They are young. They are obscure. And they have a lot more composing to do before they’re widely recognized. But at the rate they are moving, they are likely to exceed expectations. Just who are “they”? Three French musicians who call themselves Juveniles. In the year they’ve been working together, the trio has already started to create a musical splash.
From Rennes, France, Jean “JP” Sylvain Le Gouic, Pierre Le Seven and Thibaut Doray are the newest musicians to join the French New Wave of synthpop. The New Wave refers to those who mix electronica, punk rock and pop into an eclectic genre of music. Many French New Wave artists, such as Cassius and Justice, have successfully crossed the Atlantic, finding a receptive audience on American shores. Juveniles may well be the next group to do so.
Because Juveniles has been composing and performing together for slightly less than a year, they haven’t yet released a full album – but they are close. In this short time, they have managed to complete the LP We Are Young, a fistful of reedits and two singles. The second of these singles, Ambitions, was released Tuesday.
Ambitions contains the title track of the same name, as well as four remixes. The sound of this album is layered and sometimes paradoxical. The unmixed version of “Ambitions” fuses upbeat synthesizers with the chattering of an electric guitar. Both parade in staccato rhythm atop monotonic, dour lyrics – recalling Depeche Mode: “Forget the emptiness/ And indecision/ Forget the image in your head/ Have no opinion.”
The 1980s glam is further emphasized in the track’s periodic interruption by the crackling of synthesizers. The notes trip over themselves. It’s chaos. Then, the chorus brings us back in for another round of nihilism: “No matter what you’ve been promised in the end/ They can take it away/ Ambitions/ Lead to nothing in the end/ Lead to nothing in the end.”
The combination of dark content and the lead singer’s Pee-wee Herman voice is jarring, but still adds to the sexy angst of these Frenchmen.
The remixes are, unfortunately, not as interesting. They contribute little new material. Instead, all four tracks emphasize different qualities already found in the original, both musically and lyrically.
For example, the REFLEX rendition hypes Juveniles’ use of synthesizers, while slowing the tempo. Doing so, this version draws attention to the track’s electric elements. In contrast, the jungle beats of the Midnight Savari dub make use of a stronger drum set and pumped up bass. It almost entirely strips the song of lyrics. The STAL remix, however, emphasizes Juveniles’ bleakest laments atop Dark Side of the Moon wailing. Eclectic indeed.
This lack of original content is not a barometer of Juveniles’ musical ability. With a little more time, the band’s first full album is likely to be a success. So far, the trio has fed us half a cheese crumpet from a plate of hors d’oeuvre. Now, we’re ready for dinner.
3.5 out of 5 stars.