Julien Mineau. Photo by le Petit Russe

Malajube are back

A review of the reunion show by the great Quebec indie rock band, their first gig in nearly three years.


Malajube at la Grosse Lanterne. Photo by Erik Leijon


Over the weekend at camping and music fest la Grosse Lanterne in Bethanie, QC, Malajube quietly ended an extended hiatus by playing their first show in nearly three years.

For a while it appeared as though the quartet had broken up for good. There were solo projects to tend to and fatigue with the main band appeared to have set in around the release of 2011’s La Caverne. It had been a pretty wild seven years up until that album, as Malajube went down as the only francophone band to stoke the interest of American and International media during that honeymoon phase with the Montreal music scene. Malajube got some decent Pitchfork numbers, back when a solid score was the be-all and end-all, and they toured the world. I even saw them in Brooklyn one time, in front of a hundred people or so.

Julien Mineau. Photo by le Petit Russe
Julien Mineau. Photo by le Petit Russe

The best part of their Grosse Lanterne set, besides the fact that they looked reinvigorated and ready for Act II, was the few hundred or so kids in the pit who probably never read that fateful 2006 Pitchfork review of Trompe l’oeil. In their home province, the connection between Malajube and is, of course, so much more than a passing fancy. The crowd was young and yelled all the words, drawing the ire of the pushy security guards in front of the stage tasked with discouraging moshing. I expected more people there, but Bethanie, QC is a bit of a schlep into the hinterland. Although Malajube took a breather, three years also isn’t exactly enough time to make the heart grow fonder. Still, to a small, dedicated bunch of campers, Malajube never lost their hero status.

They opened the set with a pair of tracks from their breakthrough, “Casse-Cou” and “Le Crabe,” which also double as two of their heavier songs. Malajube, especially lumberjack-looking frontman Julien Mineau, were always sly jokesters, unafraid to throw down a wannabe metal instrumental breakdown because it made people chuckle. A Malajube set should encourage tongue-in-cheek headbanging.

Over the course of the 80-minute set, they played most of Trompe l’oeil and mostly ignored 2004 debut Le Compte Complet outside of “Le Robot Sexy.” They played two new songs — the upbeat “Suzanne” and straightforward “Monotrope.” Based on the two samples, a prospective new Malajube release could constitute a back-to-basics release — only they never really had a basics phase. The follow-up to Trompe l’oeil, 2009’s Labyrinthes, was ambitious with nods to prog, while 2011’s La Caverne was their most hooky.

Malajube played their more rocking songs at la Grosse Lanterne, and softer ones like “Étienne D’août” have always sounded heavier live, anyway. All four members were smiling throughout, with Julien taking the time to joke around about the band’s status. “Malajube, ça n’existe pas,” he said. Their biggest hits, “Luna,” “Pâte Filo,” “Fille À Plumes” and “Montréal -40˚C,” have lost none of their geeky charm.

Hopefully they are back for good, because Quebec hasn’t produced a band as fun and frenetic since. It doesn’t matter if anyone outside of the province notices, either. ■