french - The I-94 Bar
Chris Masuak is embarking on his first French tour in three years in January 2018 with a new band, Chris Masuak’s Dog Soldier.
Masuak carries one of rock 'n’ roll’s proudest pedigrees, his musical history reading like a “Who’s Who” of the Australian underground, so he should need no introduction around here.
The Canadian born Masuak first achieved notoriety as the teenage guitarist for legendary Radio Birdman, the torch-bearers of punk rock in Australia.
He subsequently went on to form The Hitmen, played in the New Christs and the Screaming Tribesmen and now lives in Spain where he plays and tours regularly.
Dog Soldier celebrates and preserves that proud tradition, with members from Europe’s underground and cult elite.
Bruno Mondo, bass player from The TV Men, Gunners, Trotskids and The Outside, is a veteran of France’s punk rock scene. Juan Martinez El Karaq is the drummer, from Spain’s hardcore elite and Masuak's power-punk trio, Viveiro Wave Riders.
10 - Paris/Montreuil - Armony Live
11 - Le Havre - L’Escale
12 - Brest - Le Ptit Minou
13 - Rennes - Mondo Bizarro
14 - Vannes - Jam Session
15 - Rennes - Ty Anna Tavarn
Well Cooked! - Wild Zeros (Heavy Medication Records)
To say there’s anything new in the rock and roll zoo is simply a crock. Recycling is de rigeur but that doesn't equate to a negative. Dig in the right places and you’ll find stuff to light you up good and proper, even if it's been worked over like a re-birthed Renault. Here’s a case-in-point.
French band Wild Zeros are your basic punk rock trio with a bit of musicality. They proffer a bunch of rough-edged riffs and ragged melodies - in the style of The Devil Dogs and the Streetwalkin' Cheetahs. They don’t do anything especially new, but what they do is good and they make their own mark in their own way.
It’s four albums into the game for French band Guttercats and it’s with an almost entirely new line-up. Vocalist Guts Guttercat is the sole original member. Before you ask, he sings in English - and with more than a little sense of drama in his delivery.
Not to be confused with the UK Gutter Cats (punks) or their L.A. counterparts (sleaze-glam), both contemporaries using the two-word form of the name, this crew cites The Only Ones, Rowland S. Howard, Nikki Sudden, Chris Bailey and Gun Club as influences.
That’s a varied bag and so is their music. It runs the full gamut - from Bohemian semi-acoustic, dark pop to garage-style rock rave-ups. I’d throw the Bad Seeds and Dream Syndicate in there, too, or even final days Johnny Thunders.
The nature of Rock is that it sometimes comes seeping out of the most unlikely places. Sonic Assassin member Rauky leads the three-piece from southern France with the funny name. Southern France is a great place to visit but hasn’t been renowned for Rock Action since Keef and Co copped the eviction notice back in the early ‘70s. This disc makes us wonder if we’re getting out enough (air fares to Europe will be gratefully accepted).
Badass Mother Fuzzers (BMF hereafter) is a trio from the French city of Toulouse, the name of which always brings to mind a famous Johnny Thunders throwaway line about being “born too loose”.
Musically, BMF is a much different kettle of fish but it’s a fair bet they’d appreciate the play on words being applied to their place-of-origin. They sound like they’ve been trying to corrupt Toulouse for years. “Heartbreaker” is more Hip Priests or Zeke than “Live At The Speakeasy”, but the intention is the same: Hit ‘em hard and hit ‘em again.
And it’s about rock and roll. Eleven tracks of it from a French four-piece from the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in the country’s south-east.
Many people say French garage bands can’t cut it because they weren’t brought up on rock and roll and lack that attack and swing that sorts the great bands out from the pretenders. There’s no rock without roll.
That might be true for many of them but there are exceptions to the rule. As rock and roll is pushed further down the cultural mine-shaft, the really good ones struggle up into the daylight. Which is what The Lonely Dogs have done.
Chris Masuak is back on the road with his Anglo-French-Spanish band The Outside in France in February.
The Outside features Gregory J Bowen, expat Australian, on guitar, Juan Martinez El Kara on drums and French bassist Bruno Mondo. As the tour billing says, this will be the last time. Watch chrismasuak.netfor updates.
13 - L'Armony, Montreuil
14 - Piano Bleu Saint Brieuc
15 - Le Galion, Lorient
17 - Mondo Bizarro, Rennes (with Supersuckers)
18 - - Nantes, La Cour
This Parisian band brags they’ve been “playing garage-blues-punk since 2003” and that’s no mean feat in a city where rock and roll gets simultaneously downtrodden by dance music and high culture.
Two more things in their favour is that they’re on Beast Records, a well-established home for music that flies a ragged freak flag, and “Memories From a Shithole” was produced by expat Detroiter Jim Diamond, the ex-Dirtbombs bassist and sonic master now spending much of his work-time in Montpellier. His credits include the Bellrays, the Fleshtones and the White Stripes so he’s qualified to make this sort of noise.
Whodunit aren’t your standard ‘60s acid punk rehash or two-chord crash-er-rama thrash artists. They don’t play second-rate Serge lounge tunes or bother trying to de-construct the blues. They just go for broke.
Who says the French don't "get" rock and roll? There's plenty of evidence to the contrary - especially on these two albums from Brittany power trio Ultra Bullitt, who are coming to Australia in 2013 to show us how it's done.
At this stage of his storied life he’s probably entitled to put out any damn thing he likes, but that doesn’t mean glued-on Stooges fans have to buy it. In fact why “Preliminaires” is billed as an Iggy record is beyond me. It should have come out under Jim Osterberg’s name.
It’s a truism that many bands from Europe rock but don’t rock and roll. It’s not their fault, of course, it’s just a matter of cultural conditioning. Rock and roll is not their first musical language and the “high art” the place is steeped in suffocates that "low art", like any other form of musical expression, into submission.
So when you find a Continental band that “gets it”, you better latch on to them, tight.
Some of us are (ahem) old enough to remember a French band called Fixed Uo, who were on Sydney’s Citadel label, and made it to Australia to play and record in the mid 1980s. Rob Younger and Jim Dickson produced an album for them. Soulful garage rock was their stock in trade. They “got it”.
A slice of fuzztone thicker than hand-sliced artisan bread and bossy chick vocals fuel both sides of this snarler 45 from French band The Missing Souls. Vocalist-bassist Zaza Sharpe lives up to her surname on the A side, a cover of a song by The Teardrops that's recorded live to eight-track, with guitarist and co-vocalist Little Big Ian chipping in.
A cover song also graces the B side (“Alligator” was by American frat-punkers The US Four) and it’s powered by a storming, dance-worthy beat and a neat duet between Zaza and and Little Big Ian. Soulful and fiery as hell, if this is indicative of The Missing Soul’s output on French label Dangerous Skylab (two singles and an LP) then you and me both need to hear it.
State Records on the Web
Mark Enbatta’s Tribe - Mark Enbatta’s Tribe (Bam Balam Records)
Way back in the early ‘80s, The Vietnam Veterans were the first French psychedelic band to grace a turntable in the I-94 Bar. It was their debut ,"On The Right Track Now" LP, and the wigged-out faux '60s atwork and cover of Roky's "I Walked With A Zombie" (reprised, even) were as attractive as its bargain price tag as it sat in the Phantom Records rack.
It was weird stuff and out of left-field for someone then on a strict listening diet of Citadel Records post-Birdman fare. Over the course of six albums, until dissembling in 2009, the Vets carved a niche for themselves and toured extensively around Europe.
Like KISS, the Eagles and various other outfits whose names I can't believe I typed, let alone throught of, it was one of those splits that really wasn’t one. Various members played together under different names - most notably as The Gitanes and Vietnam Chain. Founding Vets member Mark Enbatta was the glue in those collaborations an d now ropes in two of his comrades for this, his second album under the Tribe moniker. Keyboardist Lucas Trouble is absent because he passed away in 2016, and it’s to his memory that the album is dedicated.
Their legacy was just two LPs and a stack of singles but Fixed Up’s punky and soulful garage rock touched people in their native France and all the way around to the other side of the world in Australia.
A lot’s been made about the Sydney-Detroit connection, mainly through Radio Birdman and its now fading local musical legacy. The irrefutable fact was that Birdman and its associated influences ruled the Sydney roost in the early 1980s. As true as that was, you can make a strong case for the affinity between Australia and France being almost as important, once the Sydney underground scene started to diversify and expand.
The Franco-Ausstralian link was made when John Needham, chief of seminal Sydney label Citadel Records, started dealing with the likes of Sonics Records in France. Suddenly, there was a pipeline for Australian bands to have their music heard on the Continent - meaning outside the UK where the perpetually jaded music press briefly adopted Aussie arty pop, junkie rock and the swamp sound for a time.