Every season, I make a Spotify playlist in which I put all the songs that “defined that moment in my life” – which is really just a more pretentious way of saying “these songs were stuck in my head a lot at this time”. To my horror, the 2016 Autumn playlist had been permitted to stay empty for about two weeks, and I was descending into a vicious cycle of New Order’s Music Complete and “for him.” by Troye Sivan. This could not do. As much as I adored New Order, I needed a new (playlist) order in my life.
The answer came as I was listening to Cléa Vincent’s “Retiens mon désir”. You know, as one does. Basically, I realised that I needed to listen to some French indie rock. You know, as one does. This made sense, generally, as I was starting to forget my HSC French.
I found Aline after some detailed research (Google: “french indie rock”), and their 2013 single “Elle m’oubliera” attracted me at once, mostly because they sounded a lot like the Smiths with that clear tenor and meandering guitar à la Johnny Marr (compare to “This Charming Man“).
Fronted by Romain Guerret, Aline comes from Marseille and are oft-hailed as an “80s revival band”. Apparently, they really hate being hailed as such, so from here on out I will avoid using the word “revival” – but any commentary of Aline without the words “80s” or “band” would simply be lacking, sorry to say.
Their second album La Vie électrique (The electric life) develops from the freshly innocent, Smiths-esque initial style of Regarde le ciel (“Elle m’oubliera” is on this one). As the title promises, it’s a bit more électrique so they sound like they’ve just been extracted from the 80s post-punk scene, as opposed to the 80s alt rock scene. The very authentique-sounding synths have a bigger role to play in La Vie électrique, woven into the musical fabric in a way which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Cure album.
The album opens with the wistful-sounding “Avenue des armées” and “Les Résonances cachées”, with bright guitar encroaching like vines on Guerret’s pensive tenor. From there, the album springs into its breathlessly blissful eponymous track. With a bouncing bassline and permeating synth, “La Vie électrique” is easily the most light-hearted and danceable track of the album. There’s wonder in Guerret’s sighed ‘oh oh‘, and the lyrics are incredibly besotted (see below for chorus, use Google Translate if necessary).
Allez monte je te suis y’a le jour qui se lève
Prends bien ton temps, la vue est belle
A chaque marche mes yeux se perdent
Encore une décharge et je crève, oh oh.
My favourite track is the fourth, “Les Angles morts” (not, as I thought, “The Dead Angles”, but “The Blind Spots”), which makes use of what sounds incredibly like an electronic drum straight out of the 80s. The blend and balance of the instruments is spectacular, with the evocative vocals, drums (electronic and…normal?), synth, and bass kneaded together with the measured guitar riff and solo sprinkled tastefully on top. This song gripped my tiny, cold heart with a yearning desire to drive through Parisian lights (like city lights, not traffic lights).
Semi-instrumental “Plus noir encore”follows and after that, “Tristesse de la Balance”, which is possibly the happiest-sounding song to exist with the repeated phrase ‘je suis triste’ (I’m sad). The three tracks after these, “Chaque jour qui passe”, “Une vie”, and “Les Mains vides”, feature more guitar-laden tunes which seem to bridge, as an afterthought, this album with their last.
“Promis, juré, craché” (“Cross my heart and hope to die”), the official album closer, is undoubtedly the most fun track. With a driving rock guitar, Guerret asserts ad nauseam the album’s end (‘j’arrête tout, je dis stop’, ‘c’est fini, terminé’, ‘ciao… bye bye’), which becomes pretty ironic when you get to their verifiable gem of a hidden track, “Mon Dieu Mes Amis”.
I won’t lie, it’s been less than a week and I’ve honestly just been bingeing this album almost exclusively (and grooving to it in public, inviting judgement from people who obviously don’t have Aline in their lives). Aline’s tracks are infectious and will have you attempting to mumble along to the French. In fact, the interesting thing about listening to French music is that the rhyming is a lot more coherent. English, with its hodgepodge of etymologies, lacks the sonic cohesion of French. I mean, generally, that’s not actually a bad thing (if you’ve done French, you will know the sheer frustration of how everything sounds the same because there’s fifty ways to write the ‘ay’ sound) and I’m not one to be picky with lyrics, but at least Aline can avoid some of the rhyming death traps of English (i.e. “I want a nice car / a girlfriend who’s as pretty as a star.” Thank you, Bernard Sumner).
Needless to say, I will be following their subsequent releases with extreme tenacity. I completely recommend checking out Regarde le ciel too if you’re in need of more from this band. For now, I will mourn the non-existent state of their albums to come by putting on La Vie électrique. Après tout, elle m’appelle.
Where to find La Vie électrique:
WE FUCKING DID IT GUYS. Merci, Aline!