Let’s Retroactive!


When a record’s irony has more layers than an onion, it almost makes you want to cry. There is a lot to peel away before reaching the essence of the shagadelic soundtrack to the recent film CQ, though its core will more likely elicit a smile (or a shimmy) than a tear. The already come-and-gone directorial debut of Roman (son of Francis) Coppola is set in 1969 Paris and is itself about the making of a sci-fi film about traveling to the year 2000. The French psych-pop outfit Mellow, known here via their promising debut album, Another Mellow Spring, recorded most of the 25-song soundtrack. And de Gaulle-era hits by chanteurs like Claude François and Jacques Dutronc—themselves Mellow antecedents—polka-dot the record with authenticity.

Mellow get their late ’60s on tout de suite, merging the “Strawberry Fields” organ intro into the album’s opening strains. From there the Parisian trio (singer Stephane Luginbuhl, players Pierre Begon-Lours and Patrick Woodcock) tone down the techno in their digitized nostalgia while punching up its Summer of Loveness. A few predictable moments on CQ lapse into the aural equivalent of a shag cut from Jean-Louis David, but the rest is pure sucre.

Its most spirited tracks, such as “Love on the Moon” and “CQ Chase Theme,” blow Gainsbourg go-go frog funk through an Air tunnel, leaving the idea of a score in the dust. As on so many soundtrack projects, Mellow expend a lot of energy making their incidental music sound like themselves. Among ballad backdrops galore, on “CQ Main Theme” the group drops acid guitar licks with so much tremolo action they practically liquefy, then pours sweet melodica masquerading as accordion over the top. It’s a French twist similar to adding a dollop of Nutella to an already sugary crepe.

Elsewhere the band chews up the era’s bubblegum pop and spits it out as Mod-ish soul jazz or breathy sex romp (Bardot arranger Paul Piot’s “Tous en Scene” is that mode’s template). By the time the credits roll, Mellow have polished up a collection of nuggets at least as entertaining as a sci-fi film about traveling to the year 2000.

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