Review Summary: Despite hailing from France, this album will make you the one to surrender.
The French are a people known for many things. Baguettes, cigarettes, pirouettes, and a somewhat mightier-than-thou pronunciation of the alphabet. They are known for sneering at the petty problems of the undereducated west. There is however, shockingly enough, an aspect of them that has not come to light. This may be hard to conceive, but the French make rock music just like their lacking-in-culture counterparts. It is a strange thought; the great and mighty French stooping to the level of the English, picking up the stone-age electric guitar and jamming away. But it is, incredibly, a true fact. As well, the music I have stumbled upon is somewhat aurally similar to the rock that Anglophones produce (English lyrics??!!). Furthermore, it has an undeniable, as the French would say, “je ne sais quoi” , quality to it.
The Hanged Man And The Moon
are a self-proclaimed stoner/noise rock band hailing from Lille, France. They are a four-piece comprised of an upright-bass player, guitarist, drummer and a female vocalist. Their record, “Just One Shot” , is criminally overlooked, despite being one of the greatest débuts of 2012 . The album flows through distressing and emotional climaxes then seamlessly drifts into mournful down-tempo moments. The bands self declared genres, although fitting, do very little to describe their sound. The exotic sound that these smelly, bike-riding, snail-eating freaks bring is nothing less than unique.
Noise rock is a genre commonly defined by screeching guitars and deafening feedback. This is not always the case but, well, a large portion of the time it is. This band is noisy in a different sense. Although the instruments get a bit nonsensical and discordant at parts, the noise aspect of this album mostly comes from the frontwoman. She remains at the forefront of the soundscape, lulling your senses with soaring, pained vocals and often aggressive explosions. Her analog voice is laced with heavy distortion and borders on being indecipherable throughout a few songs, yet she entrances the listener with every word. She has the tendency to hold notes that when coupled with the distortion become drone-like and entrancing. This style comes off as quite abrasive a lot of the time but nevertheless her cries in some songs are as enthralling as can be. In the few clearer sections, her vocals seem a sort of jazz and rock hybrid that never lose your attention. There are occasional flaws, such as at the end of He's Come
. The vocals sound out of place, even sloppy, with the climactic crashing of cymbals and pained guitar, yet this moment brings chills and is one of the arguable highlights of the album.
The mashing together of moods that is done along with impeccable and varied song-writing makes this album a veritable powerhouse. Rather than keeping the pace, "Just One Shot" shifts from the near arena-rock style chorus of You Lied
into the psychedelic experiments found in The Mess
and Lady Street Killer
. The album retains its integrity and no songs seem out of place; yet sadder, more melancholy sections progress into anything but mournful, and aforementioned experimental/noise-rock non-sensibilities are thrown in as well. The band creates some undefinable feeling across the album as a result of these eccentricities. There are areas of clarity, but as a whole the album remains undefined in terms of emotion. The exotic bass-line and jazzy vocals that make up the first half of Wandering
are pretty much irrelevant at the songs cathartic ending. You get to the palm-muted, bluesy rock and roll (think The Kills) that is found in part of the title track halfway through the album, and you still can't pinpoint the undefinable mood that the band has created and held. The final song on the album seems almost rehashed or ripped off due to it being so standard compared to the rest of the album. At the same time you don't know where this assumption comes from. The heavy guitar that of the wistful closer (celestial backing vocals, slow march drumming, indie-rock?) distinguishes a clear divide in style and makes their inspiration hard to pinpoint. Despite leaving us with a clear ringing of yearning, the album makes its mark at the bottle of a wine glass; an unseen feeling because the French are too busy refilling the glass, and we are too busy replaying the album for anyone to be left reminiscing.
Putting all description and critique aside, what it all comes down to is that this album, despite your taste or your opinion on those “cheese-eating-surrender-monkeys”, demands at least just one shot.