I think this is the first time I have been sent a request to review an album that was released about twenty years ago, it is not something I am complaining about - it is just a strange place to be in. In 1996, French band Drive Blind released this record 'Be A Vegetable', it was recorded in Studio Des Forces Motrices, Geneva during the winter of 95/96 and it was well received at the time, even making the top 20 of 1996 in Rock Sounds magazine. From Nîmes, the band only released two albums, this one being the second and this version contains extra songs. For the purposes of this review, I will focus on the original twelve tracks that were released as the album. Now, the press release mentions the bands L7, Tad, Jesus Lizard, Nirvana and Babes in Toyland; this is hinting that we might be getting ready to experience a post-grunge/fuzzy distortion album, so without ado being furthered, let us see how it has turned out......
With a slow and determined noisy guitar intro, "Fear" introduces the band to the world in a wall of grunge noise that I would instantly compare to the likes of the Melvins, Tad, Mudhoney and others, the Riott Grrrl comparisons is also spot on as well. It is full of barbed commentary, a great riff and the right amount of sludge to the sound to make time effectively reverse to a time when noise was the key component to a song, from only one song I am wishing I knew about this band sooner, this could be a good album.... "My Second Rate Fulfilment" is a solid, if a little 'par of the course' song which suit it’s the title a little bit too snugly. It is average, but solid and it would create a great moment in a pit as it has a solid riff, great drums and it does not outstay its welcome. But it does not compare to "Fear" and take the bar up, but that is no crime to be honest. "Vegetable Vendetta" is the third song, starting off with a rumbling bass and then it cuts into a fantastic duelling vocal attack with one of the dirties chorus hooks I have heard in an awfully long time. It is shouty, noisy, brash and utterly hypnotic; I fell head over heels for this song upon the first listen and it still gives me a buzz each time I listen to it - if this had have been picked up in America, it would have been one of the biggest anthems for the genre known as grunge. "Five Seconds of Your Conversation" starts off with a distortion guitar, soon to be crashed with a loud riff and a shit load of attitude that gives the song such an edge. It has a little lull in the middle, but this is only so it can explode once more in a whirlwind of noise that once more fades into the rumbling bass and drums. It is another good song, something of a stop/start number for me yet it works really well.
"Soul Beauty" slows the mood down to a slow burning noise, it is truly fantastic sound that was made popular by Tad, Soundgarden and others at the time, this is a prime example of how to make this type of song sound so easy, so simple and so effective. It is not the most original of numbers to be honest, but it does not have to be complicated to be a good tune; it has a subtle riff, a fantastic set of vocals and just a brutal noise rock experience. "Fiasco" has such a kick from the very beginning, it builds upon those important foundations that is the bass and drum unit of the band. It sounds as if it could have been created by ATTIWLTMOWOS favourites Blacklisters, it is noise with the guitars drifting around and it sounds absolutely wonder. It is a sonic boom of a song, further cementing this album in my mind and making everything all warm and fuzz - I am in feedback heaven. "One Reason to Smile" is another song which I am hearing for the first time, but I have heard in other songs that have been released after this one was originally released. It reminds me of the louder parts of bands such as Soulwax (before they became a DJ crew), The Infidels and others. It is a short, sharp, stop, start, quiet, loud song that hits the distortion peddle so hard and just makes the world a bouncy place for a few moments - what is there not to like. "Placebo" starts off with a smash & grab introduction, punk as fuck with a huge dash of grunge and then it starts to slow down. It gets slower and slower until all goes silent and then it explodes with the same sort of energy as it began with. As much as I enjoyed the beginning of the song, it could have been done in one short burst with the slow down and it would have still had the same impact. A good song, just a little longer than necessary for my own tastes.
Next up is "Subdue" which once more kicks you in the gut and delivers a punk/grunge/alternative noise that will be something that will make people of a certain generation weak at the knees. It centres around a whirling riff that is full of energy and drives the noise onwards. It is a song about hearing the same old shit and that message rings as true now as it would have done back in 1996, the music is not the most original on this one and you know what, I could not give a damn. It is just a blast that keeps on whirling around and the song is certainly not living up to its tile of "Subdue". The next number is called "Jagger's Tattoo" is a song that is all about a lady who had tattoo of Mick Jagger's face in a very special place, it is a little silly to be honest and that is fine by me. The music is not as exciting as other songs on this album, but it has an energy about it that is hard to ignore. Also, anything that is slightly silly and rude wins in my books. The penultimate song of this review is for "The Last Temptation of the Modern Man" once more goes into the mood side of the Drive Blind experience, with the quiet verses, loud chorus, methodical bridges and general light/dark song structure. It is another song which I like rather than love, but even then it still engages my interest from beginning to end. The last song of the review is also another darker piece than other track on the release, "14th of January" brings on the misery and it sounds as if the snow, sleet and rain would have been hammering down during this song. Once more, it is not a song I can say is a lost classic for me, but it is a great tune that goes for the slow attack and hits one particular groove and does not let go. The looping riff towards the end is spectacular and for the main part of this album gives the album a closure that is thankfully avoiding the acoustic guitar which was very popular at the time.
I truly wish I had heard this when it was a new released as it really sings to all the sort of music that I loved and cherished when I was a younger man, but even now it sings to me from across the decades. For being an album that did not get what could be considered 'due press' at the time, it is something of a lost gem to these ears. It is an album that was probably released just a little too late as Nu-Metal was starting to reign supreme and grunge was not the vogue anymore, but even considering that it still sounds fresh to these ears over all. There are a few moments that are a little too formulaic for my tastes, but overall it is one of the best re-releases I have heard in many years. If you like your albums fuzzy, alternative and grunge - here is the album you missed at the time.8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart
Top track - Fiasco
You can purchase Be a Vegetable on Amazon here
You can follow any rumbling of activity from Drive Blind on Facebook here
You can stream Be a Vegetable on Spotify here
You can stream Be a Vegetable on Deezer here
You can stream Be a Vegetable on Tidal here