Back in high school, during the golden age of the Blogspot music downloading era, I went down a rabbit hole of French punk. The family desktop was filled with bands spanning the 70s-00s, such as MOPO MOGO, METAL URBAIN, HAINE BRIGADE, CARE BEARS, OPSTAND, GEORGE BITCH JR, and plenty of others. Among the amazing things I found was a compilation tape called RAPSODIE EN FRANCE, which is the focus of this feature. Why write about this in 2022 when there are already Blogspot posts with dead Rapidshare links? Well, because Philadelphia’s WORLD GONE MAD has remastered the comp, and has reissued it on vinyl for the first time ever.
The compilation was originally released in 1985 as a limited edition cassette through JUNGLE HOP INTERNATIONAL, a French label specializing in hardcore punk from around the world. They put out releases featuring bands from Sweden (MOB 47, ANTI-CIMEX), Japan (SYSTEMATIC DEATH, LIPCREAM), the US (ADRENALIN O.D., SCREAM), Italy (RAW POWER), SPAIN (HHH), Peru (GUERRILLA URBANA), and of course from their home country, France. This list is obviously not exhaustive.
France’s punk scene often goes overlooked, despite giving birth to some undeniably crucial bands. Stylistically, it varies — no country is a monolith — but it’s often very sloppy and feels reckless at times in a way that’s unique; it’s a beautiful display of pure energy as far as I’m concerned. Who wants to listen to punk that’s clean and crisp all the time? To me, it feels like a foil to the perception that France is filled solely with beauty and grace. Sure, that’s true, but it’s also home to a host of ugliness (let’s not forget the history of colonialism and the current white nationalist movements), something that doesn’t get nearly as popularized in the mainstream’s romanticized view of the country. But I digress.
RAPSODIE EN FRANCE is an essential document of mid 80s French hardcore punk, full stop. The artists on this comp hail from all over France, and play a variety of styles, ranging from melodic punk to borderline noisecore. Arguably, this comp is most famous for its inclusion of RAPT, a pioneering fastcore/noisecore band, who has been cited by countless grind and fastcore bands as being an influence. The real standouts for me are RAPT (obviously), KROMOZOM 4, BUTCHER, and LES BLOODY FUCKERS, but everything on here is worth hearing, especially as a jumping-off point for getting into French hardcore punk.
The remasters of these classic tracks are fantastic. As someone who has, for many years, listened to a rip of the original tape (that had clearly been listened to a million times) that I downloaded from a Blogspot in the late 00s, it felt like hearing them for the first time again. According to WGM, the remasters were done from the best sources each band had available, with the final master for vinyl done by Alex Nagle – a Philadelphian mastering powerhouse. Not to mention, the LP comes with a 24-page fanzine which includes an interview with Pierre, who helped run JUNGLE HOP INTERNATIONAL with Hervé, and plenty of photos and original artwork to pour over while listening to these furious blasts of pure adrenalin. To top things off, the whole project was supervised and coordinated largely by Philippe Roizes of KROMOZOM 4.
For the discerning consumer of global 80s hardcore punk (a phrase I use facetiously), this compilation is a must-listen. If you’re planning on picking up a copy, be warned that these are moving fast, although maybe not quite as fast as the tracks from RAPT.