Benjamin Schoos – China Man vs China Girl

that’s what this LP is all about, being glossy, ridiculous, perfumed but elegant – acting out a part, made giddy by the possibility of high romance at any minute – yes with dirty fingernails and soiled cuffs but able to charm the preppy girl who’s just crossed the Place de République wearing shades and a miniskirt and with Le Grande Meaulnes tucked under her arm.

 

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What is it with French-language pop/rock and xylophones? They bloody crop up everywhere … Maybe we will never know what the fascination is… Regardless of my little quip, China Man vs China Girl by Benjamin Schoos is a damn fine LP – to all intents and purposes an affectionate tribute to louche, eloquent, metropolitan Francophile funk – a musical libation to that speakeasy vibe that Gainsbourg cemented as his trademark around 1975. The opening synth-instrumental High Flying Melancholia says it all in the title, that’s what this LP is all about, being glossy, ridiculous, perfumed but elegant – acting out a part, made giddy by the possibility of high romance at any minute – yes with dirty fingernails and soiled cuffs but able to charm the preppy girl who’s just crossed the Place de République wearing shades and a miniskirt and with Le Grande Meaulnes tucked under her arm. Schoos is a Walloon, so the recipients of his amour fou will doubtless (I am guessing) be more Bruxelles-based, but sod it. Catch and La Chinoise drip sex and seediness.

There’s also a heady drama that runs throughout the record – Chinaman vs Chinagirl and A Mort L’Amour! are ridiculously overblown declarations of passion of one kind or another - though at times you wonder if he’s having a laugh - when did you last hear a French language song use Margaret Thatcher to make a line scan? (Profession Catcheur). The songs aren’t just rehashes of a well-worn theme though; perhaps the most successful moment on the LP is the brilliant duet with Stereolabs’ Latitia Sadler which sounds like a massive show tune or hit from a 60’s film score – it’s jaunty, fresh and vibrant and carried to another place altogether by Sadler’s beautifully rich singing. There are other collaborations, with Ride’s Mark Gardener and Chrissie Hynde, but, frankly they don’t do it for me, his own ruminations are much more interesting and well, funny…