The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011


The big music news in France this week has been the release via Internet of two new songs by '90s rockers Noir Désir (below right).

Noir Desir, with Bertrand Cantat on the leftThis makes the headlines because it's the band's first release since the imprisonment and subsequent release of lead singer Bertrand Cantat. Worshipped as the spokesman for a generation of French rock fans, Cantat was convicted of beating to death his girlfriend, actress Marie Trintignant, in Vilnius in 2003.

The case sparked huge emotions at the time, which were aroused again last year when Cantat, repatriated to a French prison after starting his sentence in Lithuania, was granted a conditional early release on good behaviour after serving four years of an eight-year term.

Cantat's short stay behind bars was criticised by support groups for those who suffer conjugal violence. His fans, for their part, were torn between devotion to their idol and revulsion for his crime.

The two new tracks maintain Noir Désir's outspoken political posture. One, 'Le Temps De Cerises' is a cover of a revolutionary song from 1871, the era of the left-wing Paris commune. The other, 'Gagnants/Perdants' ("Winners/Losers"), is (according a press release) "a response to the current political and human climate". The lyrics refer directly to 'Nicolas' (Sarkozy, one must presume); Cantat warns him that "we will sleep with one eye open" to keep a watch on him.

Bertrand Cantat in the dock in Vilnius, Lithuania in 2003A condition of Cantat's early release is that he cannot comment publicly on his crime, trial (left) or punishment until the original 8-year term has elapsed. This precludes him from writing songs about the affair until 2011 at the earliest.

As well as being overtly political, both new tracks continue the Noir Désir penchant for dull, self-satisfied sludge-rock. Thus warned, you can listen to them on the band's new website.

Media reaction to and coverage of the new tracks, the band's first release since their album 'Des Visages Des Figures' came out on 11 September 2001, has been curious. Only the vaguest references have been made to the reasons for Cantat's absence. Callers to music radio shows on indie stations like Le Mouv' have been almost entirely supportive and surprisingly free of the strong anti-Cantat sentiment that's also widespread in France. 

Given Cantat's notoriety, it's unlikely that the band will play live anytime soon. There are no plans for a new Noir Désir album at the time of writing.

Here's what looks like a home-made video for 'Gagnants/Perdants': 

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