|Notes from the Paris Underground|
I have already advised that you should buy any releases
on the Acute label. Their sixth salvage operation completes their Parisian
punk trilogy, and makes available again the astonishing sounds of Doctor
Mix & the Remix and their Wall
Of Noise. Listening to it afresh made me think of our own The Jesus and
Mary Chain, and I was incredibly alarmed to realise itís almost exactly twenty years ago that I saw that group live in London three nights in a row. And I donít
think I have seen anything as exciting, exhilarating, confrontational and comical
This was just before Bobby Gillespie took over on drums, and the group looked awful, and awfully like some Birthday Party groupies. That first night night at the Rock Garden in Covent Garden (supporting Biff Bang Pow!) their guitars seemed to play themselves, howling out feedback that surfed the sweetest melodic waves of sound. Douglas Hart played this sawn-off two-string bass splattered with Pollock-streaks, and he just played little snatches of different tunes, while the brothers coaxed dissonance from their amps. The second night at the Thames Poly in Woolwich (supporting Five Go Down To The Sea) Jim had lost his voice, so William filled in, kneeling on the floor and reading the words aloud from a battered notebook. The third night was the last one at Alan McGeeís Living Room, in the Roebuck up the Tottenham Court Road (supporting the Mekons, I think), and I could never work out if it seemed like the end of something or the beginning of a new age.
We loved the Mary Chain, but could never work out whether the Reids were blessed or chancers. We tried to figure out where the sound came from, and hoped we werenít right. I said ACRís 'Thin Boys', someone else said 'Nag Nag Nag', the Swell maps and Suicide were mentioned in the same breath, and Joe Foster always said Doctor Mix & the Remix. He would even later reissue their Wall of Noise set on his Revola imprint to sort of prove the point.
Now Acute has done the honours. You must, please, join the dots from Acuteís Metal Urbain collection, through the Metal Boysí spin-off, and on to this Doctor Mix set. Itís the same people, and shows how far ahead this Parisian collective was while the punk flames fiercely burned. As essential as all parts of this holy trinity of reissues are, the Doctor Mix Wall of Noise is my favourite.
Like our own Mary Chain, the guitars create a symphony of noise which is tempered by wonderfully warm melodic moments. And if the songs are predominantly covers, then it is this almost blasphemous fervour at tackling the classics that adds to the appeal. And thinking back, those early Mary Chain shows were full of perfectly pitched covers, like Sydís 'Vegetable Man', the Standellsí 'Barracuda', and some songs from Subway Sect and Buzzcocks to bring us up-to-date.
I am particularly fond of the Dr Mix massacre of 'I Canít Control Myself'. It doesnít quite capture the frenetic, trebly scratchiness the Devoto-ed Buzzcocks immortalised on the essential Times Up set, but thatís splitting hairs. The closest comparison I can think of is the American outfit Crime, who covered the same crazy paving.
The Doctor Mix maxim must have been about striving to obtain some sort of rockíníroll satori. They make me think of Jim Dodgeís characters in Not Fade Away, trying to do the right thing and making a very special rockíníroll symbolic gesture. It sounds like the Parisian pilgrim ghosts had enough escapades and contretemps along the way to enlightenment, but outside of our Mary Chainís Psychocandy they produced the daftest and most dangerous noise I know.
© 2004 John Carney