The dollar is weak and the euro is strong, and the streets of American cities are humming with the sound of European tourists — often with their arms full of shopping bags from the Apple Store. Less noticeable and less commented upon is the number of European bands touring U.S. coastal cities and college towns. According to the music websites, the Scandinavians have just about monopolized indie pop and electropop in the past few years, and there’s some sort of punk renaissance coming from France. And yet many, if not most, of these bands still sing in English, often with an American accent or an approximation thereof. Rock ’n’ roll belongs to the world, but apparently the world still sees it as an American idiom.
No one makes this principle more clear than French Cowboy from the city of Nantes, France. The band is derived from Little Rabbits, an influential act that released seven albums before calling it quits three years ago. Many of those albums were recorded by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion producer Jim Waters in Tucson, Arizona, and the band apparently caught the Old West bug while they were there. As the name suggests, French Cowboy has a vibe that’s suggestive of Americana, while remaining fascinatingly foreign — like Calexico covering Johnny Cash while collaborating with Stereolab in a Brian Eno production.
At times French Cowboy recalls the collaboration of American Lou Reed and Welshman John Cale. When French Cowboy opens “Leather Boots” with the line “shiny boots of leather,” it sounds like the opening line of that famous kinkfest “Venus in Furs.” But there’s a twist: Unlike the Velvet Underground, French Cowboy sounds as if they’re mostly interested in the boots.
FRENCH COWBOY, Beauty Bar, Wednesday, September 3, 619-516-4746.