It's difficult to ascertain without falling back upon xenophobic clichés why France hasn't ever really produced a truly great rock and roll outfit. Sure, there have been moments - Les Thugs' excellent Still Hungry, Still Angry long player from almost a quarter of a century ago being the first that springs to mind. Aside from that there's been little else of note bar maybe Stinky Toys' brief flirtation with notoriety a decade earlier, which is why despite the plaudits placed on 2006's debut Wish, we're not getting our hopes too high for I Love UFO's follow-up just yet.
The newly beefed up four-piece responsible for Dirty Animals sure know how to create an almighty racket, not to mention carry a serious disposition about realising that occasionally less is more. What this means is that on occasions, songs go on for nine ('Ashtray'), eight ('Left') and seven ('War') minutes respectively, when maybe four, or at a push five would suffice.
On the whole though, I Love UFO's jam-like forays into post-rock psychedelia means Dirty Animals has a very definite air of spontaneity; its this rawness that carries most of the record's appeal. Vocalist Butch McKoy does his best to cross-pollinate Steve Albini's visceral growl with the schizophrenic allure of Ian Curtis, while the proto-goth industrialism of 'Clear Darkness' throws in the odd Peter Murphy reference for good measure.
The apocalyptic rock'n'roll dementia of 'Trouble' signifies the point on the axis where The Jesus Lizard and The Cramps collide head-on, while the scraping guitars of 'Dead Ghost' resonate like early Shellac before a more refined reverb effect takes the song into another galaxy entirely for its final third.
Elsewhere, the aforementioned 'War' and its Germanic mantra coupled with the mellower, almost pop-like 'Lost Deep Boy' suggest I Love UFO are in the middle of a serious identity crisis. While such genre indifference can never be a bad thing, it probably explains why the successor to Wish has taken four years to make - one can only imagine the arguments between band members during the songwriting process.
However, there's also something charming when McKoy sings "I'm lost in the beauty of the music" on the breakdown of 'Ashtray', another of I Love UFO's exercised in cross-pollination, veering from grunge to post-punk to black metal without a care in the world. One suspects their hearts are in the right place, even if some of the chord changes and arrangements maybe need some extra refinement in places.
A valiant effort then, although by the same token still a good level or so below the benchmarks set by the artists from England and the States they fervently aspire to.
6Dom Gourlay's Score