French culture has been a gift to the world for many centuries now, and I would need a whole new post to speak about my literary, philosophic, musical and cinematographic heroes either hailing from France or French speaking. However, I wonder if contemporary and modern music is not perhaps an area where they fall a bit shorter than in the others; this might just be my personal ignorance, maybe I'm just a guy grabbing a trunk and calling it an elephant, but when it comes to rock-metal-punk music, with some notable exceptions (love me some Burning Heads, for example), the French bands I've come across often fall in the trap of emulating US models without making them theirs, when not turning them into a bit of a "pop caricature", or copycatting to extents that can be servile.
That's why I've been doubly pleased to find Powder, a French band that is not "good for a French band", but plain fucking good, a honest attempt at creating something new, a genuine and original voice.
We who listen to punk are more often than not misadapted people, rejects, sore thumbs, people who feel the world is not right. Otherwise we would probably be listening to lady fucking gaga. This genre is good at (in fact it was born as a means for) channeling the rage, that angst and despair that is impossible to avoid for any human who wants to live, not just sleepwalk, his life through the 20th and now 21st century. I'm sure many musicians we admire, had they not been gifted with talent to express themselves through a guitar, would have resorted to a machine gun, as in so many of those sad cases we read out there.
What I find in Powder is a new way of channeling that rage, of giving it a shape. Their style is not so much confrontational (not so much in-yer-face fuck you), as an introverted kind of sadness that still gets very violent at times, with a lot of raw hardcore energy. Like I say, a new kind of deal, a peculiar mixture of the components, a voice of their own.
In certain phrasings I hear a bit of Fugazi (term that means "fucked up", a useful reminder here), also a bit of math rock (for example in the beautiful, desolate riff of "Death and lies")... There is also a great feel for melodies, which are used like broken pieces of a puzzle, here and there, as if they appeared only to relief the tension for a while. The instrumental parts have a feeling of "scenery" of "landscape", they feel organic, full of ambience...
One of my favorite songs is "My sorrows", with its mechanic, ruthless riff that has a "medieval" kind of feel to it. The lyrics can be interpreted as an introvert meditation, a lament of separation, but there is this verse that for some reason always makes me think of the recent random killings France and my country (and other countries) have been suffering lately: "I'm sorry for what I did/that makes you so desperate"...
All this emotional charge is backed by great musicianship through and through. The ups and downs, the expression... A note of impeccable taste is that they prefer to err on the side of caution and all the songs are very short, in occasions perhaps too much, as it leaves you a bit like "what just happened" after so much intensity. But I belong to the same school, I prefer falling short rather than going too far, maybe it's something they do by design to slap you in the face, and in any case this is a "measure" that will just become better as they explore their creativity in future albums.
My other but would perhaps be that the level of intensity and chagrin throughout the whole album is so high that maybe the songs as a whole feel a bit too similar, although in a good sense, in the same way four shots of mescal feel similar. It's always a tricky trade-off, because on one hand you want cohesion and on the other variety, and the album does propose a coherent trip from beginning to end, so... just a tiny remark about a great record from a band I hope to hear more of in the future.
This review ends (just in time!) my collection of what my musical year felt like. From this point I'll go back to "habitual programming" of one weekly post minimum. Happy 2018 to everybody!
I have a guitar and I'm gonna use it