I don’t usually follow French acts, let alone French rock acts, because there are about two of those, period, and one killed his wife a while back and (logically) went to jail for it. For those left wondering, that would be Noir Désir’s Bertrand Cantat, once the voice of a generation (think 1996’s “Un jour en France” anthem), now a black-listed pariah following tragic events of his very own making. And, for those who follow, the other contender for the title of best French rock outfit is arguably Eiffel, in many ways Noir Désir’s successor, although these guys never quite managed to reach the heights of 90’s Noir Désir (French) rock dominance. Too bad.
Now, back to 2019, or rather 2012. A young (French) rocker going by the moniker of H-Burns came out on rock radio airwaves with a seminal (in my humble opinion) track entitled “Six years”. Produced by none other than Steve Albini (of Nirvana and PJ Harvey fame, to name but a few of his cult classic collaborators), the song is a tight 3’20 piece of nervous rock power with a numbingly simple, yet incredibly efficient melodic riff that gives hope for the future of rock in the millenial era. No less. To this day, it is still my favorite French track of the decade, possibly worldwide (I also love Foxygen, so that’s not easy).
The man, an unassuming Bordeaux native with infectious riffs and a clear sense of what the essence of rock is all about, didn’t stop there. Following 2013’s Albini-produced Off the map, he released another two albums, building on his classic-infused rock repertoire. Although with arguably less noteworthy hits, possibly because said Steve Albini had failed to show up these times. You can’t always get what you want.
But the man still didn’t stop. Earlier this year, he came back with “Crazy ones”, the first single to come off his soon to be released 7th outing, simply called Midlife. The song is a somewhat sweeter, pop-infused reflective (dare I say nostalgic) piece that plays really well, even though it doesn’t feature the same sort of subdued intensity that “Six years” had. But what will, I ask of you?
In any event, if this is H-Burns’ midlife crisis, it’s a pretty sweet one. I hope I get the same one day. Soon, for those who are counting.