M83 is the black sheep of the bands I’m retrospecting (aside from tomorrow’s, which is so off the board it will outrage some readers), and so I’m doubling down by choosing the blackest sheep of all the M83 tracks: “Raconte-Moi une Histoire”.
I try to like M83 more than they deserve, mostly on grounds of their associations. They’ve toured with Depeche Mode; taken inspiration from Pink Floyd and the Smashing Pumpkins. But their output betrays those influences superficially. M83’s music is the self-indulgent dream-pop of retro synths and ethereally melancholic vocals, and I find that sort of thing okay when I’m in the mood every sixty to ninety days… but it gets old really fucking fast.
There is something however about “Raconte-Moi une Histoire” (2011) that hits my sweet spot. As much an audio-narration as a song, it features a little girl who describes a frog — a “very special frog” — that triggers an LSD trip when you touch it: colors change, parents switch genders, everyone jumps into the streets and becomes friends, the “biggest group of friends the world has ever seen, jumping and laughing forever”. It’s an acid trip through the eyes of a child, a world devoid of conflict and pain, that fades into ethereal vocals.
Whether he intended it, or by fun accident, Anthony Gonzales finally wrote the quintessential M83 song. In “Raconte-Moi une Histoire” you can taste the dream and enter the story in a way music seldom allows. Gonzales should try these wacky experiments more often. Because let’s face it, M83 isn’t as revolutionary as they’re made out to be. A lot of their ambience sounds like it’s recycled from earlier works. Some of the hits from Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming — like “Midnight City”, pardon my blasphemy — drive me a bit nuts. Electronic music is tricky ground. At its best, it taps emotions that otherwise stay buried; all too easily it becomes redundantly bland and dispassionate. M83’s latest albums (Junk and DSVII) have been much the latter.
I keep listening anyway. A band that can craft songs like “We Own the Sky” and “Raconte-Moi une Histoire” have the potential for all sorts of surprises.
Listen here and enjoy the acid trip.
I heard about this frog
It’s a very tiny frog
But it’s also very special
You can only find it in the jungle
So far away from me
But if you find it and if you touch it
Your world can change forever
If you touch its skin
You can feel your body changing
And your vision also
And blue becomes red and red becomes blue
And your mommy suddenly becomes your daddy
And everything looks like a giant cupcake
And you keep laughing and laughing and laughing
Nothing is ever quite the same really
And after you finish laughing
It’s time to turn into a frog yourself
It’s very funny to be a frog
You can dive into the water
And cross the rivers and the oceans
And you can jump all the time and everywhere
Do you want to play with me?
We can be a whole group of friends
A whole group of frogs
Jumping into the streets
Jumping into the planet
Climbing up the buildings
Swimming in the lakes and in the bathtubs
We would be hundreds, thousands, millions
The biggest group of friends the world has ever seen
Jumping and laughing forever
It would be great, right?
From the album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, 2011.