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Le Nombre - Le Nombre

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Artist: Le Nombre

Album: Le Nombre

Label: Blow the Fuse

Review date: Sep. 30, 2003

It’s taken me a while to realize it, but the fact that Le Nombre are Canadian and sing in French doesn’t change a thing. It’s not a gimmick or a ploy for attention, and it doesn’t make them more or less deserving of attention or critical appraisal, nor does it make their self-titled debut anything more than a thoroughly straightforward, old-timey rock and roll album. Cultural difference only serves as a viable je ne sais quoi for so long; after a point we all really do get down in the same language, especially when the down-getting in question fits in so nicely with the fabled rebirth of rock ‘n roll.

Some say garage rock, others proto-punk revival, Le Nombre call it “rock rétrograde.” Being young and loud and American is no longer necessary, nor is it especially fashionable; the UK, say, or Sweden is the new Brooklyn (or at least they were a year or so ago).

So do lyrics in French make any real difference? No. The devil-may-care attitude communicates itself just fine in Ludwig Wax’s operatic yelp, Jean-Philippe “Dynamite” Roy’s ax-slinging, Nicolas “Nicotine” Bednarz’s cymbal-heavy drum battering, bassist Gourmet “NBG” Délice’s goddamn name. The songs jump around loudly and impetuously, the lyrics unremarkable (whether or not you understand them), the players showboating in a fashion generally considered too enthusiastic to be cool these days. They even slow things down late in the record for the heartbroken acoustic lament (“Je ne peux plus dire que je t’aime”), Wax pushing his voice down into uncomfortable troubadour territory. It may all seem a touch dated, but the revelation that becomes harder and harder to escape is that this music is no different — for better or worse — from any of the names we’ve come to know and love/disdain; the Hives or the White Stripes in any other tongue would still be just as raucous, spirited and abrasive.

That said, Le Nombre doesn’t break any boundaries or rock much harder than anyone else you know. “Laissez venir à moi les grandes brunes” is a great song, and “Marianne” is pretty good too. Beyond that, if the only novelty on this end is French (admittedly not the best rock language) words and the band’s relative cultural anonymity, little is ultimately special or memorable about it. Just as we shouldn’t judge them more harshly because they’re vaguely foreign, we shouldn’t cut them any undue slack either. And all things being equal, Le Nombre blend in a little too well.

By Daniel Levin Becker

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