February 28, 2004

Metal Urbain "Anarchy in Paris!"

Maybe Metal Urbain didn’t get the memo, but 70’s reissues are so 2003. With Television reissuing its remastered catalogue plus Live at the Waldorf and The Clean releasing its anthology on Merge early last year, it was definitely the year for punk and post-punk acts to reissue in global context. That said, the 80’s reissuing craze continues with Echo & the Bunnymen re-releasing their first five albums complete with studio alternate takes and live tracks. Add to that the beginning of an indie “I Love the 90’s” featuring the reunion of Sebadoh, the reissuing of the long out-of-print Dinosaur Jr. discs on Merge (and possible one-off reunion in Massachusetts), and you’ll quickly believe that Metal Urbain missed the critic’s boat.

But then they didn’t after all. Thanks to excellent liner notes, the obscure French synth-punk act gets help from a possibly apocryphal “fifth generation cassette” and Steve Albini’s seal of approval, along with the au curant Jesus & Mary Chain tie-in (their stuff was reissued last year too, fyi), and the commercial clout of Michael Azzerad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life. In spite of all the hype, Anarchy in Paris! still reigns supreme and as far as compiled reissues go, it’s quite good.

The only way to describe this album is by comparison. While Big Black maintained Metal Urbain’s austerity, they couldn’t match the texture and dynamic tack of this particular influence. Instead, Anarchy in Paris! sounds more like Jon Savage’s Wire comp, On Returning. Although On Returning sounds better as an album, if one takes into consideration how committed Metal Urbain are to their aesthetic, attempting to combine synthesizers and punk riffs, along with Situationist lyrics and titles like “Lady Coca Cola,” you’ll understand that this is an album that reaches distinct demographics: the people who get what a Situationist is, and the rest, well, they’re completists who’ll probably dump this in a used bin in three weeks.

Look for Metal Urbain to do a ClearChannel free tour this spring across the U.S.

--JT Ramsay

No comments: