Audio Reviews
Trompe-L'Oeil
by Malajube
Dare to Care Records (2006)
Trompe-L
6 / 10
A Russian literary scholar by the name of Victor Shklovsky once wrote that “the purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar,’ to make forms difficult, to increase difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged.”

In other words, art (which I interpret to include music) requires time and effort in order to be fully appreciated, and this combination of time and effort is what makes art (and music) enjoyable to begin with.

Circular logic and art-crit rambling aside, Montréal’s Malajube is not what one would normally consider a “difficult” band—on a scale from The Monkees to Sonic Youth, I would place Malajube far closer to the sugar-coated fodder of Davy Jones than the offbeat noodling of Thurston Moore, and with good reason. For one thing, Malajube thrive on upbeat pop-rock in the familiar style of the New Pornographers, the Unicorns, Destroyer, and Sunset Rubdown. Furthermore, Malajube’s latest release, Trompe-L’Oeil, is basically fifty minutes of dance-friendly rhythms, bright guitar-work, and sing-along choruses with synth-y keyboard accents designed to keep things interesting. There are no crazy time signatures, no noise-rock breakdowns, no found-sound collages or other ancillary avant-garde stylistic quirks. No muss, no fuss, just straight-up pop-rock of the Canuckle persuasion.

That being said, the brothers Mineau &co. are nevertheless difficult to understand. For the life of me, I just can’t make heads or tails of it all. Then again, they do sing entirely en français—which, to be fair, is not so much a problem as a source of frustration for your average non-Francophonic pop fans. Namely, pop fans like me.

But, like Shklovsky, I tend to embrace the “process of perception” that is part and parcel to understanding art, regardless of its form. I’m also a firm believer in that old adage about music being the “universal language,” so even un Américain ignorant like me can get pleasantly lost in Trompe-L’Oeil without necessarily comprehending Julien’s enticing croons. Frankly, tracks like “Étienne D’Août,” “Pâte Filo,” “Fille à Plumes,” and “Montréal -40°C,” are enjoyable enough without the narrative element, though I do wish that I had a better idea of what was going on… something about libido, Greek pastries, bare feet, and a polar bear on a bus? Il est embrouillant, n’est-ce pas?

While Malajube may not necessarily bring anything remarkably new and novel to the pop-rock table, the built-in unfamiliarity of a foreign language adds a level of mystery to Trompe-L’Oeil that extends the album’s lifespan in ways that mere hooks and chords cannot. Still, this interest can only transcend novelty if you are willing to put in the extra work. Si oui, bonne chance.
Posted by: Tom Körp

Audio Reviews (February 18th, 2007)

Tags: audio, review, malajube, tropme-l'oeil, dare to care records