January 2nd, 2015 by Ken Sanderson
Named after the street urchin child of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, Gavroche was a cassette-only LP originally released in 1994 by ALIANS (Alliance), a prolific Polish band from the early ’90s which blended the classic, upbeat mid-tempos of Polish hardcore punk with rhythmic doses of reggae and ska and additional folksy instrumentation on accordion, congas, flute and keyboards. A classic recording of this then-trendy style, the experimental and adaptive edge of both the musicianship here and Polish punk itself steers it away from the train wreck suggested on paper. Robotic staccato vocals dart between rushing 1-2 charges of straightforward hardcore before breaking into a passage of dub or the accordion player jumps into the fray. There’s something that always seems incredibly inauthentic and, uh, “highlander” when bands from the US try this kind of folksy avant-garde punk but it’s hard to find deep fault with a band from Poland, where punk seems to both be more flexible in its expression and a broader extension of deep roots in a long lineage of community. Reaching for instruments of the past doesn’t seem that out of line (there’s even a flute and dub riffing off of the CLASH’s “Guns of Brixton”). I don’t always find the additional instrumentation completely seamless—in fact, it is occasionally tentative and stumbling—but this record still remains a challenging and interesting listen 20 years after its initial release, and is recommended for the open-minded who’ve ticked off their APATIA, ARMIA, and POST REGIMENT boxes, as the chassis of this still rests on similar, solid, classic songwriting. Anthemic punk with lyrics entirely in Polish with no translation, the entire original cassette release is encompassed in this first-time-on-vinyl reissue, along with a few of the additional tracks from its ’90s and ’00s subsequent reissues on CD and extended cassette.
(Pasazer / THC / Underground Factory)