I look forward to Fruits de Mer records coming through my door. In some ways it seems strange that nobody else on the Silent Radio team seems to get jealous that I end up reviewing a good chunk of them – but it does make sense, because what Fruits de Mer (FdM) do is not normally everybody’s cup of tea – it’s anything but mainstream.

The music they usually release is a combination of psychedelia, 60s-style garage music and the occasional bit of prog and/or rock. When writing this review, to some extent I thought I would be both preaching to the choir and simultaneously extolling the virtues of something that few have the appetite for. FdM are traditionally very niche; however, these following two offerings are much more mainstream and accessible than what I have heard from them before:

The first track I listen to – The Chemistry Set’s ‘Come Kiss Me Vibrate and Smile’ has a very radio-friendly, commercial vibe. It’s not what I would call pop, but it does have a really “Britpop” vibe about it – it’s unabashedly simple guitar music in the vein of bands like Dodgy, Shed 7 or Ocean Colour Scene – very retro.

‘Time to Breathe’ is much longer, hypnotic and more expansive, with more than a passing resemblance to Pink Floyd as well as Tripping Daisy. However, The Chemistry Set don’t really tick the “psychadelic” box; the description fits loosely, but they have much more of a stoner-rock vibe. This is music for people glued to their couch, who can’t be arsed to go to the pub – it’s not music for people that are seeing things that aren’t really there.

‘Hallucinations’ is another pure 90s tune – if you overdubbed it on to footage of TFI Friday, it really wouldn’t sound out of place. It’s quintessentially British and sounds as if the Arctic Monkeys never happened (which for me they didn’t). It might seem passé to some but I find it quite unpretentious  innocent and light-hearted. It’s not revelatory, nor do I find it particularly original – but I certainly don’t dislike it – and it’s set me off on a retro journey through the Britpop archives on the youtube.

The second record is very much more in the Fruits de Mer vibe – Anton Barbeau’s ‘Psychadelic Mynde Of Moses’ explores very well-trodden psychadelic ground, lyrically (along with positing the idea that Moses was off his head).

In some ways it should be something I really like – it’s quite nice guitar-based alt-rock, with a Nirvana-esque baseline, lyrics written by a clearly intelligent guy and it’s irreverent and occasionally bordering on the spiritual. Unfortunately it doesn’t really work for me and I just don’t like it.

I immediately take against the cover of ‘Sometimes I Wish I Was a Pretty Girl’ due to a misheard lyric – but also because frankly, I don’t like it. It’s not for the cover version, but for the original material – I can’t escape the feeling that it is distinctly misogynist. As far as I’m concerned, that is not cool and I can’t see beyond that.

I also dislike the cover of ‘Out of My Mind on Dope and Speed’. This is another song that I find pretty uninspired (but I guess it does quite accurately reflect the level of creativity of someone who’s out of their mind on dope and speed). Although the second especially is very catchy, I don’t really get the appeal of either of the two B-sides.

The record has plenty of upbeat, youthful exuberance, but a lot less in the way of substance. I know this genuinely resonates with some people, and I’m sure some will like this; unfortunately, I don’t.

I have to say that I’ve liked other Fruits de Mer stuff more than both of these records, but I think that The Chemistry Set will appeal to a wider audience than many of their previous releases – and that Anton Barbeau will certainly make waves, as there is a demand for his kind of visceral “balls out” approach.

Release Date 15/10/2012 (Fruits de Mer Records)

Chris Oliver

I've been playing bass guitar and guitar for over half my life. I last played bass in in a band called Electromotive and as a singer-songwriter I have written songs about cheese and vajazzles (separate songs!). I started out listening to 60s, 70s and 80s rock as a kid and I was in to grunge and U.S. punk and ska in the 90s. Since then, I've broadened my tastes and I like the best of all styles of music, even country. I've been writing for Silent Radio since it started.