Thursday, May 12, 2005

spiffy special: Mylène Farmer
A very special guest joins us today at th' Hut:
Elisabeth Vincentelli is a former music editor and current senior editor at Time Out NY. Elisabeth has written for the Stone, EW, the Voice and has penned liners for more than a few discs. This is, I hope, the first of several pieces that she will be doing for us on French pop music.
Make her feel welcome and leave some commentary, n'est-ce pas?

Mylène Farmer - 'L'amour N'est Rien'

Mylène Farmer - 'Porno Graphique'

There¹s only one person who matters in French pop, and it¹s not Benjamin Biolay or Keren Ann or Phoenix or Daft Punk; it¹s Mylène Farmer.

In her adopted home (for she was born in Canada), Mylène¹s often dubbed "the French Madonna," a comparison she¹s earned by dint of her longevity as a best-selling star (close to 20 years), her ambitious, super-slick pop sound, and the obsessive devotion she inspires in her fans (of which I¹ve been one since hearing her first big hit, 'Libertine,' in 1986. Unlike Madonna, though, Mylène isn¹t really embraced by her own country¹s intelligentsia, which is sadly incapable of seeing that she¹s the most idiosyncratic, eccentric, completely sui generis singer we French have. She sells millions of records and is treated with derision by tastemakers, the fools!

Like her frozen-in-amber appearance, Mylène¹s songs, which she writes with longtime producer Laurent Boutonnat, have changed very little over the years: a disco-Goth stomper here, a dramatic ballad there; frequent lyrical references to mysterious shadows, obsessive love, death and the joys of anal sex; echo-drenched vocals alternating between sexy whispers and asthmatic high notes. (The one time she tried to deviate from her formula, on the guitar-heavy, Los Angeles­recorded Anamorphosée [1995], the reception was frosty.) To accompany this delirium, the red-headed singer's made a string of demented videos boasting huge budgets, full credit rolls and nutty storylines.

Here are two excerpts from Mylène¹s brand-new CD, "Avant Que L'Ombre;" the first single is titled 'Fuck Them All' (in English) but the album is so good that it isn¹t even among the best songs.

'L'amour N'est Rien' is a straightforward, vaguely uptempo pop tune. The lyrics cover all the Mylène bases, referencing metaphysical something or other, the darkness, and love being boring when it¹s sexually correct.

In 'Porno Graphique,' a crow-like cackles introduce a typically catchy Mylène tune that, also typically, combines gloomy bells, a nursery-rhyme melody, a piano counter-melody, disco-inspired strings and treated vox provided by the multitracked singer. Lyrically, the song joins 1988¹s 'Pourvu Qu'elles Soient Douces' (available on Farmer's two disc best-of "Les Mots") in the pantheon of great Mylène songs praising sodomy. Oddly, the track concludes on the singer asking for a mojito before erupting into disquieting laughter. It doesn¹t make sense but then Mylène hardly ever does and still, it works; that¹s what makes her a pop star.

Import "Avant Que L'Ombre" (roughly, "Before the Darkness"), Farmer's new and long-awaited album, from Amazon.
Explore this extensive Farmer site.
It's in French but the monolingual among us can always rely on pidgin babelfish.
Download a score of Farmer tracks (and some wallpapers!) from this slick fansite.
Read this Farmer bio (in English!) from Radio France International.


Want to live MOMA chic, but can't afford the toll?
Why blow your money on a 45 buck Carlo Contin Satellite Bowl when you can get the same effect from six pairs of chopsticks and a rubber band?
More economical DIY design available here.
Custom Pez dispensers.
I'm diggin' the Mister Natural, the Alien and the Badtz Maru.
Having just zipped through the first two seasons of The Wire in about a week-and-a-half flat, I can't recommend it enough.

Nobody's harder than Omar, so check out this great Tavis Smiley interview (transcription here) with the man himself, Michael K. Williams.

Dude is street fa real and fa sho.
"Dave Chappelle has checked himself into a mental health facility in South Africa"
I'm a-hopin' and a-prayin' that this is some sort of Kaufman-esque stunt; otherwise, it's a damn shame.
Lord knows I monkeyed it up enough yesterday, but here's one more: An Ebay auction for a screaming monkey button.

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