fly when Annie-Claude Deschênes lights
into “Antepoc,” an industrial strength, punk-speed, strobe-lit track
just a little too ferocious for the dance floor. Deschênes’ scrappy, abrasive
delivery is the main attraction in Duchess Says, but not the only one. Ismael
Tremblay, he of the buzz-sawed riffs, the crazed horror-scape keyboard lines,
is much of factor, and you just can’t pump it this hard without a rhythm
section on steroids – that’s bassist Phillipe Clément and drummer Simon “Says” Besre.
The four of them have been
playing glitzy festivals (Primavera Sound, Eurokéennes) and grotty basements
since the mid-‘00s. Their first album, 2008’s Anthologie des 3 Perchoirs garnered comparisons to Be Your Own Pet for
Deschênes finger-in-a-live-socket energy. Still a 2009 opening slot for the
Yeah Yeah Yeahs must have made it apparent where the competition really lies. Deschênes
sounds like Karen O back in her “Art Star” screaming, “danger to herself” days.
She is at once brutally confrontational and very fetching.
You can hear little shreds
of new wave in these supercharged songs, echoes of 1980s keyboard-heavy bands
like the B-52s, Depeche Mode, the Cure and the Human League, but with a raw,
metal-tooled edge. Many of the songs start with machine-like noises,
post-industrial scrapings, boomings and clickings that only gradually resolve
into jackhammer punk rhythms. And even mid-song, in the relatively tuneful part,
sounds are pushed to their tortured limits, so that guitars scream like
clashing gears and keyboards yelp in ecstatic agonies. None of it would work
without a certain layer of intensity, a relentless push to the finish that
keeps you moving, stops you thinking, transforms robot-funk-mosh-ravages into
something raw and necessary. It may be “Time to Reiterate” as Deschênes shouts
in the album’s best (by a little) song, but Duchess Says repeats the past
louder…and with a bigger beat.
“Time To Reiterate” JENNIFER KELLY