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Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Fall of Saigon (Gazul)

By the time the first minute of Fall of Saigon has passed, the punchy opener 'Visions', I feel like I am listening to a slightly more aggressive version of Young Marble Giants. The simple synth pulses, gentle rhythms, and Florence Berthon's earthy, intimate voice are certainly from the same playbook, and this comes a few years later (1981-1984) so the influence is probably undeniable. But this was reissued probably due to the presence of Pascal Comelade, who later built a career performing in more experimental and improvised arenas, and these nascent tendencies are heard throughout. And when guitarist Terry Den takes over vocals, as on 'On the Beach at Fontana' (chanting a James Joyce poem) or 'She Leaves me All Alone', we get a more industrial, trance-like feel. His dour voice recalls the Cure or just about anyone else making dark punk-edged pop in 1982. (Could the band name refer to the This Heat song, or is it a reference to French political history?) This music is familiar through its obscurity, being another one of those rediscovered gems that keep surfacing at fairly regular intervals. That balance of serious and heavy lies throughout - there's fun live recordings of covers (Kraftwerk's 'The Model', TV Personalities 'Part Time Punks', and The Doors's 'The End') sequenced together in the middle, but it doesn't feel like filler, instead like a fleshing out of the personality of this band, represented 30 years later by this single CD. I don't know how Fall of Saigon fits into the trajectory of French art-rock; I so want to shoehorn them into some lineage between Mahogany Brain and Cheveu, but that's just forcing myself to rationalise great music into a historical narrative. The of-its-time sound and the covers inevitably situate this as a product of its time, but it's a time that we've been celebrating for three decades and I see no reason to suddenly stop.

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