French 5-piece We Insist ! merge genres seamlessly in order to create a sound all of their own, and yet referencing a variety of influences. At times their stop-start post-hardcore dynamics recall At the Drive-In, at their most pulsing and hypnotic, one could cite Queens of the Stone Age as soundalikes, and at their most detached, they evoke a more unassuming Tool. Yet none of these puzzle pieces quite fit to make a clear picture of the We Insist ! experience.
There is no denying that these avant-rockers are fine musicians indeed. Some of their riffs are truly killer and their effortless mingling of lead guitars with synths and sax sets them apart. But on this, their fifth album, there seems to be a curious struggle at play.
Throughout the record, their refusal to be pinned down to a particular genre or sound seems to pose an identity crisis even for the band themselves, never knowing whether to cut loose and head into a full scale freakout or tentatively brood at mid-tempo. As a result, the album feels kind of cut and paste, with no real logical flow. Songs are either gloriously mental, such as opener ‘Déja Vu’, with its blasts of brass and jarring time signatures, or melancholically slow burning (see ‘In a Maze’ and ‘Biting Tongues’).
It is almost as if they toy with letting their experimental sides truly flourish but then have second thoughts and reign it all in. This is deeply frustrating as one feels that they could have a recipe for something great, particularly in the first half of the album.
Essentially, however, the biggest issue I have with We Insist ! lies in vocalist/drummer Etienne Gaillochet. He’s not a very good singer. And I‘ll accept that a lot of bands don’t really need great singers. But, even on record, it tells that they lack a real front man. This band is crying out for a mouthpiece with some real charisma. Particularly when they take their foot off the gas, Gaillochet’s distinct lack of both range and passion is grating.
An intriguing enough release, one that reels you in all bombastic Gallic flair, but at its core, lacks that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that would inspire many repeat plays.