A French quintet with a seemingly endless supply of catchy hooks and imaginative lyrics, Paris Combo is the kind of group that gives pop music a good name. Listening to the band breeze through an energetic two-set show at the Skirball Center, one couldn’t help but ponder the current state of American music. If only a handful of our bands had the balls to experiment so spiritedly with texture, rhythm and melody.
Entitled “Attraction,” Paris Combo’s recently released third disc is the group’s best effort yet, because it dares to branch out beyond the band’s trademark French cafe sound, incorporating a cornucopia of subtle influences, from hints of Latin syncopation to sinuous Middle Eastern tonalities. Although it pays a constant tribute to the swing and coolness that has always defined the French chanson, Paris Combo has now mastered a sound of its very own.
Surprisingly, the new tunes sounded even better in a live setting, forsaking the sinfully rich orchestrations of the album for a more restrained proposition that emphasized the lovely voice of singer Belle du Berry. The band has a hidden asset in bassist Mano Razanajato. His lead vocals on a couple of tunes were interesting at best, but when du Berry harmonized with him on the songs’ choruses, the results were delectable.
Even though her English is minimal, du Berry managed to seduce the audience from the very beginning, introducing each song with her wide-eyed, philosophical sense of humor and even mentioning the political crisis that France is currently experiencing.
Throughout the show, she kept pushing people to stand up and dance. Truth be said, the music of Paris Combo is almost too exquisite for dancing. You sit, entranced, marveling at the sophisticated beauty of it all.
Fittingly, the group’s next album will be a live recording.