Before we start the review of La Femme’s “Psycho Tropical Berlin” in earnest I should point out that at no point during the following 653 words will you hear any mention as to the lyrical content of this album. Unfortunately my GCSE French oral and written examinations where an utter disaster. Even a recent trip to Paris, while romantically a success, shamefully did nothing to improve my vocabulary. In fact, let’s approach this language barrier as if we were reviewing an early Kings of Leon album, where only every other word was intelligible. With this in mind let us proceed …
“Psycho Tropical Berlin” may seem old news to quite a few of you. The Biarritz based band actually released the album to most of the known world back in May 2013 but for whatever reason us folks in the UK where not invited to the party. That’s all about to change as the album is now about to get a well-deserved official release this November. After a set of UK dates in September, and a notable support slot for Maximo Park last year, the band are starting to cause somewhat of a stir this side of the Channel. Their likable 80’s electro-pop and tantalising live shows are a release from the monotony of all the copy-cat bands that seem to grace our popular music charts these days. “Psycho Tropical Berlin”, while not completely unique, is certainly a huge step away from the norm.
From a genre perspective this LP is quite difficult to categorise. There is certainly an 80’s feel to the tracks (think Kraftwerk) but also a punk and sometimes quite dark feel to a majority of the album. Haunting vocals and atmospheric synths give you the impression Vincent Price adorned in full black cloak, fake fangs and a virgin under his arm could appear at any point. But there’s more. La Femme have also managed to introduce a beautiful surf style to the proceedings, “Antitaxi” seems to brilliantly cross all of these genres effortlessly. Reading this you’d think that the mix would be quite overwhelming but it’s not, it is in fact wholly liberating and impossible not to enjoy. The entire album provides a wonderfully refreshing feeling, comparable only to stepping out of a cold shower on a warm day.
A large chunk of the album is taken from the 2013 EP “Hypsoline”. Don’t feel cheated if you already own this though as each track works perfectly with the remainder of the album. The tracks “La Femme” and “Hypsoline” are so strong in fact that it would have been somewhat of an injustice if they didn’t feature here in some form. That is, in fact, part of the albums charm. You’re treated to surf-punk pounding “Antitaxi” and then to the equally high tempo of “Amour dans le motu” and “La Femme”, with its wonderful Halloween feel. Only then are you provided a little rest bite. The listing of these tracks is so important as it takes a collection of tracks and actually makes them feel as one.
The stars of the album are clearly “Packshot” and “Le blues de Francoise”, both completely different tracks. “Packshot” contains a real feeling of a 1950’s horror b-movie (The Giant Claw or The Aligator People). It’s dark and contains haunting synths and vocals while still maintaining the pace of an out of control train. “Le blues de Francoise” is quite the opposite though. It starts slowly. In fact it starts so slowly you actually wonder if the track has even started. Twice I checked to make sure I had it ‘play’ on my device. The spoken word track builds slowly, the volume and intensity increasing until at the two thirds point you are treated to the mesmerizing climax of this crescendo. It’s quite breathless song writing and production.
Because of the amount happening on “Psycho Tropical Berlin” there are times that it could have lost its identity. Thankfully it doesn’t. In fact what it does is completely the opposite, as is creates its own identity and you simply cannot help falling in love with it.
The full track listing for “Psycho Tropical Berlin” is…
01 – Antitaxi
02 – Amour dans le motu
03 – La femme
04 – Interlude
05 – Hypsoline
06 – Sur la planche 2013
07 – It’s time to wake up 2023
08 – Nous ƒctions deux
09 – Packshot
10 – Saisis la corde
11 – Le blues de Franƒoise
12 – Si un jour
13 – La femme ressort
14 – Welcome America
Download: Le blues de Francoise, Packshot and Antitaxi
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
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