Saturday, February 17, 2007

Les Sinners

Les Sinners are a pretty famous band in certain circles. Garage rock/psych completists are familiar with their three LP’s in their original incarnation. Their first album, "Sinnersime", was put out on the tiny Rusticana label in 1967. It’s on the wall of every record store in Montreal, usually for 100 bucks. It has a heavy Yardbirds influence, with fuzztone rave ups mixed with catchy pop songs. It was bootlegged in Italy sometime in the 80’s, and is definitely a known record amongst the garage rock nerds of the world. It is worth noting that the most rocking songs on the LP are the ones sung in English. Les Sinners were from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, a neighborhood with a large Anglophone population so it isn't strange that they would record English material.
After their first LP they signed with Jupiter, a label that was home to mostly more traditional acts like Donald Lautrec. They released two LP’s on Jupiter, the confusingly titled “Sinnerismes” and “Vox Populi”, which were later collected on a “24 Greatest Hits” record, also on Jupiter. These continue the psych-pop sound of the first LP, while dropping some of the more “rave-up” sections and fuzz, in favor of tighter song construction.
“Sinnerismes” has both garage rock rawness and tight, poppy melodies, with Bo Diddley beat riffing supporting sweet harmonies. There's also some weird drug culture babble ("L.S.D. Ha! Ha!) and a Beatles cover song. It's a fun record.
“Vox Populi” is a concept record about the “voice of the people” and has dialogue snippets of "man on the street" banter between every song with a trashy psych backing. Medium cool, indeed. The songs themselves are a little more far-out than the previous records. Their is a definite influence of the Who's pre-Tommy stuff, especially in all the La-la-la-la backing vocals.
After those albums, singer Francois Guy left to form Le Revolution Francaise, who had a huge hit with the song “Quebecois." The Sinners carried on with a new singer and released a self titled LP on Trans-World in 1971. The problem is the new singer kind of had that “drunk uncle accompanying himself on guitar around a campfire” vibe, or even worse the “the cover band playing ‘Mustang Sally’ at an Italian-American street fair” thing.
Even with the decline in the vocal department, the album is still a very solid hard rock record with touches of prog/psych. It reminds me of the first Man LP, or if Procol Harem were a bunch of dope addled punks from Montreal instead of some prissy English guys.
There is actually a heavy tribal vibe on some of the tracks, with lots of bongos and hand percussion like they had just come back from seeing Santana. There are a couple duds on the album, with one ballad about Quebec sounding like your boy Ziggy Stardust on a very off day. Just like the first Sinners LP, the funkiest song on there is sung in English. It sounds sort of like War or Mandrill and has 70's funky flute all over it.
The song I picked to represent this album, is the opening track “OK L’Chien”, mostly because it features one of my favorite musical memes of the late 60’s/early 70’s, which comes in at about 2 minutes into the track (It’s a sort of afro-beat sounding descending riff that was came from, of all places, “Inna-gadda-da-vida” by Iron Butterfly. It’s the bassline that comes in after the drum solo at about 13:00, whilst the tension builds up for the return of the main riff. It next appeared as the bass line in “Rabbit Got the Gun” by the J.B.’s and almost at the same time, popped across the ocean to appear as the bassline and sole melodic element in Max B.’s “Bananaticoco”, possibly my favorite fake afro-beat song made by Europeans ever).
Anyways, this is a nice solid funky rock song with only slightly ridiculous flute solos and slightly ridiculous overwrought vocals.
OK L'Chien-Les Sinners

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Le Publicite

Very nice article on Tete Carre and my love of french music.  Includes a Top 5:

*Top 5 Peter Gunn
1. Jean Ferrat – “L’adresse du bonheur”.
2. Sheila – “L’agent secret”.
3. Eddy Mitchell – “Superstition”.
4. Johnny Hallyday – “Voyage au pays des vivants”.
5. Marie Laforet – “Marie-douceur, Marie-colère”.

Friday, February 2, 2007


Who was the Queen of 60's French pop? Sylvie? France Gall? Nope. While these two are tremendously popular among francophiles and mod/go-go fans now, back then they were just lesser lights compared to the popularity of Sheila. To this date, Sheila has sold 70 million records (!!!), and was easily the top selling ye-ye girl in France and the rest of Europe. Her image was basically that of the nice girl next door, with none of the sexuality that most people associate with ye-ye's. She wore pleated skirts and white socks and wore her hair in a modified flip with pigtails... well, just look at the picture. Basically, she was the French Lesley Gore, with suitably saccharine and sappy music. Cool people were not listening to Sheila. If Jean Ferrat was your dad's music, Sheila was the domain of your little sister.

She is probably best known in English speaking countries for the disco records she made under the name "Sheila B. Devotion", some of which feature her singing in English.

A 17 disc CD career retrospective (only 480 euros on Amazon.Fr!) was recently released and Sheila played some live shows around France in December and January to commemorate the event.

Hopefully, somewhere on those 17 discs there are songs as good as "L'Agent Secret" (tho, I ain't dropping 5 bills to find out...). Sadly, I have a feeling that "L'Agent Secret" is an anomaly in the Sheila catalog; a upbeat go-go number with acid rock freakout guitar running through it. I am curious exactly as to who the session dudes are on here(UK studio cats?), as the bass is pretty lively, too. My favorite part is the pure fuzz chord wrap-around at about 2:10. Nasty...

Once again we can thank the overwhelming trendiness of French pop and the late 60's psych explosion for this inexplicable little gem.

Sheila- L'Agent Secret