Lizzy Mercier Descloux was awesome. Lizzy Mercier Descloux (1956 ? 2004) was a French singer and pioneering artist in worldbeat and dance/no wave born in Paris. She initially distinguished herself as Paris? ?punk muse? with her articles about new wave music in the magazine Rock News, contributing to the notoriety of Blondie, Patti Smith, and the Talking Heads. In 1978 she moved herself to New York ? living in SoHo with Patti Smith and Michael Esteban (founder of Ze Records) ? and following the modest debut of her ?obscure and nervous? group Rosa Yemen, she recorded five albums under her own name between 1979 and 1988.
The best of these was probably the first full-length ?Press Color? (1979) which really sounded like nothing that came before it ? an eccentric gumbo of angular guitar raves, feminine punk scrawls, African-influenced dance beats, all liberated by Lizzy?s bi-lingual howls, chattering chants and yelps. She had her best success in 1984 with the song ?Mais o? sont pass?es les gazelles?? (?But where have the gazelles gone??), which announced her interest for South African rhythms vis Johnny Clegg and so on. After her musical career, she turned towards painting. Tragically, she died well-before her time from complications of cancer on 20 April 2004 at the age of 47.
?Best Off? is a compilation of the most riveting of Lizzy Mercier Descloux?s work, showcasing her highly-effective mash-up of world-music?s triumphant rhythms, discordant punk, calamitous no-wave racket, and boisterous Latin-infused funk, presenting a joyful, frenetic celebration of this unforgettable artist. It includes her electrifying cover of Arthur Brown?s ?Fire?, the stunning originals ?Torso Corso? and ?Hard-Boiled Babe? (my pick for Best in Show from ?Best Off?) and ?Les Baisers d?Amants? and ?Five Troubles Mambo?, as well as a couple other notable covers ? ?Sun is Shining? (Bob Marley) and the ?Mission Impossible? theme (yes ? wack today, but surely a stroke of brilliance in 1979).
Off course, on a retrospective career-highlight compilation you?re always going to get varied mileage with some of the tracks, and I would be lying if I said every track here filled me with an equal amount of funky jive deep-down in my balls ? I?ve never felt entirely comfortable with her version of ?My Funny Valentine?, for example. But so what. Like I already said, Lizzy Mercier Descloux was awesome. What you should probably do is buy the recent CD reissues of her until-recently IMPOSSIBLE-to-find albums ? ?Press Colour? and ?Mambo Nassau? at the very least; failing that, this is a truly worthy overview.
On the off-chance you?re still wondering what the hell Lizzy Mercier Descloux is all about, imagine all the best possible bits from.. lessee.. Grace Jones, Arto Lindsay, Bush Tetras, Lydia Lunch, James White and the Blacks, MARS, Liquid Liquid, ESG, Konk, Talking Heads, Delta 5, The Contortions, DNA, The Slits, Au Pairs, Arthur Russell, The Raincoats, 23 Skidoo, A Certain Ratio, Young Marble Giants, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, and The Theoretical Girls.. all jumbled up into one infectious, precociously irreverent good time. Got it? 9/10 -- Young Savage (23 January, 2007)