Let's just say this from the start: an album like this one, Mendelson's fifth, isn't one you come across every day. Or every week. Or even every month for that matter. No, in France, you encounter such an album every, what, ten years? Fifteen years maybe? Léo Ferré's Il n'y a plus rien, Bashung and Gainsbourg's Play Blessures... It's the same surprise. The same shock. And the same certainty that you have found a reliable companion for years to come. Yes, people will still be listening to these eleven songs in 2030, like they still listen to Comme à la radio, like they still listen to Les Marquises. It's rare to feel the chill (or rather ice cold) breeze of posterity pass... But this impressive triple album does just that.


Of course this might have been expected after the success of Personne ne le fera pour nous, five years ago already. We should have known, after fifteen years of a flawless career. For those who don't know them yet, Mendelson have a very special status on the French rock scene. Few artists can claim to both meet their true audience and thrill the critics by offering music as uncompromising, honest and non conforming as theirs. Their previous double album, already a challenge in itself—it was released entirely independently— featured tracks whose duration boldly ranged from one to eleven minutes. Today, Mendelson have decided to go even further, with no less than three discs gathered in this unclassifiable set. It is a vicious, exacting triple album, a real extremist milestone with unbelievable accuracy, strength and authority : this fifth album is an absolutely unique object.


From the first words of “La force quotidienne du mal” to the last message of “Je serais absent”, from the dark humor of “Jour Où” to the slow drowning of “Les Heures” (54 minutes and 30 seconds on the clock, the longest song in rock history?), you are struck, stunned, shaken, washed-out. You forget the meaning of “running time”, “pop”, “song” or “format”, you forget everything you thought you knew about the way things should be done... You dive. You hold your breath. And you don't come out unscathed from such an immersion: these are polluted, toxic, radioactive waters. From the end-of-the-world poetry of “Il n'y a pas d'autre rêve” to the quiet devastation of “Ville Nouvelle”, from the political nightmare of “L'Echelle sociale” to the X-rays of “Une seconde vie”, you are wrung, beaten, dazed, in the ropes, KO. Blasted with noise, scathing explorations and blunt music, you're out of balance, you're no longer in a song , you're also very far from French rock, you are somewhere else, in a yet unexplored land, in uncharted territory. Disoriented.


As always, the words strike and hurt. Caution, this album is to be handled with care: “Explicit Lyrics”, as they say, so sensitive minds keep out! Bouaziz is an author who leaves marks that bruise and traces that scar. Already known to be a great author, Bouaziz is now revealed to be hard, cruel, and merciless as well. As a proof, the long fall into hell of “Les Heures”. Now, for sure, there is no precedent. There probably won't be any successors. This is the limit. Like the traveling shot in Week-end, or the end of La Horde sauvage, with “Les Heures”, and all along these three disks, Mendelson simply and masterfully have created something that did not exist.


And what a band! Bouaziz in the lead on guitar and vocals, and of course also Pierre-Yves Louis, the guitarist, bass player, and permanent fixture of the lineup, Charlie O., the pianist and organist, Jean-Michel Pirès and Sylvain Joasson, the two possessed drummers who take the lion's share. Because what is felt here really is a point of no return. Some sort of Metal Machine Music with text. Their own Pornography, their Tender Prey (Mendelson do have a false air of the Bad Seeds about them). Or Metal Box without the revolution—revolution is dead, as “L'Echelle sociale” constantly and mercilessly reminds us. Metal Machine Music, Metal Box: there definitely is something metallic in this music. Something hard, accurate and sharp. Like a beautiful metal door you come back to smash your head on. The sound, halfway between Einstürzen Neubauten and the Dylan album produced by Lanois (with Stéphane Blaess on sound mixing and engineering): a black and white sound, White Light/White Heat, both hot and cold, never lukewarm. There is no mixing faucet here. No filter. No softener. Just the superimposition of extremes, the unflappable voice that notices and contemplates, and the guitars that kill.


The end result? Eleven groundbreaking texts, a great, overpowering band, a unique voice for a huge album in every sense of the word, most certainly their best so far. Their best album yet or their best album, period? It is not sure where they could go after this. Unless... Mendelson are now doomed to go into the light.

STAN CUESTA, journalist (Rolling Stone, Mojo, Rock & Folk...) and writer (Jeff Buckley, Nirvana, Léo Ferré...)





November 07th 2014 @ Namur, Maison de la Culture - Festival Beautés Soniques

Decembre 18th 2014 @ Saint-Ouen, Mains d'Oeuvres




2013 :

May 10th 2013 @ Brest, La Carène w/ Matt Elliott

May 11th 2013 @ Tourcoing, Le Grand Mix w/ Fauve

May 23th 2013 @ Paris, Villette Sonique

October 08th 2013 @ Tours, Temps Machine

October 09th 2013 @ Nancy, Nancy Jazz Pulsations

November 06th  2013 @ Paris, Petit Bain

November 07th 2013 @ Toulouse, Les Abattoirs, Musée d'Art Contemporain

November 08th 2013 @ Grenoble, La Bobine

November 20th 2013 @ Vaulx En Velin, Centre Charlie Chaplin

December 05th 2013 @ Allonnes, La Péniche Excelsior

2014 :

March 21th 2014 @ Nantes, Lieu Unique

April 25th 2014 @ Vauvert, Courant Scène