The Last Goodbye

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French house and its spinoffs were gaining all the acclaim by the end of the '90s, but the more traditional pop fusions of Spring have their own enjoyable appeal. The Last Goodbye shows this quite well, a baker's dozen tracks that should have slotted alongside more than one person's collection of Gainsbourg re-releases and remix singles of Blur's "To the End." There's plenty of a late-'60s nodding bent to the whole record, down to the cover art and photos, but there's enough in the production to suggest that revivalism isn't the answer per se. In its own understated, slinky way, there's a post-digital punch to the proceedings, a careful layering in the mix that's as much Anne Dudley working with Wham! as it is Scott Walker interpreting Bacharach. Chris Isaak's conceptually similar if stylistically different approach might be the nearest equivalent, and certainly the way the acoustic guitar parts just sparkle on songs like "The Naked Kiss" and "Hysteria 67" have a richness that earlier decades might not have captured so well. Then there's the polite '80s dance drum machine and film sample action on "Shooting Stars," an enjoyable diversion. For all that, a cool late-evening coffee bar on the Seine approach is still the dominant mode ("Red Bar Evenings" perhaps gives away that much), and Spring executes it in lovely fashion, from the plucked strings on "Baby Blue" to the easygoing grooves throughout. Lead singer Alex will call up plenty of Claudine Longet comparisons for some (as opposed to Fran├žoise Hardy, say), but songs like the gentle bliss-out of "Guethary" have their own perfect power vocally and musically. A particularly fine touch is the spookier-than-most opening percussion and echo on "En la Arena Blanca," in itself a fine duet with the deep-voiced Mr. Corcobado, who also contributes some freaked-out theremin.

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