Louis Phillipe straddles genres, from camp funk to folk to, er, surf jazz...
“This is a song which I gave to my good friend the King of Luxembourg” – as introductions go, it certainly beats “wun-too-free-four”. But when you?re listening to a Normandy-born former chef, whose last album was recorded with Microdisney sociopath Cathal Coughlan and a Czech orchestra, things are rarely prosaic. In the space of an hour he takes a rapt audience on a unique journey through show tunes, chansons and pyschedelia, perched precariously on two plastic chairs with Lolita, his classical guitar.
In contrast, The Clientele?s entrance couldn?t be more undemonstrative – frontman Alasdair Maclean ambles onstage in an unpromising burgundy tank top. Theirs is a fragile beauty, all picked guitars which genuinely chime and hushed Eric Matthews/Chris Holmes vocals. Dusted sparingly with Velvets basslines and brushed drums from a man who appears to be playing through a coma (it?s 20 minutes before he blinks), Maclean?s songs deal in Lambchop-like magic realism, relocated to the Georgian squares of a sun-dappled ?60s London. And just as the realisation dawns that this could be the first band in 30 years to sound a bit like Peter Sarstedt, ?I Had To Say This? sees Maclean, with a maniacal glint in his eye, shape-shifting cunningly into Arthur Lee for a bracing psychedelic finale.
With couples at candleit tables idly fingering warm salads of confit chicken, all signs point disturbingly towards jazz as Louis Phillippe takes the stage. And with ?Ripples In The River? sounding uncannily like the cast of ‘Rent’, all electric pianos and palms-aloft emoting, we anticpate an early exit. Fortunately, Philippe?s band – augmented brilliantly by former XTC guitarist Andy Gregory – make a deft turn into camp funk a la Vic Godard, then mournful folk on a moving and utterly unexpected ode to George Best (“The devil made a hell of a signing/When Georgie died”).
Best of all though are the encores: the Manhattan Tranfer-with-melodica croon of ?Swing Baby Swing?, washed down unpredictably with a vintage Dick Dale surf guitar throwdown. And the King Of Luxembourg? He?s a fellow under-valued songwriting prodigy – discovered by Jonathan King, apparently.