Lizzy Mercier Descloux
- Remastered from the original tapes
- Essay by “Punk Professor” Vivien Goldman, interviewing key players
- LP Includes download card for full album + 6 bonus tracks
- CD includes full album plus 6 bonus tracks
By the time bohemian singer/poet/artist Lizzy Mercier Descloux recorded her fifth album, 1988’s Suspense, she’d enjoyed a recording career that was as far from the clichés of music lore as is possible, flitting between genres, continents and collaborators, enjoying great success and equally great failure and even stealing the final breaths of master trumpeter Chet Baker for 1986’s One For The Soul.
By the time bohemian singer/poet/artist Lizzy Mercier Descloux recorded her fifth album, 1988’s Suspense, she’d enjoyed a recording career that was as far from the clichés of music lore as is possible, flitting between genres, continents and collaborators, enjoying great success and equally great failure and even stealing the final breaths of master trumpeter Chet Baker for 1986’s One For The Soul. When she came to make Suspense – reissued here as the final album in our series – she was, for the first time, working without her longtime muse, partner and manager Michel Esteban, with whom she’d first moved from their native France to New York, where it all began.
The pressure was on to repeat the success of “Mais Où Sont Passées Les Gazelles”, a smash hit in France, and Descloux’s label were keen to make a conventional artist of her, pairing her with John Brand, an in-vogue producer with a style geared to a big, shiny 1980s chart sound—an approach Lizzy had never experienced before, nor intended to. Recorded in Oxfordshire and Wales, it features songs recorded in both French and English, with lyrics by Mark Cunningham, the trumpet player of the avant-garde band MARS, and James Reyne, the Australian artist who co-wrote much of One For The Soul.
In Vivien Goldman’s new liner notes, Esteban notes that Suspense sounds “less Lizzy than the other records, less open,” but in splitting herself into two – English and Francophone – the album has two personalities too; oddly, it shines a light on the real Descloux that her cultural experiments never did.
Though the initial aim was to make a folky, acoustic album, the pop sound suited the singer, and “A Room In New York” is as fine and sparky as AOR gets. But when early single “Gueule D’Amour/Cry of Love” stiffed, EMI lost confidence and buried the LP. Bound by her contract to the label, Descloux moved away from music and focused on painting. She eventually settled in Corsica, the French island, where she died, aged 48, of cancer. Descloux’s musical career ended, therefore, with the aptly titled Suspense. It was only a matter of time before this furiously creative artist’s work was re-evaluated, and with these deluxe reissues, that time is now.
Mercier Descloux, with partner Michel Esteban, established the magazine Rock News and ran in the same circles as Patti Smith and Richard Hell. She became a genre defying artist and pioneer of worldbeat and avant garde rock, and supreme minimalist of the no wave genre in her own right.
In 1978, legendary label ZE Records released a mini-album by Mercier Descloux’s performance art duo, Rosa Yemen, and went on to release several of Lizzy’s solo albums. Her debut solo album, Press Color, consists of eight songs owing more to disco, funk, and film scores than punk rock, all recorded within a two week span. Lizzy’s second solo release, Mambo Nassau, evokes Talking Heads’ “I Zimbra” and “Born Under Punches,” riddled with off-kilter-time-keeping, flailing guitars, and lush basslines. Heavily influenced by African music, art rock, funk, and soul, Mercier Descloux’s music gained extreme popularity in her native France, the height of which came with her 1984 album, Zulu Rock. The album seems a more vivacious and enthralling harbinger for Paul Simon’s Graceland. ZE Records’ Michel Esteban recalls, “This South African music reminded us, as incredible as it may sound, of The Velvet Underground.”
Lizzy spent the next two decades living somewhat nomadically in Africa, France, New York, South America, and the West Indies, never ceasing her pursuit of the arts as she transitioned from music to painting and writing. Mercier Descloux was diagnosed with cancer in 2003 and passed away the following year.