V/A-Tetes Lourdes

December 9, 2008


Various Artists

Tetes Lourdes(No Label)


When I think of gritty psychedelic rock and roll, France would be near the bottom of my list.  If you were discussing wellsprings of 70s prog, then I may consider France as a contender for the crown, but I have mistakenly associated it too closely with Serge Gainsbourg, Brigitte Fontaine and Magma.  I love a lot of the music France has foisted upon the world, but Tetes Lourdes has renewed my appreciation of the country’s contribution to 70s hard rock. In fact, much of the material collected on this bootleg falls somewhere between the James Gang, 70s metal and 60s psych rock. To be honest, the combo of these three phrases is more than enough to inspire devotion and love from this grimy soul.

To be honest, it isn’t one of those comps that fire on all cylinders. Some of it is just as bloated and cliched as other anonymous hard rock acts of the 70s, but half of it is postively brilliant and life-affirming in the way hoary rock chestnuts can be when it hits that perfect ratio of sleaze, fuzz, riffery and two-pack a day vocals. The absolute highlights of this comp are provided by Rotomagus whose “Fighting Cock” is nearly punk in its execution and absolutely ridiculous in its portrayal of a badass rooster in search of battle. This song is so raw and nasty that it makes the entire comp an essential listed by its mere inclusion. Their next contribution “Madame Wanda” veers into more familiar terrain with plenty of wah-wah and some psychedelic wailing choruses and upliting riffs that borrow from the majesty and grace of Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland. The rest of the acts on Tetes Lourdes aren’t as innovative, but marry enough sleaze to their melodies to keep everything on par with the insanity of Rotomagus’ unexpected explosiveness.

Magma-Udu Wudu

October 24, 2008


Udu Wudu (Tomato 1976)


I’ve always had a love/hate affair with Magma, a French prog-rock band, due to the inconsistent nature of their albums. On one hand they invented their own language, Kobaian, for use in their songs, but on the other hand they invented their own language for use in their songs. Amazing musicianship and innovation abound in half of their work and amazing musicianship and fucking ridiculous concepts mar the other half. However, I admire Christian Vander, Magma’s founder, for his willingness to create an entire musical universe and terminology from scratch and stick to it for over thrity years. Yes, it is downright silly at times, but the passion and intricacy of their work always wins me over in the end.

I picked Udu Wudu because I picked it up as a cut-out cassette in the mid-90s and it rarely left my walkman for many a moon. Most of my affection for Udu Wudu is solely derived from the utter madness and complexity of the title track. I used to get absolutely blazed and walk thirty minutes up the road to my record store gig with Udud Wudu as my absurd guide. There were many occasions where I tried to convert friends to Udu Wudu by describing the title track as the soundtrack to Space Invaders complicated by a factor of a thousand. The weed is gone, but that statement still holds true. I can still imagine myself as the sole gun defending the planet while armies of pixellated aliens march in lockstep towards my location. I guess this is one of the few times where my flights of fancy match my sobriety.

The rest of the album surely is not an afterthought. You get Kobaian verses, jazzy interludes, insane solos and proggy synths aplenty. Plus, the whole album still reminds me of some alien celebration with a lounge act serving as the entertainment.

Jannick Top

Soleil d’Ork (2001)


Solo compilation from the legendary bass player and co-composer of Magma collecting the material he recorded between 1974-80. Jannick was a member of Magma during their best years (from Mekanik through Üdü Wüdü) and his approach to the bass was arguably the defining characteristic of the band (and of Zeuhl in general), so if you’ve heard Magma you probably know what to expect here. There’s even a cover of “De Futura” from Üdü Wüdü (with a drum machine instead of Christian Vander, hah), an excellent unreleased Magma song “Mekanik Machine”, and a reworking of “Soleil d’Ork” also from Üdü Wüdü. Jannick’s bass here is as nasty as it ever was, maybe even moreso than his days in Magma. Sound quality and production values vary a bit from song to song due to the nature of the compilation, but nothing too drastic. The album ends on a surprisingly dull note with the more subdued “Glas” but other than that it’s solid Zeuhl all the way.