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Hollywood, Mon Amour - Hollywood, Mon Amour

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Artist: Hollywood, Mon Amour

Album: Hollywood, Mon Amour

Label: PIAS

Review date: Mar. 3, 2009

Parisian composer Marc Collin is the king of slumming. Thusfar, he’s best known for his 2004 project Nouvelle Vague, which recast jittery punk-era nuggets from Joy Division, the Dead Kennedys, XTC, et al as smooth, perennially stylish luxury lounge-pop. Once he’d gotten all of the licensing issues resolved, Collin’s sublime confections became the ideal soundtrack for the last days of hipster gentrification.

If Nouvelle Vague taught high-strung nerds to chill, Hollywood, Mon Amour aims to teach a crew of whores about romance. Using the same ambiguously retro palate (some tracks sound like yé-yé pop, others like that flamenco-ish version of “Light My Fire”) and a fresh rotating cast of female singers, Collin reconfigures songs from ’80s film soundtracks. Make that movie soundtracks. While a few of these songs have attainted a quasi-ironic patina (“Eye of the Tiger,” possibly “(Don’t You) Forget About Me”), most are recalled, if at all, for their garish, instantly dated production values. In some cases, Collin mines the songs for irresistible, surprisingly complex melodies. In others, he constructs independent, well-nigh abstract creations that bear little similarity to the originals.

Here in Los Angeles, many of these songs remain ubiquitous. It’s not just the nostalgia curve. The ’80s were, in Southern California, a happier time. For bands riding the first few waves of domesticated post-punk (including the “new” one), appearing on a film soundtrack was a quick ticket to celebrity. (For a modern point of comparison, The OC briefly wielded a similar, though weaker, power.) Hollywood, Mon Amour reveals a surprising lyrical depth in some of these songs, but the majority espouses the hallmarks of LA’s famously dubious moral fiber: unapologetic narcissism, superficial glitz, spontaneous absurdity and yuppie go-for-it. (I’m not saying this is an accurate summation of my fair, sun-kissed metropolis. I’m not saying that at all. But it is a familiar take, and if anyone has debunked it, it wasn’t a filmmaker, and it wasn’t done in the ’80s.)

Shit, I’ve got to focus… With the help of Danish singer Katrine Ottosen, Collin imagines “Eye of the Tiger” as a smoky come-on, and it’s one of the most instantly memorable numbers on HMA. Yael Naim’s “Flashdance… What a Feeling” and Leelou’s “(Don’t You) Forget About Me” are as cold and stunning as Susanna’s loneliest cover tunes. Inga’s “Take My Breath Away” emerges as wobbly, disorienting Rube Goldberg funk.

Not all of these songs are as widely despised as others. Prince’s “When Doves Cry” takes on a completely different rhythmic structure as a dry guitar ballad. And the breezy deco-pop tune “It’s Wrong For Me to Love You” was penned by Ennio Morricone, a man who draws a level of respect that makes Scott Walker look like T-Pain. There’s no direct correlation between the source material’s degeneracy and the HMA version’s intrigue, for the album stays pretty damned intriguing throughout. Only once, on the lounge-swing cover of “Footloose,” does it indulge in pure camp, and it hardly spoils the punch.

By Emerson Dameron

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