It’s probably better to have this discussion away from your Granny, but to be ‘sick’ used to be a bad thing. These days to be ‘sick’ is a good thing. And no one exemplifies this semantic shift more than the latest melodic offering from across the Atlantic, Malajube.
Singer and guitarist Julien explains from where they plucked their name back in 2002: “It’s a really, really rare frog disease – it’s also because it’s the nickname for French Canadians and we are from Montreal!”
“When I sang in English I just felt like an asshole. It was ’orrible.”
This Quebecoise quintet of 26-year-old men possesses several facets that make them stand far from the maddening crowds. They can’t read nor write music, their songs are completely intuitive. Arcade Fire personally requested they warm up their European tour. Their album ‘Trompe-L’oeil’ was produced by Martin Pelland from The Dears. Their wonky yet elaborate pop is riddled with a malignant sadness yet it’s underpinned by an irrepressible buoyant joy. They swing from tender keys to balls-out rock and roll upon a six Franc piece and their keyboardist has only one eye.
But most significantly; they sing in French. Yes, that’s right; you heard me. Ignore the gasps from the back and keep reading, since Malajube have a lot more to offer rock and roll than just an unfashionable tongue.
After a spell in French hardcore bands where the mother tongue was passable, the band moved towards singing in English in a pop format but quickly ditched the idea. “When I sang in English I just felt like an asshole. It was ’orrible. It became impossible for me, so we had to write more and more French songs and find a way to get our language into rock music. The only way was to make it more universal so we make it that French people don’t get the lyrics or they don’t get every word clearly.”
This ambiguity is further fed by the lovely linguistic imperfections that are created when you translate from English to French, which perfectly suited these melancholic arch surrealists, allowing Julien’s lyrical imagery to blend with his self-wrought album art depicting his twisted dreams and visions.
“Sometimes in French if you really want to say something precise it won’t work musically,” he explains. “So you have to really change things about to create new images, or if you want the words to fit you have to change what you mean and that’s where it gets interesting with different metaphors.”
Malajube sing about disease in various incarnations. Delightfully ambiguous and drenched in the dichotomies of Dali this could be confusing for your island-dwelling Brit, but we hope that you discover this band for yourself as you’ll find a friend for life.
But for those of you who spent their GCS’s smoking rather than pronouncing ‘Gaulois’, Julien rounds off to give a little insight into his lyrics: “Most of our songs are related to a disease, it’s never ABOUT the disease as the approach is always different. Sometimes it’s inspired by a disease, or by me having the disease or sometimes it’s a love song for the doctor cutting you up or it can be a song about your brother or gay lover dying. We try to make it interesting – so it’s full of happiness and unhappiness…”