The soundtrack for La Vie d’Artiste has its moments of beauty, but as a whole, it’s nothing more than quite nice elevator music. It’s not because the individual tracks are not up to scratch, it’s just that, together, they’re a tad boring.
The running theme of La Vie d’Artiste, a film about the lives of a waitress, teacher and voice-over actor wanting to make their way in the arts world, features some lovely strings and beautiful arrangements over a simple percussion, some smooth sax and a nice bit of round jazz guitar. It’s lounge with a French twang and I’m sure it fits very nicely into the film, but how many times do you want to hear it on a soundtrack? The same sound is used throughout the 37 minute, 21-track album – the same lovely strings, the same guitar sound, the same brass. It just gets a bit much.
Soundtracks should not just be an accompaniment to a movie. They should be able to stand on their own two feet. They should conjure up images of that great film you saw last Tuesday, but also be a pleasant listening experience in their own right, as with your Ennio Morricones (The Mission), Danny Elfmans (Edward Scissorhands) and Yann Tiersens (Amelie). La Vie d’Artiste doesn’t come close.
That’s not to say it’s a shoddy piece of work. The collaboration between Tim Gane of Stereolab and Sean O’Hagan of The High Llamas has worked well. Their individual styles have melted together and it doesn’t for one moment feel like a battle of talents. The production is rich and the instruments recorded at their best – if not a little clean.
Musical treats like the thumping, woody piano of Ecrivain ou professeur or the sparkling Rhodes and fairy-like xylophone combo of Les Prix Litteraires are pretty, but there are not enough of these magical moments.
By a third of the way through, you know the recurring tune so well, you’re making up your own lyrics and accompanying melody. Effectively, you’re adding the extra, which is so badly needed – something to sing along to or a point where you say ‘I love this bit’, just like at the 1935 recording of Si Tu N’Etais Pas La on Tiersen’s Amelie soundtrack.
The only areas on La Vie d’Artiste where there is a change in pace is still too samey – the same tune popified a little, with poor electric beats. Alice Sur Scene touches on something a little different with an echoing, oriental sound, but at just one minute and three seconds, it’s not enough to save the album.
It’s rare you hear of a soundtrack making it to the top of the charts, unless by your film score greats. This is no exception and will be an album for great lovers of the film or die-hard Gane and O’Hagen fans, destined to only be played as background music at a dinner party.