Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Bertrand Cantat: L'Angleterre

There will always be a problem with Bertrand Cantat. His return as a solo artist following the years of Noir Desir and later with Detroit has been matched by the storm over the events that separated those musical endeavours, his killing of  Marie Trintignant and subsequent prison sentence.

The decision by Les Inrocks to feature Cantat on the front cover, to interview him and the arguments, polemics and debates that followed showed quite clearly that the death of Marie Trintignant will never be forgiven or forgotten. The very question of whether or not Cantat is allowed by society to be a public figure remains unresolved, and is unlikely ever to be.

In the meantine, Cantat's debut solo album Amor Fati came out at the beginning of the month, with the song L'Angleterre released as a single. It would of course be convenient to write Cantat off completely, but he was an outstanding artist before the killing, one whose worldview and politics were seemingly in the right place, and to a large extent that is what he remains, albeit with something of an elephant in the room.

Cantat's always been a politically aware artist, and this song has Brexit England as its target. With refugees fleeing the horrors of their homelands, England decides it wants its money back. For those running for their lives, Cantat tells us, there's no light at the end of the Channel Tunnel.

The hopeless guardsmen in the video are as accurate a metaphor for the pathetic situation England has chosen for itself as you can imagine. Tradition, ridiculous costume and the folk memory of an imagined military might from the past is all that there is left.

Even the Beatles flavour of the music is appropriate, again reminding us that while European countries are facing the future and the difficulties that are involved in that, England chooses to look back to the past.

While there's always been an argument (usually from me) about the French using the word L'Angleterre (England) to describe the UK, in this instance I'd say it's perfectly justified. Scotland didn't vote for Brexit and neither did Northern Ireland, both countries instead wanting a peaceful future as part of Europe, with the benefits of co-operation and friendship. Cantat's right to target l'Angleterre rather than the Royaume Uni  here.

I remember Renaud's Miss Maggie making the news in the UK when it was released in France. Politicians in the UK questioned how a French singer could dare criticise the British PM. That same arrogance towards our fellow European countries is now leading the country towards a very bleak future. I doubt Cantat's criticism of England will now even register with the media in the UK.

Cantat's got a tour in March April and May of next year, where the next round of the Cantat debate will play out. He plays the Olympia in Paris on May 29.

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