When one spends any amount of time vacationing in the Midi-Pyrenees region of France, one does not come away with the sense that they are in the middle of a punk/metal hotbed. As such, it came as a bit of a surprise to learn that Flippin’ Heck hail from the mean streets of Toulouse, France, which is affectionately known as the Pink City. They play the same brand of gritty, fast-paced punk rock that was popularized in the budding post-1977, pre-1983 era of gritty, DIY punk music. Fuzzed out guitars, understated bassline, rudimentary percussion; the same sound that has been inspiring sweaty, basement mosh pits for decades.
“As Punk As Possible” marks the band’s debut album. While there is nothing too ground-breaking going on in their sound, “As Punk As Possible” does consist of thirteen mostly-solid old-school punk rock songs, in the same vein as Cheifs, the Germs or the Dead Boys. Highlights include “1977,” an ode to, you guessed it, the music and ethos of an earlier punk rock time with it’s chorus of “D.I.Y. is my way to live, in no future I believe.” More on that interesting word-grouping later. “Preachers of the Apocalypse” is probably the best song on the album, and “Shattered” is another solid, early punk sounding tune. “Cowboy” sounds similar to “1977,” but with a few “yee-haws” thrown in for good measure; the song is called “Cowboy” after all. It actually could pass for a song from the punkier end of the Rancid spectrum, a la “Maxwell Murder.”
The vocals are also pretty cool. Lead singer Mika has a peculiar voice that is certainly an acquired taste but that I actually find rather endearing. He has a gravelly, gutteral voice that is not unlike Iron Lung from Scissorfight meets early James Hetfield, but sings in heavily-accented which lends his voice a unique brand of virtual unintelligibility. This sets up a fairly high degree of unintentional comedy that is as prevalent in the album as snare drum hits are. Allow me to explain…
I apologize in advance if the next couple of paragraph comes across as the rantings of a radical Anglophile, but I really don’t quite understand the rationale behind non-native English speaking bands deciding to release their material in their second language. “As Punk As Possible” would, in my humble opinion, be a much better album if the lyrics were completely in French. I have a soft spot for late 70s-early 80s punk music, and Flippin’ Heck do a very respectable job with the sound. But the lyrics are a different story. Take “J.E.F.F.” for example. The chorus of the song finds the band revealing that the song title’s backronym stands for “Joy, Erotic and double Fuck.” “In Between” has a sloppy metal-style intro and breakdown, but the body of the song is solid. Though it has lyrics that (I think), claim that the band “passed the nineteenth test,” and a chorus that instructs the listener to “Stand up for your queers/ delivered through your tears / In bet-ween.”
Then there’s “Time’s On Your Side,” which I’m fairly certain starts out intending to be an anti-gay anthem. The opening line of the song, to the best that I can decipher, goes: “Don’t be gay / life’s not as it should be, remember your flashy outfits…” while the chorus instructs the listener that “Time’s on your side and not behind / revise your flame before All Saints’ Day.” I can’t condone the anti-gay sentiments, though truth be told, your guess is as good as mine when it comes to deciphering what they were actually going for.
It seems to me that some non-English-speaking bands make the decision to sing in their second language as a way to attract a broader audience. In doing so, especially when their grasp of the second language in question is rudimentary at best, this can have exactly the opposite effect. Flippin’ Heck strike me as one of those bands who would have been better served to stick to their native language. In all reality, “As Punk As Possible” is worthy of probably 2.5 stars, but with the solid, lo-fi early ‘80s sound and the unintentional comedy factor, I’ll round up.
***REVIEW UPDATE*** The band were kind enough to send along a lyric sheet for the album after I reviewed it. It seems the line that I heard as “Don’t be gay” is, in fact, “Don’t be giddy.” As such, they are not, in fact, an anti-gay band, and they were not making anti-gay sentiments. My apologies to the band.
-Other misheard lyrics that I quoted above…
“Revise your flame before All Saints’ Day” is actually “Revive the flame before all seems tame”
“Stand up for your queers / delivered through your tears” is actually “Stand up for your creeds / deliver through your deeds”
“J.E.F.F.” is still “Joy, Erotic and Double Fuck.”
Apologies again to Flippin’ Heck.