The Story Of 'A Ta Merci' (Fishbach, 2017)

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Although she has toured in many countries and received massive acclaim in France, Fishbach has almost never been reviewed in Anglo-Saxon media. When her debut album A Ta Merci (Sony/Entreprise) was released in January 2017, almost four years ago, Fishbach suddenly emerged and was catapulted following artists like Christine And The Queens or La Femme as a new potential leader of the young indie-to-mainstream French pop musical scene. For many of us, she was our ‘Stone Rose’, our ‘Best New Band In France’. Rarely a debut album had been so creative, convincing, and fascinating: Fishbach had found a magical and inexpressible way to mix, transcend, and stand out from her major influences, i.e., mainstream French pop singers of the 1980’s (e.g., Daniel Balavoine, Mylène Farmer), electro-pop/rock (e.g., Depeche Mode, Austra), and sci-fi soundtracks and themes (e.g., John Carpenter, Vangelis’ Blade Runner), adding from place to place subtle or overflowing touches of Middle Ages or Romanticism atmospheres.

 

Completely revisiting and renewing the genre, Fishbach was like a thundering spring in the so-called French variété. Although according to Fishbach herself A Ta Merci was no more than a kind of ‘best of’ of her young career, the coherency and deflectlessness of the twelve ‘retro-synthpop’ songs as varied as deliciously obsessing thanks to their utterly catchy melodies and outrageously powerful production was surprising and remarkable. In French media, the reviews for A Ta Merci were unanimously extremely favourable and flattering. There was also something strangely confusing in the astonishing paleness of the astonished Fishbach’s face filling the cover of the album or tour posters and media, in echo, insisting not only on the music but also on the Fishbach’s personality and dramatic live performances, couldn’t stop putting in line eulogistic adjectives ‘irresistible’, ‘hypnotic’, and ‘magnetic’ being probably the most recurrent and accurate.

 

Fishbach was a talented composer and singer and audacious front-woman but there was a considerable collective alongside her and her debut album. Thus, in interviews she would constantly emphasize the key role played by the musicians having accompanied her in the elaboration of the record and her first shows in noticeable festivals or theatres mainly the co-compositors (Valoy and Thiry) and the band (Michelle Blades, Alexandre Bourit, and Nicolas Lockhart) she had been challenged to form and that undoubtedly helped her significantly to emerge so dazzlingly.

 

Nevertheless, the ‘image’ of Fishbach was primarily, fundamentally dark. Imagine: in a doom and gloom France still mentally ravaged by the dramatic events of 2015, A Ta Merci was a record dealing at first sight and gross understanding with death, suicide, and terrorist attacks even though the more Fishbach was talking about death the more she wanted to talk in the same time about love; and if she was telling about or alluding to a ‘terrorist attack’ in two songs, she was solely metaphorically telling about the accidents of love. Therefore, whatever the artist’s intentions, Fishbach became the voice of a generation’s global consciousness. In interviews, Fishbach would thereby modestly confess that she had no choice but to recognize that their songs were not totally hers but also belonged to her audience with whom she would progressively strikingly develop a singular harmony.

 

Then, constantly entangling death and love, Eros and Thanatos both in lyrics and tunes, A Ta Merci was and of course still is a wonderfully paradoxical opus, a chiaroscuro of oneiric pop lifted by Fishbach’s androgynous voice: built up not only for sad to overjoyed crowd flights but for religious isolation under headphones as well, and from track to track sombre and danceable, illuminated and languishing, glistening and bitter, tear-inducing and intoxicating, bewitching and intimidating through its fuliginous and smoke beauty. Whereas the central masterpiece ‘On Me Dit Tu’ was explicitly personalizing death, the most achieved and popular songs were the ones in which Fishbach was statedly or dissimulatedly discussing with her (potentially wounding) lovers: the innocent and romantic single ‘Y Crois-Tu?’, the almost Tame Impalesque ‘Un Beau Langage’, and most of all the upbeat, melancholic, and psychoactive ‘Mortel’, which would become soon a critical anthem in any Fishbach’s show.

 

 

Vincent Tristana, January 2021 (vincent.tristana@gmail.com)