THE LAST DETAIL: "The Last Detail" LP/CD Mehdi Zannad FUGU with Erin Moran (A GIRL CALLED EDDY)
We can’t contain our excitement. That Harvey Williams (ANOTHER SUNNY DAY, BLUEBOY, THE FIELD MICE, TREMBLING BLUE STARS) wanted to contribute to the press release about THE LAST DETAIL’s debut album (the name of the band comes from the 1973 movie starring Jack Nicholson) already says a lot about how special this group and this album are:
“So how should one react when one’s two favourite contemporary singer-songwriters decide to record an album together? Mehdi Zannad has a peerless collection of long-players & one-off 45’s behind him, under both his own name and as FUGU, while Erin Moran (A GIRL CALLED EDDY) released one of this century’s great lost albums back in 2004. The stakes were high, as were my expectations. Thankfully THE LAST DETAIL doesn’t disappoint. Breezy yet reflective. Melancholic but never maudlin, and always resolutely upbeat.
While there are occasional signals indicating the artists’ individual creative pasts, the album has a personality all its own, as all great collaborations do (Nancy &Lee, Gainsbourg &Birkin, PET SHOP BOYS & Dusty Springfield, Sandie Shaw & THE SMITHS...). Of course, there are nods to pop’s rich tapestry echoing through the record; such references are inevitable for a duo so knowledgeable and passionate about music. But the songs are far too emotional and honest to be dismissed as mere postmodernism; they live and breathe. And while it’s difficult to pick out highlights, I have to single out “Places” as particularly tremendous; lyrically a fond remembrance of times past set to a soaring, joyous melody with umpteen hooks: you think you’re hearing the chorus, then the song moves on to the real chorus. And then it does the same trick again. Magnificent”.
So, here we are. Erin Moran (A GIRL CALLED EDDY) and Mehdi Zannad (FUGU) have made an album together, which is going to be released on Elefant Records.
The collaboration began to take shape when Zannad fell in love with Erin’s exquisite voice on her debut album “A Girl Called Eddy” - produced with Richard Hawley and critically acclaimed in the press from Uncut to Mojo to Rolling Stone and The New York Times, while Erin was a fan of FUGU from the very first album - which she bought as a ‘staff recommends’ at the old Kim’s Video on Bleecker St. in New York City.
Erin Moran was born in the same hospital as Frank Sinatra in Hoboken (New Jersey), raised on the “Jersey Shore”, but has called NYC her home for decades. When her debut album was released in 2004, it not only received critical acclaim from the press, but also acquired her some A-list fans: childhood hero’s like Burt Bacharach and Gilbert O’Sullivan, and artists as diverse as Robert Smith of THE CURE, to Tracey Thorn, Jane Birkin, and Nina Persson. She can be heard singing on records by Ron Sexsmith, SUPER FURRY ANIMALS and many more, but interestingly (as Mehdi first heard her) she is the voice of the girl in the duet with Philippe Katerine; indie hit “Parlez-Vous Anglais Mr. Katerine?” which also just so happens to be the opening song on the Elefant compilation “Montecarlo” (released in 1997 for the inauguration of the “Colección De Las Ciudades”, and which includes the participation of among others, Harvey Williams himself). Synchronicity all around then.
Many have been wondering for years when A GIRL CALLED EDDY was going to release a second album… We finally have an answer to that question - at the beginning of 2019! (with a single before the end of this year) While waiting for that fans can calm their nerves with this very special project in collaboration with Mehdi Zannad.
Mehdi is a pop-raconteur: not only an established musician, songwriter, producer, but an architectural drawing master as well. He’s exhibited his work in gallery’s all over France and has been teaching in some of Paris’ most esteemed institutions. He’s released two marvelous albums as FUGU, singles shared with STEREOLAB and SAINT ETIENNE, co-wrote on the soundtrack for the film “La France” by Serge Bozon in 2007, arranged for Barbara Carlotti and TAHITI 80, produced APRIL MARCH, as well as releasing a delicious single on Elefant Records in 1998 (which we will be specifically re-releasing in a very special limited edition).
Erin and Mehdi met up in London, Paris and Nancy to write, and along the way held recording sessions in the band TAHITI 80’s Lab/recording studio in Rouen (where Zannad recorded his second full length, “As Found”). Erin wrote choruses that Mehdi turned into songs, and vice-versa, and both had brought some of their own already-written tunes on board when in 2014 Elefant Records showed up on the scene and offered them the possibility of making an album after hearing the first four songs from the project.
Sessions were booked, orchestra’s were contracted! and the record started to take shape with the help of various members of Mehdi’s core band of FUGU, as well as members of TAME IMPALA, SYD MATTERS and TAHITI 80.
And so finally, we have the prodigious result in our hands. On this album you can hear the work of songwriters who are tremendously in love with music. With deep respect and inspiration, care and affection. Spinning in their heads, always, the greats... Jimmy Webb, Paul McCartney, Eric Carmen, Carole King and Paddy McAloon. This is a perfect, stand-out collection of songs on which both authors take turns with the vocals. The album begins with “Softly (Part 1)” as a playful, catchy opening … “Fun Fair” breathes a certain air of classic romance, with the piano progression and that final development of sabadabadas that is evocative of Françoise Hardy and Claudine Longet. Enthralling. “You’re Not Mine” has something of the soberness and strength of Laura Nyro, of the melodic elegance of Evie Sands and Linda Perhacs, of the inspiration of Joni Mitchell and the mysticism of Judee Sill. It’s in the lines of these songs, which abound with the folk-pop of the sixties and seventies, where the album tries to find its place among the classics. That BEACH BOYS touch is present in a lot of harmonies, like “Trust Your Buddy”, now with Mehdi singing, but the production work brings them closer at times to the BEE GEES at their folk-iest. Aren’t you inevitably transported just listening to that guitar solo? Because, it’s time to confess, I don’t know if you’ve ever had the feeling of listening to a classic the very first time you hear a new song. That is what happened for us with “Take My Hand”, the absolute conviction that this song, with its majestic string arrangements, turns its references into travel companions. LOVE, John Denver, BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD, THE MILLENNIUM, THE LEFT BANKE… “Fairweather Friend” brings Erin back to lead vocals for a song that once again evokes a folk vibe of the early 70’s on a song she says she wrote ‘while staring at the cover of McCartneys “Ram” for far too long’.
The energy levels are off the charts with the incredible “Lazy”. The classical piano introduction, followed by a prodigious soul push, then breathtaking wind instruments and a chorus that makes you want to sing it with your arms reaching into the air, as if you were trying to touch the sky with Erin sounding like a latter-day Jackie DeShannon… “Talk To Me” takes an important stylistic leap, with production more marked by the 80’s and neon lights and Casio’s. The melody of the verses is exquisite and the chorus is downright immortal. But the thing is, if we try to read between the lines in the lyrics, could it be that this song is talking about the musical relationship between our two composers? Pure magic. And finally, it’s a show of the love of music and the unquestionable capacity of these two songwriters to build eternal songs, without worrying about what decade to turn to.
“Die Cast” is one of those songs that is so small, on such a big album, that it winds up becoming one of your favorites. It’s delicate and fragile, somewhere between a habanera and a border sound, cinematic, powerful in its smallness. “Tears” is more rock, closer to the BEATLES at their most energetic. Solid and evocative at the same time. And once again, that guitar solo with fuzz that takes us to the times when rock moved minds. To talk about “Places” after Harvey Williams’ words seems audacious. We just want to say that we totally agree. It’s a huge song, the purity of Brian Wilson, the sweetness of AMERICAN SPRING and the grandeur of Roger Nichols. “Softly (Part 2)” falls back into the melodic line that opens the album, but it gives it a tremendously fun fifties touch, with echoes of surf and garage, and makes it instrumental. To close the album, “Photographs” gives a melancholic touch, between clavichords and acoustic guitars -like the inevitable romanticism that also opened “Fun Fair”.
This is most definitely a special album, but beyond the names that have shaped it, it is special because it holds a group of inimitable songs that sometimes feels hard to believe were written in 2018. Inspiration, sonic artistry, respect and musical elegance. As if there were a secret rule: to remember every last detail. Even down to the album presentation, with fantastic design by the esteemed Julian House (of the “Intro” collective) who’s designed covers for STEREOLAB, CAN, PRIMAL SCREAM, BROADCAST, and many others. Everything in place.
They say, “God is in the details”. May we present to you, THE LAST DETAIL.
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