2016 has seen the resurgence of a famous French television advertiser. He’s small, he’s yellow and he’s a puppet. His name is Flat Eric, and, starting with Levi’s ads in 1999, he’s been featured in numerous commercials, music videos and television shows. In the original ads, he would cruise around in a car with his friend blasting his theme song “Flat Beat.” Both the puppet and the song are creations of French filmmaker and house music producer Quentin Dupieux, better known by his stage name Mr. Oizo. The ad campaign was a huge success, and Flat Eric and his theme song became very popular, allowing Oizo to expand his music career.
Since 1999, Dupieux has produced six studio albums with Flat Eric as his advertiser and front-man. His most recent release on Sept. 30, “All Wet,” still sustains the unique sound of Oizo. Unfortunately, it feels unfinished with only about half of the album actually offering quality content.
Dupieux’s experimental style of house music tends to coincide with the puppet he loves so dearly. His music has a distinct cartoony and goofy twang to it, mixed with the staple drum lines and bass hits of traditional French house. Much of that sound is consistent on this new release, and some of the best cuts off of the record are “End of the World,” “Sea Horses” and “No Tony.”
“End of the World” features a surprising contribution from Skrillex, and it’s interesting to see how Skrillex’s heavier style has translated to the more formulaic world of house. The track is simple but effective, combining catchy drum pattern samples, modulated synths and voices, as well as a drop that increases in intensity and complexity every time it’s repeated. It’s fun to pinpoint the differences in sound and where Oizo and Skrillex clash on this drop.
“Sea Horses” is a much slower and more methodical track that has some nice, crisp snare and cymbal samples paired with vocal cutting. The repetitive melody stays relatively fresh over the course of the song by using different sounds to produce its pattern.
“No Tony” features French rapper Phra. This groovy, catchy tune is reminiscent of something you might hear at a French disco in the 80s. It’s a great cut, but it’s disappointing because it lasts all of 90 seconds.
While the first half of the album is vibrant and creative, the second half immediately drops in quality. It’s like Dupieux ran out of time and hastily threw lower quality content onto the record so it would retain full album status.
“The One You Buy” is an unnecessary and unsettling interlude track consisting of nothing but a minute of distorted piano chords and electronic pings. Tracks like this cheapens the value of any record.
Every track on the record following “The One You Buy” fails to match the quality and creativity of the first half of the album. They still sound like Oizo songs, but they aren’t very good ones.
The cut “Chairs” consists of squeaky horns and deep growls that are familiar sounds to fans, but there is no variety in the track and it continues to drone on incessantly for two and a half minutes.
“Hand in the Fire” features some nice vocals from Charli XCX, but, for some inexplicable reason, the instrumentation on the album version of this track is completely different from the stellar music video and single version. Gone are the catchy and melodic variety of percussion instruments like drums, glockenspiels and steel drums backed by the fast flowing lyrics. Instead, the album strips the track of everything that made it interesting and leaves only very simple and repetitive phaser sounds and snares.
One of the biggest problems with the record is that these lackluster tracks are, for the most part, full three minute cuts, while some of the best material from the first half only lasts for about half that. For example, “No Tony” should be longer than these tracks since it actually sounds good, but it isn’t.
While the record keeps Mr. Oizo’s sound alive, it leaves much to be desired. The first half of the album brings well-thought-out, catchy and interesting content to the listener, but it’s over way too quickly, and the droning, effortless tracks from the second half only serve to drown it out. The theming, collaborations, experimental style and, of course, promotional material using the lovable Flat Eric still bring a lot of charm and value to the package. Unfortunately, this full album should really be an EP when half of its content falls almost as flat as Eric.