Am I becoming less punk in my old age? A band with a name like the Rebel Assholes doesn't really make me consider listening to them at all. However, having given them a cursory ear ahead of opting to take this on, I don't really think that the name does them any favours in that it might cause them to be overlooked. Or I could just be getting old!
Putting the name aside, I'll now consider the musical output instead. The Rebel Assholes are from France but obviously have a deep love/appreciation of the huge melodic punk sound that comes from the USA, as well as a few European groups including the bands featured on Burning Heart Records, specifically. What that means is that this is a relatively smooth and easy punk rock sound, which seems quite highly produced, featuring songs that are guitar-driven with some very good vocals, including the occasionally excellent harmonies. The vocals are particularly strong throughout and whether they're layered or harmonised, they create quite a lot of depth to the tracks. The main characteristic of the vocals is that at times Jean Louis reminds me a bit of Erik Funk from Dillinger Four.
In terms of the songs themselves, the first track, ideally titled "Intro," is actually more metal than punk but leads into "Come In My Church," a track that contains a much more pop punk vibe (pop punk in quite a commercial sounding way). One of the strongest songs is "New Generation," which is quite an anthemic track, and although the title might be somewhat clichéd, the song itself is catchy and easy to get caught in one's head. It would be remiss of me to ignore one blatant piece of band worshipping that is evident on Deactivated and that is in the form of "I'm Guilty." I can hear the conversation in the practice room now: "Shall we try and be Samiam for one song?" and here is the result. It's not a bad effort, but is actually quite incongruous amongst the other songs, which all tend to have a similar feel, one which is different to this track.
As noted above, Deactivated is quite a slick sounding record mainly from the production job, and it's always a fine line between grit and polish when it comes to punk music as to whether that aids or hurts a release. With that polish in place, the Rebel Assholes have delivered an album that is generally full of decent melodic punk rock - it is easy to digest although it isn't likely to have you raving about "this great French band I heard.. Well, you might, but for me it just lacks that je ne sais quois to make it stand out more.
As a stand out track, I'd point to "New Generation" and despite this being an often heard cry in punk rock, I want to believe that it's a valid statement as opposed to rehash of a standard stereotypical phrase. However, when they sing "we are the voice of the new generation" and I see that all of the lyrics on the album have been written by non-band members, it makes me wonder whose message is coming from that voice. Anyway, not far behind that song would be "Set Like a Machine," another quality song that displays that the Rebel Assholes do have something about them in terms of songwriting (the music that is) and even the obligatory acoustic track, "I Wish I Have," at the end of the album is better than most bands doing that same thing these days.
Okay then, overall this is not a bad effort and I'm sure this will find an audience out there, as melodic punk rock is here to stay in its many guises.