Pink Martini, another post that has long been overdue. Surely the most European of American bands. Makes you cry, makes you smile, makes you swing. All within each album. The art of picking up the perfect songs to cover. And to write new ones as much delightful please.
So let’s start with a song that would just be the cherry on the top of a sad cake; one that makes us laugh (where the definition of funny relies heavily on being a French-speaker or not); and not just one but two to swing (you’ll notice how their association is actually developing a tale).
Where the man is settling into my landscape and where I decided to take a talks-marathon. Have you already read a Frog high on oxytocine and adrenaline? It’s bad. Or fun. Depends on your perspective.

‘And then, in less than 90 minutes, Tattooed Man met The Young Lady, accepted to come to the theatre with her and I in 3 weeks and to come to 1 work gathering next week. Sometimes you just have to hold your breath and jump.’

‘Triple chocolate ice-cream and Gregory House with The Young Lady. Coming soon, a massive nap.
Conferencey self officially on hibernation mode till April.’
According to my alarm, I’m supposed to wake up in 2 hours and 5 minutes. Well, at leat, I am still standing.’
‘Oh, there is some Picon…’
(all on the 29st; adrenaline goes downhill and so is the sanity)

‘Apparently I survived the 4 talks in a week marathon. Starting apéritif now. You better check again if I am alive in a few hours, after the well deserved celebratory drink(s).’
‘Three down, one to go. In French please.’
(both on the 28st; still running)

‘I am a Psychologist surrounded by Linguists, a Frummy in Switzerland, a bilingual dining with (at least) trilinguals.
I could cry for home, but that’s an amazing kind of alienation.’

‘2 talks down, including the one in front of the legendary Dan Sperber. 2 more to go. But before it’s fondue time please.’

‘In the 4-talks-week marathon, 1 done, still 3 to give.’
‘The real Weisberg-ism was actually to get prematurely enthusiastic. If those grafs represented my heart beat, I would be dead.’
(both on the 24th)

‘Every time I am thinking about you, you text / call.
Wait… I am always thinking about you.’

‘I just had a conversation with a bus driver. By which I mean a proper conversation between a regular driver and a regular customer, the former asking about the latter’s daughter.
Sorry, is it still Birmingham?’
‘To be fair, from the beginning it was meant to be a day of getting carried away…
Me: “[The Young Lady] did not do her RE homework because I told her not to. To be honest I found it to be closer to proselytism than comparative religion. Since we’re talking about that, I also find the curriculum too Christian-oriented so far.” ‘
‘And then she realized she just signed up for one more talk when she actually already has three next week…
Being high on oxytocin might have some practical limits… (including not being able to repost having corrected the misspellings the repost is all about).’
(all on the 21st)

‘I am surrounded by fantastic friends. Just to add to my already massive happiness.’

‘The only static thing I like in life is electricity.
Ergo I have only one stable personality trait, being highly dynamic and changeable.
And (liking) being full of paradoxes too.’
‘ “Learning outcomes: Employ basic statistical tests to analyse data and interpret results”. Which I read this afternoon as “Enjoy basic statistical tests…”
Aaaaah, wishful thinking!’
(both on the 18th)

‘Sorry to ruin the #bluemonday BS w/ my massive smile but it’s the 1st day of my fav’ TAing, it’s my Grand-Ma’s 82 and I am high on oxytocin.’
‘Oh, it’s that time of the year again! 5 weeks if teaching / testing marathon, with 3 days of conference as bonus this year. Ambivalent regarding being the lead on Wason practical though: gonna miss getting my hands dirty; and marking too. But new exciting modules are coming, so bring it on!’

‘And then Tattooed Man brought a greener bulb for the light he already changed, and chocolates for The Young Lady he hasn’t met yet. And shiraz, as if he wasn’t already perfect.’

‘I am stranded again. On Cloud Nine.’
‘So, not only Tattooed Man has tattooS, has a creative job, is black and lived for a while in Eastern Europe, but he changes lights I cannot and you can take him out to the Skeptics in the Pub.
Oh, and i’m going to Oxford in April. Day hardly could have started better.’

‘Tattooed Man: “How was your day?”
Me: “Had a pretty good day, saw a very interesting talk on birds behaviour.”
Someone knows how to flirt…’

‘Consolation prize: Hank Moody and Mary Roach.’
‘Tattoed Man sick, won’t show at my door tonight.
Where is Daryl Bem when you need to foresee things?’
(both on the 10th)

‘Oh, there is a man with tattoos at my door…’
‘And once again I went to work with a bottle of French white wine in my bag.’
‘Stupid chat-up line # 002 (international this time): “I have some condoms almost out of date and I don’t like to waste.” ‘
(all on the 07th)

‘After 2 hours in, I realized Uni is supposed to be closed today. Have identified four other Psychologists so far in the place.
Not helping me to focus instead of thinking to when I’ll see you again and kiss you.’

‘I know you’ve missed me B’ham, but you can stop crying now, I am here.’

‘An independent cinema with:
0 ads and 1 trailer only before the film;
3 rooms in town and 4 in the suburbs;
50 different films this month, some old, mostly recent and of 18 different countries.
That may sound like an utopia to you, but to us lucky French, Utopia is just the name of this wonder of cinema theatres.
Where I ironically found myself watching a Mike Leigh’s (despite having to avoid reading the subtitles).
I might miss you a bit dear UK, I also bought some caramel shortcakes (but they’re not as good as yours).’

‘1) At some point around 3 or 4 am, she loudly uttered “Oh shit, it’s the year I am supposed to finish my PhD!”.
Surely she was mistaken by the alcohol and it’s not there yet, is it?
2) Epoisses for breakfast, what else?’
‘Riding a rented bike to the city center at midnight and being greeted HNE all along; beer + picon (again); Christmas Leffe; Au P’tit Bonheur, Prince. Noir Désir, Nirvana; smoking inside when forbidden; riding home on a rented bike again at 6ish am, falling (properly), and wondering if people you come accross are getting up or going to… bed.
You can call it drunkenness this time, it’s only fair.’
(both on the 01st; how to start a year sparkling)

Well, it was December, so even for a Christmas reluctant such as myself, food and alcohol had to pop up. Or because of my reluctance? And a man made his entry in my landscape too.

‘Martini or Manzana. Jurançon, Monbazillac or Sauternes.
Hard decisions were made again today. Life is hard.’
‘ “2mro eve , I’ll be in town and will be drinking like a fish thinking of you”, that’s the sweetest thing you could have said to me. Much better than last week “will be thinking of you over the xmas”.
Yes, my idea of romanticism is fucked up enough to involve a man getting drunk over my absence.’
‘Ah, the blessed home feeling of
1) a widow’s kiss *Filo knowledge needed*;
2) beer + picon;
3) beer + chouchen;
4) guys chatting you up properly and guys telling you you are gorgeous;
5) dancing on African / Latino rhythms with 0 cm, not 30, between the two dancers;
6) riding home on a rented bike.
Some might just call this drunkenness though. Party poopers.’
(all on the 31st, soaked in alcohol, what to expect on New Year’s Eve?)

‘*If* I was that cheeky and crazy, I would tell you to get yourself on a plane and come and spend New Year’s Eve in Toulouse with me. But I am very reasonable, so I am just writing a status that I won’t even let you see. Or will I?’
‘Oh, the silly-cheeky mind is here again: bar crawling is imposing itself me think.’
(both on the 29th)

‘Hello my lovely soul town! Did you miss me? I surely did and not just for your sun.’

‘Listening to my two grand-mothers having each a monologue of their own while thinking they are having a dialogue. Surrealist.’
‘Snails are calling for me!’
‘Oh, it’s the World Wide Web and Newton’s birthday!’
(all on the 25th; conjunction of Christmas and family is only that sustainable)

‘Oh, it’s time for “apéritif”!’
‘It’s foie gras – 2h!’
‘ “will be thinking of you over the xmas”.
What kind of lukewarm statement of interest is that? I am not English, I don’t get subtle signals (especially when you already French-kissed me and asked to see me again). You’re not even English either: what English girls have done to you to distort you?’
(24th; impatience, excitement? Obviously not an attempt to behave for Father Christmas)

‘Aaaaaah the sweet home feeling of a French independent bookshop.
(One hour diving in, €130.)’
‘I have brand new wellies, real wellies as in fishermen/sailors’ wellies. They even smell like rotten fish. Is that Aigle’s concept of authenticity?’

‘Amélie feels better enough to want a cigarette. Oops.’

‘Aah, sweet French GPs: antibiotics, finally!’
‘After two weeks of coughing and one week of hoarseness, I thought I would add food poisoning to the list. I am such a perfectionnist.’
(Note to self: it is time to learn that going back to a French eating style should be progressive and that raw meat on the first day might be too much)
(20th; a new concept of home sickness?)

‘Every step was unlikely to happen, even having a bus from B16 to the city center and a tube between Euston and Waterloo. Let alone the conjunction of all those steps.
Somehow we made it on time in Portsmouth ferry terminal though. We are the luckiest travellers. Maybe the most tenacious as well.’

‘Now that I received my new Clarks, I am wandering in the School waiting for someone to tell me I how cool they are.
*Oh, there was something silly but not cheeky on my mind finally* ‘
‘So many silly-cheeky things I could write…’
(both on the 17th)

‘Random thoughts on loop on my mind, fully randomized:
– I am so 19 again.
– Ooh yeah push me in the ropes.
– White pudding (French wise), oysters, snails, smoked salmon, foie gras, nougat, macarons (but Grand-Ma, please, not the Belgian chocolates again).’

‘I’d like to kiss you. The problem might be how many men can be refered to as “you”.’
‘I’d like you to stop thinking about oignon as a vegetable when really it is just a seasoning. Vegetable pie consequently shall not include more oignon than spinach. Or call it an oignon pie, and I will just dismiss it because I already know it makes me retch.’
(both on the 15th)

‘OK, 24 months review, I apologize: TNA form is the real party pooper.’

‘All I have to tell you is that after a DEEP sociological investigation (2 interviewees, 1 open question each), stealing glasses is very much part of the English pub culture…

‘One declaration and two valuable observations (surely mediated by the same variable).
– Ibuprofene, my love.
– Apparently it’s still possible to steal beer glasses from an English pub.
– You can sneak a 12 years old in a pub at 00:00 to dance on the 60s rock’n’roll they are playing and have a last beer (translate as “you can dance on a pub terrasse / car park with a 12 years old at 00:00”).’

‘Sitter is set up, Amélie is out. As in woooo.’
‘It’s time to test the new baby-sitter and the new chat-up line! Not together though.’
(both on the 10th)

‘French-in-England chat-up line: “I have a French king size bed. Did you know they are bigger than the English ones?”
Testing will come obviously, we are scientists.’
‘Ooh, it’s 1’C, I am wandering with my coat open and my hair don’t get frozen. I am afraid I might get a heat stroke.’
(both on the 8th; when the silliness really took off?)

‘#ukhomeoffice wants your views into how best reduce the number of students who come to the UK. Moment to utter my favourite word: ludicrous.’
‘24 months progress review, you are a real party pooper.’
(both on the 7th)

‘Of the randomness of the literature search, part 2: “Female Callosobruchus maculatus mate when they are thirsty: resource-rich ejaculates as mating effort in a beetle” (topic = “receiving gifts” and refine = “psychology”).’

‘How bad is it to have some Clarks coming from Germany because it was the only retailer on earth having them in turquoise?’

‘ “murger”, just reminded how nice this verb is. And it sounds nice with “mungry”.
I am mungry and want a “murge”.’

‘Oooooh, so many native French speaking English at a conference where they could speak French: http://bit.ly/gKlgVH. Controversial…’

Sometines The French Crew’s classics don’t need to have made us dance for years. Sometimes in one year time, they become central to us, are played regularly in the car and shake you up from your New Year static state (*euphemism to hangover*). With only one album under her belt, Izïa is definitely one of those cases. Her energy conquered us and carries us through our raging moments; we are not getting bored of this only album. Hopefully we won’t get disappointed by her future work.
To keep us waiting, here’s a raging one, an unplugged smoothy and a cover of Proud Mary (rocking style please, no Glee here; we are not cheerful people, we’re French).
‘One day, she might finally publish a post on a peer-reviewed paper. Oh wait, she did!’
‘I am very dexterous. Especially if I don’t touch anything.’
‘In the Noble Room, I am the Tuna Lady, but in the School of Psychology I am the woman who jumps randomly in the corridors.’
(all on the 30th, silly-self-definition day and some sense of achievement)

‘Reflecting on the concept of picky-ness, I realized I have never met one French who would not be picky. My father almost qualified but I believe marrying my mother is practising picky-ness by proxy.’

‘ “Pom pom pom”
“Oooh” ‘
‘About to click OK to run the analysis on my last data. Pick of excitement. Realizing I am a massive data/SPSS/results addict.’
‘When comes the early morning, I have the corn flake complex and I steal my soul from a clown.’
(all on the 25th; munger still hitting)

‘Can you do “Crac boum hue”?’
‘ “Shebam! Pow! Blop! Wizz!”. And “Rrrrrrr!” too.’
‘Finished revising/discussing paper more than 9 hours before deadline. Ridiculous, I am getting old. I mean, I am bored now.
Bottom line: too much energy on my hands, munger needs to be solved.’
(all on the 24th; munger hitting me hard)

‘The guy on Insoliscience thinks translating this and not citing it is doing science reporting.’
(17th; annoyed)

‘I don’t care if it was pathetic, I want the Tiersen’s-concert-induced equilibrium of rapture and tiredness to be back.’

‘This perfect equilibrium of rapture and tiredness of post-concert day is worth a post-first-night-with-an-interesting-guy day. Feels good. And pathetic.
My affective life is that empty.’

‘ “Fuck me” in a “Dust lane”, “Till the end” and we become this “Dark stuff” they call “Ashes”.
Oh, and forget about “Amy”, she’s lame.
It’s Yann Tiersen’s day!’

‘Oh my! The Young Lady just said “Cheers” to her friend on the phone! Twice.’
‘Every time I go to the GP in this country, I feel like I am servicing them, not them servicing me.’
(both on the 04th, Britain-related ranting day)

‘Me gustas. I think if you kissed me you’d wake up the young adult in me who used to faint/almost faint from first kisses. And I want this bit of self to come back.’

Zebda, wow. I don’t even know how I managed to ignore them for so long when it is such a French Crew’s classic. I just realized I almost haven’t listened to them at all since I moved to the UK. And today, going back to them just made me blue. That’s because Zebda are much more than a French crew’s classic. Like Claude Nougaro, they are Toulouse. Like Rachid Taha, they are a paragon of integration as I intend it. Incidentally they are also part of why I moved to Toulouse in 1998. That sounds excessive, but they really have something to do with it. There are only two French big cities, to me, who have their own spirit, including some chauvinism. It’s Toulouse and Marseille. Zebda, or Claude Nougaro, for Toulouse, and IAM for Marseille, are some musical icons of this. I won’t develop on literature, but there are also, clearly, a Toulouse literature and a Marseille literature. So when you meet Toulouse or Marseille culture, it becomes obvious that those cities are inhabited by a soul. I needed to move, Toulouse was not so far from where I was leaving then (Bordeaux) and Zebda, among other things, convinced me that Toulouse has a soul. So I just gave it a try. It lasted 10 years and I never regretted it one second.
To come back to Zebda, they are, I said it, representing Toulouse and integration as I like it. Toulouse because they love it, but of this love that knows when to be critical (the second song here is exactly this: a sort of love declaration that in the meantime points out the faults of the city). Integration because they built this music based on their roots and more occidental influences to achieve something new and unique to them. Their texts are also playful, full of puns, to an extent that shows mastery of the French language. Coming from French people with an immigration background, that’s already a statement. Their name, for example, means butter in Arabic, while butter in French [beurre] is homophone of a slang word used to designate people with a North-African background. The content of their texts is very political itself. The first song here, for example, bounces on a speech Jacques Chirac, then Prime Minister, gave once about how it can be difficult for French rooted French to live within the noise and the smell of foreign-rooted French or immigrants (nice, I know). The actual speech is even included in the song just to make sure people can judge themselves.
But it goes even further. They took part in Toulouse political life; they helped building up a new party which gained some seats. They separated a few years ago, apparently went back together some months ago. Nevertheless, they never stopped their activism, even out of the musical scene. And Toulouse this is also this: an independant political mind.
For once, I am going to treat myself and put three tracks. The last one is a live cover of The Clash’s “Police on my back” with Asian Dub Foundation. It is an amazing example of what you can achieve when making musical world meet. Different influences can mix up nicely. This is what Zebda do. And this what Toulouse does.
Rachid Taha (& Carte De Séjour):
I perfectly remember, it was 1986, I was 9, maybe 10 and my mother and I were in the kitchen. RTL wasn’t yet such a cold feet radio and they were broadcasting Carte De Séjour’s cover of Douce France. The second it started, I was smitten. Nothing in terms of World music has managed to seduce me that much those last 20ish years except Balkans music. But honestly it shares too much characteristics with North-African music for it to be considered as an actual diversification. Starting with the hips-movement-inducing property, fundamental to me. Anyway my musical taste was altered for ever. Still a naive and innocent girl, I shared my enthusiasm with my mother, who slashed it right away with a sarcastic comment about how my father would disapprove of this. I don’t think I was already conscious then of the power of attraction forbidden things have over people and me especially, but this pre-label stamped on North-African music was obviously the cherry on the top.
Beyond the childhood/adolescence memories, Rachid Taha is to me immigration at its cultural climax. He appropriated the French culture but did not neglect his Algerian one. And blent them with some others (punk, African, electro). What he offers is consequently the product of a third culture. It is exploding categories by essence. It is integration the direction it should work, integrating your adoptive culture into yourself, not yourself into your adoptive culture.
The first song here, this cover of Douce France that started everything for me, is exactly an example of this, and also of the very political nature of Rachid Taha’s work. Douce France was the essence of the patriotic song, obsolete and nation-proud. Singing it with an hammed Arabic accent and on Arabic tones, in a period of French history when children from immigrants parents were starting to become politically visible, was highly ironic and controversial, an exact symbol of this directional integration I was speaking earlier. Appropriation, at its best.
The second song is the Arabic-styled cover of Rock the Casbah used in The future is unwritten.