FRANCE: Illusion et Imparfait - Dandies
Updated: Jan 21, 2021
Indie rockers with a French twist, look out for the track that features one of the British rock icons of our time
Illusion et Imparfait by the French indie rock band the Dandies is a pretty great album, but before we get into the nitty gritty of the album, I have to get one thing out of the way. If you happen to be like me, by which I mean, a British man aged 18-30, the smooth indie sound of the Dandies will almost certainly remind you of the soundtrack to a certain era-defining comedy show named The Inbetweeners. You might be aware of the show and be none of those things, of course. My point is not that you have to be in the certain demographic to love a show, rather my point is that The Inbetweeners began to represent something for people of my generation, and the indie music of the type the Dandies perform plays a part in that. The Inbetweeners is the show that defines the British teenage boy experience like no other. People might like to think it’s Skins that best defines it, the Bristol-based show for all the cool kids hanging round the skate parks with their baseball caps on backwards, but if you were a slightly geeky, otherwise uncool or dorky kid who found talking to girls terrifying, were too much of a coward to smoke a joint let alone take some ketamine, and took briefcases to school, The Inbetweeners was the show for you.
“Their music clearly owes a debt to the work of bands like The Libertines and The Strokes, but they have adeptly transferred it into a French context. It feels authentically theirs.”
Following the pathetic, cringey, yet often hilarious exploits of four teenagers in a Comprehensive Sixth Form as they navigate their way around London’s dreary suburban excess, The Inbetweeners became a cultural touchstone in Britain, and I think that’s obviously due to the sharply observed and wickedly funny writing, as well as the excellent acting from the four leads, but I also think that an undoubtedly small, but nonetheless important reason was due to it having a clearly defined sound that underlined the themes of the show. The show’s soundtrack includes songs from Belle & Sebastian, The Jam, The Cure, and The Strokes – some of the best alternative rock bands out there, and unlike many sitcoms, it used no incidental music especially composed for the show (like The Simpsons or Futurama do), nor did it use era-specific music. instead, the music they chose for the show was deliberately chosen to evoke a sort of teenage angst and pathetic-ness, music that captures that adolescent rage and impotence that comes from wanting to seize the world by the scruff of its neck, but also remembering you live with your parents in a semi-detached in Edgware. This is where the Dandies lie. Much of this music appears to be their inspiration. For me, if they ever remade The Inbetweeners for a French audience (Les Intermédiaires, anyone?), the Dandies should be the band to play the theme song.
You might think I’m reaching in my comparison, but as further evidence, none other than Pete Doherty appears on this album, singing in French for the first time on record. Doherty, the drug-addled frontman of iconic British indie band The Libertines, features on the song L Comme Liaison, a song that clearly pays tribute to the British and American indie rock that have so inspired the Dandies. Their music clearly owes a debt to the work of bands like The Libertines and The Strokes, but they have adeptly transferred it into a French context. It feels authentically theirs. I love rock music, yet modern indie music often passes me by, as I often feel that, Libertines and Strokes aside, they feel like an imitation of something. I often find that many bands’ desperation to be as cool as The Strokes or as outrageous and The Libertines can stifle them, and really, they should just embrace their own way of doing things, and though the Dandies clearly are in that same tradition, singing in French gives them an edge over their competitors, which makes the album hugely fun to listen to. Their great riffs, catchy choruses, and raw instrumentation make them feel part of a musical tradition and genre, while their vocals allow them to express themselves in a way that is true to them. The album may not reinvent the wheel, but it certainly showcases their talent in an enjoyable, upbeat, fun album.