Couchgrass - Motel Love

12 songs
48:36 minutes
***** ****


A year ago a young band from Luxembourg started conquering the Universe, just as they predicted in the humorous info sheet they handed over to the local press just before the Emergenza competition. Apart from some of their school mates, nobody ever heard of them, but now, a year later, only few of their "rivals" are still around, and Couchgrass not only released their debut CD Motel Love, but also changed their style considerably.

The first impression people got back then was one of a comedy band, wearing ballet clothes and fooling around with the Mighty Pussy Lickers didn't help either. Maybe it was the fact that their original drummer left and was replaced by a more talented one which allowed the band to explore new horizons, or maybe they just matured considerably last year.

Whatever the cause, Motel Love is exactly what I expected, and much more. The opener Boyscout has a driving beat, with a rather aggressive Amandine on vocals and venomous hatred against boy scouts. It is already here where you notice that the dark mood of the music doesn't seem to fit the funny stage antics of the highly energetic front-woman. Love Issues combines funky bass rhythms with more harmonic guitars, and leaves again much room for Amandine's very charismatic vocals. My personal favourite is L-Pill For The Lonely, a xylophone-backed song which starts out like a children's song, veers off into more angular terrain before the guitar distorts itself into something very emotional, not unlike the better days of EA80. So many ideas make it quite logical that this is the album's longest track. Gim-Crack Gigolo starts with a disco rhythm, in the background someone is screaming her lungs out, creating a panic-ridden atmosphere, before you'll get some of the weirdest lyrics on the album. I don't feel like explaining them in detail, but they have a certain psychotic element to them. The Client Is King, a song about adopting foreign children (?!?), is my least favourite track, more straight rocking, but not really going anywhere. The title song Motel Love has again this driving rhythm you find so often with Couchgrass.

OK, new paragraph, and if were still in the Eighties, this would be where the b-side started, with Christine, another sick song (just read the lyrics for yourself). This is one of two pieces backed by cello and violin. This is a truly great song, although I always have to smile that at the end of the track, before entering the crescendo, the band sounds like Apocalyptica covering Metallica's Harvester Of Sorrow. If I had already a favourite song on the a-side, Put The Gun Down is coming right in second place. Also backed by Annemie and Carine on strings, it is far more subdued than the preceding song, giving Amandine room for quieter, more fragile vocals. A moving piece of art. Jesus Superchrist is a song from their very beginnings, and probably they will be remembered by this song the same way people remember Nirvana with Teen Spirit. Not necessarily one of their better songs, but a monument that nonetheless deserved to be carved in stone, or rather, burned into plastic. Ode To Kim is another rocking song, paling a bit before the greatness of many of the preceding songs, but still something most bands would be proud to have written. Underneath The Grass is a curiosity. The first time I skipped the track because I thought it was a blank, but then I heard quietness, and turned the volume up. This is a ballad brought to the very extremes of melancholy. It is quiet and disquieting at the same time, something unexpected, sandwiched between two louder songs, and showing again the manic-depressive face of Couchgrass. The regular part of the album ends with La Pistolera, a funny little song sung in Spanish, and after a blank, you get a hidden bonus track of home-made jungle music.

Motel Love is 45 minutes of the most daring rock music a Luxembourgish band has ever written. Period. Some people may have the tendency to dismiss Couchgrass: they are awfully young, I admit that much, and yes, the album doesn't sound yet like an international production, but: they have one of the tightest rhythm factions (Dirk on drums and Claude on bass) you will find in this country, and while Claire may not be greatest technician ever alive, she has a very distinctive style and amazes with confidence and a fine sense for the subtleties of lo-fi aesthetics. Amandine is without a doubt the most refreshing thing the local music scene has ever had: great voice, perfect entertainment qualities and an overwhelming stage presence. Where most local bands adhere to a certain movement (punk, nu metal, alternative, and even math rock lately), Couchgrass are standing there all on their own, sounding more like the children of Pavement, Guided By Voices and other lo-fi heroes, adding rrriot charm in best Kill Rock Stars quality, and silently revolutionising the music business from below.

So why "only" 9 points? Well, it's 9 points yet, because I have witnessed how this band improved in just one year, and who knows what we can expect from them same time next year? Until then, buy this album!

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