Mansfield TYA: Seules Au Bout De 23 Secondes

Though at times drawing on the tristesse of French chanson, in other places on Mansfield TYA’s arresting debut album, ‘June’, the combination of raw, nervy guitar and violin recalled PJ Harvey’s ‘Plants and Rags’ – although clearly it wasn’t so much a case of West Country blues, more north-west: the duo, Julia Lanoë and Carla Pallone, are from Nantes and the songs seemed steeped in the chilly blue and grey of Brittany’s skies and the Atlantic coast. This level of unabashed angst is usually the preserve of emo acts these days, where it feels somewhat misplaced delivered in a cocky, nasal, auto-tuned whine amid the buffed up, radio-friendly riffs. Now, Carla and Julia may be perfectly cheerful gals on a day-to-day basis but on record, at least, they had opted for an appropriately minimalist sound – not too healthy, in other words, nerves all exposed – in which to couch these sentiments.

It’s rather a surprise, then, to find that the bracing miserablism appears to have been dispelled as ‘Seules Au Bout de 23 Secondes’ opens with the jaunty ‘Long Ago.’ It’s a sweet enough ditty to be sure, but we liked them when they were sad, didn’t we? It turns out to be a red herring, of course; ‘Seules…’ does broaden their vocabulary, both in terms of the arrangements (there are drums this time, organ, more backing vocals) but also in the songs’ attitude, as on the laconic ‘Sur le Plafond’ and the title track, a brief essay at the end of the record that sounds like them having a stab at being The Cure. But the prevailing mood is of a piece with that on “June” – check Julia singing “Been waiting for death since I was born” on 'Wasting My Time' if there are any remaining doubts.

As before, the songs are half in English, half in French; the awkward phrasing on the English-language tracks is charming enough but, to these English ears at least, the songs that really stop you in your tracks are the French-language ones, like “Pour Oublier Je Dors” on the debut. Here it’s “Je Ne Reve Plus’ (translation: I Don’t Dream Anymore) which finds the pair at their inconsolable best.

David McKenna