MOVE OVER SEATTLE: FRANCE HAS ITS OWN GRUNGE-ROCK
PARIS — * A group called Noir Desir (Black Desire) from Bordeaux is jamming rock clubs thoughout France, making it this country's leading entry in the grunge wave.
At the Bataclan club, adorned with Toulouse-Lautrec-style cabaret murals, the heartthrob singer and the chronically airborne lead guitarist of the group stir up a sold-out crowd into a sweaty frenzy of slam-dancing and stage-diving.
Noir Desir weaves French, English, and Spanish into its latest album, "Tostaky." The hit title track, an abbreviated form of the Spanish "todo esta aqui," or "everything is here," is a hard-edged song of decadence and paradox in the United States. The song has become something of an anthem, with the oft-repeated line, "soyons desinvoltes, n'ayons l'air de rien" ("appear relaxed, pretend nothing's happening").
That jibes well with the Seattle kings of grunge rock, Nirvana, whose early "Smells Like Teen Spirit" had the words "here we are now, entertain us."
Noir Desir singer-songwriter Bertrand Cantat fills his lyrics with surrealism, existentialism, antifascism, and anticommunism inspired by modern French writers.
Herve Moisan, a critic for Rock and Folk magazine, says "It's grunge a la francaise. They appeal to individuals who seek to be independent, who distrust systems."
More than 230,000 copies of "Tostaky" have been sold, double their previous album, according to Olivier Durant, the band's promoter at Barclay, a division of Polygram Records. The LP has been in the Top 50 for more than 18 weeks in Show Magazine, the industry authority in France.
Mr. Moisan calls Noir Desir the top alternative band in France, overtaking Mano Negra and Les Ts Brulees.
There's plenty of musical influences from American alternative rock, including Nick Cave and Patti Smith. Noir Desir hired Fugazi producer Ted Nicely to make "Tostaky," and the band is inspired by the Gun Club, especially in its three previous albums.
Despite its success, Noir Desir has so far refused to play sports arenas and insists on continuing to book concerts in clubs and small theaters, which sell out as fast as they are announced.