Review of French For Cartridge's album Liquorice released through Dinner With Daisy Records.
Une Cartouche, which is French for cartridge, is the 'side project' from which this band takes its name. Formed by two students of Goldsmith College London, Catherine Hentz and Henri Vaxby, their aim has been to put together atonal pop music. Their quite unique musical format is somewhat genre defying, has been described as Avant-Garde and has unsurprisingly attracted the alternative arty set, keen as they are to soak up some of the bands more off beat and experimental compositions. You could say it's a kind of musical performance art. 'Liquorice' is the follow up to the critically acclaimed 2006 album 'Cases' and has been mixed and mastered by S Husky Hoskuids, formally working partner of Tom Waits and My Brightest Diamond amongst others.
'Liquorice', the album, contains new material as well as alternative versions of a couple of French For Cartridge's back catalogue, namely 'One Hundred And One' and 'TV Dinner'. The latter has been completely reworked and is one of the highlights among the many on the album. The song starts off with a Sex Pistols do 'C'mon Everybody' guitar break which then collapses into a fragile, near theatrical, tense vocal. Two thirds of the way through the song changes again and turns all comic book on us, here the composition could easily pass for a chase scene from an old Batman caper (You'll have to add your own POW!), only to change direction right back at the end and revert to Catherine's very youthful, highly pitched, tight vocal.
Throughout the album there is plenty of inventiveness and experimentation. However, for all French For Cartridges best efforts, to push the boundaries and challenge the notion of more formulaic 'pop', where 'Liquorice' works best is through the delivery of their more conventional songs. The best tracks on here are not the weird or left of centre but the structured and formed pieces that have been constructed and composed in a more traditional manner. 'Loosening The Structures' is a good example. Henri Vaxby sings a song that could so easily be off a more recent Bowie album, and what's more he even sings it in an uncannily similar way. It has fantastic harmonies and a laid back, casual air of cool all its own. Remove it from its surroundings and it still works wonderfully well. The same can be said of two of the duets on the album 'Two Feet In The Water' and 'Silhouettes'. They are both fantastic, haunting tracks, slower and brooding, full of atmosphere and aching. Catherine and Henri's vocals sit beautifully, yet agonisingly together, sometimes seemingly only just managing to remain paired together within the same song.
Whilst trying to deliver music 'not in any key or format' French For Cartridge have thankfully not kept entirely to the remit and so blessed us with some great songs. 'Oooh', with its splicing of twisted carousel meets Willy Wonka's Oompa Loompa's, may grab the attention and draw a new audience but its the quality of their more conventional songs that will give them longevity. Similarly 'Twice As Nice', another of the albums duets loses some of its appeal because it can't quite decide in which of their directions to go in. Tracks like 'One Hundred And One' and 'Sitting And Reading' have worked much better simply because they have not been over complicated and the song has been allowed to be heard freely.
The album 'Liquorice' is out on 8th February and French For Cartridge will be promoting the event with a week long celebration at Speedies, London E2. There will be exclusive art, available to buy, and live performances, including a full set from French For Cartridge at the official launch party on 12th February. Why not pop along and see some of the specially made videos for each song or just enjoy one of their liquorice teas?