Now you see me

French star Héloïse Letissier mixes pop and sex­ual pol­i­tics on sec­ond al­bum.

Mojo (UK) - - Filter Albums - By Vic­to­ria Se­gal.

Chris­tine And The Queens ★★★★ Chris BECAUSE MU­SIC. CD/DL/LP

THE VIDEO for Girl­friend, the song that her­alded Chris­tine And The Queens’ sec­ond al­bum, was in­spired by Charles Clyde Eb­bets’s alarm­ing pho­to­graphs of con­struc­tion work­ers in ’30s New York, re­lax­ing on gird­ers sus­pended in the newly-scraped sky. That wasn’t the only bar raised: Girl­friend was a bril­liant dis­play of soft power and hard mus­cle, lim­ber, gym­nas­tic, gen­der-fluid funk that was both lover and fighter. Chris, for all its strengths and de­lib­er­ate vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties, doesn’t al­ways reprise Girl­friend’s blue-moon bril­liance, but maybe it was un­re­al­is­tic to ex­pect that kind of per­fec­tion, that amount of Get Lucky good for­tune, every time. Chris – the re­main­ing syl­la­bles of Héloïse Letissier’s nom-de-pop are de­fi­antly scrib­bled out on the art­work, sug­gest­ing the mer­cu­rial iden­ti­ties within – turns up the vol­ume and con­trast on her 2016 de­but Chaleur Hu­maine. The name, she says, is not a char­ac­ter: “it’s very much me”, the com­plex ex­pres­sion of both mas­cu­line en­ergy and fe­male de­sire, her evolv­ing pan­sex­ual iden­tity. “There’s a pride in my singing/The thick­ness of a new skin/I am done with be­long­ing,” she sings on mis­sion state­ment Comme Si, and these songs work hard to carve out space for them­selves. The beats are blade-sharp and bullish, the key­boards vivid and splashy, the hi-spec, topend fin­ish mak­ing you want to run a fin­ger along Comme Si or What’s-Her-Face, like you’re check­ing for dust. Prince and Michael Jack­son are clearly still whis­per­ing in Letissier’s ear; she also catches the light of Scritti Politti’s Cupid & Psy­che ’85. De­spite the se­duc­tive pol­ish of their sur­faces, these songs have a ten­sion in their shoul­ders, an alert­ness to the vi­o­lence lurk­ing around every cor­ner. 5 Dol­lars’ stick­ily sen­ti­men­tal vo­cal masks the un­spar­ing power play within; Doesn’t Mat­ter is full of “sui­ci­dal thoughts”, the dry, clicky machin­ery of some­body turn­ing things over in their head at dawn. The atyp­i­cal kaf­taned chant of Goya Soda merges crimes of love and war, and while the Take My Breath Away-style grandeur of The Walker fea­tures a swollen eye, bruis­ing, blood. It chimes with a sense of the strug­gle to nav­i­gate new sex­ual ter­ri­tory in a dif­fi­cult world: “Some of us just had to fight/For even being looked at right,” she sings on 5 Dol­lars, a song that comes with melan­choly fit­ted as stan­dard. Letissier says she be­lieves “in the ques­tion mark more than the an­swer”, but there are points here when the am­bigu­ous be­comes the in­dis­tinct; where the com­plex emo­tional spec­trum these songs at­tempt to cap­ture are ham­mered out into one shiny sonic panel, their iden­tity blurred in a dif­fer­ent way. Letissier is a fine pop star, and Chris is an im­pos­ing struc­ture, one likely to dom­i­nate 2018’s sky­line. There are, how­ever, still heights left to hit.

Chris­tine: more ques­tions than an­swers.

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