Considering how many Canadian bands have been catching the attention of American music fans and critics in recent years, it’s a wonder there haven’t been more French Canadian bands. For all I know, there aren’t that many. I certainly wouldn’t consider the Arcade Fire as such, even though they have a pair of songs on Funeral with lyrics in French (though not completely). Nonetheless, French Canadian acts are due for their share of the critical smorgasbord, and Montreal’s Malajube shall be the torch bearers for their regional dialectic compatriots with their new album, Trompe L’Oeil.
The beauty with French, as we’ve learned since Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot sang of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, is that even if you don’t speak the language, musically, it makes sense. There’s something quite musical and fluid about the language that lends itself well to melody. (However, it should be noted that rap doesn’t count, no matter how many times I hear someone sing TTC’s praises.) Malajube may not be quite as dreamy as Air or Stereolab, but their French-sung lyrics find a perfect home within their quirky, spacey, Flaming Lips-like melodies. One band with whom they also share many similarities is the Super Furry Animals, who, themselves, veered outside the English language on their Welsh album Mwng.
Malajube plays quirky, vibrant pop music backed with a powerful rock crunch to set them apart from many of their countrymen peers. And they’re quite versatile at integrating muscle into a bouncy pop song, or quirky melodic playfulness into a distorted rock odyssey. Unlike forebears like The Flaming Lips or Mercury Rev, however, Malajube never delves into drawn out, druggy space freakouts, rather keeping their stratospheric weirdness contained within their three and four minute pop gems. “Montreal -40º C” is simultaneously carefree and gorgeous, while “Pâte Filo” utilizes a stronger, more forceful instrumental approach, practicing restraint during verses but blowing it out completely in the chorus. And a prog rock weirdness permeates “Le Crabe,” which transitions nicely into the pretty, fuzzy indie pop of “La Monogamie.”
That Malajube can wear so many different stylistic hats is what makes them so appealing. Quickly moving from a Queen-like operatic pop tune like “Ton Plat Favori” to a bizarre baroque disco like “La Russe” to a disco-punk track like “Fille á Plumes,” the group wears their diversity like a badge of honor, and, well, they should. Where some bands could easily make an incoherent mess of such rapid shifts in style, Malajube creates a fantastic musical fantasy world where everyone is welcome and it’s always a whole lot of fun.
Mew – And the Glass Handed Kites
Super Furry Animals – Rings Around the World
Flaming Lips – Clouds Taste Metallic
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.