Photo: Franck Alix
Astaffort, France doesn’t provide much stimulation for the bored young beatnik. Hailing from this sleepy 2000-strong town, and with a knowing nod to Sleaford Mods, post-punk electronic trio Astaffort Mods deliver a comparably biting image of the tedium of rural life. They couldn’t look any more different than they sound: tanned, well-fed, Adidas-clad French boys in tank tops and baseball caps. Not your average punks. Brazenly nicking their Nottingham-based counterparts’ uncensored flow and liberal use of regional slang, Astaffort Mods vent provincial apathy in an uncompromisingly thick southern accent. In their world, “modern” means ordering something on Amazon, having health insurance, taking the metro in Bordeaux. Did you ever go on family summer holidays to rustic little French villages and wonder how younger residents don’t lose it in these lost holes devoid of 4G? What is there to do when the town’s entire commercial activity is concentrated in a pub, a shit bakery and a weekly farmers’ market? I did wonder, and now I know.
Instrumentally, AK 47 is minimalistic and urgently paced, but it isn’t lacking. This album is a set of comedy sketches. The first word spat out is “putain” (fuck), as our narrator in ‘Le Shift’ laments being broke and sitting around all day with his bummy country bumpkin buddies. With his “sharp sense” of “modernity, ambition, creation, innovation, revolution”, he decides to really grab life by the balls and get a job delivering food on his bike. But this is no Deliveroo gig: he has to use a nuclear power station (towering and familiar landmarks of the French countryside) as a point of reference on the road because he can’t get signal on his phone. Nonetheless, he’s proud of his job and the modern buzzwords come thick and fast: “interaction, diversity, globalisation, valorisation of local produce – a bit like a fist-fight between neighbours at the pub”. Which he inevitably gets into. “The sudden neurological activity in the part of my brain corresponding to common sense indicates that the guy speaking to me is hostile / But I notice an anomaly in the link between my brain and my mouth, compelling me to move my lips and materialise the following sounds: “and you, do you even have a job, fucker?””
I hope non-French speakers can get down to this infectious stream of consciousness swearing about city dwellers, tomato trucks and a much-maligned neighbour Denis (“No but seriously have you heard yourself speak? Your latest trick is to call yourself a feminist. The only equality you know is half water, half casanis [French alcohol diluted with water] served in a cup that you’ll never wash, just like you’ll never sweep the floor or get off your arse to do the dusting”) and appreciate this unadulterated taste of the ass end of nowhere.
Listen to breakout single ‘Le Shift’ below: