MESDAMES - 11 Songs
Sometimes genius and insanity lie closer together than one might feel comfortable with. With Mesdames from Grenoble, a French town lying at the foot of the Alps, the name is already quite misleading, as there is only one Madame but three Messieurs in the line-up. And just like they fuck with your expectations with their band name, they will take you on a similar rollercoaster ride with their music. At least their second album 11 Songs does contain 11 songs, so maybe it’s not a very original title, but at least they are letting us astray.
All of this may give you the impression that I am not very fond of this CD, and frankly, my first time through 11 Songs left me quite clueless. What is it this band wants to tell their audience? The music is quite chaotic at times, ranging from fragile and sparsely played parts to explosions of jarring noise, so don’t expect any catchy indie rock or easy listening pap.
In fact the more time you spend with Mesdames, the more you will realise how everything they do makes sense, on more than just one level. The band has no guitarist, relying instead on two keyboard players, a bassist and a drummer. In times where the guitar has too often dominated any kind of rock subgenre, it is pleasant to hear a band coaxing all kinds of sounds from the synthesizers. A first genre that comes to mind might be no wave, but that would be oversimplifying matters. There is also a strong psychedelic undercurrent, avant-garde and vintage progressive elements also play a leading role, while the influence of classical composers seems to have left some nuances too.
The vocals are shared between the female and male keyboarders, the former singing in a rather high and fragile voice, recalling somewhat Blonde Redhead, while the latter’s performance ranges from the melodic to the hysteric. The music is switching between introspective slow movements and cacophonic eruptions, and it’s maybe the fact that the guitar has been replaced with an additional keyboard, that there are some surprising parallels to early Soft Machine who back in the late Sixties also combined proto pop music with experimental sound constructions.
The thing with Mesdames is that their music takes some time to really ignite within your brain. Spending only ten minutes with them will definitely not give their music any justice. Fact is that at first I wanted to rate this album six meagre points, but letting the music simmer in my car for two weeks made me appreciate it more and more, and finally I decided to add three further points. 11 Songs is not a perfect album, but it is striving to be more than what most other artists can come up with. Underneath all the chaos and confusion, the attentive listener can discover some of the most brilliant and delicate music I have heard in a long time. Highly recommended for fans of independent music who want to go that one step further!