The French Dispatch – Wes Anderson / Chansons d’Ennui – Tip Top – Vinyl Releases, ABKCO Records
The French Dispatch Original Soundtrack – ABKCO Records 8772-1 (2021) stereo double vinyl, 62:32 ****:
(Featuring original music by Alexandre Desplat; Conrad Pope – orchestration, conductor; Randall Poster – music supervisor; Jean-Yves Thibaudet – piano solos; performances from Gene Austin; Gus Visor; Grace Jones; Boris Bjorn Bagger and Detlef Tewes; Mario Nascimbene; Ennio Morricone; Chantal Goya; Charles Aznavour; The Swingle Sisters; George Delerue; Jarvis Cocker (and friends)
During the pandemic, Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch managed to impress critics and garner box office revenue. With a phenomenal all-star cast, the multi-faceted “anthology” relates stories from an expatriate English-language magazine (formerly of Liberty, Kansas) based in a small town in France (Ennui) . Featuring original music by Alexandre Desplat (who has collaborated with Anderson for 15 years and won an Oscar for Grand Budapest Hotel), the movie soundtrack is a visceral counterpart to this idiosyncratic film. Desplat distills the cinematic deadpan whimsy of the film with a variety of snippets and occasional songs. A good portion of the music is performed by pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, often in duets with other instruments. The opening track is titled “Obituary”, and is surprisingly lively with an assortment of reeds, string and tuba. The inherent classicism of Thibaudet is featured in the descending ”Simone Naked, Cell Block J Hobby Room” and “Moses Rosenthaler” (both performed solo). There are popular numbers, including a reggae-infused performance by Grace Jones (“I’ve Seen That Face Before”) and a dramatic turn by Charles Aznavour (“J’en deduis sue je t’aime”). As with other Anderson/Desplat collaborations, there are eclectic classical movements like “Sonata for Mandolin and Guitar A-Dur K. 31” and “Fugue No. 2 in C Minor (The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 2, BMV 871)”. Additionally, there are pieces from other films, one by Mario Nascimbene (“Inseguimento” from Mystery Train), another by master composer Ennio Morricone (“L’Ultima Volta” from I Malmondo) and a third by Georges Demeure (“Adagio” from Comp[tes a rebours”).
The tone and mood of this atmospheric movie can be felt in Desplat’s translations of the amiable eccentricity inhabited by the characters. There are more complex arrangements, especially “The Berensen Lectures at the Clampette collection”, which exhibits some processional motifs. Other highlights include the sprightly “Private Dining Room Of The Police Commissioner” (with a banjo), “Animated Car Chase (with some dissonance and sharp flutes), and the swelling histrionics of Jarvis Cocker’s “Aline”, which brings the album to a satisfying close.
Side One: Obituary; After You’ve Gone (from Sadie McKee); Simone, Naked Cell Block J. Hobby Room; Fiasco; Moses Rosenthaler
Side Two: I’ve Seen That Face Before; Mouthwash de Menthe; Sonata for Mandolin and Guitar A-Dur, K. 331/Andante Grazioso con Variation VI; Variation 5 – Adagio; Cadazio Uncles and Nephew Gallery; Inseguimento al Taxi (The Chase); The Berensen Lectures at the Clampette Collection
Side Three: L’Ultima Volta; Tu m’as trop menti; J’en déduis que je t’aime; Fugue No. 2 in C Minor (The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2, BWV 871; Adagio (from Competes a rebours)
Side Four: Police Cooking; The Private Dining Of The Police Commissioner; Kidnappers Lair; A Multi-Pronged Battle Plan; Blackbird Pie; Commandos, Guerrillas, Snipers, Climbers and the Jeroboam; Animated Car Chase; Lt. Nescaffier (Seeking Something Missing…); Aline
Chansons d’Ennui – Tip Top – Inspired By Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch – ABKCO Records 9903-1 (2021) stereo vinyl, 43:53 ****1/2:
(Jarvis Cocker – vocals; Serafina Steer – harp, keyboards, vocals; Emma Smith – violin, saxophone, keyboards, recorder, backing vocals; Jason Buckle – guitar, percussion, keyboards; Andrew McKinney – electric bass; double bass; backing vocals; Adam Betts – drums, percussion, backing vocals; Laetitia Sadler – vocals, keyboards; plus many others)
Jarvis Cocker (frontman for Pulp) performing as Tip-Top has recorded a companion piece to The French Dispatch. Chansons d’Ennui is an engaging collection of “boredom” songs with big arrangements. The opening track Side 1, “Dans Ma Chambre” has a deliberate tempo (almost march-time) and swelling accents, Cocker’s vocals could be part of any contemporary movie. Next up is the infectious pop of “Contact” (originally recorded by Brigitte Bardot). Cocker glides through this amenable repertoire. “La Tendresse” has great harp accompaniment. His lower-register breathy vocals (including spoken word and whispering) on Nina Ferrer’s “Amour Je Te Cherche” are compelling and epitomize the album’s mood. With considerable edgy punk, “Les Gent Sont Fous, Les Temp Sont Fous” has a jagged guitar driving the harder rock arrangement.
Crocker teams up with Laetitia Sadler (Stereolab) on “Paroles, Paroles”. This duet captures the sensual romanticism of the original from Alida and Alain Delon. Cocker’s deep whispers are countered by the plaintive, silky tones of Sadler. There are two covers of songs from past films (“Requiem Pour Un Con”/Le Pache: “Mao Mao”/La Chinoise). On an extended number (over 6 minutes), “Elle Et Moi” has a finger-snapping cool vibe, tight percussion and a cool piano vamp with synthesizers. It is hypnotic. Fittingly, the finale is “Aline” glowing in 3/4 time.
This album is a breath of fresh air.
Side 1: Dans Ma Chambre; Contact; La Tendresse; Amour, Je Te Cherche; Les Gens Sont Fous, Les Temp Sont Flous; Il Pleut Sur La Gare
Side 2: Paroles, Paroles; Requiem Pour Un Con; Mon Ami La Rose; Mao Mao; Elle Et Moi; Aline