Live at Borderline, Soho
A movement is graciously but steadily spreading through France, based on the idea that we need to rethink the way in which we sing in French and make use of and adapt the language. Lyrical French was transformed by Barbara, Gainsbourg and Boris Bergman in their day, and is continuing to evolve in the hands of Sébastien Tellier, Bertrand Belin or Julien Barbagallo, who has a long history of exploring the boundaries of French song with his group Aquaserge and his solo Lecube project. Like so many of his compatriots, Julien has long sung the secrets of his soul in English, mainly for reasons of convenience. Yet now, after a few years of exile in Australia, especially as antipodean indie – pop institution Tame Impala’s master of toms and hi -hats, ‘Big Dog’ (as he is known down under) has taken advantage of his linguistic isolation to unshackle his tongue, words and ideas, and return to his past and roots. It is just as much a revelation for him as for us: on Grand Chien, Barbagallo lets fly with the words and accents of his mother tongue (the distinctive French of his native Albi). Dropping the mask for the first time, in one flowing movement, he embraces every inch of his identity, down to its most complex obscurities, ridding himself of the ready – made clichés of pop in the language of Shakespeare and Elvis Presley. With a startling obviousness, we find him reborn: the only artist of his kind, a major driving force in the world of a progressive French pop that is set to continue its pyrotechnics.
It has been a long and winding road. Introduced to music by his rowdy father and a fistful of onomatopoeia, moving on to percussion (his first instrument was a LU cookie tin) and then drums at the Albi music school, Julien turned to the prog rock of Genesis and then the indie pop of Teenage Fan Club, Flaming Lips and Super Furry Animals as soon as he was able. His first major group basically combined the two genres. If you are an aficionado of French music that still has the audacity to experiment, you will know that band: Aquaserge. Julien formed the group with virtuoso Benjamin Glibert and multi – instrumentalist Julien Gasc (a musician he met at high school). The story of the trio (later to become a quartet, quintet and trio again) was that of a family engaged in an unfeasibly exuberant exploration of the no – man’s – land between song, free jazz and experimental rock; an intense, eventful saga packed with revolutions, tectonic shifts and breakaway ideas that continually fired the imaginations of its three founder members. Meanwhile, Barbagallo worked on his solo project and also played for some of the finest bands in land, such as Hyperclean, Bertrand Burgalat and Tahiti 80. Then he met Tame Impala and everything changed. It did not spell the end for Aquaserge, but the band had to rethink its identity without their third pillar. In any case, the bond between them remained. Now without his crew and family, Barbagallo took off in a new direction.