Moon Safari

Rolling Stone Review

Air's Nicolas Godin and Jean Benoit Dunckel are a couple of cerebral keyboard geeks from Versailles, France, where they obviously don't get out of the studio much. Their space-pop debut, "Moon Safari," is a truly obsessive hommage to easy listening, a sublime Eurocheese omelet. They build their music out of classic '60s French schlock: bongos, castanets, vintage electric piano, dream-weaver synths and shag-carpet organ straight from the soundtracks of movies like "Un Homme et Une Femme." It's just a shame "Moon Safari" isn't available on reel-to-reel. Air's lavish sound fits in with European confreres like the High Llamas and the Divine Comedy: orchestral pop that mixes the acoustic with the synthetic to make everything sound as gaudy as possible. When you're in the mood for fluff, after all, you want to hear expensive fluff, and Air have fun with their fantasy of the lush life. You can almost hear Anouk Aimee pouring them some Riunite on Ice in the background.

Godin and Dunckel bring in American guest vocalist Beth Hirsch to sing a few tragic cafe ballads; she gets tragic in a flirtatious way, the only civilized excuse for coming on tragic. But Air's hearts are really in their instrumental settings, which range from the seedy cocktail groove of "La Femme D'Argent" to the disco trash of "Sexy Boy." "New Star in the Sky" could pass for David Bowie in his Jacques Brel mode, reveling in love-is-blue melancholia with a surprisingly emotional melody. The music is full of hidden jokes, as when "Remember" replicates the distorted drum intro from the Beach Boys hit "Do It Again"; Air's Brian Wilson allusion isn't some "Smile"-era obscurity - it's a beach-party blowout. Loads of American bands try to emulate the fab tackiness of '60s French pop. But "Moon Safari" proves that the French really do it better themselves. (3.5/5)