Des Fleurs Pour on Caméléon

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Lio's sixth album, originally released in 1991, found her at her most commercial and, comparatively speaking at least, her least remarkable -- though this has everything to do with the music and little to do with her singing, which is as strong as ever. Recording in London with the help of Etienne Daho on production might have been an attempt to follow in the footsteps of Serge Gainsbourg's own London sessions in the '60s. However, the opening "Je Me Tords" teeters precariously on the balance between inspired (Lio's quick, rhythmic delivery) and mundane (the guitar work is hollow and fairly flat), and the album finds itself stuck there throughout. On the upbeat numbers Daho's backing is bright and sparkly enough with moments of great flash, but too homogenized for its own good, a last hangover of yuppie funk before hip-hop and techno would redirect pop impulses in Europe for the rest of the decade. As a result, Lio sounds like she's already a little late to the party, which again is a pity because her singing is energetic, sly, and playful throughout -- in ways she provides all the kinetic energy that the songs themselves tend to lack, no matter how busy they sound. "Qui M'Aime Me Suive" is one of the better ones, as is "L'Amour Est Lent." It's on the slower songs that everything connects, with the moody, dramatic splash of "L'Autre Joue" and the album centerpiece, "Chanson pour Caméleon," readily reminiscent of the richness of contemporaneous Cocteau Twins, delicate guitar textures leading the way. But perhaps the best and most surprising track is a remake of "The Girl from Ipanema," which Daho handles most of the vocals on -- with a brisk, hyperactive beat under a gentle arrangement, the result interestingly predicts where DJ Towa Tei would go with his later solo efforts. The 2006 reissue includes a variety of remixes.

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