Lots In Translation--Okay, Just a Little
According to Britannia.com, my source for all things limey (only kidding--I never use it!), Robert Lacey once said, quoting the monarch's biographer, that "King George V was distinguished 'by no exercise of social gifts, by no personal magnetism, by no intellectual powers. He was neither a wit nor a brilliant raconteur, neither well-read nor well-educated, and he made no great contribution to enlightened social converse. He lacked intellectual curiosity and only late in life acquired some measure of artistic taste.' He was, in other words, like most of his subjects. He discovered a new job for modern kings and queens to do--representation." George, who lived from 1865 to 1936 and ruled competently or better through World War I, the Depression, Sinn Fein, and other pleasantries, is remembered by the pseudo-absurdist Quebec trio Les Georges Leningrad in the song "George V," which comes after "Bad Smell."
Now, why George? Is it because if you tack on another "V," George V becomes George W, another world leader lacking intellectual curiosity in turbulent times? Are our northern neighbors poking fun, albeit so lightly none of us would notice? Or is it that these pinko pretenders (Leningrad ain't a river in Egypt, after all) have a soft spot for this folksy, mustachioed man of the people? A soft spot on top of their heads, perhaps. Let's turn to their bio: "We are the petrochemical ironclad Les Georges Leningrad. We touch everything without the fear to dirt our nails and break them right after a slow and painful slide on a school board. Our sweater got holes in their elbows..." They obviously don't speak American.
We can't pin them down, but we can sure take potshots. The three--Poney P., Mingo L'Indien, and Bobo Boutin--read the bio yourself if you want to try to figure out who does what--sound like defunct Providence pseudo-'tards Arab on Radar fronted by a lady, tourmates Erase Errata as conceived by a man, or, if you prefer, the Residents. They belong, in other words, to a tradition (or more accurately, traditions). But like George II, their crashing inanity and maddening tautologies have a pleasant doggedness about them; like George V (and unlike the impeccable Erase Errata), they're a ways from developing any sort of taste or contributing much to "social converse." Their songs are formulaic. Their appropriations are too obvious.
Their shtick is annoying. Few of the words, including those in English (others are in French and German), are intelligible. Their instruments often seem out of tune. They are more fun, in other words, than a barrel full of cheese-eating surrender monkeys.
And now to listen. Deux Hot Dogs Moutarde Chou (Alien8), originally released in 2002 and now being reissued with much wider distribution (you're more likely to have heard them on Rough Trade's Post Punk Vol. 01 comp), ingeniously goes in order from best song to worst. "Caamckne Nechn," the first track, starts with a woozy, simplistic, out-of-tune guitar riff, then adds ominous silent film synth-organ spook, dusty record scratch, and two sped-up vocal parts that sound like different Bollywood samples being played at opposite ends of a large room; it ends with some poor, countryish acoustic guitar picking. "Lollipop Lady," the next song, combines almost unbearably trebly post-punk guitar slashing, a dumb bassline, tinny canned break, and the girly singer's marble-mouthed screeches about catching the bus, probably the short one; it's better than most of the songs on the Franz Ferdinand album. There're drastically altered vocals and radio-tuning fuzz and video game score sounds and near-obnoxious buzzing synths and bells and whistles (okay, no whistles). If there's a point, I don't know it. But by George, I know what I like.
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