The above slice of galloping, frenzied rock and roll is titled “Chien Battu”. It was brought to you by Chiendent, the best French-Canadian band you’ve probably never heard of.
That is, unless you’ve been among the lucky to witness the mighty wallop of their live shows. Otherwise, you might also be among the long-distance converts, like myself, who are so geographically removed from their periphery that we have to resort to the artifice of the internet to learn about them. It usually only takes as much as a brief youtube video of some live performance in some far-flung Canadian bar to become intrigued, if not captivated by these scruffy strangers and their particular brand of melodic, energetic, angular and wildly dynamic alternative rock. And when you find yourself caught by their pumped-up folk-based power-shanties, you start wondering. You wonder what this band is all about, you wonder where the hell they come from, and mostly you wonder where they’ve been all your life. Depending on whether your french is good enough to understand rapid-fire Quebec-accented delivery, you might also wonder what the hell they’re singing.
Chiendent are a weirdly anachronistic band in the independent landscape. Too loud and frowzy to comfortably fit into the “indie rock” trope of the last decade, their melodic sensibilities and rhythmic attack would more comfortably fit in the early-to-mid-90s scene. Not to say that they surrender to an outdated sound; rather, the melodic ingenuity and sheer unabashed power of their songs has a self-effacing earnestness to it that recalls the stouthearted passion of the 90s indie rock movement. Today, among the feigned disinterest and eternal bemusement, among sugar-coated singalongs and self-ironically kitsch arrangements, Chiendent feels like a breath of fresh air. Their humor is outward, their guitars are loud.
Chiendent formed in 1998 in La Pocatière, Quebec, a town of just about 4600 people, as the union of Alexandre Jobin (vocals, guitar) Nathaël Hubert (vocals, guitar), Dominic Grégoire (bass) and Jonathan Audet (drums) . The vocal tag-team of Jobin and Hubert also shared songwriting duties, and honed their skills in live performance leading up to the release of their debut album in the year 2002. Though their efforts earned them a dedicated following in the Quebecois music scene, the music is decidedly not radio-friendly; serpentine melodies, arrangements that go off a bit, veering off the scale of commercial viability. After a few years, Hubert left the band, leaving them without one of their two frontmen.
Where most bands would shrug their shoulders and call it a day, Chiendent soldiered on as a power trio, rearranging their internal band dynamics as well as finding their new footing in a process that rendered them more ferociously DIY than before. As a symbol and venue of their newfound sense of identity, the band released their second album “Jondre les deux bouts”; a self-produced slab of melodic inventiveness and frenetic energy.
Listen to the stupefyingly awesome “Minivan” from “Joindre les deux bouts” by clicking the link above.
A relentlessly badass piece of work from start to finish, “Joindre les deux bouts” delivers on the promise of their debut the way “White Light/White Heat” delivered on the promise of “The Velvet Underground & Nico”; that is, with the implacable devastation of a forest fire. Opening with a claustrophobic instrumental that resembles, if you can fathom this combination, a surf-rock re-interpretation of the more unhinged moments in The Cure’s “Pornography”, the entire album is a melodic and energetic tour-de-force, with arrangements that are often startling in their off-the-wall dynamism. “Minivan”, posted above, is a song about Hubert’s departure that happens to boggle the mind as it moves through its sinuous sections like a punked-out Brian Wilson fever dream.
Much of the credit lies in the songwriting, sure, but the performances cannot be denied: Grégoire’s playing almost carries the album with its rich, blotchy globs of distorted bass that often falls into country-backbeat. Audet’s drumming is propulsive, like a steam train, and pushes the songs forward with thrusting oomphs. Jobin’s voice and guitar playing blend together as one instrument, conveying unhinged aggression with the same tenacity as it can fall into broken-down balladeer crooning mode. The pieces really do come together perfectly.
Click the above link to hear an unreleased exclusive, “Teleporteur” from an upcoming album. That’s right… an Every-ist and Every-ism exclusive. Get psyched.
With the addition of second guitarist Philippe Dussault to the line-up, Chiendent goes back to being a four-piece and are currently working– in the looser definition of the word– on a follow-up to “Joindre les deux bouts”. I’ve been lucky enough to listen to some of the songs, and I can sincerely say I’m excited about what’s to come, as they run the gamut of country-rock jaunts to jarringly aggressive proto-punk, to post-rock instrumentals to gorgeous acoustic ballads. The song posted above, “Teleporteur”, is one of these unreleased songs, and I was given the authorization by Alexandre Jobin to post it as I think it’s an absolutely gorgeous song. Another track, titled “Les grandes personnes” is another aching and delicate ballad that explodes into cacophony. Another song (live performance from before Dussault’s arrival) is a delightful and ingenious showstopper of a song, sounding like a demented vaudeville number. It’s all golden, and brimming with promise.
Here is their Bandcamp page, where you can stream and purchase their music. I urge you to support them by buying their album.
Chiendent is one of those bands that you wonder about. You need to wonder more, and pay closer attention. I just brought them into your life. You’re welcome.