Frenchy and the Punk
Across its 10 fiery, witty, and exhortative tracks, Frenchy and the Punk’s Hooray Beret challenges listeners to get off the hamster wheels of modern culture and social identity and cultivate a sturdier self and more authentic values. The fourth full-length from bi-lingual French-born singer Samantha Stephenson and post-punk guitar visionary Scott Helland, Hooray Beret is organic and largely acoustic but relentless in its downhill grooves and cheeky garage noir riffage. In song after song, Stephenson nails the vanities, traps, and disfiguring pressures of 21st century life as she delivers a genuinely affirmative and urgent call to action: the action of self-reflection.
The album-opening “Wah” winks in awareness of this paradox. Over an insistent club beat and a stylish, Euro vocal hook, Stephenson instructs herself to “stay at home on a Saturday night…diving into what feels real.”
A feminist theme of self-exploration-as-activism recurs in almost every song. The deliriously cool chorus of the New Wave and spy-toned “Lankey Bell Bottoms” celebrates continual growth and the rejection of triviality, while the gorgeous jangle-pop of “Sing” offers a compact time-lapse portrait of a woman ignoring or forestalling her true calling in five different decades of her life.
Hooray Beret’s message of independence and the shedding of socially imposed identities is well-earned. For more than a decade, Frenchy and the Punk have been refining their own voice in many quadrants of the Balkanized post-punk world. They have essentially invented their own genre in which punk vitality and drive meets an evocative, cinematic way with exotic melodies and European-inflected percussive textures. A founding member of Deep Wound with J Mascis and Lou Barlow, Helland weaves dark riffs and layers of spidery melody in an acoustic/electric tone that is entirely his own. Stephenson sings with a gothy heft and authority that may remind one generation of Siouxsie Sioux and another of Grace Slick.
Through no design of their own, the Hudson valley, New York, based band has become an in-demand performer on the post-cabaret, mythic, and steampunk scenes, even as they eschew affectation and excessive theatricality. Their engaging, unjaded live shows convert strangers to fans regardless of the setting. Hooray Beret offers the strongest proof to date of this band’s rich and edifying spirit of serious fun.
“Beautifully evolved from the punk days” (Bill Dautremont-Smith WDIY-NPR affiliate)
“this (Batfrog) has some serious wings to fly beyond the parameters of steampunk and into the stereo systems of anyone who loves quality folk punk” (Ron Hart, Chronogram/Bonjour Batfrog Review)