Oh boy, you shoulda been there. Perhaps you were? Paris’ finest independent record store, Born Bad, celebrated its tenth anniversary by hosting a festival over the weekend inviting some of the rawest lo-fi punk and garage acts from Europe and America to do their thing. The Swinging Neckbreakers, Cecilia and the Sauerkrauts and Peripherique Est on Friday were followed a day later by The Nuns, The Attacks and garage legends The Fabulous Mummies.
Your Pop Junkie representative was there to catch the second night and what a night it was, once the venue had been located (after an hour of aimless wandering in 90 degree heat) within the vast Parc de la Villette.
First up were the wonderful Nuns in their new hooded monk capes. The Nuns are the world’s foremost all-girl tribute to 60s art rock legends and punk pioneers The Monks. I am honoured to have these six lovely women as treasured friends and am the happiest man in the world to have the drummer as my special gal. However, my comments on their musicianship are entirely objective. They are bloody amazing. Officially sanctioned by Eddie Shaw, they are the nearest you’re going to get to see the Monks if you didn’t catch any of their reunion shows a couple of years ago.
Taking to the stage in eerie silence, with most of the 400 ticket holders outside the venue smoking (we’re in France, remember), the place began filling as soon as their droning sound filtered the air. I can’t remember what order they played the songs and didn’t take notes, I was having too good a time. They are driven on by Cannibal Kate’s fuzz bass, Debbie Smith’s banjo and Bongo Debbie behind the kit. Ex-Mambo Taxi’s Delia and Andrea provide feedback guitar and discordant keys and Lolo plays tambourine and wails. Hey, it’s Nuntime!
The sound was surprisingly good for this type of venue (purpose built blackened shell of a room with rock PA and I-Know-What-I’m-Doing soundman). The guy almost knew what he was doing, deprived of top marks for failing to get Lolo’s or Mummie Trent’s lead vocals to rise above the music, but had no problem doing so for the backing vocals.
Next up were some nice young mod chaps from Denmark who were in London a month ago recording at Liam Watson’s esteemed Toerag Studio. I was hit by a moment of realisation whilst watching the Attack’s set. One of my very least favourite music genre’s is the 1979 mod revival; Lambrettas, Merton Parkas, Secret Affair and the like, yet The Attacks caused me to wonder whether these hapless Weller-wannabees of thirty years past were, perhaps, rather good, if only I had based my judgement on seeing them live rather than pooh-poohing my mate Chris Bateman’s Mods Mayday album. You see, the 1979 bands, when they cut a single, with squeaky clean brass sections, they sounded like they were recorded in 1979 rather than 1965 i.e. pants. Just a theory, they may well have been as crap as I’ve always thought they were.
The Attacks, however, are really good and look the part. Fast, sweaty and young, they’ve learned their r’n’b from the real mccoy’s of The Creation, Pretty Things and, of course, The Who. Well worth catching next time they hit London, probably sometime after the autumn release of the Watson-produced debut album.
And so to The Mummies ~ San Francisco’s gift to popular culture. Formed in 1988 by Trent Ruane and Larry Winther, recruiting Phantom Surfer Maz Kattuah and local legend (and possibly the world’s best DJ) Russell Quan they set about laying waste to all who dared come close. They didn’t need no mummies curse, they had beaten up old instruments and insulting, insolent, impertinent and intimidating manners. If you think Seattle was where it was at in the early 1990s then you’re about 800 miles out.
Snottiness aside, The Mummies mission was to entertain. With their rigid, bandage-clad limbs, and the high-energy bounciness of the original Specials as the way-ahead (n.b. not all ’79 recordings sound lame!), they put on one hell of a show. Trent was treating his borrowed Farfisa with far more respect than his own trusty model, which often ends up the way of Mark E Smith’s microphones or Keith Moon’s drum kits. Exhilirating garage originals (including faves That’s Mighty Childish, Stronger Than Dirt, Food Sickles & Girls and You Must Fight to Live on the Planet of the Apes) and the odd classic cover (Jezebel) are delivered like American newspaper boys do in the cartoons ~ flung on your front lawn whilst pedaling past on a bicycle at great speed. And that’s exactly the way I like my punk rock.
I can’t imagine that the Seeds in ’65 and the Damned in ’76 would have been any more exciting and fun than this lot. I can think of no higher compliment.