“Do you like your coffee black?” Mimi Luse flippantly yelps at the beginning of “Asking for a Friend,” the second song on Cochonne’s new 12”, issued posthumously after the band disbanded.
It’s the opening gambit in some social media-based crush, and like lots of social media, the song takes an immediate turn to parasocial paranoia (“Why won’t you follow me back?”) and lust (“I message you cuz I want more”).
Meanwhile, razor-sharp guitar and bass lines run in loose, discordant counterpoint, while the drums stomp a nearly square rock beat punctuated with what sounds like glass shattering.
Things get interesting when Luse starts to map out the power dynamics of her character’s desires, alternately telling her would-be partner “make me take it” and “I’ll make you make me take it.” The combination of her tuneless squalls and the lockstep groove make it hard to tell whether her come-ons are serious or just some kind of game.
And when Marielle DuToit starts playfully listing off former partners at the end of the song, it feels like a sinister inversion of the B-52s’ “52 Girls.”
That template—jerky rhythms, biting guitar lines, Pere Ubu-esque synth bursts from David Rodriguez, and a general sense of claustrophobia—continues through pretty much all five songs on this all too brief album, touching on different kinds of power differentials. At one extreme is “KGB,” where we are the helpless victims of a police state acting with impunity.
On the other hand, “Trop” (French for “too much”) sees the female narrator navigating the vicissitudes of consensual rough sex in real time. Throughout the record, Luse vocalizes in clipped, semi-effectual imperatives—“show it to me,” “keep mouth shut,” “don’t tell them”—and is less interested in singing melodies than creating different kinds of expressionistic spaces with her voice. (This, by the way, is not a dig.)
The only place this darkness lifts is on album closer, “Vampire,” which leans toward the breeziness of Cochonne’s first release. Luse almost arrives at a tune when describing the inescapability of capitalism, DuToit rumbles some fuzzed-out chords, and Rodriguez plays a catchy keyboard melody. The life-sucking force of consumption never sounded so appealing.
It’s a shame that this release marks the end for this trio. While all three members have other musical projects (I especially like Luse’s cold wave explorations as Permanent), none of them have the same deranged playfulness as Cochonne.
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