The French yé-yé scene of the ’60s had a handful of relatively presentable stars — Françoise Hardy, Sylvie Vartan, Johnny Hallyday and the like — and then a legion of garage knockoffs, cash-in artists, wannabes and arrivistes, many of whom had at least one completely awesome single in them. It’s the latter category whose dirty jewels are collected on this terrific set, a Nuggets-style anthology of a very specific subgenre: Francophone, woman-sung garage pop with production designed to sound a lot more expensive than it was.
Hot French Chicks in the Garage is a very odd assemblage of material, with inconsistent sound quality, and not everything seems to fit its remit — the Québécois group Les Musi-Q-airs, for instance, were neither French nor chicks, and Reggy van de Burght’s heavy-breathing “Eenzam op’t leidseplein” is unmistakably in Dutch. The only really familiar names here are France Gall (who turns up with a jingle she recorded for a wine company) and Englishwoman Sandie Shaw (remaking “Too Bad You Don’t Want Me” in French), although there are a handful of songs familiar from their English-language originals: one guess what Julie D’s “Aiko-Aiko” is translated from. Nearly every track here, though, has something delightful about it, from the drunken brass band wheezing along behind Aline’s “L’éducation” to the lascivious English professor intoning “I love, you love, she loves, he loves” on Chantal Kelly’s “Notre Prof’ D’anglais.”