Bristol Blue Mountain

He looks like a former member of[B] Modern Talking[/B] and his female partner resembles [B]Glynis Barber[/B] after a skinful...

When you hear the irony attack warning, you and your family must take cover. Either that or take sides. Because only your conscience can decide the fate of the man you see before you. If, as the prosecution has claimed, he is a cold, calculating liar, murdering innocent music for his own perverted, in-jokey intellectual pleasure, then you must come down on him with the full weight of your contempt. But if you conclude that he actually always had a Haircut 100 element to his music, then you must say, “Fuck analysis, let’s dance.”

Such is the dilemma faced by the (post)modern music lover, wondering if it’s OK to like[a]Les Rythmes Digitales[/a]. For all his protestations of un-ironic innocence, Jacques‘ penchant for instruments tending to the wankerish – such as the synthaxe guitar, a grotesque artefact which is to ’80s music what A Flock Of Seagulls once were to hairdressing – would at least seem to earn him kitschish kudos. He looks like a former member of Modern Talking and his female partner resembles Glynis Barber after a skinful. And some of his songs feature slap-funk bass, electro-pop hooks and Nik Kershaw. So maybe, if the comedy beret fits, he should wear it.

And yet a performance in a steaming club like tonight’s makes you realise that Les Rythmes Digitales have far more in common with Basement Jaxx, Stardust, F-f-f-Fatboy Slim (note wry Max Headroom/Paul Hardcastle reference!) and the late-’90s dance glitterati than early-’80s kitsch. Because while those people refer back to disco, funk, house and early hip-hop, it’s only to reaffirm dance music’s roots in the soul and the feet rather than the head.

OK, so when he’s deliberately echoing ‘Blue Monday’, ‘I Feel For You’ and ‘Me Myself And I’ it can go a reference too far for comfort, but what always pulls him through are the strength of tunes like ‘Dreamin’‘ and ‘What’s That Sound?’, which actually approach the infectious pop thrill of his generic ancestors, as well as possessing the ruthless rhythmic gut-punch of house and hip-hop. And when you see him play that bass guitar, beaming like a six-year-old on old-school Ecstasy, you realise he fundamentally loves and understands this music, forgetting all stylistic or cool considerations. The encore, inevitably, is ‘Music Makes You Lose Control’. And against all expectations, it’s done exactly what it says in the title.