Et Moi Et Moi Et Moi: Jacques Dutronc 1966-1969
Jane and Serge are more iconic, but perhaps the most intriguing coupling in French pop history is that of Françoise Hardy and Jacques Dutronc. Individually they bucked conventions, both as composers and as public figures, and when these two stylish and very modern artists married, they opted to live apart.
Arguably (well, I’m going to argue it, anyway) they represent two facets of the French psyche: if Françoise is the spleen
of Baudelaire, embodied in his “J'ai plus de souvenirs que si j'avais mille ans”/“I have more memories than if I'd lived a thousand years” (Françoise recorded a song called ‘Ma Jeunesse Fout Le Camp
’, which translates roughly as ‘my youth is disappearing’, at the tender age of 23), then Dutronc’s 60s output, and indeed his singing voice and entire persona, are shot through with a dandyish cynicism and hauteur. (Baudelaire took a great interest in dandyism, describing its essence as “an aristocratic superiority of the mind”). It’s not hard to detect the influence of surrealism either in the lyrics penned for him by writer Jacques Lanzmann who, rather like Gainsbourg, clearly saw pop as the perfect medium for delivering little parcels of absurdity to a mass audience. Famously (in France at least) on ‘Les Cactus’, the whole world becomes a cactus, and it’s ‘impossible to sit down’; as with many of Lanzmann’s Dutronc lyrics, the song can work as a comment on the times, a comment on comments on the times, or just as a provocative piece of linguistic mischief.
Crucially, though, Dutronc himself was a resourceful musician and an assiduous student of rock n roll, so common complaints about the primacy of the word over the beat in French music do not apply to the EP tracks collected on ‘Et Moi Et Moi Et Moi’, mini-bombs that combine lyrical invention and stomping immediacy to an equal degree – quite simply some of the finest garage rock cuts of their time, and not just in France.
Rockfort contributor Kieron Tyler has focused on Anglo-friendly beat classics like the aforementioned ‘Les Cactus’, the title tune and fuzz-drenched stunner ‘Je Suis Content’, and found room for oddities like ‘Hippie Hippie Hourah’ (a hippie-era antecedent of Television Personalities’ ‘Part Time Punks’) and a handful of superb ballads, while eschewing some more chanson-flavoured, though still sardonic, material like ‘J’aime Les Filles’. And while I reckon ‘La Fille Du Père Nöel’ – ‘Jean Genie’s’ Gallic cousin – could have made the grade, this policy otherwise makes for a thrillingly propulsive experience.