Cherished by record collectors today but loved by only dozens in its prime, Metal Urbain is one of the few memorable French bands of the late 70s. While most of their fellow avant-gardists were imitating British punk, these guys were off on their own trip, incorporating homemade synths and drum machines--newfangled contraptions at the time--into their rickety punk rock. Though historically significant as the Real Shit (one of their singles was the inaugural release on Rough Trade) they're a little dull in retrospect, thanks largely to the recent resurgence of postpunk. Anarchy in Paris! (Acute), a new CD of all 20 songs Metal Urbain ever put out plus four tracks unheard till now, sounds a lot like the New York hipster stuff I was drooling over a year and a half ago: audible sneers, dirty and slightly predictable guitars, bargain-basement beats, miniature blastoffs and other synthesized temper tantrums, and a slightly wobbly feel that suggests the song might fall apart any second. The main differences are that all of Metal Urbain's lyrics are in French and the kid shouting them sounds legitimately pissed off, not just overprivileged and bored. It's sad that Metal Urbain never had a heyday, and retroactive respect can't change that fact, but this reunion tour (featuring their first-ever appearances in the U.S.) is definitely worth attention. With Books on Tape and Black Hole. Thursday, November 13, 9 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton; 773-975-0505.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Ann Treasure.