Introducing them for the umpteenth time would be disrespectful. But reminding everyone of why they’re essential can’t hurt. They’re closely intertwined with Born Bad’s rise to fame, being their first ever release, they’re seen as the caring big brothers of the French indie scene. Their pathway in itself is symbolic: hailing from the garage closed circuit from the 90s, they gave up the tattoos and brilliantine rock to try something different –at the crossroads of punk and cold wave, of Métal Urbain, Killing Joke and Joy Division, while we were all rediscovering France’s synth-wave heritage with the BIPPP and Des Jeunes gens mödernes compilations. And five fellows not particularly renowned for their technical skills found themselves invested with a peculiar grace, becoming avant-gardist just as they were entering their forties, and showing the way to a whole generation of bands that suddenly became aware that it was possible, even here, in our star-crossed France. Critical acclaim, high sells, delighted crowd: the rest is history.
Ever since, nostalgia has kind of lost its appeal. We grew fed up of reading in the rock museum press that nothing valuable had been recorded since 1967, and we figured out that all things considered, we probably had better things to do than picking the patterns on our wallpapers or our Italian ties. It was time to get back into the pit, not looking back, and getting numb on something that is ours. The excitement of listening to the latest garage hit boys has well faded (the next band trying to emulate Thee Oh See’s repertory can already consider itself dismissed), but it is intact when it comes to lend an ear to Empire of Shames, the third album by Frustration. It is “only” their third album in over 15 years of existence, the defining sign of bands that don’t ride any wave but would rather dig their very own hole in the wall of legends, and hang there their plaque of best craftsmen in the industry.
They crushed mountain chains on Relax (2008), uncovered new continents and rainforests with Uncivilised (2012), so it’s only logical they now project to terraform Mars planet with this album that celebrates their return to a cold hostility that echoes the one of punks going by the name of a Polish capital city. “Dreams, Law, Rights and Duties”, “Just Wanna Hide” and “Excess” are punches in the knees as signs of welcome from Fabrice, whose voice wanders from a Curtis-like spleen to a cockney spit. If “Arrows Of Love” sounds like the album’s break, this mesmerising Smiths-like ballad that turns into a proletarian anthem is one of the peak in the album. “Mother Earth in Rags” will undoubtedly be a hit, given its harangue as baroque and dramatic as a speech from Lenin you would hear in an opera about communism; “Cause You Runaway” shows that our lads have also listened to James Murphy; and “No Place” (a last minute addition) is a synth-punk-noise gem that will generate one hell of a pogo at the end of their next concert.
Frustration is now this fully grown-up lion that has no intention of ending up as a bedside rug. The grouches that you only hear when the press hands them a megaphone, and that would be disarmed if their MacBook were taken away from them are still talking about the good old days. The king of the jungle is back to restore its order, reminding tourists that coming here as a casual observer is not an option, because this is no ordinary regional park. The great history of rock can take a hike because our softened nerves are yearning to be tense one last time, our voices get lost, and we want more of those poor attempts at stagediving if only we can see Frustration one more electrify a crowd like they did at the latest Villette Sonique, with their social-class comrades of Sleaford Mods. And this, is the only reason why we agree to give in to music, this intrusive thing that never asks for our advice. The rest is just a background noise of conceited babbling saturating the feed of our souls. Bollocks, basically.