Frengers en français
Encountering Danish Rock in the City of Lights
Frengers first crossed my ears in January of 2005. Entering the final stages of a degree in Film Production, I considered myself an “artist”—a dreamer of dreams, a hoper of hopes, and journalier of all matter of poetic crap (wherein the previous two phrases actually made an appearance). Having recently suffered the combined reality check of film school classes run amuck and mind-numbing internships, it became imperative to study abroad. To escape, really. (To find myself, I would tell my parents, drowning under the weight of my Amelie-induced earnestness.)
It was there in Paris, amidst a stereotypical study-abroad gap year filled with fast friends, ditched classes, and copious amounts of cheap red wine drank by the side of the Seine, that I was first introduced to Mew. Frengers was handed to me (flung, actually) by a Swedish student who quickly became a dear friend. Appalled I couldn’t name a single Scandinavian band (“Abba is Swedish?” I would ask, incredulous), she made my musical education her personal mission. Never having been much of a rocker (As a child I once infamously told an acquaintance that my favorite bands were Beach Boys and The Cure) Frengers was shocking. There were guitars I could love! Melodic. Crashing. Melodrama! Madness!
Fittingly, Mew’s portmanteau, Frengers, rang true. Not quite friends, not quite strangers, everyone I met seemed able to step from the latter to the former, almost instantaneously. Alliances were quickly formed; friendships were spun out of something as simple as a shared movie. I didn’t need a soundtrack to tell me it was an important time in my life, as location lended even day-to-day activities additional significance. I am carrying my groceries home from the store—in Paris! I am doing the dishes! In Paris!
But Mew’s fairytale call was as driving as the metro, whose pungent carriages would shoot me around town to meet friends on a text-message coordinated whim. An iPod was a must-have accessory—earbuds being one of the few deterrents would-be Lotharios would accept for refusing to answer their calls of “Bonsoir mademoiselle!”
Music became a dear friend, an escort and constant companion that would see you directly to your door. Mew was, perhaps, the most faithful. “This could be dangerous,” warned the pounding drums of “Snow Brigade,” as I sprinted from the jazz club through the empty streets to catch the final train. “Oh but isn’t it fun?” replied lead singer Jonas Bjerre’s sweet soprano, whispering the mysterious code “156.”
Maybe it didn’t make much sense, slouching through the avenues of Paris, baggy jean-clad legs stepping faster and faster to keep up to “Comforting Sounds.” Frengers’ (Or as I called it, “Flingers” as they were rendered in my friend’s semi-legible handwriting.) Then again, hadn’t Paris always been a city on the hill when it came to dreamers? Wasn’t melodrama a trademark of French art and, quite often, French life? “Van Gogh he was Dutch, but the French loved him. He had esprit du France,” our art professor reminded us of one of Paris’ adopted sons. If Van Gogh, then why not Bjerre? Or me?
I returned stateside with a devotion to red wine, New Wave cinema, and music of all stripes. While I’m still waiting for my dream job as a chocolate taster to open up, Mew was ultimately the seed that convinced me there might be something to this music journalism thing—a desire that helped me transcend the stagnant life in film I had planned for myself. Perhaps it’s cheesy to admit young adult plans to “find yourself” actually worked, even if my plans took a few years longer than the semester I’d planned on. And perhaps I’m over-simplifying and Mew is just another band, seasoned with a pinch too much nostalgia. But as far as accompanying my trip down memory lane goes, it’s tough to find a more exhilarating soundtrack than Frengers.
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