As a part of the Montreal musical milieu that sprung the likes of Wolf Parade, Arcade Fire, the Dears, the Stills, and the Unicorns (to name a few of many) onto the indie-rock consciousness, Duchess Says were pretty much preordained, at the very least, to play SXSW or CMJ and release a couple of twelve-inches. But where the typical sound coming from most of their Montreal littermates seems content to restructure and reinvent the wheel (in this case, the wheel being Springsteen-style rock in the case of Arcade Fire, or, in the case of Wolf Parade, a mix of that same rock with the poppier leanings of David Bowie), Duchess Says are sure to evoke wistful memories of X-Ray Spex or the Plasmatics. The Lydia Lunch-meets-Warsaw (Joy Division’s name when they were young, brash, and sorta bad) menace of the band’s Alien8 debut, Anthologie des 3 Perchoirs, makes for a relentless and confrontational 45-minute aural beatdown.
Anthologie starts like any good post-punk album should: with, on “Tenen No Neu," drumming that sounds simultaneously like it was pre-programmed and sloppily thrown down on a crappy drum kit. The album introduces the band as sonically abrasive, with lead singer Annie-C screeching and screaming along with the song’s heavy Moog sketches. First single “Ccutup” comes next: Its introduction rides the line between prog-rock and Thriller before it becomes a slash-and-burn ripper with a melodic bass line (that’s the Joy Division influence) that sounds like it was piped through a tiny Fender amp that’s about to erupt in flames.
Annie-C deserves the props she’ll get for this album — she utterly commits to being the crazy lady singer here (listen to the groans and moans she throws out on the serrated schlock-house instrumental, “Lip Gloss Babyla,” and the vocal chord damage she does to herself on “La Friche”). But the band are a force to be reckoned with. “Rabies (Baby’s Got The)” is what the Horrors would sound like if they weren’t so worried about being gussied up all the time, “A Centruy Old,” a soundtrack to a Vincent Price movie, and “I’ve Got the Flu” is what the Kills could be if they survived on more than sexual tension.
But all the other songs are warm-ups for the strung-out Blondie swagger of “Black Flag,” the album’s lone chorus and the song with the most potential to see airtime on TV shows. (It’d probably work in anything currently on the Fox’s fall schedule.) The album closes somewhat regrettably with a long, roller-coaster-from-hell instrumental, “Gilbert.” But in some ways, it’s the prefect way to wrap the album. Duchess Says spend 12 tracks trying to blow your head off with (semi-)coherent structures and vocals and on the last track, they just want to prove they don’t even need to resort to that — they can melt brains without such contrivances as choruses, vocals, song structure.