john and jehn: john and jehn – album review

[from the archive]

I remember Eddie Izzard saying there’s a fine line between cool and uncool. One toothpick in your mouth – cool. Two – uncool. Well, French couple John and Jehn walk that line on their debut…and try so hard to be the former that they mostly end up as the latter.

These two upped and moved to London “…for the music…to put ourselves in danger. At some point we had to say, ‘Let’s go to fuckin’ war’.” Pretentious? Moi? Well yes – these two are more-arch-than-thou, more-arch-than-me and for that matter just about everyone else.

That would be enough to put you off for good, but there’s more. They make a big deal of being boyfriendgirlfriend (shock, horror), good looking (apparently Jehn is ‘mesmerising’, John is ‘chiselled’) and intellectual (they name drop David Shrigley into interviews). But so what if the music’s rubbish, right?

Well partly right. Imagine ‘The Sugarcubes’ and ‘Velvet Underground’ fed through a Casio VL-Tone. J&J both lend vocals that epitomise the Gallic shrug – tuneless spoken word, drawling like a codeine addict, percussive yelps and self-consciously clever lyrics about, for example, how 20L07 stands for “age, love, heaven.” Sometimes all that posturing gets tiring. Sometimes it comes together – like on ‘You, far away’, which is particularly reminiscent of the Velvets. On ‘Survive’, you can almost imagine J&J are early Fall covering America’s ‘A horse with no name’…which is alright by me.

Elsewhere the monotony is all ‘so cool, so what’.

Two toothpicks.

Released 24 April 2008 on Universal

Original published music criticism