The Upshot: A bit of wot you fancy, Anglophiles, that classic Stones-y rawk but wielded this time around by Frenchmen, no less.
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
In a post-irony, post-rock, post-everything age, old school rock & rollers have fallen on hard times. Wear a leopard-spotted jacket, bandana and scarf around your neck, wield an ax cranking out basic rhythm and/or licks derived from Keith Richards (via Chuck Berry) and sing songs that eschew wordplay for straightforward takes on lust and longing, and the majority of the music cognoscenti don’t take you seriously. There is one thing, however, that the rock & roll true believers have that so many aesthetes and Pitchfork darlings don’t: conviction.
Fortunately, the Guttercats have that in spades. The French collective, led by singer and songwriter Guts Guttercat, don’t fool around with anything approaching irony on latest LP Beautiful Curse. Opener “Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” lays it out in a modest but forthrightly rocking groove with just the right measure of confident defiance, letting us know where he stands. “Way Down in Hell,” “Hot On Our Trail” and “Fire” raise more of a ruckus, while still keepin’ it lyrical. The wistful “Death & the Girl,” “Dead Love’s Shadow” and “Black Sorrow” indicate that Mr. Guttercat’s interest in melancholy beauty is as potent as his interest in R&R fervor. “Slow Down” strips back to piano, violin and voice for a hit just as effective as anything with six strings and an amplifier.
Sounding remarkably like the Saints’ Chris Bailey, the leader doesn’t have the luxury of sneering with irony or contempt, concepts he wouldn’t bother with anyway, given how straightforward his sentiments are. With more prominence given the folk rock side of pre-punk, the band doesn’t bother trying to blow doors off. But like Nikki Sudden and Dave Kusworth, the Quireboys, Diamond Dogs, the Dogs D’amour and others who keep the primal romanticism of rock & roll alive, the Guttercats keeping their hearts beating hard and burning bright for three chords and the truth.
DOWNLOAD: “Black Sorrow,” “Death & the Girl,” “Slow Down”