Sébastien Tellier – Politics

Having supported Air at the time of his debut album L’incroyable Vérité (2001), Sébastien Tellier was starting to find his form by the time of his second release Politics. But it starts with cacophony, before moving into the odd and jazzy Bye Bye.

To describe it as a bit odd would be vastly underselling Tellier. My non-medical opinion would be that he’s completely out of his tree. Bye Bye is oddly enjoyable, and then League Chicanos appears to move much more firmly into insanity. The debut album had included a trio of tracks subtitled Trilogie Chien, so this is maybe just a different kind of normal.

Wonderafrica is lovely, with the sort of huge funky electronic bass sounds that would typify the next album Sexuality (2008). The lyrics, for the first time on this album performed in English, are weak at best (“I’m eating bananas / under the sun” was hardly going to win any poetry awards), but there’s such a wonderfully mellow feel to the track that even that is forgivable.

Tellier had never released a single from the first album, and from this one there were two, La Ritournelle, which scored him his first minor hit on the French and British charts, and its follow-up Broadway, which is next on the album. It’s a nice song, with a pleasant pop feel, but perhaps an odd choice for single. La Ritournelle follows straight after, a seven-minute odyssey, complete with a gloriously and absurdly long middle instrumental section.

Sébastien Tellier‘s undiagnosed insanity is never far away, as Benny illustrates. I can only really guess what he was up to here – it’s fun, and he was clearly in his happy place, but it does also require a bit of work from the listener, if your happy place doesn’t quite align with his.

The short instrumental Slow Lynch carries us through to the oddly delivered German song Mauer, with a guest female vocalist, and a whole lot of jazzy portamento. Released now, this could be an oddly poignant piece about walls, which was maybe true at the time too – the album is called Politics, after all – but it would be truer now. It’s another adorable song.

La Tuerie sees Tellier messing around with glitchy, arhythmic elements, and frankly comes out of all that sounding pretty awful. It’s instrumental (apart from some heavy breathing), rather dirty, and very difficult to listen to. Not in a good way, where you might enjoy the challenge and slowly start to love the track – this really deserved to be hidden on a forgotten underground 12″ single, gathering dust somewhere.

If you weren’t already convinced of Tellier’s somewhat questionable grip on reality, the very title of Ketchup Vs. Genocide may help you form a diagnosis. It’s glorious, actually – definitely one of the best tracks on here, but it is a little odd, to say the least. Which is, as you’ll have gathered by now, something of an ongoing theme with this album.

In pretty much any other environment, a track like Zombi, which includes the lyric “we’re going to crush old ladies,” would stand out as very strange, but after the last forty minutes or so, this is quickly becoming the new normal. Listening to Sébastien Tellier does do that to you, and he should probably come with a special Parental Advisory Warning – may make you turn very odd. With the possible exception of La Tuerie, I don’t think I’ve ever failed to enjoy his work, but you do have to be ready to suspend your standard definitions of reality of a little while. If you do, it can be very enjoyable indeed.

You can find Politics at all regular retailers, if they still exist.

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