For all the endless study, analysis and cultural worship of the hippie generation, the supposed reaction against establishment values ultimately revealed itself as an outgrowth of those values, a false free spirit that gradually codified as a reinforcement of conservative beliefs. It was a cultural backslide embedded into the music as well, the great promise of psychedelia slowly curdling into the depressingly bloated egotism of ‘70s arena rock. The most truly revolutionary reactions to stagnant culture happened outside America’s borders, with the French strikes of 1968 in particular marking the crux of a global wave of struggle against the status quo. Revolution Pop! 14 Fuzzy & Groovy French Cuts from the ‘60s is a reminder that where American and British rock may have established a new pop paradigm, the French truly attempted to embody anti-capitalist revolt in their music, reworking or entirely avoiding trends into strange new forms to represent a critique of all mainstream standards.

The most noticeable aspect of the music is contained within its loose, often tangential relationship to rock. “Coulez Moi,” the opening track by Claude Channes, is big-band jazz that rides white-hot trumpet lines as electric guitar offers only modest backing. Yet contemporary influence does creep in; as Channes belts out his sardonically political lyrics, the song bends and warps around him, with garage psychedelic warbles jamming the tune and scrambling it like a bad radio transmission. “Je Te Veux,” by 5 Gentlemen, blends blues harmonica and toy organ into some kind of parody of English blues rock, though it has nothing on the Gammas’ cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.” With the guitar bluntly mixed in the foreground and entwined with an oafishly phrased brass section, the track sounds less like the Stones and more like Ennio Morricone covering the Shaggs, a baffling deconstruction made all the more hilarious by the singer enunciating every single syllable as if this were her first time speaking English.

This free-ranging, disrespectful approach to still-new rules of rock does not preclude a number of legitimately head-bopping numbers. Monty’s “J’ai Traversé L’enfer” is scorching, succinct psych-blues in the Yardbirds mode, riding a shrieking guitar line over a chicken-scratch riff and spacious chanson vocals. “Les Filles Chats” undergoes several striking time signature changes over the course of its three minutes, lurching between percussion-heavy club rock and tripped-out lark before dumping out into a boot-stomping interlude that folds back into ass-shaking music. Jocelyne revs up Martha and the Vandellas Motown soul-pop into a skittering, punkish intensity, all rolling snares and ecstatic brass that drops out into a clarinet solo as if to be as French as humanly possible.

Yet if the music contained on Revolution Pop! testifies to how casually, and caustically, French upstarts were muddying the waters of both respectable jazz-pop and emergent hard rock, it can also give away that these musicians were just as capable of falling back on shared tics as their English-speaking counterparts. Nearly every song has orchestral accompaniment, and the prevalence of organ over electric guitar merely swaps out one starring instrument for another. The music is exciting and engaging, but there are times in which tracks from disparate artists sound so similar that this sounds like an LP by a single group, not a crate-digging compilation. And for all the politically charged lyrics, only one of the songs here sounds truly revolutionary. Claude Channes’s “Mao Mao,” made famous by its use in Jean-Luc Godard’s La Chinoise (an image of which is used for the compilation’s cover) is an unmitigated riot, a simultaneous love note, send-up and doubting critique of then-fashionable Maoism in the face of the Vietnam era. The track pushes its organ riffs into ear-bleeding distortion as Channes sings earworm melodies that pillory LBJ and praise the masses with sarcastic delight. It’s punchy, belligerent and funny, and the only song here that exudes a lingering sense of danger.

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