The French Connection: Men in the Moon Rule!
"The Men in the Moon play psychedelic garage-punk with a deadly reverberated fuzz guitar sound reminiscent of the Seeds and the Music Machine, and better than most neo-retro bands, past and present!"
Hey! I was away last month vacationing and gigging in Spain, but I'm back to report on the Paris garage scene (if there ever was one!). Once again, the French are followers, period.
Recently, the Fashion has gone back to Rock with the current Garage-Rock tag, covering the likes of the Hives, the White Stripes, Libertines, Vines . . . even the frickin' Strokes, who inadvertently started this whole group thing which, to my way of thinking, isn't even "Garage," especially after more than a decade of Techno Musak! Fashion designers are now requiring the services of live bands while less than a year ago a top DJ puss would have made it on their shows. And Paris, being the "capital de la mode, n' est-ce-pas?" That explains why even my group Bang! was considered last month by the Italian fashion brand "Diesel" (famous for their ultra low-waist jeans among the hype-house-clubbin' crowd) for the opening shows of their new shops in Paris and Lyon. They call it the "Diesel Tour." Can you believe this crap?
They finally settled for an all-rrriot-girl, nobody-band from Toulouse. Maybe we were better off without it, considering we wouldn't have even been paid for the trouble. The deal was "you get all the attention we promise you from the official label execs and VIP people that would be invited at the opening and, as payment, you get free promo clothing from our brand. All the actual money goes to the top sound system and lighting, the deejays and open bar" blah, blah, blah . . . Gimme a break! A typical crappy showbiz deal. I' ve never heard from the girls after their performances there, despite all the breaks and exposure they were promised in the recording business. I wonder where they are now?
As of present, the only real '60s garage-band scene in Paris consists solely of: 1) my band Bang!, 2) a parody cover band that was inspired by a group called, Les Dutronc from London, and styled after "Antoine et les Problèmes," except that in this case the singer is a girl who's in the school of the French Swingin' Mademoiselle's like Jacqueline Taïeb, Christine Pilzer, Stone, etc. She's even played bass in Les Dutronc. Her name is Rudee, and her group is called Les Terribles. On stage they play a cover of Delphine's "La Fermeture éclair" which is, in itself, a '60s cover of We the People's "In the Past." 3) Les Dragueurs, another parody, French, beat band named after a famous "nouvelle vague" picture from the late '50s. The group has released a concept LP on the art of picking up girls. (As I've explained before, Frenchies just "luurrve" parodies--a convenient custom dating back to Boris Vian and Henri Salvador in the mid-fifties except that one of the members is actually American!). 4) And saving the best for last: a garage-band in the true sense of the word, The Men in the Moon, who play mostly originals in the vein of the Electric Prunes and the school of Pebbles' Acid-Punk bands! This band is truly the exception in the "No-Man' s Land Of R'n'R" that I covered a few issues ago.
The Men in the Moon play Psychedelic Garage-Punk with a deadly reverberated fuzz guitar sound reminiscent of the Seeds and the Music Machine, and better than most Neo-Retro bands, past and present! Gérald, the group's guitarist-leader, was once called "Mr. Fuzz" in the old '80s Garage revival days by his peers, so you can imagine. Moon's bass player was once the bassist for my first Garage-Punk cover band, The Tribe. He's now reached Mc Cartneyian heights with his finger-picking-style playing of a violin shaped Hofner in his all black, clad-bowl-haircut-Music Machine glory looks, unchanged since the Tribe days.
But the most outstanding character (besides the hippy drummer) is, no doubt, the lead singer showman who jumps around like a possessed child of Jagger. Occasionally, he plays Stylophone solos to compensate for the lack of keyboards and he vocalizes most of the time like a dark angel with his beautiful powerful voice. It's as perfect as you can get for a garage act--he's the true star of the show with true Pop potential.
The Men in the Moon performed a number of times on the Paris stages since this fall: Tricatel Club at "l' espace Mains d' Oeuvres" venue, and twice at the Nouveau Casino, a prestigious venue where the band astonished everyone who was present, including me. This was especially true at the Sonic Mook Future of Rock'n' Roll festival, where the group opened for two British, Grunge-Punk bands that were so bad that I don't want to remember their names. Moon also open for the number one Paris' Brit-Pop band of sorts, AS Dragon (a house band for the French Pop "Tricatel" label, home of the studio producing wiz, Bertrand Burgalat). The Men in the Moon were in top form that night, finally emerging from the garage where they struggled for more than ten years, and finally gaining professional status. Hell, they even had their own light show to boot!
The band is completing a 7" EP in the works that'll soon see the light of day on the same Musiques Hybrides label subsidiary that put out the famous French-beat comp "WiZZZ! Psychorama Français": "Michalon Vibrations" (the label boss is also their manager; which comes as no surprise). The title of the tracks will be as follows: "Paradise." "Meteorite Beat," "I Need Somebody (To Love)," and "Buddha." I will review it next time if I can get ahold of a promo copy.
The release has been a long time comin', but it's well worth the wait--like wine, it gets better with age! Early last month, The Men in the Moon opened for The John Spencer Explosion French tour on three dates: 11/05 Lilles, 11/06 Nantes, and 11/07 Bordeaux. What a stroke of luck to have such a professional manager! I suppose I should be a little jealous and I admit that I am . . . but the breaks have been well deserved for this band, which have been starving for it for nearly twenty years.
In the meantime, we, "Bang!" went to play in Spain for the 6th anniversary of the number one '60s club of Barcelona, the Magic in the Air club. While not having the same opportunities as our fellow Garage band, we were nevertheless treated as top bill by the generous Spanish crowd. A world separates the Spanish scene (where the bands truly prosper and the people let it all hang out) with the dull, non-existing, miserable French semblance of a scene. The Spanish are true R' n 'R Pop lovers. They really support their bands with all the warmness and humanity it deserves.
And speaking of trends within the Pop world, the Spanish are way above the "frogs" (the French are well behind the times, as always; almost a tradition on these shores! In fact, they never had a clue). This scene is alive! We did well as a novelty act with our two keyboard players, one on organ and the other on a Moog, and it was due a lot to us playing originals. Although we are deeply inspired by the '60s bands (especially the British Pop-Art variety as opposed to the US Punk/Psychedelic sensibilities of the Men in the Moon), we are definitely not a cover band, nor an act that apes too much from the original bands in the way, say, the Jaybirds from Austria plagiarize the Yardbirds, or the British Aardvarks copy all The Move's and Creation's stances. We have our own identity. We play "Space Mod Beat" or Mod beats with vintage Electronica elements the way Man or Astroman play Surf. In fact, fans have more than once said that we have more of a semblance to these T.V. Personalities, which is strange because we never tried to emulate that past Indie band. But in Spain, the fans accepted us as kind of an experimental Pop band without trying to compare us to a particular style of some high-profile band. Some of the people even took pictures of us for their fanzines and graciously went out of their way to congratulate us even though we were not established foreign "stars." I just love the Spanish crowd!
I hope that the guys at Trouble & Tea, who were present, will decide to add us to their future programme of the "Euro Ye Ye" fest next summer. If they do, hopefully they'll also plug the movie we were in early last summer, with the production being a son of French New Wave cinema, on their special '60s film screening for the occasion at the cinematheque of their cultural center . . . more about this later.
Oh! Spanish local band, Center Square, opened for us. They seemed to be a very capable cover band in the Mod-Beat tradition, which displayed a lot of enthusiasm, but we didn't have much of a chance to check them out because we had a problem with our sound check. I had brought my extra Hiwatt combo all the way from Paris and nearly electrocuting myself while plugging in my guitar because of the lack of an adaptor. This held us up before "the opening of the doors!" We then made a dash to eat in a typical Spanish restaurant (the food being way cheaper than Paris), and by the time we were due on stage, two members were missing; they were trying to pick up girls in a club on the opposite part of town! All the stress of the comings and goings made me miss much of Center Square's show. Sorry guys, I promise to attend next time!
Well, not much more to say except that we were very satisfied with our gig in Spain, and that hopefully, it will enable us to do more in the future. So we're back in Paris, and for now, the Men in the Moon rule!"
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