After enjoying enormous chart success during the new wave era, French pop group Indochine spent more than decade grappling with commercial frustration, roster defections, and even the death of a founding member. Only in 1999 did their fortunes turn yet again, and three years later the band capped off its comeback with a number one single, "J'ai Demandé à la Lune." The roots of Indochine lie in a newspaper advertisement placed by singer/guitarist Nicola Sirkis and answered by Dominique Nicolas, a journeyman guitarist with a series of short-lived punk bands under his belt. After writing enough songs to sustain a live performance, they recruited Sirkis' twin brother, Stéphane, to play keyboards while friend Dimitri Bodiansky was installed on saxophone. On September 29, 1981, Indochine made their professional debut at the Paris café Rose Bonbon, and the following February issued their first single, "Dizzindence Politik," a minor hit that paved the way for the EP L'Aventurier. When the title song emerged as a breakout hit in the summer of 1983, Indochine was appointed the essence of French new wave, and their melancholy yet infectious electro-pop found favor with consumers as well as critics, who at year's end awarded the group the coveted Bus d'Acier award. With their 1983 sophomore effort, Le Péril Jaune, Indochine embraced the Far Eastern influences implicit in their name, and with the singles "Kao Bang" and "Miss Paramount" vaulted to new commercial heights, effectively launching what the media dubbed "Indo-mania." The 1985 release 3 was nevertheless Indochine's watershed moment. Hailed as a masterpiece by critics and a generation-defining statement by fans, the album was a hit throughout much of western Europe, galvanized by a series of smash singles including "Canary Bay," "Tes Yeux Noirs," and "3ème Sexe."
But with 1987's 7000 Dances, the inevitable backlash arrived. Critics mocked Indochine's gloomy image and teased, swirling hair, drawing obvious parallels to British mope-rock merchants the Cure, and while sales remained brisk, the album failed to come close to repeating the success of its predecessor. A year later Bodiansky exited the lineup to start a family, and with guests ranging from Silencers drummer Martin Hanlin to Iranian kamanche virtuoso Mahmoud Tabrizi Zadeh, Indochine re-entered the studio in mid-1989 to begin work on their next LP, Le Baiser. Highlighted by the single "Des Fleurs Pour Salinger," the album fared respectably but the group's commercial heyday was clearly waning. Nicola Sirkis issued a solo single, "Dans la Lune," in 1992 before reconvening with his brother and Nicolas for 1994's Un Jour Dans Notre Vie. When the album failed to generate much excitement, Nicolas tendered his resignation, and the Sirkis twins recruited former Le Cri de la Mouche guitarist Alexandre Azaria for Indochine's next effort, the Brit-pop-inspired 1996 release Wax. While working on the follow-up, Stéphane Sirkis died of complications from hepatitis on February 27, 1999. Nicola opted to carry on as the sole remaining founding member, and with Dancetaria Indochine scored its first major chart action in more than a decade via the single "Juste Toi et Moi." With 2002's all-star Paradize, completed with contributions from ex-Smashing Pumpkins bassist Melissa Auf der Maur and singer/songwriter Gérard Manset, Indochine returned to the top of the charts with "J'ai Demandé à la Lune," winning Victoires de la Musique honors for Best Pop/Rock Album of the Year. The smash Alice & June followed in late 2005, and on June 6, 2006, Indochine celebrated their 25th anniversary with a lavish performance at Vietnam's Hanoi Opera. ~ Jason Ankeny
- Paris, France