Album Reviews

Louis XIV – The Best Little Secrets Are Kept

(Atlantic) UK release date: 10 October 2005

Writing songs about sex – it’s a tricky business for a 21st Century rock’n’roll boy. If you stay sensitive, or avoid it all together, you can keep a little mystique. You can be serious musicians(TM). If you’re female, then you’re humping all the way to the bank as you hotwire straight into the fantasies and aspirations of a million teenagers – easy money. You can also get away with it if you’re a bona fide Metal Guru.

Yes kids, playing with all-out sleaze needs confidence, conviction and preferably a bad-boy reputation to boot. Louis XIV have tried, Louis XIV have also given us some pretty good tunes, but that just doesn’t matter. Make the listener expect sex, then that’s what you gotta deliver. Which is a hell of a challenge.

So let’s get the preliminaries out of the way. Louis XIV sound like Marc Bolan, Bon Scott, Keith Richards and Bill Wyman, put into cryogenic freeze back in 1975 and awakened in the present day with an overwhelming urge to masturbate. Yes they’re ready to Bang a Gong again and again, just like Beavis and Butthead during one of their marathon Baywatch sessions.

Lyrically, it’s masochistic from the start. The “Me, Me, Me” refrain on the opening track sets the trend for the rest of the album (though nominally it’s about the French monarch who gave the band their name). Next up is the current single, Finding Out True Love Is Blind. This has frontman Jason Hill surveying black girls, white girls, studious girls, Asian girls, ginger girls and even stupid girls and telling us what we already guessed – that he’s still gagging for it. (“Butthead, when are we gonna score!?” “Er..shut up, Beavis..”)

The sound is lo-fi 70s glam rock, with a lot more than a hint of T-Rex and AC/DC. A Letter to Dominique has so much of Metal Guru in it that bits of T-Rex have been leaking from the CD and infiltrating the opening paragraphs of this review. They’ve certainly got the swagger, and despite the retro stylings, they do have an individual sound about them. Jason Hill insisted on producing, recording and engineering the album himself and there’s tons of quirky and intelligent touches hidden away throughout.

The spikier tunes on the album are as infectious as herpes and for once that’s a good thing. Check out God Killed The Queen, the aforementioned single, or the genuinely groovy Pledge of Allegiance. Be warned though – that song is also home to the oh-so-cheeky refrain “you don’t have to go to the pool if you want me to make you wet.” Ooh, it’s so saucy, isn’t it?

If this review sounds a bit schizophrenic, then it’s because the album itself feels a bit like that. The lyrical porn lacks the gravitas of a Lou Reed or an Iggy Pop, and might be more at home with an over-the-top musical approach a la Aerosmith or Motley Crue – but the music is actually quite intelligent and even understated. Just compare Louis XIV’s Hey Teacher to Van Halen‘s Hot For Teacher and you’ll see what I mean. There’s some great music on here, serious potential, but somewhere it just doesn’t quite fit together.

The closing two numbers include the great ballad All The Little Pieces, and bring the more downbeat and introspective side of Louis XIV to the fore. The strings on each one are fantastic, bringing the album full circle at the end by returning to the melodies that introduced the first song. They show signs of what Louis XIV have the potential to be – a great 21st Century rock’n’roll band.

So have they delivered musical sex? Well maybe that’s all a red herring. After all, The Best Little Secrets Are Kept is a pretty good album. However that’s despite, not because of, the subject matter – and just like masturbation, it’s ultimately disappointing.

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Louis XIV – The Best Little Secrets Are Kept
Louis XIV @ Leadmill, Sheffield