Christine and The Queens — Review of “Redcar les adorables étoiles”: High Art Meets Dark, Disturbing Synthpop

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When Christina and The Queens first burst onto the scene, its trajectory was like a pop fairy tale. The project first became known during his heartbroken trip to London, where a group of transvestites at the now-closed Madame Jojo’s club in Soho called on Chris to express his pain in music. Having pulled himself together and listened to their advice, the artist left ENS de Lyon and directed his theatrical experience to this new, supercharged alter ego.

Initially attracting attention with his choreographed performances, coveted seats at festivals and Elton John’s standing ovation at the Roundhouse, he quickly followed him. Wearing a suit and boots on the cover of her 2014 debut album Chaleur Humaine, the star clutched a bouquet of flowers and sang about the pain and beauty of being an “inclined” outsider. These queer narratives have always been an important part of Chris’ music (“Now I’m a man, and I won’t let you steal it / I bought it for myself,” he sang on “iT”). The 2018 follow-up album “Chris” then combined a muscular, cartoonish production with a groaning, hip-thrusting new antihero, and the songs turned into an intimate form of communication. “When you play louder with me, baby,” he sang in Comme Si, “we make love.”

In Redcar, the artist adopted a different, much more abstract image — a “poetic and philosophical construction” that has undergone a number of evolutions. Originally adopting the name Rahim last year and working with Redcar les adorables étoiles co-creator Mike Dean (Kanye West, Beyonce) Over the vast soundscape of Rahim Lives, he later dropped this nickname due to some criticism (Rahim is one of the names of Allah in Islam) and adopted Redcar instead. A polite figure in a red glove, Redcar is somewhere between Patrick Bateman from “American Psycho” and a sleazy car salesman. Trying to tell more about this new person, Chris often wrote on social networks about this new crimson medium for art and poetry, although it did not give much clarity.

While “Chris” and the 2020 EP “La Vita Nuova” used pop music as a vessel to explore the contradiction between easy penetration into the mainstream and remaining faithful to more left-wing creative impulses, “Redcar les adorables étoiles” sharply deviates towards the latter. Shrouded in eerie clouds and jerks of a gloomy synthesizer, this is his darkest work musically: although it shares “predilections for the high art of La Vita Nuova, this time the stage is arranged differently; few of these songs are accompanied by soaring choruses.

Instead, the clumsy horror synthesizers of “La chanson du chevalier” and the looped vocals of “My Birdman” – muffled and squeaky, like a stuck old record — create an atmosphere rather than spontaneity, giving the album a trajectory. opera or theater productions. His slow—motion, sharply amplified grooves – think of the French new wave bands of the 80s, such as Indochine, Les Rita Mitsouko and Mylène Farmer, but wading through a viscous puddle of mother—of-pearl oil – linger throughout the record like a gloomy ghost. “I am made of water and earth, and my heart shines in a cage,” Chris sings in French in “Mémoire des ailes” to the hum of a muted robotic harpsichord. “And I’m looking for meaning to feel alive.”

Much of this record is also devoted to the search for love, a goal that is often called transcendent and biblical. Angels and fountains spewing holy water are placed in the complex, beautiful soundscape of this record next to mythical knights and Catholic saints. “Until your cup is filled with these earthly pleasures, / You will remember that your heart is only waiting / Your friend, your soul, your oath!” Chris sings in French in “Combien de temps”, and tasteless shimmering synthesizer organs split his strange, mantra-like lyrics. “I need to love how I need to breathe,” he sings later. “I need to love because that’s my life.”

Although Christina and the Queens certainly never shied away from using complex, though sometimes obscure landmarks (“New Life” reinterpreted Dante’s lesser-known romantic text, and “Chris” skillfully created pop music inspired by the grotesque paintings of Spanish artist Francisco Goya), the rich visual accompaniment, replete with subtext, often helped even for the most meticulous listeners, connect the dots. By comparison, the messages around the “Red Car…” seem more vague: Chris’s dystopian vision of a “meat wagon” with blood flowing in its pistons seems to raise questions about bodies, identity, art, capitalism and productivity. Meanwhile, many of the love songs here are probably addressed to poetry itself; an artistic truth arising from pain. “From my high wings, which weigh me down to my knees, a new earth will grow,” he sings in “Angelus”.

One of the main stumbling blocks with “Redcar les adorables étoiles” is that Chris’ latest identity still seems unclear, even after the release of the record. Perhaps part of the blame lies with the quieter release of the promo album, which has few cohesive visuals to emphasize the meaning. Although these are often beautiful and difficult songs, too many of them seem useless.

Details

Release date: November 11, 2022
Record Label: Because music

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