Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Jean-Jacques Burnel - The Euroman Cometh

The Euroman Cometh (1979) **

JJ recorded this album all by his own self during studio downtime during the Black and White sessions, using a drum machine for to aid his instantly identifiable bass.  The sound is electro post-punk, indebted as much to Kraftwerk and Donna Summer as much as the Stranglers, and is not unappealing - very, very odd and several degrees in weirdness from commerciality.  The songwriting is....uh....not all there, and the album as a whole is, frankly, awful.  But there's enough of a tantalizing bizarreness to bring me back, to render an album full of such silly and unlistenable songs a sometimes agreeable listening experience.  Stranglers fans should probably give this platter a download and a good listen at least once (for godsakes' don't spend any actual money on it) simply for the sheer weirdness of it all.  Most of the songs sound like the rough, underwritten one-man-band studio pissoffs that they were, even if it's clear that JJ's heart was devoted to it, but at least two tracks are triumphs.  "Freddie Laker (Concorde & Eurobus)," towers over everything else here and could pass for a great lost Chairs Missing era Wire single, as Burnel alters his voice electronically to mimic the roar of jet engines in a tribute to the airline magnate of the title.  "Do the European," dances this mess around in a twisted academic treatise of post-modern disco, and isn't quite as good but still a worthwhile track.  The rest is mostly crap like the puerile "Crabs," not so offensive for the VD subject matter but for the puerile simplicity of its a-3-year-old-could-have-written-and-performed-this music.  "Pretty Face," is an unpleasantly frenetic and harmonica-drenched cover of a soul obscurity, and "Triumph (of the Good City)" a novelty instrumental dedicated to the motorcycle of the title, complete with the sampled sounds of it revving up.  A few tracks contain pleasant touches such as the ominous bass line in "Euromess," and the engaging pop melody of "Jellyfish," but not enough to save them from underperformed, underwritten, underbaked, overblown crapstacular status.

I've gotten so far into this review without mentioning the theme and lyrical content, which is the first matter that should grab any listener's interest, as titles like "Euromess," "Do the European," and "Euroman," make clear, as do JJ's singing of one song in German ("Deutchsland Nicht Uber Alles") and another in his native French ("Tout Comprende").  The political concept of pan-European Unionism was simple but ahead of his time, and Burnel self-righteously indulges in his pan-nationalistic Eurochauvinism on this piece of self-indulgent political propaganda.  It's not subtle at all and unshockingly JJ's Euroband did not tour on any North American dates.  Anyway, such a political stance shouldn't be surprising coming from a cosmopolitan hybrid of French & English parentage & loyalties, but devoting an entire album to Europa Uber Alles seems a wee bit over the top.  Like I said, it's worth a listen due to its sheer oddness:  not so much the lyrical content, but the Europeanized very circa 1979 sound that sonically signifies this album as actually unique, as the world doesn't have enough Kraftwerk-influenced post-punk psuedo-disco lo-fi-but-high-tech albums as it needs.  The album has a sort of perverse pull on my earlobes from an intellectual standpoint (neat sounds), but can't stop me from eventually concluding that, aside from two standout tracks, this indeed is pretty awful.

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