Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures


Spanish Bandstand: Lobo-hombre en París

The Bandstand series, where I expose you to non-English language music and we all dance.

La union lobo-hombre

1000 silhouettes!

There isn’t much good Spanish-from-Spain music, but this song is one of the great exitos of the Iberian peninsula.

Around 5:30 on a day before Daylight Savings, night was coming on fast as my foot touched the street in front of the Opéra Garnier. At that moment, my iPod shuffled to one of the few Spanish songs on it, La Unión’s 1984 classic <<Lobo-hombre en París.>>

The video, which I just saw for the first time, is appropriately moody and has pretty decent production values considering the era and that it’s Spanish.

It’s impossible for me to choose just one part of the lyrics to translate, as the whole song, about a werewolf named Dennis on the prowl in Paris at night is across the board fantastically 80s and therefore amazing (to me).

Here’s the beginning, just to give you a taste of what the rest is like:

Cae la noche y amanece en París,            Night falls and begins in Paris
en el dia en que todo ocurrió.                    on the day in which everything happened.
Como un sueño de loco sin fin,                  Like a lunatic’s endless dream,
la fortuna se ha reído de ti,                        Fortune is laughing at you.
ja, ja, sorprendido espiando                      Ha-ha! Surprised while peeping,
el lobo escapa aullando                               the wolf escapes, howling,
y es mordido, por el mago del siam.        and is bitten by a wizard from Siam.

The song goes on to talk about how in the dark streets of Paris, Dennis becomes a man and meets a woman who’s most likely a prostitute. Just after paying her “some francs,” he starts howling, so we can assume that whatever transpired made him turn back into a werewolf. (Keep in mind this was almost 15 years before BtVS’s great two-part “Surprise / Innocence” which has a similar plot point. I think this song is way better.)

If you don’t like 80s music, you will probably think this song is terrible. If this is the case, I am sorry that your life is devoid of fun and pleasure, but please do tell me what things bring you happiness.

Racism note: just in case you missed it, in the 80s, Spaniards were still calling Thailand Siam. In English, this hasn’t been the case since 1939. One could argue that Spain was a little busy in 1939 and didn’t get the memo, but by 1984, they could have caught up on the inbox.

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2013 Winter playlist, Part 2

You’re welcome, greater Paris region. I’m pretty sure that by closing my 2013 Winter playlist last week, I singlehandedly brought spring to this part of the world.

Winter 2013, Part 2.1

  1. Fanfarlo, “A Distance” (2013) — a-ha for a new generation.
  2. Favored Nations, “The Setup” (2013) — all about the bass line.
  3. FEMME, “Fever Boy” — like the best possible version of The Go-Gos
  4. Gaëtan Roussel, “La simplicité” — see here.
  5. Grizzly Bear, “Speak In Rounds” (2013) — in an alternate universe, this would be on the B-side of Pink Floyd’s Obscured By Clouds.
  6. HAERTS, “All The Days” (2013) — strummy bass line + ethereal voice.
  7. John Newman, “Cheating” (2013) — piano + Gnarls Barkley.
  8. The Killers, “Shot At The Night” (2013) — like pretty much all their songs.
  9. Labrinth, “Express Yourself” (2013) — funky, electro-swing.
  10. Lorde, “Buzzcut Season” (2013) — Suzanne Vega + The xx.
  11. Luca Vasta, “Cut My Hair” (2013) — Germany’s Lykke Li and Ich mag diese.

Winter 2013 Part 2.2

  1. MØ, “XXX 88” (2013) — Danish singer, sultry and similar to other female singers I like.
  2. Nicole Atkins, “Girl You Look Amazing” (2013) — Chrissie Hynde for a new generation.
  3. NoNoNo, “Pumpin’ Blood” (2013) — whistling + Icona Pop / Sophie Ellis-Bextor sound.
  4. Pharrell Williams, “Happy” (2014) — why this album took so long to come out is a mystery to me.
  5. The Rapture, “No Sex For Ben” (2013) — if you like LCD Soundsystem or Radio 4 (the band).
  6. Satellite Stories, “Campfire” (2013) — The Postal Service + Friendly Fires.
  7. Trails and Ways, “Como Te Vas” (2013) — they describe themselves as “bossa nova dream pop.”
  8. Wankelmut & Emma Louise, “My Head is a Jungle” (2013) — another great biking/twirling song.
  9. Wolf Colony, “Holy” (2013) — melancholy piano.
  10. The Wombats, “Your Body Is A Weapon” (2013) — kind of The Futureheads + Artic Monkeys

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2013 Winter playlist, Part 1

[This season’s playlist is really long (partly because this winter is never-ending) so I’m breaking it up and sharing at least the first bunch of tracks now. Otherwise, the post would be too unwieldy.]

This was the first time in many years that I’ve been in the US and able to share a lot of my music with friends. I mentioned to them that Shazam, the amazing app that identifies songs after listening to a few seconds, sometimes doesn’t recognize the songs I want it to. I figure this is probably because my European radio selections aren’t in whatever database Shazam pulls from. This makes me sad because then I have to do additional research (extra work = bad), but the American perspective seemed to be that I must be hearing super cool music.

This anecdote presented to you as an example of why I can’t imagine living in the US again. If my own friends, carefully chosen from the available selection of people for how few fucks they give about such things, are now concerned with how hip and ahead of the mainstream they are… all is lost to me.

Even before this last trip, I was pretty much decided against the country. The whole continent snubbed Kings of Leon’s first three studio albums and four EPs! How could I ever be expected to return to a populace with such poor judgement?*

Anyway, here are some songs and almost all of them are actually from 2013 which is rare. Could the music world finally be coming around to my way of dancing? 2014 really is the year of everything coming up Milhouse!

2013 Winter Playlist 1

  1. Arcade Fire, “Reflektor” (2013) — I don’t really like Arcade Fire but this one’s got actual Bowie on it! Bowie!
  2. Arctic Monkeys, “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” (2013) — AM are getting better with time.
  3. Atlas Genius, “If So” (2013) — happy jumpy danceable music.
  4. Beatsteaks, “Atomic Love” (2004) — 80s + Mighty Mighty Bosstones as interpreted by a German band.
  5. The Boxer Rebellion, “Diamonds” (2013) — Interpol + Editors, heavy bass guitar.
  6. Caged Animals, “Cindy & Me” (2013) — crazy polka/dance/funk [no video or links available — wth?].
  7. The Chain Gang of 1974, “Sleepwalking” — The Killers + Editors.
  8. Chlöe Howl, “No Strings (Moto Blanco Remix)” — I want to report this song to the authorities for being too damn danceable.
  9. Chlöe Howl, “Paper Heart” — great pop breakup song. She’s gonna be a big deal, I think.
  10. Cut Copy, “Free Your Mind” (2013) — Deee-Lite + Depeche Mode + Talking Heads. Engineered in a lab to make me have a SERIOUS DANCE PARTY.
  11. The Derevolutions, “Yell It Out!” (2013) — like The Go! Team (peppy and lots of sampling).
  12. Exabyte, “Chapel of The Robo-Priest” (2013) — if a robot sang “Golden Brown” by the Stranglers.

*There was that whole 2004 presidential election thing too. Those people are idiots. 


French Bandstand: Édition spéciale

quelqu'un-de-l'interieur albumI’ve written at least a dozen different drafts trying to get today’s post right but none of them do the subject justice. Possibly the only way to share all the feelings and memories and emotions I have about this song would be in multiple entries or in a really long list like my Neil Diamond story, but every time I think I’ve narrowed down the salient points, another three things crop up in my mind and I have to start another version.

Instead, I’m just going to say that BROADCAST NEWS is one of the best American movies of all time and you should watch it. I’d probably say that to you anyway as it’s a good piece of advice, but for today, it’s also got to serve as the preamble to one of my favorite French songs.

If you’ve seen the movie, you know which one I’m talking about. It plays when Aaron, Albert Brooks’s character, is getting drunk alone in his apartment in the middle of the day, singing and reading: “I am read-ing while I’m sing-ing. I’m read-ing, I’m doing both!”

A million years ago, I’d copied the name of the song from the end credits on my well-worn VHS copy of the movie. It’s called <<Édition spéciale>> by Francis Cabrel.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that I had been looking for the album this song appears on, Quelqu’un de l’intérieur (1983), since the early 1990s. I didn’t actually get my hands on it until 2007 when my sister called from the train station in Geneva on her way to the airport to ask what the name of the album was that I’d just spent the whole weekend trying to track down in that city. They had a copy right there. Just waiting for her to find it and send it into my loving embrace.

The song itself seems to be about a crush on a late night TV presenter, though the only show I come across with the same name started just a few years ago. Regardless, the beginning goes

D’abord y’a cette fille / To start there’s this girl

Dans la boîte de verre / In the glass box

Qui dit “Bonne nuit, à demain” / Who says, “Good night, until tomorrow”

Sur un bout de musique / Over a piece of music

Des bonshommes à l’envers / The dolls [little men?] go upside down

Et puis après plus rien / And then there’s nothing

The last part I’m guessing refers to the “end of broadcast day” image that was shown before the channel shut down for the night, but I can’t find any examples of what that might have been online.

Further appreciation

Since living in France, I rejoice every time Cabrel comes on the radio, which is often, since he’s both prolific and his acoustic guitar + rambling voice style is easily identifiable.


French Bandstand: Gaëtan Roussel – La simplicité

OrpailleurThere’s something about Gaëtan Roussel… I don’t know how he does it, but he basically tapped into my brain’s musical pleasure center and took all of the things I love and made another damn song I can’t get enough of. <<La simplicité>> is the first track off last year’s <<Orpailleur>> and it’s essentially the best.

Here’s the chorus:

Ça parait toujours avoir existé / It appears to have always existed
Des heures entières à la chercher / Whole hours spent looking for it
A tenter de l’apprivoiser / Attempts to tame it
Ça parait toujours avoir existé / Appear to have always existed
La simplicité / Simplicity
C’est rien mais c’est si compliqué / It’s nothing but it’s so complicated

I quite like the video too, which isn’t usually the case. Despite being part of the first MTV generation, my parents didn’t love me so I never had cable and, possibly as a result, music videos kind of detract from a song for me. Nothing ruins the pictures in my head like actual pictures. But, as I said, this one’s nice — all graphic designs and patterns — and reminds me of the great, great Chuck Jones’s animated take on “The Dot and the Line.”

Annoying to me

One of the maddening things about <<La simplicité>> is that it features a repeated noise in the background that sounds like a phone ringing. There should be laws against this as it’s totally distracting and could cause all kinds of accidents.

DEADWOOD's one of the few shows that continues to grow in my estimation.

DEADWOOD‘s one of the few shows that continues to grow in my estimation.

Learn a thing?

An orpailleur is a gold miner or a person who pans for gold. I don’t immediately see the connection between the album title and the songs, but I’ll go back with a more critical ear and see if I can rustle something up. Regardless, I now have a chance to post a pic of the always-excellent Jim Beaver as the wonderful Mr. Ellsworth on DEADWOOD.