La Musique Populaire

Love Conquers Alda

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La Musique Populaire took their time -- a whole lot of precious time -- to write and record Love Conquers Alda, the band's full-length follow-up to their 1996 debut album Aunt Canada. It was time well spent as the result is a masterpiece of well-crafted songs filled with hilarious '80s pop culture references and inventive production touches. "Ding Dong" features a duet between male and female computer text-to-speech voices, "Sousaphone" hauls out a suitcase full of sound effects to illustrate its lyrics, and "May 25th" allegedly uses a mid-'70s Muzak recording as its backing track. "Uptown Girl II" is a sequel of sorts to the Billy Joel song, while the hit-bound "Honey Honey Honey Honey" drops in a Billy Ocean reference. LMP may write melodies that could pass for Top 40 fare, but they never hesitate to gum up the works with intentionally ridiculous lyrics and sly conceptual turns that show they are not only skillful plunderers of pop culture, but serious students of commercial pop music. Of course, a lot of Top 40 music is ridiculous if you really scrutinize it, so Love Conquers Alda also functions on the level of pure pop music for those who like to listen without irony. In other words, LMP is not a novelty act -- their songs stand on their own, and the production flourishes and in-jokes are an added bonus, like chocolate shavings on top of a seven-layer cake. There isn't a bad song on the album, and there are probably a thousand big-budget bands who wish they had half the ideas and talent of LMP (an impression only cemented by the release of the immense Century of Songs box set in 2004).

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