Jaune Toujours is well-seasoned band comprising some of Belgium’s brightest musical pub-crawlers: Piet Maris (lead vocal, accordion, and melodica), Théophane Raballand (drums and percussion), Mathieu Verkaeren (upright bass), Mattias Laga (soprano saxophone, clarinet, and bass clarinet), and Bart Maris and Dirk Timmermans (trumpets). Once these cats get their claws in your attention, it’s impossible to turn away. Their music is a seamless contradiction, at once living in its own bubble and siphoning a global sound. They take cues from many genres, even as they inhabit a culture all their own—one that mixes languages (English, French, and Dutch), voices, and styles.
Predominant among the latter is ska, which comes out in the album’s opener “Save Le Monde,” as welcoming as it is confrontational. “Ska-Man” and “Alles Normaal,” both sung in Dutch, seem to pick their vocabulary from a massive bag of Scrabble tiles, setting the stage for a liberal blast of good vibrations. Unafraid to take on the very world they habit, the members of Jaune Toujours dive headlong into every song as if it were their last.
Eastward inclinations come in the form of “H’bibi,” an optimistic light cast through prism of social agendas. Its finer implications are thus reflected in the instrumental “Balkan Khan” that follows, while the timely “Refugees Welcome” balances the band’s uncanny ability to navigate seriousness and fun in equal measure. “We all run if we are in a war,” Maris sings, pointing to heart of all modern hypocrisy.
On our way to the upbeat finish that is “Question/Réponse,” we come across a postmodern chanson (“Même Pas Peur”), a gorgeous psychedelic throwback (“End Of Season”), a critique of informational fatigue (“Radio Blues”), and a heavy dose of the personal as political (“Hôtel Serdjo”). There’s also “Cinema Politika,” an emblematic song for the band. Swimming in savvy expressions of counterculture, it is supremely aware of its own embeddedness. “Funky Brussels” is another audio calling card, an ode to a city that’s surely as colorful as this song describing it.
In like-minded spirit, the album comes packaged in a vivid hardcover book with photographs by the band’s drummer, who both reflects and guides the album’s emerging narrative. Showing places both inhabited and empty, warm and cold, future-leaning and historical, he echoes the depth and breadth of the music he also helped fashion. Thus, Europeana becomes a rallying cry as much for the eyes as for the ears. - Tyran Grillo
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