THE CLONES with IAN GUTHRIE and GREG GOW at Roxy Blu (12 Brant), Friday (October 22). $10 before 11 pm or in advance, $15 after. firstname.lastname@example.org. Rating: NNNNN
Before you get too excited, these Clones aren't the N.E.R.D side project.
They're twin brothers from France who make genre-spanning techno pop. Listen to their debut album, Safety Copy, and you'll hear bits of French disco house à la late 90s, some jungle influences, techno, rock, UK garage, pop and breaks. There's an implied punk edge to their identity, but unless punk means something completely different in France, it's not particularly evident beyond their fashion sense and their affection for primitive cut-and-paste artwork.
The press has been trying to paint this as a big departure from the sound that Daft Punk and Bob Sinclair made Paris famous for, the filtered disco cut-ups that became known as the French touch. On record, though, that influence is clearly evident, and it seems like it's being downplayed by Sony simply because it's no longer in vogue.
"The disco house sound isn't so big here any more, but we add other elements - techno, jungle, rock, punk. Our parents were into all kinds of music, from mainstream pop to underground music like Can, so it comes naturally," Nicholas explains in French over a muffled cellphone from a noisy festival in their hometown of Montpellier. Language wasn't mentioned before our interview, so I'm feeling very grateful to my parents for sending me to French immersion.
To be fair, this album is a departure into much more rock-friendly territory than anything that came out of the filter-disco explosion, and it's based more on proper songwriting. That's probably why the Clones got picked up by Sony before they'd released anything and were given three years to figure out how to transform the energy of their live show into a recording. Nicholas and Julien honed their songwriting skill onstage, giving them an advantage over DJs-turned-producers who sometimes have a hard time thinking outside of loops.
"We're not DJs. We perform live with computers and electronics, remixing ourselves. We've been performing together for nine years, since we were very young. We don't really have individual specialties - we both work on all aspects of the music."
The twins originally performed together as percussionists, but after being seduced by the rave movement when they were 18, they bought some electronic gear and started performing at raves all over the country. This isn't techno, though. The album has lots of guest vocalists, along with guitars and complete songs.
"There aren't really any more raves in France now. The police shut them down. Now it's moved to the clubs, but there's also the free party scene, which is a bit more punk rock than the rave scene was."
That gives you the best idea of what they sound like - catchy and groovy enough to fit into a swank club, but edgy and upbeat enough to work in a guerrilla underground hippy-punk rave.
Whether this mishmash will translate for North American audiences remains to be seen - it may be hard to get press outside of eastern Canada and Quebec if you can't speak English.