Pop quiz, class! Can you name another famous band who met up at the Rhode Island School of Design and spoke French on some of their albums? That’s right: it’s the Talking Heads, whose ultra-creepy hit “Psycho Killer” contains the musical question “Qu’est-ce que c’est?” And that very same line, as you deep-trivia hounds and avid readers of the world’s best music magazine, Mojo, already know, is the one that indirectly inspired the name of the best band ever (no, I’m not soliciting second opinions on this): Hüsker Dü.
And lawdy Miss Clawdy, would that it were anything less than sacrilege to invoke the name of two bands who blazed their name so indelibly across the pre-alternative 1980s to make a comparison with Les Savy Fav, who deserve no such thing. Strangely enough, however, there might have been a Les Savy Fav even if there had never been a Talking Heads or a Hüsker Dü, but sure as you’re sitting there these weaklings would still be sniffling into their cappuccinos if there had never been a Pixies to rip off. It’s the Pixies (album title in French, by the way: Trompe le Monde) who should be suing for having their beautiful corpse plundered by this bunch of design-school grave robbers. There are plenty of bands out there making a strong case for the death of rock. Les Savy Fav provides additional evidence that someone should have cremated the body. So this is what’s burning up the college charts these days? Feh!
Shameless! And barely even disguised. Pick any three songs from the 10 on their self-titled CD (let’s see: “Cassolette,” (French!), “Scout’s Honor,” “Je t’aime” (French!) and you’ll come up with at least one that’s swinging so brazenly from the nuts of Frank Black, Kim Deal, et al., it’s positively astounding that Les Savy Fav would have the brass to put their own name on it. “Obligations are so passé,” sings vocalist Tim Harrington. Or is it Gibb Slife, or Patrick Mahoney? Members are credited not with instruments but with such tasks and titles as “first man with coyote,” “lost boy,” “second man with coyote” and “taxidermist.” God, I’m in such thrall of the kind of cleverness that only 30 grand a year at the Rhode Island School of Design can buy! Obligations passé, are they? So is writing your own songs, apparently. It was a relief to finally get eight songs into the disc and hear a passable Replacements rip-off just for a change.
No surprise that they thank the Make Up in their liner notes: another bunch of uncommonly cunning “expropriations artists” with a likewise deluded sense of self-importance. Even the little goof on Rod Stewart that starts “Cut It Out” makes you want to do something drastic to wipe that infuriating smirk off their faces.
I wouldn’t even feel like I had to be such a dick about it if Les Savy Fav didn’t go that extra little twit step and subject us to a smarmy intro track on the album, en français, bien sûr, half-seriously describing the seriousness of the music and the passion with which Les Savy Fav composed their chansons, and urging the listener to put his hands on his knees and close his eyes while listening to the album. Like I actually would.
What’s French for “This is bullshit?” Oh, yeah. C’est bullshit, ça.