splendid > reviews > 9/27/2004
More good stuff from the Pacific Northwest. If Beat Happening had been born in the wake of The White Stripes, or if the Raveonettes had that certain je ne sais quoi, they'd be Eux Autres. Heather and Nicholas Larimer are a brother-sister-retro-garage-duo (where have we heard that before?) with a Europop twist. While that could have been the recipe for a pretentious, Sartre-referencing musical disaster, Hell Is Eux Autres turned out to be one of the most energetic, lighthearted and listenable albums I've heard all summer.
There's something indubitably catchy about crunchy guitars, fuzzy production and choruses of "whoo" when matched by a breathy faux-French chanteuse. When she's not making me feel bad for skipping out on junior year French class, Heather sounds decidedly American, warbling through her overpronunciations and acerbic observations with the unattainable mystique of a chain-smoking suburban teen who doesn't realize (yet) that she is the pretty one. Nicholas fronts an equally disaffected monotone, but the siblings' electrified rock and attention to detail and makes their music anything but throwaway.
Crisp and precise, yet jangly enough to qualify as "melancholy", they reside just enough outside the boundaries of their disparate influences to be legitimately interesting on their own. Even their handclaps have sass! Eux Autres flit between French and English as it suits the mood, swathed in the milky light of post-"mod" guitars and intentionally flat drumming. The prog rock and toy piano of "Partick Nil" and the time signature fuckery of "Carolina!" mark Eux Autres as a band worth keeping an eye on. "Wind and Willows" is one of the sweetest and most complex ballads I've heard in months, bringing to mind both Belle and Sebastian and Sleater-Kinney (the latter of whom has a firsthand influence on this album in the hands of producer Janet Weiss, who handles the reins alongside Stuart Saltzman). Sure, the Larimers are smarter than most of us are comfortable admitting, and sure, their nasal and occasionally tuneless musings can eventually wear on the nerves. But the sheer animalistic passion they pour into the arbitrary "hey"s that punctuate the drumbreaks absolves them of their occasional gazes navelward. If this is their debut, then keep it coming.
-- Justin Kownacki