The Other Montreal Music Scene: The Real Underground

with 10 comments

It’s been three years now since The New York Times, SPIN and other Rolling Stones officially labelled Montreal a Hot Music Scene, based on a not-necessarily-undeserved but very Anglo-centric coverage of Arcade Fire and their friends.

Are we still cool? Probably not. Three years is an awfully long time for that kind of hype.

There is however a whole other music scene in Montreal, one that is mercifully immunized against the mainstream English-language media. A scene that goes way beyond les Cowboys Fringants. Here’s a few names for those into that type of thing.

Paul Cargnello

Remember when a Québec Anglo signing in French wasn’t so much of a curiosity? Remember Me, Mom and Morgentaler, GrimSkunk and… euh… the McGarrigle sisters? Yeah, neither did I. Paul Cargnello – think Jean Leloup and Joe Strummer in Leonard Cohen’s suit – redeems English Montreal from the tragedy that is Crescent street.  (That said, we sometimes wish he’d go back to English once in a while just to kick Jack Johnson’s ass.)

Radio Radio

Straight out of Moncton! Not from Québec at all, New Brunswick’s Radio Radio is the first Acadian hip hop crew ever represent the 506 and demonstrate how Shiak, the acadian slang, just might be the ultimate rhyming language ever! Don’t worry, nobody in Québec has any idea what their talking about either.

Manu Militari

Côte-des-Neiges’ M.A.N.U. is often guilty of some simplistic rhymes but he just as often makes it up with inspired gems: “J’suis sur la voie rapide comme monsieur Jack Layton/Fuck ceux à droite comme le maire d’Huntington”. La Traversé du Lac Nasser is a more lucid and subtle reflexion on the conflict between the West and the Islamic world than anything ever published by any Canadian newspaper, complete with an aknowledgement of Canada/Québec’s hypocritical stance and a condemnation of the way Arab regimes blame Jews for all their own failures.

Xavier Caféïne

True to the original punk spirit Xavier Caféïne infiltrated commercial radio with catchy pop tunes that dissed Montreal, baby boomers and his ex-girlfriend Gisèle while celebrating the rise of China that will liberate us from the Bald Eagle and Jesus Christ. That and he still defends smoking.


There are now two solitudes in Québec Hip Hop, with on one side the not uninteresting Old School orthodoxy and, on the other a new breed busy deconstructing the genre into something the American and French godfathers of Québec Rap never saw coming. Gatineau have gone farther into these uncharted waters than anyone else. Think Dr. Dre: The ‘Schrooms 2008.

For more check out:

And Mange ta Ville’s beautiful collection of artists performing around Montreal.

10 Responses

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  1. Plaster

    Les amis au Pakistan

    D.J. Champion

    Karlof Orchestra

    Ma Blonde est une chanteuse


    La Patère Rose

    We are Wolves

    The National Parks


    The montreal Anglo scene always has an angle over the rest of the worlwide anglosphere. (Like wearing beards when no one else do.)

    Yet it is true that the French scene is where you’ll want to look for truly avant-garde, truly innovative art. Music that is well aware of the global culture it swims in, yet that feels less compelled to conform to it.


    August 18, 2008 at 12:08 am

  2. “Yet it is true that the French scene is where you’ll want to look for truly avant-garde, truly innovative art.”

    Wouldn’t go quite that far. Godspeed you! Black Emperor/Silver Mt.Zion, without a doubt the most innovative band of the last 20 years, perhaps in the world, is a mostly anglo band.

    And please let me know where I cn find La Patère Rose material! Loved their Misteur Valaire project.


    August 18, 2008 at 7:56 am

  3. You may be right for GodSpeed. But that was a while ago… Some people will also point towards Arcade Fire. (Though I don’t find they’re quite as hot shit as everybody seems to think… They’re good : Just not “that” good when compared to all the hype, imo.)

    This being said, at any given time you can go around the Montreal French scene and find plenty of very innovative acts. I personally find that, genrally speaking, this side of the language barrier is much more active and also more opened to different influences and ideas. Maybe a result of not confining themselves to anglo culture.

    -Do you know Les Amis au Pakistan ?
    Check them out on Youtube.

    Some La Patère Rose on Youtube as well, btw. (I just discovered them at Osheaga last week.)


    August 18, 2008 at 9:53 am

  4. Nice music! But devoted to “It’s nice to get welfare!”


    August 22, 2008 at 3:07 pm

  5. Sorry! It is nice music!


    August 22, 2008 at 9:58 pm

  6. you can find other up and coming underground scene info at


    November 18, 2008 at 8:23 am

  7. Bonjour!
    Cool découvertes. Je vous ai “piqué” Manu Militari pour mon blog.

    Longue vie!

    Blues de ville

    December 26, 2008 at 1:12 pm

  8. n’oubliez pas Les Georges Leningrad, mais, malheureusement, ils ne sont plus ensemble…vive LGL!


    August 19, 2011 at 12:55 pm

  9. I ma spending next week-end in Montréal, i want to go dancing underground music, where should I go?


    December 4, 2011 at 7:04 pm

  10. […] on Angry French Guy’s blog today (as I have been a lot recently), and I come across his posting on how there is excellent Francophone music which does not get enough respect in Anglophonia, dammit. One of the featured bands, […]

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