What's That Smell?
Within the fluid confines of the no-wave/art punk/ avant-whatever label, genre rebels have free rein. Noise is art. Clamor is pure. White noise turns everything black. Every corner is filled with an arsenal of sounds. Here, it's okay to be disliked, unloved and full of contempt for the pop music mainstream that glitters and sparkles and smells like teen spirit. In this space, there will always be some misfit creating the most grating, shambolic, room-clearing racket.
If that sounds like a horrible joke to music purists, then Les Georges Leningrad is the punch line. This trio from Montreal wants to be the weird smell in the refrigerator, the creepy guy at the party, a pair of glowing eyes peering up from the subway grate. Its live shows are something to behold, whether you realize the music is akin to fingernails on a chalkboard or not. Clad in fake blood, makeup from the dollar store and clothing fetched from the Dumpster of a high school drama club, singer Poney P (second singer/bassist Toundra LaLouve left last year), drummer Bobo Boutin and guitarist Mingo L'Indien play like zombies on acid. On the 2002 debut album Deux Hot Dogs Moutarde Chou (which was reissued on Alien8 early this year), the merry pranksters screeched and skronked, twitched and growled and grunted, all while eschewing capitalism and claiming to be stalked by the supernatural. Songs went from ethereal to chaotic, perfect for an after-dinner brandy or pushing a toaster into a bathtub. Male and female singers traded wince-inducing guttural shouts in French, English and possibly a made-up language. Among other strange, haunted songs on the album (including a cover of the Residents' "Constantinople"), the snaking, bass-driven party number "Bad Smell" was the most telling of the band's masochistic mentality: "Bad smell! / It stinks! / So bad! / Uggh! / 'Cause it's so far out!"
Riding Montreal's current wave of it-citydom, LGL's latest album on Alien8, Sur les Traces de Black Eskimo, stirs up some more art-school madness. "Sponsorships" and "Supa Dupa " get down like dirty '80s roller jams, and "Wunderkind #2" does that electroclash disco thump, albeit about three years too late. Then there's the creepy crash-boom-skreek of "St. Mary's Memorial Hall," a song that sounds like something out of a Japanese horror film about murdered twins who haunt the west wing of a hospital and have black holes for eyes. Yes, it's a bad smell, but one that's also strangely inviting, like an olfactory car crash. Whether LGL continues to churn out the misfit music remains to be seen. (And if not them, there's always someone else with a penchant for causing a stink.)
Many questions follow the curious Georges. Here are a few we e-mailed drummer Bobo Boutin, and the, well, I guess you could call them "answers":
Houston Press: How did the band come together?
Bobo: I can't remember when and why because of the buggy clouds of year two thousands. I got involved in a fistfight with this Indian warrior called Mingo and I said, "Man, you're a fuckin' wrist wrecker and I don't like it because I also have this pink drum kit to beat up on every Sunday." And I just punched him on his potato nose. We decided to start that band right after fighting because I knew he was the baddest keyboard player around town. At the hospital, we called Poney from the Coco-Cognac Agency. She could sing under the tables and it was easy to make her laugh.
HP: What is the writing process like for the band?
Bobo: Bring a tiny piece of your black hole magic and we'll inject something sharp. The poisonous petrochemical rock piracy will be on air from that moment, living by himself and giving us orders and mostly bad treatments used in convents to make the orphans cry.
HP: How do you decide what you'll wear on stage?
Bobo: Blaquy, the grand Eskimo mother living up north, speaking by the beak of her carrier pigeon.
HP: What are some common themes in your music?
Bobo: Pathological optimism, the idea of north, killing childrens, wrecking creatures, French-Canadian animals.
HP: It's been mentioned the band is haunted by a ghost. Is this still true? Do you all become possessed when you're playing?
Bobo: We are totally possessed by the music, and to leave our heads and our hearts stabbing each other to get sweaty wet, and at the end of all being rated R wabbling wackies and finding a reason to live one more day for at least one Popeye cigarette. I must admit here that playing music is way more dangerous than listening to music with your parents confined in a car trunk by summer.
HP: If your music could be the soundtrack for a movie, what would the movie be called?
Bobo: The Rosy-Crowned Manatee.
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