Conventional wisdom has it that the French are not all that great at rock & roll -- pop music, yes indeed, but not rock & roll -- and no matter how many times people cite Metal Urbain, Stinky Toys, or Les Thugs, name-checking more than a tiny handful of French bands that really give up the rock is a challenge. But apparently there was a glorious window of time in the mid-'60s when France had a pretty lively rock scene, given the 28 good-to-excellent sides collected on Psychegaelic: French Freakbeat, which serves up a variety of Gallic rock, R&B, and acid-tinged garage rock tunes. The selection ranges from uptempo Merseybeat-style (or in this case Seinebeat-style) rockers like "Hello Josephine" by Les Witackers and straight-up garage rock such as Patrick Samson's rowdy translation of "Gloria" to the cool and bluesy organ-driven "Pourquoi l'Amour a Deux" by Les Fleurs de Pavot (the group name translates as "The Poppy Flowers," fans of not-so-subtle drug references), the fuzz-guitar mayhem of Benjamin's "Un Train," and less readily classifiable craziness like "Bof!" by the Brummels, "L.S.D. 25" by 5 Gentlemen, and "Fou" (literally "Crazy") by Jacques Da Sylva. While some tracks are better (and rock harder) than others, there isn't anything here that sinks beneath a respectable B-, and most of the cuts could stand proudly beside the cream of American and U.K. garage and freakbeat sides from the era. Most of these tracks appear to have been sourced from vinyl, but the remastering is good and catches the fire of the performances quite well. Psychegaelic is truly Le Grand Fromage among collections of European rock & roll of the '60s, and suggests there was a lot more going on in France during the garage era than most American fans ever knew.
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