I just. You know. Wanted to. Like. This one. So much. And that way I could have spelled out for you the proper term, neither French nor English, for the practice of making music good through good music-making practices. The word, my friends, was (and admittedly, to some degree still sounds like) M-A-L-A-J-U-B-E. That definition, though, fits either of their preceding LPs, Le Compte complet or Trompe l’Oeil, better than it does their most recent release for Dare to Care Records, a four-song EP entitled Étienne D’août.
Remember Trompe l’oeil, the little album that could and did see Montréal’s Malajube onto more short lists than the Rankins have Junos? Well, if the most celebrated release by this French Canadian pop-rock quartet was (at least an eponymous) trick of the eye, their Étienne D’août stands out on a first listen as some sort of trick of the ear. Like the reproductive motifs that ornament its cardboard sleeve, this baby seems, uh, hastily birthed. Perhaps to say so might be overstating the case, seeing as only four songs populate the EP, two of them being reproductions of the EP title track, “Étienne D’août.” Both the version radio and the remix maman “Elton D’août” redeem the release’s wane in whimsy from earlier albums, and “M Pupille” manages to be both energetic and reflective without being too much of either. Remix or not, “Fille à Plumes” sounds like the soundtrack to a racing video game where you have to drive a cloud along a magical skyline, shooting rainbow lasers at cackling gorilla puppets.
And then. You go back. To “Étienne D’août.” Only softer. And longer. Than the first time around. I hardly think, despite my disappointment, that the rift in tone that makes Étienne D’août less than what Malajube has been in the past means the band saw the EP as an attempt to rebirth themselves in the way that some artists do in the wake of success. I guess, though, we will have to see with what sort of trick they will come up with next.