Le Tango des Gens is Sanseverino’s first album and - while I really like everything he’s done since - it remains to my ears the freshest and most interesting. Sanseverino had this genius idea of writing modern and slightly surreal lyrics over what is essentially a gypsy jazz combo, and it sounds amazing. It’s fun, it’s driven, it’s got one foot firmly set in French music tradition and the other in 21st century popular culture. In other words, it’s amazing.
The song that made him famous is Les Embouteillages, an accordeon laden fast swing about traffic jams in Paris. The album is full of gems though. Frida is a completely strange and hilarious song with a driven pompe backing. The songwriting is reminiscent of Nougaro or Lapoite’s word playing. It features this strangely prophetic line:
Trouver à fifils un logement, un emploi au gouvernement / On n’a pas le temps de s’occuper de ça quand on s’endort sur les Bancs du Sénat (Find a flat for sonny, a position in government / There’s no time to work on that when you fall asleep on the Senate benches)
This album is just full of good songs. André tells the story of a sad guy who is “dressed like Santana” and has no friends, Maigrir is a pure delirium around trying to get thin, La Mer is an eco-song about the coastal pollution, Les Films de Guerre is a really funny riff on US War Movies…
The key question here, I guess, is whether speaking French is necessary to enjoy Le Tango des Gens. I’ll be honest, it helps, but the music is infectious and I think it can also be enjoyed just like any world music album by a non-French speaking audience.