Feu Thérèse Ça Va Cogner

[Constellation; 2007]

Styles: post-rock, ’80s analogs, glam rock, new wave
Others: Neu!, Gang Gang Dance, David Bowie, M83

I love Montreal. And I bet you love it too, especially after you’ve been hearing everyone from your grandmother to your life coach scream lines like, “Montreal! That’s the city that gave us Arcade Fire! Funeral CHANGED my life.” To say that Montreal’s scene is “passé” would be foolish, but in my recent musical wanderings, there’s been a notable absence of truly ear-grabbing sounds from North America’s “Most European City.” With Feu Thérèse’s sophomore endeavor, Ça Va Cogner, however, I can happily report that my ears have been sufficiently yanked.

While Feu Thérèse aren't new to the game, they’ve managed to stay at least somewhat secluded in their element, even while signed to Montreal’s brightest label, Constellation Records. Like their debut, Ça Va Cogner was recorded at the legendary Hotel2Tango Studio, also used by such illustrious artists as Wolf Parade, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and, of course, Arcade Fire. Some of the magic must have rubbed off, because Ça Va Cogner is a welcome trip back to the analog and glam rock of the ’80s.

The most immediately noticeable components of this album, and the ones that will likely attract the album mixed reviews, are the synthesizer and guitar sounds. Both run the gamut from nauseatingly corny to ’80s-time-warp-inducing visions of you and your secret lover making eye contact on the dance floor. The band even acknowledges this tension, labeling their record “impenetrable to some” and “a brilliant alternative reality” to others. But before writing these sounds off as outdated and therefore “bad,” just think back to when these sounds were fresh and consider whether or not they should really be judged based off relative obsolescence. Of course, this is not to give Feu Thérèse a blank check -- many of these synth samples, even in context, do sound ridiculous -- but no artist should be penalized simply for working within a sonic boundary that is not necessarily of the time.

That said, this sound-set, on an album not even 40 minutes long, is surprisingly fluid and logical in its development. Feu Thérèse do a great job interpolating catchy tracks like “Â nos amours” and “Nada,” which groove in a way unheard since the mid-'80s, with spacey Neu!-esque instrumentals like “Les déserts des azurs.” It’s also interesting that Stephen de Oliveira chose to sing almost entirely in French, something most Montreal bands only dip into as an occasional “look, we’re not from America!” gesture. But what makes this album most worthwhile is what it's signaling about “synthetic” music. By breaking several of the oh-so-fashionable boundaries of “indie” sound, Feu Thérèse have taken a small but noble step away from the same crunchy guitar riffs and electro leads of everyone’s microKORGs. Ça Va Cogner is a very mature album that should get some serious recognition from those willing enough to give it a chance.

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