Christine and the Queens: Chaleur Humaine

review christine x1 cong

Christine (really Héloïse Letissier, but those accents and spellings are far too European for us Brits) could build herself a house if she turned all the glowing reviews she’s collecting into bricks. (There’s an analogy that didn’t go as well as expected).

It’s clearly a good album, to get all those glowing reviews, but it’s not as good as all those glowing reviews led us to believe, either. A load of middling reviews would have served it better. We suspect part of the glowingness is the fact that she’s French and exportable music from the land of Johnny Hallyday is a novelty, but mostly because she’s so right-on, with issues about gender and identity featuring in the lyrics; she left behind her feminine identity as a teenager. Fine and dandy for an essay, but immaterial if you want something to sing along to in the car.

That grumpiness aside, it’s a good album. It’s mostly sparse electric pop and Christine has a voice that suits the music well, bluesy and sultry while having a good pop sound. For an album about outsiders it’s very commercial and radio-friendly.
Opener iT seems to start as she means to go on, about gender identity though the lyrics suffer in translation: “I’m a man now/Cause I’ve got iT/ I’m a man now/And I won’t let you steal iT” and “She draws her own crotch by herself/But she’ll lose because it’s a fake”. Is anyone going to buy it for the lyrics?

Musically it’s electronic pop but a long way removed from the plinky synth of chart fodder: the songs have an organic feel and are all gentle. They build up rather than launch complete with hooks. A bit like Poliça, it’s got hidden depths that words can’t really convey, though it’s more accessible than the latter. We kinda like it but we don’t love it.

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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