For a language so wrapped up in romance and rebellion, French surprisingly hasn’t been responsible for much great rock music. Sure, an American brainiac might slip a verse in here or there, but native speakers have seemed historically more interested in swinging pop or scummy dance to really wail. Even now, with the Francophone city of Montreal in the midst of a music renaissance, English lyrics dominate.
Trompe L’Oeil, the debut by Montreal’s ADD maximalists Malajube, would be a ray of indie-rock hope for the neglected romantic tongue-if it weren’t so scattered. Wild fluctuation between styles brings the kids out of their pleasure zone too often, with unwelcome intrusions of emo screams, ill-fitting rap or even ska-ish skank ruining the party just as you’re getting comfortable. The shame is that the restlessness mars a handful of really fun moments. The playful “Montreal 40˚ C” won me over with rubber-ball synths and bounding “ba da duh” parts that transcend any language barrier. The campy piano assault on “Ton Plat Favori” sounds amusingly like Pulp’s “Mile End” being sung by drunk fur trappers. If the kids could settle down (or find an editor), they might have something. For now, we continue to await a worthy savior du rock Francais.