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The Best French Debut Album Since Daft Punk's "Homework",
This review is from: Burn Your Own Church (Audio CD)
So now much hyped DJ Ivan Smagghe has officially left Black Strobe, it was to fear this long-awaited debut would not have the same appeal as all those glorious singles that made their reputation. In fact, "BYOC" showcases, if needed, that the whole Black Strobe concept was then and still is now at the core of one man's only mind: Arnaud Rebotini, who decided it was time for his act to get more physical and less club-friendly. Therefore, Black Strobe's current incarnation is a powerful live quartet which occasionally verges on the previous electronic soundings of earlier releases. Smagghe's input on "BYOC", as it was completed before his departure, seems to have "only" consisted in writing lyrics for 7 out of the 9 vocal tracks featured here, and further proof of that is he's not credited as part of the band itself.
If the instrumental overture "Brenn Di Ega Kjerke" (the album's title in Norwegian) or "Buzz Buzz Buzz" recall early stuff like "Innerstrings" or "Italian Fireflies", it's clear here that the purpose has a more organic feel to it, even though Rebotini's songwriting influences still verge more on Depeche Mode and EBM acts such as Nitzer Ebb or Fad Gadget, than on the average rock act's inspiration sources. As an example, next single "I'm A Man", a radical reworking of Bo Diddley's classic, is such a strong electro-rock stomper that next to it, Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" almost sounds like Chris Isaak ! But it's not all full bloom experience for our ears here; two delicate numbers, "Girl Next Door" and the exquisite "Lady 13", suggest there must be a heart beating behind the black leather imagery of this all. On the most muscular songs ("Blood Shot Eyes", "You Should Be"), though, Black Strobe sound a lot like Rammstein fronted by Valor, the voice out of Christian Death. No, don't run ! It actually works ! The high level of production and impersonation of "BYOC" makes it the best electro debut to come out of France since Daft Punk's "Homework" a mere ten years back. The only dud here, sadly, is the closing "Crave For Speed", as Rebotini tries (and fails) to croon as gloomily as, say, Nick Cave (or his pal Mick Harvey, more like) and it falls short out of any emotive strike.
Nevertheless, all other tracks here are monsters, as "Shining Bright Star" or "Last Club On Earth", amongst others, should delight any goth fan that fancies to give a go at nightclubbing... and nightmaring, all at once.
Alongside Blonde Redhead's recent "23" (who share with Black Strobe an Alan Moulder participation as mixing engineer, always a good sign), album of the year, no less.
UPDATE JUNE 20th, 2007 : Just saw them live in Paris yesterday, and this band is awesome in that context ! Those of you who attended their recent gig at London's Cargo surely know what I mean. If they come near you, take care... but don't miss them.