[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS
(74:44, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. La Trilogie Des Mouches 29:48 2. Cousine 7:30 3. Le Taureau 9:04 4. L'Homme a la Jambe Qui Boit 23:34 5. Oppression 4:48 LINEUP: Gregory Pozzoli – guitar; vocals Philippe Prebet – guitar; vocals Arnaud M'Doihoma – bass; vocals Thomas Larsen – drums
Prolusion. JACK DUPON is not a real person, but a French quartet formed in 2001 by three school mates, Gregory Pozzoli, Arnaud M’Doihoma and Thomas Larsen. Philippe Prebet, an older, more experienced musician, joined the band in 2004, soon afterwards they had their first live performance at a local festival. “L’Echelle du Desir” (Ladder of Desire), their debut album, was released towards the end of 2008 by Musea subdivision Gazul. Jack Dupon are quite active on the live circuit, and will be touring the USA for the first time in the second half of 2010.
Analysis. ‘Ambitious’ is the word that inevitably comes to mind when describing Jack Dupon’s debut effort. A massive, nearly 75-minute-long album, opening with one track a few seconds short of half an hour, and comprising another that goes on for a whopping 23 minutes, it can easily baffle both newcomers and seasoned listeners of the more experimental fringes of progressive rock. For the first album of a relatively young band, “L’Echelle du Desir” is quite a resounding statement, though, perhaps not surprisingly – not a completely successful one. Producing an album of such length, and with such lofty aspirations, can occasionally result in a landmark masterpiece. Most usually, however, the outcome is a half-baked concoction, neither irremediably bad, nor good enough to be memorable. Now, while it would be quite unfair to judge it so harshly, it is undeniable that the disc shows a band in many ways overreaching itself. In my view, it is no coincidence that, in spite of having been released almost two years ago, the album has somehow flown under the radar in the progressive rock milieu – which is indeed a pity, since the band members are obviously talented and very motivated, and some of the ideas displayed on “L’Echelle Du Desir” are worth exploring. Though loosely classifiable as RIO/Avant, “L’Echelle du Desir” sounds much more similar to guitar-based, heavy progressive rock bands such as fellow French outfit Yang than to the likes of Univers Zero, Guapo or Thinking Plague. In fact, the two biggest influences on Jack Dupon’s sound can be identified in two bands that, while definitely innovative, are not readily associated with RIO/Avant: King Crimson and Primus. In particular, the influence of the former (both in its Bruford/Wetton era and later incarnations) is at times overwhelming – though without the compositional discipline (no pun intended) of Robert Fripp’s crew. Indeed, the main problem with this album, as pointed out in the opening paragraph, lies in its sprawling nature. Piling up a whole range of diverse elements, it ultimately overtaxes the listener’s attention, as well as coming across as somewhat unfocused. This is particularly evident in the two ‘epics’, in which some judicious editing would have worked wonders. As a matter of fact, the three shorter tracks included on the album are excellent examples of how effective Jack Dupon can prove to be with a more limited amount of time at their disposal. Cousine, the most clearly Avant-sounding song on the album, is also the one featuring the most vocal parts – theatrical and over-the-top in the tradition of such influential French outfits as Ange, Magma and Etron Fou Leloublan. The Frippian guitar licks accompany a manic, repetitive chorus with a healthy dose of humour. On the other hand, the bass-driven Le Taureau blends King Crimson’s tightly focused intensity and Primus’ highly technical quirkiness with results that are dissonant and aggressive, though not unpleasantly so, while Oppression, in spite of its relatively short running time (at under 5 minutes, the shortest track on the album), is an orgy of assertive drumming, hysterical vocals and supercharged guitar, summing up the whole album in a concentrated rollercoaster ride. As to the two epics, despite the reservations previously expressed, they contain enough genuinely riveting moments to make them worthwhile. However, it is also true that listening to them (or to the whole album, for that matter) can prove somewhat exhausting, since they pack more twists and turns – as well as disparate influences – than the whole output of an average band. Describing either of them with any reasonable degree of accuracy would therefore be next to impossible. La Trilogie Des Mouches, divided into three movements in the best prog tradition, sees only minimal vocal interventions (in the same theatrical style as evidenced in the other tracks), and is instead mainly based on the interplay between the two guitarists, in an endless series of permutations. The result is something that is more reminiscent of an amped-up version of King Crimson, with touches of Samla Mammas Manna in the vocals, throwing in some jazzy flourishes and darkly atmospheric moments reminiscent of Univers Zero. While it is a very demanding listen, and definitely an overlong one, it also showcases the band’s considerable talent. L’Homme a la Jambe Qui Boit is even harder-edged, overflowing with strident, howling guitar licks almost out of Black Sabbath’s songbook, punk-tinged vocal inserts, throbbing bass and assertive drums – interspersed by Pink Floyd-soundalike atmospheric sections, and wrapped up by a positively exhilarating ending. Unfortunately, its inherently over-the-top nature prevents “L’Echelle Du Desir” from getting a higher rating. Personally speaking, I have found myself unable to sit through the whole album without pausing at least once, as a sense of weariness sets in halfway through it, impairing my enjoyment of the music. On the other hand, Jack Dupon are undoubtedly a talented bunch of guys, brimming with ideas and humour, and provided with a keen sense of the theatrical (as shown by the intriguing artwork, especially the inside of the CD) – something that can whet the appetite of even the most demanding prog fans.
Conclusion. While “L’Echelle Du Desir” might not completely fulfil the expectations of dyed-in-the-wool RIO/Avant devotees, it is nevertheless highly recommended to fans of King Crimson and guitar-driven, dark-hued progressive rock. In spite of the criticism aired in the main body of my review, Jack Dupon show a lot of promise for the future – especially if they can learn to curb their excesses, and pare their compositions down to a more manageable length.
[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS - LIST | BANDLISTS ]