Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Debile Menthol - 1981 - Emile Au Jardin Patrologique

Debile Menthol 
Emile Au Jardin Patrologique

01. Stamoid Cousu (1:07)
02. Tres Amusant, Major (8:06)
03. Tante Agatthe (1:57)
04. Coupe-Rose (1:55)
05. Spacio-Cib (7:19)
06. Go-jaunit (Bonus track CD-Reissue) (2:32)
07. Rien (1:57)
08. a nos Mamans (4:42)
09. Mort aux Dahus (3:05)
10. La Jupe (5:48)
11. Je regard par la fenetre (3:43)
12. Crash que peut (4:21)
13. Quelle heure il est (Bonus track CD-Reissue) (3:09)

- Francois Liègme / drums
- Patrice Dupasquier/ saxophones
- Cedric P. Vuille / clarinet, guitar, drums
- Yvan G. Chkolnix / bass, guitar
- Marie C. Schwab / violin, vocals
- Christian G. Addor / keyboards, bass, vocals
- Gilles Vincent Rieder / drums, bass, percussions, vocals
- Jean-Maurice Rossel / bass, guitars
- Jean-Vincent Huguenin / guitars, percussions, vocals

Once upon a time in Neuchatel, Switzerland there was this band called Debile Menthol who played Rock In Opposition in the vein of Samla Mammas Manna, Etron Fou and Henry Cow and with a sort of minimalistic approach that reminds Massacre (Fred Frith).
Founded in 1979, this band managed to record only two albums - Emile Au Jardin Patrologique (1981) and Battre Campagne (1984). Both albums were released by RecRec which is a Swiss label that was created in order to release their albums. RecRec has re-issued those two albums together as one release (2-CD case) with bonus tracks (1994).
The first album is rather cheerful sounding (with occasional darker parts), jazzier and has a large lineup consisting of 9 members (playing on violin, sax and clarinet among others). This album can appeal to Samla Mammas Manna and Miriodor fans. The second album had a smaller lineup and the sound changed a bit as well to a more fierce sound (and more similar to the Massacre sound than the Samla Mammas Manna sound, although the eccentric touch of the Swedish band is still there). Overall this is a weird sounding band, which created a mix of quirky rock, punk, fusion, free jazz and plain eccentricity. The lyrics (when there are any) are being spoken (sometimes at high tone) in a non-melodic style (not sung and to me reminds of Massacre and The Clash) in French and filled with satire and humour (as their name might suggests). During their tours the band was under financial and personal stresses which lead to its disbanding.

Recorded in the Fall of 81, Debile Menthol's debut album is very much in advance of its time and was obviously very influential for many group that are developing the Avant Prog genre (whatever that may be) today. From the Quebecois Miriodor, Rouge Ciel and Interference Sardine, to Finland's Alamaailman Vasarat or Uzva, to Belgium's Julverne, X- Legged Sally Hardscore or Cro Magnon etc.: all of these groups owe IMHO a big debt to Debile Menthol's works. Debile Menthol is a 9-man formation (most are multi- instrumentalists), from which will emerge Rossel and Huguenin. For a long recording career.
While Debile Menthol's music is a rather crazy pot-pourri of musical influences and borrowings, they often remain fairly accessible, fun, often going into the bombastic and grotesque folkloric fair music (like the Oktoberfest beer-bingeing music or circus music for example) and I bet you that if she was still alive today, my grandmother could find some of these pieces amusing and might just be tapping her foot along. The album is fairly acoustic (just some synths and electric guitars) and mainly instrumental, with only a few weird French rather-funny vocals in off-voices, but they can get demented as well. In the album highlight A Nos Mamans (To Our Mothers), they sound for a small minute like the Sranglers, if you can believe it. Other tracks can sound like some crazy Devo or Talking Heads (Regarde Par La Fenêtre and Crash Que Peut), but the whole thing being much more complex and as much fun.

Most likely one of the most influential album in the "Avant Prog" genre, given its early release date, and a fun one too. Only for progressive nutheads with a few loosened bolts above the neck level.


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