Stew on this
Eternal Life – Guttercats (Take The City/Wishing Well/Sweet Grooves)
If you’re one of those genre freaks with a need to categorise every record, good luck. There’s enough going on here to challenge the most obsessive.
Guttercats are from Paris and take their cues from The Only Ones, Rowland S Howard, the Jacobites, the Bad Seeds and The Gun Club. Their fifth album mixes melodramatic Baroque folk-pop with garage rock, punk and Gothic blues. It’s either hopelessly mired in the ‘80s or bravely staking a claim to a unique place in today’s bland music scene.
Guts Guttercat sings in English and adds acoustic guitar. He’s clearly the heart and soul of Guttercats. With his dramatic phrasing, at times he comes across as a Gallic Nikki Sudden, intoning in a moderately well-off baritone one minute and trailing away to a half-whisper the next.
The engine room doesn’t try anything flash (although drummer Adrian Calvez is a multi-instrumentalist who adds overdubbed synth and piano), and they’re the canvas upon which Guts and bandmates paint their sonic pictures.
Ever walk into a French restaurant in Paris with no functional grasp of the local language and find yourself confronted by a menu that’s impenetrable – only to be served by a waiter who’s even more so? “Eternal Life” is a stew. A garbure, to be precise. A good garbure should be so full of ingredients that your spoon stands up in it. Sometimes, it’s served in two courses - firstly as broth poured over toasts, and then meat and seasonal vegetables.
“Eternal Life” is a bit like that. If you’re a rock guy, you might need to consume it at a couple of sittings. Or not rely on a humble Barman from Sydney to give you a steer on the ingredients. It's a Melbourne kinda record.
The opener “Wild Animal” sounds like late-period Triffids with viola and synth prominent in the arrangement. There’s a similar feel to “Farewell”. “Dark Room” unfurls a mess of dirty fuzz guitar on top of a conventional rock and roll feel. “Keep The F lame” features some caustic fuzz guitar from resident six-stringer exponent Chris Waldo.
“If I Had a Loaded Gun” tries to be menacing but the muted guitar line holds it back, and it doesn’t fulfill its promise. The title track is the closest thing to a pop song with Guts twisting the lyrics in a cool French way (“I bel-ieve in…eeee-tern-al life”) and Waldo adding some uplifting guitar.
The CD version adds two bonus tracks, “Sweet Lies, Betrayal & Adultery” and “Wild Animal”. The former could pass for a Johnny Thunders ballad, stripped of sloppy guitar and rendered in a way that only a Frenchman could get away with. “Wild Animal” is an acoustic number with vocals weirdly double-tracked. The best advice here is: Don’t Operate Heavy Machinery While Listening.