For those old enough to remember, The Shoes were a cool American power pop act of the late 70’s from Zion, Illinois who used to be popular on MTV. A band I haven’t heard from for 3 decades making a move to a French label? Woah. However, upon closer inspection I realized that the band behind the album ‘Crack My Bones’ was a different one entirely. Curiosity got the better of me and it ended up in my CD drawer, and a week later, it is still being played in heavy rotation.
As it turns out, The Shoes hail from the streets of France and comprise of two electroclash dance pioneer DJs who have known each other since they were 10. This pairing, they say, was based on “a love of music, girls and being too cool for ecole”. Years later, this friendship has continued to flourish and spawned their debut album chock full of electro-tinged indie pop.
Over the last few years, Guillaume Briere and Benjamin Lebeau have been churning out big, busy remixes for indie pop-stars such as Ladyhawke, Santogold, and Marina and the Diamonds. Their impressive CV has helped them recruit an amazing list of prolific contributors including Gonzalez and high profile pop producer Lexxx (Arcade Fire, Crystal Castles and Madonna), as well as lesser known names like Esser, CocknBullKid and the Bewitched Hands to help out on everything from keys, vocals, and percussion to mixing and production.
Album opener and single ‘Stay The Same’ is arguably the stand out track. It’s full of rhythmic percussion and jaunty melodies juxtaposed against muted vocals. ‘Cliché’ is a dark and dirty track featuring the vocals of CocknBullKid. A rather stark base sits well underneath her staccato singing style; whilst ‘The Wolf Under The Moon’ – a pacey, upbeat number – is more reminiscent of ’80s Europop, complete with synthesized howling. ‘Time To Dance’ runs in the same vein; an up-tempo dance number with a furious bass line and piano riff battling with each other. There’s even some chanting thrown in for good measure.
Aside from the unmistakable Europop influence, there are other comparisons to be made. They can easily be considered France’s answer to artists like Calvin Harris and Hot Chip, with occasional nods to the Klaxons and LCD Soundsystem. I might even go as far as to say there are hints of the New Romantics in there. This doesn’t mean that the Shoes doesn’t have anything new to offer. While their sound borrows from many artists and genres, they have managed to expertly put it all together to create a uniquely good record.
Fresh, quirky and bright – ‘Crack My Bones’ is one of the best albums I’ve heard for a while; not to mention it being an excellent and extremely optimistic debut. These French Shoes can sit comfortably next to my American Shoes CD collection.
- Kieven Yip