MARIETTA - Gutter Kids (Nova Express)
LES AUTRES PEUVENT CREVER - Les Ecureuils Qui Puent (Nova Express)
SPACE-O-PHONICS ALIENS - Cowboys From Outerspace (Nova Express)

So here is a trio of French bands on the eclectic but very rocking Nova Express label, the people responsible for the "Kaiser Bordello" compilation of rock and hard psych. I'm indebted to globetrotting Aussie rock and roller Simon Chainsaw for the introduction.

First up, Gutter Kids and who's been listening to the new Christs, then? Track two, "My Umbrella", on the "Marietta" album by French band, Gutter Kids, rocks with the sort of driving, riff-borne intensity that the core of Rob Younger's last line-up honed to such great effect on "Lower Yourself". You could have few better reference points.

Not that it matters greatly who's in your record collection. What's more important is what you do with those influences. There's ample evidence the four-piece Gutter Kids know a great riff when they hear it AND can make something of them in their own way.

The Ramonesian "Judy Cries" (a companion piece to "Judy is a Punk") fits that bill, as does the driving closer "I Don't Need You" which is the sort of tune that the latter-day Exploding White Mice used to rattle off with ease.

Gutter Kids play with a level of barely-controlled energy that you can't bottle. Give due credit to a rhythm section that kicks very hard, especially the drummer who sounds like he's driving the whole band without excessive fills.

There are just nine tracks on this album and they're winners, for the most part. None are better, however, than the title tune where the clattering bass line and nagging counterpoint guitar carry the day. It's a variation on the old "Stagger Lee" story but puts me in mind of X in the delivery with the singer - whose name evades me 'cos the liner notes carry lyrics and not much else - comes across as a Gallic Steve Lucas. Can't pay many higher compliments.

I love Lucas Trouble's production and the big fat bass sound. I wish I could tell you more about the Gutter Kids but although I can use Google's search engine, I can't read French. They rock like the veritable motherfuckers they undoubtedly are, so you probably need to know little else.

Also on Nova Express, but cut from a distinctively punk rock cloth, are Les Ecureuils Qui Puent.

The name is something to do with squirrels. What is going on here is beyond me, lyrically at least, because Les Ecureulis are a rare breed - French rock and rollers who sing in their native tongue. Musically, they're a step above the old two-chord thrash, steering closer to Stiff Little Fingers than the UK Subs, with a dose of Heartbreakers thrown in.

I have an inkling that Les Ecureulis are political, at least in a social sense, with song titles like "Legalisez l'heroine" for which even I don't need a translator. Again, label head Monsieur Trouble is at the controls and does a great job capturing a thick, live sound driven by buzzing guitars and earnest sounding vocals.

Most of the 11 tracks are frantically delivered, with the exception of "J'aime ta main" where the pedal's backed away from the metal and Trouble's carnivalesque keyboards give the song a seaside feel. An interesting offering, albeit a little impenetrable for monolingual dummies like me. No mistaking the spirit, though, or the spirited playing.

Bringing up the rear are the Cowboys From Outer Space, a band I have heard a little about.

When you see a songwriting credit for Leiber and Stoller on a CD slick, you have to wonder, but have no fear - the Cowboys kick 'em out in fairly uncompromising form. Exactly what it is hard to put a finger on; best approximation is hi-energy rock with greasy blues overtones, like the Beasts of Bourbon with a cleaner guitar sound. "Big Woman Blues" and "Tired" certainly fit that descriptor, and the Beefheartsian hatchet job on the aforementioned Leiber and Stoller's "Bossa Nova Baby" lurches around royally, like something off "Black Milk".

"Spy From the Grave (Theme From Spy Murder in Skull Valley)" and "Rugged Love" stray squarely into Scientists territory without the same reliance on drone or repetition. Heaviest thing here is the closing "Humility (Fever 2)" or its companion piece "Humility (Wild 1)", either of which could strip paint from your lounge room walls.

In case you're wondering, the Cowboys are a three-piece with the ubiquitous Lucas Trouble adding organ, strings, synth, backing vocals and fuzz bass. Well worth hunting for if the Scientists or Beasts were (are) your bag. - The Barman

3/4 - Gutter Kids

- Les Ecureuils Qui Puent

1/2 - Cowboys From Outer Space