Fans of French, techno-influenced disco pop rejoice: Yelle released their sophomore album “Safari Disco Club” this past month.
Based in France and consisting of namesake lead singer Yelle as well as DJs / Producers Tepr and GrandMariner, the band’s second album takes a more laid-back approach to French pop.
Gone are the super percussive beats and high-energy vocals that defined first album hits such as “Je Veux Te Voir” and “A Cause des Garçons.” If you’re expecting the same super danceable beats that catapulted Yelle to the top of the French charts, you’re going to be left disappointed. In their place is something entirely different.
The first single and title track, “Safari Disco Club,” left me scratching my head at first. Opening with a beat simply defined by jangly metal noises, the song’s start is reminiscent of early ’90s cartoon theme songs: the beginning of the track amazingly reminds me of the “Rugrats” opening. After the first 50 seconds or so though, “Safari Disco Club” became a different animal entirely.
While Yelle’s first album, “Pop-Up,” showcased some growing pains, Tepr joins half way through the recording of the album “Safari Disco Club,” bringing out their new found growth and comfort with each other. Rather than the beat and the vocals being two distinct parts like in many of the tracks off of the first album, the vocals and beat serve only to reinforce each other, at some points being barely distinguishable from each other.
Notably, the lyrical content of the album has changed a lot from that of “Pop-Up,” which was full of hyper-sexual offerings. The single track that offers any overt sexual imagery is “Chimie physique,” and the lyrical content doesn’t even focus on the sex. Rather, the lyrics deal with the difficulty two lovers who don’t speak the same language have communicating with each other. It’s a much darker sounding track than something you would expect to come from Yelle, but nonetheless has an uncanny ability of forcing listeners to bob their head. For the French-language-challenged, there’s a remix available, titled “Chimie physique (Fortune Remix),” that translates the lyrics to English.
Replacing the sexual imagery that used to be so thematic are lyrics dealing with slightly more thought-out issues.
“Que veux-tu,” the second track on the album, is the most energetic and danceable track on the album, but the lyrics are supremely heart-wrenching. The track recounts the story of a girl who has fallen out of love with someone by her own volition.
Despite the strong vocal performance and wonderful beat, what truly stands out is the amazingly clever lyrical play. If there’s any song of this album that one should get a translation to, it’s “Que veux-tu.” Bon mots include “Mon corps ne bouge plus quand je te voir” (My body no longer moves when I see you) and “Tu es chaud comme un gant autour mes doigts, mais ton regard de braise est tellement froid” (You’re hot like a glove around my fingers, but your eyes are cold.) This song is sure to pang a lot of people’s hearts.
Unfortunately, the lyrical play of “Que veux-tu” is the exception to the norm when it comes to this album. “Mon pays,” the seventh track, is most representative of the album. It’s got a catchy tune, it can get stuck in your head really easily and, if you don’t speak any French, it can stay in your head for a very long time.
But, one of the outcomes of the use of Yelle’s vocals as part of the instrumentation is that the lyrics become very repetitive. Rather than a normal verse, chorus, verse, chorus approach to song-writing, there are at least three songs on this album that are made up of only two choruses that repeat, one after the other.
Yelle’s new album is an exciting look for what’s to come in the future from the band. Their newfound comfort with each other has really improved the aesthetics of their music. Though not every song got me out of my seat, every song got me nodding, thinking to myself “This is pretty good.” There are no big let-downs on this album. Though the writing isn’t the most inspired thing in the world, the subject matter has become much more varied. And, if “Que veux-tu” is any indication, there’s some very good lyric-writing talent in there somewhere.
Yelle is currently touring the United States in support of her new album, and will be appearing in LA at the Henry Ford Theatre on May 21. If you enjoyed “Pop-Up” and “Safari Disco Club,” I recommend checking it out.
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars