The Do, Bush Hall, London
French pop may have been derided for years, but it's enjoying a rise in popularity.
There's a return of the already big successes: next month Justice are back on tour, and Air return with a new album. But there is also a raft of newer acts bringing French indie to the fore. Fránçois & the Atlas Mountains are respected indie label Domino's very first Francophone signings, quirky singer-songwriter SoKo finally releases her debut album next month, and then there's The Do.
The Paris-based duo have long sold out this venue - indeed, as multi-instrumentalist Dan Levy gratefully tells the crowd, each time they play London: “the venues are getting bigger and bigger.” Late last year they released their second album, Both Ways Open Jaws, which built on the following they'd acquired with 2008's A Mouthful, a number one in France.
Their success lies with their model-esque singer and guitarist Olivia B Merilahti (who, if we're going to be accurate, is half-Finnish), tonight resplendent in silver and blue, who sends everyone into rapture - the boys want to see her, the girls want to be her. Her cooing, honeyed soprano vocals lilt and carry melody like dandelions in the breeze. It's just a shame that the melodies are in short supply.
In the effort to create original genre-defying art-pop, at times they seem to be somewhat forgotten. The new album brings about an experimental edge to their sweet indie-pop, via an intoxicating array of propulsive percussion, hand claps, tribal chanting and electronica, best displayed in singles Gonna Be Sick, calling to mind a softened MIA.
They are flanked by an energetic three-piece band that cannot be faulted. Meticulously tight and connected, when Merilahti claps her last clap, the band stop. Their arrangements are artfully sculpted into songs that twist and turn with unexpected experimental bursts of cacophonous saxophone, keys and guitar, and a megaphone.
It's sometimes at the cost of the song itself, but it's clear that The Do are more keen on breaking musical boundaries than recreating the sing along indie-pop of their debut, and the crowd are entranced. It's apparent in their best-loved single, On My Shoulders, which descends into chaotic electronic experimentation, detracting from its perfect pop song melody. Even then it is no disaster. Live, the captivating Merilahti, who can channel Blondie one minute, shriek, and coo the next, could get away with anything.
French pop is no longer on the sidelines.
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