Pop Culture Gadabout
Monday, May 30, 2011
      ( 5/30/2011 03:17:00 PM ) Bill S.  

“IF I UNDERSTOOD, THEN I COULD UNDERSTAND.” With a moniker like Hot Club de Paris, the uninitiated listener might understandably expect something on the nature of Django Reinhardt to come slinking out of the speakers. But this trio of Liverpudlian alt poppers are going for a different sound altogether: art-pop with tinges of XTC and Blur, a guitarist who recalls a less sinuous Tom Verlaine in places, boisterous back-up vocals that immediately announce their pronounced British boyishness, crisp lyrics -- good times for lovers of smarty-pants pop, in other words.

The band’s newest release, Free the Pterodactyl 3 (Moshi Moshi Records), is their North American debut, though this prolix threesome have priors in their native land. The material in this disc is in fact culled from two earlier import-only EPs, reshuffled for us Yanks into one engagingly ragged package. Opening with a burst of Big Country clang, the CD release offers a good overview of the group’s energetic sound: slices of young urban life placed alongside more lyrically dense numbers. “Rise and Fall of the High School Suicide Cluster Band,” for instance, tells the tale of a would-be band of alt-rockers, while “Fuck You, the Truth!” is a spoken word track in the mode of Blur’s “Parklife” that would appear either to be about police brutality or the debilitating nature of outdoor concerts -- or maybe something else entirely.

If at times these guys come across overly self-conscious in their wordiness (e.g., the aptly titled “Three Albums in And Still No Ballad”), their snappy catchiness carries you through to the end, especially on cuts like “Biggie Smalls and the Ghetto Slams” and “Noses Blazing,” which starts out almost sounding rockabilly until the guitar line goes slightly Voidoid. Brothers Matthew (guitar, vocals) and Alasdair (drums) Smith, alongside bassist Paul Rafferty, clearly have taken the D.I.Y. sensitivities of the mid-seventies/early eighties to heart. This may not win ‘em any massive airplay in the benighted U.S. but it should connect with lovers of angular and eccentric tunesmithery.

More Songs about Buildings and Chocolate and Food and Girls, in other words -- and if you get that blended reference, then you’re probably part of the listening audience for this appealing little disc.

(First published on Blogcritics.)


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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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