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Album Review

There's something mildly perverse about the notion of an American band striving to look and sound French, since rock & roll is something that comes easily to lots of folks in the States but is an all but insurmountable stylistic challenge in the Land of Gaul. Maybe it's a cliché, but who can name five great French rock bands? (And no, Plastic Bertrand doesn't count, he was from Belgium.) There's no question that the French are great with wine, cheese, movies, literature, and short-lived political uprisings (May 1968! That was a good one!), but they play pop, not rock & roll, and the difference is telling. Nous Non Plus are a band from New York who sing in a jumbled mixture of anglais and francais, sport stage names like Celine Dijon and Jean-Luc Retard and worship at the altar of Serge Gainsbourg, but one listen to their second album, Menagerie, gives the game away — this band plays with far too much rhythmic confidence to be an ordinary French pop act, even if they weren't dropping subtle jokes throughout their songs, and much of the time Cal d'Hommage's guitar work is too dirty and high in the mix for anyone short of Little Bob Story. More to the point, Nous Non Plus are weighed down with a burden common to many bands built around a comic schtick — their gimmick is elaborate enough that it tends to get in the way of the music, and they seem to have a hard time juggling the demands of their assumed Francophile personalities and playing music that fits the persona. There are moments where Nous Non Plus create lovely approximations of classic French pop, such as "Sunlight Yellow Noise" and the witty "Le Dandy," and "Bollinger" could pass for some Parisian version of Combustible Edison. But the disco moves of "French Teacher," the caffeinated new wave pulse of "Loli," and the moody MOR of "Toi et Moi" just don't fit the script, even when they work, and too much of this album sounds like the band is trying to bend their tunes to fit their stage act rather than letting them naturally inform one another, and the pretensions bog down an album that could and should be frothy fun. It's enough to make a guy wish Johnny Hallyday had never invented rock & roll in the first place.


Formed: 2005 in New York, NY

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

Mixing whimsical indie pop with a hearty dose of Francophilia, Nous Non Plus formed in 2005 from the ashes of Les Sans Culottes, another faux-French band from New York City. Bandmates Céline Dijon (vocals), Jean-Luc Retard (bass, vocals), Bonnie Day (vocals, violin), Cal d'Hommage (guitar), Professeur Harry Covert (drums), Morris "Mars" Chevrolet (synthesizer), and François Hardonne (keyboard, trumpet) had all played together in Les Sans Culottes, which also featured the talents of bandleader Clermont...
Full bio
Menagerie, Nous Non Plus
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