THE KAISER FUCKS THE NEW FRENCH ROCK - Various Artists (Nova Express)
The title is a play on the name of a mainstream compilation, masquerading as a French underground rock sampler, and the Kaiser is Nova Express label head Lucas Trouble who lends his keyboard talents to the assembled bands on many tracks. Nova Express is one of the quirkier labels in the world, running the gamut from stock standard punk to genuinely off-the-wall ramblings of no fixed genre. Now we have the contextual explanations out of the way, let's rock...

French rock cops a bum rap and many of the 24 cuts on this disc show why that shouldn't be the case. The best of this stuff is as taught, economical and energetic as anything you could loosely group under the title Punk Rock. The reason you don't hear much of French rock of any description is because it's been driven so far underground by the mainstream that it'll probably surface in a hill cave in eastern Tibet after tunelling its way through the earth's core. The Kaiser gives you a chance to sample some of the best from his personal cellar - and you'd be an A grade tosser not to give it a try.

The Holy Curse lead off and there's every reason to laud their four-song contribution. If you had half a brain (and opportunity through livinglocally) you might have heard these tunes live on their 2005 Australian tour. If you didn't, your life is all the more poorer. "Sister Soul" is a ball-tearer of a song, no argument. Sonic Polo's grinding riff and a commanding Eric vocal win the day. "Life is a Bitch" a little less substantial, but "Let's Go Surfin' " is an anthem to cutbacks and re-entries from a country that has precious little in the way of decent reef breaks, the Brittany coast notwithstanding. The Curse's cover of "Sweet Nothing" fills Sonic's shoes as well as well as any and better than most.

Jerry Spider Gang are a venerable name in the French hard rock lexicon. I haven't reveled in all their releases to date, but will go back and give them another go in the light of these cuts. "Run Baby Run" pretty well sums it up: a big, rumbling sound not a million miles away from Zeke. Flamethrower guitars and a lot of bottom end muscle. One of these songs is a rippling cover of the Cosmic Psychos' "Can't Come In", recorded for Norwegian label Dull City and is anything but.

A strangled fuzztone and choppy riffs sum up the Ashetones (which is a great name, by the way). The guitars are a little thin for my taste until their take on "Search and Destroy" kicks in. Faithful but worth the price of admission with balls the size of cantelopes. Big effort.

Dimi Dero Inc. work outside the square of 4/4 beats and two-chords, incorporating Scientists-styled drone with Birthday Party brutality. "Damn" is a menacing case-in-point with Dimi's vocal a treat. There's a sense of dynamics lacking from some of the other punk attack on this collection. Dimi Dero Inc turn in a superb cover of "Execution Day" of which Mr Spencer P. Jones himself may even approve. One of the best things here.

Cowboys From Outerspace are a band I have to hear more of. The one album I have connected with ("Space-O-Phonics Aliens") was straight-up New Christs-styled rock and a delight, but the textual variations here make it apparent there's more to their story . "Kaiser Surfer" is all dinky surf rock with tinny keyboards, while "Waiting For Your Love" is driving and diamond hard. "Suspicious Minds" is pitched straight down the middle rather than done as a pisstake and comes home with a medal.

Flying Over are a three-piece of which I know nothing and they kick out the proverbials like Guitar Wolf with a sonic upgrade. They're reminiscent of the Class of '77 on "I Don't Wanna", and also recall Swedish band The Maggots.

The Waterguns (two guys and a girl) sound positively poppy by comparison, with chiming guitar and the sort of ragged vocals that used to dominate left-of-the-field radio in the '90s on "A Boy Like This". "Not Your Right" is a bit more punked-up and stilted, it has to be said.

Electric Karma shut things down with "Death in Paradise", a mellow meeting of surf chords and psychedlia-tinged six strings that lends a dark undercurrent. It's strangely out of synch with the rest but that's no criticism. Kaiser's a principal member which tends to expand the horizons, from what I've heard of his solo work and previous band The Vietnam Veterans.

Are you ready to Fuck the New French Rock? If so, don't resort to online dating services or that telephone number on the toilet wall. Drop the label a line and see where that takes you.– The Barman



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