French Police Explore Uncharted Territory On Their Latest Album Bleu
With their new record, the Chicago-based trio shatters post-punk’s boundaries by combining sonic innovation with an industrial edge.
It’s not always that the development of a band leaves such a unique thumbprint on its music but in the case of Chicago-based post-punk act French Police, things are a little different. The music project around frontman Brian Flores has used prior challenges that the band has overcome since their first real breakthrough in 2021 to come out even stronger with their latest album Bleu.
The group itself was set up before the pandemic as a result of Flores plus other members finding their previous projects hadn’t worked as well. Yet it wasn’t to be smooth sailing from then on. The band subsequently went through almost a full lineup change and it was only in the wake of the lockdown and pandemic that Flores was able to rekindle the project with different members. Now, the trio consisting of Brian Flores, Manny Herrera, and Jesse Flores create melodic post-punk-inspired sounds that resurrect the 80s while also taking a trip across Europe’s underground club scene. Billed as an indie rock band, it is easy to see how they gained the label, yet in truth, it is an oversimplification.
Clocking in at only eight tracks, the band’s latest record might seem short at first glance. Within these eight tracks, however, is a selection and variety that shows the experimentation that the group has poured into the project over lockdown. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Flores described how the isolation made him continue to try and outdo himself in terms of inspiration. As a result, he cites not any particular band as a source of his muse but this steady process of competition with himself. Although not the project’s first album, and despite the fact it has been a while since Flores was forced into this place of creating dynamism, Bleu shows how the ordeal gave him a songwriting and production technique like no other. Added to the fact he works most things out from his bass, and the idiosyncratic development of most of French Police’s work shows why this is such an interesting collection of tracks.
What makes Bleu stand out is how distinct all the tracks are from each other. Likewise, there are very few which are significantly stronger than the others and yet they manage that rare phenomenon of being totally discrete while still not compromising the group’s unique sound. This, by the way, is a combination of classic 80s synth-pop driven by drum machines in the manner of bands such as Tears For Fears, and the sparse arrangements of post-punk.
Another thing that immediately stands out about Bleu is the album’s variation of beats. From club culture to the moody stages of indie rock bands, the record covers all the possible rhythms which sum up the 80s legacy. Whether the distinctive intro of “Diet Coke” or the ups and downs of the vocal melody in “Hunny”, you can sense Flores’ desire to cover uncharted territory every three minutes or so. The result is a hidden gem of an album that fits somewhere between synthpop, dance, and post-punk. It’s upbeat enough to carry a sense of momentum yet moody and gothic enough that the stark drum breaks and weird noises that fill the gaps give it an industrial edge that keeps it from becoming too radio-friendly.
Since their eponymous debut album, it is clear to see Flores’ experimentation has fed into a sonic evolution. Whereas the band’s earlier work was much more overtly punk and production-wise had a fatter, more rough-around-the-edges trademark sound, Bleu is sparser and yet more experimental. Earlier tracks like “Head” and “Port Wine” carry a Smiths-infused, underground messiness, whereas Bleu is simultaneously more slickly produced and has more homages to continental European club culture. Flores’ melody writing has also changed, with a greater aspect of storytelling in contrast to the Buzzcocks style repetitions of some of the older songs.
This variation over time makes Bleu a potentially significant turning point in the band’s career and suggests the group is channeling a muse that is unpredictable enough to foreshadow a fruitful career looking forward. Overall, it is a smart and exciting offering from a band that has acted like something of a dark horse. French Police have, in fact, managed to continuously overcome trials and tribulations and come out stronger and more dynamic on the other side. Whether it is phasing in the production of different subcultures to experimenting with a few industrial techniques, Flores is never short of ways to push himself. Together with Herrera and Flores’ brother Jesse, they complete a tight and driven group for whom we predict ongoing success and further international appeal.