Francophone Lands Licks, 2003

Post-script: Bertrand Cantant was eventually convicted of “murder with indirect intent,” and spent less than four years in prison. Three years after his 2007 release, his ex-wife committed suicide with him in the house. In 2012, he appeared on an Amadou and Miriam album. A solo set he released in 2017 charted at #13 in France. I never heard it.

Les Georges Leningrad set sail for uncharted desert isles.

NOIR DÉSIR Des Visages des Figures 

Last month, a court in Lithuania put Bertrand Cantant under investigation for allegedly beating his French actress girlfriend to death—more proof that assholes can make great music. Noir Désir, big in Bordeaux since Nirvana days, sculpt ungodly dark cave- painting punk; on this late 2001 release, Cantat’s phlegm-filled bistro-blowhard howl and extreme unction ride a nimble Afro-Caribbean undertow (including juju bass from Manu Chao in one song) unheard of in rock this heavy. The bottom keeps dropping out into suspenseful dub space, piano chaos, harmonica blues, electronic and acoustic buzz. The finale, “L’Europe,” is 24 minutes of constantly shifting yet engaging bullshit about global commerce and Satan. Who Cantat may well meet.

 LES GEORGES LENINGRAD De Ux Hot Dogs Moutarde Chou 

Miniaturist Montreal thespians in paper-bag monster masks, this foursome like all kinds of static—from scratchy hurdy-gurdy 78s, untuned radios, Planet Claire blastoffs, water faucets. They cover the Residents’ catchiest song, squeak-squawk Yoko-style about macho men with big cocks, plunder Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang” for industrial clank. Two tracks are dub-housed Pere Ubu horrorscapes. “Petrochemical rock,” they call it.

 VOIVOD Voivod

A Canadian response to 9-11, from Quebecers long obsessed with killing technology. The opener, “Gas Mask Revival,” ends with a refusal to be good citizens; at album’s end, a hopeful “we carry on” turns into “we’re carrion.” Snake’s nasal whine has always communicated a sense of worry rare for metal, but this is Voivod’s most melodic album in a decade, and they’ve never piled on so many speedy and straight-ahead hooks—mind-meltingly massive Sabbath rumbling, “Tom Sawyer” drum funk, Jimmy Page pendulations, and then there’s that bassist swiped from Metallica. “Divine Sun” is the closest to disco they’ve come, and not only ’cause it’s about working the night shift (in, OK, a nuke factory). “Multiverse” ‘s title puns on sci-fi and prog-rock complexity; other topics include atheism, science-as-art, and forgiving Liz Phair: “There’s a little Matrix in everyone.”

Village Voice, 2 September 2003

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