My initial reaction to hearing French Wives was: “My god, these are good”. The Glaswegian quintet’s debut album is what I would describe as perfect indie pop. Everything is superbly polished; from the music itself, to the videos, to the artwork, to the band’s online image - which is why I did a double take when the website proclaimed they were unsigned. In an old fashioned world view, I would be tempted to say this state of affairs cannot last long, they are bound to get snapped up by a label pretty soon. But modern times being what they are, and the band seeming to be doing very well as they are, one wonders whether a record deal would make any difference at all to this band’s career path. I suppose the one thing that a deal could provide them with would be the incessant radio airplay that the majority of music consumers seem to need to be provided with before they realise that they are listening to a good song. But I digress.
Opener Modern Columns put me in mind a little bit of the band Hockey. However, from that first point onwards, I resolved not to compare the sound of French Wives to other indie bands, as there are so many it seems futile. On the first listen through 'Dream of the Inbetween' I was utterly won over by the music and lyrics alone, without any real knowledge about who they were, what their back story was and so on. I had formed a picture in my head of a band of 30-somethings who had all been in other bands for a decade or so but not ‘made it’ yet. Reading about French Wives, and then listening again knowing that they are all barely 20 years old, made the impact of the album all the more impressive. The lyrics speak of wisdom and experience beyond their tender years.
It is SO well produced. The instrumentation is interesting, the instruments are well played, and yet they don’t fall into the trap of throwing the kitchen sink at songs. The violin is always sweet and tuneful, which sounds obvious, but you often hear bad strings in less well-produced offerings, and it is hard to get right. The vocals are all spot on. The lead singer has a lovely voice, as does the girl backing singer. It really is flawless. I read a couple of other reviews, including one which claimed that the single Younger was the clear standout track and the rest of the album was a bit stagnant in comparison – I can only assume that this writer didn’t actually listen to the rest of the album because they could not be further off the mark. There is variety, energy, intelligence, and sincerity throughout. These tracks have been lovingly, painstakingly worked on over a long time [they’ve been together for 4 years] until they are all “just so”, and this perfectionism is quite obvious to the careful listener. Me vs. Me and Halloween are exemplary in their lyrical and musical brilliance. There just isn’t a bad song on the album, and they all bring something different to the party.
I shall close by saying that for the last week I have had the full album on my hard drive for review: today it is released, and I am buying a copy because I think they deserve my revenue.
Posted: Mon 7 May 2012