The far reach of American pop culture surprises me sometimes. Hailing from France, Amanda Woodward is the condensed name of Heather Locklear's character on Melrose Place. As a band name, it's a bit of an odd choice given the group's politically tinged hardcore punk. The moniker of the band aside, Level Plane has thankfully brought Amanda Woodward's debut full length, La Decadence de la Decadence, to this side of the Atlantic. Tight, efficient, yet never lacking in sincerity and emotion, Amanda Woodward offer up eight songs of firmly-wound punk rock that takes an admirable look forward, while acknowledging the past.
From the opening of the title track, Amanda Woodward gives a firm indication of their influences. The lead guitar that introduces the song echoes the work of progressive guitarists like Guy Picciotto (Fugazi) with its calculated intricacy and urgency. However, it's the galloping rhythm guitar that recalls classic bands like Union of Uranus and Four Hundred Years. The start and stop rhythm section on "Binaire et Lisible" brings to mind the work of Shotmaker. Songs like "'On' Est un Con" and "Dans le Cas Où Les Flammes" find Amanda Woodward slowing the tempo down, and adding needed texture. It's a nice touch that prevents the album from getting tedious or repetitive, and displays maturity in song writing that many bands of this nature lack.
Lyrically, the band seems to ruminate on the various hypocrisies of urban living. "'On' Est un Con" addresses the power of belief and determination needed for resistance. The album's title track is critical of what the band feels is an era of meaningless consumption and contentment in our own excesses. However, for listeners in America it will be the music that stands out more than anything. Amanda Woodward's singer provides a scream that I can imagine is probably unintelligible even to those who speak his native tongue. Thankfully, the album more than holds it own musically, and the language barrier shouldn't turn off fans of hardcore punk.
Aggressive music has become somewhat en vogue of late. Bands like the Used, My Chemical Romance, and Good Charlotte have found mainstream play and coverage. And while it's refreshing to see the boundaries of alternative radio opening up, it's disheartening that the politics that made punk rock so vibrant have disappeared as the genre has become more popular. Amanda Woodward is a rare gem. Musically, they have nicely combined their influences into a sound that is at once familiar and new. Lyrically, they don't shy away from critically assessing the world around them. So many bands of this nature are so busy getting ready for photo shoots that lyrical content becomes an afterthought and is usually clichéd.
La Decadence De La Decadence is an intelligent, vibrant debut by a band who hopefully won't be denied exposure because of the French language in which they sing. It's this critic's hope that Level Plane reissues the rest of the band's catalog (two EPs and a demo album) soon.