REVIEW: M83 – Junk

One of the major British music magazines gave Junk a five-star review, calling it high-class cheese. If Sweden produce the kings of pop, France produces the champagne-sipping toffs.

Anthony Gonzalez is on album number seven as M83. Album six was a double which featured, in Midnight City and Reunion, two club bangers that were the ‘Intro by the xx’ of 2012; Hurry Up We’re Dreaming was nominated for a Grammy the same year that Daft Punk put out their ode to great pop music, Random Access Memories. Fans of that will no doubt love this.

Incidentally, the man who followed Daft Punk in winning the Best Album Grammy appears on the track Time Wind. Beck is no stranger to offbeat pop oddness and strings, and this classic could mean a slew of guest vocal spots for the great man. Beck’s voice is framed expertly by a soft-rock funky production, with emphasis on a bassline Paul McCartney may have written in his own electronic phase.

For the Kids has a lovely vocal from Susanne Sundfor, and a sax borrowed from one of those slow jams you used to get in 1989. First single Do It, Try It sounds like a house music number, high-class Eurotrance. But as with any M83 album, the moods that are conjured are more important than the words, which are mere melodic math, following the tunes and complementing the melodic shape. Road Blaster is very much like that, with woos in the place of the chorus.

Go, track two on the album, is a brilliant song with so many hooks and is one of four tracks which feature vocals from Mai Lan. The others are Bibi the Dog, a French-language Pet Shop Boys tune with Pinky and Perky popping up in the middle; Laser Gun, which is lovely and headnoddy and like the music of the band Air; and Atlantique Sud, which is sumptuous, sung in French and full of longing.

That last track is an example of the ‘classic’ style of songwriting so beloved still by the French. Solitude, the record’s centrepiece and the second single released to blogs and digital services, is a highlight. Proper songwriting gets called ‘70s-influenced’ and Elton John would have been proud to have written the music to a song whose lyrics seem to be sung by an octet. Lovely sweeping strings on the track, even though the song is a lament, make it sound romantic.

Moon Crystal and The Wizard are instrumentals with great chord shifts, and the former especially looks back to the ‘yacht rock’ era of glossy production and cheesy synthesised sounds. Sunday Night 1987 has another keening instrumental section, this time a harmonica plaintively played to summon up nostalgie.

A few years ago the great Sebastien Tellier entered Eurovision as France’s representative – in the best possible way, giving M83 a go would probably keep it in Paris forever more. As it is, catch him touring Junk and sway along to the swooning ballads among the soaring singalongs.

Jonny Brick

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M83 - Junk
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