ittle makes for less enjoyable reading when it comes to music crit than a writer writing about writing a review, but allow me this opening paragraph: 64 by Spanish indie electro duo Souvenir has been circulating amongst Stylus staff for something close to a month now, to a pretty much unanimously positive reception. “Feels like if Annie had Fujiya and Miyagi as her backing band,” went one scribe. “This is really great,” opined another. So on, so forth, until we decide that Souvenir are certainly something. And then it falls on me to review them. And I'm not sure I can. Souvenir are a blank Word document type of band, descriptions seem to vanish off the page every time you sit down to explain them.
Maybe it's because there's no easy cross-reference. Black Box Recorder with a slightly happier childhood? There's a purity to them, the accents (they sing in French—not Spanish—because, y'know, you can't do electropop if you're forced to lisp every “s”) are clipped, there's a formality to all the presentation. But then they go and do a song like “Accident à Londres” which plays out as “Sunglasses at Night” redone for the mid ‘90s “In Flight Entertainment”/Frances Gall revivalist set. In fact, the only constant is that they make something unmistakably French: in the same way that it took Celtic interlopers like Morrissey and Noel Gallagher to deliver the most English of music. Souvenir give us an austerity, poise, and hautiness of tone that would convince anyone they were born the wrong side of the Pyrenees.
But back to being unreviewable. Words scribbled down on a notepad after fifteen listens to this album: Visage. (I have never heard a Visage album track, but my guess is they all sound exactly like “Une Semaine En Ballon”). Xenomania’s first singles. (Surf guitar in electropop is the new chocolate in peanut butter). Xenomania album ballads. (Remember when you cared about Girls Aloud? Happy times). That one time you did too much coke and started liking Hot Chip. (Except experienced sober.) Loungepop done without irony and by people who can't bring themselves to wear polyester. Lots of orgasmic moaning. Moloko and Londonbeat at the same time.
Maybe we're just being overawed by the fact that Souvenir are the first band in ages to bring a classic sense of Gallic élan to the pop table without resorting to “Nouvelle Vague smirking their way through a Skrewdriver cover” knowingness. I don't think it is, though. 64 stands tall as the kind of product that makes me want to go to those salons where they charge you £50 for a haircut on the off chance they'd be playing this album.
Reviewed by: Dom Passantino
Reviewed on: 2007-05-02