A.H. Kraken - "Cette Fille Est a Genoux" (A.H. Kraken)
Determining whether French squalor punks A.H. Kraken are aiming for shock (check the shotgun-wielding blondie on the cover) or sheer banality (Kevin Costner gets an inexplicable shout out) is pretty tough to figure. After all, most of the lyrics on their fractured, constantly distorting debut for In the Red offer shrieks that would hardly be intelligible if you spoke the group’s mother tongue, let alone English. Intent aside, the group’s focus throughout the 11 songs here can be reduced to simple abrasion, with an overall approach that sounds more like Providence, R.I., circa the turn of the century (think Arab on Radar, surprisingly), than the France of right here and now
Given the group’s preference for tumultuous one- and two-chord rockers, however, it’s a pretty logical step to assume that the kids of Kraken are placing themselves in a punk lineage that prizes the brash over any sort of efficiency, operating with dull hammer-thuds that tack out rhythms to score bad migraines and hangover aftershocks. All in all, an interesting approach to take, especially when considering that much of the talk surrounding modern French punk has keyed squarely on the hyper-sexualized minimalism of Cheveu and the archly cool post-punk of Frustration.
Wobbling between moderate and accelerated paces, songs like “De Type Caucasien” rely on repetitive micro-riffs built from the barest of notes, propped up against lurching basslines and an almost nasal whinny. “Les Murs Des Bunkers” slackens things up a bit, allowing the low end to wander in the background while a three-note guitar line needles its way into the skull. Ultimately, the best-titled song here wins out over all, as “Kevin Costner Est Un Acteur Américain” maintains a steady drum roll as siren calls erupt around it. No telling whether this one is about how awful The Postman was – one can only hope.
Here’s the rub: While it was all pretty enjoyable to spin, I’ll be damned if I could remember a single riff from this platter not five minutes after it ended. Obviously they did something right through the whole of this LP. All the same, A.H. Kraken’s consistent desire to plod, sulk and occasionally annoy leaves it slightly devoid of personality. Maybe next time they’ll write a song about Heath Ledger and really kick things into overdrive.