Sunday, June 21, 2009

Album Review: "Cafeine" - Christophe Willem

Second album time for (arguably) the most inventive and original of France’s reality TV-created pop idols. "Inventaire", his debut, took us on a journey from the wonderful bright pop of "Elu Produit de L’annee", "Double Je" and "Kiss The Bride" to the quite-frankly-bonkers "La Tortue" and provided much to enjoy along the way.

To say that "Cafeine" is one of my most-awaited albums of 2009 is an understatement. My worry with most second albums is that they inevitably lead to disappointment, but this is still well worth a listen.

"Cafeine" is, if you’ll pardon the coffee-pun, less "instant" than Christophe’s debut, and you may not enjoy some, any, or all of it on your first hearing. First single "Berlin" for example struck me as a good but not great track on first listen, with its falsetto vocals over the bleeping electronic background. Several listens in and I’m now firmly hooked. It’s certainly a very "contemporary" sound as that electro-pop style is in fashion at the moment.

"L’Homme en Noir" is an atmospheric opening, and builds into a very ‘warm’ sound if you know what I mean. "Sensitized" is my favourite track from the album at the moment. A bi-lingual duet with Kylie Minogue, it’s a cover version of a song from her last album, which I wasn’t familiar with, but I was very familiar with the "Bonnie and Clyde" sample that the song is based around.
The frantic "La Demande" perhaps could have done with more of a tune, but "Entre Nous et Le Sol" redeems things, slows down the pace and again has a lovely atmospheric chillout vibe which kind-of reminds me of Etienne Daho, which is only a good thing.

The tempo’s slightly raised on "Plus Que Tout" which is a little mid-paced and r’n’b in places, but it has a decent pop chorus and probably wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Mans Zelmerlow’s new CD, for example.

Christophe indulges his slightly crazy side on "Coffee" which is one of the album’s most distinctive choruses and the whole thing is very addictive. A bit like coffee itself dare I say! And you won’t be able to get that "no you can’t stay for coffee" sample out of your head.

"Fragile" is a more traditional ballad, and he sings very well on it. Another very good track, and I’m not a fan of ballads.

"Trash" is like Christophe’s little musical tribute to Prince and the Revolution. A duet with Skye, it’s very catchy and danceable, and trash it most certainly isn’t. "Tu Te Fous de Nous" meanwhile relies a little too heavily on the electronic beats and is one of the poorer tracks.

"Heartbox" is another of my favourite tracks - I love the way Christophe switches between his native language and English. Like the wonderful "Kiss The Bride", this track is sung in English and has a very light, summery pop feel. The vocals are slightly reminiscent of George Michael and the only thing I don’t like about it is the dreaded autotune. :(

"Yaourt & Lavabo" is another atmospheric ballad although it’s not as good as "Fragile", needless to say I’ll probably change my mind! "Si Je Tombais" leaves the electronic sound behind and is just piano and vocals to bring the album to a graceful and dignified end.

Unless of course you’ve got the special edition of the album, which has alternative versions of "L’Homme en Noir", "Berlin" (including an English version no less, called "Lost In Berlin" - although I much prefer the French version). "La Demande", "Si Je Tombais"...worth getting if only to compare the different versions of the songs.

In typical second album style, there is nothing on it as good as the aforementioned classic trilogy of "Elu Produit"/"Double Je"/"Kiss The Bride". However, it’s bold, different and experimental and as French pop stars go, he certainly has a very distinctive musical style and you get the feeling that he makes the music that he wants to make, rather than what someone thinks he should make. Therefore if you’re looking for instant pop satisfaction you might be a little disappointed, but if you take the time to get to know this album, it will bring rewards.

No comments: