While some are still milking the garage rock for all its cool like it will never dry out, the sleaziest alley cats are gone drinking somewhere else. Sitting on a cinderblock in the darkness of a cave in the suburbs, drinking out of a warm beer, they’d rather witness the convulsions of a degenerating French song. Crafted with some second-hand gear and crumbs of poetry, this lament from the slums has Noir Boy George as its flag bearer, and Jessica93 as companion of misfortune. You will hear it filling the air of tiny and barely sound-proofed venues, to the greatest and perverse delight of all those that the prevailing festivism has made wary, and not quite convinced that we live in the best of times.
When you’ve learnt music by fiddling with cheap kids’ instruments from the shopping mall, you end up with a tinkered tune that doesn’t rely on virtuosity, but hijacks anything it gets its hands on, and offers you the result in the shape of a wrecked toy imbued of magic. Nicolas Belvalette, known as Usé, doesn’t really play the guitar, and that is barely a guitar anyway. He hits on it, strikes the same chord ad nauseam, sticks a zinc cymbal on the neck, plays six instruments all at once. With Headwar, that includes three members equally versed in the mysteries of rhythm and multitasking, he atomizes the labels of “noise”, “rock” and “techno” that help us taming noise. He brings us back to the core foundations of sound, those primitive pulsations pre-existing language or melody, when the beating of our heart was all there was to our sound universe, at the bottom of our amniotic condition.
For a while Nico managed a concert venue in Amiens, l’Accueil Froid : when the place closed down, he ran in some local election under the label of a fanciful party, le Parti Sans Cible, and got 2,17% of the votes. Right after that, the readers of local newspaper Courrier Picard elected him their personality of the year. L’Accueil Froid reopened, somewhere else. Just another line in a life that already resembles a novel. With a delicate health, subject to the most surreal accidents (during a festival, he got ran over by a car while he was sleeping in his tent), Nico never seemed to have a career plan, and spends half of his life on the road. He juggles with numerous projects (Headwear, Les Morts Vont Bien, Roberto Succo, Yvette Corner But, Sultan Solitude, and many others), he ekes out in this musical interzone that is the great tribe of the DIY, where the release of a cassette or a bandcamp EP are family events.
“Usé”, his solo project since 2011, releases today an album on Born Bad, Chien de la casse. On the cover, a dusty van stands in the half-light of an abandoned barn, with a pack of dogs hastily gathered : nothing here is made-up. Yet, the colors are warm, the mood is relaxed. No pity party here. We almost envy the guy at the centre of the picture, who is lucky enough to spend his days indulging in the child-like pleasure of hitting anything the hardest you can, in a pristine environment solely surrounded by animals. Usé’s music is like that free party that we’ve looked for in this pitch-dark night, in the heart of the forest, led by the thumping noise coming from the ground : wild and aggressive, yet welcoming and touching in its bareness. You surrender to the mighty power of the trance, embrace the regressive pleasure of the drums wreaking havoc, the flimsy jingles, the texts rhythmic as a Dada poem. The heck with tomorrow, when the day will rise, because right now everything shivers with a frenzy that feels like life itself, and you won’t find this anywhere else.
There are seven tracks on Chien de la casse, duly introduced by the spiteful grunts of a pissed-off mongrel, most likely a Cerberus guarding the trailer of a meth dealer in Indiana. Over the course of six tracks, Usé sounds as though he is writing an ode to break-ins in garbage dumps with the sole purpose of banging on rusty cans until they burst. Only “Sous mes draps” echoes like a sad nursery rhyme, but leaves the realm of social realism to wander on the foggy heights of a fairground horror flick. “C’est si lisse” concludes the album with a fire alarm and some human barking, in an atmosphere of a black mass saturated with backward tapes : the dream ends up in chaos, it’s almost day. Actual violence begins. I’ll see you next week at the squat.