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Euro-style dramatics have always been a hard sell to American pop music audiences, at least since rock music took over the charts from the crooners for good back in the 1960s. Us Yanks will gobble up melodrama if it’s a working class anthem from Mellencamp or Springsteen, or if it’s a goofy horror movie theatrics like Alice Cooper or Kiss. But give us a dude with an Edith Piaf jones lamenting over strings and piano and we’re likely to run screaming for the hills.
We let Freddie Mercury get away with that opera crap, and my high school classmates were inexplicably fond of the hilariously pretentious Styx, but otherwise the closest any act bearing even the faintest whiff of European style cabaret theatricality (post 1965 or so) has come to mass American acceptance would probably be Tori Amos in her more dramatic moments – and she can better get away with it by virtue of xx chromosomes (we’re much more accepting of divas than divos in these parts).
So it’s safe to say that London’s The Irrepressibles will have an uphill battle if they have any hopes of catching on stateside – though one of their songs did somewhat improbably turn up on an episode of So You Think You Can Dance? last summer. On the other hand, though, in a world where one can buy Antony and the Johnson discs at Target (or at least one could when The Crying Light was a new release) anything would seem to be possible.
It’s Antony and the Johnsons that spring most immediately to mind when listening to “Forget the Past,” though Scott Walker, Englebert Humperdink, and Charles Aznavour (of “Yesterday When I was Young” fame) are also lurking in the gloomy, half-lit shadows that swaddle the song. Jamie McDermott’s dramatic crooning definitely recalls Antony’s as he reaches for operatic heights, goaded on by his 10-piece band. It’s undeniably over-the-top in its melodramatic ambition, but it’s well-done melodrama for sure.
Listening to “Forget the Past”, one imagines a beret-wearing McDermott seated in a dimly lit café in Paris or Vienna or some other impossibly romantic European capital, staring out at the grey drizzle through the sunglasses he wears indoors to hide the tears in his eyes as he recalls a lost love. If anyone ever gets around to making a movie out of one of Alan Furst’s excellently moody spy novels, they need to hire The Irrepressibles to handle the soundtrack – they capture that same ambience of a sensitive souls trapped in a dark, decadent Europe on the verge of blowing itself apart. “Forget the Past” is continental ennui rendered as a pop song.
The Irrepressibles released Mirror, Mirror, whence “Forget the Past” is culled, on August 8th of this year.