Posts Tagged ‘Passive’

14th February 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Passive is the second album from French post-punk band Je T’aime, and is the first of a two-part set, which will be completed with the release of Aggressive in the not-too distant future.

The album continues where its predecessor left off, and marks the development of a theme as part of an extended concept work, where we ‘follow the evolution of the same antihero; a common avatar of the three musicians. The tone hardens, the atmosphere becomes more melancholic, and the lyrics embrace bitterness and anger.’ The liner notes explain that Passive ‘continues the theme about the difficulty of growing up. Our main character is constantly caught up in the past, repeats the same mistakes and ends up not being able to move forward in his life. It is no mystery that the band’s music constantly looks for influences in the past 80’s for that reason’.

So many people do get hung up on the past, and seem to hit a point in their life – usually around their early 30s, in my experience – where they simply stop evolving and reach a stasis, a brick wall where they conclude that no good new music has been released since they were in their early 20s and nothing is as good as it used to be. It’s not all memberberries and memes, but there are many agents at play driving an immense nostalgia industry. And it’s easy money: no development required for new ideas when there’s a near-infinite well of past movies and music to plunder and rehash or at least lean on. Would Stranger Things have been the smash that it was if it was set in the present? However great the script, plots or acting, much of its appeal lies in its referencing and recreation of that intangible ‘golden age’. While that ‘golden age’ may depend on when an individual was born, the acceleration of nostalgic revivals and recycling means that kids who weren’t even born in the 80s or 90s are nostalgic for synth pop and grunge by proxy.

Passive is anything but. But what it is, is a dark, heavy slab of dark, bleak, brooding, a mix off sinewy guitars and icy synths with rolling bass and tribal drumming that lands in the domain of early Siouxsie, Pornography­era Cure and The Danse Society around the time of Seduction. The instruments blur into a dense sonic mesh. There’s a tripwire guitarline on ‘Another Day in Hell’, which kids off the album with a gloriously dark, stark, intensity that’s Rozz William’s era Christian Death as if played by X-Mal Deutschland. And if I’m wanking nostalgia over this, it’s less because I miss 1983 (I was 8) than the fact they capture the energy and production of that groundbreaking period with a rare authenticity.

‘Lonely Days’ is a bit more electro-poppy, but has a guitarline that trips along nicely and throws angles and shade. ‘Unleashed’ reminds me more of The Bravery and their take on 80s pop, but then again, The Cure’s influence looms large again, and elsewhere, ‘Stupid Songs’ goes altogether more New Order / Depeche Mode, but then again, more contemporaneously, it’s not a million miles off what Editors were doing on In This Light and On This Evening – and album I found disappointing at first because it felt like derivative 80s electro fare, before the quality of the songs seeped through to convince me.

One thing that’s often overlooked about 80s pop is that dark undercurrents ran through even the most buoyant of tunes from the most chart orientated acts; Duran Duran and Aha, even the music of Nick Kershaw, Howard Jones, A Flock of Seagulls, was cast with shadows flitting beneath that veneer of production. So when they go bouncy disco on ‘Givce Me More Kohl’, the parallels with The Cure’s ‘Let’s Go To Bed’ and ‘The Walk’ are apparent, with a lost and lonely aspect to the vocals, and they go full Disintegration on ‘Marble Heroes’. And that’s cool. It’s poignant, sad, wistful, an emotional cocktail. On Passive, Je T’aime revel in all of those elements of influence and pack them in tight, and they do it so well and with such discipline. They really know what they’re doing: the sound and production is class, and the songs and classic, and the sum of the parts is a truly outstanding album.

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