Jacques Caramac and The Sweet Generation are a Franco-Scottish-Bolivian group who claim they are observing their world, like the rest of us, on the edge of clever and stupid. We check out their debut album “The Highs and Lows……” to find out if they are walking that fine line or do they err to one side or the other.
First impressions can count for a lot when it comes to music and having read a bit of the press blurb and considering their name, I wonder if there may be a bit too much emphasis in the humour that the band clearly had in mind when choosing their name and some of the song titles.
The album opens with “Exceedingly Good” – which seems to be a bit of a boast but when you hear the lyric “Good, good – exceedingly good: made to make your mouth water”, you realise that this album is going to be a little bit different. It’s almost a bookend for the album as there is “Exceedingly Good II” which is the penultimate track. The first part is built on a funky bass line and an almost chant like repetition of the single line. Further research reveals that this is actually loosely a concept album about highs and lows. Drug related or not? I’m not normally very good at picking up “concepts” so already I have concerns. Concept album – that tends to make alarm bells ring in most ears but this reviewer is actually a fan of some of the better ones as the songs usually work in isolation, so this isn’t a drawback. The opener is followed by the lively “Eldorado” with its trippy bass line and vocal, over the top of some very 80s sounding keyboards, this would sound great in a club and kind of reinforces the “high” part of the concept. Next up is “Snowballs” – the album’s first single - which is a complete left turn from the previous tracks. It’s all jangly guitars and is fairly straightforward indie sounding but despite that it’s fairly catchy, a safe choice for a single - sounding not unlike The La’s. This is followed by the first of two instrumentals – “11 Hope” which has an urgent sounding riff and weighs in at just over a minute long. It is different again from anything that has come before and is the point where you realise that this is a fairly eclectic album, so what’s coming next? “Passive Smoker” starts off slowly with mentions of “Space Dust” and coming on as a nod to mid 90s Britpop. The chorus is a bit more upbeat and has echoes of early U2 – JC&THSG are eclectic even within the confines of a single song. “It Takes All Sorts” follows and has nods to Blur which is never a bad thing. This is followed by the second instrumental “Liberte, Fraternite, Galaxy” which reinforces the trippy nature and is almost a bit of a “coming down” song. I’m not normally a huge fan of instrumentals but this is an exceptions and it’s quite an enchanting piece. Amazingly, I’m beginning to get the concept as well as the tunes! Next the bonkers-ly named “Kream Puff” – hanging on to the confectionary theme there, then? It’s slightly discordant riff is quite hummable though – decent song, poor name……. Weighing in at nearly 9 minutes “Walk In The Park” seems like a strange song to fit in with an album that is made up mainly of shorter songs. It’s possibly the stand out track for me though. Songs of this length usually have a couple of different pieces but this one builds gradually over guitar and bass riff until reaching a crescendo around two-thirds of the way through, when the band break it back down to the opening guitar and bass riff before reaching another crescendo at the end of the song – featuring some spiffing drum work. More nods to confectionary with the mention of “It’s not a marathon, it’s not a competition” – pun probably intended. Next up is the aforementioned “Exceedingly Good II” which features the same single line of lyrics, repeatedly almost hypnotically over a Beatles-esque soundscape which features samples of speech and random brass lines. The album sadly ends on a low point, with “PS: God Save The Pop Tarts” which is essentially the band clowning around – possibly in a rehearsal hall and doesn’t really add anything. I’m sure it’s a really good in-joke but not being in on it, it’s a little bit of a disappointing ending.
This is definitely an album to be filed under “quirky” but deserving of a little attention. It’s a promising start to the band’s recording career and I’d hope isn’t a creative high point, as there seems to be more to come. I like the adventure they have shown – you can hear that they are a band intent on enjoying themselves. Possibly not everyone’s cup of tea (and a biscuit?) but worth checking out. If you’re downloading the album, do yourself a favour and don’t bother with the last track. In answering the question asked at the beginning– they seem to have found themselves right on that fine line I referred to. Good work.
Talking of which, here at MusicMuso Towers, we’ve started to try and recommend 3 or 4 tracks, worth checking out to give you a flavour of the album. I’ve spent an absolute age trying to think of which ones, I would recommend as giving an overall flavour of the band’s sound but for Jacques Caramac and The Sweet Generation, this is practically impossible as they don’t stick to one particular formula. In this case, they are versatile enough to carry it off. Eventually, I decided to plump for my favourite three songs………
Download: Walk In The Park, Eldorado, It Takes All Sorts.
Words Adrian Grainger
Click HERE to buy the album