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Métal Urbain

Some 25 years before they were right about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, the French were right about punk rock. While America listened to Kansas and Billy Joel, France embraced Métal Urbain. OK, so the band never invaded France’s popular consciousness in quite the same way the Sex Pistols overran Britain. But Paris was a better place for harboring the quartet, even if it had no easier time getting gigs than Bad Brains did in D.C. Métal Urbain was briefly a sensation in the U.K., where it rated the very first Rough Trade release. Like many avant-rock outfits, however, the band attained most of its success posthumously. As documented by a new 24-song compilation, Anarchy in Paris!, Métal Urbain was sort of the Gallic Pere Ubu: The band played modernist garage-rock, updating Eddie Cochran and the Standells with synth din, machine-made beats, and guerrilla theatricality. M.U. founder Eric Debris claimed Brian Eno, Oscar Wilde, and, of course, the Velvet Underground as prime inspirations. He recalls that the band wanted “a music made of reprocessed sounds, nothing natural…voice went through a synthesizer, guitars through a filter.” This harsh, driving sound was a major influence on—of all people—Steve Albini, who reportedly modeled Big Black’s all-American aggression on Métal Urbain’s Francophone squall. Like many 1977 bands, Métal Urbain was gone in a flash, so its comeback hardly belabors the point; in fact, the band’s reunion tour is also its American debut. Métal Urbain plays with Dysrhythmia and Manhunter at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 6, at the Warehouse Next Door, 1017 7th St. NW. $8. (202) 783-3933. (Mark Jenkins)