What in God’s name would possess a group of otherwise regular New York hipsters to form a faux French band is beyond my comprehension. I do find it hilarious, though, that they’ve chosen stage names like Céline Dijon, Jean-Luc Retard and Franois Hardonne. So with handles like that and a cover shot of a lucky turtle mounting another turtle, I was expecting Nous Non Plus to be, y’know, funnier. Or stupider, but in a fun way. At least musically.
Turns out that while they are pretty dumb-sounding, they’re just a normal Indie Rock dance band that likes to sing bilingually and set down a slick, funky, ’80s-disco- and ’60s-French-Pop-inspired groove. Menagerie is all plastic synthesizer fashion fun, but it maintains a love of guitar crunch and a strong beat. “French Teacher” is pretty much straightup Disco, Euro-sleaze style, and it’s got a lyrical reference to spanking! A great, electrified oom-pah rhythm and catchy chorus (“The world is shit/Our love is it!”) dominate “Mais Maintenant Il Faut Danser.”
Tracks like “Thief Like Me” bring to mind a sped-up, more hedonistic Stereolab, another sort-of fake French band. (Well, a couple of ‘em are actually, certifiably French, I suppose.) Nous Non Plus’ hyper-chic, super-French schtick locks them into a certain aloof silliness, however, and that makes their attempts at poignancy on slower numbers like “Sunlight Yellow Noise,” which is a pretty song, feel a bit out of place. And it makes the lesser songs here truly drag.
On the whole, the album’s not bad, but it’s pretty disposable — obviously not designed for repeated, close listening. This group had one of their songs appear on Gossip Girl late last year, and that sums it up pretty well. If you fancy yourself pretty urbane and are looking for snarky music with a glammy, bourgeois flair to listen to while you snort coke, talk shit about your friends and dance on tables at fancy bars while throwing around your American Express Black card — or if you just want to pretend that’s your life — then Menagerie is the album for you. Grade: C