In every collection there are records that get played all the time, many of them for years, decades even. Then there are those that, while no less treasured, somehow fall by the wayside to lie in wait, ripe for rediscovery. This occasional series chronicles some of those nuggets as they resurface from my own back pages. So, put the needle on the record, put the needle on the record, put the needle on the record and it sounds like this…
Franck Barcellini & Alain Romans – My Uncle (Original Sound Track of the Jacques Tati Film) (Fontana, 1958)
The middle aged man in the mackintosh, the trilby, pipe and brolly combo, it can only be Monsieur Hulot, the masterful creation of absurdist French comedy genius Jacques Tati. This soundtrack EP for Mon Oncle, his Oscar-winning second film outing as Hulot, perfectly captures the mood of the moment – it sounds slightly passé, at odds with the Now, yet is somehow unmistakably ‘mid-century modern’.
Hulot is hopeless at anything current. Technology baffles him, he lacks the skills to deal with it yet is condemned to feign interest and claim mastery.
The crisp rhythms and deceptively simple melodies employed in the score are ideally suited to Hulot’s charming small town bungles. This is retro even for 1958 with swinging accordions and tinkling piano motifs augmented by nifty flute swoops and even a banjo on Franck Barcellini’s title theme, but then a muted vibraphone suggests at least something of the modern world.
Flute and banjo drive Alain Romans’s Adieu Mario with dashes of trumpet before the muted vibe returns on Side 2 in Barcellini’s The Old Quarter. A medley of all three themes brings the set to a close.
There’s nothing heavy about any of this, it’s ephemeral, suggestive and unobtrusive – ripe for rediscovery by some oh-so post-modern ad agency looking to invoke a little post-War European optimism. Now there’s a thing…