Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Les Classels, Les Lutins, Les Sinners

Well, presently my computer can't record audio, so I am kind of limited to what I can post, so I thought I'd do a(nother) Youtube post. In past year or two, there was been a tremendous amount of great Quebecois stuff posted on Youtube. The clips from the 60's are a great place to start, because that was a great time for fun pop videos worldwide and a great time for Quebecois pop music specifically.

The following Classels clip has made its way around the internet many times. but it's worth posting. I almost feel bad posting this on a blog dedicating to boosting Quebecois music, because the kitsch factor on this one is pretty high. The video begins with Les Classels descending a staircase and approaching the camera. With their bizarre bleached hairdos and matching outfits, it looks like scene from The Day the Earth Stood Still; as if they just stepped off a recently landed rocket ship and were walking on this planet for the first time.

It is neat to see the shots in the amusement park (Le Ronde?) and actually after you've watched alot of Scopitones, you realize that at least half of them are wooden, creepy, or weird.

Les Classels were more of a pop band than a rock band, but bands like Les Sultans and Les Lutins were amazing garage bands by any standard. and these clips somehow capture the peculiarity of their unique fame. On one hand, they were appearing on TV and were covered in the media in Quebec the same way US and UK pop bands of the period were covered in their countries, yet on the other hand, they simply weren't the Zombies or Tommy James and the Shondells and they knew it. They weren't rich and famous, they were just kids in a band having fun, no different than hundreds of other good garage bands in the US. The Sonics may have been as famous in Washington state as Les Lutins were in Quebec, but WA isn't a country. In this instance, the independence of Quebec plays in the artist's favor. They got a better level of regional attention than bands in the US did. Somehow being a part of a "distinct society" gives more cultural heft to your efforts and more immediate access to media. Magazines, record companies, and TV stations essentially sell culture and in a society as unique as Quebec, there is a need for homegrown culture.

The sad thing is watching this clip by Les Lutins and seeing how good their singer is. I me, this kid has it; that X-factor charisma that great frontmen have (check Kanye West's recent SNL performance for an example of simply not having it). No matter how great they were, Les Lutins would never have had access to a market outside of Quebec. English speaking teens weren't listening to French music and at that time France had no interest in all in real, nasty rock 'n roll, preferring the slicker, studio filtered versions of Jacques Dutronc and Dick Rivers. I love Jacques Dutronc and Dick Rivers, but those records were recorded in big studios with slick studio musicians. It's like trying to compare The Litter to the Monkees (and I love the Monkees). Les Lutins were one of the nastiest garage bands in Quebec, though it's hard to get that from that clip. Their best songs are tracks like "Pretty Girl" and "Je Cherche", which of course there are no films of them performing.

I did however find a clip of a present day French garage band Thee Old Babes (gee, do ya like Billy Childish?) doing "Je Cherche." They do an admirable version of it, though they lose points for their bogus European foppery. Bow tie? Sherlock Holmes cap? WTF?

Les Sinners are another legendary Quebecois garage band with a fair amount of clips up, unfortunately none of which fully captures how hard they rocked. This one is close:

It's good, but there are much better Sinners tracks than that. Like anything off the Vox Populi LP (google it!). But, while looking for clips, I did find this:

A present day dance remix of the Sinners song Les Disc Jockeys by a dude called DMA. I have to say, I am feeling this. A disco/house remix of a garage song. Reminds me a bit of Pilooski's remix of Frankie Valli's "Beggin'", though I wish he had gone the Switch route and thrown some crazy basslines in there. But, I REALLY appreciate a guy going to the trouble of making a reedit of a song hardly anyone outside of serious garage rock nerds (95% of whom don't listen to dance music) even knows. Much respect.