Les Olivensteins: S/T

Les Olivensteins don’t figure too high in the great punk rock pantheon. They got belated recognition in 1999 when 'Fier De Ne Rien Faire', the lead track from their sole EP, was compiled on 'Killed By Death Volume 7'. But that three-track EP, issued in 1979 by Mélodie Massacres (the label responsible for the classic debut Dogs single), didn’t propel them to the top of the heap. Three thousand copies were pressed, and it’s as rare as hell now. Although they supported Stiff Little Fingers at La Palace, played legendary Paris club Le Gibus and scored some interest from Barclay Records, the Rouen band came and went in a flash.
Of course, there was a background that stretched back – guitarist Vincent Denis had seen Antoine et Les Problems’ first Rouen show in 1966. But the real inspiration was 1977, especially that year’s Mont-de Marsan Punk Rock festival, where seeing French bands like Asphalt Jungle proved that local outfits could run with what Little Bob Story had begun at the 1976 festival. Suitably fired up, the quartet – Vincent Denis, Gilles Tandy, Romain Denis and Ludovic Groslier – formed their own punk band.

This comp from the Paris label Born Bad is band-approved and collects everything that survives: ten tracks (including the EP trio) are studio recordings, three are live. All the EP cuts are spiffy. 'Euthanasie' borrows the chug of Blondie’s 'Rip Her to Shreds' and turns it into something close to a half-speed 999. 'Je Suis Négatif' isn’t far from the upbeat, rocking Dogs, while 'Fier De Ne Rien Faire' (co-written by Dog Domininique Laboubée) is a snot-nosed crawler with odd synth noises giving it an edge. The previously unreleased tracks (demos of two EP songs appear) pretty much conform to the style of the EP, but January 1980’s 'Le Spécialiste' is something else – creepy punk/post-punk suggesting that, had they not split, Les Olivensteins could have developed into a band that could have been a good fit for a label like 4AD or Crepuscule. The live cuts (from April 1979) are more in the Dogs mould, but a hell of a lot rougher.
There’s no call to rewrite history, but as a suggestion for what might have been this comp is invaluable. As an expanded guidebook into barely-charted territory, it’s equally essential.
© Kieron Tyler