Album Reviews

Everybody Was In The French Resistance… Now! – Fixin’ The Charts, Volume One

(Cooking Vinyl) UK release date: 1 February 2010

Eddie Argos has formed another band. Alongside his G.I.R.L.F.R.E.N. Dyan Vald�z (of The Blood Arm), he’s set out to set right 40 years of popular music wrongdoings. Replacing Art Brut’s frenetic post-punk aesthetic with a cavalcade of radio-friendly musical stylings, Argos does his usual talk/sing thing in a new arena. The result is little more than a novelty, disappointingly devoid of fangs and claws despite its brash, fuck-you-pop-stars intent.

From Avril Lavigne to The Mamas And The Papas, no one is safe from Argos’ snarky, highbrow aim on Everybody Was In The French Resistance… Now!’s debut LP, Fixin’ The Charts, Volume One, a seemingly endless barrage of Phil Spector-esque, wall-of-sound, pop “response” songs. But how, exactly, does one “fix” a song? Consider the scene as the duo made their first attempt.

Argos and Vald�z are winding their way through California, listening to the FM. Eddie becomes indignant at hearing Martha And The Vandellas sing Jimmy Mack, which is sung from the point of view of a woman who’s planning on cheating on her boyfriend, who, Argos muses, is probably fighting in Vietnam.

Jimmy Mack needs someone to stand up for him, so upon arriving home, the couple feverishly pen Hey! It’s Jimmy Mack!, a response from the jilted bloke’s point of view. “Hey, it’s Jimmy Mack. I heard your track, and if that’s your attitude, I’m never coming back,” Argos sings (or rather says, bemusedly).

Lead single and clear standout track, G.I.R.L.F.R.E.N. (You Know I’ve Got A), is a response to Avril Lavigne‘s Girlfriend. Argos thwarts girls like Lavigne who pursue him constantly – arguing perhaps for the sanctity of monogamy; how postmodern – culminating lyrically with the pedantic hand-clap singsong refrain: “I’m very in love with someone else. We’ve got concerns about your mental health!”

Also among Argos’s targets are Kanye West (Coal Digger tells the story of the belittled blue-collar worker from Gold Digger); Michael Jackson (Billie’s Genes is told from the point of view of the child in question in Billie Jean); and poor old Gerry And The Pacemakers (Walk Alone argues that, yes, it’s quite alright to be alone from time to time, despite what You’ll Never Walk Alone may imply). And the list goes on.

Then there’s The Archies. What could they have ever done wrong to deserve “fixing?” In (I’m So) Waldo P Emerson Jones, Argos talks from the point of view of the Archies’ nerdy new kid on the block over an only somewhat searing Motown track that sounds not even a little like his targets’ bubblegum pop. The duo even attempt to fix Scarborough Fair, a traditional tune not ascribed to any particular bigheaded pop star. Why? Good question.

The lyrics are humourous enough, and on first listen they inspire a half-smile from time to time (as on Coal Digger, when Argos says: “It’s an awkward situation, when I tried to pay the restaurant bill with just my imagination”). But more often, the simplemindedness of the rhymes – from such a consistently highbrow, intelligent source – inspires grimaces and head-scratches. Argos’s voice may propel Art Brut’s music to eyebrow-raising angularity and unbridled aggression; here, it just sounds out of sorts and bored.

Fixin’ The Charts comes with a lofty goal: to grind down the blemishes that mar the rock face of the popular music mythos. But to attempt to “fix” history, to paint over its wrongs with a broad, sneerish stroke, is a gross mis-step in the career of one of anti-pop’s savviest purveyors. Note to Argos and Vald�z: please don’t attempt a Volume Two.

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Everybody Was In The French Resistance… Now! – Fixin’ The Charts, Volume One