The idiosyncratic Frenchman with a penchant for doing press ups and sticking cigarettes up his nose on stage returns with his third album proper. Sébastien Tellier may stop just short of pleading madness and screaming ‘Wibble’ a la Blackadder, but to say he is unpredictable is a gross understatement.
Unpredictable reads as inconsistent to many as well; his output to date has veered from one of the best pop songs of the century, the beautifully simplistic seven-minute ballad La Ritournelle, to funk-riddled self-indulgence. So will procuring the production services of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo of Daft Punk result in a more cohesive and consistent album?
The short answer is yes. If you can imagine the pop sensibilities of Daft Punk’s Discovery amplified and exaggerated but minus the focus on the dancefloor, you can get a sense of the overall sound of Sexuality. Opener Roche lays the foundation for the rest of the album through its delicate, plucked synth melody, slow, swinging electro beat and Tellier’s breathy vocal in his native tongue, surely aimed at seduction.
While the vocals flit between French and English, musically the album retains its focus. Electronic throughout, many tracks are pitched at ballad-speed but this is no sickly, saccharine nightmare rather an outpouring of love, lust and emotion executed with a huge dollop of ice-cool Gallic style. Having said that, Divine is stupidly upbeat and ecstatically celebratory in tone.
Sexual Sportswear is the only instrumental on the album. Dramatic, melodic and repetitive, it gave little away as to the rest of the content of the album and Tellier’s sensitive vocal performances when released as the lead single.
De Homem-Christo’s productions do conjure up images of the eighties as synths and electronic beats combine to ensure the album lives up to its name with a soft-focussed aplomb. There are occasional orgasmic moans and groans, as on Kilometer and Pomme, to reinforce the overall theme but the music itself oozes sensuality, at times almost caricaturing it through soft porn soundtrack stylings but generally with a seductive sensitivity.
The light and dark of Tellier’s character are both displayed on closing ballad L’Amour Et La Violence an autobiographical track that tells of his troubled and violent teenage past. It is simple, honest, personal and touching. Tellier certainly knows how to tug those heartstrings and, even if you’re not fluent in French, the level of laid-bare emotion on display is akin to La Ritournelle.
One of modern music’s great eccentrics has come up with his most pop-centred album so far. That’s not to say it doesn’t challenge and ask questions between the hooks, however. Tellier will always innovate and reinvent himself with every release so this purely electronic approach may never be repeated again. That would be a shame as de Homem-Christo seems to have harnessed what some find to be Tellier’s frustratingly inconsistent nature to produce an album that is both accessible and consistent, and worthy of repeat listens.
Sexy, shiny electro-pop with an occasional hint of fromage, Sexuality is a strong, focussed album and arguably Tellier’s finest long-player to date.