Entirely slept-on, to the point that it still boggles my mind how with all the recent reissues and rediscoveries of artists like Telex, Alec Mansion, Li Garattoni, and Linda DiFranco – artists who skirted the line of Balearic, electro-pop, post-disco, and boogie – there hasn’t been room for someone to be woke enough to Montpellier’s finest: Regrets, helmed by the incomparable Agathe Labernia. Southern France was the scene of their hot as fire debut. Back then, Agathe was likened by critics as a mix of Lio and Brigitte Bardot. However, forgive me if I protest, if anything what makes Regrets so slept on is that it plainly goes beyond what Lio or like minded groups like Elli & Jacno tried to do. More in tune with the fascinating global sound of F/S favorite Lizzy Mercier Descloux, Regrets proved that you can make a very well thought out, multi-mood “dance” album that is much smarter than it lets on and is entirely difficult to pinpoint – to it’s own betterment.
Regrets was the brainchild of young Montpellier conceptual and graphic design artist Agathe Labernia who was both face and visual guide for the whole group. Rounding out the group were fellow school mates Jacques Lyprendi, Frédéric Schlesinger and Gabriel Le Corre. Using the influence of Southern France as a launching point, this city by the Mediterranean allowed them to roll in all sorts of heard-there styles: African, funk, Middle Eastern, and tropical. Unlike other groups who heard the call of Telex and wanted more of that, Regret actually looked beyond Germany for their base.
I hear the sound of Prince, No-Wave, and American post-disco acts blowing up their brain space. Unafraid to sound Iberian, their core sound comes from other sounds like the multi-headed soul music of Michel Polnareff and the faint subversive kitsch of groups like the B-52s (something seen/experienced clearly in their 50’s indebted music videos and look) amplified with minimal electronics that are arranged in a maximalist way. Beyond the image, the songs are just super fun and funky. Something that sounds like a more muscular, vocal/human take on Ryuichi Sakamoto’s “Riot In Lagos”, like the opener, ends someway in between Rick James’ angular funk and Janet Jackson’s early boot-stomping punkish R&B. Of course, the following song would sound like ABBA taking a trip to the Marquesas. For 29 minutes thereafter there’s just something special coursing through the overactive brains of the group on this album.
Madonna-like “Il Nous Faut Le Faire” ramps “Material Girl”-era Pop into a new stratosphere. Obvious highlight, the Balearic “Digamelo”, sung entirely in Spanish, rides a slinky, minimal groove building to something quite heavy and breathtaking. Sophisticated, synthetic, and scorching, weren’t the adjectives people who dug deep inside the album were expecting to hear – but here they were! Then the following track “Tout Le Monde S’Amuse” lays down some of the finest boogie placed on any shore, where each bass line and snare crack makes you want to take off to the closest beach (in your finest convertible/roller blades). Then, after that, the album just keeps on building like a perfect, extended DJ set. With tracks brimming with new idea after idea – Italo, reggae, electric zouk, Afro-pop, and more – leading to the final glorious electro-funk workout “Je Ne Veux Pas Rentrer Chez Moi Seule” refusing to send you home on a down beat.
Coursing through this whole album is the sound of a group who had more energy than audience to burn and what a way to burn through it. I rarely say check out the bonus tracks, but I’ll make an exception this time. I added something from the nearly decades old reissue …if you want to keep the party going, the bonus tracks really keep the fire burning. Still a crying shame Agathe Labernia couldn’t launch her own solo career off the strength of these singles and Regret!