wed 29/05/2024

CD: Mehdi Zannad - Fugue | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Mehdi Zannad - Fugue

CD: Mehdi Zannad - Fugue

French singer-songwriter leans towards baroque pop and The Beach Boys

Mehdi Zannad's 'Fugue': Summery pop that draws on classic Sixties and Seventies styles

Mehdi Zannad isn’t a familiar name, but he’s issued a raft of albums as Fugu and has been championed by Stereolab. His profile in Japan is good, and he’s composed soundtracks in his native France. Fugue, the first album released under his own name, is co-produced by Tahiti 80’s Xavier Boyer. "Fugue" translates as "break away" – which he has from the Fugu guise. He’s also broken away from English. Fugue is Zannad's first French-language album.

Language, though, is no barrier to basking in this summery pop.

Zannad was inspired to sing in French after working on the film La France in 2007. Despite the film being set during World War One, director Serge Bozon wanted deliberately incongruous music with a psychedelic feel for the soldiers to sing in battle. Bozon has written Fugue’s lyrics, and Boyer's kitten-soft co-production steers Zannad gently towards the territory of early Tahiti 80, but stripped of their rock tendencies. A bit of Brazilian shuffle is in here, along with rich Beach Boys’ harmonies and a late-Sixties-style songwriting sensibility informed by California, Paul McCartney, Colin Blunstone and even Gilbert O’Sullivan.

Fugue unfolds and melodies enfold. “Le Tableau” opens as an acoustic ballad – with lyrics about the world thinking California is where it’s at, but Zannad decides he prefers France – then turns into a song that could have been recorded by Emitt Rhodes or Duncan Browne. Although Zannad looks to the classic (both known and obscure), Fugue doesn’t sound dated. There is nothing new here, yet this isn’t a cold exercise in record-collector rock. Zannad implants his own personality, bringing emotion. Warmth shines through.

Visit Kieron Tyler’s blog

Watch the video for Fugue’s "Barques"

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