Pop: Wouldn't it be good...
...to be in Jacques Lu Cont's shoes? Too young to have plumbed the shallows of Eighties music first time round, he's made his name by reviving it in the Nineties.
"My name's not Jacques at all, it's Stuart Price," he says in an unmistakable Thames Valley accent. "But I was born in France and I thought Jacques sounded better. It's a more romantic name, don't you think?" Lu Cont is also a living monument to the Eighties, despite the fact that he can hardly remember them. His pillar box-red hair flirts with the mullet - a fashion faux-pas traditionally the preserve of footballers - while his wardrobe is a riot of fishnet T-shirts, stonewashed jeans and flecked suits. His record collection is shamelessly littered with Eighties mainstays The Human League, Harold Faltermeyer and Miami Sound Machine. The first record he ever bought was West End Girls by The Pet Shop Boys.
But first appearances notwithstanding, Lu Cont insists that his passion for the Eighties is a discerning one. "There's a fine line that you tread with the Eighties: Rubik's Cubes were great, but leg-warmers and fluorescent socks were unforgivable," he explains. "It's the same with music. I'm not pretending it was all good, but people have written off a whole decade of music because of a few dodgy tunes."
Lu Cont's forthcoming album Darkdancer encapsulates all he admires about music from the Eighties. It embraces the tinny electro rhythms, simple melodies and gratuitously shallow lyrics, and blends them with Nineties house grooves. The result is an irresistible pop LP, brimming with infectious tunes, that makes your spine tingle with both excitement and embarrassment.
The album's first single "Music Makes You Lose Control", a homage to the thrills of the dancefloor that fuses the dry humour of Daft Punk with the synth licks of The Human League, has already been making waves on the club circuit, as has the Day-Glo bounciness of "Jacques Your Body (Make Me Sweat)", a consummate dance anthem that bridges the gap between squeaky Eighties synth and today's bass-driven house music. Lu Cont's stage antics during live performances - lip-synching to his own songs and striking poses that would make Boy George blush - has also attracted attention, and has single-handedly put showmanship back into live dance music, a genre which these days seems to have an increasingly sombre reverence.
"Who wants to see banks of keyboards and dreary films when they go out to a dance gig?" he splutters. "It's so poor." Not content with just lifting Eighties grooves, Lu Cont has requisitioned vocals from such Eighties luminaries as Thomas Riberio, disco diva Shannon, and Nik Kershaw.
"Nik is my favourite vocalist from the Eighties and he is a great songwriter," trills Lu Cont. "'The Riddle' is one of the greatest songs of the era." Lu Cont's first problem was convincing Kershaw that he was not about to be victim to a cruel Eighties send-up. "Our managers organised a meeting and I went down to his studio in Essex. I played him some of my other records and showed him that I wasn't into novelty songs. With Shannon it was the same. I simply said that I liked the sound of her old records."
While he accepts that there is a comic element to his music, Lu Cont would like it to be known that he is not being ironic. Indeed, his records act less as postmodern statements than as a catalogue of his obsessions.
"I like concepts," he explains. "It's all about about creating an image and an act. In 10 years' time I want to look back and be able to say 'that was the Eighties album', 'that was the experimental album' and so on. I will never make a record like Darkdancer again." So what is it about the Eighties? "I like the simplicity of the songs," he maintains. "I actually like that cold, thin sound that everyone dislikes." Lu Cont may have been born in Paris - he appeared prematurely during his parent's honeymoon - but he has lived in Reading since he was six months old. His parents are concert pianists, and Lu Cont grew up on a diet of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Mozart. Pop music was banned in his house - "My parents thought that it was for people who weren't very clever". As a result, Lu Cont was reduced to visiting public libraries for his musical edification.
"My introduction to pop music came from Madonna, The Police, Duran Duran, and Prince, as it was all I could get my hands on. Since I couldn't really remember the Eighties, it was up to me to piece it together through listening to pop records." To his parent's horror, Lu Cont swapped his piano for an electric keyboard and sampler, and signed to Wall Of Sound records while still in his teens.
Within a year he had released an electro-tinged techno record, "Liberation", and has since remixed records for Placebo, Cornershop and Pavement. He has also been on a few profile-raising tours with Bentley Rhythm Ace and Cornershop.
Lu Cont may have convinced his collaborators that he is devoted about Eighties music, but in the light of the recent revival tours from Culture Club, ABC and Duran Duran, Lu Cont concedes that he will have a harder job convincing the rest of us.
"I look like a cartoon character because that's part of my act, but I am utterly serious and I want to make credible pop records. I think people will get into the music once they get over the embarrassment of remembering what the Eighties were really like."
'Darkdancer' is released on Wall Of Sound Records on Monday
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