Malajube – La Caverne album review

Malajube returns with La Caverne, a brief but well-realised collection of scintillating indie rock. Canada’s biggest Francophone band has stuck to it’s guns a fourth time by writing their lyrics exclusively in French, despite a burgeoning English-speaking fan base and the promise of more widespread appeal. La Caverne was recorded over four months in a house in Morin Heights, Quebec – just outside Laval – a home studio the four piece dubbed a “geodesic modern cave”.

The album is compositionally dense and reliant on melody and chords instead of production flourishes. As well as La Caverne works as a cohesive full-length, each song can be singled out of context without sounding any less impressive. A tight rhythm section underpins each song with brimming confidence, the perfect compliment to singer/lead songwriter Julien Mineau’s melodic impulses.

The main progression in “Sangsues” recalls the Black Keys – though it would need to be a spookier incarnation of the blues rock duo than we’re used to – at first but takes off in a direction that is wholly Malajube. “Le Blizzard” is Phoenix if they sung in their native tongue – it’s more accelerated and electric in it’s approach than most of the album and is one of La Caverne’s most discernable tracks. A Strokes influence manifests occasionally throughout the album, most notably on “Ibuprofene”, the lead guitar tone readily inviting comparisons to Albert Hammond Jr. The final track, “Chienne folle” is permeated by a heavily distorted guitar which ascends into a ‘proper’ progression that trades with a quiet bridge and back again in the first three minutes, before the track goes completely silent for forty seconds. A shaker signals the second part of the song and then the entrance of a haunted prog-style riff doubled with a Crystal Castles-esque arpeggiator marks the end of a satisfying and often ominous (and as a result, sometimes kitschy) album. The spooky synth parts and relentlessly jovial melodies can be overbearing if one is listening in an irritable mood – and one could argue the album boasts a sort of “Haunted Mansion” (of indie rock) appeal, but this only seems to generally cheapen Malajube’s formidable instrumental and song-writing chops.

Without the ability to understand the majority of the lyrics, there is naturally more of a focus on vocal melody and atmosphere. The reason Malajube has found success outside of their Francophone audience is undoubtedly related – they have a formidable sensibility when it comes to arrangement, melody and progression that allow listeners to enjoy their music regardless of the language barrier.

La Caverne is out now on Dare to Care Records.

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