Raw Art Act - Asphalt Tuaregs (Antitune Records)
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”.
Nearly 40 years later, Fixed Up’s François Lebas (guitar-vocals) fronts Le Havre’s Asphalt Tuaregs (another trio) and “Raw Art Act” is their third album. Asphalt Tuaregs also “gets it” - just like Lebas’s previous band, Backsliders.
Le Havre is something of an underground music enclave in France, but rock and roll times are tough all over and apparently it’s not as strong as it used to be. Asphalt Tuaregs - the latter half of the name referring to the tribal owners of North Africa - toured in France with Australia’s Leadfinger this year so the enduring connection to underground music Down Under is well made.
So tot he record and the album title doesn’t lie. It’s raw and not over-cooked - just fleshed out by some guitar overdubs. There’s not a lot to complicate the songs on “Raw Art Act”. They fly out of the speakers, one after another, like planes taking off from an aircraft carrier deck.
This is the fourth long-player for Asphalt Tuaregs. Francois Lebas is the focus with those guttural vocals and adeptly brutal guitar playing well and truly intact. Francois Fenouil (bass) and Olivier Fontaine (drums) are fine foils.
“I Need a Torch” (Suicide Commandos) and “Life of Crime” (Weirdos) are cover songs, faithfully rendered and high on energy. “Life” is especially good and would no doubt make Rob Younger happy. The other 10 are originals.
“Cheat Together” rides along on a thunderous bottom end, an imploring chorus and Lebas’s scything guitar. The two-paced “Loose Liver” employs similar six-string fireworks. The title track and the barrelling “Good At Four” with more of the same.
“You Run The Game” takes the album out with a change of pace - if there’s a criticism, it’s that a few of the songs don’t let up often enough.
The masterful ear of Johnny Cat recorded, mixed, mastered and co-produced the record - so you know it sounds great.