a remarkable record. If Matt Corby or Lisa Mitchell grow to create music with this much ambition, scale or imagination, then people will have to start taking reality television more seriously.
- Alastair Matcott
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