Listen Up: Thursday, February 25, 2004

Faux Fox

Black Glove Or White Glove

(Quartz, Inc.)

I once had a roommate who worshipped Ultravox. He’d walk around in a t-shirt emblazoned with “I Want To Be a Machine” (a slogan from an Ultravox song) and babbling about a future in which people had no feelings — as if that would be a good thing.

The ’80s almost proved him right, as chilly electronic blorps and bleeps briefly became the sound of pop, and fringe dwellers like Gary Numan actually had hits. (Personally, I blame David Bowie’s Berlin phase, when he traded spotty rock boys and their guitars for Brian Eno and his emotionally neutral synths.)

The four musicians in Denton-based Faux Fox are heirs to that legacy. Listening to their debut c.d., Black Glove Or White Glove, you’d think Reagan was back in the White House and that grunge had never been invented.

Ironic detachment is the order o’ the day, especially in songs like “Smart Set” (with the humorously humorless lyric, “Do you remember? You were dismembered”) and “Kate Is a Fascist,” which comes complete with references to swastikas and Nietszche. “Sieg heil, Zeitgeist,” indeed. Best moment on the disc: “Crystal Castles” — something that could have been a hit for the Human League or Real Life.

The proceedings call to mind the Teutonic-sounding hosts of SNL’s Sprockets. (You can almost hear Mike Myers’ character saying, “Now, vee daunce.”) It’s hard to tell whether Faux Fox is having a laugh at the expense of the ’80s or if they’re playing this music because they really love it. Let’s hope for the latter. Here in the future, we can use all the real emotion we can get. — Ken Shimamoto

Holy Curse

Bluer Than Red

(Nova Express Records)

Forget all that jingoistic claptrap about “freedom fries” and “freedom toast.” Since the ’70s, the nation responsible for Rousseau, Voltaire, Jean Reno, and the Maginot Line has also been the birthplace of great-but-obscure rawk noises like the punky snarl of the Dogs, the Stones-meet-Stooges blast of Francois Lebas’ Backsliders, and the high-energy mania of the Paris-based quintet Holy Curse.

Although their name might lead you to mistake ’em for a death-metal crew, the guys in Holy Curse — who’ll celebrate a decade as a band this year — perversely take their cues from Detroit-referential Australians like Radio Birdman and the New Christs. They’ve even opened shows for their idols when those bands toured the continent, but for the most part, they scuffle as hard as any lower-division American indie band. Seems their brand of music is even less popular in France than it is Stateside.

On their third full-length, Bluer Than Red, they display considerably more abandon than on their previous release, 1998’s intense-but-restrained Hereafter. Their furious attack here gives the lie to the outmoded notion that rock ’n’ roll is the exclusive province of Anglophones.

The two-guitar frontline churns and burns ferociously, while the rhythm section demonstrates conclusively that Gauloise smokers can roll as well as rock. Lead singer Eric’s vocals drip vitriol and bile, and his lyrics are generally potent, although you might have to suppress a chuckle when he spits, “Keeck your ahsss / Weez rock ’n’ roll” on “(Give Yourself Up To) Rock’n’Roll.” They bring it all back home, though, at the end of “Superfortress” — Eric’s rant against American militarism — when the song morphs into the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog.”

Rock internationalists can cop this direct from Nova Express by e-mailing Have your euro conversion tables ready. — Ken Shimamoto

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