A detached Gallic cool and a British grittiness are the hallmarks of the first album from Valencia-based duo Le Garçon Rêvé. The project name translates to “the perfect son” although one could imagine frontman John Martinez has the tales to contradict such a noble title.
Within a few moments of ‘Come On, Stranger’ Martinez’s attractive brooding makes an immediate impression; languid yet rich in expression and charisma. Martinez is undoubtedly the star; injecting each song with his own singular personality and charming way with words (“Shut up, turn down the volume of despair. Forever annoyed, so much distress in an armchair”). It almost seems ghoulish to wallow in other’s misery. Nevertheless, for standout track ‘Stained Heart’ Martinez’s voice seems so worn with disappointment and bad luck and we the listeners are the beneficiaries of his angst.
There is a tendency for the songs to favour bruising, yet rambling melancholy over addictive songwriting so it’s no coincidence than variations in the mood offer the best moments. A guest female vocalist livens up ‘The Crack-Up’, guitarist Diego Summo summons up his best hook for the wired, bruising and French-spoken ‘Bora’ and the spare, chiming ‘Gandia Blues’ is a delight. The lyrical despair reaches its low (or high) point on ‘Blossoming Apathy’ where Martinez is “anchored in misery” before being finished off by a sax solo coda, whilst the dramatic, full-bodied ‘The Man That Exploded’ brings the album to an anthemic close.
For all the sophistication and controlled angst, a few more exuberant songs wouldn’t go amiss as there’s a sense of Martinez and and Summo being too cool and ambivalent to think about rocking out. That said, ‘Songs For Mediocre Men Vol. 1’ is an attractively presented and darkly seductive affair.
A Singer Must Die, The Milling Gowns, The National, Destroyer