(The Diary of a Pop Defender)
There’s just something about French hip hop. Maybe it’s far too much time spent watching La Haine that has hypnotised me into thinking that spilling out rhymes au Francais is infinitely more engaging and profound. Tongue twisting in French seemed to have stylish panache and sounded much more difficult to perform than what your average English speaking puffed up wannabe could manage.
In fact they could be talking about exactly the same thing or anything really…lorry pileups, the Eurosaver menu, Timmy Mallet, broken crockery (can SOMEONE shoe-horn all this into a song for me please?!) because I can’t bloody understand a word they are saying and the best part is it doesn’t matter at all.
I can’t even remember how I stumbled across Le Klub Des 7 but I’m sure a random desk bound dose of Last FM had something to do with it. They gently lolled into my life with the bouncy Le Parapluie like an impossibly sexy Tribe Called Quest bounding down the steps to the Metro plus it had horns. It had brass that blasted out 70s style breaking up the head nodding trance and crowning them with their own triumphant boxing ring type theme tune.
After the 50th play it still never occurred to me to translate that baby apart. It just didn’t seem to matter to me what it was about. It made my day of typing drudgery more bombastic and glorious than ever. Their back catalogue dreamily transported me to the most crowds swelling of concrete drowned urban settings where I could speak French fluently and break dance like a randy octopus.
Anyway being able to decipher or understand lyrics is not as vital to the overall enjoyment of a song as you might think. Consider how for years I believed Howard Jones was signing ‘cross your mental plane’ in New Song even though there was a near naked jigging fool dancing beside him trying to escape his literal and mental chains…obviously. The point is that it didn’t diminish my love of its Thomas Dolby style keyboard fiddling at all. If I can mess up songs in a language I understand and still love them then not understanding a whole other language to grasp the meaning of a song is fine by me.
For years I’ve sung pretend words to some of my beloved Serge, Francoise, Jacques and Super Furry Animals numbers never pausing to consider that a song that made me dissolve into tears at its melancholy beauty (Nythod Cacwn) was in fact written about bees.
Does it really matter? Isn’t one of the wonders of pop music in all its inclusive forms the idea that you can attribute your own feelings, emotions and meaning to a song that the writer never had in mind and doesn’t not being able to understand foreign songs just become the extreme version of this? I guess it depends on how much of a pedant you are or how much you want to get into the writer’s head and with an artist like Serge Gainsbourg I’m sure his lyrics can offer intriguing insight and add to the whole overall experience of his songs…(how then would we ever have found out that the delectable Melody Nelson was from Sunderland?!) I’m sure I’d be disgusted at my ignorance if I discovered that Le Klub Des 7 have a myriad of tracks denigrating women or rattling on about how they hate gay people, so perhaps a quick scan of Google translate isn’t going to kill me, it just may make me kill the music instead.