Everything is alright in the world when you’re surprised by an album, especially nowadays. Assembling enough quality material for a full-length is lost on many of the groups out there who’d run in the same circles as Frustration, a Parisian garage/post-punk concern that plays down to some more obvious touchpoints across both genres, but finds success in areas long since trampled by re-interpretation.
This is Frustration’s second album; they’ve got a bunch of 7”s and 12”s behind them as well, none of which really amounted to much more than a dour, paint-by-numbers Joy Division/Crisis wannabe. This can’t be helped, however, as Relax estimates – you can’t really help what your voice sounds like, so if singer Fabrice Gilbert’s own happens to recall the steel of Ian Curtis’s, those Gallic phoneticisms gumming up the English, then it’s a good thing he’s fronting a band that plays with a lot of the same tools as Joy Division once did. A bristling rhythmic guitar from Nicus Duteil channels Devo; tinny bass and distinct synth tones assemble melodies and complementary riffing in miniature, giving a feel that these songs were arranged by trial-and-error.
Thing is, Frustration have been banging away at this process for long enough that the parts they lift from more established artists are not only starting to sound like their own, but also influencing other bands working in the same idiom. Sure, they fool around with minimal synth tweezing (“We Have Some…”) and end the album in destructive fashion, a la the post-apocalyptic nerve firings of early Cabaret Voltaire, but for the most part, Frustration fires on all cylinders as a rock band. This is also where they shine – machine-oiled rhythms run up on wandering synth/sampler melodies and a brace of thin, distorted guitar. There are moments of mechanical totality that recall modern-day compatriots like the A Frames (“Shades From the Past,” with its brooding drum intro), and more often a group like Eddy Current Suppression Ring and others who have a complete understanding of the rattling jangle of early punk as it festered in pub rock and similarly brutal/primitive forms.
It’s exciting to listen to Frustration rise up out of near-plagiaristic beginnings and become their own band, and equally exciting to hear bands of the same stripe reclaiming the punk dialogue from a generation of mallrats and frosted-tipped extreme sports enthusiasts (or for that matter, Guy Fieri). Frustration does its part to bring the flat, chunky rhythms back to music that was rotting away without it.