Métal Urbain In Session – 1978 – Past Daily Soundbooth: Rock Without Borders
Métal Urbain, in case you missed it, were one of the very first Punk groups to come out of France; many say THE first, but as was the case with Punk, lots of people said they were the first – perhaps it was just the organic nature of the thing.
In any event, Métal Urbain formed in Paris in 1976. They were heavily influenced by The Clash and The Sex Pistols on one hand, and on the other by an electro approach related to Metal Machine Music by Lou Reed. They relied on heavily distorted guitars and replaced the traditional rock rhythm section of bass guitar/drums with a synthesizer and drum machine, a then-unique approach that foreshadowed the experimental possibilities that were explored by later post-hardcore bands such as Big Black. They were also known for their radical image (the color scheme of albums always being a stark black, white and red), and subversive lyrics sung in French.
They were met with some enthusiasm in the United Kingdom,particularly by John Peel and the Rough Trade label. (Métal Urbain’s single “Paris Maquis” was Rough Trade’s first release.). In 1977, their first single “Panik” was named “Single of the week” by the New Musical Express. They had an enthusiastic but small audience in France, receiving little exposure. The punk rock scene was not as popular in France as it was in the UK,and they didn’t hold much interest for the French media as British bands like the Sex Pistols did. As a result, singer Clode Panik left in December 1978, though the band continued to gig and record with Eric Debris on vocals, and also recording with spin-off bands Metal Boys, and Doctor Mix and the Remix, until 1980, when guitar players brothers Schwartz and Lüger left to form the short-lived band Desperados.
Métal Urbain had focused their efforts on singles, and only produced one album, Les hommes morts sont dangereux, during their first period of activity. However, several compilation records were released, gathering their singles with additional material such as BBC sessions and live recordings.
Their electro approach was very innovative for its time, and the group are a reference point for such groups as The Jesus and Mary Chain, Bérurier Noir, and the producer Steve Albini.
The band reunited in 2003 to tour in the USA, and had since toured consistently in France and the rest of Europe. Métal Urbain recorded their first studio album, J’irai chier dans ton vomi, in 2006, produced by Jello Biafra in San Francisco; a follow up mini-album, Crève Salope, was issued in 2008.
This was their second session for John Peel – their first was in January of 1978.