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Homeless Songs: the unexpected and thrilling return of Stephan Eicher

Homeless Songs marks the brilliant return of a Stephan Eicher marked by the passage of time and by the ordinary problems of life. A sensitive and captivating album. Perhaps the very best of his long discography.

© Jeremiah

We were in the very early 90s, and Stephan Eichera strange young Swiss, who had started out in music by playing a funny kind of DIY electro inherited from that of “modern young people” – or, as you like, very ahead of his time – met the writer Philippe Djian (which was not taken too seriously, moreover, when we now know that we had one of the most interesting voices in popular French literature…). From their meeting would be born a handful of luminous, obvious, poignant and exhilarating songs at the same time, which would squat for a time the French charts unaccustomed to such music, more Rock than song, more European, even gypsy, than national. of the famous Lunch in Peace in 1991 to highs and lows in 1993, for two short years, the duo seemed to be walking on water. And then, as is always the case, most of us moved on: our demands for novelty made us abandon an artist who we now considered too “commercial”, who no longer seemed belong to us. We resented this melodic obviousness and this slight romantic emphasis that we considered easy, even demagogic. Finally, snobs that we were, we regretted the cherished memory of that concert in November 1987 at La Cigale where, perhaps still uncertain of the musical direction he was going to take, Stephan had thrown us, his nascent audience, the diskettes on which he still engraved the bases of his music.

We were wrong. Great wrong. Listen in 2019 to an album as wonderful, as exciting as this Homeless Songs turns out to be a shock. Musical. Emotional. What path did we have to travel to get here, thirty years later! The Helvetian, no longer really underground but no longer really popular either, has taken a bit of an old age, between graying hair and musketeer beard and back pain that reminds us that we are not eternal. And yet, nothing has changed, except for the better: the curious voice – something of a Dylan extinct ? – with this light exotic accent, the songs alternating between French, English and the Swiss German dialect, the irresistible melodies of simplicity, the texts – thank you Djian ! – well above anything that is written in France… With this time, a big PLUS, which elevates Homeless Songs towards, let’s not be afraid of big words, the masterpiece: the simplicity, almost the minimalism of an approach that we must qualify as humble, even if the words that would be appropriate would be rather “essential”, ” fundamental “.

We knew that Stephan Eicher was angry with his record company, which let him down badly when record sales collapsed, and after long years of legal proceedings, he decided to make music exiled far from the laws of commerce, far from the rules of a musical Marketing which has lost all relevance for decades already. What he therefore describes as “songs without a roof”, even if the charm of the music ofEicher has been right since the first day to claim no place, to go beyond his Yenish roots to embrace the world. Between lost waltzes, folk songs of the poor and the soundtrack of a film that only exists in our wounded hearts, Homeless Songs is a moving object from start to finish: a perfect sequence of 14 songs, most of which are very short, often built on a simple piano and a few strings, and on, of course, these famous words of Djian. Without exaggerated emphasis, without commercial facility, here is terribly sad music – for some this may be the limit of this rather monochrome album, apart from the grain of fantasy of Born a Worm – but superbly quivering.

“May your memory return to you / May you be no longer mine / May we be in the dark / May our forces have left us / May justice intervene / May we be released from our chains / May the sky turn to the lilac / And that you get tired of me / I won’t wait, won’t wait…. »

We understand that the general French public is already following Stephan in this adventure, which paradoxically represents a step aside in his career, while betraying nothing of his past history. Proving the Trade fools who impose absurd rules on artists would be a tasty bonus to this precious album.

Eric Debarnot

Stephan Eicher – Homeless Songs
Label: Polydor
Release date: September 20, 2019

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