Christine & The Queens: Redcar les Adorables Toiles review - finding his niche

 (Pierre-Ange Carlotti)
(Pierre-Ange Carlotti)

The first song on the first Christine & The Queens album, iT, featured the chorus: “I’ve got it, I’m a man now.” Eight years later, the man has caught up with the music. Christine, whose birth name was Héloïse, was playing with a masculine identity as a woman calling herself Chris on a second album in 2018. Now, though the band name has stayed the same, the person out front is called Redcar and the pronouns are he/him.

In a video made to accompany the new song La Chanson Du Chevalier he’s a muscle-flexing drunken sailor, limping around the set due to a knee injury that caused the postponement of concerts and this album from September. The music is gloomy and spectral, while the image, filmed with a lens that distorts his face in close-up, seems intent on confusing and confronting.

The album cover for Redcar (Pierre-Ange Carlotti)
The album cover for Redcar (Pierre-Ange Carlotti)

That first album, Chaleur Humaine, was a diamond seller in his home country and made him one of France’s biggest recent musical exports, but he was plainly too much of a questing soul to feel fully at home in the pop charts. In a recent interview he revealed that his record label had been telling him: “You have to choose between being a niche artist and a charting artist.” Apparently there is another new album coming fairly soon, but here, the choice to be niche is clear. Songs such as Les Etoiles are dense and dark, busy with harsh synth tones. Tu Sais Ce Qu’il Me Faut has the kind of air-punching, energetic beats that could give it a pop feel, but the vocal melody and delivery undermines any basic catchiness.

The Chris album had a lightfooted funkiness influenced by the Jacksons, Janet and Michael. There are moments here that are more closely related to past work. Looking for Love has a bright, winning chorus that counteracts the less appealing electronic tones beneath. My Birdman and Rien Dire are softer and much easier to get along with, but this time he is more likely to lock himself into a groove than to go for more conventional structures. The listener may tire of the organ and heavy bassline of Combien de Temps well before Redcar, who drags it along for eight-and-a-half minutes.

The new styles on display here point in multiple directions for him to go next. It’s always intriguing, though it definitely feels like harder work this time.

Because