Les Bénéfices du doute
After the release of Infréquentable in 2008, Bénabar put a hold on his usual writing-singing-composing career to focus on film then theatre. Now he has returned to music with Les Bénéfices du doute, a disconcerting sixth album that has dropped the familiar brass to leave way for the banjo and the harmonica.
The first few notes have a pop rock sound, until a jumble of guitars hint towards country, or even bluegrass. The brass band has been left behind to move into a world filled with sounds spanning twenty years of French music. Bénabar’s Les Bénéfices du doute takes us on a journey that goes from Jean-Jacques Goldman (Quelle histoire) to Noir Désir (when he adds a dash of reggae reminiscent of Le Vent nous portera to his song La Phrase qu’on n’a pas dite).
The album’s musical oddities might work well if the voice took a back seat, but here the emphasis is on the singing, putting the largely disappointing lyrics at the forefront. The humour and clever words are less apparent than in his former work, with the possible exception of Les Râteaux.
Although Bénabar follows in the footsteps of the iconic French singer Renaud with his hit-and-miss attempts at protest song (L’Agneau, Politiquement Correct), at times even going so far as to take on the same intonation as the singer (Perdre la raison, Alors, c’est ça ma vie !), he has set himself a tall task.
A couple of reflections stand out from the muddled crowd: one of them on human nature, with a reminder that horrible people are just ordinary after all (Différents), and the other on the passage of time (Moins vite). The album’s high point has to be Les Mirabelles, a song about absence dedicated to the deceased artist, Jocelyn Quivrin. In a nutshell, an album neatly summed up by its own title – benefits of the doubt.
Bénabar Les Bénéfices du doute (Jive Epic) 2011
On tour around France. Playing live at the Zénith de Paris from 22 to 24 March 2012
Translation by: Anne-Marie Harper