Let’s face it: In The Red Records is the best label going. A look at their last few releases confirms it—Jay Reatard’s self-titled debut; Miss Alex White’s first full-length; King Kahn and BBQ’s What’s for Dinner; and The Demon’s Claw latest LP—whose title escapes me, but certainly has the words “Pilgrim” and “Hell” in it. Anyway, now that that’s out of the way, I’ll move on to Volt’s self-titled record which is on In The Red Records and was recorded in France because Volt is a French band and not the kind of French band from Canada but the kind from France. I don’t know much about France and French people but I do know a lot about French writers from the first half of the twentieth century and a decent amount about French cinema. My favorite French rock’n’roll song is Madeline’s rocker from Jean-Luc Goddard’s film Masculin Feminin which has a Byrds “Eight Miles High”-like thumping bass intro. Volt does not sound like all those French bands from the ‘60s who sounded kind of ridiculous (unlike Madeline’s fictional group), singing songs with lyrics not in their native language set to Mersey beat music. Volt sounds like the Human League but fucked up and kind of ominous. This is, um, like really menacing dark wave shit that has synths and stuff. There is the Fall, too, which is kind of nice although no one can duplicate the Fall except Mark E. Smith and he sometimes manages to fuck that one up. So Volt’s self-titled record has a profile. If it were a perpetrator witnessed at the scene of a crime, it’d be like Alain Delon’s character in the night club scene of Melville’s Le Samourai—there is a visual description but no clear-cut distinguishable, unique features; Volt’s self-titled album is missing some DNA, some fingerprints. Volt knows good music; they’re a smart bunch. However, Volt’s missing that personal touch that makes Jay Reatard Jay Reatard and not some dipshit rehashing early Roxy Music and the Wipers. As I said before, In The Red is the best, but this record misses the mark. It’s understandable, though, because Americans produce better rock’n’roll than anyone else except Can and Mark E. Smith and the reason why is because America has a large number of black people who’ve built up a deep enough musical reservoir for white people to dip into; with both demographics living in a country built on the myth that “you can make it here if you try”—summed up in the phrase “The Land of Opportunity.” (Most good music is built on heartache and destitution unless you’re 1910 Fruitgum Company.) However, because music has been dying a slow death since probably the early ‘70s, it seems to me that foreigners are slow getting the grasp of rock’n’roll and taking over the American phenomenon. I mean, how good were the Deadly Snakes? And at least one member of King Khan and BBQ is a Canuck—the French people from Canada and not from France.
–ryan (In The Red)