Album Reviews

Joakim – Monsters & Silly Songs

(!K7) UK release date: 19 February 2007

One thing you can definitely say about 30-ish Parisian resident Joakim, the boy is versatile. Put simply, Monsters & Silly Songs comprises 16 Tunes In Search Of An Auteur.

Really. This record makes Now That’s What I Call Music part 578 sound positively thematic.

Veering at all-points between some kind of pop-ish techno, boinging electro, early WARP-style tricky disco, and some leaden-footed indie-rocking, Joakim Bouaziz’s third album is anything but dull.

Joakim has some previous in this scatological regard. A busy remixer, Joakim imagines he is another person entirely when involved in a commission. But extending the role-playing over an entire album is a different story.

To pull a random three at will, Drumtrax, Rocket Pearl and Lonely Hearts appear sprung from some entirely disparate DNA.

Lonely Hearts, an electropop hymn to delicious isolation screams pastiche, playing out like the output of a Blitz-era Bowie clone like Steve Strange with the lighter side of Chris & Cosey thrown in for good measure.

Squelchy dancefloor hit Drumtrax takes on Aphex Twin and only loses on a technicality. Worth the entrance fee alone, Drumtrax is nice ‘n’ dark wobbly techno that sounds like it was made in 5 minutes of acid-fixed inspiration.

The trippier the album gets the better. But though everyone and their robodog have decided to make post-industrial angular guitar records like Perestroika never happened is no good reason for Joakim to get involved. But get involved he does.

Joakim’s Rocket Pearl should let Kasabian handle the Primal Scream rip-offs (oh, irony of ironies), but the lure of getting some rock band chums round for a nite-in of striking delusional revolutionary poses was obviously too much to resist.

You may wonder how such massively incompatible styles could share the same record with any degree of harmony. And you won’t be surprised to learn that they don’t.

But for comparing apples with oranges, really any two tracks off Monsters & Silly Songs would do. This lurch between the sublime and the daft is no better symbolised than on Palo Alto.

While its soundtrack twinkles darkly, Ponihoax‘s Nicolas Ker croons some old fluff about the ‘western side of his dreams’. Even Jim Morrison might have choked on such a raw cut of baloney.

Monsters & Silly Songs really works best when interpretation is left to the listener rather than busily broadcasting the sum of its influences.

Sleep In Hollow Trees and Everything Brighter & Still both harbour a self-conscious desire to belong to Talking Heads albums, but the genuinely luminous Three Legged Lantern walks on its own three feet.

As does The Devil With No Tail, five all-too-brief minutes of grace under pressure and sombre reflection, almost illbient in its spaghetti western spookiness.

Whereas all four of the monster tracks need to be ran away from, Peter Pan Over The Bronx is the kind of record to soundtrack shooting stars striking the atmosphere.

But maybe all this lurching from one style to another isn’t meant to be taken seriously, the clue’s in the title after all. Maybe Joakim believes these are just silly songs. But then Paul McCartney came to a similar conclusion in his solo career, and we all know how that only served to diminish the general quality of life.

Though its tempting to kick back and admire its range, Monsters & Silly Songs is custom-built for the download generation. All that’s required is to ditch the rough, and dig for the diamonds.

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