Système D

Les Rita Mitsouko

1993: Delabel DE 7243 8 39146 2 3

  1. Au Fond du Couloir
  2. Get Up, Get Older
  3. Y’a d’la Haine
  4. La Steppe
  5. Les Amants
  6. L’Hôtel Particulier
  7. Femme d’Affaires
  8. My Love is Bad
  9. Chanson d’A.
  10. Elevator
  11. Godfather of Soul
  12. Chères Petites
  13. La Belle Vie
  14. Modern Baleine

This was my first LRM album, and I bought it after hearing “Y’a d’la Haine” on the Pigalle soundtrack album. I had never heard anything quite like that, and my French was nowhere near being able to work out the meaning of the song, at the time, but much later I came to understand it more. Originally I most enjoyed the livelier numbers, such as “Au Fond du Couloir,” “Y’a d’la Haine,” and “Elevator.” Over the years since I got it (nearly a decade now) certain songs have come to charm my socks off: in particular, “Chanson d’A.,” “La Steppe,” “Modern Baleine,” and “La Belle Vie.” In addition to these, “Femme d’Affaires” is pretty funny, and “Chères Petites” intrigues me with its slinky pace and unblinking stare.

I would love “L’Hôtel Particulaire” and “Les Amants” if Catherine hadn’t gone into the orgasmic gasping in the first and wailsville in the second; they’re good songs but the recordings here don’t quite do them justice (“Les Amants” gets nearly an ideal performance on their Acoustiques, taking on a whole different feel and coming across as a last waltz of the night). Also, “La Steppe” is a refinement of their earlier version of it (on their debut album, Rita Mitsouko, in 1984), and it is vastly improved this way.

As I grew to understand and speak French, massively accelerated in the endeavor by Nelly Lelaquet Smith’s patient yet firm tutoring, I started to recognize nuances of each song on this album and to appreciate certain ones more than others; “La Steppe” was a late entry in that list, but “Chères Petites” remains the best revelation (although “Femme d’Affaires” takes the prize for pleasant innuendo). “Au Fond du Couloir” confuses me, however, because even after I was certain I understood the lyrics in French I still had no idea what the hell the song was about: on the surface it’s saying “you’re nearly there, you’ve almost reached the place you’ve been heading for, it’s just down the hall, keep going!” But what is it actually about??? I assume it’s an allusion or a metaphor, but to what? Or is it literally just that simple, an encouragement for someone heading toward a sordidly unexotic destination of ridiculously minor importance? I’d love to hear from anyone who has a better take on this song, actually….