Apparently, Stranger, the second full length release by the Paris based retro-psych merchants Os Noctambulos is “an album about isolation, claustrophobia, immigration and the strange times we live in“. Oddly though, it takes you a while before you actually pay any attention to the lyrics. This is not meant as a flippant putdown, however, it’s just that the tunes are so vibrant that you can’t help getting carried away by them. They could be singing about a donkey playing chess with a clockwork doughnut for all I care, it all still sounds abundantly appealing.
‘The Circle Ain’t Broken‘ is somewhere between The Gun Club and Violent Femmes, whereas ‘Not Everyone‘ sounds like Hank Marvin playing guitar for The Coral whilst high on amphetamines. ‘Handcuffs‘ is akin to The Byrds jamming with The Chocolate Watchband, but on double speed and in the process becoming a two minute encapsulation of all the best party ingredients of the late sixties.
Of course, comparisons with Temples are inevitable, but this seems a somewhat lazy reference point, for Os Noctambulos have a rawer edge to them than Kettering’s finest. Perhaps a closer likeness of sound would be that of LA’s garage revivalists the Allah-Las. While the latter band have a “sunnier” feel though, Stranger does seem to carry the ominous threat of thunderclouds throughout its duration. Finale ‘No More Tears‘ though, is more of a straightforward – albeit fairly uptempo – sixties ballad, with a defiant stride, coming across like the garage rock sibling of ‘I Will Survive‘ (well, lyrically anyway – you certainly couldn’t accuse Os Noctambulos of being disco connoisseurs!) and it’s nice that we end on such a positive note, despite the palpable hurt ensconced within.
While you could argue that there are too many bands of this ilk out there right now, you would have to admit that few do it as effectively as Os Noctambulos. Stranger is easy on the ear, and when they get it truly right, like on the swampy blues rock of ‘Jordi Taught Me‘, they can be quite spectacular. A fine follow up indeed.