Saturday, 31 October 2009

French Punk: Introduction

Punk in France starts as a hipster joke, more or less.

In France, there are no bands, nothing musical (stop with the Yé-yé- it's mostly worthless horrible easy listening- in comparison Cliff Richard is good. And Magma sucks).

Nothing but rock-critics. Lots of them, actually. And like every rock-critic in the world, their only aim is to be more hipster than you.

It starts like this: Imagine a bunch of semi-writers on Quaaludes in a contest to be the new Huysmans, dreaming of Between The Buttons, dressing in fur coats and sun glasses, reading about mods (or better, used to be mods before mods, and hippies before hippies), idolizing The Velvet Underground and Nico and discovering The New York Dolls. It starts like that.

(Remember that and you will understand)

From that, their brains start to melt and mix Andy Warhol, David Bowie, black leather, heroin, NYC and writing. Quickly they discover the word PUNK and its use in the New-York underground, and spray it all around their articles... (actually all these guys -Patrick Eudeline, Philippe Garnier, Yves Adrien, Alain Pacadis and some others- wrote books about it and they all worth reading. Well actually, avoid Patrick Eudeline- he's got some writing skill but it's mostly conservative meaningless wanking. I mean, the others are also really wank-writing -think "fin de siecle" and "decadent"- but at least they try to say something.)

And because they didn't have so much to write about (between their review of the last trendy club they went to and their review of the underground cinema festival, organized by a friend), they started to write. In an incredibly beautiful & dandy posture, they started to write about music. Bands. Gigs.

(Yes they were rock-critics before that).

The thing was, in France, by this time, you didn't have that many bands that weren't in the sub-Pink Floyd/Magma/RIO/prog-folk. So they start to write about a few bands, all of them more or less revivalists (from Gene Vincent copyists to Pete Townsend copyists). Spraying in their article of splits of journal, of "OUR TIME IS UP" (in English and caps) and other "Dressed in Black Leather, somewhere between Scorpio Rising and Heinrich Himmler, he's taking his guitar like a mighty phallic machine gun...", they wrote about bands during one year before they got bored and started to go to disco clubs, dreaming about screwing Donna under Neon Lights.

So, the thing you have to keep in mind when you're talking punk in France, is, there were actually 2 scenes,both quite different: the first one, from 76 to 79, was actually a huge mix of different influences, and whatever the band did, they were punk.

You had a full range of music: from (terrible) bluesy ballads influenced bands (the really bad Asphalt Jungle of this horrible writer, Patrick Eudeline) to Novö post-punk Young American influenced (the amazing Electric Callas), and from the quite fine "girls-band & mods fantasies" made by upper middle class kids (Marie et les Garçons, Stinky Toys) to the kitschy Kraftwerk, and cute (Jacno, leader and guitarist of the Stinky Toys going solo with a VCS 3).

After punk became a common thing in England (so from 79 to 84), France started to get real punk bands. And real industrial bands. And real post-punk bands. And real new wave bands. And honestly, they were much better.

OK, two of them were much better. But all of the others were totally decent (apart from the new wave/synth-pop ones, but, I guess you expect that).

The really funny thing about that is, in France, not a lot of people really respect and like that second wave. Often seen as terrible, certainly by analogy with the English second wave of punk. But let's be serious, I'm not living in France any more, I can say it loud: most of the first wave stinks of the deadly self-conscious hipster and the pretentious arty trendy shit.

The point is most French rock people (especially rock-critics and the indie community) commonly despise bands such as Bérurier Noir, Lucrate Milk and others. And they're wrong.


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