Summer records, think Thunder Lightning Strike, anything by Alphabeat, Dodgy’s Homegrown or Wake Up Boo! tend to ride in on a superficial wave influenced by the prevailing mood of the day. Discernibly French records, on the other hand, are often preoccupied with a retro chic where sepia melodies are clouded in Gauloises smoke. On Magnifique, Junioré mix the two for the perfect balance of serious pop melodieuse and toe-tapping bonhomie.
Whilst this is the band’s debut UK release the Parisian four-piece already have an album under their belts on their own Le Phonographe label. 2017’s Ouh La La is a collection of old school dreaminess from Parisian boulevards to modern urban commentary or, in the bands own words, “unhappy love affairs and the paradox of feelings”.
However, Magnifique’s highlight ‘Difficile’, bassy and noir with a danceable urgency intact, ensures this is a record of head-wobbling highs but no less enjoyable lows and serves as the best introduction to Juniore as a beguiling musical temptress. The temptress being the sultry seduction of the French vocals, it’s difficult not to get drawn into Magnifique’s Mrs Robinson-like allure; the inevitable pimp being the musical niches and experimenting that also lurk in the shadows of the songs and leave you craving more as each song progresses.
But, beyond the indefatigable, shall we say, Frenchness of Magnifique (the playful song structures and liberal use of staccatoed orchestration; the Gainsbourg family imprint is ever present) that makes it difficult to move away from arbitrary generalising or slight critical naivety, there lies a deeper sense of purpose to this record. The clipped production leaves a rawness that excites on tracks like ‘Panique’ and the ubiquitous Hammond organ would be as much at home on the 60s garage tunes that also infuse this record.
At eight tracks it is little more than an extended EP but its refined nature means it is easily flipped and played again as it is, already trimmed of all its fat. The spoken word of ‘En Retard’ could match anything on Blue Note, or the psyche jazz of ‘Extralucide’ which, like a fairground after closing, unsettles and thrills in equal measure. All this delving into classic era influences could leave an underwhelming pastiche overshadowing much of Magnifique but on the title track the depth of instrumentation and rhythmic textures mimic Cabaret Voltaire or the more contemporary stylings of The Coral. And there is plenty of imagination throughout, especially on repeat listens, that posits Magnifique somewhere else entirely. So, even curve balls such as ‘A La Plage’ fascinate. Placed alongside the more tender moments on Blur’s Parklife (think ‘Clover Over Dover’ from the other side of the channel), its lush arrangement, gentle electronica and simple chord progression gently wash over and is as refreshing as gin and tonic. In fact I’m off to the beach right now.
Magnifique is out now on Outre.