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Album Review

Quirky does not begin to describe Katerine, the last in a long line of absurdist, iconoclast French songwriters. After improbably achieving mainstream popularity five years ago with Robots Après Tout, no one could accuse him of selling out or toning down with Philippe Katerine, one of his most daring statements. The album is made of 24 little sketches, none longer than three minutes, each typically repeating one phrase or concept ad nauseum. Examples range from the nonsensical (reciting the alphabet from A to Z twice, and then backwards) to the vulgar ("Hello I am the queen of England and I am shitting on your face," sung in both English and French), from political irony ("Liberty, my ass; Equality, my ass; Fraternity, my ass" over and over and over), to the disturbingly personal ("It's awful, I dreamed I gave Johnny a blow job," presumably about French rock icon Johnny Halliday). The music, all performed by Sébastien Moreau (bass), Philippe Eveno (guitar), and Katerine (vocals, keyboards), with the only condition that each musician is only allowed to use one instrument and no effects per track, is an equally diverse hodge-podge of non-linear commentaries in any style that can change genre, slow down, or accelerate at will at any given time, or repeat itself exactly the same for the duration. From the a cappella number that opens the album to a set of vocal variations on that incredibly annoying Windows 98 start-up sound, however, Katerine's affected vocals always remain the undisputed center of attention. The cover art slams the final mocking nail, with a family picture of an out-of-his mind Katerine and his real life, and very average-looking, bourgeois parents, ultimate proof that he does not descend from aliens or machines, after all. Depending on your tolerance for Gallic humor and/or the Pataphysics theater of Alfred Jarry, you may find Katerine either a visionary fou savant or a maddeningly juvenile prankster; the debate is still open in France, and the most likely answer a bit of both. Not for everybody's tastes, to be sure, but most definitely unlike anything else you've heard in a while.


Born: France

Genre: French Pop

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Philippe Katerine, generally known simply as Katerine, is a French alternative singer/songwriter who emerged to underground acclaim in the mid-'90s and steadily gained commercial success in subsequent years as his renown grew. Born Philippe Blanchard on December 8, 1968, in Chantonnay, Vendée, he made his full-length commercial recording debut in 1991 with Les Mariages Chinois on the Rosebud label. A home-recorded lo-fi album comprised of one- or two-minute minimalist songs, Les Mariages Chinois...
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Philippe Katerine - Les 24 clips, Katerine
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