Mademoiselle Caro & Franck Garcia - Left

Owain Paciuszko 08/04/2010

Rating: 4/5

Sophomore LP from French duo opens with the elegant chimes and camera whirrings of the straight-forwardly titled Opening, which leads into the disco strut of From The Shadow where, in the vocals, their accents are distinctive and charming over a simple, retro disco electro beat. It's a unashamedly pop friendly lead track with a big dopey grin and a chorus to sing-a-long to whilst grooving like an extra from a bad glittery 70's music video, it practically demands flares.

DJ Caro met pop arrangment writer Franck in 2006 and they released their debut Pain Disappears two years later, time has seen them ditch earlier complexities for a more club-friendly vibe, which whilst successful on From The Shadow fails to deliver the goods on Everything Must Change, a rather dreary number despite its buoyant bass-line and simple, foot friendly beat. It picks up with a peculiarly menacing synth string finale, but it's too little too late. Pale Christmas kicks off with a laid-back beat and reversed vocals, whilst the duo's synchronised voices are full of melancholy, it's processed strings sitting nicely against the lazily played keyboard line.

Starting in a similarly downtempo fashion Soldiers (one of the record's singles) builds effectively into a slinky number, with a travelling vibe akin to The Chemical Brothers Star Guitar but with dance steps. It's infectiously groovy and may provoke impromptu bedroom discos, but it's followed up by the spoken word introduction of Faith which is an awkward transition and doesn't manage to sustain the good feeling of the masterfully handled preceeding track.

Creating a perfect dance record is very much like DJing a great set, you have to carefully balance the ups and downs, there has to be - for a complete listen - a through-line running across the tracks and this record shifts a touch clumsily in tone. Sure the Raveonettes-go-disco sound of Drive is deliciously grimy, and taken on its own it's a fantastic blend of sleaze with a pop bent, but it stumbles out on the record and loses a little impact as a result. The rock guitars remain in effective use during the introduction of Smile, jostling with strings before a doomy bass-line waddles up alongside optimistic vocals; things go twinkly in a mid-eighties David Bowie way on the chorus, recalling a remix of the Labyrinth soundtrack's slower numbers. It all coelesces nicely in the track's closing moments, the tune's menace at odds with the song's lyrics.

Things move along with a skip and a jump to the oh-so-jolly Fly with it's happy-go-lucky chorus of 'So, come on let's go, don't stay inside, Fly!' It's both ridiculously cheesy and sugary but handled with smart production and instrumentation, and enhanced by the dry Parisian vocals, so that it doesn't wind up as insipid as a Lily Allen track, which in some passing ways this bares a certain retro-pop similarity. Elsewhere penultimate track On My Own recalls Bowie's Ashes To Ashes a little too much at times to really flourish, and closing instrumental track The First Time deliberately pitches itself into a sense of finality with a pleasant enough wibbly bass line and ascending synths.

As far as dance records go this is a particularly fine follow-up, it suffers from a few misplaced tracks in the mid-section but picks itself up incredibly well with a handful of great tunes that should fit the summer nights perfectly.