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Zut Un Feu Rouge - Kafka vs. Chaplin CD (album) cover


Zut Un Feu Rouge


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siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars While it's often assumed that the Cardiacs were the only progenitors of the hybridization of punk and prog which is affectionally called pronk, there were in fact quite a few underground acts that took the angsty nihilistic approach of punk but were unsatisfied with the simplicity of the musical composiitons. While Tim Smith and his off-the-wall wackiness may have gone down in history as the most successful and well known of these off-kilter bands, there were others that emerged in the same late 70s / early 80s timeline that are still rather obscure.

The Swedish ZUT UN FEU ROUGE (French for "Damn A Red Fire") emerged from Linköping in 1977 at the peak of the punk era but immediately drifted into the realms of the artier side of post-punk with clear references to the avant-prog world. This experimental act that consisted of Lars Jonsson (guitars, violin, viola, organ, percussion, vocals), Mats Andersson (guitar, bass, organ, accordion, vocals), Klaus Fischer (alto sax), Gunnar Johansson (tenor sax, bass, guitar, accordion) and Lars Druid (drums, organ, harmonica) stuck around long enough for two releases which includes this 12" vinyl debut KAFKA VS CHAPLIN in 1983 and "Who's Afreud" which came out two years later. The band remained dormant for decades but reemerged in 2010 for live performances which led to a new album "Childwood" which came out as recently as 2019.

While considered an EP by some and a short album by others, KAFKA VS CHAPLIN only clocks in past the 20 minute mark with six short tracks all sung in Swedish. ZUT UN FEU ROUGE delivered a fairly unique sound especially for anything even remotely post-punk sounding. This cast of characters clearly had its pulse on the zeitgeist of the post-punk movement but musically speaking was much more experimental as the band blended in pop hooks, jazz, folk and art rock often adorned with crazy avant-prog technicalities. The dominant synth runs give a clear impression of synth punk influences like Suicide while the folk guitar soloing suggests a completely different roster of influences. It's safe to say that ZUT UN FEU ROUGE crafted a sound unlike any other and probably most resembles some of the former Soviet bands like Ne Zhdali who also incorporated local folk flavors with punk, funk, art rock and new wave.

This is one for those who crave a true underground musical style. One that is bereft of commercial leanings and long for long lost treasures in an unfamiliar tongue that transports you to another time and place and mindset. While the majority of the tracks revolve around a folk-tinged groove that mixes funk with punk angst and ethereal atmospheres, the real surprise is the accordion, sax and guitar angularities of the short "På Väg Mot Minotaurus" which was clearly more inspired by Gentle Giant's track "Knots" than anything out fo the punk rock world but the following "Ett Icke Ringa Intrång" swings back to a jazzy form of punk rock with off-kilter time signatures creeping their way into the rhythmic groove. It's accompanied by an atonal harmonica counterpoint and is actually quite weird.

Noticeably missing from KAFKA VS CHAPLIN is the dominance of distorted guitar sounds and while the guitar is clearly used, the emphasis is on the amalgamating effects of combining all the disparate unorthodox instrumentation into the music. Punk leaning music with accordions, violin, viola, harmonica, organs and alto and tenor sax were quite unheard of at this early stage so in many ways ZUT UN FEU ROUGE was ahead of its time. While i wouldn't call this music anything close to the magnificent coalescing of elements that the Cardiacs achieved, it certainly is an entertaining experience beyond the novelty effect. This is for those who love those DIY raw uncensored types of underground albums. While it's unlikely you'll find an original copy of this, ZUT UN FEU ROUGE released their two 80s albums as the compilation "Explain This Country" which can easily be found on Bandcamp. This is cool stuff. Really!

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Posted Wednesday, September 16, 2020 | Review Permalink

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