By Stewart Gardiner
Le SuperHomard’s French pop music may be a parallel universe St Etienne and Meadow Lane Park the soundtrack playing in Antoine Doinel’s head
Jean-Pierre Léaud turns into the camera, glances at and beyond the audience, before starting into a run, away from us and into his character Antoine Doinel’s future. The opening instrumental track (“In the Park”) of Meadow Lane Park indeed evokes François Truffaut’s mid-period Antoine Doinel pictures. It’s an auspicious beginning that locates Le SuperHomard within the rich tradition of French cinema and the scores by the likes of Georges Delerue and Antoine Duhamel. That it is a fleeting moment, rather than the drive of the album, seems perfectly in tune with Doinel as a character.
The dream pop Stereolab groove of “Springtime” appears to leave the cinema behind, yet that isn’t quite the case. Rather, it ultimately feels as if the album could be the soundtrack playing in the head of a contemporary manifestation of Antoine Doinel; soundtracking his internal life rather than existing merely at the audience’s pleasure.
Elsewhere, “Door After Door” flows and squelches like a Jean-Claude Vannier production for Serge Gainsbourg gone post-house. The title track is where John Barry meets Braodcast at their most airily psychedelic minus the radiophonics. “Elephant In the Room” is pure pop music, lush strings almost floating off from the background. It has an international rather than French feel, presumably intentionally so. “SDVB”, on the other hand, channels the comforting almost-electro of Air and is thrillingly French as a result.
Christophe Valliant conceived of the project and brought in a group of musicians to realise his vision, including vocals sung in English by Julie Big. The lyrics were written by English speakers Pandora Burgess and Yoanna Claquin to avoid what Valiant views as bad English that plagues some French bands. The move has paid off and it feels as natural in English as Stereolab songs do sung in French. Le SuperHomard come off like a parallel universe St Etienne, with a healthy dose of the pop magic that implies.
The overall effect of Meadow Lane Park evokes the look of Jean-Luc Godard’s 1960s Technicolor and Eastmancolor films – think Pierrot le Fouor Le Mépris – if not the questioning, pessimistic feel. This is upbeat French pop music made to be played under the too bright sun, just don’t expect there to be any long shadows.