Cross posted from my livejournal. I thought I'd share this will fellow Noir Desir lovers:
Noir Desir has a few songs in English. One of them is "Sober Song." In it, the singer pleads for mercy in the face of a crushing hangover coupled with a lingering drunk. He remembers the night before:
yesterday was the time of lavishness
everything 'round me was only loveliness
I was the king but the night was reigning over me
so much excitement but now this pleasure's gone without me
The song ends like this:
aspirin, come on please
I don't want to suffer
oh lord, here me please
you have to make me sober
but I don't know what's going on there
I always liked the fact that such a common, trivial condition could be described with such despairing, operatic music. And I loved that the singer had a heavy French accent.
I first heard Noir Desir while living in France in 1986-87. I was tragic and misunderstood and pretty sure I was crazy to boot. I didn't really understand the lyrics, but the music seemed to capture exactly how lost and disconnected and panicked I felt in a boarding school in a small town in the middle of nowhere with no real ability to speak or understand French.
When I was in college, I met a guy who knew a French woman who, miracle of miracles, had some Noir Desir tapes. That was back before cds. She copied one of their albums for me and, although she somehow managed to record the music with herself talking in the background, I listened to that tape for years.
Is it possible to be in love with a voice? with a sound? Is it possible to do so without ever really thinking that there was a person attached to that voice? That there were people making that music? I loved the voice that sang and never even thought to find out the name of the singer or what happened to the band until about a year ago. On a whim, I googled Noir Desir. I found out 2 things:
1. Noir Desir had become one of the most popular bands in France. The lead singer, Bertrand Cantat -- so he had a name; he was a person -- was one of the most famous performers in France, a vocal leftist and cute too.
2. Bertrand Cantat was currently serving an 8 year sentence for killing his girlfriend.
I found myself trying to make excuses for Cantat: they were struggling, he did hit her, but she suffered a freak brain injury after falling down and that's what killed her. When he realized what he had done, he downed a bottle of pills in a desperate suicide attempt. That despair made me want to rescue him. I cringed at the irony: the ardent college feminist who listened to that tape over and over would never accept such excuses. He HIT her. That's enough. But there's the music.
How is it possible that this voice I loved came out of the mouth connected to the body with the fist that knocked his girlfriend down in a lover's brawl? How could I -- a feminist -- continue to love this music?
And I remembered my friend, Ethan. Beaten to death. The brutality of a murder that involves fists. The force that must propel that fist through time and space to the skin of another.
And I thought of that song. It had morphed from a sort of funny dirge about hangovers to a deeply ironic foreshadowing. I imagined Cantat waking up to the truth -- bleary, sick, despairing. I imagine a different sort of pleading, a different sort of mercy, a much more piercing grief.
Je n'ai pas peur de la route
Faudrait voir, faut qu'on y goûte
Des méandres au creux des reins
Et tout ira bien là
Le vent nous portera