Les Sans Culottes – Faux Realism

Les Sans Culottes
Faux Realism

I admit, the name of the band, Les Sans Culottes, and their latest release, Faux Realism, sound plenty pretentious. And yes, this New York-based septet likes to play in costume, answer to clever nicknames, and act pompous. So what’s so different between Les Sans Culottes and the rest of this rash of hot new bands coming out of the Big Apple? For starters, Les Sans Culottes admits they’re from Brooklyn, not its more glitzy neighbor. Unlike the strutting Strokes and the broodingly suave Interpol, costumes like theirs will only be seen in paid advertisements for future Austin Powers movies. They answer to theatrically awful nicknames such as Celine Dijon and Jean Luc Retard. And like the nicknames, Les Sans Culotte’s pretentiousness is decidedly self-deprecating and intentionally comical. Unlike their peers, who bend and stretch the truth to sound either “real” or “serious” or “intelligent” or goodness knows what else, in their interviews, Les Sans Culottes prevaricate for laughs. They know they’re full of it, but that’s part of the fun.
Les Sans Culottes splashes out cheap cologne by the bucketful. Compared to the rest of the New York buzz bands, that fromage-swinging, chain-bedecked, bell-bottom and op art print cocktail dress smell is like a breath of fresh air. Faux Realism is a collection of straightforward, exuberant guitar pop songs styled after the 60s French “ye ye” pop movement. Don’t go looking that up on the Web yet. I already did, so I can save you the trouble. Ye ye pop is Austin Power’s crooked-toothed grin. It’s “Laugh-In,” tomahawking elbows and head-swishes. It’s hippy-lite, pop-heavy, meeting somewhere between early Kinks and Doris Day. It’s in French. And it’ll keep you smiling the whole way through.
In Faux Realism, lead vocalist, “Clermont Ferrand” (name apparently for a region in France) leads his fellow Francophiles through a blistering set of 11 roughly hewn, infectious pop tracks. He introduces several songs in an outrageously bad French accent and shouts through most of the rest in gleefully overblown French. Grouped with him are the 60s sex kitten vocals of “Kit Kat le Noir” and “Celine Dijon.” The two coyly purr in “Les Sauvages,” and “The Tongue of Romance” (guess the language), and dutifully belt out Ferrand’s counter in their best French. Dijon’s rousing audience rave-up in the live “Le Coq Sportif ” is so funny, you can hear the audience giggling and collecting their breaths long after her impromptu game of “Simon says.” The rest of the band tries hard not to let the vocalists steal the show. “Mars Chevrolet’s” keyboards wrap the songs in perfect 60s-pop, kitschy melodrama. “Jean Luc Retard’s” bass pounds, and “Cal d’Hommage’s” guitar slides up to the seductive songs with the subtlety of Pepe le Pew and roars through the up-tempo tunes in huge French-fried blasts. Meanwhile, “Pascal Blasé’s” drums pound away, making sure Les Sans Coulettes remains a party band.
Several music journalists have pointed out recently that the recent rash of hip new bands are stripping off all those layers of musical shellac that have built up since the last purifying flood of the early 90s. Agreeably, these bands have done wonders bringing the rock back to the roll. Les Sans Culottes probably shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as the rest of these more “important” bands. They’re not doing anything that serious, and that is why they deserve to stick around longer and make some money while they’re at it. And it’s nice to know that New York’s rock scene is big enough to hold seven musicians with a penchant for 60s French-language pop music in addition to its droves self-important rock stars and hipsters.