By Allyson Bills
Hailing from the small desert town of Joshua Tree, California, DTCV (pronounced “detective”) has been quietly putting out albums since 2013’s However Strange. Living in a desert town has its advantages in that there is little-to-no outside distractions, especially for the music industry; but it sometimes makes it difficult to increase a fan base. This has always been the problem with DTCV in that they have the so-called notoriety with having James Greer (Guided By Voices) as a guitarist and vocalist in the band. However, it’s not enough. This is where DTCV’s new album, Confusion Moderne, continues their under-the-radar existence. The album, released on Xemu/Lollipop Records, was produced by Joel Jerome, known for his ability to bring psych-rock components into bands. Except for one song written by Greer, DTCV’s principal vocalist and guitarist, Lola G., wrote the entire album in her native French. There are songs on DTCV’s previous material that have been written entirely in French, but not nearly an entire album.
A whimsical, hard-rocking sound kicks off Confusion Moderne with “Histoire Seule.” The beginning of the song is very reminiscent of DTCV’s older material of a very indie sound with sweet-sounding vocals and a very stagnant verse-chorus dynamic. However, there is a buildup that will remind you of Camera Obscura if they became a rock band. DTCV shows their “garage rock” chops in “Conformiste” in that it’s a quick, choppy tune. There is even some shredding towards the end of the song, which is quite a departure from their usual, subdued songwriting nature. “Conformiste” is anything but its English equivalent “conformist.” It’s hard and loud, and will make you want to learn more about the French language.
“L.A. Boum!” is an excellent song if you are further looking to rock out. According to Exclaim Music, “L.A. Boum!” was inspired by a French tune written by Charles Trenet of the same namesake (minus the L.A.) The sound of “L.A. Boum!” will make you want to start a circle pit every time you listen with those super-quick drums. Even Lola G.’s lo-fi-like vocals will at times be mistaken for Sleater-Kinney’s Corrine Tucker. For even those who aren’t familiar with the French language, there is almost a definite chance that you have heard of the term “bourgeois” from the 19th-century philosopher Karl Marx. For those who aren’t aware, “bourgeois” is the literal French translation for member of the middle class. With this being said, it’s possible that you will be able to get into “Bourgeois Pop,” which is the highlight of Confusion Moderne. “Bourgeois Pop” combines both the 60’s sounds of The Supremes and the flickers of garage rock. Then, DTCV caps it all off with some good, old hand-clapping. “Bourgeois Pop” is a gem for sure.
In “L’Accord Parfait,” the swooning swirling of guitars will make you forget that this song about some serious issues that our world is currently facing today. According to a recent press release, “L’Accord Parfait” is about “anti-capitalist, neo-anarchist, radical and pro-environmental concerns.” This is something you wouldn’t know unless you are fluent in French. The term “l’accord parfait” means “the perfect agreement,” and the sound for this song is about as perfect as it can be. “Capital Ennui” is what I would consider to be DTCV’s token dance track sound-wise, with a post-punk twist using guitar pedals modified as synthesizers. Again, if you are not familiar with the French language, you would have absolutely no idea that it’s about the fall of capitalism. In a recent interview with The LP Collective, Lola G., describes “Capital Ennui” as “about the eminent collapse of rentier capitalism, the evils of while male privilege, the male gaze as manifested in advertising, etc.” So if you ever have an opportunity to dance to “Capital Ennui” anywhere in public, just think about how the buildup at the end of the song is synonymous with deterioration of oppression. The only song on Confusion Moderne that is not written in French is “We Aren’t the Champions,” which is the lone song that Greer has lead vocal duties on the album. There is a prominent garage rock sound, which is very reminiscent of Ty Segall. Sound-wise, “We Aren’t the Champions” is the oddball track off Confusion Moderne in that it’s grungy, lo-fi and the overall sound doesn’t really change throughout the song. Lyrically, “We Aren’t the Champions” is a giant “fuck you” song to the system, especially the line where it talks about something as trivial as hash tags and how we have gone too far withsociety in general.
The sound on “Impossible (Yeah)” is the opposite of that from “We Aren’t the Champions” with its beachy 60s vibe and swirly vocals. This is a song that you will want to blast while driving amongst palm trees or even in California’s Mojave Desert. DTCV gives the genre of shoegaze a nod in “Soleil 2666” with guitar strums as damaging as the hot, desert sun. Honestly, “Soleil 2666” is a dud of a track in that Lola G’s vocal range doesn’t quite match the harsh-yet-lazy guitar vibe of this song. “Soleil 2666” is just one of those filler tracks to skip over on Confusion Moderne; however, kudos to DTCV for expanding their horizons. The album ends with “Vélomoteur,” a light and airy track that sounds exactly like Camera Obscura singing in French. It’s actually a cute tune in parts with the “bop, bop” chorus. However, “Vélomoteur” lacks substance and doesn’t extend on the lyrics or the sound. Also, “Vélomoteur” displays one of my personal pet peeves with songs having a fadeout ending. At this point, why even release an undeveloped song on an album? “Vélomoteur” is best left off Confusion Moderne.
Confusion Moderne reflects DTCV’s growing pains as a band with Lola G. wanting to sing in her native tongue and the rest of the band attempting to musically adapt to this change. The album as a whole is very top-heavy with the track, and declines after “Capital Ennui.” Unfortunately, I don’t think Confusion Moderne will grow DTCV’s fanbase because French is not universally popular with people in the United States, despite music transcending language barriers. Rather, Confusion Moderne will be popular among the fans of Guided By Voices and the garage rock genre.