"It is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever."
Bernhard Schlink

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Written on guitar instead of piano, and recorded next door to Robert Plant's (yes, that one) studio in England, Joker (samples on site, under "Discographie") has a decidedly different feel than Clarika's previous efforts. For starters, it's more mellow in tone. Characteristically bipolar moments like "La Fille Tu Sais" and "We Are The Losers" are not entirely absent, but they are more subdued - more like mood sways than swings. Unlike its pop predecessors, Joker is a bit of an indie-rock album, in a gorgeous, warm, only-French-girls-can-get-away-with -being-this-coy way.

The opener, "Je mens," really sets the tone with its first line, "Comme je respire, je mens." Not a stunning profundity, but a great introduction to the album as the slow, lush melancholy draws you in completely. The title track bounces along as she wonders what kind of man she will marry...the sense is hopeful, but still sad. It's never said, but you get the clear impression that she just been recently burned.

In "Les patineurs," another favorite and perhaps hier to "la Venus en caotchouc," she wonders about the dreams of skaters as they trace lines on the ice. She never says out right what she really means; it's clear there is some metaphor I don't get, I'm perfectly content to float along with her childish lilt.

The only place it doesn't work for me is the last two songs, "Non ça s'peut pas" and "L'océan des possibles," a pair of duets with Bernard Lavilliers and Michel Jonasz, respectively. The former is a remake of one of Clarika's previous songs which, I think, is totally skewed by Lavilliers' presence. The original is pained, fervent, and gorgeous, this version is at best pretty, and really a bit forced. Neither singer sounds particularly involved: this is a crushingly sad song, and deserves better.

"L'océan des possibles," is again sad, warm, and pretty, but the duet sounds forced. Clarika has such an enchanting and expressive voice, I can't think why she bothers sharing the mic.

These things aside, Joker is a solid record, and it will be months before I have a real favorite track, so it earns a solid place on my playlist. The early leaders are "Joker," "L'avant dernier," and "Patricia," but only time will tell. I'm also pretty sure that at least one or two people I know would be quite fond of this album. It also has killer cover/booklet art.

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