Avril's second outing blends electronica, guitars and lush orchestrated arrangements...
Jack Smith 2004
Avril's debut album, That Horse Must Be Starving, was awarded the Prix Constantin in 2002 - the French equivalent to the UK's Mercury Music Prize. Two years on and the self-proclaimed outsider of the electronic world, Parisian producer and multi-instrumentalist Fred 'Avril' Magnon, has delivered his sophomore collection, Members Only.
As with his debut, his latest opus is another textbook blend of electronica with guitars seamlessly matched with lush orchestrated arrangements akin to those of fellow countrymen Air, and their now classic Moon Safari set. Yet whilst comparisons can be flattering, they can also mask the true creativeness that Avril oozes from every digit. True, the set's opener, "Urban Serenade", does have Air's distinctive chilled science stamped firmly upon it, but little else here comes close to xeroxing their 'sound'.
The lead single, "Be Yourself" is a raw soundclash of electro breaks, punked-up guitar riffs and a French-versed / English-hooked lyric. It's an obvious choice for single release, with countless further contenders vying for 45 status. Among them the stomping pop rock of "Can't Stand Your Ex's Rock Band" with lyrics to match the tongue-in-cheek thrashing guitar riffs - think Franz Ferdinand singing a David Byrne song and you'll be in the right ballpark.
"TV Dinner" is perhaps the most club-friendly of the 10-tracks on offer; a grungy melding hash of punk-funk grooves in the best tradition of fellow Gallic hipsters Cassius, Daft Punk, Crydamoure et al. While the in-ya-face "Power" comes across like the bastard child of the Prodigy on speed and is destined to win indie fans over quicker then you can say "Glastonbury tickets go on sell today!"
Chilled relief comes close at hand with "Eve+++++", which rides a melody that wouldn't have sounded out of place on the Betty Blue soundtrack - another defining moment in iconic French art. The cinematic theme is continued on "Roofless" which similarly echoes of the avant-garde percussive rhythms of American Beauty.
A disconcerted record that requires repeat plays to be fully appreciated and understood, Members Only has a sound that seems immediately 'bigger' than its predecessor building upon its successes by exploring an even broader sonic milieu. Little wonder then that the emperor's new clothes are today on Avril's back.