I’m going to remind you of the old adage “be careful what you wish for”. I say this because, well, apparently at some point in time I must have wished for Mike Patton and Anthony Kiedis to donate DNA to a child that spent summer afternoons causing trouble with Les Claypool while being raised by John Popper in Margaritaville.
Yep, I’ll let that sink in.
That child is a French Whore Named Babette. Not literally a loose French woman, but the Moscow based trio who takes great pride in quality dynamic music that will entertain you for days.
Vlado Kostov, Alex “Triple AAA” Shifrin and Mike “Mighty Mike” Malloy took on the title as, perhaps, an attention grabbing ploy. But I’m going to venture to say it is more aptly given due to the raw, dirty style they convey with each note. It is also appropriate, based on this observation, that their album is titled Filth.
Filth is eight tracks of run-you-ragged pop punk in rare form. Jam packed with funk riddled harp breakdowns, I haven’t had this much fun since I discovered Faith No More.
“Superstar” opens up with a rock beat that will have you believing you’ve stepped into just another rock album. Then Mighty Mike comes in with a funky little ditty. At twenty seconds in we get a taste of Triple AAA’s harp work. By now, it is apparent these guys are definite showmen and you’d be hard-pressed to find anything like them. They stay surprisingly consistent throughout. Tracks like “Filth” and “Itch” play to some rough lyrics but clearly lean on the instrumentals in each case. Much like anything Primus crafted, the art was in the art, not so much the words.
With each track coming in at under three minutes, this Russian trio stands proudly on an all-go/no-stop attitude; and succeeds while doing so. Having bits of several famous qualities, no one brings them together quite like this. Don’t be fooled, it is a sound all their own. Unfortunately it is a sound that comes to an end all too soon.
Sure, I could have never imagined something quite like this, thus I couldn’t have actually wished for it. But spending an evening with a French Whore Named Babette you’ll get enough Filth to have you wanting more.
There’s a great scene in the movie “Once” when Guy, Girl and band get the chance to record some tracks; they set up in the studio and start to play their first song. The recording tech has a look on his face like he’s seen it all before: some no-name musicians show up thinking this is their big break and their going to record some mediocre drivel and he will hand them their master, smile politely and know they will will drift into anonymity. Then the band starts playing. His expression changes into one of “whoah, I was not expecting this.”
Before I listened to Filth by “French Whore Named Babette,” I knew three things about the band:(1) they were from Moscow, (2) they were not typical to the Russian club scene, and (3) their name. Provided with that information, I was expecting some kind of dubstep with Type O Negative vocals in a language I would not understand and if I found the lyrics somewhere, they would probably be in Cyrillic. Once I put the album on and heard the first thirty seconds, my expression changed to one of “whoah, I was not expecting this.”
“This” was not dubstep goth (gothstep, if you will). It was in English, given that guitarist/vocalist Alex Shifrin and bassist Mike Malloy hail from the United States and that drummer Vlado Kostov does not sing. But it is still an oddly named band for what they serve up musically. The quirky, socially eccentric, punky, 90s-style alt-rock is more fun than goth, steampunk, burlesque, or whatever else one would infer from that title.
Listening to the funky-funky bass riff of the opening track “Superstar,” I was taken aback. After the accompanying harmonica and filtered, gravelly vocals speaking to the largesse and excessive living of musical celebrity, I knew I was in for a ride. By the end of the album, Filth, I felt like I knew Babette a little better. She was a lovechild of G Love’s caucasian funkiness, Sponge and Cracker’s 90s alt-rock sensibilities, and Soul Coughing’s biting wit. Oh, and she was raised reading Nietzche and Aldous Huxley.
The music has incredible flow: chunky riffs, walking bass lines, funky interludes, and pop-punk power. Shifrin’s lyrics are angst and ennui-laden and layered in sarcasm and has some awkwardly interjected profanity in places. This leads to some nonsensical drifting but is some of the cleverest writing I have heard in a long time.
The end result is a rollicking good time; the three men in French Whore Named Babette know how to make a record. Don’t let geography or allusions to loose women deter you: Filth demands your attention. After experiencing the unexpected, I’m left with two thoughts: I want more and I should have checked out the Moscow club scene in my twenties. Because, you know, the only thing holding me back was my indifference…