Review: Baron Crâne ‘Les Beaux Jours’

Parisian three-piece Baron Crâne (Léo Pinon-Chaby – guitar/vocals, Léo Goizet – drums, Olivier Pain – bass) formed in 2014, with Les Beaux Jours (The Good Days) marking their fourth album to date and their second on Mrs Red Sky following Commotions. which came out in April 2020, just as the pandemic was unfolding,

Baron Crâne 'Les Beaux Jours'

Danjouer opens the album in thunderous fashion, and this is in no small part down to the guest drumming of Simon Lemonnier of French Stoner Rock band Patrón. For a band from whom I was expecting a mash of prog inspired Zappa style fusion weirdness, this initially took me by surprise as it is a fairly direct number, albeit one that is infused with some amazing guitar histrionics that remind me of Greg Ginn (Black Flag), particularly his overlooked side-project Gone.

Larry’s Journey starts with heavy duty rock riffing before veering off on a fusion tangent, the band are so telepathically connected that they manage to make it all sound rather effortless and I was reminded of the excitement I felt the first time I heard Earthless’ Sonic Prayer and Rhythms From A Cosmic Sky albums, a sensation that hasn’t been repeated from any of their subsequent works.

Considering the time we’ve been living in Quarantine is appropriately named and is the first track to feature vocals. Curiously the music takes a grungier route, coming across like a slightly heavier Foo Fighters as guest vocalist Cyril Bodin is akin to a rougher Dave Grohl. Looking at Cyril’s Instagram page with the photos and tags referencing Seattle and grunge this comparison appears entirely warranted. My mention of the Foo Fighters may trouble some, but the track is actually well executed, and a fine summation of the frustration felt during Covid. Has John McLaughlin shown up? That’s certainly the impression I got with the stupendous Mercury. Along the way the band throw in some delicious jazz courtesy of Guillaume Perret on saxophone, whose playing echoes the cool sounds of Yusef Lateef.

an album packed full of exciting improvisational fusion/prog jams and well-crafted slabs of hard rock…

Inner Chasm takes a King Crimson route, the guitar-work reminding me of Robert Fripp at his peak on albums such as Larks’ Tongues In Aspic. It’s one of the more intense and heavy tracks on the album with a distinctly metallic sheen which will leave those in need of something with a little more bite significantly satiated. After the nerve shredding thrills of the preceding track, Merinos gives one a brief respite with some mellow reggae/funk inspired rhythms, though moments of outright chaos still linger below the surface.

Les Beaux Jours, the second of two tracks to feature vocals, offers us the first opportunity to experience those of frontman Léo Pinon-Chaby who reminds me of a French Roger Waters. As the longest track on the album my attention is drawn further to the bluesy space/psych-rock that tips its hat to UFO’s debut, as well as Wish You Were Here era Pink Floyd (Dave Gilmour’s playing especially), helping to bring the album to an altogether epically satisfying conclusion.

The promo notes mention Primus and Faith No More as influences and having listened to the album several times I’m struggling to pick up on these. Although Baron Crâne are certainly diverse, I could never envisage them covering Easy or recording a track as outright demented as Malpractice. As for Primus, they thankfully eschew that band’s annoying tendency to allow the ‘humour’ and outright wackiness overshadow the excellent musicianship. You get instead an album packed full of exciting improvisational fusion/prog jams and well-crafted slabs of hard rock which will be interesting to witness in a live setting.

Label: Mrs Red Sound
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Reza Mills