I'm not a big lyric listener. I'm not saying that I don't care what the vocalist is saying, or that I never get involved in a particular song's "story", but after years of listening to music in which the vocals, for whatever reason, aren't particularly intelligible, I don't set my hopes too high when it comes to understanding the lyrics. More often than not, I'm more interested in how the lyrics contribute to the overall sound of the piece than in what they're actually saying. I think that approach contributes to my enjoyment of non-English punk rock; after all, when you can't tell what's being said, it doesn't really matter if it's English, French, Russian or Klingon.
Les Séquelles play sixties-style French cocktail rock -- basically a slightly cleaner take on garage rock. The Montréal-based band's sound is simple: two guitars, a bass, drums and occasional organ, with male and female vocals delivered in unaffected French. A healthy dose of reverb pervades throughout, dragging the swelling organ riffs in psychedelic directions. Les Séquelles' rock is too timeless to be retro and too catchy to be kitschy. Songs like "Cocktail Monotone" will get you up on your feet, shamelessly devising new dance moves for your rhythmically-challenged friends to try, while the French lyrics add a suitable touch of Plastic Bertrand-style exotica. And if you want to go that extra mile for truly wonderful oddness, check out the surf-inspired western rock of "Johnny Jersey". C'est sublime.
Listen to Et Tant Pis Si Cela Vous Déplaît and you'll have no trouble picturing yourself as a jet-setting sixties hipster dancing the night away in a smoky, exclusive basement hideaway. And if that's not your bag, don't worry; the album will work quite nicely in a contemporary punk rock bar. Cranked to appropriate loudness, it will provide the listener with forty-two minutes of hip-shaking action, handily providing that knowing "I'm cooler than you" grin. Master a few French phrases to go with it, and you'll be a beret and a cigarette holder away from being a complete prat. Poseurs suck. But you get my point.
I do have a pair of minor complaints. First of all, there's a curious three-second dead space before each song. I don't know if this was an error in the mastering process or just a weird way of assembling a CD, but I constantly found myself wondering "Where's the music? What's wrong with my stereo?" I'm sure DJs would find the matter even more frustrating. Once the songs begin, my second issue comes into play. The band's sound is a little too clean for my tastes. While I enjoyed the basement-reverb riffs, I couldn't help wishing for a live recording of the same songs, the better to hear them sans studio shine. The album could benefit from some additional dirtying up -- even something as low-tech as playing the disc on your stereo, recording the speaker output with a hand-held mic and then remastering that recording to a new CD would give it a lovely lo-fi edge. If this isn't the sound that the band is looking for, I understand...but polish really isn't needed here. Les Séquelles need to work their punk rock mojo. I wonder what Steve Albini or J. Robbins could do with their sound...
Really, in this era of free trade and global villages and burgeoning Francophilia, you should all be able to find room in your hearts for some Montréal garage rock. Et Tant Pis Si Cela Vous Déplaît belongs in your record collection, even if you can't understand or pronounce the album title. The important thing is that it's simple, it's honest and the louder you play it, the better it sounds.