Manu Chao – Sibérie M’était Contée

You can’t beat a bit of world music, says the Review Corner (ignoring the fact the Daniel O’Donnell lives in the world and makes music), so when this dropped just before Christmas, we registered high on the delight scale.
José-Manuel Thomas Arthur “Manu” Chao sings in French, Spanish, English, Italian, Galician, Arabic, and Portuguese, and so this is all in UKIP’s two languages, English and Foreign. You might not have heard of him, but Robbie Williams covered his song Bongo Bong.

Chao has famously said that French music is (to Franglais for the sake of decency) “bull merde”, so it’s odd that this album, originally released in 2004, sounds to so French and specifically Parisian; it’s like a modern version of those smooth café crooners you see in old movies about gay Paree.

Sibérie M’était Contée initially reminded us of David Byrne’s Nouvelle Cuisine album from a decade ago, which featured French folk artists who sounded modern while but very traditionally French, and to some extent this sounds the same. But then there’s an African sound — specifically Smod’s Les Dirigeants Africains — that features delicate guitar over a catchy (if understated) beat and which must be one of Chao’s favourite albums because he references its sound enough.

Opener Le P’tit Jardin is a bit nursery rhyme-ish and pleasant with reggae feel, while Petite Blonde Du Boulevard Brune is an irreverent take on French folk, complete with accordion.
It warms up with the Gong-ish intro to Les Milles Paillettes (thousand sequins?) and the Smod-ish Il Faut Manger (“You have to eat”), which over a lovely French melody talks about running to stand still, we think. Jolly nice.

Standouts are Besoin De La Lune (I need the moon), which we think is about life: he needs the moon to talk about the night, the sun to warm him blah blah but could do without death to make him appreciate life.

Also good is the romantic Si Loin De Toi…Je Te Joue, about which we have no idea, but the standout of standouts is 100,000 Remords, (1,000 Regrets), with hypnotically repetitive acoustic guitar and mournful lyrics: “The children are asleep/ Your suitcase is open/If you must leave/It will be the worst/ n life, in death/100,000 regrets.”

It’s a lot more fun than what we’re making it sound; it’s a lot of fun and the good bits get repeated, so if he likes a sound or beat, it crops up again. Well worth a listen.

About jerobear

Weekly newspaper editor in Cheshire, England. I blog my editorials and the CDs I write about. I play drums, drink coffee, play music, meditate. I hate filling in forms.

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