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Music Review: The Elderberries – Ignorance & Bliss

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I run the risk of sparking some lively debate by saying this, but France — while being a beautiful country — isn’t known as Europe's center of rock 'n' roll. Sure, there are some French bands that like to rock out but in comparison to the music coming out of, say, Sweden, Germany, or the UK, France still seems to lag quite a bit behind.

So when a CD lands on my French doormat from anywhere in my adopted homeland, I excitedly rush to play it in the hope that it can help disprove that assessment and put all such sweeping observations to bed once and for all.

This happened recently when The Elderberries album arrived. Its very title, Ignorance & Bliss, seemed, in part, to be aimed at me — or to anyone daft enough to casually sweep aside French bands.

Ignorance & Bliss is the band's second album, the follow-up to their just-as-appropriately titled debut, Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained. Looking a little deeper I discover that the band is actually a mix of Canadian, English, and French musicians. However, they call France home and they've crisscrossed it many times on tour.

Their reputation is such that they secured a deal with the producers of Hellphone, a rock 'n' roll film, to compose the soundtrack. There is a powerfully raw quality to the band's style. It is easy to imagine them being brought up in houses that had classic seventies rock piped throughout every room.

Ignorance & Bliss was mixed by Steve Orchard, whose pedigree has seen him work with the likes of U2, Coldplay, and Travis — not quite hard rock. Yet he makes The Elderberries sound like an aural assault, capturing the band's live energy perfectly in the process.

The album soon took up residence on my iPod, making my usual hour-long walk in the mornings last only take fifty minutes on account of the music being high-energy, high-volume, high-fi rock.

For example, listen to the first two tracks on the album, “Au Bikini” and “Lost My Way”. The first opens with a mean riff that has you holding onto your headphones in anticipation of it eventually opening out, which is surely does. It is contagious, relentlessly hard driven, almost anthemic. “Lost My Way” then kicks open your door like an unexpected guest.

As if that isn’t enough of a statement of intent they follow this rather impressive pair with the romping single, “It Doesn’t Really Matter.” Huge guitar riffs soon arrive with pop-flavored hooks. “Visions” further sustains the momentum. Lead singer Chris Boulton’s vocals command attention above a wall of sound created by the guitars of Ryan Sutton, and Tom Pope, the bass of Jamie Pope, and Yann Clavaizole’s drumming.

“False Acquaintance” tests your reserves of energy with an expertly paced track. “The Choice” fools you with its gentle opening before the band arrives with a luscious wall of guitars. “Gone Too Far” then repeats the trick, opening seductively before lifting the earphones from your head. It’s yet another powerful hook delivered with enough energy to run a railway.

“Ungracious” is built solidly upon a pop foundation. The driving “Imposter” and the cleverly constructed “We Should Be Running” underscore all that has gone before. And “Far Away,” one of the album's most memorable tracks, shines light on the band's growing abilities and confidence.

The Elderberries have learned crowd-pleasing rock while on tour and they've nicely bottled that energy onto disc amid some excellent production.

I have learned too, of course. Now that my rather blinkered opinion has been well and truly ripped to bits, I can rest in the knowledge that France does, after all, have a thriving rock scene and that The Elderberries are carrying that particular flame onward and upward.

Have a look and a listen at The Elderberries MySpace page.

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About Jeff Perkins