Le Prince Miiaou: Safety First
Already known to Rockfort, Le Prince Miiaou – Maud-Élisa Mandeau – was brought up in a tiny, 400-population, Charente village. Moving to the town of Jonzac, she then decamped for Paris. Her musical outlook has been similarly mobile, looking outside France for inspiration from Mogwai, PJ Harvey, Radiohead and Animal Collective. Her alter ego came from a book of Persian legends. After a spell in John and Jehn’s live band, she’s refocused on her solo persona, with ‘Safety First’ finally gaining proper distribution.
What’s most initially striking is the supremely unsunny outlook in songs like ‘Could You Please Die?’, ‘A Beast Beside You Died’, ‘No Compassion Available’ and ‘Everything Must Be Erased’. Writing and producing the album, Mandeau plays everything expect cello (on one track) and drums (on two tracks). This musical world is as hermetic as it is emotive.
None of this is to say that ‘Safety First’ isn’t uplifting. There’s no PJ Harvey grind and none of top-shelf Radiohead’s spiralling torment. These are in the mix, but Mandeau is softer, her songwriting moving through major to minor, arcing like classic chanson Française. Despite looking outside l’Hexagon, the all-English ‘Safety First’ (there are some French-language backing vocals) and its atmospherics remain peculiarly French. Although the striking ‘Football Team
’ opens quietly, the hammering refrain “they don’t want me in their football team” and the preceding lyrics about swallowing pride with “the tenderness of the fair sex” address gender politics head on. ‘Could You Please Die?’ rolls forward with a cello offering a vaguely psychedelic tone, but in declaring “you’re useful to no one” Mandeau suggests that, for her, satisfaction is never gong to be achieved. The album’s highpoint, ‘Everything Must Be Erased’, is fractured, elegiac, climaxing in a breathless squall that caves in to an exhausted coda.
Mandeau might not fit any current French templates – existing outside fashion – but ‘Safety First’ is all the better for that. Let’s hope there are no more distractions like John and Jehn before her next steps.
© Kieron Tyler